Sanjiva Wijesinha -writer and physician

Short stories, Travel and Health Information

Twilight reflections -2

Return to Childhood

I am sure that all of us older adults feel a bit sad when we think of our childhood.

It may well be because the world that we knew then, the world with which we were so familiar and in which we felt so comfortable and safe, now seems so far away. We still retain memories of those times –  and on occasion, dream about things of the past and folk who once were – but wake up from our sleep or our reverie feeling sad.

Back in Sri Lanka after many years of living and working overseas, these memories of when we were young are even more valuable to me because I can still visit the haunts of my childhood and meet those of my school friends who are still around.

In those days we did not have the internet, televisions or mobile phones. Many of us did not even have land lines and had to depend on kind neighbours who allowed us to use their phones to make or receive calls when we needed to (which was not that often). Lacking instant communication and easy access to a virtual world, we interacted with real human beings at school and in our neighbourhood. We went to school by bus – and we used bicycles or simply walked to get around and visit our friends.

Living overseas for an extended period brings home to you that there are really two parts to this country. There is the land itself as well as the buildings, the people, the trees and plants, the sounds and smells – all those things that you notice as you walk through a neighbourhood and look around you.

But there is also the Soul of this country – the ways of greeting and addressing each other, the ties of kinship and connection, the preparation and partaking of food and the shared collective memories. It was this second part – Sri Lanka’s Soul –  that I missed during my years abroad. The ancient Roman poet Horace once observed “They change the sky, not their soul, who travel across the sea” and I have come to realize how true his words are.

We can go abroad and change the pattern of the night sky above our heads, yet even under the beautifully clear and star studded skies of Australia, one cannot change one’s yearning for the soul of one’s native land.

A couple of weekends ago I spent a few days in the home of an old childhood friend who lives near Ahangama on the southwest coast. While going for a walk on my first evening there, I appreciated the fresh air I was inhaling – air that had a salty freshness and bore the scents of the seashore, of smoke from a wood fire drifting over from somewhere. A couple of days later, I stepped out for my walk shortly after it had rained. How good it was to inhale the smell of a warm tarred road that had just received a sprinkling of tropical rain!  It is scents such as these that trigger one’s olfactory pathways and evoke childhood memories – of days spent at my friend’s home with his parents when we were teenagers, when we spent hours in the sea, even making friends with the local fishermen and trying our hand at catching fish (without much success!).

I am now able to savour the sheer delight of being in a place like this at a time like this, freed of the responsibilities and timelines of my working life.

Life is simply a journey between the time we are born and the time we die. Whatever the length of our journey, we should try to enjoy it and make the best of our travel time. Happy memories remind us that nothing lasts forever – not even our own lives!

Our time on earth is precious so we should not waste it. Stay in touch with the people who have helped you along your journey and let them know that you appreciate what they did for you. Take the opportunity to help a few others in turn and help them as you yourself have been helped.

Rather than spending time thinking about the fact that your journey is slowly approaching its end and counting the days, make the days count.

Your childhood isn’t over yet!



This entry was posted on February 12, 2023 by in Reminiscences, sri lanka.

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