BY Wijith DeChickera
If I had a dollar – at Rs. 190 plus for each US Dollar – every time someone said we Sri Lankans are a resilient race, I’d be a rich man. But it’s true of us, no? Since we islanders have withstood wars; the waves of ocean, as well as colonialism; and now the coronavirus and its invasive ethos.
However tough the going gets, we’re generally sanguine about bouncing back bigger and better. Therefore, this is to celebrate (and not criticise or condemn) these trends.
But first, a word to the wise: while the contents of this periodical are about celebrating life in general and our island lifestyle in particular, there’s a wider world out there that is rapidly changing like never before.
So it’s up to Sri Lankans of every age and generational dispensation – x, y, silent, baby boomer or millennial – to discerningly interact with the new social contract that’s emerging.
With that being said, let’s get down to business (as the grocer said to the grandma). And here are a few things to come out of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19.
THE MASK DROPS Once upon a time in our blessed isle, there was a hue and cry about covering one’s face in public. It was considered unpatriotic and a national security risk to boot.
Nowadays however, polite society demands that you have your N95 at best or basic surgical mask handy if you’re to gain entrance to places ranging from supermarkets to super-luxury hotels. It’s de rigueur in every social circle; and it is the great equaliser.
A QUEUE IS A QUEUE Speaking of which, in the second week of the pandemic’s local spread, the need to stand in line one fine day enforced a sort of equality like never before.
Acting like a decree from the powers above, Sri Lankans of all ilks, and kinds and types, had to queue up to avail themselves of the basic necessities. Not only was it a great leveller of our still hierarchical and sometimes even feudal society, it was a wonderful exercise in discipline.
And never mind the spoilsport powers that be (from insensitive politicos to isolated tycoons) – who on the same day that all islanders literally stood in solidarity, jumped queues on false pretexts; had their groceries delivered gratis because they’re the rich and powerful in the land; or simply didn’t notice the universal hardship.
Isolated perversions of humanity, perhaps? No doubt they’ll be written out of the Book of Life when the Great Scorer comes!
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT You guessed that it was a French philosopher – the Duc de la Rochefoucauld – who essayed this famous maxim. So if it is true that you are what you eat, nowhere was it more evident that most islanders are beautifully fruity or some sort of gorgeous vegetable. Let’s not even think of rarer flesh or fowl… the fundamental need of the hour is a good salad – even if you have to source it from your own garden (or someone else’s backyard in these bleak times).
Shall we gloss over the ‘covidiots’ (a new word for even the Oxford English Dictionary) who splashed their purchasing power and shameless smorgasbords across social media?
Really and truly, the survival gene among genuine islanders was nowhere more evident than in kindly souls who shared a spare coconut or let that elderly person have the last banana on the rack. Leaving it to you to figure out who’s more or less nuts… the bleeding hearts who broke their back ferrying goodies to economically challenged neighbourhoods – or armchair critics!
LIFE BEGINS IN SECRET PLACES Maybe the greatest surprise was that many Sri Lankans had been practising a form of self-enforced quarantine all their lives before this outbreak.
Perhaps the new social contract will include the sick, shut-in, shunned and scorned of our society when all this is over… for ‘this too shall pass’ – and so say all of us.