Sunday, February 14, 2016

Myself-Icebreaker Speech at FTZ Toastmasters Club by P Yasovarman on 11.02.2016

There is no WAR in my name, but there is a MAN in my name.
That is how I snap at the people who misspell my name.

Fellow Toastmasters and guests!

I am Yasovarman, Yasovarman Perinpanayagam, spelled as Y A S O V A R M A N.
I am fondly called as Yash by many as they find it difficult to pronounce my name, but my mother was never happy about it!

My life can be divided into 5 different phases. Each phase in a different place.

36 years ago I was born in a small farming village called Mandur in the eastern province of Sri Lanka.
I spent the initial years in the village. Then my parents decided to move to Batticaloa town to get us better education.

My next phase of life started in Batticaloa. I joined Methodist Central College which is probably the oldest school in the island. It was established in the early years of the 19th century by the Methodist mission priests.

After getting through Advanced Level I decided to move to our neighboring country India for my higher studies. I joined a private college in Chennai for BSc Microbiology which is a study of creatures you don’t see by your naked eye.
Chennai life gave me a lot of new experiences. I started communicating in English as there were students from various states. I had an opportunity to interact with girls and to make some good friends which I was deprived of back home as I studied at a boys’ school and could not hang around the 2 most famous girls’ schools-my elder sister was a student of one and my mother was the vice principal of the other. Therefore I had to get back home immediately after school without any choice…

My 4th phase of life was back in Sri Lanka in Colombo. I joined a private company that was handling textile chemicals. The change of field from microbiology to textile was an accident indeed. There is a saying that everything happens for a reason. In that accident hidden another accident. Yes.. your guess is perfect. I met my future wife there. I emerged unhurt.

Since I am a village boy I had been longing for a village life. Out of the blue I saw an advertisement calling for applicants to work in an apparel factory in Kilinochchi. I applied in no time. I got through the interviews and relocated to Kilinochchi leaving my family in Colombo.

Three 3 years I spent in the north gave me a lot of exposure to a different side of Lanka and its people who were badly affected by the bloody war. It gave me an opportunity to help those people mentally and improve their knowledge on various aspects.
My PSEUDO-BACHELOR life in Kilinochchi gave me a lot of spare time which was very much utilized to explore book reading, internet, music and novel subjects such as mnemonics and memory techniques.
“If there is a beginning there is an end”. I decided to come back to rejoin my family because my son was starting schooling. I missed him so much during these 3 years. Meantime I miss my people in Kilinochchi a lot.

My Kilinochchi life ended last year. “If there is an end there is a beginning”. This is the new beginning-joining this elite Toastmasters club.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Read about other Religions too, if you want PEACE

My mind just pondered as to what I have been reading these days. It struck me with a very good feeling that I have got the maturity and broad mind to read 3 materials-2 books and a speech-that would cover 3 major religions’ preaching.

The first book is Bhagavath Geetha. As an ardent supporter (please note, not an ardent follower) of Hindu religion I always regard the Hindu scripture-Bhagawat Geetha- very high. When I am in distress and I read these verses my mood is refreshed. You cannot yearn for a better consoling verses than these.

“Whatever happened, happened for the good; whatever is happening, is happening for the good; whatever will happen, will also happen for the good only. You need not have any regrets for the past”.

“What did you lose that you cry about? What did you bring with you, which you think you have lost? What did you produce, which you think got destroyed? You did not bring anything - whatever you have, you received from here. Whatever you have given, you have given only here. Whatever you took, you took from God. Whatever you gave, you gave to him. You came empty handed, you will leave empty handed. What is yours today, belonged to someone else yesterday, and will belong to someone else the day after tomorrow. You are mistakenly enjoying the thought that this is yours. It is this false happiness that is the cause of your sorrows”.

Bhagawat Geetha is one of the oldest religious scriptures available. It is believed to be written around 5100 years ago. This elaborates the preaching of Lord Krishna to the warrior Arjuna in the battlefield when he hesitated to fight against his kith and kin.
The second book is ‘Answer to Non-Muslims’ Common Questions About Islam’ by Dr Zakir Naik. Islam is the religion I started reading about a few years ago. During the Al-Qaeda era the entire non-Muslim world started developing hatred against this wonderful, well-tuned way of living. They all thought Islam was a religion encouraged bloodshed and terror.

Therefore my curiosity grew to read on this second largest religion in the world. By accident I came across this man Dr Zakir Naik, a physician by profession but now a well-read scholar on comparative religion, through Peace TV-a dedicated telecast for Islam and comparative religion by Islamic Research Foundation founded by Dr Zakir himself.

As I was browsing internet looking for a book on Islam I found this well-compiled book which clarifies a ton of doubts on Islam. Reading through the book I found these lines which simply tell you what Islam is all about.  “Islam is derived from the word ‘salaam’ which means peace. It is a religion of peace whose fundamentals teach its followers to maintain and promote peace throughout the world.

