Source: එහෙමත් දවසක්
ඊයේ ඉරිදා දවසේ මව්වරුන් ගේ දිනය ලු
අපේ ලොකු එකී දුවං ඇවිත්
ෆෝන් එකත් උල් කරලා, කටත් එක්ක උල් කරලා
මාව බදාගෙන ෆොටෝ අරං
කාමරේට දුවං ගියා
ලොකු හෝටල් වල ගජරාමෙ ලු
කප් රුකටත් හොඳ බිස්නස් ලු
අල්ලපු ගෙදර වීල් මල්ලි පොලට යන ගමං දාං යද්දි
රස කර කර මට කිව්වා
අනේ ඉතිං අපේ ගෙදර
කිසි වෙනසක් තිබ්බෙම නෑ
ඉරිදා දවසක් හින්දා, මහත්තයත් ගෙදර හින්දා
උදේ ඉදං වැඩ, වැඩ, වැඩ
උදේ කෑම අස්කරන්න හොඳටෝම පරක්කු උනා
ලොකු එකයි මහත්තයයි දවල් වෙනකං නිදි හින්දා
නිවාඩු දවසක නෙ අනේ එහෙමත් හරි නිදා ගන්නෙ
පොලට ගිහිං ඇවිදිල්ලා, දවල් කෑම උයල දීල
ගේ අස්පස් කරල, මිදුල වටේ අතුගාල
පොඩි එකාගෙ ඉස්කෝලේ වැඩ ටික අහවර කරල
පොඩ්ඩක් හති අරින කොටම
රෑ කෑමට හරි වෙලාව
ඊයේ ඉරිදා දවසේ මව්වරුන් ගෙ දිනය ලු
Image courtesy: http://www.islamic-relief.me
15 undergraduates of Peradeniya University, Faculty of Agriculture being arrested for ragging a group of first years became national news last week. The Inter-university Students’ Federation, was quick to disassociate themselves from the incident, and so were the university officials; the Vice Chancellor making a statement to press that the proceedings should be conducted by the Police, followed by a suspension of the same students until investigations were over. The accused arrived at courts covering their faces. Why cover your faces? Why now?
Finally, I would say, some kind of attention is being drawn to the topic which has been infecting the university system for decades. University of Peradeniya celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. Neither the glorified history nor the picturesque beauty often photographed do justice to the thousands of undergrads who have walked through the imposing corridors, fearing for the seniors, self-doubting your decision to come to university, humiliated both mentally and physically.
Back in 2005 when I received my entrance letter to Pera, I didn’t expect the call that came after it. A senior from my school spoke to me about the ragging situation and prepared me with the dos and don’ts in order to avoid it. Apparently there existed an Anti-Ragging movement, small in number at the time, yet prepared to go to the length of helping first years get through the first days of university.
On the day of the Orientation only two of us girls were in trousers, drawing much looks from the seniors who were ‘on duty’. The whole of our first semester was about surviving; you come exactly on time for lectures, and leave the university as soon as lectures finish. We would randomly be confronted by seniors who would try to stop us and talk to us, for which we always had an excuse and managed to scoot off. This would be followed by a barrage of verbal filth directed at us. One thing about our batch was that we stuck together at ALL times. Detailed plans would be made every evening for the next day where those coming from Kandy would meet at the Mahakanda bus stop and to get off at Galaha junction and join the others who came from the opposite directions; Gampola, Peradeniya etc.
A year later, as ‘seniors’, we were the ones making calls, meeting ‘juniors’ at bus stops to escort them to the faculty, getting scolded in filth (by now a common experience) for ‘protecting’ the first years, being thrown eggs and tomatoes at for doing so. We took, or tried to take the movement further; to be Anti-Raggers as opposed to Non-Raggers.
Many were the stories we encountered; from verbal to physical abuse, from randomly being shouted at in filth to being punched and bullied, to sadder disgusting experiences in the hostels. Many were the students who came to us asking for help, and even more were those who could not openly reach out to us because they had to continue in the hostels. We would speak to the Faculty Counsellors, the Heads of Departments, and even the Dean. Some students were questioned as a result, we were given hope that something at some point would solve the issue. But the infestation went too deep, too deep into the system. Eventually the authorities would turn around and say that they do not have enough evidence to do anything further. We were informed that getting evidence at a situation such as ragging is very important! We had camera phones, so we were supposed to photograph or video the incident! What baffled me was that how a student, being confronted by such a situation would have the sense to pull out the phone and ‘capture the moment’. It didn’t help that most of the times, the Raggers would confront a lone Anti-Ragger in groups.
