28 April 2020

‘Avurudu’ in enhanced circumstances

I did hear a few crackers when the Aluth Avurudda arrived. Just for a few second. There’s something to say for the various avurudu uthsava held across the country throughout the month of April, but we had nothing of the sort this year. There was no way to visit family and friends. It was not even possible to send kevili trays to the neighbors.

And yet, it is likely that in the vast majority of the nation’s households a fire was lit at the very same time and that not too long afterwards the vast majority of the nation’s population consumed a piece of kiribath again at the very same time. 

A subdued avurudda, then, but nevertheless marked by renewal, regeneration, simple joys, togetherness, community and solidarity. Stuff that has made us resilient as a people. Stuff that makes us look out for one another in moments of trouble or tragedy, sworn enemies though we may be at other times.

And so, this year there are probably thousands of avurudu stories that are unlike any that have been told before. Among them, this one. 

It was not a filthy rich family but they did have comfortable lives. They lived, let live and were generous to a fault, especially to those who were far less fortunate. Their circumstances changed long before anyone had heard about Covid-9. They found themselves far away from family. They were far away from friends, a fair number of whom showed a preference for maintaining distance.

The children are small. Two girls, one eight and the other almost five. Circumstances had changed, but the girls had the privilege of having their own room.

On avurudu day, the older girl had forbidden the parents from entering this room. Until she was ready. And how ready she was!

Everyone had to wear white, which was the auspicious avurudu color. She had made invitations and gave them out. She had toasted some bread, spread butter and cut it all into small pieces. That was for the first meal. The mother was adjudged the avurudu kumari. The girl had painted a beautiful elephant and conducted a competition. The blindfolded competitors had to place a pin on where they believed the elephant’s eye was. Her avurudu uthsavaya. The sister had won. Maybe that was how she had planned it, for she had painstakingly cut lots of paper into tiny pieces so the winner could be showered with confetti. She even gave out a prize — a packet of biscuits. 

She reduced her mother to tears. The father, absolutely proud, told his wife she need not cry. She should be happy that this girl would survive under any circumstances, however harsh, he had pointed out. The older daughter had she shushed him, ‘thaththa, don’t say that; nangi will be hurt — she won the competition, congratulate her!’

She had though of everything.

Lives, circumstances, space, lifestyles have been diminished by Covid-19. Love, caring and determination not to let anything dampen spirits had enhanced, nevertheless. Intelligent, big-hearted little girls teach us so much, effortlessly and without ever intending to. All the blessings her parents need in these trying times, one might say. She’d probably object: don’t forget nangi!’

Other articles in the series 'In Passing...':  [published in the 'Daily News']   
Let's not stop singing in the lifeboats
When the Welikada Prison was razed to the ground 

Looking for the idyllic in dismal times    
Water the gardens with the liquid magic of simple ideas, right now    
There's canvas and brush to paint the portraits of love    
We might as well arrest the house!
The 'village' in the 'city' has more heart than concrete
Vo, Italy: the village that stopped the Coronavirus    

We need 'no-charge' humanity 
The unaffordable, as defined by Nihal Fernando
Heroes of our times Let's start with the credits, shall we? 
The 'We' that 'I' forgot 
'Duwapang Askey,' screamed a legend, almost 40 years ago
Dances with daughters
Reflections on shameless writing
Is the old house still standing?
 Magic doesn't make its way into the classifieds
Small is beautiful and is a consolation  
Distance is a product of the will
Akalanka Athukorala, at 13+ already a hurricane hunter
Did the mountain move, and if so why?
Ever been out of Colombo?
Anya Raux educated me about Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
Wicky's Story You can always go to GOAT Mountain
Let's learn the art of embracing damage
Kandy Lake is lined with poetry
There's never a 'right moment' for love
A love note to an unknown address in Los Angeles
A dusk song for Rasika Jayakody
How about creating some history?
How far away are the faraway places?
There ARE good people!
Re-placing people in the story of schooldays   
When we stop, we can begin to learn
Routine and pattern can checkmate poetry
Janani Amanda Umandi threw a b'day party for her father 
Sriyani and her serendipity shop
Forget constellations and the names of oceans
Where's your 'One, Galle Face'?
Maps as wrapping paper, roads as ribbons
Yasaratne, the gentle giant of Divulgane  
Katharagama and Athara Maga
Victories are made by assists
Lost and found between weaver and weave
The Dhammapada and word-intricacies
S.A. Dissanayake taught children to walk in the clouds
White is a color we forget too often
The most beautiful road is yet to meet a cartographer