Saturday, March 16, 2019

Memories of Sri Lanka

It has been more than 6.5 years since I left Sri Lanka. The country that gave me the best of everything. I was lucky to study in arguably the best boys school in the country, and then one of the best universities and departments - all without spending money thanks to our free education! That's great for me as I come from a very humble background. If we had to pay for education, I might not have had this opportunity. I received my undergraduate education from the best of the teachers in my department. Some of my lecturers treated us like their own sons. Does it sound weird to you? Then probably you are not a Sri Lankan. ;) For us, teachers are family! Not a single day, I felt poorly treated in my university - based on the language I speak or my religion. I am a Hindu. But I loved spending Christmas time with my friend's family and enjoying the prayers and family meals. I enjoyed Watalapam (that sweet dessert that only Sri Lankan Muslims have a secret recipe ;) ) shared by my Muslim friends. I enjoyed the Avurudu (Sri Lankan new year) with our (mostly) Buddhist neighbors who were always there for us whenever we needed them! Of course, we shared our Thai Pongal celebrations with them too!

My memories left me with a strong association and fondness towards my country. Time passed, and now my memories are also filled with the memories of me in 6 other beautiful countries where I lived. Still not a single day I felt bad about Sri Lanka (opinions about the politicians do not count as an opinion about the country). OK, maybe only when I had to apply for a visa. Unfortunately, Sri Lankans need a visa to go to almost anywhere, except maybe around 40 friendly countries. :) I hope that improves so that we all can move around freely.

I love Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans, and I want everyone to be the same, despite their current location. We all originated from that island. :) One common mistake many Twitter users do when talking about Sri Lankans abroad is using a broad brush. Some of us have spent most of our lives in Sri Lanka and have a loving relationship with the motherland. Others have escaped the war and may have bad memories. Some are born abroad and never had the chance to experience anything Sri Lankan beyond what is taught by their parents. They may not even hold a Sri Lankan citizenship. So our opinions are shaped by our different experiences - some of us are lucky to have good memories. We received the best in our country - we had fun. Others may not. Don't check the Twitter location and judge someone as diaspora just because he/she is currently in a foreign country. It does not help your argument.

Ideally, I want everyone with SriLankan origin to associate with SriLankan identity strongly. It does not matter even if you never had a SriLankan citizenship. SriLanka was not a perfect country in the past. But which country was? We all had our faults. I don't want our next generation to be divided and live in hatred. If your parents/grandparents are from Sri Lanka? You are Sri Lankan. Did you lose someone you love to the war, terrorists, or the military? Still, you are Sri Lankan. I have seen vast divides between the Sri Lankan communities in countries such as France and Switzerland. We (including we personally and our elected leaders) must act to reconcile. I think, with a strong distributed presence of Sri Lankans globally, we will have a collective advantage, if we all work together, rather than spending time attacking each other or discrediting each other. I am just a person online sharing my opinions. But I hope I share some positive vibes on the Internet.

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