As the people of Sri Lanka complete the voting process for the Parliamentary elections of 2015, PRADEEP JEGANATHAN reflects on his country’s history and politics.
We’ve never really had a father. We like to think we did, of course, be it D.S. Senanayake, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike or S.J.V. Chelvanayagam. But they never had a vision for Lanka that made sense, in the end. Unlike a Mahathir, Nehru or a Mandela, their vision was partisan, and the results plain to see. Senanayake’s great contribution was to disenfranchise the up country Tamils, and ignore the vernacular language question. Bandaranaike and Chelvanayagam were his children, fighting for the house that he never finished building.
We’ve gone along since, fatherless children that we are. So many have been killed, and so many have killed. Maimed. Seen the essence of inhumanity, lived with it, so it has become ordinary. Many of us like to think Rajapakse is our father, since it is said he rescued us from all this, took us over the mountains to the valley of peace. Certainly, he’s proclaimed himself father and king, and his sons princes. And he’s had his moments.
The penultimate paragraph refers to a song by Nanda Malini:
We’ve always had our mother. She is Lanka. That is the third thing I know about my country, and when I say, our mother is Lanka, or Ilankai or Eelam (for that too is a name for Lanka), I do not mean it in the sense of an inanimate goddess that is to be adored, appropriated and used as a cover for racism, violence and inequality. No, I mean it in the sense of Lanka’s lament, in the great songstress’ lyric, “Deddahas Pansiya Vasarak. (For 2,500 years).” In this beautiful song, Nanda Malini sings Lanka’s lament, her almost helpless sadness and deep grief, at the robbers and killers she has given birth to, who have then become big men and women, clinging to power by selling her name.
Here is the song:
Pradeep Jeganathan is currently Professor, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Shiv Nadar University.