29 August 2017

The Diyanath Samarasinghe Award 2017

Touched by the Untouchable 

What are gifts and what truly is appreciation?  What affirmations delight and which annoy or diminish us?  In accordance with the philosophical canons that I find logical, I believe that all those who have not obtained marga pala or found entry into a pathway towards enlightenment where there’s no turning back seek or at least are pleased by affirmation.  

The above is a necessary preamble to obtain license for what may appear to be shameless self-indulgence.  On second thoughts, it may be just that.  In defense, let me observe that there are gifts that are so rare that recipient needs to announce to the world the goodness that has humbled him/her, even against the wishes of the giver.  

Let me first offer the following disclaimer: this in no way negates or devalues the countless acts of kindness, generosity, understanding and indulgence that I have been fortunate to benefit from during my life.  I have, I believe, expressed appreciation in most instances except of course to those nearest and dearest to me.  In any case I was not born into and nurtured by a ‘thank you culture’.  A nod of the head, a smile or common agreement that we are all one and therefore it is but natural to help one another — that’s what we do mostly.  I don’t ‘thank-you’ and I get along fine without being thank-you’d.  On occasion, however, I would say ‘pin siddavechchaave’.  

A few years ago I was honored with a literary award.  A friend who was present made the following observation: ‘it’s as though you haven’t won this; as though people don’t want to accept you as the winner or as having won it.’  We both laughed.  A few weeks later I was further honored.  

First, let me describe the heart that had the ink which was used to sketch a line drawing that touched me deep.  In the year 2010, I was the Manager of the National Youth Contingent taking part in the World Youth Chess Championship in Halkidiki, Greece.  The youngest players were 7 years old and the oldest not yet 18.  Some of the younger players were accompanied by a parent.  There was one girl, Yathra, an only child, who had both parents accompanying her.  Susantha was her father.  

Now once a round begins, there’s nothing much that the coach or the manager could do for at least a couple of hours.  The coach, Rajendra Kalugampitiya, and I would spend time walking around soaking up the beautiful scenery of that splendid coast.  Susantha joined us on one of these walks.  Rajendra and I talked about all kinds of things.  On that day the conversation wandered into the subject of love, romance and relationships.  Susantha kept silent but at one point asked a question.  

“Would you be offended if I asked a question?” Susantha was very respectful.  We laughed and asked him to go ahead. 

“හිත හොඳ මිනිස්සු ඇයි මේ තරම් වල්?” (“Why are good-hearted people so vulgar?”)  

We laughed again.  Then I responded: “Susantha, tell me, are you a good-hearted person?” 

We all laughed.

Susantha is a artist.  He is also a poet.  And he honored me with some of the most beautiful lines anyone has ever written to me.
“Should one teach a truant bee
that frolics in abandon
and the nectar swiftly sips
the noble of of buzzing?

Should one to the accomplished archer
that roams the forest teach 
how an place arrow on string to place
and at the correct spot too?

When in search of ocean
defeating even rocks formidable 
should one teach the clear blue river 
this here is the map and here the way?

There are verses that rain
upon a heart that is a poem no less
that can be read, re-read and delight 
and they are sweet, I know, even though I cannot read.

“The warmest wishes to the sweet man named Malinda Seneviratne who was honored with the “Gratiaen" Award, the warmest wishes  -- Susantha, Ayoma and Yathra.”

That was three years ago.  

A week ago, I received another award.  It is almost like a once-in-a-lifetime award.  Indeed the person who gave the award said ‘this is the first time I’m giving this award and it may also be the last time I give it.’  And this, note, was a comment about what was said to be an ‘annual award’.  