Over the years the Anti-Rag movement grew in numbers. We had the likes of Ashan Weerasinghe who opted to follow English as his minor subject while specializing in Sinhala, an act which required much courage, which he possessed in spite of his stature, and Menaka Premachandra, who openly claimed he was against ragging at a Sinhala lecture, the Sinhala Department which was seen as one of the strongest ‘Pro-Ragging’ departments. By our final year, we were overjoyed to see that not even a quarter of our batch attended a Union meeting for Final Years’. But the affliction of ragging continued, they continue to have strength in numbers, in the power drawn through the Student Unions. Mostly, they are strengthened by the helplessness of the first years, straight out of school, miles away from homes, naïve and impulsive youthful minds into which a created inferiority complex is fed, which will benefit petty political agendas of a handful.
However, finally the issue is getting much media and public attention it should have got many years ago, unfortunately at the expense of the 8 first year students. Whilst reading that they were discharged from the hospital, now I fear for their safety even more, because I know they will not be left alone by the rest of the ‘seniors’ for what happened to their batch mates. I also wonder if this attention is only because the ragging took place out of University premises. What if the same happened inside a hostel, just like all the other ragging acts do? Would the officials and unions disassociate themselves as readily as they did? Would the incident come into light at the first place? For some fortune the students decided to commit the crime out of university and thanks to that decision now we have national level dialogue about it. Whether this would lead to completely eradicating ragging from the university system, or be just another case which will be swept under the carpet of political influence and time is yet to be seen.
How can I make you understand,
When I myself am unable to?
How can I teach you what to believe,
When I myself am in doubt?
How can I lead by example,
When I myself still make mistakes?
How can I answer all your questions,
When I myself am still looking for them?
All I can do is hold your hand at every step you take
And promise you,
Not that I will guide you all the way,
But that I’ll be there next to you all the way.
All I can do is hold your hand tighter
Ans assure you,
Not that everything will be alright,
But that we will, together, endure everything
The reef of Iconic was one of the oldest reefs in the ocean of Arcadia. It used to be Poseidon’s pride jewel. He built a beautiful palace at the very center of the reef, a tribute to his ownership of the ocean after Proteus when Zeus supplanted him in the aftermath of his victory over Cronus. The palace reflected the palaces of the land and sky, because Poseidon wanted to show off his connection to these two entities as a god, an honour none of his subjects could even dream of.
A century later Poseidon handed over the ownership of Iconic to his son Triton, amidst a large gathering of gods, demigods, merpeople and every sea creature alive in the seven seas. It was a royal event in every sense. The gods and demigods were seated in glittering shells, breathing out strings of bubbles. The gods of the land and sky having consumed the concoction presented by Circe, made especially for this occasion, were enchanted by the beauty of the deep ocean. They ate, drank, made merry and sang praises to Poseidon and Triton alike. That was the last time most of the land and sky gods visited Iconic, because Circe, seeing the potential of her potion, demanded that she be rewarded every time it was consumed. And gods being gods, would accept only things that were given free.
Left mostly alone by himself, Triton began venturing beyond Iconic. He explored the many places in Arcadia’s furthest corners. Years and many expeditions later, not only Iconic but the ocean of Arcadia was Triton’s kingdom, prosperous and full of loyal, happy merpeople. But Triton had one weakness. His twisted conch shell. And he liked to blow his shell a lot! Another century later, Triton decided that it was best to celebrate 200 years of ownership of Iconic in his family and 100 years from when it was handed over to him by Poseidon. The celebration was to be bigger and better than the one held a century ago.
For this, Triton summoned Ursula, the sea-witch whose fame for entertainment and spicing up life had reached the seven seas. Yet, Triton had to think several times before deciding. Ursula was not a favourite of merpeople, as she was equally famed to ‘trade’ merpeople for personal interests. However, the celebrations were more important, as it was an once-in-a-lifetime event. So, the decision was made and Ursula welcomed to the palace.
