21 February 2016

Jeanne Mansoor is waiting to hear from you...

Long years ago, when I was understudy to Manik De Silva at the Sunday Island, Nihal Fernando, a photographer and one who was always intensely passionate about things Sri Lankan, suggested that I arrange for a series of pieces, either as articles or interviews, on how Sri Lanka could be turned around.

He was thinking of people like Ray Wijewardena (click here for what I wrote about Ray shortly after he passed away in August 2010) and others who had not only excelled their chosen fields but whose love for this land was beyond question and moreover whose characters and integrity were unblemished.

I left that newspaper not long afterwards and that was that as far as Uncle Nihal’s splendid project was concerned.

Since then, however, I have used whatever means at my disposal to educate myself about such people and their work and to share whatever knowledge I picked up in that exercise with as many people as possible.

I was told in school that one can learn both from books and from people too. Charles Dickens, through Hard Times told me to look for the best in people and not the worst.
He need not have bothered, for that’s what my mother’s life was all about.

She didn’t teach it, although she was by profession a teacher. She lived it and in living, she taught.

It’s good to know about good people because they set benchmarks. When people are unblemished and when both the unblemished and the ‘unblemishedness’ are known, the blemished and the blemishes stand out.

We can then employ circumspect in our engagements with such individuals. So when I got an email from my friend Jeanne Mansoor a couple of days ago saying that she was collecting a few people’s take on corruption, I was very interested.

It’s a simple project that has a lot of potential in terms of giving frames of reference to people in the matter of assessing the high-profiled, officials and politicians, professionals and stars.

Here Jeanne’s request, which I copy-paste and forward with pleasure and a sense of privilege:

I am putting together some writings about people who are/were incorruptible, as a counter-punch to our country having got out of control corruption-wise. If I can get enough participation - I would like a book to come out of it. I would be grateful if you would write something I can include in the collection - on any Sri Lankan you feel qualifies as an example of incorruptibility and why. There are a few guidelines:

* The incorruptible person may be alive or dead.
* No spouses or children can be included, because both may feel hurt if they are not. However parents and other relations are fine.
* If you feel more than one person you know or knew qualifies, would you write separately on each.
* I’ll need a few lines separately on who that person is/was - pertinent dates too.
* I’ll be cutting down to 500 words maximum per incorrupt person per writer.
* Email me the pieces one at a time if that is easier - it would be easier on me for sure.
* If you have a friend or friends who you feel could contribute to this project, would you ask them to participate and give them my email address. Be sure that they send it under a subject that will alert me to their not being a nuisance writer looking for new friends.
You email her jeanne@sltnet.lk or write to her at Puwakwatte, Kotadeniyawa, 11232, Sri Lanka.

We don’t know the full lives of people we encounter and not even of those who are closest to us. There are no perfect people on this earth.

Our assessments are based on imperfect information sets. Still, there are always people we look up to, take cue from, try to emulate or are inspired by. We don’t have to write to Jeanne and once, hopefully, Jeanne publishes a selection of submissions delivered to her, we may or may not read the book.

She won’t get all the stories and given the parameters associated with the communication of this request, she might get a skewed sample. Still, it’s better than not having it.

Most importantly, we don’t have to wait for such a publication. We can look around and find many beautiful things and wonderful people too.

We will also see horrible and horrifying things and despicable people as well. We can play pick-and-choose as we do quite frequently. What we pick can depend on what we have become and who we want to be.

There’s nothing to stop us from picking wisely, though. Nothing to stop us from sharing our pick with Jeanne. It’s a little ‘something’ we can do for the nation and more importantly, one another, at very little cost.

Let’s try, shall we?

Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer who can be reached at malindasenevi@gmail.com and the above article was first published 5 years ago in the 'Daily News' (February 21, 2011) for which paper I wrote a daily column titled 'The Morning Inspection'.