23 October 2013

Mangala Samaraweera dwells on his ‘revolutionary moment’



[In a parallel universe called Humility…]

When the General Secretary of the UNP Tissa Attanayake said that the Government is going to make me a political prisoner a lump materialized in my throat.  For a brief moment I was worried for I have always valued my freedom and I abhor all manner of limitations, be it gates, iron bars or propriety.  But then I dwelled on the matter of making something out of nothing.  It was a long dream.

I thought of Antonio Gramsci and the long years that the Italian Communist spent in jail.  I thought I could write my own ‘Prison Notebooks’.  I thought of Nazim Hikmet of Turkey, his incarcerations and exiles, and dreamed of writing poetry that would put Hikmet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Pablo Neruda to shame.  

I thought of Nelson Mandela.  I remembered how that exceptional human being inspired revolutionary change even as he was constrained by walls, jailors and jibes.  It did occur to me that spending almost 30 years in jail as a political prisoner would take me into my eighties at the time of release, if I survived that long.  Still worth it, I told myself. 

I wondered if I would be given paper and pencil or if I could get the prison authorities to agree to a laptop or iPad or iPhone. That way I could soar out of the prison in ways that Gramsci and Mandela could never have dreamed possible.

I thought of fellow-inmates in the event that I was not put in solitary confinement.  I’ve heard horror stories about prisons and how even political prisoners are subjected to harassment.  I’ve heard about prison deaths too and remembering all that made me shiver.  I told myself that I was a known-name and the Government will not risk me dying while being held.  For a brief moment I even considered suicide. I could, I know, get my media friends to say it as I want for it is not for nothing that I am known for ‘spin’.  But then again I love life too much. I want to savor the wrecking of stumps when those doosras beat bat and pad of my detractors.   

I thought of Mahatma Gandhi.  ‘Mahatma Mangala,’ I murmured the name, rolled it over lip and around tongue several time. Didn’t sound right.  Still, a Mahatma wannabe is better than a Mangala, I told myself and smiles. 

I looked back.  There was a time when I was a name.  Then I chose to be an opposition name, in retrospect at the worst possible moment.  Then other names in the UNP became better known and now I am just another political discard, an internally displaced politician if you will.  That’s the truth that I don’t acknowledge to myself very often.

Then it hit me.  If I was in prison, I will be forced to have a long and solemn conversation with myself and I will have to do it every day, every hour and every minute. 

I am no Gramsci.  I am not a Mandela. I am Mangala. 

I applied for bail. 

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