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Silver Dagger

The beautiful off-the-cuff rendition of the old ballad Silver Dagger was the final punch of a strange evening. I had stood there for about an hour, before she came on, feeling intensely out of place, drinking arrack and beer, and smoking to keep my hands occupied.

I listened to the people at the mike, laughed with some, and laughed at others, wondering why. I didn’t disagree with their words, just with them. There was something slick about it all, like a revolution with no plan. Like a silver dagger. I wanted to give in to the anger then, the Spartan shield I’d used for many years, shake my head and walk away. But I couldn’t. I didn’t think they were wrong. But they didn’t understand, and frankly, neither did I. Maybe that was why someone suggested I should take the mike and say something on behalf of MR, and another that I should read out a bit of the constitution. It pissed me off, but I laughed it away. Fuck ’em. They were Sri Lankan, but they weren’t Sri Lanka. And again, just like me.

It reminded me once more that I was still an outsider, that I’d stepped out of this world for a short time, years ago, and somehow, my spot had filled in again while I was away, like footprints in the surf, and I couldn’t get back in. I was born here, in this city, like most of them. I spoke Sinhalese better than a lot of them, and English better than many of them. I liked music, and pretended I understood art. Just like them. I wanted change in my country, just like they did. But I wasn’t them, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be again.

There have often been moments like this in the past years, though less frequent now, and sometimes I forget. And then I remember where I went eighteen years ago. It would have been cool to say that that had been my world, but it hadn’t been. They hadn’t really been my band of brothers, and they’d wondered what I was doing out there in the jungle, with them. And like at Barefoot, I’d had no answer. I was born in this country, like all of them. I was Sinhalese-educated, and so were they. I loved this country, and so did they, though we didn’t know why. I was young, and like many of them, fighting was in my blood. But they’d agreed with the people at Barefoot — at least on this — it wasn’t my war.

But it was. And it is. But how do I explain something I don’t even understand myself?

And then Hania Mariam started to sing Silver Dagger, and I sipped my beer and drifted back over the last year. The lyrics seemed to accuse me of so many things. The song is about fear, and as I watched her sing, I felt that fear. I watched her lips and eyes, the light on her polished dark skin, willing her to look up at me. But she didn’t, and the song faded. Under the fear, I felt a hunger for something I can’t put a name to.

I left my empty Carlsberg on the bar and walked out as she started to sing Sarah McLachlan’s Angel. I know that song by heart, and there’s a line in it that will tell me that it’s endlessness I fear. I don’t want to hear that, and I quicken my pace.

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February 16, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

10 Comments »

  1. I can realte to what you are saying those of us who have been away for a while fell kinda uprooted

    Comment by shelly | February 16, 2009 | Reply

  2. You are much like the Carlsberg you were drinking, touching me in places other beers just cannot.
    Thank you Davy, you reaffirm in me, the faith I have in believing in all that’s good as well as evil in this world.
    I leave you with the one thing I have learnt in my 45 years in this world:
    “It’s OK, it’s OK to believe in something or someone and being yourself. At least when you look in the mirror, all the regrets and all the mistakes are yours, no one else’s. Being true comes at a cost, but at least you do not have the taste of someone else’s asshole in your tongue. I continue my quest to live life as I see fit, fitting to no one else’s norms”
    I may die, but I will die neither hungry, in despair or destitute. The people you speak of honestly are already jaded adults, a childhood lost, adventure never found.
    They enjoy the taste of shit in their mouths, because they just don’t know what they’re tasting is shit.

    Comment by DD | February 16, 2009 | Reply

  3. “It reminded me once more that I was still an outsider, that I’d stepped out of this world for a short time, years ago, and somehow, my spot had filled in again while I was away…”

    Nicely put. There’s a huge bunch out there who could easily relate to what you are saying.

    Comment by Serendib_isle | February 19, 2009 | Reply

  4. Agree with Shelly and Serendib.

    I do believe that in your case David, being a soldier and a writer were callings. It was what you were supposed to be.

    ‘They were Sri Lankan, but they weren’t Sri Lanka. And again, just like me’

    Here, would like to humbly disagree. How would you define ‘Sri Lankana’?

    The average Pereas, Rajus, Mohammeds or Janzes are no longer ‘average’

    Their lives have also changed, in part due to the war. Just like yours was.

    Even with all our experiences, all these different ‘worlds’ that we were in, and were part of, there is something in us that binds us to this little island (yeah, yeah so its cliche, so hang me ;)))

    Who said love is rational? (ladies and gentlemen welcome to cliche friday!)

