T. Dhanujan, a local from Kirankulam, one of the poorest cities in Batticaloa cursed by the wrath of poverty, is only 16 years old when he made his 3-metre high pole vault jump with a bamboo stick. His talent does not merely speak for itself, for it is an untold story of a young man whose bravery, courage and energy to take risks at extreme conditions are underrated by society.
Dhanujan is studying for his Ordinary Levels this year, and as you may have witnessed this video clip showing the young lad making a jump in a place where people’s best interest is not a playground for sport, but a land to cultivate for mere survival, or means to save the breath till the day dies, the mere thought of changing ‘the system’ would be swimming upstream against the tide, hence the foundation to this article – someone who truly felt and valued these uncut gems from the bloc arrived in Kirankulam Maha Vidyalaya three years ago to actually take that risk.
Rishanthan, the crusader seeking hidden talents like Dhanujan, had national level appreciations only for Cricket and Elle, as a result of being a social critter of limited access who had never seen beyond the boundaries of his school playground, and is now conducting research about pole vault and coaching those practicing the sport and long distance runners.
In a country that gives no space for such researches at all, Rishanthan is putting up a standalone fight in his appointment as a sports coach, reminiscing another legend Valala Ratnayakeye Susantha Fernando, who turned the field of school athletics upside down. Like Fernando, who merely started his career as a Cricket boy and later advanced himself to a manifestation unlike anything anyone has ever seen, Rishanthan can be described as someone who is knowingly, or unknowingly, following in his footsteps.
But the real question is, will Rishanthan find what is looking for? Will little Dhanujan gain what he is hoping for?
The practicalities of these questions are of physical nature, as Dhanujan has no flexible pole to make his ‘one pitch’ jump that will allow him to show his true colours, and Rishanthan’s goals are hardly recognised by the industry. Dhanujan has not the additional advantage of putting his weight on a flexible pole for pole vault. He may pass a hurdle of 3 metres for now, but pushing the boundary further would be dangerous, would it be not?
The answer to his unanswered question lies with many people among us, but none of them has the tendency be held accountable and prefers to run from it. Sometimes, they question us back, the same question we ask from them. Uncut diamonds like Dhanujan may yet to understand this bitter truth about society, but he surely knows that he can push his 3-metre limit, had he possessed a flexible pole, and that he will physically be safe, had he been provided mattresses to be fallen onto.
Coming from a village kissed by poverty, young lads like Dhanujan cannot afford to buy a pole. Losing the love of a father at the age of 2, Dhanujan keeps breathing thanks to his mother’s garment job. He lives with his mother and grandmother, more the burden with a little income, and everything depends on a small stack of rupees, as long as Dhanujan’s mother paddles the machine.
Agriculture is Dhanujan’s favourite subject in School. He loves farming but does not farm. Why?
Because he has no land to cultivate, except the small house he is living in.
Dhanujan the young pole vault jumper dreams big, to become a coach to young lads like him one of these days. But he has no pole for pole vault. Dhanujan loves to cultivate, but he has no land to resort to either.
Are we to learn that simple things like making the dreams of people like Dhanujan come true can be achieved instead of being shot in the chest at a rebellion to satisfy the needs of the youth, these boys will surely win the country. They will bring fame, earn respect.
There are children below the age of 11 who are capable of jumping the limit of 2 metres.
Rishanthan is a good teacher who puts his efforts to make their dreams a reality. But does society feel for people like Dhanujan or Rishanthan? We are not legally obliged to protect Dhanujan, but neither can we afford to be isolated amidst such social tragedies.
Kids like Dhanujan are hindered by disparity and lack of resources, and in the case of Rishanthan, his efforts are wasted like pouring water into an overturned pot.
Will anyone be able to save people like Dhanujan from this social calamity? Without violence, without riots, will anyone be able to turn back the overturned pot so that people like Rishanthan will be able to pour water?
May we look at those who value love with love..
*English adaptation from Article “Kirankulam Pimma Indian Sayuren Epitata Thallu Kireeme Wagakeema” (කිරන්කුලම් පිම්ම ඉන්දියන් සයුරෙන් එපිටට තල්ලු කිරීමේ වගකීම) published on 17.10.2022