Never have I been tempted to write you a tourist travelogue. To describe the endless sandy beaches, the color of coconut and small bananas tempting you to pick them from the trees, nature that evokes sighs of joy and leaves you speechless, a smile on someone’s face that seems to be copied from the ad “permission for happiness”, magnificent Buddhist temples and barefoot priests. And most of all the feeling of the morning sun tickling on your cheeks stealing your sleep before that gloomy sound of the alarm clock. To cover my eyes, ears and mouth with my hands like a small, silly monkey, and jump on a tree. To rest you from the western world financial crisis, everyday life, nervous drivers and salesmen, the race with (against) time, corrupted politicians, feelings of hopelessness.
The only problem is that I’m not on a tourist trip, I’m more like a sleeping cat Tom with toothpicks in his eyes, who must stay awake to watch mouse Jerry. And these toothpicks, in any language, in any country on our planet, have a common sense of the stinging. Here they are called “checkpoints”, and a free translation would be bricks on the road, or even freer translation, bricks in the heads. Just as you relax and the toothpicks begin to sag under the weight of heavy eyelids, checkpoints appear in the form of armed Sinhalese soldiers who need to know where you are from, where you are going, and what are you are. ‘Lucky me’, I am white and my ID does not show the place Jaffna or Mullaitivu as my residence, and the fact that I look a bit like a tiger. It doesn’t matter, I’m not Tamil.
Checkpoints are like a chain reaction of questions and re-examinations, a thousand whys and zero because, that overwhelm you like a tsunami. When I try to give a meaningful answer to at least one question, I always somehow return to mother Africa, where it all began, where survival in cruel nature created a race of tribes (today it is called the nation), where that race was gentle and helpless as a newborn baby in the eternal struggle against assimilation, or modern integration. And religion clings to that race like a leech, in order to survive on its own. And, then the big fish ate the little fish. In the Sinhalese language, nations, races and people are practically synonymous, a multiethnic nation or state is a meaningless abstraction, and when we include religion, we get the popular belief that Sri Lanka is the land of the Sinhalese Buddhists. Or in the words of Buddhist priests: “There is no Buddhism without Sinhalese, nor Sinhalese without Buddhism.” After that, not even a picture of a Buddhist priest blessing a soldier’s gun is something that will startle you.
And where are the Tamils now? And haven’t we been there before, haven’t we already seen that? And when they tell us assimilation, integration, what do they really mean? And while the Sinhalese reject any thought that they can be classified as Indians, fighting to preserve their identity, are they aware of a greater evil, a monster called globalization, or have they forgotten it racing to reach four Asian tigers, and instead shoot the ball to the Tamil Tigers’ field.
And while terrorists for whom there is no definite definition yet, and who for one tribe, the people can be freedom fighters, blow themselves up by bombs, while religion is ruled by politics and politics by religion, a Hindu named Reno, Danusha with a cross on a chain around the neck, Diluka celebrating Poya, and Ahmet reading the Qur’an, an ordinary passerby, a street seller of mangoes and small bananas, always a smiling waiter in a restaurant, would say what the Buddha said long time ago: “Victory breeds hatred, for the vanquished is stricken with suffering; but the tranquil man lives in happiness, disregarding both victory and defeat.”