A Gifted Healer of Our Time-Bodhini Samarathunga
By Shenal Rajakarunanayake
She knits unheard stories through the threads of heart-felt words. Her writing conciliates the readers with indispensable love for humanity and emancipates the perennial barriers which are barricading the truth. Her stories are heart wrenching and often make you dewy eyed, yet it never stops your urge to read through. She weaves the reality of the society through her stories with a unique touch of compassion bringing the readers to an astonishment. She cures the scars of 30 years of civil war through her gifted healing therapy while mixing her heart sutra with others. Basically it isn't merely a book which stimulates your mind, yet a road map which drives you all around to see the unseen and address the unaddressed. Truly, "Anith Kona" (The Other End) is a story which unfolds how strangers became family in an unknown environment, undoubtedly everybody must read.
Q: Let's begin with "Anith Kona" (The Other End): What made you to write this journal?
A. After completing my studies as a medi-student, I was given and internship opportunity to serve at a rural area in the district of Vavuniya. It was the early days of post- war period and I hardly had any clue how it is going to turn around. With immense courage and eyes filled with curiosity, I moved into the other end of Sri Lanka with an anticipation of doing my duty to the fullest. Though I used to scribble poems and prose in internet, I never had an idea of writing a journal. Life at the other end was beyond my imagination and it didn't disappoint me. Truly, it was a blessing to serve the people at the other end when north was springing. When Sri Lanka was accused for war crimes and human rights violations, the urge to write the truth became intense. Yet this wouldn't have been happened unless the support of our specialist Dr. Kumarasiri who acted as a driving force for me to pen the stories of unaddressed and untouched by most of us. "Anith Kona" is a story which unfolds how strangers became family in an unknown environment. Unceasingly, stories flowed to me where I couldn't resist anymore. As a result, the blog was created and many got an opportunity to feel the pulse of our people who lived at the other end.
Q: "Anith Kona" often brings tears to the readers' eyes while leading the reader to turn back and feel the experiences writer herself had to undergo. Can you please share some of your experiences?
A. All the stories of "Anith Kona" had driven me to an emotional upheaval; otherwise, it wouldn't have been penned. Yet there were some incidents which silently made me shocked and their ripples aren't yet over. One such incident was where one of the ex-combatants of LTTE used to turn his face other side avoiding me whenever I attend for his duties, simply because I was a Sinhalese.
Though it was a simplest act, it showed the ugliest side of war and its in-erasable scar on humanity. One another incident was a conversation I had with my assistant while checking the ex-combatants when they were hospitalized. In those days' ex-combatants were largely admitted for no reason, simply because they wanted to emancipate themselves from their locations. We were discussing about the issues and lack of facilities in the hospital in our mother tongue, where one of the ex-combatants said "Madam, I understand Sinhalese". Though the conversation wasn't abusive and intentional, the guilt it created still in my nerves. Listening and seeing the pain and fear of death, loss of loved ones, often made me dewy-eyed. There were many days I used to walk around the beds in the wards with tears in my eyes simply because I couldn't bear the reality of war and terrorism. Those fuelled my writing and it was instrumental in bringing many eyes to the needy.
Q: Why the people in this end got late to understand the reality of their neighbours?
A. Perhaps due to lack of communication, I would say. Things should have been much better if the situation back then was like nowadays. We could have shared the news and made people more aware about the real situation. Yet, the situation back then wasn't that advanced and exposed. Things were known by very few and they were scared of revealing either due to political barriers. On the hand, if I take myself as an example, I didn't have any clue of how it could be until I landed up there. Even I was often told by my family to be careful in sharing news, because it could have led to many repercussions and in a way it was a very common phenomenon to everybody since the beginning. On that note, I think media should have done a better service rather being limited to mainstream propaganda and narrowing their scope for selfish political needs of the system.
