The lamp is lit — am home

The lamp lit my house has come alive. Photo©Chulie de Silva

The flickering lamp light bathes the Buddha statue in a serene glow. 
Photo©Chulie de Silva

Just as soap operas often end on cliffhangers, which are almost magically resolved at the start of the next episode, a difficult drama of my last days in Dhaka has taken a surprising but pleasing turn for the better.

Working at Drik we were never short of excitement and laughter, however frustrating the work was at times. More so at Chobi Mela time. This year’s Chobi Mela VII was terrific – we were running on a high despite all the work.  However, the time was fast approaching for me to leave the second family of sons and daughters and even one self appointed grandson I had acquired in Dhaka.

Wahid Adnan and I . Drik Picture Agency, Drik, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photographer unknown.

Wahid Adnan, my Bangladesh grandson and I . Drik Picture Agency, Drik, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photographer unknown.

The jokes about the Secretariat being a sickie ward turned not so funny when my persistent annoying cough was diagnosed as pneumonia. I had missed out on the tail end of Chobi Mela events, then there were the hartals and Shahbagh Square and my own work visa expiring.  Yes, life had become a soap opera, with me ending up at Apollo hospital with midnight x-rays and ECG’s etc, etc. The big question was would I get better in time to get out of Dhaka before my visa expired?

The cleaner at my apartment in Lalmatia. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The cleaner at my apartment in Lalmatia. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

I didn’t make it but had to overstay 4 days. However, I had a benevolent angel who smoothed the way, and Bangladesh Immigration officials were so polite and courteous I breezed through immigration after paying a small fine.  Yes, the universe was kind and I was finally living my oft quoted “ Chole Jabbo Sri Lanka.” I had asked for an aisle seat on Mihin Air, but the two Indian gentlemen were already comfortably settled and had left me the window seat for me. Being a morning flight, I didn’t quibble, and was rewarded with a last view of Dhaka. Up in the air, it looked like a lego city shrouded in smog. The rows of apartment blocks in certain section even looked orderly.

Reminder of rickshaw rides in Dhaka now sits atop my bookshelf. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Reminder of rickshaw rides in Dhaka now sits atop my bookshelf. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The sight of Lanka, when I return from living abroad — whether it is flickering night-lights or the lush green of the tropical island by day — has always been a moving sight for me. The big treat came as we approached the island past the Indian shoreline. It was the sight of the legendary Adam’s Bridge  — the chain of limestone shoals, between mainland India, and Sri Lanka.  The sea separating India and Sri Lanka is called Sethusamudram meaning “Sea of the Bridge”. I could clearly see the chain of shoals and the tip of Mannar and the sea glistening in the bright sunlight.  I was seeing this Google map alive. The bridge was first mentioned in the Indian epic Ramayana by Valmiki and was apparently built by Rama and his army led by Hanuman to reach Sri Lanka to rescue Sita.

Adam's Bridge NASA image

Adam’s Bridge NASA image

Back home I am enveloped in the warmth of the house, friends and family. A house is not just bricks and mortar – there are the whispers, the voices of laughter, thousand memories. I wake up to the sound of squirrels outside my window and birds chirping away in the fruit trees. My barren avocado tree has flowers and bears a single tiny fruit.

Avocado flowers. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Avocado flowers. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The morning sunlight dapples my collection of Buddha’s and artifacts that I have arranged on the black and white runner that was Drik’s farewell present.

Sunlight dapples the old wooden

Sunlight dapples the old wooden “pettagama” which holds a collection of Buddha statues and artefacts. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Light symbolises the absence of darkness, grief and unhappiness. An oil lamp is lit to bow down to knowledge as the greatest of all forms. As I watch the flickering flame I am filled with a warm content feeling. It’s great to be back in a house filled with light and my thoughts flit to a verse from the Bhaddekaratta Sutta:

Let one not trace back the past
Or yearn for the future-yet-to-come.
That which is past is left behind
Unattained is the “yet-to-come.”
But that which is present he discerns —
With insight as and when it comes.
The Immovable — the-non-irritable.
In that state should the wise one grow
Today itself should one bestir
Tomorrow death may come — who knows?
For no bargain can we strike
With Death who has his mighty hosts.
But one who dwells thus ardently
By day, by night, untiringly
Him the Tranquil Sage has called
The Ideal Lover of Solitude.

From the: “Bhaddekaratta Sutta: The Discourse on the Ideal Lover of Solitude” (MN 131), translated from the Pali by Bhikkhu Ñanananda. Access to Insight, 19 September 2010, . Retrieved on 2 March 2013.

Note: Not everyone agrees with the Indian version of Ramayana. See: Madhusudan’s subversive interpretation of the Ramayana story, with Meghnad, son of Ravana portrayed as a tragic hero

12 thoughts on “The lamp is lit — am home

  1. Chulie, welcome home and look after your health now. Thank you for sharing this poignant farewell to your courageous years in Dhaka doing yet another career. What’s next, we wonder.

  2. What a beautiful description of leaving a very challenging and intellectually enhancing chapter in your life and arriving home with the appreciation for the beauty of the country, love from friends and family, and to a home and garden with all your favorite things. ENJOY!!!

  3. Farewell! thou art too dear for possessing,
    Our bonds are all determinate.
    For how do we hold but by granting,
    And thus, keeping and releasing…….(S’peare paraphrased)

    Take care and water those plants daily!

  4. Welcome back to Serendip. I had not realized that you had caught pneumonia but all’s well that end’s well.

    You left Bangladesh as momentous events were playing itself out in Shahbagh square, the Bengali Jasmine revolution as it were with an inspired youth taking to the streets. May your good work there continue to bear fruit while you now have a rewarding stint back in Lanka of Ramayana fame.

    Here is a suggestion. Have a picture of Sivali, the Arhat in your living room just above the entrance door facing inwards. Its a harbinger of continuous inflow of assets – a tribute to good Karma he had done in a past birth.

    Nice post, btw.

    Best regards

  5. By the way, your ‘grandson’ does not look too young and you do not look that old either – it should be aunt nephew instead..

  6. Chule..Thank you for sharing this ‘coming home’ with us.As usual so poetic and philosophical. The farewell to Dhaka is so very nice too. You capature the leaving and arriving so beautifully. See you sometime and take care of your helath. Theruwan Saranai

  7. Dear Chule

    When you read my message kindly correct the typos – I have a blind spot in my vision and I end up with these mistakes!. I think I missed f in farewell and something else. Good to see you back. What’s next?


  8. Good for you Chule! Welcome home! Your posts from Dhaka have been very interesting.


  9. Dear Chulie, great to learn that you are back and well. Appreciate you sharing the blog. I missed you before leaving Dhaka and was sad, however hope to catch up some where soon. Given your adventourous nature I feel it will not be long before you will set off for something exciting and in challanging places. take care. love Farah

  10. Good to see you have arrived in Sri Lanka safe and sound after all. Enjoy Home and everything it stands for. Untill we meet again, love, Frederiek

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