As she glided into the reef, the sea horses guarding the periphery of the reef were troubled by the strong ripple of current created in the water. This ripple followed the sea-witch everywhere she went. Her six tentacles twisted and twirled around her and the smallest fish and anemone were wrapped around it and smashed on the rocks and corals. But Ursula did not bother. She pretended not to know. That was the thing with Ursula. Though born into the family of Octopus, she only had six tentacles, her two hands serving instead. So some thought she was from the dynasty of Squid. But nobody knew. Nobody knew who Ursula really was.
So she entered Iconic, and turned a new page in the history of Arcadia. The first few days were spent gliding across Iconic, not sparing an inch of the great reef. At first the merpeople welcomed her with smiles. But as days passed, the atmosphere changed. Every night something would happen within the palace walls, and the next day, the merpeople found one of their favourite mergenerals had disappeared. There was no trace of them, nobody had heard nor seen them leave. One by one mergenerals vanished, some even with their families. So now the merpeople by the sides of the rocky paths either scuttled away, or averted their eyes away from Ursula when she walked around.
After her daily rounds, she would lock herself with Triton in his royal chamber for hours. No one knew what conspired between them.
It was announced that the celebrations were being planned in the most extravagant manner. All the gods and demigods of the land and sea were invited, just like before. Triton wanted to impress his friends, and that is exactly what Ursula promised to do.
And she delivered.
The celebration was better than the one held a century ago. Triton’s scribes wrote every detail in long reeds and stored them safely in the caves of Iconic, a tribute to the achievement of Triton.
Because after the celebrations, Ursula did not leave Iconic, though all the merpeople were keen to see the last twisting tentacle vanish from their beloved reef. It was not to be so. Ursula fell in love with the power she wielded over the whole of Iconic and no way was she to lose it and go back to living in the darkest part of Arcadia all by herself.
So Ursula started walking around Iconic more. The once-a-day rounds increased to two then three, after every meal. During these rounds, she was able to pick out a few merpeople whose faces she did not like. One by one she befriended them and learnt their secrets and weaknesses. Every night she would sit in front of her bubbling cauldron and fill it with the little bits and pieces of the lives of her victims. By the end of the week as the sun sinks into Arcadia, Ursula would stir these pieces, chanting incantations no one understood. She would then carefully lift her tentacles and pull out the vapour from the cauldron. The vapour would take the form of the merperson whose pieces of soul belonged to, and as the vapour-like image screamed and withered, Ursula would twist her six tentacles around it and stroke the figure like a mother would a baby. Gradually the strokes would become stronger and the figure in the vapour would begin to groan and moan. The strokes would become even more rigorous until the figure would be screaming in pain. The screams get louder and louder and with sudden burst of flames, the figure would disappear. The next morning, the real merperson to whom the life pieces belonged to would have disappeared too.
With no trace.
So things drastically changed at Iconic, but Triton was not aware. Ursula made sure he did not know. She had him wrapped in a mist of ignorance, through which he could only see what she showed him. Right now, all of Triton’s loyal subjects have left him. The ones who remain are surrounded by the mist too, and thus cannot save Iconic from the impending disaster.
The rest of Arcadia watches on, unable to talk sense to Triton, helplessly watching the impending disaster.
It’s not that I remember you all the time. I don’t. I have moved on in life. I don’t think of you every waking hour, I don’t think of you every morning as the sun rises, or every evening as the sun sets. I don’t think of you at dawn or at dusk. There is no memory of you that surprises me on a normal day, as it leaps into my mind. No voice, no image, no sound that suddenly makes me think about you.
I do not have these memories, because I simply don’t. Because you were the perfect illusion. You made me dream about you, made me change for you and more than anything, you made me hope for you. And then, you, the illusion, Maya, you never came.
Yet on an off chance, I remember you. More so in April and in November. In November because you were ‘to be’ in this month. In April because you decided not to be. But apart from that, I remember you on and off. And when that happens, I take your memory from where it lies, far away in my heart, and I caress it, ever so gently as I always pictured I would when you came. And then I kiss your memory, a soft tender kiss, and put you back far away, in my heart.