| by V.N.Giritharan
[Translation By Latha Ramakrishnan; Proofread & Edited By Thamayanthi Giritharan ]
In the middle of the night
( February 28, Toronto, Sri Lanka Guardian) Ilango, who was in deep sleep, suddenly woke up with a jerk. All those nearby, except one, were fast asleep. What are all those dreams and imaginations overflowing in those minds of those who had been plunged into gloom and desperation? All wondering what the future held for them, feeling terribly low and fatigued.
Next to him lay Ranjith Singh, wide awake. He had arrived from Germany a few days ago. There, he had legally proper immigration documents. Here, he had arrived illegally and had applied for refugee status. They caught him and put him behind bars. He now understands the rules and regulations prevalent in America regarding the application for for refugee status. “My friend, what is it you are thinking?” asked Ilango in English.
Ilango’s question created some ripples in Ranjith Singh’s deep contemplation. “Come on, you are blessed. Tomorrow morn you would have gone away. But, see my state? Because I landed here without an ounce of knowledge of these people’s laws and strictures, I have gotten myself into trouble”.
“What does your lawyer suggest?”
“As if you don’t know what it could be. He coolly said that I have to be confined here till the case pertaining to the request for refugee status comes to a close.”
“What is your plan?”
“Oh, who will consent to spend his days inside this cursed cell? Even if they are to send me, they will send me back to Germany only. And returning to Germany seems to be the only way out. The right choice, so to say. Unnecessarily, I listened to that agent’s empty words and paid him all my savings for nothing. Nothing at all. All because of my greed to make some quick bucks.”
“At least things look a bit better in your case. You can go back to Germany. You actually have proper immigration documents there. But, see the pitiable condition of those here. Till there litigations are over they are cursed to remain here, languishing. Even after that, the requisition of many would still be an uncertain fate. They would be deported. Till that time, we should get along, with our dreams and future plans, hoping for a better tomorrow. Sometimes I feel like laughing my heart out when I think of their queer rules and laws, you know”.
“If we succeed in illegally entering the country, then we can at least hope to come out with bail. But, if we are to be caught while getting inside the country through the air or the sea, that is all. Such people are treated worse under the law of this land. They are not allowed bail till their cases end. If I had an inkling of this before, I would have entered in guise of a tourist and then we could apply for refugee status, no? If I happen to see that agent again, I wouldn’t hesitate to strangle him. Ahh, my seething anger”.
“Must be a budding agent, who has yet to learn the peculiar laws of this land. Just like other lands, when you sought refugee status and applied for it, he must have overlooked it or didn’t care. In Canada, the moment you ask for refugee status they would let you out and, he must have thought that it would have been the same here. If only we had set off to Canada – as planned – we would have saved ourselves from all these entanglements. Anyhow, we are saved somewhat. Otherwise, we would have been languishing right here…”
Ranjith became a little contemplative and admitted, “What you say is true. In one way, I am better off, when compared to this lot. I realize that now.”
“A song from a film comes to my mind right now. It is the song of a famous film songwriter who was reigning supreme in his time. He was a Tamil scholar, and his knowledge helped him in writing good songs for films. The particular song I am referring to is a very nice song about life as a whole. It says, ‘Of course, there will be so many things in life. Each and every household will have its own sorrows and sufferings. Whatever the sorrows and sufferings, if we are to stand still, cursing our fate, they wouldn’t go, disappearing.’
“Indeed, a very poignant song. Must be the words of a person bruised and battered in life. Like us. And that experience is the basis for this song.” Ranjith laughed softly. Then, he continued. “Well, what about you? What is your story? I have so many Sri Lankan friends in Germany. And, they would tell me many tales.”
“Oh, please don’t remind me of that again. Before this, when I was a little boy I had seen people escaping such riots. I have heard tales about them. There was a riot in 1977. For the first time, the main Tamil Political Front had achieved their demand for a Separate State for Tamils. But, the resulting riot was worse than ever before. It was a riot that took place with the Government’s support. The struggle of the Eelam Tamils, oh, it is a very long history.”
“A tiny existence, a small planet. But what a beautiful planet it is! This blue sky, night, moon and its shine – oh how beautiful they are!”
Ranjith’s words surprised Ilango. “ Hey, how come you are speaking like a poet?”
For that the other replied. “Writing and Reading are my two eyes. They are my very lungs. They are the two rooms of my heart. I cannot live without them. Yes, what you say is correct. I am a writer. And I am always enamoured by this universe, its immaculate design and structure. And, believe me, I have never been struck by anything with so much wonder and awe as this night sky! This is so splendid that it would always stir my imagination. The war and the resulting bloodshed and all such malice cruelly destroy this beautiful world. If we can go on trying to grasp its meaning and enjoy the sight and sound of it, that itself is a boon unparalleled.”
That particular moment made Ilango feel like laughing, just a little. Being born in one corner of the globe and being in a cell situated in another, faraway corner, at the hour of night when the whole world would be sleeping, this conversation is taking place with another human born in another end of the world who had dwelt in yet another corner!
