Friday, June 29, 2012

The Oldest and the Greatest

 TRY by halwis.

A reflection on the Bradby Shield and what it stands for

History and tradition are great mentors. History assures us of who we are, and if we are brave enough, it can also teach us where we have failed or triumphed, behaved honourably or been disgraced. Tradition, for it to be useful, must be wisely chosen and morally crafted; because it is the conduit through which history’s best lessons flow down the ages. Great traditions are not always old, but the best ones are usually those that stand the test of time and like good wine, enhanced by age. Where it is not mistaken for blind ritual, tradition sets out an honour code on how we should behave as well as treat ourselves and others with dignity. As much as history and tradition helps chasten us and help preserve the integrity of our social fabric, they are also vulnerable to misinterpretation and exploitation. Sometimes, when history is ousted by myth and tradition is confused with petty ceremony, the manifest outcomes contradict every perception of who we really are and how we ought to behave.

There are historical facts that ground us in reality and historical fiction that deludes us. The often bandied about claim that the Bradby Shield encounter is the oldest schools rugby fixture in the world is - unfortunately - a delusion. In the possible absence of stronger contenders, the honour of playing the oldest rugby fixture - including alternating home and return legs - should belong to Edinburgh Academy and Merchiston Castle School in Scotland. Their claim to have played against each other annually without a break since 1857 remains unparalleled so far.

It should not sadden us Trinitians and Royalists however, to find out that our traditional encounter on the rugby field is not the oldest of its kind in the world, nor does it diminish the significance of the Bradby Shield in any way. Thanks to those who have worn the majestic red, gold & blue stripes and blue & yellow stripes with honour, we have a rightful claim to a proud history of playing the game and a great honour code associated with it.

A claim is also being made that the Bradby Shield is the “blue-ribbon event” in the Sri Lankan rugby circuit. Finding evidence for this claim is a much less strenuous undertaking. Even though each school is entitled to be proud of the long-standing sports fixtures they engage in against traditional rivals, perhaps none can match the fanfare and prestige associated with the Bradby Shield or the “Battle of the Blues” between Royal and St Thomas’. With a return leg and two weeks of eager anticipation, jovial sledging and hype in between, perhaps the Bradby Shield edges out all others. I wonder whether it would take nothing short of a Cricket world-cup fixture to dislodge it from its pride of place in the entire Sri Lankan sports calendar!

Indeed every Royalist and Trinitian is entitled to a share of that pride and prestige, but it is important that we understand who has conferred that prestige to the event and what we have done - and must continue do - to be deserving partakers of it. It is not an honour that is inherent in the institutions we represent and to an even lesser extent in us as individuals. The prestige of the Bradby Shield that we share in – be it as players, school boys or alumni – is an honour bestowed on us by the sports loving public of Sri Lanka. Perhaps, over the years they have come to notice something special in the way we play the game, and the care with which Royalists and Trinitians have upheld the dignity of the event. They may have recognised in our traditions - values worth aspiring for and honouring. Therefore, as much as it gives us cause for great celebrations every year, taking part in the Bradby Shield also calls for some introspection and humility on our part.

We must understand that the pride of place occupied by the Bradby Shield encounter as a premier sports event in Sri Lanka is not ours to take for granted – but a privilege to be earned and renewed every year. In an era where games are broadcast to all corners of the country and indeed the globe on national television, the responsibility on players and spectators to uphold those values and to augment the traditions we all profess to honour have never been greater. Events that took place at the Royal Sports Complex two weeks ago and our collective response to it as Trinitians and Royalists so far – if they haven’t diminished the decorum that is associated with the event - have done little to preserve it.

Indeed the history of the event is strewn with many images and memories of noble sportsmanship. However, if we look closer and with rose-tinted glasses set aside, there has also been some measure of ignoble behaviour both on and off the field. There is no shame in acknowledging the truth – only cowardice in failing to do so. This week, we have a chance to mend what may have been strained and to reaffirm our commitment to upholding and handing on untarnished the better traditions of the great institutions we represent and love.

Dare I say that it is just a game after all! The result of this year’s Bradby cannot aspire to anything greater than being ‘memorable’. So it will be each year, as both camps fight it out for fresh memories of glory. There is glory in equal measure even in defeat as in victory. What draws us to the hallowed turf every year is something greater than the hope of a thrilling win. I am tempted to call it the spirit of the Bradby Shield, but I am afraid that any attempt to capture it in words would make it disappear altogether. There are some things that one man’s memory cannot contain. They can only exist in the collective memory and aspirations of a great crowd. I have heard it in the roaring echoes of Bogambara and felt it years ago, in the moving silence of supporters and rivals alike when a crucial kick at goal was lined up in the dying minutes of a game.

