Category Archives: Festival

The Dansala of Inspiration

Vesak 2012

Pic by Rushda Mohinudeen

What comes to mind when you think of Vesak? I am sure you’re reminded of observing sil, going to the temple and worshipping, the jathaka stories, the stories from life of Lord Buddha, the importance of the Dhamma etc. I am sure that thoughts of making Vesak koodu (lanterns) at home, of the lavishly lit thoran (pandols) and dansal will run on the fringe of your mind as well.

Whilst the religious activities continued throughout the weekend, where many visited the temples to observe sil or to engage in the Dhamma, at night, the country was up in lights and music. Throngs of people walked on the roads or got in to trucks to go see Vesak. To enjoy the massive thoran which depict stories from Lord Buddha’s life or to enjoy food from a dansala.

Speaking of Dansal, the only thing that comes to a Sri Lankan’s mind is food! Various kinds of food, be it a hot meal of rice and curry or ice cream. However, this year Beyond Borders gave the word dansala and its concept, a whole new meaning! Working on the lines of inspiring, Beyond Borders decided to have an ‘Inspiration Dansala’ whereby distributing quotes from the Dhammapada, to the general public making the people more aware of the meaning behind this religious celebrations.

Making of the BBites Dansala board

Joining the people on the streets of Colombo, the guys and girls from Beyond Borders gathered near the Gangarama Temple to spread the inspiration to the people. With a few hiccups at the start, the distribution of these quotes had a lovely response with some people coming behind the energetic team asking for more sticker quotes, or asking for translations!

A rather blurry pic of the BBites distributing… inspiration!

Even though our team was a little hesitant in getting this going, we felt welcomed by the response from the people. The overall experience was overwhelming!

Bhagya Senaratne

Bhagya is a board member of Beyond Borders. She is currently reading for her MA in International Relations and she’s our mole in the government. She blogs here. Her opinions are her own.


Bohemian Pursuits

Rajiv is torn between pleasing his parents and pursing his passion. Time is running out and he’s cornered into choosing a safe but dull career in the field of commerce or trying his luck as an artist. As the walls close in on him, Rajiv picks the latter; but at a dire cost of losing his family.

What would you suggest could improve the course of events and bring about a happy ending?

All those who’d come for the Galle Literary Festival had the chance to help Rajiv and his family, as the BB FT team staged ‘Bohemian Pursuits’. Enacting events from Rajiv’s life from making his decision to becoming a successful albeit uncaring artist- callously refusing to attend his father’s funeral.

The overall play highlighted many pertinent issues brought up by the youth in Galle. These include the influence of foreigners who seems to be taking over the fort, parent-child relationships, ambition, career guidance and the Sri Lankan mentality regarding ‘acceptable careers’.

The FT was performed twice at the Galle Literary Festival and here are some scenes from play.

And we present the FT team-

Hard work, sleepless nights and a bumpy ride to Galle- the team charged on and performed the first BB FT down south.

This is the first of many more FTs by BB that will be performed out of Colombo this year. Watch this blog for more updates.

Gearing up for the Galle Lit Fest

Preparing for the Focus Group discussion

In the run up to the 2012 Galle Literary Festival in which Beyond Borders will be participating in  two sessions, we decided to run down to Galle to gather some ideas for our dramas.

We didn’t get up early in the morning, as is customary when going our of Colombo, to catch a bus. Rather we decided to go a little late and well late we did become. However, we managed to have a lovely bus ride to Galle, chilled, well rested and ready for action!

We spoke to youth residing both within the Galle Fort and outside, and were enlightened to a variety of issues that were unique to that area.

The youth we spoke to, between the ages of 16 and 20, mostly felt that their parents were not giving them the freedom they sought. This was the key issue, resonating the discussion throughout the time we spent in discussion with them. This when questioned, boiled down to external problems like the Western influence within the Fort. According to the children, the parents felt that they were unable to give too much freedom to their children because they might run astray. We realised the locals were experiencing a certain reverse culture clash. The group we spoke to felt that their parents were not like the ‘cool’ Colombo folk who gave their children ample freedom to engage in youth activities and social work. However, most of the youth were rational, citing the pros and cons of their parents’ reasoning, but they wished that they had less restrictions on socialising.

Another problem that arose was on the topic of education. Like youth from most other places, the youth from Galle too felt that the education system does not allow them the best of opportunities to showcase their talents. They felt the current education system only made them ‘bookish’ and did not allow them the chance to engage in the sporting activities they are otherwise good at. We found that this is the same story everywhere. When the child comes to higher levels of education in school the parents want their children to prioritise on their education, keeping all other extra-curricular activities at bay.

Of course, the guys felt that they couldn’t talk to the girls and that they were shy; but that was besides the point during the interactive session we had with these energetic youth.

The Galle Literary Festival will be held from the 18th to the 22nd of January 2012 and beyond Borders will be performing on the 20th and 21st of January.

Bhagya Senaratne

Bhagya is a board member of Beyond Borders. She is currently reading for her MA in International Relations and she’s our mole in the government. She blogs here. Her opinions are her own.