“Why do you laugh, my friend! Do I look like a madman? But, remember, it is such men who would have appeared so, insane and impractical, who had eventually
changed history and created history! This is what life is all about.”
“You are thinking just like me. If I had not stirred out of sleep at this particular moment, if you too hadn’t been so wide awake, we would have lost the chance for such a rare conversation. Thousands of years ago, a poet belonging to our race had sung so poignantly: ‘YAADHU OORAE-YAAVARUM KELIR,’ this small little planet should be owned by one and all, the human beings inhabiting this place”.
“If only we could have remained the same, you, or I, or they who lie there sleeping, and not have reached this sad state, isn’t it so?’ – observing this left Ranjith Singh with a thin smile. Then he continued, “If only these Americans had known the words of your poet…”
Illango acknowledged this and quickly replied, “Who said that the Americans do not know? As far as they are concerned, every land is their place and everyone is their kith and kin. Can you think of any place in the world where they have not set foot? And, do they have any hurdle common to us? It is only for people like us, belonging to the third world, that all such problems pile up.”
Meanwhile, seeing them engaged in a conversation, the prison warden, of African-American origin, abruptly asked, “When everyone else is sleeping where is the need for you to keep chatting? If you can’t sleep, just go to the recreation hall and talk.” In doing his duty, he left the place.
“My friend! Just don’t worry. Let tomorrow be good to us. Good Night,” with that, Ilango stretched himself onto his cot once again. Ranjith Singh too responded with a “Good Night”, and climbed into his bed.
However, that night, sleep seemed to elude Ilango. He kept looking at the night sky through the window. He keenly observed those glittering, starry beauties. The words of Ranjith still echoed in his ears. . “Writing and Reading are my two eyes. They are my very lungs. They are the two rooms of my heart. I cannot live without them. Yes, what you say is correct. I am a writer. And I am always enamoured by this universe, its immaculate design and structure. And, believe me, I have never been struck by anything with so much wonder and awe as this night sky! This is so splendid that it would always stir my imagination. The war and the resulting bloodshed and all such malice cruelly destroy this beautiful world. If we can go on trying to grasp its meaning and enjoy the sight and sound of it, that itself is a boon unparalleled.”
The sense of surprise became overwhelming. Ranjith thinks exactly like him. Just like him, Ranjith, too, is a writer. For Ilango, books remained an integral part of his life. He cannot imagine an existence without writing and reading. The joy that he experienced while writing is something unique and unparalleled. The way the books widen his knowledge and wisdom and the way writing broadens the depth of his thinking capacity and the potential of creativity. They sharpen our eagerness and curiosity to unravel the riddles and mysteries of our life. Generally, all the natural events make the writers’ stallions of creative imagination gallop all too energetically and joyously, speeding through all possible directions. He picks up his diary and leafs through the pages. His eyes scan the earlier pages. -“Through the window, in that well of the night, the whole world is fast asleep causing the sky to tremble, the globe shivering uncontrollably, the thunder piercing through the stillness and the rain pouring down. The unleashing of the wind as the wolf howls – on such a night, in the sky, the momentary shine of a ray of lightning, resembling a lamp showing the way and its splendid beauty as that of an ace danseuse with steps so perfectly attuned to the beats of the thunder. All this stirs the imagination of a poet, without fail. As a result, a poignant poem is born!
he wonders. Oh, what a profound thing this lightning is! Just a moment, no, just a fraction of a second it lives. It shines and dies almost the same moment but within that hairline gap how beautifully it lightens the sky! The way the poor lightning dies the very moment it comes into being is no news. But, the message I get from it is this: within the fraction of the second that it lives, it lights up the sky and the earth and so does service to humanity! This is the message we should derive from lightning. Our life is brief, but, within that short span of life we should serve our society and humanity in the best possible manner. We should have service as our purpose of life.
Saying so, the poet goes on to wonder whether the world would benefit a little from his thought-process.
Another poet revels so much at the sight of the little sparrow flying happily on all directions across the sky, happily drinking the wine of daylight spilled over everywhere and mating its pair, chatting and singing and merrymaking, hatching its little ones and feeding them and waking up well before dawn while remaining active throughout the day. All this he hails in his song that asks his fellow-beings to be like the sparrow, free and liberated.
Yet another poet, a bard, who has written so many things to tell even after his death, mistakes an insect as a full-stop in his writings and pushes it away by the back of his hand. Then, realizing that it was not a dot but an insect he writes, “Oh, you are no more. My heart experienced a pricking pain. You must have opened your mouth and screamed in pain. I didn’t hear. In that split-second when I caused your death killed in broad daylight you lay there like a thin line. Even that was hardly an inch long. As the tender shoot crushed under the feet of wild buffalo, as the ant crushed under the long train, as the valuables of our house not locked, lost forever, you disappeared without a trace. Thus your absolute ‘real’ turned into absolute illusion. Oh, your death is not just, it happened by mistake, oh, don’t you curse me, my tiny little friend, oh, can you forgive me, my little friend?” – thus he laments in deep anguish.
As he read those lines Ilango could feel a kind of pleasure pervading his heart, and for the second time he caught up with sleep that night.
To be continued…..