25 February 2013

Little one, sleep now; tomorrow you will rise

[A note on Balachandran, younger son of Velupillai Prabhakaran]

 There are those who use Balachandran’s death for political purposes.   We need not go into that very long list of names.  Then there is another long list of those mourn the shooting of a child, whose identity in terms of who is father was and what his father did, are largely irrelevant.  It’s a longer list. 
That longer list is made of people who in the moment of considering the tragedy of a little boy being shot to death forget identity and politics and draw from the reserves of humanity to sigh, to shed a tear and to write a few lines of verse. 

To my mind, no one has captured Balachandran’s fate with sensitivity, poignancy and nuance of articulation as has Anil Nishantha Lokugamarala.  He was moved to verse by the picture of the little boy lying on the ground, still and dead.  He called it ‘Bala Sanda’, playing on the boy’s name, where ‘Chandra’ refers to ‘moon’ the Sinhala word for which is ‘sanda’.  ‘Sanda’ of course has many connotations.  It is moon, it refers to ‘moment’ and ‘friend’.  ‘Baala’ means ‘young(er)’ or weak(er).    ‘Sara Sanda’ refers to the moon in its full and beauteous clarity.  The reference to ‘sun’ evokes the father’s preferred tag, ‘Suryadevan’ or ‘Sun God’. 
The nuance is such that it is hard to translate.  What’s given in English should be read as a ‘baala’  version and it is left to the imagination of the reader to extrapolate to the original. 


And when the mother, that ultimate and serene full moon,
lay in pieces and covered with black smoke,
in the foreboding dark of the lagoon-strip
there arose from the bloodied remnants of life,
the younger moon: Bala Sanda

The head that tore the sun lay bared and split
with brain parts scattered
besides the raucous roar of triumphant lions
and bequeathed with a life
made of living death, death after death,
how could a mind so tender bear
the weight of a pulsating heart?

One day the sun will break through the darkest clouds
one day the sun will rise after bowing low to kiss the earth
little sun, arise then, wiping away tear
embrace the earth’s bosom, little sun,
for now, little sun, sleep on thus.

This can and will be interpreted in many ways.  Some might say it is an indictment on the ‘Sinhalese’ Army, grist to the mill of the LTTE’s rump and so on.  But what of that?  It is a sentiment that transcends petty politics and the word-wars that make the world deaf to plea, blind to heartbeat and hope.   It is, to me, the heart of a Sinhala Buddhist who speaks for the majority of Sinhalese and Buddhists.  This, more than any ‘reconstruction’ or ‘concession’ has the power to heal. 
Something happened near the Nandikadaal lagoon.  It also happened in other places.  Through it all and thereafter too, humanity, bombed, shot at, crippled and dismembered, refused to die.  Anil Nishantha Lokugamarala is living proof. 

[Published in THE NATION, February 24, 2013]