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Where the mind is without fear

What will I miss most if I leave Sri Lanka? After much deep and soul-searching introspection I realized that it would be the set of family values preached by the first family. Suthirto Patranobis writes.

world Updated: Jul 13, 2011 01:17 IST

What will I miss most if I leave Sri Lanka? After much deep and soul-searching introspection I realized that it would be the set of family values preached by the first family.

Specifically, the way the family has tried to inculcate these values in the rest of the country.

Say, by staying united in the control of 94 government ministries and departments ranging from the zoo to the powerful and disciplined military.

How, for example, economic development for the whole of Sri Lanka including the Tamil-dominated north and the more demographically equitable east can’t be steered, fortunately I’d say, other then by the family.

Then, I will miss the way the huge and magnanimous cutouts of the dynasty members adorn junctions, instilling a sense of security and stability.

If this could happen to an Indian, I daresay, Lankans would easily be more beholden. Every country needs a hero in times of crisis; not many countries had or probably will have the joyful option of choosing among many during and for years after a crisis.

How will I not miss the LKR 1000 currency note with a smiling president Mahinda Rajapaksa on one side and soldiers with Mongoloid features hoisting the Lankan flag Iwo Jima-style on the other side? I intend to keep one as an heirloom.

Reacting to a recent story I wrote on an allegedly fake, doctored, bilingual documentary on war crimes, an Indian doctor used probably Tagore’s most quoted line: “Where the mind is without fear.” Journalists, for one, operate here without an iota of it. Those who have been harassed, thrashed, jailed or killed must have practiced a brand of journalism that was suspect.

Most politicians too operate here in an atmosphere free of fear. Some call it operating with a total lack of accountability.

But how, for example, can you tie up an erring official to a tree for taking a day’s leave if a politician has to explain this kind of perfectly sane behaviour?

And for the record, contrary to the title of this column, I have been sleeping very soundly here watching all sorts of soothing dreams about dictators, state terror, ruthless insurgents and hollow, haunting innocent faces caught in crossfire not of their making. Can’t say I’ll miss that too much though.