The 4th of February every year is commemorated by Sri Lanka as the day the country shed it’s fetters from British rule in the year 1948, and became an independent nation. It is said that on this day the entire country livens up. Festivities and celebrations spill over onto the streets, the President makes a speech, there would be a flag hoisting ceremony followed by the National Anthem, military march pasts will take place, and there will be cultural activities. Fireworks, dances, shows and also parades carried out by the Army, Navy, Air Force, the Police and paramilitary forces would take place. The entire island unites on this day to celebrate liberation, unity and freedom.
NRI Achievers has so far not had the fortune to be present in Sri Lanka to report on these celebrations, hear the speeches or be able to take part in any of the festivities as a guest. We have only dwelt in the culture and experiences of this country through that ubiquitous device called ‘television.’ Like one Sri Lankan expatriate told us … “as an expat, I can but imagine being there and feeling so enriched in the cultural ethos of my country, like sitting on a wall, not really connected to Sri Lanka, and not really able to call this host country my own either, even though many parts of me call it home. So many a time I am in the horns of a dilemma … do I go to a place that I am unable to connect with but which entices me with open arms, or do I stay in a place that I have come to love, yet isn’t really my own.
But it is precisely times such as these, and more importantly the cultural ethos that has been instilled in Sri Lankans like that expat (courtesy their parents of a generation gone by) that allows them to relish and rejoice in such cultural fests with so much pride, feeling proud to be a Sri Lankan. That Lion bearing a sword brings a wash of pride in them and ignites that spark in their eyes every time they see it fluttering in the gentle breeze. A patriotic impulse pushes through, bringing memories of heroes gone by never to return again, who gave the present generation a country, a land that was theirs but in name, yet plagued by civil strife for as long as people of this generation can remember.
Sri Lanka is a wonderful little country, a small, beautiful and idyllic island filled with a lot of beautiful people, god-fearing people, hospitable and humble. It is exotic, very scenic, and tranquil. So much mutual good is possible to be achieved if the peoples of India and Sri Lanka link their hands in goodwill, and work towards a tranquil tomorrow. Because of the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multilingual characteristics of both nations hark back to a relationship that goes back almost 2500 years.
Moving on, this little epistle is nothing but a penning of thoughts that attempt to pay tribute to those Sri Lankans of the past, who gave their peoples a free and peaceful country to call their own, a little lustrous pearl on the Indian Ocean, on the national day of this nation. History is a tapestry of painful episodes, oft replete with massacres, but then, it is not appropriate that we take a minute to mourn for all the lives of friend and foe lost in the past that has made history, and celebrate the being of an island nation that lives in the hearts of its people ? Happy National Day, Sri Lanka !