13 September 2011

Thank you, belatedly…

One year ago, almost to the day (September 10, 2010), I wrote a piece titled ‘Imperfectly yours…’.  This was to mark the first anniversary of ‘The Morning Inspection’.  A year has passed since then.  I’ve been away for a week so I missed the anniversary.  The world doesn’t look any different from what it was on the day before and is unlikely to change much tomorrow, but anniversaries are for remembering.  So let me remember. 

Last year, I wrote about how it began.   Here’s a para:  ‘I was without a regular job. Freelancing doesn’t pay much. There’s no job security. No EPF or ETF. No vehicle allowance. No festival allowance. No distress loans. No loans, period. No perks. Times were tough, so I met the Chairman, Lake House, Bandula Padmakumara to ask if I could write for the Daily News. He asked what kind of stuff I would be writing. I told him that I have a decent idea about what can be written and what cannot, so I will try to stay within the boundary line (there have been times what I have wandered outside and the editor has put his foot down; I never complained for in most instances I understood the logic of the decision). I told him about Amitha and Ginger. He asked ‘how many articles a week?’ I didn’t think: ‘six a week’. ‘Can you produce that much?’ he asked. ‘I will try’. That’s how it began.’
Times are still tough.  In terms of the column, disagreements (I can be temperamental) with the editor led to temporary stoppage.  Things got sorted out eventually.  I didn’t write 258 articles for the Daily News over the past 12 months, but the number stands over 200. A year ago, I promised to publish a collection on September 10, 2011. Didn’t happen.  There’s a reason.  My friend, benefactor and meticulous editor, Errol Alphonso, passed away after a brief illness.  He wanted to sort all the articles, clean them up, and publish several books on various themes.  Didn’t happen.
Time and events get in the way.  Laziness too.  It’s not hard to write 10-12 articles every week (I write to other newspapers too and perhaps this is bragging-day for me, so please indulge), after all there are doctors who see over a hundred patients every single day, judges who listen to dozens of cases, prostitutes who sleep with half a dozen men and so on.  My time is not mine most of the time.  That’s what comes out of being a freelance writer (and I have explained this in a previous article, i.e. we are lanced by the ‘free’ in many ways).  Anyway, the publishing didn’t get done and might never get done either.  No worries on that. Errol, though, wherever he is right now, would howl in protest if he reads this last sentence. 
An anniversary is for thanksgiving.  Errol was not the only benefactor.  I owe him a lot.  Learned from him.  Miss him too.  There are others who help and continue to help. 
There are what one may call ‘regular readers’.    Sandika Kamini, for example, responds at length to every article that I write.  Sumudu Gunaratne (school mate and fellow scout of 42nd Colombo), for example, claims that he reads ‘The Morning Inspection’ every day.  A few others also make the same claim.  There are many who write to me and I am not naming them all, both for reasons of space and for preference for anonymity.   I try to respond to each and every email that I receive.  The recipients know and that’s enough I believe.
Not everyone responds and those who do don’t write to me regularly either.  There are exceptions.  I can count on Aunty Saji to point out flaws and the occasional commendation.  In fact she educates me with snippets of her life, her experiences, observations and reflections on a wide range of subjects.   D.L.O. Mendis and Gamini Gunawardena write to me often, the former pointing out errors and directing me to areas I need to explore while the latter being a meticulous commentator on things related to the Dhamma, among other things.  I am grateful.
Feizal Mansoor, Tissa Pilimatalawa, Jeanne Thwaite, my father Gamini Seneviratne, an unpretentious and honourable Yaka from Thimbirigasyaya, Dimuth Gunawardena, Fazli Sameer, Mohan Baghwandas, Seyed Moulana and many others direct me to information they believe I should acquaint myself with.  I am grateful.
Ramzeen Azeez is a very special person and reader.  He spends his days in Habarana teaching English to children who didn’t even know the alphabet.  Ramzeen writes often, comments and inspires in so many ways.  I am especially grateful to him.  The same goes for Drupathi Silva, my self-effacing friend, who has introduced me to many exceptionally gifted and courageous individuals as well as organizations that do admirable, thankless and extremely important work among sections of the population that have for a multiplicity of reasons been marginalized. 
Then there are friends who bail me out when I have technical problems.  King Nish Pitigala, a schoolmate who lives in Los Angeles and Pam Rajapaksha who is in Australia have always obliged when I got stuck, the latter even setting up a blog for me.  The give extra life to the words I string together. 
Bandula Padmakumara gave me the space and intervened when I was sidetracked by issues of ego.  Jayatilleka De Silva (former editor) and his successor Lyn Ockersz have been, all things considered, very accommodating and understanding ‘bosses’.  Lyn’s secretary Champa Perera and Anjali Garnier, the sub-editor, have been extremely patient whenever I got derailed courtesy the ‘free’ of ‘freelancing’ (which is quite often; ‘too often’, I must admit).  Thank go out also to Mr. Leslie Jayatilleka, who I have never met but who unerringly captures the essence of what I write in his illustrations, amazingly reconstructing people, places and events almost as though he too was witness. 
There are also hate-mailers.  They keep me amused and/or on my toes.  I am grateful. 
Among the words that I put together are people, lives lived, transgressions suffered and contested.  That’s all the ‘Sri Lanka’ that I describe.  Many are no more.  Some don’t know.  I hope I’ve done justice and admit that any recounting error was honest and beg forgiveness. 
My teachers, without exception.  I owe them so much.  Especially Indrani Seneviratne, my late mother.  And of course the greatest teacher I’ve encountered, the Enlightened One, our budun wahanse, for life/lives lived and doctrine expounded so simply and eloquently.  That’s the most illumination I’ve received by far and this is why I murmur every morning and several times a day the namaskaara, reflect on the virtues of the Buddha Siddhartha Gauthama and the tilakkhana (three characteristics or signata of existence: impermanence, suffering and non-self), and say the words ‘sabbe satta bhavantu sukhitatta’ (may all beings be happy).