24 October 2020

It had to be Samansiri who flew, who else?


Almost 60 years ago, Bob Dylan, then just 22 years old, made a prediction that was bold but not uncommon for young people of that time and age. He was convinced that things were changing. And many believed him too; after all his ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ and ‘The Times They Are a-Changing’ are not just iconic songs of the 1960s but were veritable anthems for the civil rights and anti-war movements in the USA.

Dylan would later change his tune, politically, ideologically and spiritually and he might not think much of changing times or changing the times for that matter. In 1997 then US President, Bill Clinton, presenting him with a Kennedy Center Honor opined that Dylan ‘disturbed the peace and discomforted the powerful.’ Dylan had said, when younger, that the present now would later be past (a truism but in that context a political prediction) but by this time one could clearly say that the ‘past’ in which Dylan had been radical had not changed much. It was the present. It would remain the future too.

There was hope there, though, back in the sixties. Even conviction. The old order, he insisted, was rapidly fading. The first one now will later be last, he said. Lots of lines like that in ‘The Times They Are a-Changing.’
Towards the end of the 1970s, long after the ‘hope’ of the sixties was virtually buried and around the time that Dylan had a change of heart (maybe for the better, but that’s not relevant here), the Eagles released a song titled ‘The Sad Cafe.’ The lyrics, penned by Glenn Frey, Don Henley and John David Souther had the tone of resignation: ‘things in this world change very slowly, if they ever change at all.’

And yet, there’s hope. And that’s a good thing. The slow ones can and do get fast later on. Most times it’s the appearance that is altered, the substance remaining the same, but any change however minuscule tells us transformation is not impossible.

That is what I obtain from the title poem of Timran Keerthi’s latest collection, ‘e jetteke giye samansirimai' [‘It was indeed Samansiri who flew (away) in that jet’].

Here are a few excerpts:

Couldn’t it have been Samansiri
who flew away in that jet?

“What jets for Samansiri,
who crawled behind bicycles to school
making and flying paper planes and nothing else?”

Although this is what father said
couldn’t it have been Samansiri in that jet,
the Samansiri who left the village a long time ago?

Alright, this is how is is:
If he never overtook anyone
And no one overtook him
If he didn’t fly high like a rocket
If he just went sideways
Minding his own business
Does it mean it couldn’t have been he
Who away in that jet flew?

The teachers know about white men who made jets
Fathers talk of Ravana
I know of Samansiri.

This is it:
It was indeed he, Samansiri
Who flew away
In that jet.

Samansiri. That’s not a proper noun. Neither is it ‘singular.’ It refers to a plurality made of ability, determination, faith and achievement.

Does it change the world? Does it mean that times are indeed a-changing or can be changed? I wouldn’t extrapolate carelessly, for it is prudent to stop emotion from trumping reason.

Timran knows things. He knows Samansiri (plural). He doesn’t mock those are do not know Samansiri or believe that he could fly. We know it’s true that for each Samansiri there were and are hundreds very unlike Samansiri who flew and perhaps flew higher and further. Samansiri or rather Timran Keerthi just tell us we can fly, just by reminding us that they are already attached to our shoulders.

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+ alre
ady 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 Ange
A dusk song for Rasika
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