    In my case, the only way I could explain it is to say that my soul feels most spiritually sound, when I am home.

    Damn I wish I were more artsy, like those Barefoot people. Would have been nice to have to express myself better.

    This is why I like your Blog, helps to bring things up for self analysis. Oh yeah and the military analysis stuff.

    Cheers and keep writing. Think of yourself as that weird cousin who is in everyone’s family (if that helps) You might march to a different drum, but when the chips are down, you are still called ‘apey ekaa’

    Have a good weekend.
    Asanga

    Comment by Asanga | February 20, 2009 | Reply

  5. “wanted change in my country, just like they did. But I wasn’t them, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be again”

    to be honest david mate… this bit hurts me inside, (being to an international school during my time in sl; quite a bit of my friends are catholic and muslims)

    as someone said you with your literature manage to press buttons the carlesburg can’t get close to… as a sinhalese (who likes to think he’s a bit patriotic… expat being patriotic thats a bit contradictary?)
    i saw this video on youtube which struck me…
    it looked a bit like a 50 cent rap video but in sinhala… also the “crosses” these sinhala rappers were wearing gives me hope… nothing to do with religion in my part.. but it gives me hope when i see that some(hopefully more) christians(minorities) also do relate military victories as “their’s”. as Benjamin Franklin said “There was never a good war or a bad peace.”

    the thing is david i dont regurd this as my war(even though im from a lankan buddhist bakground)… i had no choice but to fight it… but am i to have a guilt about it? its very complex as far as i can say…
    as historyandwar (historyandwar.blogspot) said, “After all, the reasons wars are fought and the reasons people fight wars are often very different”

    keep writing… i’ll keep on reading. btw can i get hold of your book in uk?

    Comment by pandithaya | February 22, 2009 | Reply

  6. “Here, would like to humbly disagree. How would you define ‘Sri Lankana’?
    The average Pereas, Rajus, Mohammeds or Janzes are no longer ‘average’
    Their lives have also changed, in part due to the war. Just like yours was.”

    Asanga, I think we all define what it is to be Sri Lankan, on an individual basis. You don’t have to be average. As for what defines Sri Lanka, that’s a more complex question. Is Sri Lanka the sum of its parts, or the parts of its sum? Is Sri Lanka defined by its diversity, or by what that diversity appreciates? I can’t answer your questions, I can just add more questions.

    “the thing is david i dont regurd this as my war(even though im from a lankan buddhist bakground)… i had no choice but to fight it… but am i to have a guilt about it? its very complex as far as i can say…as historyandwar (historyandwar.blogspot) said, “After all, the reasons wars are fought and the reasons people fight wars are often very different””

    Pandithaya, I don’t think we have a choice about whether a war is ours or not, anymore than we have a choice if this government is ours, or this currency. If you are a Sri Lankan, it is your war. The choice (and you have it) is whether to fight or not. No one is forced to.

    You’re quite right in what you’ve quoted. I didn’t join the Army because I agreed with the war (though I did at the time). I joined because it was a war, and the only one I could get to.

    Comment by David Blacker | February 24, 2009 | Reply

  7. Pandithaya, if you’re in London, I know Foyles had my book, though I don’t know if it’s still in print. On the web, you can try http://www.offtheshelf.ch or http://www.srilankanbooks.com

    Comment by David Blacker | February 25, 2009 | Reply

  8. Interview Request

    Hello Dear and Respected,
    I hope you are fine and carrying on the great work you have been doing for the Internet surfers. I am Ghazala Khan from The Pakistani Spectator (TPS), We at TPS throw a candid look on everything happening in and for Pakistan in the world. We are trying to contribute our humble share in the webosphere. Our aim is to foster peace, progress and harmony with passion.

    We at TPS are carrying out a new series of interviews with the notable passionate bloggers, writers, and webmasters. In that regard, we would like to interview you, if you don’t mind. Please send us your approval for your interview at my email address “ghazala.khi at gmail.com”, so that I could send you the Interview questions. We would be extremely grateful.

    regards.

    Ghazala Khan
    The Pakistani Spectator
    http://www.pakspectator.com

    Comment by Ghazala Khan | March 6, 2009 | Reply

  9. David – completely off topic but I was watching Anthony Bourdain’s show No Reservations the other night…was that you they called to explain how Arrack is made at the DBU?

    Comment by concentric | March 8, 2009 | Reply

  10. Thanks, Ghazala. I’ll be in touch.

    Concentric, no, wasn’t me.

    Comment by David Blacker | March 8, 2009 | Reply


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