A new recipe tastier than you think
Touching down in Wellington, there was only one thing on my mind. A plate of home-cooked Sri Lankan food and condensed milk tea from my favourite spot in Wellington, ‘Dilmah t Lounge’.
They added something new to the menu, godamba roti (a food variety) with black pork curry. A nostalgic meal that took me back to Ratnapura gem mine meals of breadfruit, desiccated coconut, and black pork.
While I was engrossed in this meal washing it down with condensed milk tea, Aunty Chamila mentioned a roti night happening in the weekend, and I should come along.
Saturday night came along. In a beautiful hall, I walked in as a visitor from Tamaki Makaurau (Auckland). And one of the first people I met, of course, is Uncle Sadun. With a warm greeting and hug, the space before me can only be described as a curated home away from home. I witnessed a new generation of rangatahi (youth)on stage, embracing our inheritance through various song and dance pieces.
A band that I branded as the ‘Wellingtons Super Golden Chimes’ played a mix of nostalgic Sri Lankan and English pop melodies with a natural element of maturity and finesse. When someone told me that they were still in high school, I was in a state of shock.Uncle Mohan’s Sri Lankan Dance Academy exhibition included a mix of ages, boys, and girls, connecting with our rich, ancient roots through beats and song.
When watching this item, you can see the heartwarming interactions between the performers on stage, which show the genuine joy that’s infectious as an audience member. I was walking around during dinner reconnecting with familiar faces and getting introduced as Manjula Aunty’s son, which is just a testament to Ammi’s work in the community—connecting with new faces and hearing about their lives and Mahi (work).
What was most interesting was chatting with the young people in high school and discussing their aspirations for the future.
Many were in their last year of high school and were making daunting decisions about their higher education. They were then a little shocked how I could recite the old Indrani Perera songs flawlessly, but Eka Davasak (first word of the song) is such a tune; how can I not.
As we went to the end of the night, the baila tunes started coming on, and people began to hit the dance floor. With the young high school students, there was some hesitancy in the beginning, as usual, to get on the dance floor.
But once I dragged some of them in, our irresistible baila beats carried by our young Wellington Super Golden Chimes medley gave way to new energy. On the dance floor, you can see everyone beginning to open up. As of that moment, we could be our authentic selves with others also going through the same journey.
In a circle, kids would vibe out to a mix of tick-tock dance moves I had never seen before with the traditional uda rata (Sri Lakan Kandyan Dancing) in Sri style made a fine blend.
These events are such a gift for us as rangatahi (youth); we don’t understand how important they are in our journey growing up in Aotearoa. We are constantly under pressure to assimilate into white-dominated spaces and put aside our inheritance.
I saw the children who are part of Uncle Mohans’ drum school Sri Lankan Dance Academy, pay their respects before leaving. I felt this shows how much it means to them. Undoubtedly, their parents are also grateful that the avenues to connect to Sri Lanka are available and will not be lost by migrating to Aotearoa.
Having these avenues available is a vital part of our children’s journey. So often, these events, classes, and mahi (work) are unpaid but fueled by the Aroha (love) we feel for these future generations and want to provide our inheritance gifts to them.As they move from Wellington to Auckland or Dunedin for their higher education, I hope they take with them the value of what we inherited in our blood, the land our ancestors as that is our whole selves. Our ancestry or whakapapa is a piece of us we can never deny as it’s something embedded in our DNA.
Events like the ‘roti night’ I attended are nourishment for that inheritance, nutrition for that connection we desperately seek outside of our day-to-day—a break from the colonised environment where the ancestral energy in our bones is to be released. A huge Nga mihi (congratulation), thanks to the organisers of the event. A thank you to the kaumatua(elders) and teachers who have been paving the way in creating these spaces for the next generation.
It gives me so much encouragement and inspiration to see the next generation of young Sri Lankans finding joy and pride in our culture and embracing their whole selves. Our collective responsibility as Sri Lankans in Aotearoa is to make sure that pride is embedded in all of our rangatahi (youth) moving forward.