Beyond Borders Sri Lanka, Launched!

After more than three years of being in existance — first as a project of the British Council, then as an informal youth collective, Beyond Borders Sri Lanka finally decided to form into a not-for-profit organization recently. To celebrate our little achivement, we had a little get together with BB-ites and our supporters.  We thank everyone again for being there with us in the journey, so far..

Pics on Flickr. BB is a space for young people to work on development issues, if you like what we do, get involved. We are also on Facebook.

Towards Democracy, Peace and Open Borders – South Asia Youth Summit


The Liberal Youth of South Asia (LYSA) organized the first South Asia Youth Summit in New Delhi on 24th and 25th November, 2008 providing a platform for 100 youth representatives across South Asia to discuss and debate various issues confronting the region from a liberal perspective.

“We believe that we can set an example for our political leaders about cooperation and the benefits of joining hands in overcoming barriers…. we envision a peaceful, democratic and open region…” reads the declaration at the end of the youth summit, which was hosted by Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR) and supported by the Friedrich-Naumann-Siftung für die Freiheit. The delegates identified lack of appropriate governance as the central issue behind all the problems facing the region.

The participants discussed upon issues like Youth and Politics, Youth Participation in Development, Market Economy and South Asian Free Trade Zone, Quality Education for All: Choice & Competition, State and Democracy and Human Rights in South Asia. 

The discussions carried out by the youth across the sessions mainly focused upon the major global and local developments which compel the youth to take a particular note of the policies that need to be changed and what implications these changes have for the future of youth. 

The culmination of the two day summit took place at India Gate where participants formed a youth chain and lit candles in solidarity with each other to fight against terrorism and spread the message of peace. And there began the “drafting of a new South Asia.”

Represented from Beyond Borders groups in Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh were invited for the summit. Sri Lanka was also represented by the Liberal Youth Guild. 

The text was adapted from the official LYSA summit Blog.  For more pictures, visit our Flickr.


Through the looking glass, I heard music, saw laughter and color pass by.. Life is a whirlwind of joyous moments. Then, I opened my eyes…

BB India presents.. Conversations

SAARC Youth Camp

All eight members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) participated in the group’s first youth camp being held in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Bangladeshi Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed inaugurated the four-day camp on the 10th of December exhorting the participants to exchange ideas and experiences that would help push the region towards greater and faster progress.

He reiterated Bangladesh’s commitment to “building partnerships in activities relevant for our (Saarc countries’) progress”.

Dhaka is holding the first regional youth fest, with the theme ’Connecting South Asian Youths’, in keeping with its promise made at the 14th Saarc Summit in April this year in New Delhi, The Daily Star reported Tuesday.

Ahmed was quoted as saying the Saarc Youth Camp would bring “young minds from Mazar-e-Sharif to Male, Quetta to Kathmandu, Colombo to Kolkata, and Thimphu to Dhaka for meeting annually in institutionalised but informal settings”.

Story adapted from AussieIndoLanka

Beyond Borders Bangladesh (Now known as NationPulse) helped organize the event and ran a few sessions at the camp on themes related to leadership. BBites from India went in as participants for the camp. Pictures are at NationPulse site and our Flickr.

More about the camp can be read on TheNewNation, SouthAsianMediaNet, NewKerala, TheDailyStar.

Kids in Touch


“Kids in Touch” Is an initiative by the British Council together with Sarvodaya to facilitate communication between young people from the ages of 14 to 18 from all across Sri Lanka through the use of technology and creative expression.

For the past couple of months BBites have been going around to 8 districts in Sri Lanka ( Anuradhapura, Hambantota , Monaragala, Nuwara Eliya,  Kurunegala, Kandy, Ratnapura, Trincomalee) to facilitate teambuilding and leadership workshops for groups of young people involved in the “Kids in Touch” (KIT) project.

In December, some of these young people involved with KIT will meet in Wariyapola for a national camp on the theme of ‘Peace’. The camp would be facilitated by Beyond Borders.

See Pics

Dil Se Dil : A Concert on the Border


On the night of August 14th, history will be made as the people from Pakistan and India come together to jointly celebrate 60 Years of Independence.

For the first time ever, permission has been granted by both governments to allow this extraordinary coming together of hearts.

Dil se Dil, which means Heart-to-Heart, is not just a name. It is an idea whose time has come. Many of our worlds problems result from the biases and prejudices that take hold in the absence of real contact and communication.

This extraordinary event – which will be broadcast to a quarter of the world’s population – will help to shed light on the core humanity we all share, regardless of our differences.
Not only is this a momentous event in the history of India and Pakistan – the first time the people of these countries will celebrate their independence together – but it offers the world a model for how to deal with our differences – kid-to-kid, people-to-people, heart-to-heart, this commemoration will entail a single, unifying concert event, the performances will originate from twin stages, one in India and one in Pakistan, on either side of the Attari/Wagah border. Live performances will alternate from one stage to the other, visible to the entire live audience, no matter on which side of the border they are sitting.
This two-stage-one-concert approach, with its innovative utilization of advanced telecommunications, sound engineering, and broadcast technology is as symbolic as it is practical. It represents the younger generation doing exactly what they do best: harnessing technology to create community and to overcome distance, physical barriers, and outmoded thinking.

