When I was in Grade 3 among the essay topics we had to choose from at the Second Term exam for Sinhala was one titled ‘ma kurullak nam’ (If I were a bird). At the time I felt it was a strange and yet fascinating topic to write on. I can’t remember all things I would have done had I been endowed with wings at the age of 7. I remember mentioning that I would make use of the facility to watch cricket matches for free. Later, I realized that this was a ‘usual’ topic given to children of that age.
I know children are often asked to write about what they would or would not do if they were Head of State. I doubt if children are asked to image themselves as reptiles or thieves, petty politicians or terrorists, mendicants or those who have eschewed worldly pleasures. They are asked to imagine themselves as birds and butterflies, fairies and king I’ve often wondered what kind of thoughts walls would have, if they did have the capacity to think. So here’s a short essay on a topic of my choice: ‘Ma thaappayak nam’ (If I were a wall).
I write as the Secretary of the All Walls Association (AWA). This is our breaking-the-silence communiqué. AWA represents all walls, long and short, high and low, made of all materials, thick and relatively thin, those separating domestic units from one another, those demarcating different functions such as sleeping, bathing, watching television, parking space etc. We surround the high and mighty as well as the poor and humble. We encase the convicted and exclude those who believe they are free. And a few years ago we broke into the internet as well. Just think about it? Do ‘windows’ make sense if there were no walls? And how can wallpaper exist without us?
We outnumber the world’s population many times over and if there’s an ounce of kindness for each brick that make each of us the world would be war-free and indeed wall-less.
Our tribe watches the world that passes by and the world that occasionally glance at us. We know so many secrets but are sworn to secrecy. We are civilized and therefore keep silent. Suffice to say that we can embarrass a lot of people, not only on account of the villainy they’ve conspired in our midst but the fact that they are hardly the heroes they claim to be. We’ve see love and betrayal, murder and sacrifice, agitation and meditation. All in silence.
People probably think that we are face-less. Perhaps this is why they frequently cover, uncover and re-cover us with all kinds of faces. Maybe they think we don’t have names, for they not only give us ‘face’, but give us ‘name’ as well. We are the marketplace of self-promotion. The general public is called upon to look at us and make a choice between this tuition class and that, among bars of soap or perfume brands, this film or that and so on. Some people probably we are ashamed of our nudity or that a coat of paint is outrageously flimsy. So they cover us. Not with an extra coat of paint, but with words, lines, colours, faces, all kinds of goods and services. Sometimes the burden of carrying the world, other people’s world that is, is enormous. We are weary.
Some believe we are spittoons. Some think we are urinals. Some lean on us for support and others to make hurried love. And some crash into us, die upon us. We get no thanks. No apology.
We share this worth with extinction-resisting, immortality-seeking species. We ask for nothing and are given things we really have no use for. This is our first and last communication. This is just to say, ‘this is it’. We are suffering from what we’d like to call species-exhaustion. We can take rain and sun and die the natural deaths imposed by the play of time and elemental energies but not all the things we mentioned above. We really cannot take it any more.
Take us down. We have nothing to lose but spit, urine and a lot of braggadocio that lead parasitic existences on us. Without permission.
Take us down. Yes, all of us. All walls. Extinct us.
Malinda Seneviratne is a journalist and can be reached at email@example.com