“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.”
- Edgar Allan Poe
I have a hope. Sometimes, it goes beyond that and becomes an expectation. The hope is that this country will once again be one in which every citizen is equal. A country in which members of one ethnic group, both individually and collectively, will feel totally and completely equal to the others, embracing each other not out of forced reconciliation but genuine emotion and feeling.
Those hopes, aspirations and expectations have been dashed over and over again. But the dream continues. I have a dream that my family of three children (two girls and a boy of school-going ages), and wife who is a full-time housewife would one day be free of all our debts. I dream about a day when my eldest daughter could be admitted to the best school in the district without paying ‘santhosams’ (gratification) to the Secretary to the local politician; I dream that my second daughter could be provided with brand new uniforms instead of the ones used and discarded by her elder sister. I dream of the day when my one and only son, who is in his adolescence, could play for the school cricket team without paying puja to his class teacher and coach. And I have a dream that my wife, who is pregnant with our fourth child, would one day be provided with domestic help so that she could assist our children in their schoolwork. I also dream that all my wife’s pawned jewellery could be recovered soon so that when the next big wedding comes, she could wear all the jewellery that I gave her on our wedding day.
And, I have a dream that in my own workplace I would be recognized as an exemplary, efficient worker and be able to obtain my next promotion without a bribe being offered to the Chief Minister’s wife. These dreams may be far too ambitious to be realised, but can anyone blame me for dreaming? As a schoolboy myself, I dreamt of reaching impossible heights; I dreamt of having, not a palatial house for my family but a roomy home where each of my children could have his or her own room with an attached toilet and bath. Is that too ambitious a dream? I don’t think so.
My wife’s brother is a local contractor. His construction work involving cutting irrigation channels has come to a dead halt because there is no irrigation work undertaken by the Government. Now he has switched to road construction and asphalting of newly cut roads. Yet, he cannot get sufficient work to keep his workforce gainfully occupied unless he pays 10% in advance to the Pradeshiya Sabha member who is allocating work. Days of tender procedures are dead and gone. Fly-by-night contractors are bidding way above the engineer’s estimates and still managing to obtain contracts. How on earth the local authorities find money to pay these contractors is another question altogether. Most of them have not been paid for the work done. Yet, the 10% advance was collected by the politician even before the contract was signed. I dream of a day when my brother-in-law would be competing on a level playing field.
I dream that our so-called role-models of parliamentarians would exercise more restraint when speaking in Parliament; I dream that they would not take the law into their own hands and punish honest government servants for not obeying their orders; I dream that our local politicians would not get involved in raping tourists; I dream that they would at all times respect the law of the land; I dream that they would not punish schoolteachers who do not obey the decrees of politicians.
Dreaming of a land that is free of corruption and nepotism is no sin; dreaming of a Parliament that is robust and thought-provoking yet friendly, decent and civil is not only innocent, it is acutely necessary. Those who do not dream would not achieve what they have not dreamt of. Such is the fundamental character of a dream. It is not possible to dream if one is not ambitious. We are not in a super-mundane world where all desires and wants are absent and worldly life is treated as sinful. So it is perfectly all right to dream.
I have a dream in which our rulers are honest and candid about what they utter in public. I have a dream in which our President gives credit to the commanders and ordinary soldiers for winning the war without owning the war-victory by himself. I have a dream that the first family is, if not equal, at least comparable with others in all respects - security, wealth, facilities available etc. - of day-to-day life. I have a dream that bigwig-politicos pay attention to other commuters also when they rush from point A to point B. I have a dream that our politicians, be they Ministers, Prime Ministers or ordinary parliamentarians, abstain from soliciting favours of various kinds, such as money, flesh (women), furloughs and other gratifications when they perform their basic duties as servants of the people.
I have a dream! I have a dream of being able to question our rulers without being treated as a bothersome irritant. I have a dream that my young daughter could be sent to see the area MP or the Minister without worrying about her returning with her virginity intact. In such a cruel world from which sanity has fled and avarice, greed and lust have invaded the inner sanctums of the ruling clan and their henchmen, dreaming of simple dreams has become an uncommon luxury. It is no cardinal sin to expect the ordinary from the ordinary. It is certainly a task to expect the extraordinary from the ordinary.
In a deeply convoluted world of phony values and distorted truths, the ruling clan is toying with the emotions and weak responses of a gullible public. In such a chaotic scenario, expecting a strong and wise response from the rulers is as impossible as extracting feathers from a tortoise. Deeply buried in their own excreta, these rulers spare no words or action to achieve their own parochial objectives, whether they be money, power or anything else. It is in this morass that I am asking, that I be allowed to dream; to dream about a better future for my kids; better future for my Tamil, Muslim and Burgher brothers and sisters; to dream about a world of peace, justice and fairness. Is that too much to ask for?
I have a dream that sooner than later this situation would turn for the better. I have a dream that our rulers would open their eyes and ears and if all signals are accurate and right, they have no intention of adjusting their antennas. If the current set of rulers is not willing to change, then I dream that there will be a man born of the soil, wedded to the age-old values of fairness and kindness, a man who sacrificed the comforts of ruling classes and who would come down to earth and stand with the ordinary man and woman of the land.
I have a dream of seeing Maithripala Sirisena as our next President to do away with this draconian system of Executive Presidency, to establish the rule of law and order; to be transparent and accountable and to enrich the people of the country instead of a single family.
I have a dream.