Sixty one years, and a breath of
Over a span of nearly twenty three centuries,
we in Sri Lanka inhabited a proud land, that held Independence Liberty
and Freedom in the highest esteem. In this Island citadel, we fiercely
defended our own Independent way of life, our liberty and our Freedom in
defiance of all incoming influences.
The glory of high summer is
best appreciated when you shiver in winter's cold. Equally, the
preciousness of Freedom can be really relished, only when you
While embracing what was wholesome and salutary in what other
cultures could offer us, we conscientiously cultivated what was strictly
our way of life.
Within the unity provided by Independence, there was of course, room
for dissidence and discordance, conflict and difference of opinion.
There was freedom to say your say. Pettiness and jealousy, intrigues for
power and influence could exist. But, within the strong feeling for
Independence and Freedom, those destructive ways could be managed.
But, in the early nineteenth century, a power struggle developed,
that led the same misguided leaders astray. Manipulated by foreign
powers, they plotted the overthrow of our 23-century old rule of
Late Professor Tennakoon Wimalananda, a historian of high repute,
once spoke to me about a document he had come upon in a British museum.
A letter written by a British Officer in Sri Lanka, in 1814, enquires
from the Colonial office in London: "The Big-fish is in our net. Shall
we raise it?"
(The Big-fish is a reference to King Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe) Back
came the answer from the Colonial office, to the British Officer in Sri
Lanka: "Do not worry. Their people themselves will raise the net for
In the plots and conspiracies, Sri Lanka lost her Independence, that
was a majestic presence in the history of the world. Imperial rulers
took over our island as their subject colony, engulfing the nation in a
vast sense of devastation. Soon after our Independence was signed away
on the 2nd of March 1815, the time gravity of the national tragedy began
to dawn on the people and on the nation, as a whole.
The sense of loss of Independence at National level, and the personal
sense of loss of freedom are excruciatingly soul-torturing to a nation
that has known Independence, its loss is debilitating and enervating.
It is the same with an individual too. In the context of sense of
loss that follows the end of Independence, a nation feels inhibited.
This State is true even of individuals who lose their Independence their
Late Mulk Raj Anand, eminent Indian man of letters, who passed away
at the age of 98, in 2004, provides a powerful metaphor, to convey the
sense of loss of Independence and freedom. In a short-story composed by
him a young mother takes his son along to a crowded carnival ground. The
little son holds his mother's hand, as they walk through the carnival
ground. The little child sees balloons being sold.
He asks the mother for balloons. The mother pulls him along without
buying him balloons. His eyes are focused on a sweetmeats stall.
The child needs them. But mother takes him away. It is the same with
toys and attractive garments. As they proceed the mother loses the child
in the crowd. They are separated. The child starts screaming aloud. The
organisers of the carnival take charge of the child.
They try to comfort him: "My child do you want balloons?" The child
says: "I do not want balloons. I need my mother." The organisers keep on
trying: "My child, do you like sweets?"
"No, no, I want my mother."
All the things that the child asked are offered. But, the child is
not comforted. He wants only his mother.
The loss of Independence of a nation, or the loss of freedom by an
individual is a psychological parallel to the state of minds of the
child in the story by Mulk Raj Anand.
In a context of lost Independence, or deprived freedom, nothing
satisfies. A tyrant, who has conquered an Independent nation, may feed
the people lavishly. But, that food famishes and does not satisfy.
An individual's freedom may get robbed. But, he is kept in luxury. In
such a context of lost freedom, the luxury is troubling and not
Sixty-one years ago, we regained our Independence. During these years
we have had our discords and dissensions. But, our sense of Independence
Today, as we celebrate the sixty-first anniversary of our
Independence, once again, groups who had been trodden under-foot by a
tyrannical oligarchy of torturers, are beginning to breathe as free and
independent human beings.
Each year, when we celebrate our Independence, we should consolidate
our nationhood, recalling the days when we had to endure an alien rule
and lead a life devoid of true inner satisfaction, whatever one
Today we are free and Independent. This sense of freedom and
Independence, pervades our lives, like an assuring and protective
presence of a mother, that perpetually comforts the child.