Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Sri Lankan village a concept that is fast disappearing in substance

One thing unique in Sri Lankan culture, is the concept of Gama or village. Wherever one meets a fellow countrymen be it in the Island or overseas, the second question is which village are you from. Everyone is supposed to have a village, and most people by implication are living away from the village.

It is where the parents live, in the Mahagedera, and where one returns at Sinhala avurudhu time to bring in the new-year with our cultural traditions. One is expected to own some property which one day will lead one to build one’s home in the village, and once this home is built one’s spouse will be living there while one is away, either in a city or country, earning a living sending money home for its upkeep and generally being homesick for the day one can return to one’s village. This all sounds idyllic and very romantic.

The flaw in this is very simple. It exacerbates the separation of family, with a bread winner being away to ensure the home in the village can be maintained. The village is also by implication, a place, which cannot support itself, as its complete survival depends on its inhabitants leaving it to provide for it, as the village itself will never be able to be self-supporting.

The Mahinda Chinthanaya concept is flawed from the start, as it is village based, and conceptually trying to resurrect a dead species, by pumping more to maintain a cemetery and not a living thing is a regressive step.

I propose we concentrate instead on family. First by ensuring we don’t run after ancestral property and rights, but by helping to build a nuclear family and holding it together, so the family unit can live and grow up together, and when a member leaves the unit, by marrying or immigrating, they are pushed to make a life of their own and not come hankering back to a dead place where they seem to have some property and relatives, all of whom have squatted or encroached while the owner has been away, unable to control one’s own property.

I live in a village, but am not from that village. I am long separated from my village, but I am now able to see those who succeed are those who leave the village with no ties, except family, who are able to dispose of their assets and start anew at a place of their choosing, not having two places to keep. I will elaborate further on some other reasons for the argument.

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