This is the collection of some of the writings of an infrequent journalist; a collage if you like, of points of view and responses to various issues and incidents , as well as commentaries on milestones in the lives of other people; much of it are the result of a personal angst, an ordinary , apolitical citizen’s despair, at the downward spiral that the history of this country has been travelling along in the last three decades in particular. The last sentence was written with design and calculation. The history of a country is determined by what is likely to happen in the future.

Why ‘Rilawala’? It used to be an obscure village about thirty kilometres from Colombo, off the Horana road. It is no longer a village, though, having been engulfed by the rapid urbanization that is extending its tentacles island-wide but there are still vestiges of its early charm, glimpses of what it would have been even as late as half a century ago. Without doubt, they too will soon disappear.

Rilawala is where the line of Gunasekeras’ which I come from have lived in for many generations; villagers who made a simple living from the cultivation of paddy and other crops. My father’s generation was the first to come out of the village to make a living elsewhere, in fields other than paddy.

My generation of the Rilawala Gunasekeras’ was the first to receive what might be loosely referred to as an ‘English Education’—in my case at St.Thomas’s, Mt. Lavinia—and eventually to grow to use English as the preferred currency of expression. But the early upbringing was conditioned by the simple and unambiguous cultural norms of the village, which neither of my parents ever shed as my mother, too, was from a very similar village, in close proximity to Rilawala. Despite emerging from what would rightly be considered a parochial and insular background, my parents demonstrated a world view, refreshingly liberal in the context of both the period and the circumstances of their upbringing. There was never a display of any major bigotry, whether racial, religious or social, whilst what constituted decent conduct was a non-negotiable concept. These were imparted to us as fundamental values, more by role-model example than by exhortation.

So, with the passage of time and distance I have been loosened from the early anchor but the imprint is indelible, though the views and attitudes I hold now have been informed, in the course of a seventy year journey, by a wide and varied spectrum of experiences and influences far removed from the village.

This journey includes a near fifty year segment in the service of the plantation industry, first as a tea estate manager and, thereafter, as a manager in plantation management companies and related tea industry organizations. It is an ongoing involvement. In the course of this journey there was marriage to Malini , followed soon by two children, Mihirini and Isuru, indisputably the finest thing in our lives , till being superseded by the arrival , in quick succession, of two grandsons, Divesh and Tarun.

Although constantly being nagged by a sense of futility of small contributions such as mine, I think it is still important that ordinary citizens present their world-view before the public. It is crucial that one should publicly bemoan vices rather than celebrate virtues.

Since Independence this country has been shepherded in a tragic direction by a succession of increasingly unscrupulous leaders; men and women without integrity or conscience. What is emerging is the institutionalization of an ethos of racial and religious bigotry paving the way for the Talibanization of Buddhism, a rabid nationalism masquerading as patriotism, hypocritical public demonstrations of piety bereft of tolerance and charity, the manifest corruption and amorality of chosen leaders of the nation and, most frightening of all, the general public’s apathy to, its craven acceptance and even indulgence, of all these corrosive influences.

This is, in brief, my personal testament. I used the word ‘Rilawala’, after much consideration and discussion with my daughter, Mihirini and in acknowledgement of the inalienable value and immutability of antecedents. Evolution has a genesis and mine began in Rilawala.

 

Anura Gunasekera

01.01.17

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