04 June 2023

Crazy cousins are besties for life

Cousins are the first besties we have, provided of course they are roughly around the same age. Sibling rivalry there is and I suppose in a culture where parallel cousins are considered siblings there could be rivalries among cousins too. Again, provided they are roughly the same age. They may develop into abiding rancour or worse, in the case of siblings or cousins, parallel or cross, but there’s some truth in blood being thicker than water when it comes to crises and moments of truth.  

Siblings can become estranged for a variety of reasons. Sometimes people want their children to share their antipathies when this happens. They might insist that they ‘cancel off’ the particular aunt or uncle and the relevant cousins too. This also happens. Then again, there are cousins who will not let the quarrels of their respective parents sully their relationships with one another.

In general, cousins are cool. When they brush off fallout from the suspicions and quarrels of parents, aunts and uncles, they are supercool, really. They take care of the aunts and uncles regardless of whatever tensions exist among those aunts and uncles. They even laugh about it. And they treat each other’s children as if they were their own, rejoicing in their achievements and helping out with a word or deed if they get into some kind of trouble.

That’s what makes a clan. The sensitivity. The empathy. The humour, mostly. And I feel it gets better as one grows older. I see it among my cousins and how my parents relate to their cousins, even though they are all very old and some of them are not exactly firm of mind.

I recently learned that the late Siri Gunasinghe, the well known academic, poet, Sanskritist, art historian and filmmaker generally considered as the key figure in the development of modern Sinhala free verse had once reflected on the importance of keeping in touch with former lovers.  He had apparently said that as one grows older they offer the comforts of knowing. There’s affection and caring without all the pitfalls common to young, passionate and romantic love.

It’s the same with cousins. They just know you. They know the blemishes and scars, they are forgiving and most importantly they focus on what’s best in an individual.

Most of all they remember a shared childhood. And things that may have appeared a tad mean at the time all of a sudden become hilarious. Here’s an example.

It happened just after the television arrived. My grandmother would have been close to 70 at the time. She was fascinated by this new piece of technology. One day, while watching tv, she asked my cousin, who would have been around 10 years old or younger, ‘Puthe, now these people in the television, can they see us?’

‘Achchiamma, can you see me?’


‘Well, I can see you too. That’s how it is. We see them and they see us.’

She may have been humouring him when she accepted this revelation to be the truth. She had expressed some surprise. My cousin, who just cannot resist an opportunity to conjure wild and hilarious stories, moved in.

‘Do you know that Ruvani Akki has eloped with some man?’

‘Really? I didn’t know. No one told me!’

‘Well, what do you know Achchiamma…aren’t you even aware that Malinda Aiya is running the country with the power of the gun?’

It sounds even more hilarious in the original Sinhala: ‘Achchiamma danne naedda malinda aiya thuvakku balayen rata paalanaya karanava kiyala?’  

‘Aney…kohoma hitiya lamaida neda?
’ (Oh dear! They were so different as children!).

So we share such stories again and again and find relief from the trials and tribulations of parenthood, work and, simply, living, and partly for the entertainment of our children and our respective parents.

Crazy. Crazy cousins. You know they will not judge you. ‘That’s how he/she is,’ we tell ourselves when they slip, fall, are bruised and battered, bruise and batter one way or another. And we just love them to death. Regardless.

Crazy cousins. Besties for life. 

['The Morning Inspection' is the title of a column I wrote for the Daily News from 2009 to 2011, one article a day, Monday through Saturday. This is a new series. Links to previous articles in this new series are given below]

Other articles in this series:

Unities, free and endearing

Free verse and the return key

"Sorry, Earth!"

The lost lyrics of Premakeerthi de Alwis

The revolution is the song

Consolation prizes in competitions no one ever wins

The day I won a Pulitzer


Ella Deloria's silences

Blackness, whiteness and black-whiteness

Inscriptions: stubborn and erasable 


Deveni: a priceless one-word koan

Enlightening geometries

Let's meet at 'The Commons'

It all begins with a dot

Recovering run-on lines and lost punctuation

'Wetness' is not the preserve of the Dry Zone

On sweeping close to one's feet

Kumkum Fernando installs Sri Lanka in Coachella, California

To be an island like the Roberts...

