Four years after Tsunami 2004 : Your smiles are ours

Posted on December 26, 2008  /  1 Comments


Four years to history, ‘Your tears are mine’ (see below) was my reaction to Asian tsunami. Reproduced in multiple sites, it was recited once in a remembrance event. Though written more in a Sri Lankan context, let me pick it again today, to remember all 225,000 lives lost, in the worst tsunami in recent history – that caused vast damage to four countries LIRNEasia closely works in, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and India.

Not my every wish was granted. The aftermath of tsunami, instead of creating a division-free society demonstrated how pathetically the disparities were amplified. Still the humanity did not collapse on December 2004. We did not let tsunami block our way.

Four years later, having completed the recovery process, most tsunami victimized societies stand on their own feet with smiles. Add to is the good news of new found disaster readiness. Not without issues (We have seen enough weaknesses during cyclone Nargis), but certainly better than what was four years ago. At least we receive false alarms. One may say, malfunctioning traffic lights are worse than not having them, but let us be positive. Now we have the technology in place in most of the cases, the question is only fine-tuning.

LIRNEasia, is glad to play its role. Disaster readiness has been one of key focus areas in our research. Our HazInfo project evaluated the suitability of five ICTs deployed in varied conditions in the last mile of a national disaster warning system for Sri Lanka and possibly by extension to other developing countries. In the current research cycle, one Mobile 2.0 @ BOP competent, looks at how Cell Broadcasting can be used in early warning. We have also joined hands with others varying from World Bank to Lanka Software Foundation (LIRNEasia assisted developing one module of Sahana – the much talked FOSS based Disaster Management system) and Telecom Authority of the Maldives to Sarvodaya, in numerous activities to make Asian societies more disaster resilient.

This explains the title. Your smiles are ours.


Your tears are mine; so are your dreams

Mothers, fathers, sisters,
brothers, sons and daughters,
Forgive us,
for burying you, unidentified,
in this unmarked grave
It’s a funeral without rites,
alas, we do not have any priests
Sans pānsukula too,
not even a piece of white cloth is left;
The sea enraged,
had swallowed all we had,
except our humanity and courage
So let us leave you here,
in the middle of this barren land,
that bears no fruits

Dear mothers and fathers,
We never asked,
whether you were Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslims
Did it bother us,
whether you were Buddhists, Christians or Hindus?
For we know,
that matters no more
Did the tsunamis care?
so why should we do?
We all know once you were humans,
as much as we all are
We also know,
once you had pleasant and ambitious dreams,
concealed in the deepest corners of your hearts,
like we all have
Don’t we know,
that you loved to be loved and to enjoy life?
Don’t we all?

Dear brothers and sisters,
Forgive us,
for these humble rites,
because that’s what we can afford right now

Dear sons and daughters,
Forgive us,
for leaving you here alone and cold,
in this unmarked grave
For we have more important tasks to do,
for you all
Can we let all of you die in vain?
Don’t we have to prove,
that you scarified your lives for a united land,
that does not differentiate humans,
by their race, creed, class or caste?
Don’t we have to prove one day that we can – and will,
fulfill your own dreams,
for a land of eternal peace,
that no tsunami can ever reduce to rubble?
Rest in peace sweet princes and princesses,
We are not going to give up that dream

Your dreams are now ours,
and the day we achieve them,
is now closer than you ever thought

Chanuka Wattegama
December 31, 2004

1 Comment

  1. Chanuka,

    Many thanks for reminding us of your beautiful, thoughtful verse. You should try your hand in creative writing more often!

    Your verse resonates with one I wrote myself, responding to the same tragedy that overwhelmed all of us. Called ‘When the Waves Came’, it remains the only verse I’ve published. Here’s an extract:

    Government soldiers
    On land and at sea
    Hoping to protect motherland
    From enemies known and unknown
    Armed to their teeth
    Trained to contain “situations”
    Had no chance in Hell
    When the cruel seas unleashed
    Forces they’d never imagined.

    Rebels or freedom fighters
    Call them whatever you will
    Found themselves engulfed
    By the very same waves
    Ruthless, indiscriminate
    Not one bit sympathetic
    To their cause, or their struggle.

    They’ve been locked in for too long
    In an unwinnable war
    For bits and pieces of land
    For supremacy, sovereignty
    And the right of self governance.
    Did these noble ideals
    And protracted negotiations
    Offer any protection
    When the waves came?

    Good or bad, guilty or innocent —
    they are all equal now.

    As we in the aftermath tiptoe
    Through endless depressing scenes
    Of death and utter devastation
    Can we tell the difference
    Between Sinhala and Tamil,
    Or Muslim and Burgher,
    Or soldier and rebel
    Or policeman and prisoner
    Or rich and poor?

    Good or bad, guilty or innocent —
    they are all equal now.

    Does it matter now, really,
    If the dead and departed
    Prayed at the temple, kovil or church
    Voted UNP, PA or JVP
    And on which side of the law
    Or morality they stood?

    The full verse is found at:

    The story behind this verse is explained at: