When Worlds Collide #76: Against the Fall of Memory…

When Worlds Collide, by Nalaka Gunawardene

Text of my ‘When Worlds Collide’ column published in Ceylon Today Sunday broadsheet newspaper on 28 July 2013

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“I’m everything you lost. You won’t forgive me. 

My memory keeps getting in the way of your history.”

So wrote Agha Shahid Ali (1949 – 2001), Kashmiri-American poet, in a famous poem called “Farewell” where he grappled with memories and histories that were both intertwined and warring.

This has been a week of reminiscences, mostly unpleasant or outright horrific, relating to Sri Lanka’s worst communal riots of July 1983. People from across the ethnic spectrum have recalled, in public media, a range of emotions they experienced — from trauma and anguish to shame and helplessness. This mosaic of collective memories is part of the legacy of Black July.

Memories matter, at both private and public levels. But not everyone agrees on the cathartic value of memories. A few argue…

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