I must now write a few words about the giver.  He’s describable in a word: untouchable. In other words, incorruptible.  Indefatigable is another one-word descriptive.  Fighter: that’s appropriate too.  Integrity, yes.  A man who will stand up when others do not.  A man who remains standing when everyone else has gone.  A man who will speak when others are silent.  A man who will look you in the eye when others for reasons of convenience look away.  He stood and stands for the health of the nation in the broadest sense of the word.  He stood and stands for the future, for children, for adults, for trees and medicinal plants, for a clean and non-toxic world, a clean and sustainable lifestyle, for the blueness of water and the raining of beneficial and timely rains.  Dr Diyanath Samarasinghe.

Here’s what he wrote on the back of a simple, colorful and beautiful card: “The Diyanath Samarasinghe Award for Brilliance in Awakening the Public Consciousness”.  He adds, ‘awarded to H.E. Malinda Seneviratne, 22nd day of August, 2017.”  Diyanath has a wonderful sense of humor.  The ‘H.E.’ was a reference to my campaign to be President in 2020!  

The award itself was a beautiful chess, checkers and backgammon set.  Glass.  This he didn’t write but said: “I wanted to give this to someone who propagates chess.”  Diyanath loves the game and has played competitive chess in years gone by. 

The following day, Diyanath sends a ‘citation’.  There’s nothing funny about it.  

An idea born two days ago 
to hold aloft one who helps others see
what lies in plain sight unseen
has already achieved fruition

‘Poojacha pooja neeyanam’
is the spirit that drives the conception
of this offering to a remarkable person 
 Malinda Seneviratne, fellow citizen

People like Malinda
are few and aren’t correctly sung
who see past the misery around
deeper causes that lie beyond

People like Malinda
who can show us hidden causes
are still unable to take us
further, to right action, as he does 

People like Malinda
because he isn’t besotted
with himself as insightful agent 
guide for a populace dim-witted

People like Malinda
for fearlessly being himself
with no necessity whatsoever 
for a cloak of false humility 

People like Malinda
for being one with the rest of the world
seeking ways out of abyss
ever casting unforgiving light

I like Malinda
for being at all times illuminating 
and I like him even more
for accepting this offering

Coming from him, it is something to be cherished, now and always.  It is also an insurance that he has secured not just for himself but for the entire country:  Thou cannot err from this day forth!  That’s what’s not written but is nevertheless the transparent subtext.  

I can but say ‘I am humbled and I will strive to do justice to the honor and the confidence you’ve placed on me.’


Kalyana Rodrigo said...

Diyanath whom I was extremely fortunate to have known initially as a fellow penniless medical student
during the last century and within few months a close friend and later also as a colleague writes simply
but beautifully and with profound meaning a few years ago introduced me to Malinda Seneviratne's writing
who has an equal ability to write in simple prose , but with illuminating insight . I have been as I said earlier
fortunate to know one personally and the other through his writing . Both admirable human beings who have gifted
us with such brain expanding thoughts and commentary and I am delighted to say " Pin siddha wewa to both "

Priyani said...

I am at the moment reading 'Threads' a collection of poems, written by Malinda Seneviratne. It was leant to me by Diyanath a couple of days ago.
I'm enjoying the insights given by the poems and am thankful to Diyanath for introducing me to Malinda's work.
I believe that both Diyanath in his own right and Malinda richly deserve the accolades that they have already received as well as the ones they are yet to receive!


Priyani said...

I am at the moment reading 'Threads' a collection of poems, written by Malinda Seneviratne. It was leant to me by Diyanath a couple of days ago.
I'm enjoying the insights given by the poems and am thankful to Diyanath for introducing me to Malinda's work.
I believe that both Diyanath in his own right and Malinda richly deserve the accolades that they have already received as well as the ones they are yet to receive!


Rajiv Weerasundera said...

I daresay have been even more fortunate than Dr. Rodrigo: I knew Malinda at school as a selfless if somewhat rebellious young man. He is now older but still selfless and rebellious in his own way. Dr. Samarasinghe was one of those teachers who you come across but a few times in life: those who make you stop and think and those who make a difference. To know them both closely has indeed been a privilege.