It was a Black Sunday for Sri Lanka. The LTTE had staged another daring air raid, this time in the capital city of Colombo. The Sri Lankan cricket team had lost the prestigious World Cup finals at Barbados by a whisker. And by a strange coincidence, the two tragedies had struck simultaneously!
And yet, Sri Lankans were unperturbed.
The ear-splitting noise of the aerial bombs and the boom of scores of anti-aircraft guns firing simultaneously, had created no panic.
The air raid, the first since Japanese bombers struck Colombo on April 5, 1942, did nothing to prevent the people of the city from going back to their TV sets, once the hour-long black-out was lifted!
Such is the pull of cricket in Sri Lanka.
Of course, the fact that there was no news on the TV channels about the air attack had contributed to the nonchalance.
"It was sad, no?" said a friend over the phone as dawn broke. Thinking that it was about the air raid, I launched a monologue about how Colombans would now have to face threats from the skies in addition to suicide bombers on the roads. But the friend cut me short and said: "I'm taking about cricket my dear!"
"If only Sanath and Sangakkara had made more runs and the bowlers had bowled better!" he rued.
The danger from the skies had not dampened the enthusiasm of the early morning walking brigade, which had taken to the streets as usual. And the dominant subject in the incessant chatter these middle aged men indulged in was the Battle in Barbados and not the new threat from the Flying Tigers.
Expression of disappointment was universal. But there was equanimity too. There was no collective breast beating, no theatrical expression of grief, no anger to be vented on any object, be it a bus, car or house.
"People were both disappointed and pleased about the match, " explained M.W.Sundara, a Buddhist activist. "Disappointed, because it was within our reach, and pleased, because the Aussies had failed to humiliate us," she said.
All said that the Australians played brilliantly and deserved to win.
Advertising executive Malinda Seneviratne attributed the "equanimity" of the reaction to the cricket result and to the air raid to Buddhism, the religion of 75% of Sri Lanka' population.
Buddhism teaches the adoption of balance in everything, the Middle Path. It also teaches that nothing is permanent and everything is transient. Today's victor could be tomorrow's vanquished.
"Sri Lankans are also used to loosing," Seneviratne added. So while victories are relished, defeats are taken in the stride.