14 August 2020

From here to there on a thread, a poem and a photograph


Last night, a young girl who has a beautiful mind and a unique way of saying the most unexpected things about that which everyone sees but doesn't notice, exclaimed, ‘I want to quit my job and just travel, take photos and write to people forever.’ And I remembered my friend Tharindu Amunugama.

It’s photographs that brought us together about seven years ago. Tharindu had done a beautiful coffee table book titled ‘Glorious Jaffna.’ This was someone who had an eye for place and people, I realized.  Years later, we would travel together to destinations picked without great care. We didn’t plan too much. We didn’t tick boxes. We let moment, sense of the moment and the temper of the company determine where to go, where to stop, where to bathe and where to sleep.  

Tharindu is about fitness. Fitness in finance. Fitness in body. Fitness in diet. Fitness in being. I won’t go into all that.

A few weeks ago, traveling with him in the South Eastern part of the island, Tharindu spoke about things that are important to him.

‘Maybe I’ll live for another thirty years. That is roughly around 1,500 weekends. That’s all. There’s so much to see in this country and I don’t want to waste time.’

He’s seen much. Much more than anyone I know. He knows mountains and rocks, monastic complexes and caves, archaeology and history, the human species and the much, much larger natural world, rivers and reservoirs, light and shadow, dawn and dusk. And details of the ‘between.’  

There are places to go. There are things to do. And we don’t have enough time. We don’t have enough money. We always have other things that have to be done first. There’s a job and a career. Family and responsibility. We have only so many weekends and even these have a way of filling up. And then, before we know it, we are old. Too old to do the things we always wanted to do. Too old to just wake up one morning, close eyes, place finger on a map and just go. Too old and too poor to afford things.

But it’s not about money or having that window of travel-space, Tharindu would say. It’s about decision. It’s not about time, but what we make of it. It’s about whether we put off for another day or do it right now — be it traveling or writing or taking pictures or saying ‘I love you.’

There’s a university waiting for a student. There’s a career waiting for a young girl. There’s love, family and a home ready to be inhabited by bodies, minds and hearts. We can go to all these places. We can plan and get there too, sooner or later.

We could also let them come to us, at their own pace and in the shapes, colors and temperatures they prefer. We are all prisoners of circumstances but we add the salt and pepper (and the poisons) that flavor the circumstances and thereby season or make tragic our incarcerations.

What awaits my friend who wants to quit her job? I am no soothsayer but my heart says, there are photographs no one will ever take that are waiting to leave cityscapes and rurality, pathos and delight incubating as I write, a glance and an angle desperate to rise from footnote and oblivion. I believe there are letters that will open someone’s being to a universe that exists among squalor and grandeur, in surreptitious hide-and-seek of a desperation for survival.

There’s a canvas. There are pens, crayons and digital whatnots. They await her. May she have the heart to journey, away from things routine and pre-designed and to a mind, a heart, a community, solidarities and herself. 

Other articles in the series 'In Passing...':  [published in the 'Daily News']   
Eyes that watch the world and cannot be forgotten 
 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