That long observed silence of even rival supporters when a kick is lined up has been a hallmark of the Bradby that set it apart from every other encounter in the season; but no more. Those were some of the treasures that were entrusted to us who bear the names of Trinity and Royal in our hearts. We may have squandered some, but let us resolve anew, to be worthy custodians of that legacy today, so that when the time comes for us to hand it on to the generations that follow, we may do so with competence and communicate to them without words, the great responsibility that comes attached to it. It is only then, and with the cheers that roll, that we may remember our own great days and jolly days with solemn pride.

- As published on Groundviews

Monday, June 25, 2012

Birthday wish

Traveller, originally uploaded by halwis.

Dear Godchild,

Being probably the first person apart from your parents, grandparents and uncle, to wish you on your very first birthday, is a great responsibility. It is the sort of thing that keeps Godfathers up well past bedtime; not out of obligation of course, but out of duty.

Today, you mark the first of many wonderful way points in your life. On this day, for years to come, we will celebrate the perfection of God's creation in you. It will be a yearly reminder to renew our faith in you and trust in God's plan for you; which is just another way of saying 'trust what life has in store for you'. Some may call it destiny, some may convince you that you are the architecht of your life and all its fortunes. One day, when you are just about old and wise enough, I will show you how they are both one and the same thing!

In time, you will be compared to flowers that bloom and wither away, or to stars that seem to last forever. You will tread on pebbles that have been around for eons and sit under the shade of trees that will outlast you by many generations. But in all of creation, there has never been another one of you in this universe and there will never be. You are unique in creation and you alone have the power and right to define how. Choose wisely and always choose with love.

We also celebrate in you, the will of life to endure and thrive, but that is a gift you share with even plants and animals. Perhaps, one day, you will also be lucky enough to become an instrument of life’s longing to manifest itself anew. That would be something worth praying for.

Life is more than you and I can comprehend, but I hope we will be able to remind each other of that every now and then. Never give up trying to understand life deeply, because to do so would be to loose sight of its very purpose. Life is your opportunity to partake of all that is magical and wonderful and your parents will strive harder than anyone can imagine, to put as much of that wonder and magic within reach of your fingertips. Despite their best efforts however, there will be times when life doesn't seem so wonderful to you, when you encounter difficult choices, pain and suffering, anger, hatred and perhaps even the threat of violence.

And with time (but I hope soon enough) you will learn to appreciate the seasons of life. Most days will be unmemorable, but there will be those that will wrap you in bliss and others that drown in sorrow. There will be times when you will languish as days idly pass you by and then hasten with purpose. Like the seasons in nature, these times will be inevitable, but they will roll on; sometimes with you in tow and at others with you taking the lead.

I wish you friends who will be for all seasons. You won't so much find them as be blessed with them. If you must have any desires, try to be a good friend that others can depend on at all times. Cherish those loved ones who walk through life with you, strengthen you and make you laugh. Never forsake them or feel obliged to put up with anyone who takes you for granted. Be faithful to those whose love sustains you; and love them all your heart.

In your grasp is the power of innocence and may it be yours for years to come. Innocence is not the same as naivety, nor will it make you vulnerable. It is rather a sign of persistent faith in all that is good and a reflection of the strength of your imagination and endurance of your dreams. Should the years ahead threaten to make you cynical, or pessimistic, look back and draw inspiration from the indomitable love that has made you possible. You will also be, as your parents and theirs have been, a sprout in the fountain of life. Preserve the purity of your innocence and be chastened by it. Wear kindness as a chain on your heart, and let gentleness, like bangles adorn your hands. Grace shall be your crown.

Today, the gift we are thankful for is your presence in our lives. In years to come, you will add more meaning and reason for celebration and more cause for joy. What we see today are merely the first rays of dawn breaking in the horizon as we wait for birdsongs to break through the morning mist and the glory of daylight to set in. The skies hold much promise. So, this prayer is my gift; that you, your parents, elders and teachers will have the wisdom and strength to be guided through this day, till we all lie down with the stars, to a peaceful dusk.

