Posted by: Gaya | December 19, 2011

The Jehovah’s Witness crusaders speak Sinhala now !

Yes, language as we well know in Sri Lanka can be very powerful in politics. But what was this?

I was already down at the main door to our apartment with the now-cold evening air streaming in, talking to a friend who had delivered Anjou to our door. There was a couple at the door, she was blond with scandinavian looks and he was Italianish, none of this did I take in till later. They were ringing a bell to be let in to no avail, so playing the friendly resident as Italian custom is, I asked them before shutting the door ” You are ringing for someone? ”

They shook their heads smiling and said it was ok, but just before I shut the door she, the bespectacled blond asked me ‘err… where are you …from? I am used to this. So I said glibly ‘ Oh I am from Sri Lanka’ before the customary grin-and-shut door.

‘Oyaa Lankawendha?’ She piped. And well it kind of floored me.

I mean, I am used to various combos but scandi+sinhala in Italy messed me up a bit. So i blinked, laughed and sort of tried to talk to her but I could only manage Italian. I had to actually close my eyes to speak Sinhala to her and explained that i had a brain -switching problem with the blond apparition thing; with eyes closed, I could manage.

It turns out that She and He had learnt Sinhala in Italy. She was incredibly fluent in the kind of Sinhala my late father does not understand. The written kind. He would watch “pravurthi” or News on telly with a bemused look and then ask me with a chuckle later ” I don’t have a clue men, what they are saying” My father, I must hasten to add would have been 86 had he lived another year and studied under Brits and is from that generation.

I suddenly realised who they were and after small talk of about 5 minutes in the cold I was about to close the door when she asked me if I were happy.

“Very” I answered untruthfully”.  Absolutely happy as can be”.

“What do you think about the future?” she asked me.

“Oh I am very positive about the future” I lied with a grin. ” I am without fear about the future.” Now comes the fun bit.

” What do you think about Italy she said, do you feel comfortable here?”

Huh, I thought to myself, here you are preying on unrest to catch the discontented immigrant unawares in the wake of a so called racist murder.

“I am very happy in Italy” I assured here getting into the swing of things. “It’s a lot like my country in culture and friendliness and despite its political problems, the bigger social circle and family life makes the quality of life here rather brill” It’s a great place… I was not entirely untruthful in this. I do think Italy has its rich Italian social indicator in comparison with the North.

She kept speaking in Sinhala and I forgot and reverted back to Italian. It was really comic. “Where are YOU from?” I asked, trying to derail the route desired. ” I am Finnish” she said.

Finally she asked me in a desperate bid to save my soul “Where do you think happiness comes from?” This one was easy.  I was beginning to enjoy this. ” Oh right here” I said smartly tapping my head… I must have looked demented. “It’s all in here…!”

“You DO know that happiness does not come from material success” she persisted.” Hey there, I am from Sri Lanka” I said… with an Italian gesture of slight impatience.


"Yehovah Devige Saakshikaruwo Sri Lankawe Siyawasak Sapurai" The Witnesses of the God Yehovah celebrate hundred years in Sri Lanka"

She gave up.

“Well” I asked her before shutting the door, outta curiosity,   ” Who was it you were ringing for?”

“Suresh” she said beaming, “you know the guy on the 1st floor. Now I was a bit concerned.  Suresh does not have a door bell in his name and he and his wife live with another Italian there. How on earth did they get his name? AND, do they honestly now target people and send Europeans who learn the native languages to the door? Is it worth all this effort on a cold December day? Well well.

” We are Yehovah’s Witnesses” she said suddenly realising  that we had not been properly introduced. ” Yeah, I gathered…” I said and feeling sorry for her, requested a pamphlet she was distributing.

Title: Obath me prashna gena kalpana kara thibenawaadha? " Have you too been preoccupied with these problems lately?"

After all it was in the language that had started all the trouble in my motherland.

Or was it the language, I wondered as I slowly walked up the stairs behind my long-suffering children stunned into silence by the fluent Sinhala-speaking Finn.  Was it instead the bearers of language who stole the menace after all?

The script on the pamphlet seemed innocent enough.

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