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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

May 28, 2011

14,000 things to be happy about

Settling down here hasn’t been easy – and that comes from someone who wasn’t expecting a fairytale to begin with. Still, I have to say I wasn’t prepared for how difficult it would be. A lot of the time it was like I was watching myself from a distance, with a growing sense of alarm as I floundered about in this new life, but unable to do anything to help myself out.

The first month was great: after months and months of waiting, I was finally here in Sydney. As with all new chapters, I felt awash with inspiration and hope, reveling in a fresh sense of freedom without all its worrying limitations. My parents were taking care of me until I got back on my feet, I had a great new apartment and after three long years, I was finally spending more time with my sisters. Summer was giving the weather its best shot before its imminent departure, so I spent many a morning rambling around either my neighbourhood or my sister’s in shorts and a tank top to stave off the heat (which actually reminded me a lot of home save for the lack of feeling like I’d be run out of town for wearing shorts anywhere other than the confines of my house or some remote beach). Life was good.

But soon, Summer waned, taking with it the warm security of the phrase “…but I just got here”. There was nothing for it but to start looking for work. And anyone who has been in my position (and by this I mean looking for that first job out of Sri Lanka) will sympathize because it is the single most demoralizing experience – ever. It is abominably cruel that we are meant to remain sprightly and brimming with self-esteem and worth when we’re met with rejection at every corner. So – being hideous at selling myself at the best of times – I had a truly ghastly time of it. I went from being headhunted in Sri Lanka to being at the bottom of the food-chain in Big Bad Corporate Sydney. Suddenly I felt like my experience amounted to nothing, that I was horribly unqualified and generally rubbish at everything. Applications got harder and harder to write, I started sending my CV out to places I wouldn’t have dreamed of applying to a month ago, and all the while alarm bells were going off in my head, accompanied by a voice that was telling me with brutal conviction that I was never going to find a job and would have to return to Sri Lanka with my tail between my legs come a month or two. Continue reading May 28, 2011

Churches

Praying_to_the_light_by_SilvieTepes

Praying to the light, by Silvie Tepes

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Church today, after a long, long time. After the past tumultuous few months, I honestly didn’t know how I would feel to walk in there again but sitting on the well-worn pews, flanked by my mother and grandmother, I suddenly felt calm and happy. There we were, 3 generations of mother and daughter, sitting together but alone with our own thoughts and it all suddenly just made me feel at home.

Religion was never something I spent a lot of time thinking about – not because I didn’t think it mattered, but because it was something that was simple to me: I believed. That was it, that was enough. I didn’t have a philosophy about it, I certainly didn’t pray endlessly but I didn’t feel bad for it either.

I think of religion as a quiet, private thing, which is why I find the more charismatic kind of church-going experience very disconcerting, although I daresay it works for some, and that’s ok. It just doesn’t feel right to me personally. I think that’s why I related to TMS’s post about TV evangelists. I don’t enjoy being preached at, but I like the idea of being guided. Continue reading Churches

The Choice

She just wanted to stop moving. They had been moving for so long. She rubbed her eyes tiredly, still sleepy after being grabbed from her bed and told to run without any warning. They hadn’t stopped moving since.

That was hours ago – she knows this because while she started off stumbling in pitch darkness, clutching her mother’s hand so that she wouldn’t fall, she could now dimly see her way as the  night gave way to a grim, cloudy morning.

It was hot. Her dress stuck to her, wet with sweat and her bladder was getting uncomfortably full. She looked around at the crowd surrounding her family and desperately tried to stave off the feeling. No toilets here. There were scattered bushes she could have ducked behind, but she sensed now was not the time to stop moving, although she so badly wanted to. Besides, who knew what was behind those bushes, watching, waiting. She felt a mosquito bite into the flesh of her thigh and paused to slap it. She looked at her hand to flick off the dead insect and found it covered in blood. Hers. Continue reading The Choice

I’ll be the sun again

sunshine_by_sabi_krabi
Sunshine, by Sabi-Krabi

Evening. Dusk would hint its imminent arrival, readying the sky for sunset. Shadows would lengthen with the darkening of light and in our shared bedroom, my sister and I would take our cue and switch on all the lights, unable to bear even a slight change in the bright light of day.

My mother – a die-hard environmentalist – would despair at the unabashed lack of conscientiousness in her daughters and our evenings would invariably be peppered with anything from gentle lectures on energy saving to irritated scoldings accompanied by the switching off of some of our lights.

“But we’re children of the light” my sister would protest, leaping about in front of my mother hopefully. My mother would roll her eyes and smile at this defence and I would giggle in spite of myself.

The lights stayed off though.

*          *          * Continue reading I’ll be the sun again

The Stage. The Lights. The Magic.

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Photo by Dininda Paranahewa

2 more days. It’s not enough.

Here I sit, on a Saturday morning, still bleary-eyed with sleepiness, with my mug of steaming milo sitting next to me, and I’m panicking.

Not in a hysterical, running-about-screaming sort of way. It’s a more insidious type of panic, lining your insides like a coat of paint which never really dries. It’s always fresh, it never really settles. It never screams out its presence but lurks around; nagging at you, reminding you discreetly that it’s always there. Waiting.

I’m panicking because of one word.

One word I am going to have to say in just 2 days. And it’s a word I have never been less ready to say.

Goodbye.

In just 2 days, one of the most gratifying experiences of my life will come to an end, and I will have to say that awful, awful word to both the experience itself and to every single person that made it happen.

Even though I’m going to try, I don’t think I can do justice to everything that’s happened in my life in the past 5 months. It’s too much. Too close to home. Too personal for me to be very objective about it. I guess that’s part of why it’s so special.

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about…

On the night of the 1st of March 2009, Hamlet at Elsie’s Bar will close for business. And on the 2nd, I know I’ll be heartbroken that I will not be able to go back there again, to meet with my friends, my children, my family.

*      *      * Continue reading The Stage. The Lights. The Magic.

25/12/2008

Christmas is here. I just wish I wasn’t finding it so hard to concentrate. So many things are crowding my mind when all I want is to forget them all and concentrate on my family, who I have been pushing aside for too long because of my own problems. Lately I have been feeling myself undeserving of their constant concern for me, their unexpected cuddles and other little gestures of love that have been forthcoming no matter my mood. Which has usually been black or at least on the dark side.

 

For no other reason that Christmas being imminent, I’ve tried to lighten up a little over the past few weeks. Yesterday and today have been spent well in that respect at least. Continue reading 25/12/2008