Rebirth

Originally published on Groundviews.

Floods in Batticaloa (http://airforce.lk)

I haven’t been reading the news much lately. I heard about the floods in the East and North Central Province and thought abstractly to myself, ‘how awful’. I watched the downpour in Colombo itself and complained about the shivering cold of that one day during which temperatures fell to 18 degrees – the lowest in over 60 years.

I never really fathomed the extent of the destruction until I happened across a 3-line post on a blog, linking to some footage by the airforce of the flooding in Batticaloa. I didn’t pay much attention to the article on the airforce site, but those pictures stunned me. Water up to treetops. Acre upon acre of paddy land totally destroyed. All I could think was, ‘haven’t they been through enough?’

War. Tsunami. Floods. Would it ever stop? Would they ever have the luxury of having normal lives again? Would there ever come a time when they would stop having to start over? I felt an immense tiredness for them as well as an odd admiration for their unending resilience and ability to survive disaster upon disaster. This post was a result of those feelings – a grossly inadequate but well-meant tribute to their struggle.

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When the skies rumbled, angry and blistered with grey clouds, we were happy. Rain has mostly been our friend – a welcome drink for thirsty fields; a muddy playground for restless babies.

I myself have always loved the rain. As a child I would run out whenever my mother’s back was turned and spin like a runaway firework in the moving, liquid soil. Brown would squelch up between my toes and ooze onto my feet and the cooling sensation would make me swoon. My country is often hot and in those days, rain meant relief.  I would open my mouth to it, my mother’s distant scoldings unheeded, and drink with an eagerness than frightened me. As if I was trying to drink in the secrets of all of nature. And the water would not only quench my thirst; it somehow made me stronger. My feet always stomped harder after that first drink; mud would explode outwards, all around me, and I would feel invincible.

Even as I grew up and learned that explosions were not always joyous, I never stopped loving that rain. In the most bitter times, it would still taste sweet, and remind me of younger, happier days, when nothing ugly seemed to exist. When my world was solely and selfishly my own. I had no real worries then. If I cried I would be fed; if I couldn’t sleep my mother would stroke my back until the feel of her fingertips on my skin numbed me into unconsciousness. And if I was thirsty, I always had the rain.

My father was a farmer and so we lived by the rain. When it didn’t come, we, along with our crops, were devastated. Money was short, food scarce, tempers dark with hunger. Rain for us meant green, growth, abundance, food in our stomachs. As I grew older, when I ran out into the rain, it was to give thanks.

“You love the rain more than me” my lover accused once when my eyes were drawn one too many times to the streaming water outside and away from his dry, smooth skin. “No” I had replied, forcing my gaze away; but I was lying. Continue reading “Rebirth”

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Fire.

Worried little eyes peer out from behind thin fabric, reflecting fire.

A little child has her mother’s skirt pulled over her face, covering a mouth open with fascinated fear. The faded cloth smells of her mother and, though she doesn’t know it, ash. She wrinkles her nose at the unfamiliar odor but cannot tear her eyes away from the sight of her house being burnt down to the ground.

Fire. She knows what it is but has only seen it in the form of candle flames and, when those weren’t available, small bonfires. The first time she’d seen it she’d reached out curiously to touch the live orange. She’d only just barely reached it when her mother snatched her hand away. But that little touch stung and she had bawled lustily as her mother gently sucked on her fingertip, soothing the pain.

She had never gone near the cunning flames again. Continue reading “Fire.”