05 September 2014

Can you take Shamila to see Rukshan?

She looked lovely that night as she smiled when receiving an award.  She is seldom without a smile, and her friends know this.   An ‘award-smile’ one expects to be slightly more radiant.  That slightly-more was there.  One might put it down to pride.  Not put-off pride but genuine gladness at the recognition; the kind that no one would grudge.   All natural, one might add.   If there was a touch of sorrow, she didn’t show it.  Again, few in the audience if at all would have found such a trace to be out of place. 

She looked lovely or let’s say lovelier for reasons that had nothing to do with appearance.  It had everything to do with circumstances, conditions that contained her, were relevant to everyone who knew those circumstances and indeed everyone in the audience because it was, well, an award.  An award for excellence in journalism.  In  this instance, the Best Photojournalist of the Year.  She was not the recipient. She was ‘proxy’ and that’s the worst word one could use to describe this lady. 

Shamila Abeywansha received the award on behalf of her husband Rukshan, a photojournalist at ‘The Nation’.  She had to walk up to the stage and accept the award because Rukshan could not.  His story is no longer news, but his everyday inabilities (‘not news’ though they are to his wife and loved ones) make their everyday lead story.  It does not grow stale.

Rukshan, to almost everyone who knows him, is the heartbeat of this country.  Rukshan suffered terrible injuries in an accident.  That was more than two months ago.  He has courage, this boy.  He is conscious of his condition and he is determined to get on his feet one day.  The prognosis is not exactly hopeful.  Impact on lungs has rendered him vulnerable to respiratory ailments.  He’s already suffered bouts of Pneumonia.  He fights all that with the assistance of numerous machines.  There are costs for every little thing.  They all add up to amounts that render everyone helpless.  There is paralysis all round. 

And yet, that night, Shamila Abeywansha walked up as though it was her husband Rukshan who was going to receive the award.  Happy.  Full of smiles.  Just like any other award recipient.  And that’s why she looked lovelier than at any other time.  She was, after all, receiving an award that has no meaning to her or Rukshan or their children, given the circumstances.  She smiled.  She showed much grace that night. 

The following morning, she woke to the same headline she had woken to for more than a month.  Today, more than a month later, it’s same lead story with the same headline. 

‘Rukshan lives on the other side of a mountain’. 

That’s the Rukshan we know, love and want among us again.  There’s no way around it, Shamila needs to climb to the other side to see him.  Every step costs.  She cannot stop – not to rest, not to breathe.  And she has to do all this while carrying a 3 year old boy and a little girl just 10 months old.  And attending awards ceremonies which offer rewards that mean little to her. 

And so, that night, that award, the applause and every other news story, photo-essay and brilliant interview or column have all ceased to matter.  What matters is that there’s a beautiful man waiting for all of us but especially for his family on the other side of a mountain. 

On that side of the mountain there are no awards ceremonies.  On that side there are no recurrent lead stories.  On that other side there’s a beautiful woman.  She wears a smile none of us have ever seen.    That’s beauty worth going a long way to see.   If there’s one thing and only one thing left to say, I would say it in the softest tone possible, with utmost respect and sincerity:  ‘let’s take Shamila and her two children to that other side for she cannot do it on her own.’

Rukshan underwent life-saving surgery on his spine.  He recovered enough to be moved from Central Hospital to the Colombo National Hospital.  However, subsequent complications due to weak lungs forced the family to take him back.  He’s currently in the Intensive Care Unit, Central Hospital.  His friends and family, along with very generous support from the President’s Fund, paid off the hospital bill of over 3.7 million rupees the time he was at the Central Hospital.  Currently, there’s Rs 900,000 to be paid (and counting!).  He is doing better, but requires further treatment before he can be moved to a rehabilitation facility.  Every rupee counts.  Please donate whatever you can to: N.N. Abeywansha, Bank of Ceylon, Borella Branch, Acct No 71934217.  Email me if you have any questions:msenevira@gmail.com. For SWIFT Code for overseas tranfers: BCEYLKLX.