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"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Tamil National ForumSelected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha > A Page from Aesop's Fables

Selected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha

A Page from Aesop's Fables

17 August 2000

The political farce which premiered in Colombo from Aug.7, would have given even Charlie Chaplin, the undisputed grandmaster of comedy, much food for thought. For his early silent movies, Chaplin made everyone laugh by using policemen as his humor vehicle. Only when he had to switch to talkies in 1940, to produce the much acclaimed, 'Great Dictator' , Chaplin thought better of replacing policemen with bombastic politicians of his days (Hitler and Mussolini).

For the Sri Lankan farce which premiered in Colombo, the cast consisted of ruling SLFP politicians, opposition UNPers, dissident UNPers, political turn-coats and fence-sitters, JVP noise-makers, quacks in the yellow garbs and even Indian 'diplomats' turned ventriloquists.

Rajpal Abeynayake, the columnist for the Sri Lankan newspaper Sunday Times (Aug.13) had suggested that, "the whole jiggery-pokery in Sri Lanka this week was high fun from any perspective, and was political theatre of such a farcical quality, that somebody has to write this into drama soon."

Maybe, Rajpal is somewhat ignorant of the fact that the original script for such a Colombo farce has been authored by that wonderful story-teller Aesop, more than 2600 years ago. The Phrygian slave, who is believed to have lived in the 6th century before Christ had passed to posterity the following story.

"The lion, for all his size and strength, and his sharp teeth and claws, is a coward in one thing: he can't bear the sound of a cock crowing, and runs away whenever he hears it. He complained bitterly to Jupiter for making him like that; but Jupiter said it wasn't his fault: he had done the best he could for him, and, considering this was his only failing, he ought to be well content.

"The lion, however, wouldn't be comforted, and was so ashamed of his timidity that he wished he might die. In this state of mind, he met the elephant and had a talk with him. He noticed that the great beast cocked up his ears all the time, as if he were listening for something, and he asked him why he did so. Just then a gnat came humming by, and the elephant said,  'Do you see that wretched little buzzing insect? I'm terribly afraid of its getting into my ear: if it once gets in, I'm dead and done for.'

The lion's spirits rose at once when he heard this: He said to himself, 'If the elephant, huge as he is, is afraid of a gnat, I needn't be so much ashamed of being afraid of a cock, who is ten thousand times bigger than a gnat.' (Aesop's Fables)

Now, let me substitute the four animals featured in this story with Colombo characters. The lion, is nothing but the SLFP. The elephant, is of course the UNP. The cock, undoubtedly, represents the quacks in the yellow garb. The gnat, is none other than the JVP.

For Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, a coward lion, the Aesopian cocks and gnats give nightmares. Her father was felled by a 'cock' and her husband was fatally pricked by a 'gnat'. So, in a desperate move to pacify the angered cocks, she has now replaced her mommy Mrs.Bandaranaike from the prime ministerial chair with an old SLFPer Ratnasiri Wickremanayake.

Though the official line states that Mrs.B. resigned for reasons of ill-health, Chandrika's estranged brother Anura Bandaranaike believes that the real reason for such a self-protecting action has much to do with Chandrika's cowardliness against the Aesopian cocks. This sounds more logical since Mrs. Bandaranaike has been in ill-health since 1994 and the spineless Sinhalese electorate didn't even bother to protest such a questionable, nepotic appointment in the first place.


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