2016 Apr 21
by Ashanee Kottage
The festering wound of racism only seems to grow in our little island nation, consuming the minds of the ignorant as if the 35 year civil war left us numb, and the same way the tsunami of ‘04 left us dumb and destroyed. Sinha-le is only an illusion, a façade of patriotism, masks of ignorance with cowardice and malicious hearts hiding behind. But everyone knows how bad the situation is- every other vehicle is proudly plastered, and every other wrist of every other dimwit is tattooed, but this still doesn’t constitute a majority. The majority of what is Sinha-la, and who, is Sinha-la.
Growing up in a private International school and in a privileged household in the hifi hub of Colombo 7, admittedly, exposure to the Sri Lankan culture was very scarce. We’d have a few assemblies in school, I’d converse in sinhalese with the domestics at home, few family, fewer friends. Avurudhu was just a celebration of good food and new clothes, Vesak was ice-cream stalls and lanterns, Poya (the best one) just means long week-end. I knew the most significant aspects, the stories behind the symbols and the reasons behind the rituals, just enough to get me by. But this doesn’t mean that I was/am an uncultured rich kid.
It’s only a matter of what we all believe culture is. In some minds- culture is strictly abiding by the religion of our country. Being modest, not speaking unless spoken to, worshipping elders, not interacting with those of the opposite sex, not discussing the 50 shades of taboo. It’s a misconstrued concept of culture. As much as our culture and religion are inter-twined, it’s not the same. A culture is a way of life of a group of people — the behaviours, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next. And the Sinhalese culture- at least in my opinion isn’t one that expresses views of racial purification.
So let me tell you what I believe it is to be Sinha-la.
To be Sinha-la is to be kind. To everyone. Globally we are recognised to behappy people. Happy because we receive kindness from our muslim friends, Shakeel and Amana, from our tamil friends, Niluxsan and Divya, from our burgher friends, Sarah and Sebastian. Even our foreign friends, Tamara and Khwayri. Us Sinhalese are happy because we are lucky. We are lucky to havecollectively and collaboratively, overcome a 35 year war, and beat a vicious terrorist organisation, not the tamils, the LTTE. (Remember, there’s a difference.) We are lucky to be one of the only countries that celebrate the festivals of 4 religions. To receive biriyani on Ramazan, kavum and kokis on Avurudhu, sweets on Diwali, gifts on Christmas.To be able to fight alongside each other as opposed to against one another. To be Sinha-la is really, to be lucky.
For as long as I can remember we have been the one people to reciprocate such kindness. To have grown up in such an ethnically diverse environment, with people from all religions, creeds, to play on the same team, study in the same classroom, attend the same parties. We are known to disregard the irrelevant- so why is it that now, after centuries of harmony, we focus so much on these irrelevant, inane things? That we isolate those that are different to us? But then again, are we all that different? We all have the same blood- human blood coursing through our veins, and as much as you’d like to believe that yours is superior to anyone’s, science begs to differ.
I believe such hatred stems from the elimination of a common enemy, the lack of negative cohesion. When the LTTE were still a threat we all stood united, against them, and now there’s no one left to fight so we fight one another? What we fail to realise is that there is still a war. A new war of, the kind versus the unkind, the Sri Lankan versus the alleged Sri Lankan.
We have a responsibility to our nation, to our blood, to stand tall and strong against this hatred. To join forces in this war and fight. Not with arms and bloodshed, but with kindness, acceptance, preaching words of peace- to be real soldiers- Sinha-la soldiers, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher- Sri Lankan soldiers. whether you wear a kurtha, a burka, a saree, a pair of jeans, a sarong, is all insignificant, all that matters is the purity in your heart, the true Sri Lankan in your heart.
If someone of a different religion or creed has hurt/offended/lied/cheated you, remember there are people of your religion or ethnicity that have done the same. And remember that there are hundreds of people of that same creed that have shown you nothing but kindness, that you have had an awesome time with, a good laugh with, has given you good advice, wished you luck, helped you…
So to be Sinhala is the same as it is to be Sri Lankan- to be kind, compassionate, loving, understanding, fun-loving, respectful, respectable.
So here’s a message to all my Muslim/Tamil/Burgher/Foreign friends, the stickers you see slapped across vehicles and walls, that’s not us. Us Sinhalese are more than happy to have you here, we’re glad you’re in our lives, adding to the beauty of not mine, but our island nation. We appreciate all that you have done for our country and all the tolerance and kindness you have endlessly shown. We are grateful.
. . .
To be Sinha-la is not to be racist. To be Sri Lankan is not to be racist.
It is to be..
| Accepting of everyone.
| Fun and loving.
| Courageous and proud.
| Passionate in all we do.
| Friendly, even to strangers.
| Generous- Sri Lankans have a heart like no other.
| Love and be harmonious.
| Patriotic and united as one.
Sri Lankan love doesn’t discriminate. ❤
Sinha-la blood doesn’t hate. ❤
So tell us, by commenting below, what you think it is to be Sri Lankan!