Sri Lanka has had its share of rebellions and uprisings, youth unrest and civil unrest for which the country has paid a heavy price in the past. While it’s nice to refer to such matters in the past tense, it’s not something we can lock up and throw away the key thinking it will not recur. Until the social injustices that are so marked and blatant in our society do not even out, the most optimistic among us will have to agree that as long as a large segment of the population are being deprived of the right to live in a society that treats all its citizens equally and allows them to live in dignity, it’s not a question of if but when another insurgency takes place.
These are just some thoughts that came to my mind as I was reading the English translations of some Sinhala poems that are rife with the voice of rebellion.
This is one by Parakrama Kodituvakku, a Sinhala poet noted for his radical poetry, many of them set in the background of the 1971 insurrection.
The World of a Disobedient Son or Akikaru Putrayakuge Lokaya has been brilliantly translated by Ranjini Obeysekera.Here it is.
Doubts all teachings.
Works as he chooses.
(Religious Instructor’s Report)
Disbelief verily, signifies a sinful mind.
His horoscope too indicates a lack of merit.
Choleric humours have become excited, turbulent.
Hath no knowledge of the doctrine of the gods.
I take refuge in the Buddha. He should do so too.
- Attempted to break the law
- Destroyed the peace
- Should be given a whipping
- Be made into a good citizen
(Statement of the Accused)
Turn me not into a snail
My feelers chopped off
Turn me not into a coward
By preaching of gods.
Turn me not into a buffalo
Burdened with false views.
Make me not a “good boy”
With hands and mouth gagged.
Allow me to question like Socrates
Doubt like Descartes.
Crash through like a gushing river
cut clean as a knife.
Let me rise, erect
Like a penis.”