16 March, Mount Lavinia, Sri Lanka

By Suramya Hettiarachchi

I turned 40 today.

I was never in the mood to celebrate. I told my mother, the one who birthed me, the one who laboured through hours of pain and my father, who held on helpless, to see the baby they had after 9 years, that I wanted to be alone this year. I had deactivated my social media a day before. I did not want anyone to wish me. I had planned it all.

Oddly enough, my wish was granted. My otherwise steadfast, stable, non-risk taking husband whose social distancing skills are usually top-notch took the one risk he is never able to resist. He went to the Royal-Thomian cricket match. = He who tells me not to attend my numerous activist demonstrations went in, abundantly aware that Covid 19 virus had hit Sri Lanka because – well –  no one cancelled it. Colombo was angry. But many  Royalists and Thomians (people who had attended the schools by those names) did go. Off they went to the match, with their fathers, mothers, sisters, ex and current girlfriends, daughters and sons. There were papare bands, food sellers. Drinks of both hard and soft nature were poured out generously while uncensored baila  was delivered with gusto under the sweltering tents where the fans whirled about hot humid air. Even while the government requested all gatherings to be limited, called off, it went on. No one stopped it and no one stopped going. Call it arrogance, call it stupidity, call it selfishness, it happened.  That was the weekend.

On the day I turn 40, the government grants a special public, bank and mercantile holiday. We are told that a Thomian first officer of Sri Lankan Airlines has tested positive and had visited the match. I reactivate my social media accounts, to see what is happening. Social Media is ablaze and wave after wave of anger and hatred come pouring in against the ‘elitist Royalists and Thomians’. At the start of social distancing and self-quarantining, social media engaging begins with a vengeance. All the bottled up anger against the elitist schools, the privileged, the arrogant morons, the posh ones, f@$%^ idiots, rages on. All that had been directed towards the Sri Lankans coming from Italy and resisting quarantine efforts and towards the government for not taking necessary precautions turns swiftly to the merry makers.  Whilst a responsible few accept their grave mistake and start taking precautions, others take it upon themselves to defend their alma mater. Each wanting to prove a point, theyrage on,  all repeating and repeating the same.

While all this is happening, I feel it all. I feel the almost malicious glee one feels when one is proven right while feeling the resentment of being proven wrong. I need to disengage, distance and isolate myself.

The Coronavirus is testing us as human beings. Not just in terms of recovery, but testing the width, breadth and depth of our ability for kindness despite mistakes, our ability to learn from our mistakes, our ability to feel empathy and ability to forgive and perhaps our faith in ourselves and/or in God. Covid-19 watches us as we scramble for food, medicine and sanitary care. You know, I can almost feel it judging us.