The Straw That Broke The Tamil’s Back: Punintended Consequences


Intent matters. I won’t deny that. Intent frames situations. It helps us assess threats and discern friend from foe. Maybe an example will help: picture a glass of water. Okay, now drink—it’s important to stay hydrated! Now go fill up that glass of water so I can continue this example uninterrupted…

Back to that glass of water… Intent’s why I find my dog adorable even as she carelessly knocks my glass of water over during one of her attempts to lick my face. It’s also why it pisses me off when a cat stares me dead in the eyes as it knocks my glass of water over: in both cases I have to clean up a spill, but I feel differently in each situation. Now, you might think “Roybert, that’s not intent, that’s context. Also, you have a dog?” No. Technically, she’s the family dog, but that’s not the point. Though, the more I think about it, the more I think you’re onto something. Maybe I’m thinking about context or maybe empathy… That’s not the point. That’s not what I’m going for… Look, people overvalue intent; society overvalues intent. Perhaps I undervalue it, but this is about my perspective. Hopefully the following story will help shine some light on the matter:

When we moved to Canada, Amma (mom), Appa (dad), and I shared one room. We shared it until I was five; then my brother—hereafter known as Brobert—was born. From five onwards, I shared a room with him, until I moved out seventeen years later. (Yes, you’re counting correctly. I finally got my own room at the “precocious” age of twenty two…)
Moving here stressed us out. To be fair, I don’t remember moving here, but I remember growing up here; that definitely stressed me out, so I can only imagine how my parents felt. They left Sri Lanka because of the Sri Lankan Civil War (genocide really, but I’m not getting into that here—that’s too complicated to discuss now) and they fell into a foreign culture. Yes, things must’ve been stressful.

Throw an arranged marriage into the mix and the tension increases still… One day my parents were single and unaware of each other. Ironically, one day’s also probably about how long it took for them to meet each other, decide to marry, and bounce (i.e. leave Sri Lanka). Picture waking up from the most awkward date of your life to find a baby (a liability really), a spouse (okay, two liabilities), and a foreign country. Yep, they were definitely under a lot of stress… Yet after all that, they’re (we’re) immensely grateful we immigrated. I’m not saying living in one room hurt the most, but it didn’t help as much as one would hope. If you ask my parents about their take on things, they’re likely to say something super depressing, yet funny in a sick sort of way. Suffice to say, my sense of humour stems from theirs. The following should summarize my parents’ sentiments about why they left Sri Lanka:

Roybert: Why did you leave Sri Lanka Amma?

Amma: Picture a cow. It’s safer being a cow in that country than being a woman—I didn’t want to stick around for that crap. Did you eat yet? Do you have enough to eat?

Roybert: Thanks for answering! How about you Appa?

Appa: Why do you ask such stupid questions? Don’t you have something better to be doing? Fuckoff.

I’ve distilled their sentiments into a few sentences. They generally only speak to/with me in Tamil, so these obviously aren’t their exact words, but they’re eerily representative of their attitudes. Though I can’t paint a complete picture now, but reading that while picturing Amma with a shit-eating grin, and Appa with a poker face that puts prison mugshots to shame gets you pretty close to real-life interactions with them…

My parents undoubtedly intended well and acted in my best interest. They did the best they could with what they had. In my next post, I’ll elaborate why that’s both priceless and worthless. I’ll start addressing the tension I created: spoiler, my parents would’ve been more comfortable if their son was that kid from The Shining. Heck, we’re both kooky, but that kid ended up loaded…

I don’t want to just leave off on that note though, so how about a knock-knock joke?

Knock knock!

Who’s there?!

Shut up and go to sleep; someone’s at the door.

Thank you for your time,
Roybert S. Henanigans

NOTE 1: “Fuckoff” isn’t a typo… There’s more to it than meets the eye. It’s practically a Transformer…

NOTE 2: When I say “cow,” I mean a bovine cow—like the “moo moo” kind. I realize that technically female mammals are all—you know what, here’s some homework: casually call a woman a cow and let me know how that turns out. You can contact me at (or just use the messaging feature on the “Contact Me” page)…

NOTE 3: Expect my next post at 23:59-Saturday, September 25 (EST) 16:00-Monday, September 27 (EST).


Published by justcallmeroybert

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