13 February 2018

The back of the mind and the bottom line

Angelo De Silva is my neighbor.  He’s a friend and a brother. Today (February 12) is his birthday. I called to wish him. 

‘All the best, good health and good times as you turn 27,’ I said.

Angelo has a lovely sense of humor. He is witty. His witticism is sometimes laced with vulgarity. The bawdiness would come later in the conversation. He laughed and said ‘I think machang you were using the President’s formula to calculate my age. You were a bit off. I am actually a few years younger!’

It was my turn to laugh. 

Neighbors though we are, Angelo and I don’t meet often. Times, walls, roads and a hundred other things get in the way. But when we do meet, we talk about life, our kids, our fears for them, the joys they give and how lovely it is that both our families appreciate trees. 

His house is at a higher elevation and it’s from there that I get the full view of our garden. I never knew it was so green until I saw it from Angelo’s house. Angelo, for his part, is appreciative because in the midst of dozens of houses ours is a rare patch of green.  

So we talked about not seeing each other often as we should, made plans to meet up, and talked about the election results. 

We named names, but that’s not relevant here. I was thinking of the gap between word and deed, the things said and the things unsaid, what’s apparent and what’s hidden. I talked about things ‘at the back of their minds,’ and Angelo quickly interjected, ‘you mean the minds of their backs?’

We laughed. It was an interesting turn of phrase and I told him that he had given me an idea to write about. I expressed to him (and to myself) a word of caution: ‘people might get the wrong idea.’  Angelo is kind and had a lot of confidence in my ability: ‘you’ll be able to write it in some other way.’

I was thinking about it, but then creativity aside I had just spoken to some school children at a workshop on journalism, extolling the importance of truth and accuracy in reporting. I had also alerted them to the dictum ‘facts are sacred, comment free.’ That, now, seems an escape clause, but then again there is a bigger gateway, something that the Vice Principal of my school told me 35 years ago, ‘do what you think is right whether or not the world appreciates.’  

On the other hand journalists always operate within sets of rules, said and unsaid. And so we craft or locate the things that need to be said in places permissible or decorate in such a way that the frill distracts and allows the ‘unspeakable’ to be spoken.  

But yes, it seems that some people and who knows maybe all people or the vast majority use ‘minds of theirs backs.’  And it’s not only when it comes to elections. It’s not only when it comes to governance, which is what Angelo and I were talking about.  

Tad vulgar, though, and Angelo readily admitted. I told him that we should all be applauded as a citizenry for being able to laugh despite all the trials and tribulations that are such an integral part of our lives.  

‘Yes, as a nation we forgive ourselves all the time for electing those we do who we later reject and thereafter forgive ourselves once again for electing another set of the same kinds of people.’

We forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us, without waiting for divine approval or compassion.  And so we have survived insurrections and wars, bloodshed and brutality, white vans and tyre pyres, insults and humiliation, one corrupt and incompetent government after other incompetent and corrupt governments.  And we have retained enough life in our not so divine lives to laugh about it all.  

And be a tad vulgar about it too.

‘Vulgarity is all we have,’ Angelo laughed.  

‘I’ll mention that too,’ I promised.

‘Please do, and since Valentine’s Day is a few days away you can say it from the bottom of your heart….or the heart of your bottom!’

My neighbor and I rarely meet.  He won’t be having a birthday party. ‘I’ll just go home after work,’ Angelo said. I said ‘If I do come that way (at a decent hour) I will drop by.’  ‘Please do and it doesn’t have to be on my birthday only,’ he said.

I am not sure I can make it. I don’t have a birthday present for my friend and brother. This must suffice and it will reach him only after the fact. He won’t mind. It’s from the bottom of my heart.

Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer. malindasenevi@gmail.com


දේශක යා said...

He is a little honest asshole.

By the way, I agree we all have vulgarity inbuilt.

Happy birthday to Angelo who turns 22. (yeah)

Angelo De Silva said...

22@53 ...not bad at all. I owe it to HE