Broken Pottu ~ Poem by Mahesh Munasinghe

Many thousands of the IDP children have lost both their parents comes news from the Sri Lankan ‘welfare camps’.

Bright red pottu
Every morning
Never missed.
The point of your finger
Right here between our eyebrows
For both of us.

Amma puts hers first
Then sh…e puts mine.
Remember me insisting
Me first, me first!

That day Dad give me a biggest hug, squeezed so tight,
Lifted me so high, laughing so loud.
At midnight he went out of the bunker.
Amma must have known he wasn’t coming back
But still she smiled at me.

The day she went out of the bunker
Her pottu was still shining between her eyebrows.
Then her pottu went right into her head
And red blood came all down her calm, loving face.

Before then I only knew how to cry.
Then I knew how to shriek, to scream
Holding on to your body, Amma,


Here too our school is under the trees
But they don’t take the register.
I don’t mind, I’m used to it.
The only thing different is
There are no bunkers here.
Sometimes my heart beats so hard
It’s louder than the gunshots
And tears just shoot out when I think about you.

Please don’t ask me about pottu
If Amma can’t put it on me I don’t want it.
And please don’t teach us about parents,
I don’t want to hear about them.

It’s not only me; none of us want to hear it.

Poem by Mahesh Munasinghe
Translated by Prasanna Ratnayake

The pottu is the red spot traditionally worn by Hindu married women, more recently also by children. It is believed to protect them from evil. Usually a widow stops wearing her pottu immediately after her husband’s death.


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