poitu varam

THE CHRONICLES OF A FLEDGLING MISSIONARY CALLED JOLLYBEGGAR "i still gaze fondly at all of the pictures, drink ginger beer, bunch my food, listen to punjabi dj tunes, play my dholki, wear my sarong (around the house only because in canada it is still really uncommon for a man to wear a wraparound skirt in public) and speak way too much of the differences between east and west..."

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

dolkies, drunks and dramatic conclusions

august 17: wednesday: day 8 (part 4)

as part of the vespers service (which was typically in tamil and sinhala) antony included some english singing... traditional songs like there is power in the blood etc... which allowed me, for one, to feel very much part of the fellowship.

added to lazarus' guitar accompaniment and the collective voices and natural percussion of the people as they sang was a cool sounding drum played by prince, jay's son (that's the three of us above- you can probably tell who's who... i hope everyone reading appreciates the trouble i went to to make my face the the blocks on prince's dolkie match the colour scheme of this blog... in order to accomplish this i had to hold my breath while smiling- no small task!) this drum, the likes of which i'd seen in the tourist market shops of negombo, was essentially conical in shape, having a small skin on one end and a large one on the other. it was called a dolkie and was played sideways, allowing the player to keep a high cadence on the tighter, smaller skin while punctuating the meter with the looser, larger skin. the percussion that prince added was brilliant, having that familiar swing and swagger that much of the punjabi dj stuff on the radio (and on my bend it like beckham cd) features.

i found that the extra instrument really added another dimension to the worship singing, introducing greater polyrhythmic possibilities. most intriguing were prince's fills... they always came unexpectedly and were delivered in ways that were clearly natural here and very foreign to my western sense of timing and emphasis. i resolved myself to somehow bringing one home with me.

it would be really cool to hear my friends in the west singing 'avi ya navare' but somehow i doubt that that's going to happen.

(a word about faith and presumption: i wrote this sentence in my journal, believing completely in the truth of the statement. however, within a month we were singing the song in a church service back home with, among other things, dolkie accompaniment. these things don't happen as long as you live in agreement with the sulphurous lies of faithlessness breathed into the hearts of the faithful by the staff of hell... only in embracing impossibilities does one see the possibilities of the will of Almighty God...)

prayers were also introduced in english ('now we will pray for our countries') before continuing in tamil and sinhala.

following vespers, there was an impromptu (at least it wasn't part of the initial plan for the evening drafted up by the ministry centre) youth program- similar to the final pagaents of our familiy camps. it involved a drama about the tsunami...

drama here appeared to be more of a reenactment of life than a skit put on for a laugh. this collective creation had a series of episodes:

  • a church service, complete with two full worship songs having dolkie accompaniment and a full sermon preached by prince. in this episode, the people ignore the word.
  • at the bar, the boys are drinking and staggering around- now these are all peachers' kids in real life, so to see them staggering around with their ginger beer bottles was pretty fun in and of itself- until a warning comes on the phone of the coming tsunami. the guy who answers looks into the group of drunks and says "sue nami is coming... anybody here know this sue nami?" ( i just about died- these young people have never seen the simpsons, yet these bad phone jokes are all over the world!)
  • the pastor preaches but the people continue to look preoccupied.
  • the pastor comes to preach in the bar, but he gets beaten up and thrown into the street.
  • tsunami comes- the teens run a lap of the auditorium screaming (and laughing of course because running screaming through an auditorium is fun no matter what part of the world you are in)
  • final chapter: the people now fall down crying before the pastor- "pastor save us; we will listen- we need Jesus! give us Jesus!"

as i think upon this, i marvel at the piece's sublimity. there are two significant imes of imprinting in life... early infancy and early adolescence. the difference is that, in early adolescence, the imprinting time is remembered and the memories are vivid. this group will remember tsunami more than those oldern than them and those younger than them. these memories will shape the world that they eventually lead.

it was only eight months earlier that roberts' oldest son, jesuthas, was hired to clear bodies off the beach of batticaloa using a cart much like the guy in the holy grail who is loading away plague victims. the capacity of jesuthas' cart was thirteen bodies/load... he put his best friend on the cart. he was twenty now- only nineteen then.

the evening wound up with more games and skits and other things that had the same warmth and laughter of the last night of family camp back home. it felt like this was the night that everybody stayed up late because we were on the eve of the last day together. tomorrow would be the ordination service and many goodbyes.


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