The Muslim merchant who supplied goods to the army camp was a good friend of my father. We eagerly looked forward to their fasting season, we knew we were in for a feast almost every evening during Ramadan. Dr Selvaraj was our family doctor – he could’ve given just flavoured water and any ailment would’ve disappeared; we trusted him, almost blindly. “Doctor Uncle” was the best doctor in the whole world; specially since he never ran short of sweets in his “medicine cabinet.” As kids, we didn’t know if he was Tamil or Sinhalese, and that didn’t really matter.
Life in Diyatalawa was a dream; we didn’t care who’s who and who believes in what. We were one and the same, it was a small town then, it was a happy little town. Everybody knew us, and we knew everybody. Except, perhaps the young infantrymen temporarily training in the camps.
Looking at the 21st Century Sri Lanka, my heart aches. Specially since this country will never see that harmony I saw in my childhood, ever again.
I left Diyatalawa when I was 10. I left the country when I was 20-something, and the dollar was 30-odd rupees then.
What did I miss while I was away? I missed the dollar sky-rocketing to end at over 110 rupees. I missed the political division taking place. I missed the Buddhist monk(ey)s contesting in general elections, instead of practicing what they preach.
And I returned to a hell-hole, where there is no respect for life – human or other wise – anymore. There is no respect for each other, there is no respect for anything. Where are all the values in life? How could a country deteriorate so fast, so soon, physically and morally?
Every time I drive past the town of Panadura, my heart fills with disgust as I see a signage that reads: “You are entering the Buddhist Township of Panadura.” What if Beruwala is labeled a Moor township and Haputale becomes a Hindu town – and erect massive sign boards to that effect? Would we, the non-Moor, non-Hindu, Sinhala majority of the country like it?
This country is divided, and divided to the bone. There are schools that do not accept non-Christian kids. I think this is the only country where education system is thus discriminated. Even in the Middle Eastern countries, non Muslim students could attend public schools where the only religion they teach is Islam. Non Muslim kids get to go to the library or study moral science. And, they don’t boast of a civilisation 5,000 years old.
Education, politics, religions and faith, race, cast and creed... the base for division itself is divided in to hundred different categories. As if we don’t have enough, we are even divided in to “up-country” vs “low-country” people. Next thing, my kids will be looking down upon yours, just because my hometown is few meters higher in altitude.
What a mess.