An Open Letter to Sri Lankan Parents
“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.” – Kahlil Gibran.
Dear mum and dad,
It’s 5.45 AM and I’m on a wooden canoe in Pottuvil. I’m with my partner, the boy whom you didn’t like at first because he was Tamil. We are guided by a local fishmonger to see a crocodile. Momma, Suddenly I remember that you didn’t let me hop on a boat when I was 20. “Don’t risk your life,” you told me as I enviously looked at a group of boys on a boat in Lake Gregory in one chilly December evening.
Momma, the day after I paddled around Kottukal Lagoon and saw a crocodile who in fact charged towards us, I woke up in my little wooden cabana by the beach. I was alive, momma. The open wooden canoe didn’t kill me. It’s 5.30 AM. The eastern sun rose for yet another day. I ran to the beach with Nathan. I saw life.
Dad, remember the day you came with me to Colombo because you thought “The Oval” wasn’t safe for a girl to watch a cricket match alone. At the gate, I told you it’ll be fine. I told you that I’ll be fine. Thank you for leaving me at the cricket alone. I learnt to love the ivy-covered scoreboard even though Younis Khan didn’t score a 100 in his 100th Test match.
I lied. I lied to you when I told you I was going to stay at a friend’s house. I slept in a backpack hostel. I made new friends from different corners of the world. Momma, hostel towels are fine to use. They don’t give you STDs. At the same hostel, I met Nathan. I found love. I climbed waterfalls you told me not to. I slept in an open tree house in the middle of the jungle. I sat by the train door till I reached a quaint mountain town called Heel Oya.
Momma, it’s me. Dad, it’s me. I’m alive!
You almost disowned me when I left state uni. Two years later, you still praise your colleague’s daughter. She’s 26 at med school with 2 years left to be completed. Years younger to her, I’m independent. I earn my own food. I pay my uni fees. Momma, why is that you never praise me, but her? Why is English Literature so poor to you, but not chemistry?
Let your kids travel. Let them spread their wings and explore little corners of this big, beautiful world. Let them get lost in a commuter train. Let them find their way to a top of a mountain with their friends. They are 18. They are 19. They are 24. They are 28. Let them find the bliss in their life. Isn’t it selfish? Isn’t it selfish that you’re forcing your daughter to get married? She’s 26. Maybe she wants to feel the powdery sand beneath her feet on a Northern beach. Do you ever listen to him? Your son. He told you he liked art. You put him in engineering school instead.
Mum, dad, let your son make a mistake. Let your daughter be a dreamer. Let them find their happiness. Let them be free. Dear momma, the same blood runs in our veins no matter what religion we are ascribed to at our birth. Dad, let your kids define their own love. The life is to explore. The life is to love. The life is to do new things, fail, and learn from our mistakes.
The life is to live.