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The Jubilee Celebration

On a busy London street Ravi wheeled in a rush. He could not wait to get home. He was a bit irritated when the cashier took time to complete the transaction. Come on, credit cards are almost becoming history now. But technical errors do not cease to exist. He was enjoying what he had bought: ribbons, different varieties of Union Jack, balloons and many more decorative things. He was on cloud nine, of course. Things are going smoothly for the celebration. Queen’s Jubilee celebration.

After a cup of tea, Ravi started working on decoration so as the morning grew into afternoon, the house that stood before Ravi turned into a beautiful mansion. He was wondering, being an Asian, why he must celebrate Queen’s Jubilee. Is it because he is from a one-time colony?

At the university, Ravi remembered, they taught Ceylon history. How Ceylon became a colony and all the evils the whites carried out. He studied the brave personalities who fought against white injustice. Kudapola Hamuduruwo was one.

The whites had already raised the Union Jack. Kudapola Hamuduruwo got onto the stage to get the flag down. Ravi could imagine his roar.

“This is not your country yet. You have not declared it a colony as yet.”

A string of sweat ran down his body. And I’m decorating my house with a Union Jack to respect the very monarch he was fighting against. What am I doing? Staring into his own home, Ravi started wondering aloud.

He had no particular respect for the Queen. But he knew what gratitude is. He could well settle down in England thanks to its democracy. Thanks to its equal opportunities. They say England is now house for all anti-democratic activities. But whoever says whatever, England accepted him and gave him shelter.

He visits Sri Lanka a number of times and helps his fellow countrymen because he earns well in England. Well, Ravi’s house became the best house in that street. It was the recognition that mattered more than any prize he was given.

Ravi decided to throw a party, to celebrate the recognition.

All his Sinhala friends came to enjoy the party. They had sumptuous meals to enjoy. They had enough to drink. As drink slowly got into their heads, their patriotism rose. That’s how Lesly approached Ravi bravely.

“What have you done? What is this? You must not have done that.”

Ravi smiled.

“You have decorated your house with a Union Jack, and invited us to dine over your victory. Don’t you remember what our Kudapola Hamuduruwo did? He trampled it.”

“Yes I remembered him. See this is what has happened to us?” Ravi tried to initiate an intellectual conversation.

“Happened to us? Happened to you? We have never done things of this sort. You have insulted our lineage. You have insulted our roots.”

Lesley was not alone. Others too joined him to attack Ravi. They all forgot Ravi was hosting their meals and drinks. With booze on top of everything, they could forget everything but their own roots. Ravi had forgotten their roots. Shame upon him!

“If Kudapola Hamuduruwo was alive, he would have slapped you. You don’t remember what these white bastards did to us? We don’t feel like even having meals at your place.”

But you have settled down in the country of the ‘bastards’, Ravi felt like asking. He chose to keep it to himself. When everybody left, Ravi felt alone. He didn’t know what went wrong. He is an ardent Sri Lankan Buddhist. But he respects the traditions of England, because that’s where he is now settled. He believes in humanism above everything. He loved the men of Sri Lanka, where he was born, and England, where he had shelter to live a comfortable life. This is unfair, he thought, I have decorated my house for Vesak too. I belong to two countries. I belong to two traditions.

With a slight feeling of disgust hanging around, Ravi did the dishes quickly. He wanted to turn in soon. But before sleep, he sympathised and empathised with his friends. They don’t know who he is.

He was quite tired when he finally went to sleep. Deep in sleep Ravi felt a soft radiance. It was towards wee hours, but not the antique lamp that burned near the bed. The face that emerged looked so familiar. He could not recall who it was at first. The face suddenly smiled at him. Ravi now remembered who it is. He had seen it in textbooks. Kudapola Hamuduruwo!

“Well done my son. Congratulations!”

Saying so a hand came from somewhere and patted Ravi’s back. The face then faded into darkness.

The dream was a puzzle for Ravi. When he woke up, he remembered someone who was silent all throughout at dinner. He did not join Ravi’s friends who blasted him. It was Aravinda.

“It may be a dream. But it was actually Kudapola Hamuduruwo who visited you. What he meant to say in a few words was that he approves of you.” Aravinda explained to Ravi over the phone.

“Approved of decorating the house with a Union Jack?”

“Yes. The past is past, and now we got to think of the present. We can’t carry on hard feelings from generation to generation. It’s funny if we still blast the whites for something their ancestors have done. That’s what I think he wanted to let you know.”

Ravi was silent. Aravinda continued.

“And he congratulated you for the achievement: best decorated house in the street!”

sachitra@gmail.com
 

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