Power of One 1/1/11


The book of tomorrow that we tried to peep into yesterday is now open with wonderful interesting combination 1-1-11.  Having a birthday on January 1 was special to me, no matter that my father tried in vain to cut me down to size by saying that this was nothing special and it is only the Gregorian calendar.

Buddhist families are not tired after Christmas gift giving, so there were birthday presents.  In the early years, when my Great-grandmother was alive my presents from the Panadura clan arrived by train.  A huge woven reed box with all kinds of traditional goodies from the famed kitchen at Walauwa; a birthday dress from my Poddi  — short for Poddi Amma,  the small mother and my mother’s sister  Irangani Fernando ( now Irnagani Soysa) and books from Honda Amma ( the good aunt , my mother’s cousin) Malini Wijesekera (later to be Malini Ransooriya), then the Vice Principal of my school Sri Sumangala Girls’ School in Panadura.

Usually by the first, all the birthday cards had arrived and only the ones who remembered last minute would send telegrams.  There was excitement when we heard the postman’s bell when he delivered the telegrams and a bigger thrill if it was addressed to you.  Today, it’s email, sms, e-greeting card although Tara my granddaughter singing Happy Birthday on Skype was a lovely present for the start of the year.

Panadura clan at Dissanyake Walauwa on my Great-grandmothe Annie Dissanayake’s 75th birthday.-She is in the middle in the first row, with my maternal grandmother Eva Edith Engelthina to her right and my handsome grandfather Romiel Anthony Fernando next to Eva. My mother Manel, holds Prasanna, my brother in her lap on the right first row. Poddi is 3rd from the left on the back row and Aunty Malini (Honda Amma) is standing behind my mother on the back row. My father Benny is standing next to Aunty Malini in the back row. My sister Yasoja is seated neatly feet tucked under her on the seated kiddie row and am the grumpy with the feet sticking out, protesting at my bad pudding-bowl haircut. Re-photographed from a original by Chulie de Silva

Then on 31st  night we watched the sun go down and the fishermen  put out the boats to sea. The twilight deepened gradually and the kerosene oil lamps from the boats became twinkling lights on the horizon – a photo that exists only in my mind now.

The celebrations next day were simple and woven into a family day– Kiribath –rice with coconut milk in the morning, sea baths and a special lunch of my favourite food.  Maybe a boat ride on the river, if my father decided to go to our estate across the lotus filled lake. I’d get to wear my new dress and of course there was the joy of curling up on an easy chair on the back verandah to read the new book munching on the goodies from Panadura.

Then and now, first of January is a time when families trek to temples, Kovils and Churches and we seek the blessings of the gods and guidance in the New Year.  If my birthday book present was a good read, which was usually the case, I’d refuse to go to temple, pleading that it was my birthday wish.

The boiling of milk on an open hearth till the milk boils over is another traditional custom among the Sri Lankans.  It is supposed to invite lady luck and bring you plenty in the year to come. I hope the gods thinking has also changed with the times and milk overflowing from a glass in the microwave will get me at least pass marks this year.

A VOA article quoting numerologist Patricia Kirkman says “2011 will be about making things orderly because 2011 is a “four” universal year.  She arrived at that by adding the year’s digits – 2 + 0 + 1 + 1, which equals four.

According to numerology, that “four” will affect everyone all year. “Now we’re going into a period of putting things in order,” said Kirkman. “Four is square.  Four is the box.  Four wants everything done right.  And so we are now going into a universal year that says, ‘I don’t care what you did last year. It doesn’t matter anymore.  Now we’ve got to take a look at building a stronger foundation.”

Towards the end of last year I embraced the unusual, the innovative – even the disruptive. So, now  if I put a stronger foundation under the unusual, will my struggles with the disruptive be less and will it open doors for innovation to flourish? This time next year no doubt will bring answers.  If I close my eyes and listen carefully on this 1/1/11, I can almost hear the pounding of a distant drum. …

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