08 May 2012

Reflections on love and death in Kiriella

Last afternoon, a man killed a woman. Both were serving in the Navy.  Nadeesha was shot dead by Surendra, who then killed himself. A love story. An ancient one.  It reminded me of another death, another love.  A decade ago.  That happened in Kiriella.

The personal tragedy almost all the time surpasses national tragedy in weight, depth and the unbounded ocean of tears it provokes. There are people who live vicariously off other people’s tragedies. There are others who, understanding the commonality of the human condition, recognises themselves as part players in the unfolding of terrible events and processes. They meditate on them. They too weep. This is perhaps why mothers die a thousand deaths each time they hear of a child being harassed, a child killed in an accident or made to suffer humiliation in school. And why each death always makes us appreciate those close to us.

Maybe it is for all these reasons that the "big news" last week was not about the oil tank farm being leased to India or the many capitulations to the LTTE or the bending backwards of the anti-peace, pro-terrorist lobby which includes the (Eel) National Peace Council, the UNF and host of other naive or servile actors. What splashed across the front pages of newspapers was the story of young Dulmini Iroshika Tillakaratne, an A/L student at Kiriella Madya Maha Vidyalaya, Ratnapura.

According to the police, she was stabbed in 36 places by fellow student J. H. Jayatilleke on account of unrequited love. All human beings know love. They have received it and have given it. But all the tears that were shed in Kiriella and elsewhere last week were not on account of a tragic love story, but a tragedy.

Albert Camus, in what can be argued to be one of his most influential essays, "Reflections on the Guillotine", contesting the argument of capital punishment being a deterrent, makes the observation that a wronged lover has already absolved himself of the murder of the object of his love even before he commits the crime. He argues further that such a person, who has already decided that he can no longer live, would not have one thought about the punishment, however severe it may be. Crimes of passion, says Camus, are seldom premeditated. They often occur on the spur of the moment and there is never enough time to consider the repercussions. Jayatilleke took a knife to school on that fateful day.

Murder must have lurked in some corner of his obviously tortured heart. And yet in his brief conversation with the girl, it was not an intention to kill but to be killed that was expressed. He offered the knife to Dulmini first. Dulmini, apparently, was completely unmoved and probably found the entire drama rather boring. Jayatilleke did not arouse any passion in the girl and clearly not persuaded to do anything more than chide the boy for his foolishness. And the spurned boy, consumed by love, rejection and who knows what else, made her suffer for her disinterest. And with it he signed his own death warrant. He died the moment he was identified as the murderer. He dies again and again in each news story published, in each comment and every time someone reads these things.

He cannot be forgiven. He deserves no pity because he took the life of another human being, who probably had the same passion for life, will to live and fear of death. The best he can expect from an unforgiving world is a soft understanding of the extent of his passion, for he was, like Father Cayetano Delaura in Garcia Marquez’ novel "Of love and other demons", and like many other people across time and space, possessed by the "most terrible demon of them all" Love. And for all intents and purposes, it is not important that pundits point out that "love" cannot be revengeful or demanding. No one can define the contours of this irrepressible creature called "love". Jayatilleke thought he was in love. That is all that is pertinent to the issue.

Dulmini Iroshika was a victim. Her story is tragic. And so very sad. It is a tragedy for her family, her friends, everyone who knew her and now for everyone who would never have known her name if she had not died the way she did. And all this a result of a simple thing. Jayatilleke did not know how to differentiate tragedy from the unfortunate in the matter of love, its acceptance and rejection.

From what I know, to love someone is a beautiful thing. To desire that person and to want that love reciprocated is natural. If such reciprocity is not forthcoming, it is unfortunate, but not tragic. Tragedy in love is when two people whose hearts beat in unison cannot be together for reasons that have nothing to do with them. If they cannot express their feelings for each other freely and the ways they want because of caste, religious, ethnic "incompatibilities" imposed by family and social norm; they can’t be together because they discovered each other too late (the "too late" always being a condition imposed by notions of propriety), because they "belong" to other people, because there is an "unacceptable" age difference, etc., that is tragic.

Today there is a victim and a villain. Probably beautiful in their own way, they would have been endearing to their parents who would have had fond hopes for their future. Each a prince and a princess to those who loved them. One dead, wept over and made immortal and not without cause. For she was absolutely innocent. Another alive, murdered over and over again for being alive. Not without cause. One was killed, the other committed suicide and opened himself to eternal damnation.

And all I can say is that my senses are wrapped by a certain numbness, perhaps like other people too, especially all those who have loved, experienced its disappointments and understood the magic of its inexpressible sorrows and indescribable joys. Dulmini is dead. So is Jayatilleke. May they rest in peace. Someday.


Anonymous said...

'opened himself to eternal damnation'. The dogma of the faith I profess says this too. I disagree.Jayatilleke was wrong to take a life. But who are we to condemn a suicide.Judgment in another world may be more gentle.