While doing the daily roundups for Global Voices today, I chanced upon this lovely post at the The Lolly DJ on a grandfather who landed in Sri Lanka 65 years ago. The piece is so well-written and goes well with the wonderfully lyrical title – “Inheriting Colombo.”
To understand his stories, you have to understand the world he was coming from, and how it made him understand the one he suddenly found himself in. He was young, so young, and had lied about his age at the army recruiting station so he could be accepted. Like most of his regiment, he had never before left home. Never travelled outside of the city of his birth. Australia in the 1940s was provincial and quiet, and still saw itself very much as a distant outpost of the British Empire. The White Australia Policy- restricting immigration of people from outside Britain- was resolutely in place. He would have seen very few people in his whole life who spoke a different language, or had dark skin.
There are photos in the foyer of the Galle Face Hotel, framed sepias of the building in its grounds throughout the past. It stands alone, at first, wide and white between the sea and a single palm, one rickshaw ambling past. I scan them all for a glimpse of my grandfather’s city, but the images stop in the 1930s. Still, walking through the ballrooms and the bar, I can imagine him here on day leave, almost. Thin and dapper in his uniform, drinking gin and ginger beer with his mates, as the band played The White Cliffs of Dover; songs of a motherland that really wasn’t his. But even this must be fiction.
On some days, you come across such sheer brilliance – this overlapping of self with history, of cities with wars, of images with memory, and suddenly realize that this is what perhaps good blogging, or even writing supposed to do to you. Make you, for some time, sink into someone else’s life.