The conflict in Sri Lanka has periodically intensified and abated over the past two decades and all the while people continue to observe the various stages of life that steadfastly follow through the years. In my brief time in Sri Lanka thus far I have been fortunate to witness a few of these remarkable occasions with my current companions.
One of my first such occasions also marked one of the earliest moments of life. Shortly after I first arrived in Sri Lanka a friend invited me to attend a traditional celebration held at the beginning of the ninth month of pregnancy. Inside the family’s home, the expecting mother rested on a chair at the center of the living room and the couple’s parents placed tray after tray of fruits, coconuts, sweets, other prepared treats, and flowers on the ground around her, filling the room until there hardly remained space to enter. The family also lit a star shaped oil lamp with wicks burning at each of the points; such a lamp has an odd number of five, seven, or nine points and might be found at any ceremonious occasion. Friends and extended family then came to congratulate the family and wish good health for the expected child with the flow of well wishers lasting nearly from dawn until midday. Food was also offered to their guests and all joined in an endless feast of rice and innumerable varieties of curry. By the day’s end the couple naturally seemed a bit fatigued, but they still beamed from the flood of affectionate attention.
Similarly when one of the office’s senior lawyers announced the wedding of his youngest daughter, he warmly included me on the guest list; and as a prominent member of the community there were also several hundred other guests in attendance. Numerous elaborate religious rituals and blessings composed the ceremony, which from an outside perspective seemed akin to a grand theatrical production, including: the meeting of the bride and groom, an exchange of blessings by the parents, a dress change by the bride midway through, cracking multiple coconuts, burnt incense and offerings, and a resplendent array of flowers. The precise moment of nuptial unity was carefully timed and marked by the fastening of a gold pendant around the woman’s neck, accompanied by a great cheer, a fanfare of horns and drums, and a copious shower of flower petals. As with much of human affairs, food also played a role in making fond memories with potions of a richly sweet and slightly sticky wedding cake being served during the ceremony along with soft drinks. At the end of the wedding, all the attendees lined up in procession to personally congratulated the newly weds and offer their own blessing. The procession then proceeded directly to a banquet hall for a very satisfying reception.
Marking life’s final destination over this past weekend, I attend the funeral of another senior colleague’s brother who recently died of cancer. Family and close friends mourned at the funeral, but my colleague and friend also talked about the life he had shared with his brother. He came from a large family of ten children, although some died at a young age, and now they were down to five living siblings. Their family lived outside the northern city of Jaffna and growing up there my friend worked in the family field even from a very young age. His older siblings had supported his higher studies at the university, and upon beginning to work after graduation my friend in turn helped to put his brother and each of the other younger siblings though school. In spite of the ensuing difficulties from the developing social turmoil, my friend and his brother managed to provide for their own families, and at the funeral the brother’s son and daughters arrived from UK, India, and Australia; his family having spread from Sri Lanka to span the globe.
These universal events mark each of our lives and when we spend them with each other, we share our pasts and our futures become irreversibly woven together.
Posted By Adam Nord (Sri Lanka)
Posted Jan 20th, 2008