A Sinhala font I once wrote, without knowing the language at all
Was on my way to exile when the fuzz pulls me over. De rigeur, bien sur. Knock the stereo off, playing Justice D.A.N.C.E. Put the thing in park and get out the car, cause it’s always better to stand and face them. As a measure of respect for one, and cause they often lean over for a kiss. Or to smell your breath for booze. Strange custom, that midnight snog. The pea soups are smiling and I wonder why. Then I realize. It’s the damn calendars. I put them in the back seat and the cops can see January plain as day. So he asks me about work, and the social capital. I smile that I understand his Sinhala and say, à¶¸à¶¸ à¶‘à¶šà¶šà·Š à¶°à·™à¶± à¶´à·”à¶½à·”à·€à¶±à·Š, in my deeply stilted Sinhala, of course. à¶°à·™à¶±à·™à¶šà·Š à¶‰à¶±à·Šà¶±à·€ he says. So I give him two calendars. One cause he’s holding my license, and two cause I’m just so happy that I understand that he’s saying ‘dennek’ instead of ‘dekak’ because it refers to people and not things. Because I’ve been taking Sinhala classes. And it’s nice knowing just a little bit of, ostensibly, my native tongue.
I’ve lived here for three years without speaking a lick, but now I feel like I have to. Not cause the situation or national pride or whatever. I know people who’ve lived here their entire lives and speak English, and I think that’s fine. I think the country needs more English, not less. For the simple reason that it means a better education and job prospects for our youth. I’ve noticed at work that there’s a pretty clear split. The management levels all speak and conduct business in English, while the level below doesn’t. I’ve literally been in meetings where you can see the split. Reports’ll go around in English, and then one guy – on the cusp – speaks in Sinhala. Everybody responds in Sinhala, but come the next guy it’s back to English. But anyways, the reason I’m taking Sinhala classes is that there are people I need to work with that I can’t talk to, and I need to sort that out. So I guess there’s an economic incentive or whatever, but mainly I’m tired of just smiling at people when I need to give them concrete briefs and understand and encourage their ideas.
So I’m sitting in the British Council, the only one in shirt and tie. I got this pants made at the tailors and they’re too short. Feel like Michael Jackson and I cross my feet nervously. à¶”à¶º à¶¸à·œà¶± à¶»à¶à·™à¶±à·Šà¶¯? is one of the practice questions. Mama Lankaveh, I say (that’s too hard to type in the phonetic unicoder). As odd as it is, and as I am, I say I’m Sri Lankan. I guess I mean it.