Further, in a context where most of the Sri Lankans have lost their faith or rather got confused with SAITM and professionalism of doctors, I do believe that media has a huge responsibility in making aware the reality. In my context, what we have done back then wasn't even discussed as much as it deserved. The commitment, dedication and hard work; we as doctors, nurses and the entire health administration made should have been appreciated more, hence needless to say, why it got late to be communicated. Having said that we must also understand the importance of media and its responsibility of enlightening people through right information, because information is a right and none could deny that fact.
Q: Undoubtedly, "Anith Kona" is a collection of heart wrenching stories of bitter terrorism and inhumanity caused as a result of war. As a collection which spread the fragrance of humanity rather just being a journal of a doctor, you have provoked readers to think beyond what has been written. What are your thoughts?
A. Well, as far as I am concerned, writing should not merely address people and it should provoke people to think beyond their own boxes. Awakening happens, when readers are given the opportunity to think more. In writing, we should always keep a space for readers to fill and that's where the knowledge sharing begins. Almost every story in my journal carries a unique message and I am truly happy to see that people have embraced those messages more than I imagined. On the other hand, thought provoking generates when a writer become honest with hisher conscience. When a writer becomes honest to himself it gradually transpires positive vibes to the readers and readers would eventually gain the most essential. This process is much needed to facilitate the readership with intriguing facets of life, death and love. My passion for learning, Tamil as a language to better serve the patients and other extra social activities where I contributed my leisure, yielded me many stories and experiences where I was able to reach the readers with more valid and rich content. This was quite evident with the comments I received and I am truly blessed to be embraced so dearly as a writer. In most of the comments, it was mentioned that many learnt the hidden aspects of doctors and their yeoman services to the general public. Some even thanked me for opening up their eyes to see the unseen in a broader scope. By considering all these facts, the secret behind the positioning of "Anith Kona" in the minds of readers lied on its thought provoking nature and as a writer: I am glad it really went beyond my expectation.
Q: In a context where peace and harmony have become political games, how would reconciliation pave the way to reunite the scattered relationships?
A. It is truly pathetic to see people take undue advantages over peace and harmony. Though we think reconciliation could bring the both ends together, I hardly believe it would happen unless we ourselves be the change. Change cannot be made unless it is initiated by ourselves. Writers could be catalysts in bringing the change yet it needs the assistance of all to make it effective and sustainable.
So does the process of reconciliation. Many could suggest different reconciliation processes, yet we must always think in a 360-degree point of view to get a holistic and more sustainable solution. The end of 30 years of civil war wasn't merely the end, because it had many consequences. As a doctor, writer and more as a human who experienced the truth essence of war damaged areas, I am truly sadden to state that we have not yet been able to bring the truest form of reconciliation. It is not the programmes, seminars or aids, what truly matter are the mutual understanding and empathy. Lack of mutual respect, understanding and empathy have made people blind and eventually it has led the general public to think as they have been lost or defeated rather making them understand it was a victory of theirs as well. The ideology which had been engraved by LTTE has not yet been wiped off from their minds and it is truly sadden to realize that few people in the other end still do not understand the fact that they were being victimized for some others thirst for political power. In such a context no point keep harping the same old record, rather we must try different methods to console the broken souls. Sometimes it is also evident that most of the people haven't taken this issue as a severe and complex issue rather a topic to be addressed in round tables. This condition should be demolished and people must be made to think and appreciate the truth through objective point of view to bring a more effective and sustainable reconciliation leading to growth and development.
Q: It is truly enchanting to read the heart suthra of a doctor. Finally, would love to know how you would want to be remembered"?
A. Well, I myself made the choice to get an internship opportunity at Vavuniya because I knew that was the place which required my service. It was a very consciously made decision and eventually it gave me more that I deserved. Being a doctor and a passionate writer, I would really love to be remembered as a person who made a change by standing for what she believed as the truth and as a person who respected the diversity in many ways beyond any societal norms. I am contented as a person who I am and believe there's lot more to come always.
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