11 March 2015

Anais, Vije and Jerams

Who needs bylines when you make the headline?
Vije, Jerams and Anais

Years ago Arjuna Parakrama explained a decision to dedicate a masters’ thesis to his teachers thus: ‘We tend to think that we do everything on our own but we rarely acknowledge the immense contribution by our teachers; people often dedicate theses to our parents but they don’t remember teachers.’ 

What is true about students and their tendency to by-pass teachers in acknowledgment is true of others too, in many contexts.  It is not that people are not aware of the contribution of others of course.  We don’t put into words often.  A lot of ‘not saying’ adds up, though.  In the end we find that some are visible and others are not, the latter kind easily slipping into the unsaid but in many ways asserted ‘did nothing’ category. 

Hold on to the thought. 

Let us talk of three men.  Anais, Vije and Jerams.   They are from Kalmunai, Bibile and Delft Island Respectively.  Anais is close to fifty, Vije is in his late thirties and Jerams is in his early twenties.   Anais is a Muslim, Vije a Buddhist and Jerams a Catholic.  Three lives.  All epic in their own right. 

Anais passed his A/Ls.  His subjects were Logic, Islamic Civilization, Tamil and Political Science.  He did well enough to enter university.  Poverty stopped him.  He then joined the Police.  He was happy enough.  He succeeded, he says, in educating his younger brother who is today a very successful educator and businessman with political aspirations.  Anais married.  The happy couple became parents to three children, two boys and a girl.  Then came December 26, 2004. He lost his wife.   He lost his younger daughter who was just four years old.  He was distraught.  He lost his job. 

And yet, Anais had courage.  He married again and became the father of three more children, two sons and a daughter who are now in Grades 4, 3 and 1.  His eldest daughter (the one from his first marriage) is about to enter university.  It is a tough life, but Anais is tough enough to endure, fight and secure a small victory now and then, here and there. 

Then there is Wijeratne from Bibile, ‘Vije’ to friends.  Poverty drove him to the Army. He was an excellent marksman.  He was called ‘Vedi Vije’ or ‘Wije the Shooter’.  He was occasionally tasked to bring game to superior officers.  His skill was his downfall.  Someone ratted.  The officers passed the buck and Vije was dismissed.  Today he repents, ‘ඒ කාලේ කරපු පවු තමයි මම මේ ගෙවන්නේ’ (I am paying for sins I committed those days). 

Vije’s eldest son opted to join the Buddhist Order.  According to Vije ‘Podi Hamuduruwo’ is an excellent student and is a good exponent of ‘කවි බණ’ (poetic sermons).  The other two children are young.  Vije works in Colombo but goes home every now and then to help his wife grow corn.  On at least two occasions they lost most of the crop to heavy rains.  In fact, on one occasion floods left them without anything. 

And yet Vije sings.  Literally.  He has made it to the fourth or fifth round of ‘Sirasa Super Star’ on two occasions.  He has an amazing smile.   It hides a lot.  

Jerams is a young man with big dreams and a confidence to match.  He wanted to join the Navy.  He failed.  He did not want to go back to his native Delft Island. He doesn’t like to lose face.  He looked around.  Found job.  Saved money.  He is still in Colombo, but back in the island he’s ‘a big man’ now.  He owns a three-wheeler and is only the third islander to own one.  He drives it around with a big smile.  He believes that he is held in high esteem by girls his age.  He is probably correct. 

Anais and Vije came into our family about three years ago.  Jeyaram, about a year ago.  They were all security guards.  The other day, a decision was taken to hand over the security operation to a different company.  Anais, Vije, Jerams and Fernando (who had joined a few months ago) had to leave. 

None of them have written a single word for ‘The Nation’.  They are not alone in that respect; i.e. among those associated with ‘The Nation’.  There was Ananda Thushara, Jack of many trades and master of quite a few (see 'Thushara's Vesak').  There’s Chanaka who succeeded Thushara when the latter was promoted and shifted to our sister paper ‘Rivira’.  The accountants, marketing executives, those who work at the press, distribution personnel, maintenance personnel, administrative staff and so on.  Yes, there are drivers too.  Many.  They come and go as per the whims and fancies of those who own their vehicles.  The same with the janitorial staff.  The vendors too, let us not forget.  Not a word have any of these people written for ‘The Nation’.   And yet, they are all their in some indescribable way in all our stories, all the headlines, cartoons, illustrations, graphics and in every design element. 

Anais, Vije and Jerams are part of the story and they are part of the team of crafts-persons who get together to produce something called ‘The Nation’.  They don’t get ‘bylines’.  Just like all the teachers who ‘write’ much of the theses for which people are given postgraduate degrees. 

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