A hectic few days…

What can I say, it’s been an interesting time. We had the almsgiving for my grandfather‘s 3 month funeral anniversary. While this may seem a little inappropriate, I have to comment that I managed to fail hopelessly at my allotted task of helping out as a close relative. My mother’s cousins’ daughters were, however, ruthlessly efficient machines when it came to preparing the ceremony. They packaged, served and prepared with professional zeal. Whenever I volunteered my services they had “already finished” or I was more hindrance than help. It disappoints me also that I have forgotten a lot of the traditional ritual-type stuff. I had to be corrected several times on my actions. I feel a bit hopeless, really.

It was not a particularly solemn ceremony (though, nor was it celebratory in mood). On the night beforehand, many relatives (but not all) arrived. Several monks chanted Buddhist scripture in Pali (an ancient language), we took the five precepts and one of the monks gave a sermon. From what little I could gather, it seemed to be partially about the dangers of materialism and pop culture, which seemed particularly inappropriate as my grandfather was 91 and quite obviously not interested in hip-hop, metal or the like. He was also fairly verbose- I prefer my monks pithy, and with more interesting philosophical points. After the monks left, we had dinner.

The next day, all of the relatives who were attending arrived. Most of my mother’s cousins and their families were present (as well as closer relatives) and even 2 representatives from my father’s family came. Preparations were continuing in earnest. There was a short recitation of scripture, we took the 5 precepts once more, and the most senior monk spoke a little about my grandfather and his life. After they had been served and offered their meals, there was a small ritual that is done whenever a death is marked. A small vessel was placed on a plate. All of the close relatives- my uncles, aunts, cousins, grandmother and myself- slowly poured water into this vessel, as the monk chanted. The water trickled and filled the vessel, slowly, until finally it overflowed onto the plate. In a way I suppose one can think of life as being similar to this- it fills slowly, and as you age, tension within your body and soul rise until finally there is that spilling over. Death.

We ate afterwards. I spoke with many of my relatives- many of whom I could not remember save recognising their faces. To be fair, I have only met most of my mother’s cousins on possibly 2 or 3 other occasions in recent memory- at my cousin Pubudini’s wedding, and at my grandfather’s 90th birthday.

I also met one of the neighbours of the uncle (Punchi Mama = mother’s younger brother) who I am staying with. He was a doctor. And boy was he the slightest bit of a tool. He asked me how many distinctions I had.
“Well, seeing how they only allocate 4 of these per year in our year level of 250, I would say… none.”
Heh. That felt good. Well, kind of. People have been telling me all week about how I should be planning my specialisation right now. I tell them, usually, though in less coarse language, that I can’t be arsed right now. Honestly, my love for medicine is at some kind of dire abyssal nadir (dig those words, man). Pubudini asked me what my plans were, and I said something along the lines of working for a couple of years, trying to finish writing 2 novels and then travelling. And suddenly, as simple as that, I knew it was true.

I have been feeling a nice feeling of contentment, rightness and peace since of late. A feeling of elation, and joy of living. It is the way that I have been feeling for much of the year, but that I had abruptly lost somewhere in the mid-year. I thought that this sublime feeling of grace and simple happiness was lost to me, and this depressed me further. And yet. It has crept up on me once more. An ability to see the good in the world and to sense what is true and right. Taoists would explain this as living “the Way”, and I would perfectly agree with this. It feels right to be where I am, doing what I am doing right now, being who I am.

I “began” my elective today. There was much rushing around, trying to find various departments. After obtaining a letter and my temporary student ID we finally found our way to the Consultant Physician. She was seeing patients in the most overcrowded out-patients I have ever seen in my life. People had barely a space to sit amongst the throng. There must have been a good 200 people in there. I finally got a chance to speak to her. Unsurprisingly, I was shafted to Community Medicine, as this is the holidays for the clinical students. Community Medicine really is “HP [health practice] in Sri Lanka“. We’re with the 3rd year kids, who are pre-clinical. I’ve met the other elective student here, who is from Canada. She seems pretty cool. Apparently this elective is slack as, because of the non-teaching period (and also because Community Health is really mornings-only). I anticipate many days spent down in Kandy sipping a latte (if I can find one). So. Community Medicine for a week, then General Medicine for the other 3 weeks. Right. Hopefully I’ll get to see some cool stuff when the other students are back (in 2 weeks).

I have free internet access! I’m sitting in the medical faculty computer room (or “e-library”). In socks. Very quietly. Because not only do we need to remove our shoes for some bizarre reason, but we are also not allowed to make any noise. Just now we got sent a warning because the Canadian girl and I were being too loud. It’s a bloody computer lab for crying out loud! Honestly! Interestingly, the University of Peradeniya has possibly the only dedicated broadband line in Kandy, through the Engineering Faculty. Everyone else uses dial-up. I was convinced that broadband would be accessible for free at the University, but no-one else believed me. Oh well. It pays to be proven right.

So, evidently my life has gotten fairly interesting, possibly to get more boring very soon. I hope I’ll be able to find more books to read in the meantime- Nietzsche can be a bit heavy for 8 in the morning.

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