I hadn’t heard of Kaveesha Ayeshani until her untimely death in a car accident. That’s because I do not have the time to watch tele dramas. This may be partly due to a feeling that there has been a drop in quality over the years. But this writing is not about teledramas. It’s about all the talk generated over social media websites and in the print media about this young teledrama actress’s death.
Accidents kill Sri Lankans at a rate which comes close to the civil war years, but people refuse to put this down as another accident. Among the questions asked: where was she going at three a.m. when her car crashed into a stationary drunk? How many drinks had she taken before sitting behind the wheel? With whom had she spent the hours immediately prior to the accident?
This is a glamorous death, not the same thing as seven or more people returning from a wedding, funeral, pilgrimage or trip dying when their van crashes into a bus. Besides, the above reasons for travelling are more legitimate. A young actress whom everyone presumes was drunk, and travelling alone at an ungodly hour, has an aura of illegitimacy about her in the eyes of the public.
That it had rained hard that night, or that the tyres of her compact sized car were said to be worn, hence more likely to spin under hard braking, are rational arguments dismissed out of hand under this social media hysteria. A woman living three kilometres from the accident site told me that the car was going at 150 kmh (without asking if that small car is capable of that speed). It’s beyond belief that anyone, not even one of our former untouchables driving a Porsche could drive at that speed along this stretch of road along Jubilee Post. Even at a much saner speed, this accident is ample proof of Newton’s third law of thermodynamics.
Other voices demand to know how she managed to buy a car in the first place. This is deeply insulting because none of these people have ever dared ask how the above-mentioned former untouchables, sons of our former masters, bought their Porsches and Lamborghinis. None of them died in car accidents because they were able to close public roads in the country’s capital at night to practise their hobby, and also because they were free, due to their ill-gotten wealth, of the kind of social and financial pressures which may have placed Kaveesha Ayeshani on the road at that hour in an old compact car with worn tyres.
Interestingly, a woman commentator in a Sinhala Sunday paper said that this death highlights a deeper malaise within Colombo society with its pressure cooker social life, its rampant commercialism and all the associated evils. It’s hard to understand why educated people continue to believe that social evils and pressure cooker situations exist only in cities, said to be the root of all evil. One look at the suicide and rape rates in our villages will make Colombo look like a relatively safe place to live in.
In the countryside, farmers live in pressure cooker situations because they live in debt or their children are unemployed. Now that the war is over, the military is no longer a viable source of employment. For jobs, they must come to Colombo. Kaveesha came from Kirindiwela in Gampaha. It’s not Girandurukotte, but I have met people who call Moratuwa a village, hence Kirindiwela sounds quite rural.
She could have found a job there but not according to her ambitions and talent. Like similar people in Alabama or New Mexico, who must migrate to New York in search of a future, she came to Colombo and became successful. One can’t argue that she died because of that migration or because of the social life her career demanded. If anyone is destined to a premature death, it could happen inside a bathroom, a hospital, or from food poisoning.
On the other hand, one can argue that the accident would have been less fatal if she had a safer car or at least better tyres. But all these are spurious arguments. In a case like this, people look for someone to blame, and the most likely target is the victim herself – if she had died in a van with six other people while returning from a wedding, then she would have appeared quite blameless to social media and other pundits.