14 September 2011

Prasad Edirisooriya says 'Thank you Mr. Robert O. Blake'

There was something called 9/11 which is supposed to have changed the world.  Changed the world yet once again, I should add, for before that there was the world-changing moment of some wall in some place in Europe being brought down. Berlin, if memory serves.  There was a thing called the New World Odour. Sorry, ‘Order’.  ‘9/11’ was a tragedy that called a nation to take stock, take aim and discharge at will its frustrations, anger and the instruments made for robbing the world.  Sorry, ‘making the world safe’. 

I’ve heard the name Katrina.  That was some time ago.  I hear she huffed and puffed and blew away tall stories of invincibility and disaster-readiness.  I hear she’s left quite a few scars and that some wounds are of the slow-to-heal kind.   I’ve heard of a woman called Irene too.  She is supposed to have caused several cities in several states of the United States of America to weep copious tears.  Caused quite a flooding, she has. 
‘Hollywoodness’ might fool you, but I hear that it is possible for a third world to exist within the belly of a first world.  I’ve already heard that democracy is hypocrisy, dream actually nightmare and that for all talk of equality before the law and flatness in opportunity, the political economy of that landscape is not only skewed on class lines but is patently and potently racist too.  I’ve heard that troops are regularly dispatched to ‘see the world, land on territories with fairytale names and ravage them, and encounter exotic people and kill them’.  I’ve heard that when they return shell shocked (sorry, suffering from PCTS – Post Conflict Trauma Syndrome), they are handed a sexy name-tag (‘Veteran’), praised to heaven on every 11th day of November (Veterans’ Day) and duly forgotten on the other 364 days of the year (and 365 each Leap Year) as they wallow in their personal and collective hells. 
I’ve heard of terrible histories and somber future that can be reasonably extrapolated from sick presents.  I’ve heard of some 25,000 people being killed in shootings every year including kids killing kids, a woman being raped every so many seconds, rampant substance abuse, a prison-industrial complex that is an affront to humanity where slavery thrives (legally, once again), a system that cannot educate the nation’s children, cure the sick or take care of the elderly.  It’s a country where supposedly educated and intellectually sharp leaders mimic their dumb and moronic predecessors and where the poor are kicked in their teeth and the thieving rich bailed out when they trip over their own greed and fall on their sorry behinds. 
From that terrible and unhappy planet (shall we say?) an emissary has arrived.  A noble man and one so large-hearted that he made a life-project of boldly going forth to make pure a corrupt world, sort out the little bruises and scratches of each and every society he wanders into and so on.  Robert Blake, ladies and gentleman, is a rare kind of hero.  The whole of Sri Lanka know him. And owe him too, shall we add?  I really don’t have the words to say ‘thank you’ in ways that do justice to the largeness of his heart, but my friend Prasad Edirisooriya clearly has.  Here’s the English translation of a song he composed just for our hero, Robert Blake, who loves the world so much and is so giving that he would put any country before his own:
Hail O Robert O. Blake (Hon)!
Like an Eastern rising he arrived
On our blessed land
from a Western horizon
this noble and generous man –
All hail! All hail!

Floods, hurricanes
Unemployment and other grief
Uncountable, indescribable
And tears for these and other back-home tragedies
He brushed aside to be with us
To bring gift and friendship –
All hail! All hail!

And he came to walk among us,
Visit our villages, our homes
Our lives and hearts,
Extended a hand, gave year to heartbeat
Brought relief too,
He did, he did,
This generous, noble man –
All hail! All hail!

With unstinted affection
Eyes pinched by tear-need,
He came, he saw, he gave:
Relief, victory, joy,
This son of another land
To us a shining, life-giving sun –
All hail! All hail!

Yes, a crude translation.  Prasad will forgive, I am sure.  He had a footnote: ‘This is a welcome song, penned to mark the arrival of US Deputy Secretary of State, Robert O. Blake (on September 12, 2011), who accorded us with the rare privilege of his presence despite his many duties and obviously busy timetable just so he could educate himself about Sri Lanka’s problems and offer practical solutions.’
I heard yesterday that this gentlemen has been strolling around up-market department stores ‘touristing’ in a terrorist-free country that must have been a kind of dreamspace for him back when he was the US Ambassador.  He must have been taking a pulse.  So kind.  So erudite.  We are not worthy, I am forced to conclude.  As I said, I don’t have the words, but I believe despite my translation-butchering, Prasad’s words express the nation’s sentiments.  I hope it is thanks enough, Robert. 
[The Daily News, for reasons best known to them, did not carry this article]


G. de Silva said...

For those who have not yet seen, here is something to think about 9/11 -


Watch it to the end without any preconceived ideas and you be the judge about the event which was the platform used to create the 'New World Odour' Malinda is talking about.

fayaz said...

hey mr malinda...
youve outdone yourself !
great !