About a week ago, a woman from Gonagalapura, Induruwa, brought her son to the Lady Ridgeway Hospital (LRH). The child who is autistic has to be shown to a doctor ever month. After the examination, they had taken a bus, intending to catch the return train to from the Fort Railway Station.
As they were crossing the road, the boy, around 12 years old, had suddenly fainted.
‘We had to rush to catch the train to Colombo and I couldn’t prepare breakfast. I just got him a lollypop.’
Such things happen. What made her tell me the story is what happened when her boy fainted.
‘This was in Pitakotuwa (The Pettah). A lot of people quickly came up to us. Someone called the 119 “Suwasariya” ambulance service. They helped him into the vehicle. Maybe it was the sweetness on an empty stomach that made him vomit. He recovered almost immediately. Anyway, we ended back at the LRH!’
‘They were all strangers, but they helped us,’ she repeated this several times.
Later, her father, Manikkuvadura Daniel, who is almost 90 years old, in the midst of discussing broad as well as specific issues relating to local and international politics laced with ideological elements he has always been fascinated with, brought up this incident.
‘Apey rate minissu hondai (the people of our country are good),’ he insisted. ‘If not,’ he argued, ‘why should those people in Pitakotuwa have helped my daughter and her son?’
There are good people all over the world. In most places, such circumstances prompt quite response. There are kind hearts. There are quick minds. There are solidarities that can be formed with strangers. It’s all about circumstances.
Danny Aiya, as he is know by most people, even those who are young enough to be his great grand children, was responding to a question about his neighbors.
He’s old. Doesn’t own an inch of land, he made sure I noted that claim. He lives with two daughters and the aforementioned grandson. The mother of the child is the sole breadwinner. She obtains good tea from a nearby factory, packets and sells it to retail shops in the area or to her neighbors. She also collects goraka (brindleberry) and sells it in small packets to mothers of kids who attend the same school as her son.
The Induruwa Hospital isn’t too far away but I couldn’t help wondering, ‘what if there’s a medical emergency…who would take him to the hospital?’ That’s why I asked about the neighbors.
‘They are lovely people. Very helpful. Ape rate minissu hondai.’
And he added after a slight pause, ‘paksha deshapaalanaya thamai varadda (it’s party politics that is vile).’
‘They were random people. Strangers. They helped my daughter. She wasn’t a friend or a relative. If political affiliations were discussed, do you think people would have helped? It would immediately prompt several groups of people to get about their own business.’
Party politics is certainly divisive. On the other hand, people are not political all the time. There’s a time for politics. There’s a time for humanity. On occasions even the politics is humane.
Danny Aiya has lived long enough to understand the inhumanity associated with politics. He’s seen humanity push aside the political. Now, after more than 70 years of political engagement (he’s a former Maoist who once spent many months in China, where he had the opportunity even meet Chairman Mao Zedong), he has concluded that a diminished political party footprint makes for a better society.
Danny Aiya has generous blood, so he knows about giving. And what he’s received has had little to do with political affiliation. A couple of years before he died at the age of 102, Danny Aiya’s father, whom Danny described as a “Kawthuka Vasthuva (an archaeological treasure),” had given up his room to accommodate refugees who had fled terrorist attacks in the Eastern Province, and this “in a country where there are people who are reluctant to offer a glass of water to a stranger.” His mother was from Waawwa, Devinuwara, a village that gave rise to the tongue-twister “Waawwa Weve Vee Vewwa”.
Danny Aiya is like his late father. He once recalled that the inmates of the Kantale Refugee Camp who had been forced to abandon their village, Alla, in 1986, had come to the South upon hearing rumours about lands being distributed among refugees. Danny Aiya had been running a small scale coir rope industry at that time and he had two toilets. He had decided to take everyone to his house.
‘People from nearby villages rallied round me to ensure that these people who had lost their property and livelihoods to LTTE terror are looked after. Despite his modest means, he had looked after these 183 people for 5 full days. Thereafter they had gone to Ambalantota, seeking relief from the Government Agent. Instead of relief they had been set upon by a group of thugs. Danny, along with others had been arrested and had to languish in police cells for a month. The matter had been taken up in courts, where it was determined that “Every citizen has the right to live anywhere.” No compensation was granted.
That’s his life, right there. Do what’s necessary and wholesome and pay a price. Keep doing good, regardless of whether or not the world appreciates.
There are good people in our nation. There are good people in all nations. Maybe it’s the good they do that keeps this world alive and beautiful. They fight the good fight and have enough love to support a young widow take care of her sick chid. They go unnoticed, un-blessed. They don’t mind. Like Danny Aiya.
This article was first published in the DAILY NEWS [January 20, 2020]
Other articles in the series ‘In Passing…’:
[published in the ‘Daily News’ on Monday, Wednesday and Friday every week]