06 February 2015

The Tamil version of the National Anthem is beautiful

What is the defining feature of the Sinhalese?  This is not an easy question to answer.  One could even frame it in other ways, replacing ‘Sinhalese’ with ‘Helas’ or even the ‘Yakshas’.  There could be many answers to the question but this would be one of them: ‘inclusion’. 

The history of this island can be written in terms of invasions.  It could alternatively be written in terms of embrace.  There was and is conflict.  There was and is post-conflict.  There was and there should be embrace in the ‘after’ of bitterness and anger, suspicion and counter-suspicion, the clash of arms and sorrow, regret and shoulder-shrug. 

It takes a lot to move away from all the negatives, to move past that which happened and which was so regrettable.  There are commonalities that can help heal all the wounds that difference differently read in such regrettable ways inflicted on all our peoples. 

About 25 years ago, a set of Sri Lankans went camping somewhere in the state of Massachusetts, USA.  That night, as was not unusual, the group ate, drank and sang.  When the night came to an end, someone started singing the national anthem.  Everyone sang.  There were about six or seven Sinhalese.  One Tamil.  Yes, everyone sang.  And once they were done, the lone Tamil sang the national anthem again.  This time in Tamil.  As fervently as he had sung the Sinhala version.  None of the others even knew that a Tamil version existed.  It was a poignant truly Sri Lankan moment. 

This is a country that has seen Sinhala kings offering land and refuge to Muslim traders hounded by European invaders.  It is a land where kings from South India and the royal line they engendered were accepted as ‘Sinhala’ as any ‘Sinhala’ king.  This is a country where people have fought each other over faith and identity and yet have stood together in times of tragedy.  This is a country that divided itself and fell again and again.  It is a country that can stand up and be proud. Together. 

The Tamil version of the National Anthem is not referred to in the Constitution.  Some argue that a country should have just one anthem and this is indeed a defensible position.  But perhaps one day we will have a situation where everyone, Tamil-speaking people included, sings the National Anthem with gusto and where the Sinhalese will join as heartily if some solitary Tamil citizen starts singing the Tamil version.    


h said...

Thank you for this. Makes a lot of sense.

Unknown said...

Why can't we have a bilingual national anthem?

Malinda Words said...

yes, really. and what you've claimed (tendentious though it is) is irrelevant to the assertion.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sairaghu, you people while enjoying the luxuries of the West, want the Tamils in Sri Lanka to suffer eternally so that so you'll can cry foul gorever.