Warmer Smiles

I have had the fortune of travelling the length and breadth of our land frequently, thanks to my action pact job. It’s never been a dull moment on these travels. Due to the war that prevailed, my visits were mostly limited to the south of the country with lesser visits to the North and the East. I have met and dealt with many an underprivileged Sri Lankan in the south of the country who has mostly been quite hospitable and friendly. However, I have found that most often there was a ‘what’s in it for me’ factor creeping in when interacting with most disadvantageous groups in the South.
In contrast, my experiences on the visits to the Tamil homelands in the North and East were different. There was no shortage to the warmth and welcome that was extended to us Southerners, unconditionally. This pleased me no end!
Last week I made a trip to Chettikulam and Vavuniya thanks to a hospital renovation project undertaken by my company on behalf of Unilever Baby care brand, Pears – The Safe Hands Project. This was a memorable visit as I had never felt the same welcome ever in the rest of the country.
There was something totally genuine and pure in their smiles. I felt they opened their hearts to us unconditionally, without any expectation. They were simply happy we had made the effort. Our extended hand of friendship meant a lot to them.
I visited the IDP camps too. While I can’t for the life of me imagine how they live under those conditions, they had resigned to their fate. They were not angry. They wouldn’t blame anybody. But seem to live one day at a time until a better fate befell them. What lessons of endurance. What determination to live? I thought there was many a lesson to be learnt from their resilience.
I had the fortune of meeting the Mayor of Vavuniya, Mr. S Nathan. Nathan aiya, as he was affectionately called was the personification of an ideal public servant; a man elected by the people, for the people. He was happy to serve, not to be served! He was concerned about the wellbeing of ‘his people’ not the reverse of it as we commonly see amongst our public figures. He would go out of his way if he felt it helped the wellbeing of ‘his people’ in any small way. This man was a breath of fresh air in the public domain.
The commitment of the Tamil Doctors and other health officials towards their kith and kin was yet another eye opener as I am used to seeing a different mindset in our part of the country. Does one try harder when one is number two? I wondered…
I saw how the Vavuniya and Chettikulam hospitals were served by a battery of young, eager and warmhearted Sinhala nurses. They too were a breath of fresh air for me. How they cared for the sick Tamil patients, trying to communicate in a language neither spoke was remarkable. They were happy, full of smiles and energetic. This was an unforgettable experience. The medical interns were both Tamil and Sinhala. They too mingled happily with each other in such warm camaraderie. I was truly touched. Isn’t this the reconciliation we are desperately seeking?
With my visit coming to an end, I told myself that I shall go again and again to mingle with these wonderful people, until I feel I am satisfied that I am doing my bit towards making their smiles a tad broader!


About lifeisabeach

love to use communication as a tool of passionate expression of personal views
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