Always, Your Godfather.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Light in the Window

 Photo credit: unknown

He felt something formidable rise in front of him and paused; undecided, hesitant, unhurried but weary of languishing. The dark moonless night engulfed his senses completely. Not knowing which way to go, he just stood without any recollection of what he was doing there. He could no longer remember or imagine where the next step might land or where it will take him. What he knew had been driven into the wilderness of the unknowable. Most of what he believed in had been abandoned in the ever lengthening shadows of doubt. Shear strength of will and blind hope had conspired to bring him to this dead end. But he couldn’t have been standing there for too long, when a light flicked on behind a window in a sandstone wall not far from where he stood and the world around him began to lend itself to senses once again. The smoked glass panels cast a dim yellow light on a narrow, neatly paved mosaic of cobblestone that uncurled into the darkness beyond and the blurred outline of his shadow laid out on a manicured lawn beside it.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Make Different

Split Sky, originally uploaded by halwis.

Like the grains of sand on the seashore... the glittering snowflakes that float through the air and melt away in the sun... like the subtle prints on a fingertip and the intricate patterns of tea leaves in a cup, each of us are unique in creation. There are those among us who seek to be unique; we want to stand out from a crowd and be noted, to do things differently and create our own themes and styles in life.

In a country, and indeed in a world that is divided by communal, racial and religious differences, the notion of being different and unique is defined equally by the colour of skin; language and accent as much as by each individual's unique power to think and do things differently and create new things.

Would ours be a better world if a person's uniqueness was defined by talents and creations rather than where we were born and who we descend from? So what does it mean to be 'different' in a world where it matters whether you are rich or poor, man or woman, educated or uneducated? Does being 'different' mean that we should use our ethnicity, religion and caste to discriminate and differentiate one person from another or even react 'indifferently' to those social barriers? Will it rather make a difference if we broke down those barriers for better or for worse?

Indeed every human being deserves to be treated with equal dignity; some may argue that every living thing deserves equal treatment. Yet each of us are different in our own ways, the colour of our skin may be different even though that should not separate us. The blood that runs through our veins bleeds the same hue of red. We speak different languages; yet we share and express the same feelings and emotions.

We seek God in different places and the names we use to describe God and way we worship are unique; yet God's love has no favourites among us. Even though we have different memories of the past, we find their meaning when we share them with our friends and loved ones and though our dreams are varied we still need each other to make them come true. We share the same Earth and breathe the same air. The mountain springs do not quench the thirst of one man and deny another and the birds do not discriminate at whose doorstep they sing their early morning songs.

The sun and stars shine down on all of us and the rain from the heavens brings life and fertility to all living things with the same abundance. The fruits of the Earth feed both man and beast; the holy and the immoral; the hero and the scoundrel.

Though we may sometimes loose hope, we share the courage and faith of humanity in what is good and righteous and even though we sometimes doubt; we all have within us; the power to believe. Though we all fight with courage, yet all our daily battles are fuelled by the promise of peace and rest.

When we are sometimes defeated by fear and anger; we rise again, because in every heart is an eternal spring of hope and love. Each of us is unique, yet there are more things that bring us together than separate us and though we spend much of our time trying to be different, in truth it is the similarities we share that make us understand and respect each other.

The master painter does not portray the beauty of his painting from the uniqueness of its colours; but rather by blending them together.

Originally published in The Sunday Observer on 25th june 2006

Sunday, June 03, 2012

The calling

Photo credit: unknown

Home calls. Sometimes. Perhaps we share the longing with all of life – whatever it is that makes the Salmon persevere against raging white melt waters; birds migrate over mountain ranges; wildebeest cross perilous waters in search of the familiar green pastures – also draws us to the place of our birth, the memories of our childhood, warm winds, big rain drops, the luscious green of grass and tall trees, the gravel road along the foothills that leads us there… they all tug at our hearts urging, encouraging and cheering us on when we journey back. 

It is not just the comfort of familiar surroundings or the nurturing company of loved ones we seek, or a shallow indulgence of overly romanticised memories of bygone days. Home is more than that. It is the ultimate refuge of every traveller when all others are merely resting places. It is the assurence of safety and comfrort at the end of an arduous journey, the retreat where we renew and rediscover ourselves.

It is not a house or a place on a map. It is a state of mind, a feeling, a peaceful satisfaction. We glimpse it in what we love to do and in the people we love to be with. Perhaps it is the secret place in our hearts where we hope to find every happiness imaginable. It is the aspiration we all share, the warmth of an embrace, a thoughtful act that fills us with grattitude and the smile that confirmes we've reached our destination.

Home is where our final journey starts, the soil in which our lives take root, where memories blossom and life itself fades into eternity. Even as we flutter with the breeze and bask in the sun like leaves on a perched branch, the longing to glide back to the base of our roots churn within us; because home is where we dissolve in the rich earth, to be created anew.