[Lakshmi Sylvia de Silva—Birth anniversary November 5th]
For historical, cultural and civilizational reasons, the Kremlin means much more to the Russian people, but to those of us from the global South, it has been a center of a special kind of power, a power that balances the world, a center of power that has housed history-making figures. Standing in the Kremlin, absorbing the historical atmosphere, imagining those figures, looking around and above at the glittering splendor, and then directly facing the third such outstanding Russian figure of world history in modern times, it was quite natural that I should think of my father, Mervyn de Silva, but it was less expected even by me, that I should think of my mother Lakshmi.
There was a direct progression that brought me from childhood to where I was standing on October 11th 2018 to hand my credentials over to President Putin and talk to him for several minutes, having earlier had a chat with the world’s most outstanding Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. When I asked Minister Lavrov whether he could recall Mervyn de Silva from his days in Colombo, he visibly brightened and remarked “Yes, of course! He and my Ambassador used to have discussions frequently and I used to be the translator!” On his visits to Moscow on which I would accompany him and my mother, Mervyn would meet top Russian (at the time, Soviet) foreign policy personalities such as Dr. Georgi Arbatov, the leading Soviet expert, advisor and negotiator on the USA and nuclear arms talks and write about his conversations in the international and Sri Lankan press. When I visited the think-tank the PIR Center in Moscow, the founder, Dr Vladimir Orlov, recounted how we were introduced, when I was ambassador to the UN Geneva, by his mentor, Gen. Dmitri Evstafiev (formerly of the KGB), Chairman of the PIR Center and a friend of my father.
This time around, I have not yet had a meal at the monumentally grand Stalin-era Hotel Ukraine, at which I stayed with my parents as a 7 year old boy on our first visit to Moscow as guests of the Soviet Foreign Ministry, when my father was not yet the editor of the Daily News, only the Deputy Editor of the Observer.
Just as Lenin said of the Revolution, my road back to Russia was hardly as “broad, smooth and straight as the Nevsky Prospect”, but that too was because of my father and the modern heritage of Russia, because I sought amateurishly to put into practice what I had read in the works of Lenin I had taken armfuls of from the libraries of his Russian, Chinese, Cuban, East German and Czech friends, and bought in bookshops in London and America in my early teens, utterly ignorant that linguistic, cultural and religious factors had come to the forefront in my society in a manner that deflected any attempted application of radicalized universalist Reason.
But why am I saying this on my mother’s birthday? Because, as I realized in the Kremlin’s magnificent Alexander Hall itself, my father would have been unable to achieve what he had if not for my mother, and I too would not have become what I am except for her, though I did rebel against her in a manner I never reacted against my father while I did dissent from him.