– From the Dil Se Dil Web site

The concert will be organized by Friends Without Borders in conjunction with Routes to Roots and will feature stars such as AR Rahaman, Atif Aslam, Shafaat Amanath Ali, Kailash Kher, Shah Rukh Khan, Wasim Akram, Juhi Chawla, and Shaiyanne Malik.

Beyond Borders wishes FWB, routes to roots all the best in organizing this event.


Bangladesh Festival – Looking back, one year on

It’s been a year since the last Bangladesh festival – a fantastic exchange of ideas, a celebration of culture & Diversity and foundations of a few eternal friendships.

All things in the experience are worth a revisit, the dance, the fun, the music and the serious issues we managed to discuss and act on in-between. The song and dance will perhaps be consumed by the moment, but the issues linger. Of all the things we experienced in the festival, I’d like to touch on just two. Not because they were more important than others, but just because I as a person found them most thought-provoking.

Language Movement Day (Martyrs’ Day) walk

On the 21st of February we along with tens of thousands of Bangladeshis took to the streets of Dhaka to celebrate the language movement day, about 30 or 40 of BB members walked behind a specially crafted banner, taking turns to hold it, right up to and beyond the Shaheed Minar.

The Shaheed Minar, is the monument built to honor the martyrs of the Bangladeshi language movement. This monument, that day and those events commemorated, has a lot of history behind it and not all of it is entirely positive.

At the time though, I didn’t quite realize the significance of what we have done. But looking back now – that was quite a statement we made. Among the participants in the walk, there were of course Bangladeshis, Indians, Sri Lankans and more importantly – Pakistanis. Given the history this act symbolizes, that’s quite some statement. A statement, perhaps only a group like beyond borders could have delivered.

I do not want to get into the politics of the Bangladeshi Liberation movement, as I fully well know; living in Sri Lanka, unbiased information on these things is a rare commodity. But this is one of the things in the festival that got me thinking, especially given the similarities to the situation back home, the importance of language for people, among other things which I’m not comfortable discussing here. But being in Dhaka at that time, Bangladeshi nationalism was impossible to escape, and I know some of the events of particularly that day, made some of the Pakistani participants a tad bit uncomfortable.

This perhaps is one of the central challenges of multiculturalism, which stresses the need for space for individual and collective identities while also being able to appreciate diversity as well as being tolerant of differences.

Now, ‘Tolerance’ is something that we as members of BB have discussed at multitude of international forums and the general feeling tends to be that ‘tolerance’ is something negative and we should instead move on to true understanding. Principally I’d agree, but I guess there is still space for healthy tolerance to exist, especially when it comes to situations where you do not agree with what’s going on, instead of adopting a divergent approach, tolerating especially differences of opinions has its place.

Geneva Camp

Geneva Camp is the name given to a small area in Dhaka which is home to the Urdu-speaking community of Bangladesh, stranded during the separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan. While scores of Urdu-speaking people have been transferred to Pakistan after the independence, many of these people didn’t get the opportunity, and now find themselves not accepted as citizens of Pakistan nor Bangladesh. To put it bluntly – they are stateless.

The small camp, (which more accurately can be described as a slum) is home to about 250,000 people who lead a deprived life, with 10 or 12 people living in spaces as small as 10 feet by 8. The electricity and some minimal services are provided by the government but for the most part the people in the community do not have access to public services such as education, they do not have the right to vote or contest for elections and basically do not have the right to institution. The residents cannot get jobs if they give their addresses as being from this camp; it’s the same with education thus restricting these people to an eternal cycle of poverty.

The majority of these people want to go to Pakistan; the central office of the camp had wall-paintings of General Musharaf, the president of Pakistan. But as they say, every dark cloud has a silver lining, and some welcome news is on the horizon. While most of the old generation still wants to go to Pakistan, the new generation has been born in Bangladesh and a recent court ruling has re-instituted their right to Bangladeshi citizenship.

The Association of Young Generation of Urdu Speaking Community, the youth organisation BB Bangladesh works with, is a major proponent of the idea that the community should try and make a decent living within Bangladesh instead of seeking to go to Pakistan. The organisation is headed by few spirited individual who were lucky enough to be educated well and now they are running programs to uplift the lives of young people in the community. Beyond Borders group in Dhaka is part of this initiative.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to keep tabs on the development of the situation but I was heartened to note that few young people from Geneva camp is now part of the Beyond Borders Core Group.

The plight of the Urdu-speaking people may have had Parallels back home, especially with the up-country Tamil people in Sri Lanka, but that’s not something that I can relate as easily, for when I was born, that wrong was put to right.

These are the things that have recently let me to believe that almost all conflicts everywhere in the world have similar roots. It could be fundamental issues of negligence of identities or feeling of alienation from reservoirs of power, among other things which aggravates and fuels conflict.

The festival, (as documented here in an earlier post) had lot more than these two events, but I’d hold these two experiences the most special.

Deane J.

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