• Piyumi Kapugeekiyana

An informed vote

There are some downsides that come with being part of the Sri Lankan Diaspora. You miss out on truly knowing your roots, you get to see your grandma only once a year, you find yourself confused about identity, and at some point, you begin to see your country through the lens of a foreigner.

It's now been 5 years since I moved to Sri Lanka. Initially, I must confess I thought a lot about leaving. After all, it's what everyone seems to think you should do. They point to the paltry salaries, the rotten politics, the miserable traffic, the rampant poverty, the seasonal blood lust, the many wounds and fissures. (As if the rest of the world was unblemished.)

Maybe they don't feel the avenue of lush trees down Thurstan road. The verdant hills of the highlands. The colors and sounds of Pettah. The joy from that familiar strain of baila. The smell of fallen leaves in a bonfire. The comfort of growing older with people you've known all your life. The wonder in how we imbibe from and interact with our many diverse cultures and histories. The messiness of life here is beautiful in its own right. But it's incredibly easy to take for granted.

Lately, I've thought a lot about staying. Having wandered for most of my life, there's nothing quite like having a place you can call home. A place where you can belong.

But in order to truly belong to a place, one must learn to ditch the lens of a foreigner. Oddly enough, I've discovered that you don't even need to be relatively 'new' to Sri Lanka to view the land like a foreigner. It's easy for even lifelong citizens to live on the periphery. To be so consumed with the events of their personal lives that the broader context ceases to matter.

I think we need to be quick to spot that tendency to complacency and challenge ourselves to care. If we call Sri Lanka our home, we cannot afford to stay on the sidelines. For all those who read this, please take the time to do your research, make an informed choice and go out to vote this Saturday. Question your biases, remedy the areas of limited understanding, listen to divergent perspectives and ask yourself what would be best for your country. As someone who could not register to vote until very recently, I urge you not to squander any opportunity to exercise your franchise. So long as you are fit to go out and cast your ballot, it's the very least you can do for your country.


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