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The faceless ‘Rada’ of Sri Lanka

4 years ago

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By Angela Seneviratne Greetings with my Country Canter this week. Let me take you lovely people to the irksome divisions of creed, faith, and caste in our exotic but tiny island. If anyone had any sense, we would be one body of one people, but as we have ‘I’, we are not. Who said we are united? We are as dissected as meat in a casserole of Irish stew. We know our predominant ethnicities – the Sinhalese, Tamils, Moors, Muslims, Indian Tamils, Malays, Burghers, and yes, even Chinese. The faiths being Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Bahá'í, and a small segment worshipping Sathya Sai Baba’s religion of love. We have a handful of atheists as well. We then subdivide the Sinhala race to its castes…beginning with the pre-British period where there were only four – mainly the Raja, Bamunu, Velenda, and Govi – which prevailed throughout the feudal period, and right down the ages to even the 18th Century in the British/Kandyan period to the end of the Sri Lanka’s monarchy. As everywhere, Sri Lanka’s caste can be functional, religious, ethnic, and tribal to even composite in origin. The Sinhalese caste system is divided again between the Kandyan and low country. The connection of caste and job is strong in most areas. The Govigama are generally considered the high class, and below them are the menial labourers such as the Hena or Rada – the traditional washermen who still dominate the laundry trade. I will not go deep into the various other sub divisions of castes at this time, as the job is what matters to me metaphorically. The term “one must not wash dirty linen in public” is what comes to mind when the very common trait of speaking ill of people is resorted to by people of all walks of life, no matter what their upbringing is. Somehow, they all adapt themselves to the Rada caste and make it their (pre) occupation. A new method of airing laundry is on social media – on Facebook. They think it is classy to post a status that could be read by everyone except the one it is directed at, as it will teach them a lesson! I found a quote somewhere that stuck in my brain a long while. “Putting another woman down is like telling the world that you are more worried about your ‘competition’ than your own progress.” How true that is? If the flak is by another woman. But what if it is originating from a man? Or a man masquerading as a woman? What does one call them then? The extents that some people go to demean another is almost unbelievable. Reputations are shredded; character is minced into a gooey unrecognisable pulp. It is sad how some people are so jealous and intimidated by another’s existence that they only have negative things to say when they know absolutely nothing about them. I read with great sadness of the vicious comments made about my friends in show business, in the media, those who have achieved glory through sheer hard work, and felt so disappointed that there were actual Radas sitting at their keyboards typing away vile words of malice. There is an unfortunate reaction to these negative remarks that I wish was not existent. People will always question all the good things they hear about a person who hits the limelight, but will believe all the bad without a second thought. Why does that happen? There was a faceless Rada and his partner of sorts – coincidently named after a bar of soap – who aided and abetted in ripping known personalities apart, I suppose for their own vicarious thrills, but exposing their own ill-bred vile thoughts on public forum for many to disapprove of. Talk about the occupations of some! Till next time then…

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