Thus every Muslim should be a fundamentalist i.e. he should follow the fundamentals of the Religion of Peace: Islam. He should be a terrorist only towards the antisocial elements in order to promote peace and justice in the society”.

As per Dr Zakir Naik if you really want to learn about a religion you have to read the genuine, authentic scripture of that religion. And you should not conclude about a religion looking at certain activities of a small group of people who happen to follow this religion.
The third one is the lecture given by the 1979 Nobel Peace prize  laureate and one of the most kind hearts the modern world has ever seen-Mother Teresa. When I was searching for the best speeches I found this heart-touching piece delivered when she accepted the prize. She talks about peace, love, kindness, smile and Jesus throughout the speech. If a speech can bring tears in your eyes you just imagine the strength of the lines. When I was reading the below lines I was literally in tears.

“The poor are very wonderful people. One evening we went out and we picked up four people from the street. And one of them was in a most terrible condition - and I told the Sisters: You take care of the other three, I take of this one that looked worse. So I did for her all that my love can do. I put her in bed, and there was such a beautiful smile on her face. She took hold of my hand, as she said one word only: Thank you - and she died.
I could not help but examine my conscience before her, and I asked what I would say if I was in her place. And my answer was very simple. I would have tried to draw a little attention to myself, I would have said I am hungry, that I am dying, I am cold, I am in pain, or something, but she gave me much more - she gave me her grateful love. And she died with a smile on her face”.

Every religion in the world founded to spread peace not terror in the world. If one starts reading about other religions he can get a better understanding about other ways of living and that leads to PEACE which we all DESIRE.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Spread healthy stories

Sri Lanka is known for the decades-long civil war and now it is in the limelight for UN’s call for an inquiry into alleged atrocities carried out by both Sri Lankan government and LTTE towards the end of the decisive battle in 2009. The grudge and rivalry between Tamil and Sinhalese communities have been raging and never seeming to be receding. Major political parties representing Tamils are not ready to see any good in the government’s initiatives and the Sri Lankan government is always doubtful about Tamil parties’ moves. These two sides do not listen to each other to understand and provide a political solution for the grievances of the Tamils. But there are instances of understanding between these communities in our day to day life before and after the war ended.
One of the unforgettable moments when a Sinhalese understood me happened at the height of the war. It was in 2008. Most of the Colombo city was declared high security zone. The city was lined with military check points and you should be ready to get down anywhere to show your identity card to military personnel or Police.
I was working in Ratmalana around 30 km from my home in Modara. I was checked and harassed a number of times because I had an ID card with Batticaloa address. Batticaloa is my home town and it is eastern part of the Tamil home land. Military would doubt any soul for an LTTE from north or east of Sri Lanka. Therefore I was not exceptional in the eyes of government troops. 
I naturally developed hatred and extreme dislike for the army due to several unhappy questioning at checkpoints. But one day one young trooper behaved in a very opposite way than normal. That day I was travelling back home after a long day at office at around 12 midnight. As usual I was asked to get down from my vehicle at a high security zone checkpoint. The soldier wanted my ID card. I handed over. He went over the ID card and asked me in a very kind voice “Ayye (elder brother in Sinhalese), where do you live?” I replied “Colombo 15”. “Then why don’t you take an ID card with your present Colombo address. If you carry this when something bad happens army will trouble you for sure. Therefore apply for a fresh one with the changed address” he advised. I was stunned by his courtesy and I could not believe those words from a Sinhalese soldier.
This incident taught me that it was wrong to hate an entire community. Human race is not made like that. Many Tamils would have come across such healthy encounters that will improve the goodwill between the two communities. Those refreshing stories should come to light to help build this estranged relationship between the Tamils and the Sinhalese.
We could have numerous bad experiences. But highlighting and exaggerating those will never take us anywhere better. Each community should respect the other’s cultural values to make this island country prosper. I like to leave you an appropriate quote “United we stand, divided we fall”.

-Yasovarman Perinpanayagam

Monday, April 21, 2014

Are we losing the grip on Hinduism in Vanni?

I have been so obsessed with the question-Are we losing the grip on Hinduism in Vanni? This question emerged in me after going through certain encounters in Vanni. I went to Kilinochchi two year back with an idea that I was stepping into the Tamil Hindu land. Still it is a Tamil land (not sure about in later years) but surely not a Hindu land.

Recently I traveled on the Mullaitheevu main road and was startled to see scores of churches popping up. Every 500 meter has a church. Now there are more churches than Kovils.

This observation made me ponder whether this development happened during the Tamil rule or after end of the war. Some say that the conversion was there during the de-facto state was running but it has been in full swing in the recent past.

We talk endlessly about the Sinhalese settlement in the north and the loss of our centuries old heritage. But we never took up this grave subject of religious conversion. When we say culture and tradition, it is a mixture of native language and native religion. In the present context we put in our great effort to safeguard our language but losing the hold on our religion-Hinduism.

