By Shivanthi Ranasinghe
Colombo, April 13 (newsin.asia): This year the Sinhala New Year comes at a time when the whole world is in a crisis. In Sri Lanka, everyone is confined to his or home. Our battle for our health is costing us our economic well being. The economy is hanging by a thin 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 to in the time to come. To understand these changes, we need to first answer the simple question whether we want to return to the old world.
There will be milk rice this time, but not the traditional sweetmeats. Nor will there be new clothes, or visits to see kith and kin, family trips and outdoor games. But this is the first time in our lives that we will be celebrating the essence of the Sinhala New Year.
The traditions of the Sinhala New Year evolved out of the harvesting of paddy. After months of coaxing the soil to yield a golden crop,this is the time to celebrate, relax and above all, appreciate relationships.
However, due to the disruption in distribution, the curfew and shops remaining closed, the farmer cannot sell his 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 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 or for some extracurricular activity. They are left to enjoy a childhood that is otherwise denied to them by the pressure to do well in studies. Our own lives has lost its absurdly hurried pace.
In the past month, amidst new updates on COVID 19, some of which were alarming, some were somber and indeed cause for cheer. We also saw an emergence of innovators and developers. For the first time in our life Lankans are awakening as a nation against this crisis. Instead of expecting the government to shoulder the entire responsibility of preventing the spread of the killer virus, young people have taken the initiative to develop medical and sanitary equipment needed to combat the virus.
For the first time, Sri Lankans living abroad want to return home. They no longer consider their host countries to be the best, or where all systems work. That place today is Sri Lanka. Other governments are unable to look after their own citizens much less their guest population. But in Sri Lanka, citizens and foreigners 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. The 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.
We were wasteful in the past because food could be easily imported to make up for shortages. The value of food was lost on us. Our farmers have loyally supplied us food. Yet, for the difference of a few rupees, we bypassed local products and went for the imported stuff. When our yield falls, instead of supplementing it with alternative varieties, we filled the gap with imports.
As a result, both as producer and consumer Lankans lost. Farmers, despite supplying us food, are steeped in poverty. The consumer had lost variety in his daily diet. In a bid to increase production, the farmer uses chemicals that are harmful to the consumer.
With the COVID 19 pandemic, the machinery of many countries has ground to a halt or have stalled. Recession, loss of employment and food scarcity are on the cards. Sri Lanka however has a fighting chance. It is time we started appreciating our own things and ways and stopped aping the West.
We need to start thinking of food as being 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 varieties of yam which we are blessed with, need to replace bread which has no nutritional value.
We need to walk more so that we do not burn our hard earned foreign exchange on the import of fuel. We need to limit our expenses so that our rupee can recover. If we are smart, we may be able to rescue the rupee from a precipitous fall and even strengthen it.
Looking ahead, the challenges are so many that it is mind boggling. The social structure, the political structure all need a good dusting. And what can we do as individuals? We can start with our own corner on earth – our homes. This is the one place we are in complete control. We need to first put our house in order. Our homes need to be clean and orderly, a place to from where happy memories will spring. 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 been putting off meeting those demands. This, we can no longer do, as the situation created by the pandemic is making change both imperative and urgent. It is the need to change radically which is making the Sinhala New Year unique and significant for our people.
(The featured image at the top shows fun and games during the Sinhala New Year. Photo: Xinhua)