- PRO:JECT 2013.02 Memory Keeper
- Anoli Perera
I am the ‘memory keeper.’ I have become a memory keeper because I was born wedged between the sun set of one era and dawn of another. Existing between eras is to live in a liminal space where people forget to keep records because they are eager to forget the past and move on to the future. Therefore, the last vestiges of the previous era and the transition itself, become insignificant moments and footnotes of history, not worth remembering in the larger contexts of events. They only become important in the nostalgias of people like me who don’t belong to the histories of either era because we happened to be born in between times, in a moment of liminality. So we need a space of comfort for ourselves, a space we find entrenched within the nostalgias and memories of moments in our lives which for many people have become insignificant and mundane …So now I am grasping for and committing to memory those moments and incidents that for many people would be insignificant details …they are insignificant because they have ceased to be important to them amidst many other things in live.
My parents grew up in an era that had missionary schools, convents, and a Governor General who hoisted the British imperial flag and sang very loudly “god save the queen.” Natives were called ‘Ceylonese’ then. They grew up leaning English, the language of the British Raj, acquiring part of a civilization sensibility of a ‘grander world’…. a world of ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’ with Oxbridge accents. I remember our annual holidays spent in my grandfather’s house, under the constant gaze of King George and Queen Mary in their regal grandeur looking down from a great big portrait hung in the dining room. It only came down after the house was sold off in the early 1980s…nearly 40 years after our independence from Britain in 1948, …From being Ceylonese we became ‘Sri Lankans’ in 1972… truly an independent nation and not a stone in the British crown. We ‘Non Aligned’ ourselves with some and ‘aligned’ with others. We also closed our economy to many, nationalizing this and that. Rationing of bread started…Rationing of rice and many others also started. That’s what people would say about the decade of the 70s. 1977 is the year we stopped staying in queues for a loaf of bread. 1977 is also the year the ‘Chicken in a Biskit, the imported salty crackers loaded with MSG hit the market ending the frugal era. The frugalities of the time were soon forgotten amidst the Pizza Huts, McDonalds and satellite television. It was an era of veritable globalization and McDonaldization. By the end of 1979 we had lost the Burghers who by that time had migrated en-masse to Australia, and by 1983 we lost the Tamils…literally and metaphorically. With that came 30 years of fighting…fighting for land..fighting for pride…fighting for what was lost…what we lost was our innocence and our common sense… we, for sure lost the trust. Then it stopped …Soon the pain and what was lost might well be forgotten too…amnesia sets in….People want to move on. I keep memories for posterity …