9 April, Dunedin, New Zealand

I spoke to my father’s sarong on the morning of the 9th. It was my birthday, the first after Thaththa died. Growing up, my sister and I never celebrated our birthdays with parties. We never went to any either. I cannot recall what my sister got for hers, but I almost always got a book or, in the 80s, the exciting prospect of going to Lake House in Colombo in Thaththa’s Datsun to buy one. With Akasa Kade and the pittu bambuwa (as Archchi, my grandmother, called it) the only high-rises in a city that then carried many scars of suicide bombings as well as the bheeshana yugaya, this excursion to an elite, concrete landscape was the best birthday present I could imagine – an escape into an alien city in which we could as a family only afford to buy a book, followed by a hotdog at Elephant House Cafe. That was it. Every year, before and after this fantastic trip, I was left to my own devices, voraciously reading what had been gifted, or treating it like any other day. At University, when I was more distant, a very brief call on my birthday (in the days when IDD calls were in triple digits and billed by the minute), registered Thaththa’s and Amma’s wishes. After WhatsApp, and in the years just before his death, we talked more but always around the same formula. He would wish me awkwardly, and then ask my mother to carry on the conversation. That was it. That was our relationship.

Excerpt from submission to the lockdown journal. Read it in full here.


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