I feel like I ought to…

I feel like I ought to write something subtle and complex and thorough about my experience reading for Samadhana 2012 in Toronto. But the truth is, I'm still processing it. I was emotionally wrung out after the event and the day that followed (in which I spent time with relatives, including hearing some brutal stories of their experiences in the war that I hadn't heard before). I came home late Friday, exhausted, and Saturday was mostly spent in a fog, taking comfort in being with my family, in my house. I did dishes, straightened up, checked what had bloomed in the garden in my absence. We took down the side of Anand's crib and turned it into a bed. Small triumphs.

Finally, after the kids went to sleep, I talked to Kevin about some of it. I couldn't help crying. It's all so desperately sad, and I feel helpless in the face of the enormity of what has happened. Of what we hope may come despite all that has happened. And I am so removed, in the diaspora, isolated in America. In Toronto, there are Sri Lankans everywhere, mostly Tamil. The faces remind you every day. Here in Chicago, if I wanted, I could go months without thinking of Sri Lanka. In fact, if I don't make a special effort to follow the news, to keep engaged with Sri Lankan issues, the current of my life will quickly pull me away.

I don't know if I want to make that effort, to engage. I do want reconciliation, and a united Sri Lanka again. I want peace, and a chance for small Sri Lankan children to grow up not quite understanding what happened. Sympathetic towards the troubles of their elders, but busy with school and flirting and what will I be when I grow up? With the whole world open to them, to all of them, regardless of ethnicity or language or religion. There is so much work to be done to get there from here. I don't know how to do it, not when I listen to my relatives' stories, when I hear what they endured, and realize how lucky they were to make it out alive. So many didn't.

Can I have sympathy for the struggle, wish well for Sri Lanka, and still say, "This is not my fight?" I have writer friends who actively follow the discussions and the current politics, who write essays taking positions on who must be held accountable, and why. They are doing such valuable work. But I think if I started down that path, it would quickly become all-consuming. And I'm not sure, but I don't think I'm meant to be a political writer. Not in that way.

What I can do, perhaps, is chronicle grief. Grief and anger and bewildered love. A wish for peace, even when it seems too much to hope for, when I cannot see the path to there from here. I can offer gratitude, to those who are actively working towards peace, trying to build understanding and commonality and reasoned discourse, in the midst of such history of grief.

Thank you. It must be so hard, what you are doing. Even though most of us don't say it out loud, I do believe quite strongly, that most of us are with you. We want what you want for Sri Lanka -- whether Sri Lanka is the country we live in, the country we fled, or the country we left long ago, before everything exploded. I don't know what needs to happen, for Sri Lanka to move forward towards a peaceful future; I doubt it can happen, without all of us bearing more pain in the process of uncovering hard truths.

But if you can find the path forward, we'll be with you.

1 thought on “I feel like I ought to…”

  1. I can sympathise with how you feel, considering the situation in Egypt… I have similar feelings of “it is and it isn’t”. I’m still hopeful for Egypt, but I’m also scared to death. I know the average Egyptian just wants food for their families, safety, etc… and that most Egyptians do not want a strict Islamist government. I’m scared that Egypt will go Kaboom!

    But there is a place for people like you, who are showing the grief, the pain, the ache….

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