ok, i’m not going to say anything stupid today. Today’s Amma’s birthday. I always called her Amma or Ammi, but her name’s Sujata Gamage. She kept her family name, cause it’s a good name.
Her father was Gamage Don David and her mother was Gamage Dona Nandani. They used the Portuguese naming system. Amma’s house was on top of the hill at the village of Kitulgoda, but she spent most of the year boarding at Museaus in Colombo. I think my cousin Senuri is going there now.
When Amma was born the family’s fortunes began to rise, so they all call her Mannik, Gem. Amma was super smart, she had the highest O-Level score in Sri Lanka and one of the highest on the A-Levels. She met ThaTha, Rohan Samarajiva, at University of Sri Lanka. I still have a book of their photos. I can imagine what they were thinking at that time, I can imagine their lives before me. Almost, not really. She’s always my Amma first.
Amma always worked hard and she did well in school, while ThaTha was playing around with the heady student politics of the late 60s. I think Amma was student body President though, I’m remembering through people, and not very clearly. Amma got a Science Degree and came to University of British Columbia to study Chemistry. Amma got her Ph.D. I used to just take that for granted, but it’s pretty awesome. That’s where her and Tha had me (he was studying at Simon Fraser University).
So that’s where I kinda start to remember. Not really. My first strong memories are of Columbus, Ohio. I just remember being happy and self-absorbed and my mom taking care of me and Anu and Subu. I don’t ever remember her getting mad at me. I remember she used to always have apples and water in her bag if we went anywhere. I just remember never worrying about nothing, and now that I’ve been out in the world, I don’t even understand how her and ThaTha did that. Now that my friends and I talk about kids without laughing I can sort of imagine what an immense undertaking that is. Like, it amazes me.
ThaTha was teaching at Ohio State, but then he got work as Director General of Telecom in Sri Lanka, and took it. So Amma was raising me the weirded out teenager and my sisters, and working. But I always had an amazing Sri Lankan dinner everday, and I had breakfast, and I had money in my pocket and it was all good. And when I was going through some hard times Amma was there to support me and smack my ass out of self-pity when I needed it.
When I moved to Montreal the family dispersed too. Amma and the girls went to Washington DC where she was working some job I don’t quite understand, researching the effectiveness of University Education (using hard-core statistical tools). Tha was commuting between Sri Lanka and the States . Which is about as fun as it sounds. But Amma held it down at home. Finally, she and the girls moved back to Sri Lanka last year, bout this time. I think it’s good for us. I actually feel like I’m going home this Christmas, and I never felt that. Amma’s working as the Director General of Tertiary Education for Sri Lanka. Primary, Secondary, Tertiary. It’s concerns all the post-high school stuff besides University. So, the Law College, Computer Schools, Trades Schools, etc. I think. As always, I don’t really understand my parents’ job titles. Amma seems to like it. She said she’s bossing people around, which I can’t even picture her doing. She is smart as hell. She knows the database and information processing nitty-gritty stuff, and she can think broadly, so I’m sure they’re doing good work. I’m super proud of her. This is a paper her and Tha wrote together, which explains a little bit about me.
Last time I saw Amma was in July. Amma and Tha were only in town for a few days… and I feel like I messed up their accomodations, but I’ve done all kinds of stupid stuff in the past, and probably will in the future. But my parents still love me. I remember when I was young they never punished me cause they were mad, they just wanted to make sure I learned. The only time they got mad was if I hadn’t learned anything. I also remember I used to always say ‘I’m Sorry’ and not mean it at all and Amma would call me out on that. Anyways, she’s awesome.
When I talk to Amma I realize how crazy smart and kind and beautiful she is. She got me to sit my squirmy ass down and meditate when I was really young, and encouraged me to go to that monastery in West Virginia. Which has helped me a lot in my life. Plus the birth, food, education, clothing, etc.
So, I appreciate it. There’s nothing I can do really, I don’t even know the phone number or the address in Sri Lanka cause we do everything over the Net. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do. I don’t even understand how you can take another person and raise them and clean up after them, get hurt by them all the time, feed them, educate them, just love them so much. I don’t even understand. But I appreciate it.