The events in Paris have made me angry, but not for the reasons you might think.
The outpourings of sorrow and support should make me feel happier about human nature and our ability to show solidarity for those of us in trouble. But instead, I just feel bitter and angry. Really angry.
The tragedy of Paris is the everyday reality for so many countries. Lebanon experienced something similar just 24 hours before Paris did – 41 people died in two suicide bombings in Beirut. Where were the outpourings and shows of solidarity for Beirut? Where were the profile pictures miraculously changing into Lebanese flags and dominating my newsfeed? Where was anything? Any mention of Beirut?
Where was the Lebanese flag on our Harbour Bridge and our Opera House? Or any other flag of any other country in crisis?
I am angry because I cannot feel the sorrow that is absolutely justified for the people of Paris who went through this horror on Friday night. As I write, for the first time, I feel a lump in my throat and a need to cry for those people. For the scared, for the confused, for the terrorised. For the families who lost their loved ones, for the friends that saw their peers being shot down, for the footballs fans who thought they were going to just another football match.
But the media is oversaturated by Paris and that (possibly unfairly) nauseates me and somehow takes me further and further away from what happened. All I see is the priority that is placed on tragedies happening in the West above anywhere else in the world – countries where this kind of thing is happening all the time, every day, every hour. I see the placing of importance of lives lost in one place over lives lost in another place.
Continue reading For the rest of the world.
A close friend asked me recently what ‘home’ meant to me. It’s not that we often delve into the philosophical during our frequent conversations together; she needed some information for a project she was working on and was interested in getting the perspectives of her friends and family. I was flipping through the answers she got from various other people and, in comparison to their one-liners, my own responses were rather long-winded. While this is laughingly typical of me (I have never quite mastered the art of being concise), I have a vague feeling that my answers to her questions were rather confused and convoluted. Weeks later, I still keep coming back to that question of what ‘home’ is and what it means to me – especially from my changed perspective as a fly-by visitor to the country I grew up in – a country I’m not sure I’ll ever truly return to again, except for periodic visits like this one.
It could have been because I lived a few of my formative years in Sydney that my bonds to Sri Lanka never felt terribly strong or permanent. I don’t remember much of my time here pre-Sydney. I was under 5 and have vague but happy memories of going to nursery and playing in my grandmother’s vast home and garden. Memories that old (or new, depending on how you look at it) are tied more to people, family and immediate environments rather than a country and sense of national identity. As children, I don’t think we ever dream there is a world outside the playgrounds we make for ourselves – except of course in the fancies of our imagination. For me anyway, anyone who wasn’t a fellow pint-sized sibling, or protective parent or grandparent, or stooping, loving Sumana, or sari-wrapped teacher, was either faceless or quickly forgotten. Continue reading Home
Also published on Groundviews.org
image by michal tokarczuk
do you feel it every day?
When you’re buying groceries,
taking a train to somewhere;
when you smoke, eat or dream?
Does it take a toll? Make your feet drag, perhaps,
or your head ache?
Does it get away from you sometimes?
Have people around you sensed something
not quite right,
caught that glint in your eye (there for just a second,
and gone the next)
and wondered what it was that made their skin
Or have they wished you good morning every day,
sat down to lunch with you, asked how your mother was,
without ever having a clue?
Continue reading Hate
WARNING: Spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read the book.
I finished reading J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye today. Despite being such a short book (at just over 200 pages), I was surprised that I managed to finish it so quickly. I read every day but sparingly – perhaps on the train on the way to work if I’m lucky enough to snag a seat, or sometimes during my lunch hour. (Well, lunch half-hour but sometimes I cheat a little.)
I was also surprised at how easy it was to read. I have this childish preconception that books now dubbed ‘literary classics’ will, simply for that reason, be difficult to read, both in terms of content and language. Fortunately for me, and to my enduring delight, I often find that this is not the case. It was so with Catcher in the Rye: the language and tone of the narrative was very modern-retro, and hilariously pock-marked with the protagonist’s incessant swearing – a combination that had me hooked from the first paragraph.
People have seen me reading this book at work and said things like “Oh I loved that book”, and I’ve found this reaction quite difficult to reconcile with my own. At first I thought it must be because I hadn’t yet finished the book and had missed some vitally cheery ending, but now that I have, I am still unable to be so… effusive about it. It’s not at all that I didn’t like the book – on the contrary, it kept me both entertained and ponderous right through – but when you get right down it is, it’s not exactly a terribly ‘feel-good’ read, is it? In the colourful words of Holden himself, “It certainly didn’t make me feel too gorgeous”. Continue reading Catcher in the Rye: my thoughts.