ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday May 4, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 49

Tuned-in Tamil listener has important message for our land

I had an interesting, eye-opening experience recently when I took part in a live radio programme on the subject of “Youthfulness”. The programme was broadcast on a national Sinhala language channel through the internet and listeners in other parts of the world could participate in the programme.

The panel discussion suggested that we can maintain our youthfulness all our lives as long as we stayed psychologically stable. The fact that some young people looked older than their years, while some older people looked comparatively young, was put down to individual factors. If you do not allow the daily stresses of life to weigh too heavily on your mind, you should be able to stay and look youthful. The importance of healthy eating habits and an active lifestyle was emphasised.

While the programme was in progress, a technical assistant came over to inform us that there was an overseas call, but because of a technical glitch in the studio the call could not be connected to us. So I went outside to answer the call.

The call was from Europe, from the Netherlands. The caller spoke in Sinhala, but with an accent. He was a Tamil, a Mr. Rajaratnam, and he said he was following the Sinhala radio programme through the Internet He said his parents, sisters and brothers lived in Sri Lanka.

Speaking in Sinhala, he expressed his appreciation of the programme and the ideas being put forward. He cited himself as an example of what the panel discussion was about. He said his friends said he looked a lot younger than his 52 years. He said he was very interested in the phenomenon of looks, and how they may or may not reflect a person’s age.

“Doctor, although I look young, I too have problems. My parents, sisters and brothers live in Sri Lanka. They face enormous hardship as a result of the situation prevailing in the country. They live in fear and their minds are troubled. Their worries weigh heavily on my mind, although I live far away. My younger brothers, who live in Sri Lanka, look much older than me.”

We exchanged a few more words about ways to stay and look young and healthy, and then I had to say goodbye as it was time for me to return to the programme. But long after taking my seat, I kept thinking of what the caller from the Netherlands had said.

That call from a Tamil who listens to Sinhala radio on the Internet in the Netherlands, says something important to us. He tunes into Sri Lanka for news of his homeland, regardless of the language in which the radio programme is conducted and the ethnic background of those taking part in the programme.

We should all, Sinhalese and Tamils, work individually and together for a better future for our country. We need the Rajaratnes and the Rajaratnams of our land to cross the language barrier and come together to heal the wounds that divide us. The media too has a very important role in restoring social harmony.

As a child, I recall a Tamil apothecary at our village hospital who would dispense medical advice in fluent Sinhala. We also heard about the Sinhalese owner of a bakery based in the north talking to his customers in Tamil when they came to buy bread. And we always welcomed the visits from the Muniyandi family during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year. We would be intrigued by the sight of their brownish teeth, the results of betel chewing, showing through their sweet smiles.

We have the ability to change this world. Let us appeal to the hearts of the Rajaratnams and the Rajaratnes of our country and ask them to strengthen the bond of friendship and fellow feeling and make the dream of peace a reality in our lifetime.

By Dr. Shantha Hettiarachchi, Via e mail

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