07 July 2011

Kumar Sangakkara: a man, a heart, a residence for all Sri Lankans

It was bound to happen. Peter Roebuck, who knows something about cricket, zilch about politics and history, has a sweeping style of commentating that is well fed by an arrogance that ideally compliments ignorance, took away a lot of gloss of what’s being described as one of the finest innings at Lords.  Factual inaccuracies and wild extrapolations slipped in with cogent arguments offered by others made for a piggy-backing of the most nauseating kind. 

I listened to what Kumar Sangakkara had said at the MCC ‘Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture’ all over again. Sangakkara was sharp, critical, pertinent and hopeful; Roebuck was caustic, off-context, dishonest and pessimistic.  Sangakkara got a standing ovation of the kind that Roebuck would never have got for his cricket or for his pedestrian commentaries. 

There are codes of conduct and a man of Sangakkara’s experience, intellect and stature would naturally be aware of these. I am not sure what kind of fallout there will be, but I am sure Sangakkara would not be unaware of possible costs of bring forthright. 

He was applauded at the Nursery Pavilion at Lord’s on Monday night (July 4, 2011) and the applause has not died down yet. Indeed, there is no reason it should.  Most importantly, not here in Sri Lanka, where people across the political spectrum are appreciative of the home truths that needed to be told but aren’t. His words are important for even as they are about mal-administration in cricketing circles, they speak to mal-administration across all institutions and in all institutional arrangements; it is not something relevant only to sports bodies. 

A friend commented: ‘Here's a man who defines what being Lankan really is’. True. Sangakkara will be quoted and re-quoted for years to come. There are quotable quotes in that speech that cricket scribes will savour for a long time to come. This, for example: ‘Fans of different races, castes, ethnicities and religions who together celebrate their diversity by uniting for a common national cause. Those fans are my foundation, they are my family. I will play my cricket for them. Their spirit is the true spirit of cricket.’ 

If cricket is taken as metaphor there is a lesson here for every young boy and girl in this country and in the world. Family is larger than father, mother, siblings and other relatives. The collective is indeed a ‘family’, and it is for that family that one plays or ought to. That is the true spirit of nationalism and solidarity.

We live in a country and world where party-loyalty, genuflection before employer and silence on account of costs involved override all other things. Sangakkara points to a different way of being: ‘My loyalty will be to the ordinary Sri Lankan fan, their 20 million hearts beating collectively as one to our island rhythm and filled with an undying and ever-loyal love for this, our game.’ Our ‘game’ is not cricket. Well, it is cricket and is not. It is more than cricket. It is about healing and embracing, being and becoming, distinct as well as common. 

There are words spoken with heart and when heart speaks words go to heart like the rays of the young son. Exhilarates. Empowers. Makes us want to be more than we are and strive to stretch the horizons of the possible. Kumar Sangakkara said it beautifully: ‘With me are all my people. I am Tamil, I am Sinhalese, I am Muslim and Burgher. I am a Buddhist, a Hindu, a follower of Islam and Christianity. But above all, today, and always, I will be proudly Sri Lankan’. 

I feel at home in those sentiments and resident in the heart of that man. This is why I believe that many recognize that Kumar Sangakkara has taken up residence in their hearts. He has, in mine. I am proud that he has and I am proud I am Sri Lankan in a Sri Lanka which, for all its errors and disappointments, does not forbid residency of all peoples in one and one in all. 

Kumar Sangakkara is not perfect. He will slip, he may fall, but he can be assured that for this speech and the sentiments therein, there won’t be lack of people to help him up. For he’s picked us all up. All by himself. 



Yashodara said...

perfectly said . the best article of this regard . thanks AYYA .

Shaik Ahamath said...

Thank you Malinda for reminding a wider audience what an awe inspiring man Kumar Sangakkara is. He has not an iota of racism, intolerance or prejudice in him but an abundance of generosity of acceptance and more. His wishes for a harmonious Sri Lanka may be proving difficult but he keeps trying. Sadly though, he is also vilified for it by the misguided from some quarters.
I remember his sentiments present in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) as a young boy, the common decency of politicians like Dr. N.M.Perera or the selfless determination of people like Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan fighting for justice for all. Looking around, I see lesser people have been more honoured with statues and street names.
When I am saddened by events in Sri Lanka, which is all too often these days, I re-read Sangakkara’s speed and it never fails to fill me with hope. Sri Lanka will once again be the wonderful place it once was. For those who are not familiar with the speech, I would gladly send a copy of the transcript(all 8,000 words). Send an email to sahamath@aol.com marked subject Kumar.