A long month and a half

Between being robbed and a major city of a country witnessing riots, I'm trying to decide what's next.

On January 30th, I woke up at my usual 4 45 AM and went into my office room. I start work early usually so I can take a long break with my son in the middle of the day. As soon as I walked into the room, I noticed that something was off. My desk was strewn with things from my drawyer. I wasn't sure if my wife had been looking for something, some stationery maybe. Interally, I knew someone had been in the room but my brain was trying to not accept it. A few minutes later of looking around the house and I was forced to admit that someone had broken in while we were asleep. In the darkness, the light from my little office room showed cupboard doors left open. Cutlery missing from the sink.

It was a long day. Filled with calls to the police. Cleaning up. Repairing broken locks on windows that the thieves had come in through. Thankfully, all they had come for was cash and jewellery, both of which my wife and I don't really keep any at home. They had broken into our neighbours unit upstairs as well. They lost a bit more than us but still not too much. The really big thing that was lost was that feeling of safety that we had had while living here for almost two years.

It's a strange thing to stop trusting the night. To not want to fall asleep for fear of someone coming into your house. We tried to put those feelings away and sleep. And just as we were starting to relax, a week later the thieves broke in again. This time because all the room doors were locked, all they could do was help themselves to some cookies and go back out. That same night they had jumped into another neighbouring house on the lane next to ours.

I wasn't sure if we'd even continue staying on at the place we were at. But after looking around, the jump in rent didn't seem like a great idea and we instead decided to invest in a security system for the house. In the meantime, we replaced old locks and added more locks to windows. Chains followed for extra security and I took to sleeping with a hammer and knife next to me. It was exactly 1 week later that we were woken up by our bell ringing at 4 in the morning. It was the police. The thieves had been back. This time instead of coming into our house, they had gone around and used our walls to climb into a neighbour's house down our lane. The dog, bless its soul, had barked and alerted the neighbours to the attempted thievery. What followed was a mad chase by the police and we could hear the police dogs barking across the marshland we live right next to. In the distance several house lights started switching on and off and suddenly, silence.

I found out later that day that one of the two thieves had been apprehended. That night, I remember sleeping so deeply as the collective stress took over my body. I didn't even realise just how much stress had been building up the entire time. The next day, the security system installation team arrived.

It took almost a week for the installation to be fully completed. The entire time I couldn't fully relax. There was cleaning again. I had to watch over the people doing the installation. Test the system.

Almost one month after the first break in I thought I could finally relax but then murmurs of tense racial situations in the country started making their rounds. In one of the most upsetting turns for the country since 2014, a couple of weeks after installing the security system, Sri Lanka started seeing the worst racial riots it had since Aluthgama. Shocked and mostly helpless, we watched as friends and family started notifying us of harrowing tales where unidentified mobs, foreign to those towns, came in and started burning and looting muslim owned properties. I won't grace those mobs with the identification of a religion. They've clearly rejected any moral pursuit for their individualistic gains. But it broke my heart. I almost cancelled a holiday that my wife and I had been looking forward to. A holiday that thanks to all the madness from January, I hadn't gotten around to till March.

As the leaders of this country bumbled their way through the situation, we watched social media networks being blocked en masse alongside emergency regulations being introduced. Ordinary hard working people watched their businesses take a hit as their main communication lines with customers were stoppered. Families stuck in the heart of the chaos couldn't communicate effectively with loved ones outside of the country. Meanwhile the people who wanted to get around the block for their own mischief used VPN's. Some internet providers went on an uncalled for rampage and started blocking VPN's too. The VPN provider used by the company I work at, Buffer, found itself blocked in Sri Lanka too. It was a frustrating week.

It all seems like it's finally over now.

In the aftermath of things though I find myself at crossroads. Should I stay in this country? Or should I leave for a better quality of life. Maybe migrate to Australia. Am I an irresponsible parent for wanting to stay on with my child here?

It hurts. It hurts so much that I have to even think of leaving a place I call home just because a few well placed racists have seen it fit to target those carrying a particular ethnic label. I try not to say race here because as any DNA test will show, we are so intermingled that the idea of race at a scientific level is rather ridiculous. They are just labels we associate ourselves with. And we are all human. But somehow I feel treated differently. And I'm not even directly affected by the acts of these criminals. So it hurts.

After a lot of deep thinking, I've finally come to the decision that there's really no way around this. Sri Lanka may just not be the right home for me and my family. History has shown that those who kept moving were most likely to survive the tests of time. So maybe if it comes to it, I'll move. But a conversation on a Whatsapp thread made me rethink any rash decisions.

The thread I was on recently devolved into questioning the idea of "fighting back". Foolish. And I said so. It was like the person suggesting the idea (thankfully he was foreign so the ignorance could be partially explained) had forgotten how the first civil war started. To those thirsting for some kind of war, please don't ever forget that it's ugly and those hurt the most are innocent people from less fortunate backgrounds. Children are amongst those who have the worst horrors to live through.

But that thread got me thinking.

What was it that I had done to stop this from happening? Had I even spoken to a politician about this? Had I ever reported anything to an official government body? Was I politically active in any way that was meaningful? Was I even worse than a slacktivist?

As much as it made me feel ashamed, the answers to those collectively meant I had done nothing. Yet here I stood contemplating leaving this country as if that would change anything. Here I was, giving up on Sri Lanka as if I had ever tried anything to help it.

During the whole period of this madness unfolding, I watched as people of all ethnic backgrounds came together to help the muslim population in the affected areas. People of ethnic backgrounds coming together to condemn the government for their lack of action and to state that they didn't want war ever again.

Somewhere in there, I could see that hope is very much alive.

I don't know. I'm still deciding.

Posted on March 19 2018 by Adnan Issadeen