When my curiosity grew to know the reason behind this change I came to know that the war left many with no houses, no food, and no clothes and on and on. This gave the golden opportunity for the various sections of Christianity to attract the poverty-ridden Vanni community. Now these people-once wearing ‘vipoothi’ and ‘pottu’-talk about prayers and bible but within they are still Hindus as they have been the so called Christians for the past mere 3 years.

After reading this nobody should label me as a Hindu hardliner and think I am against Christianity and any other religions. Though by birth I am a half Christian-father was a Christian- I vehemently oppose religious conversion showing money and other needs or luxuries.

The funny part is their names after being baptized. Most of the people in Vanni are named in the name of Hindu God or Goddess by the parents. Now they have the names along with the new baptized name, for example-‘Mary Kannaki Sivasubramaniam’-funny indeed right?  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

MY STORY-Reuniting with a friend

Hi Friends!
This is my first venture into writing. And I kick off this blog with a true story of mine....

In 1999 first day at college-“Hi! I am Yasovarman Perinpanayagam from Srilanka” I introduced myself to the other classmates at the Asan Memorial College of Arts and Science, Chennai, India. Then I heard “I’m …………… from Srilanka ” from another boy in the class, but I did not get his name right. My curiosity grew as I heard somebody was from my country and asked for his name again, he replied “I am Sripalan from Jaffna in Srilanka”. It was a great relief for me to have my countryman in the class.

Since we hailed from the same place we became very close friends in no time. He used to relate me the harrowing experience he had in escaping to India to seek refuge. He had come to India by ferry with his parents and fiancé and his Advanced level books. I was on a student visa and staying with an uncle as a paying guest. His extraordinary trait was that he would be carrying all his educational books wherever he was moving due to war. All our Indian friends were very sympathetic towards us as they knew the situation back in Srilanka. We studied together for 3 years and we spent a lot of days in combined studies at his place and I became very familiar with his family members as well. They were very hospitable and warm and invited me for lunch very often. Even I was very eager to have Srilankan style food as I was away from my family.

After graduating I returned to Srilanka and secured a job in Colombo in 2002. In a couple of years’ time Sripalan got back to the island and settled down in his wife’s town Kilinochchi in the northern part. Once he came to meet me in Colombo and I was very much happy to see him back. Then we were in touch time to time over the phone but not very regularly as the northern parts were not connected well with the other parts of the country by telephone.

In 2006-he called me from Kilinochchi for the last time before the war erupted again. He sounded a bit nervous and said “Yaso, Appa [father] has passed away in a prolonged illness. I am not sure when I can see you again.  I am trying to move to Colombo as the situation here is getting worse day by day”. Afterwards I sent a small amount of money and a letter through a relative because postal system couldn’t be relied upon those days. This was the last contact I had with my friend.

Subsequently the war broke out in all parts of the country. The worst affected parts were the north and east. We started hearing the battle news from all corners of the world. We could imagine the epic proportion of the disaster from the visuals and news. I grew very much worried about him as the situations was reaching its peak.

In 2009-At last the war ended eating up many thousands of valuable lives and wreaking havoc to the assets. The northern part of island was strewn with dead bodies and raw flesh and blood.

I started searching for him everywhere through whomever from his area. Our college friends in India and elsewhere started asking me about Sripalan. I was left clueless on his whereabouts; therefore I had to answer “Sorry, I don’t know”. As years went by I started typing his name in different forms into the social networks and search engines. For almost two long years I did not get any positive response. Then I stopped looking for him very regularly and intermittently I would check his name on the internet.

In 2011-one fine night after dinner around 10 o’ clock as a routine I sat before the computer and went to the facebook site. When I opened my account and checked my In-box I could not believe my own eyes and I was in a total shock to see a message from the very man whom I thought had been lost forever. The message read “Machan! [Srilankan dialect for a friend] I am Sripalan here, working at Eastern Medical College in Batticaloa as a microbiologist. Please contact me on the number given below when you see this message. Regards, Sripalan”. I reacted immediately and contacted him. The phone rang for a while before he picked up. A voice came through with a sleepy tone “Sripalan here!”. I was elated to hear the voice I had been wondering whether I could ever hear again. I said “Hello! Yaso here”. It was one of the most memorable moments in my life. We both were so happy that finally we were connected. We spoke for some time and I was glad to know that his entire family had survived the war! He promised that he would come over to meet me in person.

 The day finally arrived! It was a Saturday a week after we spoke to each other he travelled from Batticaloa to Colombo. I was very much moved to see him again. We spent the whole day sharing his ordeal and he said it was extremely rare to emerge out of the war without losing anyone from the family. Later we changed topics to our college days and even managed to contact our Indian friends on Skype.

Later in the evening it was time to bid goodbye but this time it was only temporary and knew we would be meeting each other from now on. He left for Batticaloa to go back to his somewhat peaceful life he was leading though it would take years to get over the trauma and the memories of the war he and his family had gone through. We parted at the railway station, at the platform I stood pondering how lucky I was to have my best friend back in my life, as the train rattled towards Batticaloa…