27 May 2013

Thushara’s Vesak

This is a re-post of a kind.  I've added pics from 2014 to this piece, written in 2013.

We live in an era of ‘flexible capital’.  Money moves, industries move, people move.  Things are supposed to move around and fit together in locations that make for best returns.  Theoretically.  Typically of course capital moves to resource rich places where resource-extraction is cost-effective and where no-sweat of less-sweat extraction of labor power is possible. 

Companies are like that.  They are made of hire-and-fire.  They are made of people who have left poorer contracts and are looking out for better ones.  Newspaper offices are no different. There was a time when people stayed, grew into and with editorial offices.  That was way back when. 
The pic in the center was taken for
an article on Vesak commercialization. Ironic,
considering it was Thushara's work!

Then again there are those who for many reasons are not favorably ‘optioned’.  ‘The Nation’ will celebrate seven years a few days from now.  ‘The Nation’ has changed hands, changed direction and focus, thanks to those who were or are part of it.  Of those who joined at the start way back in 2006, only 5 remain. That’s how newspapers are.  People come, people go.  It is not a phenomenon peculiar to ‘The Nation’.  Some arrivals help, some don’t.  Some departures cost, some do not.  Anyway, of these 5, only one, a photojournalist, belongs to the Editorial Staff.  Among the other three is Sundara Arachchige Don Ananda Thushara, officially an ‘Office Assistant’. 

At it again, a year later

The word ‘assistant’ does a lot of injustice to Thushara.  Everyone ‘assists’ – that’s how any product comes out of a production process.  ‘Assistant’ has connotations of ‘adjunct’, an add-on and even an entity that is not ‘central’ to the main functions of an office.  That’s so wrong. 

Thushara is a Jack-of-Many-Trades and Master-of-Several.  He makes tea like no one does.  There are people who do not drink tea on Thushara’s off-days.  He cuts birthday cakes, farewell-cakes and first-salary-cakes perfectly, i.e. so everyone present gets an equal share. 

He is a self-taught type-setter.  He is a self-taught archivist.  He alone knows where to find what in issues from several years ago.  He is that meticulous.  He has a sense for space, furniture and anthropometrics and that’s part of the reason why the contraction of editorial space hasn’t cramped anyone. 

He alone knows about the ins and out of the entire staff, keeping track of who has taken how much leave.  Indeed, the leave-takers themselves would not know where they stand in relation to that point beyond which the HR Department raps them on their knuckles. Ask him about freelance payments and he will tell you who gets paid how much and what the relevant costs were for each section of The Nation in the month of April.  Come March-April when people apply for Journalism Awards, it is Thushara who will have the glue and the scissors, find the relevant articles from the archives, photocopy the same and put it all together neatly in presentable form.  

You can trust Thushara to collect anything from and deliver anything to any destination, any office or any individual. Thushara knows things.  A lot of things. 

Come Christmas time, and the entire place is full of decorations.  Happens overnight.  Where the material was obtained from, whether there were costs involved and if so who paid the bills – no one knows.  Is it because he’s a Catholic?  No.  It’s not a has-to-be-done thing but it’s something that’s nice.  The Nation has its share of Christians.  They did not think of decorating the place and neither did they ask Thushara to do it. It’s not part of his JD, anyway (like most things he does). 
Thushara is an expert at getting such things done.  So this is Vesak.  Nothing to do with his faith and not his festival. The Buddhists in ‘The Nation’ didn’t think of decorating the office. No one told Thushara to make Vesak Koodu.  Not part of his JD.  But he does such things. Makes things look nice.  Adds color.  Makes people smile.  Perhaps that’s the expression of ‘Christian Charity’ that he has internalized.  Perhaps it’s just him.  A nice man. A make-everyone-happy man, an always-with-a-smile man.  Or perhaps he owns ‘The Nation’ and because he belongs to ‘The Nation’ in ways that no one else does. 


sajic said...

This is a sensitive and delightful piece.