Thursday, March 14, 2013

IPB Alumni: Indrajit Gunaskeara

 I must tell you bit about my time here in Sri Lanka for last 6 months…
After my mother’s departure, I’m currently staying in Galle, Southern
Sri Lanka in her village with my 2 aunties.  Yes… there are cobras.
I’ve seen a big one (6-8ft) invisibly wandering around my garden
trying to ambush birds’ nests.  Whenever I see him I tell him “you go
your way, I’ll go my way” I’m sure he’ll tell “sorry to be appear in
your site—peace.”

A few weeks ago I sat with a group of the village community
members including 3 Buddhist monks for a mediation session where I
noticed a conflict growing underneath the quiet village atmosphere.
Two groups stand with separate opinions about the village temple,
thus dividing the village and Buddhist monks into two groups. I didn’t
grow up in this village but I have been here from time to time. My
Grandpa (who passed away 3 years ago) was the village medicine man and
a well-respected elder.  There for, as his grandson, I had some room
to get into this issue where both parties expected me to be on their
side and were telling me that if my Grandpa was alive what he would
do in their imagination.  I met with each key member on both sides and
convinced them to meet together.  A month ago on a Saturday afternoon,
we all sat down and I led the meeting with ground rules.  I changed
a rule you taught me; I told them this is not a confidential meeting
so they can tell anyone what we talked about, unless we all agreed to
not to tell some points.  I walked them through the bottom layer of
the pyramid bringing back their hearts into peace and letting the
Buddhist monks take the lead by bringing their own teachings. Nothing is
solved yet, but it’s enabled the villagers that ignored each other in
public to greet and carry out friendly conversations as they did many
years ago. During the mediation, I told them about my Guru who
taught me this practice. As soon as I introduced Chad Ford to the circle,
the conversation took a different dimension exactly like Chad was
there! Instead of their conflict, they wanted to know more about my
Guru, what Chad does, why he teaches such a subject like peace building,
is he married and have how many children, if he would like to eat our
foods, and so on. By the way if you ever come here, many of them
including the head monk in the village temple wanted to let you know
that you can stay there and wanted to make sure you will get enough
rotties to eat.

Also, I’m volunteering with the main Deaf organization in Sri Lanka,
Sri Lanka Central Federation for the Deaf. It is really heart breaking
to see how deaf people are being treated here with no legal rights.
I’m providing them with strategic help using peace building tools
(including the pyramid). So they can become a strong organization
with the support from national and international groups.  We are
designing a “Sign Language Act” to get parliament approval to get the
legal right to use sign language as the language of the deaf.  Also,
the Church is really small here with only 3 branches and each branch
with 50 to 100 active members. It’s really humbling to see the
sacrifice of the Church leaders here. One of the members in my branch
presidency is a medical doctor who resigned from his government job
with all the perks just to keep working in a private clinic to make
enough for living, so he can take the Church responsibilities and do
everything on time.  It’s a 6 +hrs. trip for me to get to the Church
and I feel the sprit stronger than ever I felt and making sure to be
there much as I can whenever my service is needed.

I am volunteering with the Sri Lankan Central Federation for the Deaf
(SLCFD) on a project creating the Sign Language Act. This will be a
declaration and amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, sent through
the Sri Lankan Parliament for approval, allowing the country to
officially recognize the Sign Language as the language of the Deaf and
to design a system for mainstreaming Deaf people and improving the
education system.  The last few days I have spent 6+ hours sitting in
each meeting with representatives of government, the department of
education, social organizations, and the SLCFD.  Some of the meetings
got really heated when I brought up Deaf culture, trying to
differentiate Deaf from people with physical disabilities and
hard-of-hearing.  They categorize Deaf people as “shava-na-ba-ditha”
which means “having a hearing sickness”. There is no representation
of “people or person” in that word, it is just highlights the “sick
one”--it does not allow you to "see people as people".   I noted this as
institutionalized oppression against the dignity of Deaf people.
Sometimes, without knowing the oppression behind these type of words,
even deaf people use them to identify their organizations as well as
themselves. It seems like I am the only person here with deaf culture
knowledge, even many of our own deaf people have doubt about the
information that I shared with them. I am trying to prove my points
using every available resource, so that government officials can
understand what is needed for improving in deaf education,
mainstreaming deaf people with the hearing community, as well as,
allowing our Deaf community to be strong in their culture and

I asked SLCFD to organize a work shop for active members of Deaf
(around 1000), I will be the main presenter and I want to train them
in the "use of positive language, person centric framing (to recognized
the person first), as well as international deaf rights, deaf culture,
and Gandhian-King approach in fighting.  Also I  asked professional
help from a group of my friends from UH--KCC Deaf center, some of
their Deaf professors are currently interested in coming here to
present some work shops. I don't know how long I'm going to be here
and how far I can go, but want to do much as I can before I go. It
seems like this this is a very important chapter of Sri Lankan Deaf
history and I just happened to be here. I am really excited for them
and hope they'll able to make this happen..

Please give my love to your family and our McKay Family, I missed being there…


  1. Tahnk you so much for sharing such experience!!!!! Way uplifted!!!!!