In the years since I arrived in Sri Lanka I have given large Vesak Dansalas, where in two particular instances, the first where I gave a string hopper dansala on the Godagama Farm, complete with all the Vesak decorations, lanterns, oil lamps and sit down dinners on ‘banan leaves’ for over 500 people to which even the Chairman of Ceylon Biscuits came. Then in furtherance of my 50th I gave a Vesak Dansala served on ‘Nelum Kola’ on the Property in Hingurakgoda for 1500 people with noodles as the base theme as that was what was requested. There were 500 coconut oil lit pahanas (lamps) including one set surrounding flooded paddy fields and electric lit, lanterns adorning the drive way.
Both went smoothly, and were not funded by anyone else but with my hard earned money! In the second one, there were many members of my family who had come as Vesak was just two days after my 50th and we chose to celebrate with a Dansala. People on hearing it came in tractors from far and wide. Both will be forever etched in my and their memory as being highly successful, unique and extremely tastefully and done in that they can never be repeated at that level of perfection and confluence of Serendipity!
Now it is some years on. I am in a more contemplative mode, as I am considerably less wealthy and actually living on a fixed income! This year I was asked to help two dansalas. The first was a Thambili (King Coconut) dansala in Ratmalana where a NYF boy had asked me for a contribution of King Coconuts from my property. I obliged, but the trouble I had to organize the reserving, plucking, storing, transporting and delivering to his home made me feel ‘WTF’ why should I help when it is so hard to handle all the logistics of it in SL.
Along with the unpredictability of the rains, it left me wondering when they can be plucked. Then with the Golf Club account also having to be fulfilled on the same date and therefore requiring two separate journeys in the Batta, I was not sure if I was able to find sufficient nuts to be plucked and sent. There is a shortage of King Coconuts on the land these days, I am not sure why, and it may have something to do with the weather a year ago, as it takes a full year for fertilizer and water to affect the fruiting!
With my 5 am to 9pm work schedule, I was not sure that I was able to organize delivery, and up until the last moment, the recipient was calling about delivery, and I was only assured at the end that it was possible, having found a window of daylight, and sun to pluck the Nuts on Tuesday, so that Wednesday delivery could be arranged. Then the boy with the Batta, was ostensibly not too well and wanted the services of a golaya, (man Friday) to accompany him, already having used a golaya for the Golf Club run, another unnecessary luxury! If I was driving I would have gone there by myself and delivered the 13 bunches of Thambili myself. (Such is the mentality of today’s Sri Lanka Youth Species!!) Once delivered the golaya said he was given tea with washing powder that made him throw up all the way back to the farm! So much for a golaya! No golaya, no throwing up!!!
Of course the recipient of my largesse for his dansala will never appreciate the cost both mental and loss of income and all the rest of it to get his raw material so he can get all the Cudos for the dansala!
Then I was asked to help a ‘Bath Dansala’ on my street in Hingurakgoda, and I was told for good measure that it was the second time ever! That a dansala was given on that road, the first being the one I referred to earlier that I gave!
So I agreed to give 25 Coconuts from my land, and a sack of rice 50kg. I called the boy at the local rice mill and arranged for him to give me a discount on the sack for Rs2500 for Nadu (par boiled) a discount of Rs250 on his selling price, and accordingly I gave Rohitha cash to pick it up on 22nd from Hasantha.
I then get a call on 23rd morning (Vesak is 24th) saying they want Samba, and for me to pay the extra that it would cost for Samba. I told him to pass the hat and put the extra, as I would be damned if I would give the extra, as I was talking to someone I did not know from Adam who asked me for this revision, and what if he got the most expensive rice to boot. I chewed him off, saying it was a very Un-Buddhist thing to do bearing in mind what is now being preached about it being purely voluntary and from the heart and not from any sort of persuasion! I also chewed Rohitha up for putting that joker up for this demand! If I was told it was a samba dansala I would have arranged accordingly but not to be told later when the organizers changed to lofty ideals!
I was in the office from 5.30 am in the morning today, and was not up to someone demanding I pay for samba at 7.30 am, when in 9 cases out of 10, I would be talking to an alcoholic who would deny his family the basic food to imbibe in his favorite tipple, and probably is able bodied, more able than me but performing no more than 2hrs productive work a day. (Of course I may be wrong on this supposition!)
It got me thinking, I just don’t want to deal with this sort of hassle with people when the opportunity cost of both these events to me is more than Rs10,000. Next time I will give my own dansala organized by me with volunteers to help, but funded 100% from myself. I then won’t have to deal with these people who want to pressure and hassle for a (literally) free lunch.