When I was a kid,( which was a very long time ago), I grew up in the serenity of an old style Moratuwa. The western border of the town was the beautiful beach and the eastern, the picture perfect Bolgoda that emptied to the sea from the southern extreme that demarcated Panadura. To the North was the Ratmalana International Airport where one could hear the whine of big propeller engines as they revved up to take off to faraway places, mind you, intercontinental, their tails painted in brilliant colours depicting the then giants of aviation, KLM, BOAC and TWA.
As for Moratuwa the biggest event the town enjoyed was a “big match” in March, “Battle of the Golds”. Then there was a gentlemen’s election crusade between the Fernando opponents, Merril and Ruskin, vying for a place as to who should represent us in the parliament. That was the political scene. Other news flashes included the occasional stabbing of someone in a drunken brawl or a “kukul hora” being caught stealing chicken. The town certainly was very different then from what it is at present.
People too were dissimilar, I guess a lot gentler. As kids, we woke up in the morning and walked to school and came home in the afternoon and then it was play- time till the sun dipped and coloured the sky in varied pastels. Nobody heard of the loathsome word “tuition” and it was all fun and frolic after school. We plucked mango from trees and shot catapults at crows and squirrels and delighted at an occasional “Aleric’s popsicle” or a little crisp, white “bombai-mutai’. Such were our far and wide spread silver lines. We rode ramshackle bicycles to the beach to watch fishermen pulling the nets. When the trains hooted in the nearby track, we hooted back in return as if to match the yodel of the iron monsters. That was life.
Every house had somewhat a garden and some more than others. Nobody enrolled in cricket schools. Most home yards were big enough to set wickets and play cricket. The so called sixes we hit “thumped thumped” on the roofs in the surrounding houses and dropped down. As for the neighbours, of course some were friendly and some not so, I mean the people who lived around our makeshift stadiums. The ball would go to the next garden and we would jump over the fence and retrieve. In rare cases there were those who hid the ball or shouted at us. Such boundaries were well defined by the players as “out” if you hit into that yonder garden. But the games went on, great competition and great fun with “Shy balls” and “Hora Out” with whimsical umpires who could possibly have grown to become great politicians. That is another story, maybe I will write that on a fairer day.
As for now, it is all about “Gas Maru” which begins with the tender years of our young days where we saw days that were simple and soft and maybe in many ways magical. Such is what I remember. A pure gift of life.
Remembrance wakes within me and sadly brings me to the reality that there isn’t a semblance of that past remaining today. That’s to be accepted as the world has got older and more corrupt and politicised with irritatingly arrogant leaders. Big Bush started the scavenge of Iraq and little Bush and Mr Obama continues and the body bags get flown to be buried in flag wrapped coffins. At least, sad as it maybe, the trumpets are blown for them. What about the Iraqis? Nameless graves if you are lucky, merely pieces if you were in the wrong place. And we call ourselves civilised. There are summits to do this and summits to do that and protect the good earth whilst land mines blow legs and child soldiers carry AK47s. It is a time where one does not know what is right and what is wrong anymore and who to believe and who to disregard. I guess that is the new world order which certainly is in some ways personified on the “third world’ stage with a capital ‘D” for disdain. We are the Ali Babas and the forty thieves are always there, multiplying like ticks on a bitch sucking the very life of decency. No wonder everyone is confused, that’s for sure; I am too, not knowing what to believe and where lies the truth in this dynamically changing social order that is governed and given to the entire planet by the people in power who gather in marble pillared officers and call themselves luminaries. Sadder still is the fact that they have cheering squads too.
Which brings me to the headline of my story,” Gas Maaru Pethi Choru” that’s what we played as kids. A garden with well spaced coconut trees and we each would pick a trunk and one of us would be blind folded and the game began. We would taunt and shout and promise and the “blind catcher” followed the voices and came charging to grab us and get his reward. Alas! That’s when we jumped to the other tree and the voice faded and a new voice rose from another corner for “Citizen Jayawardena” to believe and chase another dream. The blind-folded catcher of yesterday had many a similarity with the “us” of today. He was lost in his blindness and groped and stumbled in search of playful solace, but the voices faded and the positions changed and he was left to go from promise to promise muddled in somewhat a mindless incontinent sentimentality. He knew his misery was short lived, such was the game and there he differed from the “us” who know very well that the proverbial “light at the end” in real life for us is simply a mythological mirage. The trees are there and the voices are heard, and there ends the fairy tale. At least, that is how I see it.
The question then to us, the prototype occupant of the planet, is where do we go now? How do we survive and what do we do to ensure that the generations that come after us would have better dawns? That they would breathe fresh air and see butterflies in the sky and walk to a beach and hoot at trains. Or do we just play the game and chase the voices and linger in hope that we know for certain would become hopeless. Is it a foregone conclusion that the demons would win the battles against the lighter and softer sides? Is there anything that we can do from the “do nothing” seat to change the tide or do we stay sorrowfully silent with our mouths permanently corked? Not much choice either way, that’s for sure. We are all like jugglers on a circus rink, coloured balls flying, sadly not knowing which ball to follow and what ball to catch. Aren’t we?
Maybe it would be a good idea for all of us to come together and promote “Gas Maaru Pethi Choru” as a national sport. Maybe elevate it to be accepted at the Olympics. We certainly could do well, maybe even go to Beijing and compete in the games as a seeded entry. Considering the vast number of perpetual “root balling” performers we have in the midst of us who strut the stage in gay abandon, including minor league players like you and me who change with the wind, we could have a great team to win a gold medal in “Gas Maaru Pethi Choru” at the Olympics.
Just another thought! Maybe? Just another maybe???????
About the author
Capt Elmo Jayawardena is the Founder/President of CandleAid Lanka CandleAid Lanka (formerly AFLAC International). We are a link between one person’s generosity and another person’s humanitarian need. CandAid helps people who suffer from the multiple burdens of poverty. My job is to make the world hear their cries – HELP ME Website: www.candleaid.org