That idiot graybeard must have told me ten times that weekend how he helped his brother "Buddhi" out by lending him Rs 8000. What did I care? What did I care to hear it? What could it have been meant to signify to me, a stranger there for the weekend. I must have heard the Buddhi story ten times and every time, the pitiful story of the way you had to protect him by lending him that money so he wouldn't lose his money. What the fuck.
Then another ten times maybe twenty as you embellished and dressed and garlanded it, burnt incense all around it, the story of the ritual oil lamp you bought for the centenary of your father's birth. As if I cared in the first place but then, the cheek you demonstrated to recite to me, over and over and over! how you'd paid Rs 60,000 to the builder of the shelter for the fucking lamp and how he built it with a roof that leaked. Can you have imagined in any deep recess of that addled brain of yours that I wanted any of this tripe you called information? Who did you think I was? What did you take me for? We had met a day before you started unloading this shit on me. Sorry. What gave you the right? Did I care you had to build a new shelter. Did I care about any of this? How could I have cared about your pathetic tales of being a loser?
You weren't a huckster. You weren't a fraud. There really was an oil lamp and there was a Buddhi. But there were other things that were important to be mindful of. You forgot the important stuff and you chose the stupid stuff. That was how you represented yourself and your family and your country and your country's history to me. As if I cared that your stupid sister in law was in possession of the ancestral home and that you, the oldest brother were powerless to take ownership and your younger brother wouldn't even talk to you or tell you when he was going on a trip overseas. Wonder why. Look what happened to that poor whelp Buddhi. Nothing else you could have thought of impressing upon me about your life, your wife, your memories or remembrances? Not a huckster. But what exactly were you trying to sell me? What gave you any idea I could care less? It makes the chunks rise now as I think about it. How you presented and what you presented in your pitiful scramble for karmic merit or whatever. Just how awful had you been up to that retirement day when you supposedly started helping the poor?
And while we're on the topic of merit what about your friend who's involved up to here with the UNDP, deemed the most corrupt. Most corrupt! Oh no do you know how hard it is to reach that status?! Most corrupt branch of the United Nations?! Sorry for the expletives. Do you know what this means?!
There with his "villagers." As if they needed to be taught to garden? Encouraged to grow vegetables? Rewarded for keeping bees? Stroked for keeping records?! What charade was I there to see, to partake in, to condone? To appraise? What exactly was he, were you thinking when showing me this repulsive rich rectitude. Record keeping!! Was that supposed to impress me? What was the setup you had with this village? How had you chosen this village? How did they fall in line with your Kandyan sense of charity and "self help?" How could this set up have been meant to impress me? Take me in at any level? Provide me with a good feeling or a positive impression? These people were landed and rich and whole and in possession of machinery and equipment and all their limbs. In your whole wide country teeming with poor were these the most appropriate people for you to help? And to showcase to me, a visitor, a visitor with real and not just passing interest? What did you need to accomplish by bolstering the livelihood of this particular corner of Sinhalese Sri Lanka in this particular corner of the North Central Province? Can you explain to me please how this responded to issues of unlimited warfare endless need dismemberment destruction ethnic cleansing invasion and counter invasion ethic genocide torture physical abuse internal migration rape destruction of livelihood and destruction of communities, wholesale, elsewhere in your nation? Wasn't there any other teensy weensy way you could muster your skills and connections and goodness and strength to address real problems of need in your country. What had you built and what had your gentleman friend with the sewing machines and day care center in Hambantota built? Were you both blind to what really happened in this country? Tsunami was a moment and many countless lives were lost and ruined. But what about that war? Were you both just outside it? Too involved in it to address it? Too ashamed of it to know where to start? Too proud of it to want to add anything?
I'm asking too much of you I know. You are only mortals and so am I. You don't see me biting into the real problems my country faces. And if you came to my city I'd show you parks. I'd show you boulevards and buildings. But as you admired I might tell you how these places looked in the1970s and why. What was at work in my country to make it catapult to what it is today. I might try to impress on you some history, some perspective. My goodness or my undeservedness in the face of a ripoff tradesman I wouldn't mention, for your days in Boston would be numbered and I'd want to send you from there with the deepest and best view of history I could provide.
So in this way fellows I think I'd have to say you were yes, both hucksters. Unless you don't know that there are people in your country younger than your children who go to bed armless with only a goat or a few chickens to their names. People far from your cesspit Colombo who are happy to live on Rs 50 or 100 a day. People you might not be able to imagine but people who I bet you had some hand in making this way. Things turned out awful in the Sri Lanka you lived in because of the way you voted, the people you supported, the way you accepted or even promulgated war. But you exercised pernicious forgetting by "seeking merit" the way you did. You tried to sell me a landscape that had forgotten its origins in hate and ethnic conflict. You tried to teach me a present history clear of the hate you did. Hey I could be as guilty as you in making the world the way it is. Send me a Fulbright scholar for nine months and let them make their own judgements on me.