Mokata Matters by Capt Elmo Jayawardena
We have enough and more good articles in the newspapers. Of course, some could be a bit warped and wrongly presented for ‘politically correct’ reasons. Some others are sterling in the quality of journalism. All these collectively wise us to what happened and what happens and what may happen in our Paradise. We are well aware that certain political godfathers do dominate some parts of what is reported in Sri Lanka (same with many other so-called first world ‘holier-than-thou’ countries.) Journalistic souls do get pawned off and on at times and we do get to read ‘magic from the mud’. Culprits from the worst dungeons of corruption prop out as the ‘white-painted’ sepulchres with only the harp and the halo missing.
But there is a lot of honesty too, ‘brave hearts’ who pen the truth without mincing words. Everything depends on what newspaper we read and which news channels we watch on television. One thing is sure, the truth and the so-called nothing but the truth does get amputated or exaggerated leaving the poor pedestrian reader, the Tom, Dick and Siripala totally confused.
Therefore, let me not dwell on things I do not know and make a fool of myself but write something we all can understand. Let me deviate from all that serious reporting and bring you Mokata Matters, part and parcel of our daily life. Let us ponder for a moment on how we Sri Lankans strut the planet, shades of humour wrapped in anything we do, original and colloquial, the many-splendored kaleidoscope we call Sri Lankan life.
“Mokata’ is “why” (this part is for the benefit of the non-Sinhala speaking readers) so here is the ‘mokata matter’ saga.
Most often we have regrets in life. ‘We could have done this, and we could have done that’, idle words and the litany goes long and winding like the lament of lent. All of us, bar none, have regrets on buses we missed or the ships that never came in. Opportunities lost, chances not taken, and dreams that faded, but life goes on. Yes, we do miss a lot of catches in life. True, the ‘mokata matters’ creep in at times and dampen our spirits. But being Sri Lankan, we surface back like corks, ‘poroppa fashion’ not drowning in a sea of sorrow in life’s twisted sense of humour.
Buy a car, (second-hand) and it breaks down or has a flat tire and the ‘mokata’ system takes over. “Mokata gaththada” (why did you buy) comes out in a flash to the utter annoyance of the husband. The words spit out, well! you know from whom. Obviously the ‘know-all’ in the family. Usually it is followed by “I told you not to” conclusion. I will leave that subject for elaboration to a fairer day and get on with this Mokata story lest I get the full blast as a target of female venom which I can ill-afford in my twilight years.
Let’s look at another ‘mokata’ matter? Weddings are very special, fancy card and fancier hotel and over-painted creamy bride and the band plays so loud bursting every eardrum in the hall. The buffet is below mediocre, more silver chafing containers than contents. The regret is so much for the gift you gave. Cost against the food and entertainment value is an ultra-steep gradient in favour of the wedding planners. Too much spent on too little gain. “Mokata giyada” (why did we go?) is the frustrating regret related to the dead-loss suffered.
Go to a doctor, not happy with the diagnosis, a ‘mokata awada’ (why did I come?) rings out. Plan a holiday, promised paradise turns out to be a bug-infested bed and frogs swimming in-tandem with you in the swimming pool and the ‘mokata theruwada’ (why was this chosen?) resonates. Heavens help the husband if he is the one who read the glittering brochure and made the selection. There are the day-to-day ‘mokata matters’ too.
Let me now direct you to the ‘mother’ of all ‘mokata matters,’ the commonest of them all. Stop by a green neon-lit roadside ‘Muslim Joint’ and buy a weighty buriyani to take home and have a good diet. (Why do we Lankans say diet for gormandising? I wish I knew.) And you eat and eat and eat till your belly button pops out (buriya ulwenakan kanawa) and then comes the ‘mokata kavada’ (why did I eat?) theme song, ever present and most common. A week’s brisk walking and cutting down on sugars and watching weight shredded to pieces in a buriyani fiesta for cholesterol and high rise systolic. Isn’t this the most popular ‘mokata’ in our beloved land?
‘Mokata kavada’ is certainly the theme song second only to the national anthem, ever-present in all circles from the pedestrian to the President. I bet in his moments of solitude His Excellency too might be having a good ‘diet’ giving a friendly tap to his tummy whispering a silent regretful ‘mokata kavada” once in a way.
Wake up Sunday morning and find your head split like a well-kicked football as the previous night’s worship of Bacchus has gone beyond all perimeters erected to keep the soul sober. It is ‘mokata biwwada’ time (why did I drink?) and the ‘never again’ swearing comes in lorry loads, simply to vanish when the next weekend arrives. Ask anyone who has permanent membership amongst the booze brethren; it will be difficult to find someone who would not have asked ‘mokata biwwada’ as a recurring regret.
Of course, profanity does not permit me but there is a scintillating ‘mokata matter’ attached to pregnancies, especially the unplanned ones that come silent like spies or the ‘Hora Umpire’ debacles. Fun and frolic and the stomach now is protruding like a pumpkin. The exact connotation added to ‘mokata’ is unfortunately unmentionable vulgarity in prose. True to every syllable but let me not give room for the editor to chop me off like a chicken sausage. Let’s call it the “mokata ******** – ???” complete the crossword, strictly for adults.
See some sad-looking husband walking five paces ahead of the wife, that is a prime ‘mokata ‘qualification. Same holds true for the one-time Romeo who held hands and counted his Juliet’s fingers as if they were getting stolen. All whilst ‘komalafying’ in the last seat of the Panadura bus. The lovers of yesteryear now sit rows apart in the same transport and are grateful for the ‘sanasili thaagee’ (consolation prizes) they receive at home. These are classic ‘mokata’ champions. Take a different view, when stupid fights erupt between the husband and the wife whose anger fuses have become shorter as the years added to the union, a ‘mokata bandada?’ (MB – why did I marry) flashes in multi-colours. It tops the mokata hit parade and plays in the loudest trumpet notes and becomes the clarion call of more people than you can imagine. The ‘finger-counting’ Romeo and many a husband/wife combination make MB their ‘daily bread’. Isn’t this common as grass blades? The ‘mokata bandada’ thought that is gulped down silently for the sheer lack of options. Don’t forget this particular ‘mokata” always has outside interference, the support systems that do the refereeing with an interest in one of the fighters. Yes, the MB certainly is a well-used metaphor, if not as a permanent prayer, then at least as a more than most used ‘mea culpa’ in many a supposed to be ‘fair and lovely’ marriage.
The ‘mokata matters’ rule in most things we do in life. Bad enough when we make the mistake and suffer but it is a thousand-fold more when the bystanders of our lives become advice experts and come with ‘mokata’ talk whenever things go wrong.
Unfortunately, the final Mokata Matter has devastated us Sri Lankans as a covenant from all the gods who gifted us our paradise. Like a tsunami it has hit us every 5 years. But did we learn? Of course not. Every 5 years we have been celebrating with awe the arrivals of the ‘new kids in the block’.
It does not take long for the proletariat to ambulfy their faces and whisper like all other times ‘MOKATA CHANDE DAMMADA? (why did I vote?)
For 74 years that is the sure victory we constantly achieved.
The only thing left for us to do is like in all other Mokata Matters, is to seek and find a reason to laugh at our own selected folly.
After all, we are Sri Lankan! The Mokata Clan of the planet?
Capt Elmo Jayawardena