The Rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum) is a popular fruit in Sri Lanka available only at a certain time of the year. The most sought after varieties are incredibly sweet and the fruit will come off the seed very easily. That is not to say the less sweet and more sour fruit doesn’t taste as just as good….Memories of sinking my teeth into the spiky exterior of the fruit to pierce it and then taking the flesh off the seed with my teeth with the juice dribbling down my chin remind me of my childhood. During Rambutan season, street sellers would hawk bunches of fruit in order to earn a few rupees to feed their families.
Many years ago, I remember seeing a newspaper photograph of one such seller with her two children sleeping inside the empty basket the Rambutan had come in. The basket itself was a flimsy contraption made out of woven green coconut fronds.
The picture of these two innocents inspired me to write this poem…..it was titled “Reality” .
A ray of light shone through the crack in the broken tile
Lighting up the room, laying bare its dinginess
Poverty at its lowest depths
On a tattered mat two innocents lay
Asleep and unaware,
Curled against the reality of the cruel world outside
Beside the cold hearth knelt their mother
Blowing in vain to coax a flame
From the heart of the long dead coals.
Like the unfeeling hearts of the world outside
The coals gave no warmth
No spark of fire bestirred in the direness of their plight
Life at its most unfair, barely glanced their way
Thus missing the hungriness, the tears
The very emptiness inside
The light of the newborn day held no hope for them
For who would fill that emptiness
Care enough to reach out and wipe away the tears…….
I started my blog with the intention of tying in my love of food with the attempts to define who I am living in a foreign country. But once I started, the writing has taken on a life of its own. At first I didn’t know how this poem linked in with my general theme. But upon further reflection I realise that it is the view of the world represented by this poem and the compassion that aided me to see it in the first place which keep me grounded and true to roots.
I have friends who throw out everything from their dinning table at the end of a meal. I look at the wasted food and wonder if they realise just how many people are starving somewhere in the world at that very moment. Their view of the world is very inward looking and they wouldn’t think twice of paying $2000 for a single set of curtains, but you ask them if they would donate to UNICEF or OXFAM and they tell you how little money they have.
A couple of nights ago, I was listening to late night radio when they were talking about organ donation and one of the callers who rang in said why should he donate his organs which he had been taking relatively good care of to save the life of someone who had maybe drunk or smoked to excess…..He admitted that not everyone who needed a transplant fell into that category but refused to consider donating upon that one prejudice.
On the flip side I also know people that put in a lot of their personal time and effort to help others despite their personal circumstances. One man I met recently who has a special needs child spends a lot of his free time managing a Charity Organisation. Another mum who supports three kids on a government benefit spends five days a week helping out at a Red Cross shop.
So even in Aotearoa I have found people who would care to wipe away the tears of my innocents………..