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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 82

A Sinhala New Year without Sweet Meats Offers a New Beginning

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe

This year Sinhala New Year comes at a time when the whole world is at a crisis. In Sri Lanka everyone has been confined to their homes. Our battle for our health is costing us our economy, which is now hanging by a thread. It will take a long time before we regain the world as we knew it. Undoubtedly there will be some drastic lifestyle changes that we will need to adapt in the meantime. To understand these changes, we need to first answer the simple question whether we want to return to our old world.

There will be milkrice this time, but not the traditional sweet meats. Nor will there be new cloths, or the visits to see kith and kin, family trips or games. Yet, this is the first time in our lives that we would be celebrating the true essence of Sinhala New Year.

The traditions of the Sinhala New Year evolved with the harvest of paddy. After months of coaxing the soil to yield a golden crop of paddy, this is the time to celebrate, kick back and relax but above all appreciate relationships. This time however, due to disruption in distribution, curfew and shops being closed, the farmer cannot sell the produce. Each of us in turn have our own worries about our jobs, income, meeting financial obligations and a host of other concerns.

At the same time, for the past one month we have had the unusual opportunity to spend time with our children. For once our children are not rushed off from one tuition class to the next extracurricular activity. They are left to enjoy a childhood that is otherwise largely denied to them. Our own lives had lost its absurd hurried pace.

In this past month, amidst new updates on COVID 19, some of which were alarming, some others somber and also some cause to cheer, we also saw an emergence of new innovators and developers. For the first time in our lifetime we are rising as a nation against this crisis. Instead of expecting our Government to shoulder the entire responsibility young developers have taken the initiative to develop medical and sanitary equipment needed to combat the virus.

For the first time, Sri Lankans living abroad wants to return home. They no longer consider their host countries to be the best, or where the systems work. That place today is Sri Lanka. Other governments are unable to look after their own citizens much less their guest population. In Sri Lanka, citizens and foreigners both are treated alike. Stop piggybacking on others’ success is the lesson for us all. We need to develop our own country and make sure that our systems work.

It is this realization that makes this Sinhala New Year poignant. Sinhala New Year is not only for the Sinhalese but for all those who are eating rice in this country. After all, it is a celebration of the harvest that guarantees food security for the coming year.

Having lived out of the land, we were then not wasteful. However, because food can be now easily imported, we have lost the value of food. Our farmers have loyally supplied us with food. Yet, for the difference of few rupees, we bypass our local products for the imports. When our yield falls, instead of supplementing it with alternative varieties, we fill the gaps with imports.

As a result, both as the producer and as the consumer we have lost. Farmer, despite supplying us with food is drowning in the tide of poverty. The consumer had lost variety in the diet. The farmer in a bid to increase production uses chemicals that are harmful to the consumer.

With COVID 19 pandemic, the machinery of many countries have ground to a halt or are stalling. Recession, loss of employment, food scarcity are in the cards. Sri Lanka however has a fighting chance. We need to now start appreciating our own things and ways.

We need to start thinking of food as sacred and not something to waste or throw away. Even if there is only one curry as an accompaniment, we need to be appreciative. Sweet potato, manioc and the varieties of yam we are blessed with need to replace bread. We need to walk more so that we do not burn our hard earned currency as fuel. We need to limit our expenses so that our rupee can recover. If we are smart, we can not only rescue our rupee but also strengthen it.

Looking ahead the challenges are so many that it is mind boggling. The social structure, the political structure all needs a good dusting to say the least. Yet as an individual, what can we do?

We can start with our own corner of the earth - our homes. This is the one place we are in complete control. We need to first put our own home in order. Our homes need to be clean and orderly, a place to foster happy memories. Let us attend to our job and tasks in the most effective and efficient manner. Let us be conscientious and righteous.

These are not new demands. Until now, we have shrugged it or put it off. This we can no longer do as the urgency to change is here now. It is this urgency that makes this the best Sinhala New Year because we truly have a new beginning before us.

Stay Safe, Stay at Home, Stay Informed, But Don't Forget to Wash Your Hands.

- Asian Tribune -

A Sinhala New Year without Sweet Meats Offers a New Beginning
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