25 September 2013

Kandiah Maheswaran teaches English to C.V. Wigneswaran



[In a parallel universe called ‘Humility’…]


 It would be nice if all candidates walked the talk, but niceties aside all candidates talk and all candidates walk.  Walking leads to talking because that’s how solicitation of vote takes place.  This is how C.V. Wigneswaran met a man called Kandiah Maheswaran in a village called Chankanai not too far from Jaffna town. 

Kandiah Maheswaran, 81 years old, has seen a lot.  He has never worn glasses but has perfect vision.  A strict vegetarian, he has never been hospitalized.  The octogenarian long since retired as an English teacher, nevertheless continued to teach, gratis.  He did not run a tuition class.  He didn’t have regular students.  He didn’t market himself.  And yet every day, between 4 and 6 in the afternoon, there would be two or three children between the ages of 12 and 19 who would drop by to ask him something, get him to clarify something or just listen to his stories. 

Wigneswaran, ex-judge turned politician, didn’t know Maheswaran. He didn’t come to get an English lesson.  He came to solicit the old man’s vote.  Maheswaran, cultured beyond belief, never shut his door on anyone’s face.  However, before the vote-asker could ask, he was asked: ‘Do you know the meaning of the word terrorist?’

Pat came the answer, ‘another word for freedom-fighter’.
How about terrorism?’

‘Another word for freedom-fighting!’ was the smug response.

‘Shooting dead those who are politically opposed to you, would you call it murder or terrorism?’

‘Neither.  Freedom-fighting.’

‘Shooting in cold blood over 600 unarmed persons who had surrendered: murder or terrorism?’

‘Freedom-fighting,’ Wigneswaran said cheerfully.

‘Setting off bombs in buses, trains and other crowded places?’

‘Freedom-fighting!’

‘Some 500 plus child combatants were reunited with their parents not too long after the warring ended.  This indicates that thousands of children were recruited and trained to kill.  Hundreds would have died, either as children or as adult combatants.  Not a single parent voluntarily handed over a child to an armed group.  That act of forcible conscription, would you call it kidnapping?’

‘I wouldn’t call it that; I wouldn’t call the recruiters terrorists or kidnappers.  It’s part of fighting for freedom.’

‘How about holding close to two hundred thousand people at gun point, shooting those who wanted to leave and letting them starve; hostage-taking by terrorists?’

‘No, liberation by liberators!’

‘Appapillai Amirthalingam, Neelan Thiruchelvam, Sri Sabharatnam, S. Padmanabha, Lakshman Kadirgamar, Rajiv Gandhi; victims of terrorist attacks?’

‘Necessary costs of liberation!’

‘When Sinhala soldiers, especially in the late eighties and nineties stormed into villagers and opened fire, were they perpetrating acts of terrorism or fighting for freedom?’

The judge paused for a moment and taking the opportunity, the old man went into his room and came back with a dictionary, yellowed with extensive and long use.  He flipped through the pages.  He pointed to two entries. 

Terrorist: ter·ror·ist /ˈterərist:  A terrorist is a person who uses terrorism in the pursuit of political aims. 

Terrorism: ter·ror·ism /ˈterəˌrizəm: The use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.

He looked at the ex-judge, awaiting pronouncement of one kind or another.  He was duly obliged.

‘This must have been authored by a Sinhala chauvinist intent on misleading the masses and the international community,’ he observed.  

‘One final question: do you know the meaning of the term “loose-cannon”?’

The candidate stared into the older man’s eyes but didn’t answer.  Kandiah Maheswaran excused himself, went into his bathroom and came back with a small mirror which he handed over to Wigneswaran.

The candidate looked into the mirror, blinked twice, pulled out a handkerchief, wiped his glasses and the mirror and exclaimed, ‘Why it’s Mervin Silva!’ 

[Recorded by Kadawara]
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2 comments:

sajic said...

Interesting. But one serious problem with this. Questions asked and answered are entirely mythical. Mr CVW never suggested any of these in his speeches, although he may have spoken about freedom fighters and heroes.
The truth must never be sacrificed in the name of humility.

Malinda Seneviratne said...

satire is legitimate.