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
I’ve been dawdling over my packing the last few days. Knowing it has to be done but loitering over it anyway – indecisively putting clothes in and taking them out again; making patterns on my bed with lipsticks and blush brushes.
I like packing. I hate order in life but like finding order in little things. A well-packed suitcase is a thing of wonder. Pressed and ironed clothes make geometric designs in the case, all the while maintaining a smooth, flat surface. Then comes that tricky layer in the middle where the bulky, shapeless items go: shoes, handbags, that perfume he gave me, the cream I just bought, still in it’s box. I stuff under wear and scarves to fill in the cracks. And perhaps the most trickiest to pack: bras. I wish I was a small-breasted girl who didn’t need them, but alas, I am not and I do.
Yes, I like packing – but it stresses me out. I don’t stress easy but this always gets me. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because packing is kind of like predicting the future – or at least taking a stab at it. You pack according to what you think you’ll be doing. But no one really knows, do they? I have a rough idea – I’ll be seeing my sisters, my friends, my aunt in her house by the beach. But what about those delicious unknowns in between? How to plan for those? How to pack for those? Continue reading Packing.
May 18, 2009
I was watching ‘My Fair Lady’ when the war ended.
My phone disturbed the enjoyment of the old classic – one I’d grown up watching since the age of at least 5 – with its constant buzzing in of alerts.
Updates. Breaking News. All saying the same thing. Someone’s been killed. The names are different; the triumphant proclamations of death the same. Almost mechanically I forward the texts to my mother downstairs, knowing she’ll probably appreciate them more.
Then the final and most important of them all – the leader, dead, shot. The mass murderer, the simultaneous bearer and destroyer of the hopes of an entire community. The embodiment of one side of this 26 year war. The villain, the psychopath, the almost ghost-like elusive figure of terror. Dead. From ghost to human to carrion.
Strange how the death of one could spell the end of 26 years of terror. Strange, but true.
I read the words and could not comprehend them.
My brain told me to rejoice but the crackers outside only made me jump, uncomfortable in my own skin.
The war was over. Over. Over. Over. No matter how many times I said it over in my head – or even out loud – it just seemed… unbelievable. Unfathomable. This war has been in my life as long as my parents. So strange to think of it that way. Obviously not to compare the two but just to think about the length of time – my lifetime. It started 2 years before I was born. So I have simply lived with it all my life. And over that time 70,000 people have been killed, or so I’ve been told. Who knows the real numbers? Who can quantify it, really? There’s certainly no way to qualify the lives that have been lost, on both sides. At least – I hear myself tell others – at least the death toll stops there.
And what did I feel? Strangely, nothing much. Continue reading Tomorrow When the War Began
Feathers. Hundreds of them coating the road, lit by evening traffic. Whipped, wrenched and tossed around by fast-passing cars, flying up to disappear momentarily against the dark sky before settling into the spotlight again. At once yellow, at once red – headlights follow their jerky prime-time dance. Beautiful until you think about how they got there. Road kill. But there’s no sign of the ugly death.
Just the feathers – hundreds of them coating the road, lit by evening traffic.
She never usually watches the road, but she does today as she flees towards her destination in her trishaw bubble. The rush of road beneath her makes her feel weirdly like she was a sewing machine needle, watching yards of fabric race beneath and beyond her.
A bump in the road. A catch in the cloth. She tries to stop, go back, correct the mistake, the extra stitch, but she can’t. The needle rushes past, heedless that it’s pricked her and she’s bleeding.
Confused metaphors fly through her mind, whipping with the wind. She tries in vain to hold her loose hair in place and finally gives up, letting the flagellating strands slash against her neck, face and gloss-coated lips. Continue reading Impressions of a night.
The heat of the afternoon smothers her in an uncomfortable embrace. She’s desperate for escape but there is none.
She’s at her desk. Her work is open and politely asking for attention, but unrelated thoughts meddle with her focus.
If three’s a crowd, her brain is home to a multitude. She can almost feel them jostling, shoulder to shoulder, trying to push in front of each other, competing for prominence.
There are those beautiful people who she’s refusing to let go of. People who took her into their collective arms and provided her with a makeshift home and family at a time when she was surrounded only by the rubble of her past mistakes, ugly destruction. They made her sing. Their life and energy worked her stiff muscles, making it easier to move, to move on, to walk away. She misses them and wants them around her so that she can feel at peace again.
There is one who is experiencing that unimaginable pain of having to walk away from something that meant everything. She sees the invisible cuts, the eyes that pretend to focus while hiding wells of hurt, she hears the voice that rings out sweet and strong but knows it is on the verge of breaking, heavy with tears. She recognizes the symptoms of heartbreak and aches to ease the constant throbbing pain. Continue reading Heated thoughts
Mirror, by audpod
Overdosing on Benadryl. Not the most glamorous way to go.
My mind keeps shutting itself down and I’ve literally drifted off about a hundred and fifty times today already. Stuffing my face with short bread biscuits in an attempt to keep awake. My jaws are on overdrive. But I’m still sleepy.
The long weekend was… long. Saturday and Sunday were busy – which I loved, strangely enough. I say this because, on an average day, I am just about the laziest human being on the planet. But these are not average days.
I feel as if I’m undergoing some sort of strange personality transplant. I have never been more confident, but I have also never known myself less. So here I am, flaunting this brand new person around without actually taking the time to know her. Continue reading Mirror mirror…
The sea has always frightened me. Its strength, sheer magnitude, its many faces. Small waves could make me stumble while larger ones would wash over me gently. One moment the water would rage and storm despite clear skies; the next, it would look like a limpid pool, begging to hold you in its arms, promising to keep you safe while you float, staring at the clouds. I used to think of it as a huge half-sleeping animal, temperamental at best, threatening and beautiful at the same time.
When I was a child I never ventured far, preferring to paddle around in the shallows. I would try for hours to catch the foam in my cupped hands but be disappointed with a thin film of sand instead. Nevertheless I kept trying. Kids don’t disappoint easy. Besides, half the allure of the creamy white foam was that it could never belong to you. It just slipped through your fingers time and time again, and the lingering bubbles on your fingers beckoned you to try harder.
As I grew older I went further out but not by much. My toes would dig into the sand and the muscles in my thighs would flex, aching as I strode out against the current, deeper into the water. Still, something made me hang back, at a respectful distance, cautious of the ever rising waves. Continue reading La mer