Debts that can never be repaid in full

An island which no flood can overwhelm

Who really wrote 'Mother'?

A melody faint and yet not beyond hearing

Heart dances that cannot be choreographed

Remembering to forget and forgetting to remember

On loving, always

Authors are assassinated, readers are immortal

When you turn 80...

It is good to be conscious of nudities 

Saturday slides in after Monday and Sunday somersaults into Friday 

There's a one in a million and a one in ten

Gunadasa Kapuge is calling

Kumkum Fernando installs Sri Lanka in Coachella, California

Hemantha Gunawardena's signature

Pathways missed

Architectures of the demolished

The exotic lunacy of parting gifts

Who the heck do you think I am?

Those fascinating 'Chitra Katha'

The Mangala Sabhava

So how are things in Sri Lanka?

The most beautiful father

Palmam qui meruit ferat

The sweetest three-letter poem

Buddhangala Kamatahan

An Irish and Sri Lankan Hello

Teams, team-thinking, team-spirit and leadership

The songs we could sing in lifeboats when we are shipwrecked

Pure-Rathna, a class act

Jekhan Aruliah set a ball rolling in Jaffna

Awaiting arrivals unlike any other

Teachers and students sometimes reverse roles

Matters of honor and dignity

Yet another Mother's Day

A cockroach named 'Don't'

Colombo, Colombo, Colombo and so forth

The slowest road to Kumarigama, Ampara

Sweeping the clutter away

Some play music, others listen

Completing unfinished texts

Mind and hearts, loquacious and taciturn

I am at Jaga Food, where are you?

On separating the missing from the disappeared

Moments without tenses

And intangible republics will save the day (as they always have)

The world is made of waves


The circuitous logic of Tony Muller

Rohana Kalyanaratne, an unforgettable 'Loku Aiya'

Mowgli, the Greatest Archaeologist

Figures and disfigurement, rocks and roses

Sujith Rathnayake and incarcerations imposed and embraced

Some stories are written on the covers themselves

A poetic enclave in the Republic of Literature

Landcapes of gone-time and going-time 

The best insurance against the loud and repeated lie

So what if the best flutes will not go to the best flautists?

There's dust and words awaiting us at crossroads and crosswords

The books of disquiet

A song of terraced paddy fields

Of ants, bridges and possibilities

From A through Aardvark to Zyzzyva 

World's End

Words, their potency, appropriation and abuse

Street corner stories

Who did not listen, who's not listening still?

The book of layering

If you remember Kobe, visit GOAT Mountain

The world is made for re-colouring

The gift and yoke of bastardy

The 'English Smile'

No 27, Dickman's Road, Colombo 5

Visual cartographers and cartography

Ithaca from a long ago and right now

Lessons written in invisible ink

The amazing quality of 'equal-kindness'

A tea-maker story seldom told

On academic activism

The interchangeability of light and darkness

Back to TRADITIONAL rice

Sisterhood: moments, just moments

Chess is my life and perhaps your too

Reflections on ownership and belonging

The integrity of Nadeesha Rajapaksha

Signatures in the seasons of love

To Maceo Martinet as he flies over rainbows

Sirith, like pirith, persist

Fragrances that will not be bottled 

Colours and textures of living heritage

Countries of the past, present and future

A degree in creative excuses

Books launched and not-yet-launched

The sunrise as viewed from sacred mountains

The ways of the lotus

Isaiah 58: 12-16 and the true meaning of grace

The age of Frederick Algernon Trotteville

Live and tell the tale as you will

Between struggle and cooperation

Of love and other intangibles

Neruda, Sekara and literary dimensions

The universe of smallness

Paul Christopher's heart of many chambers

Calmness gracefully cascades in the Dumbara Hills

Serendipitous amber rules the world

Continents of the heart