This morning when I got up, the first thing that came to my mind was Cecilia and what she had said.
The last two days, I followed an “effective writing” course at Virtusa, so that I might improve my writing skills, in other areas besides blogging. The course was quite interesting and often entertaining; thanks to Cecilia's charming and somewhat dramatical ways of presenting material that can sometimes be quite amusing. Here are some excerpts from one of the handouts, which I hope she wouldn't mind that I shamelessly copied.
Signs that lead to misunderstanding!
In a restroom:
TOILET OUT OF ORDER. PLEASE USE FLOOR BELOW
In a Laundromat:
AUTOMATIC WASHING MACHINES: PLEASE REMOVE ALL YOUR CLOTHES WHEN THE LIGHT GOES OUT
Outside a secondhand shop:
WE EXCHANGE ANYTHING – BICYLES, WASHING MACHINES ETC. WHY NOT BRING YOUR WIFE ALONE AND GET A WONDERFUL BARGAIN?
There were quite a few more hilarious ones, but I'll refrain from “killing you with laughter”. The above exercise was to rephrase the the sentences, so they are no longer ambiguous nor amusing. I also learned a few interesting examples of the “Sri Lankan variant English”, which we use quite often without ever realizing it.
Anyway getting back to the main topic, one thing that she mentioned and which got me thinking this morning, was the observation that most Sri Lankan's, especially the younger generation, are obsessed with leaving the country and going abroad. This wasn't the first time I've heard it coming from a British citizen that never seemed to like to go back and ended up dying here - the late Phil. I don't really know why it came to my head when I woke up, but I started debating it in my mind as I slowly got ready to go to work.
Then suddenly the underlying problem and solution came to me in a flash, thanks to “The Village”, a movie I watched last week, by Night Shyamalan. If you haven't watched the movie, I wont spoil it by summarizing it here, but what occurred to me was that the problem was mainly due to the difficulty of leaving the country in the first place. People have a disillusioned view of the west as being a picture perfect land of wealth & opportunity.
And while I don't discredit that people have made it so, I can't help but remember some of the things that made Sri Lanka, home sweet home! For example, there are things that we take for granted such as the fact that its easy to get a reasonably good education free of charge all the way up to a University degree (if your smart and lucky), a near free health care system (even private channeling is affordable) and relatively inexpensive transport system (traveling across UK can sometimes cause as much as flying back to Sri Lanka) that is clean (no sticky gum under seats or spray painted walls). And how about walking alone at night, (which is generally safe), you don't always have to watch your back to make sure someone isn't trying to mug you in broad day light or that you can let your kids play outside without having to worry about peter files.
If you think about it, as depicted in the movie, we are somewhat like the innocent village people, who are unable to leave it and head to the town. In our case its worse, because we get to see and hear about the outside world in a stereo typical sense through television, or by seeing someone come back with a lot of money or merchandise when they return.
So what is the solution to curing the illusion that plagues the minds of our younger society, looking to migrate? For me the answer is quite simple actually;. Just as Ivy Walker, was allowed to walk out of the village and go to town, we should make it easier (in terms of visa, or cost of airfare) for anyone to leave the country on a short term basis. I remember when I was away and subsequently working under a lot of pressure on a project, how I longed to come back and just sleep under a mango tree :) Personally, I feel that most Sri Lankan families living abroad are more leaned towards the Sri Lankan ways and culture than those living here. Going abroad on a short term basis also has the added benefit of helping one to realize what we are doing wrong.
Ultimately we need to develop the country so that leaving it for financial reasons is less of a reason, but more importantly to get people in to thinking nationally with a true sense of pride (which is not injected by any political means). The way for this is probably to let more people experience “whats out there”!