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This time tomorrow is an on-going story experiment that explores questions we have about the future. How will people connect? How would we work, consume and unwind? What would we value? What would we search for?

We asked some interesting people to imagine a year from now and brought their predictions alive through stories. This is what we see.

Predictions by Dr. Asoka de Zoysa

Photography by Reg Van Cuylenburg

Story by Public Works

The fish-woman's son

Channa met Johnny almost thirty years ago, when they were boys. Johnny came shouldering a pingo load of fish, accompanying his pipe-smoking, loud-mouthed mother. While cycling down the alleyway by the sea, Channa would peer at Johnny’s makeshift house near the dirty beach. Like in a television show, Channa could piece together Johnny's days made with the endless cycle of his fisherman father sailing out to red sunsets, returning at pink dawns with the catch and a bottle of arrack, only to sing himself to a drunken stupor; while his mother cursed, cooked, fed Johnny and the kids, packed her pipe and loaded fish into the pingo—sometimes all at once. Later, these huts were demolished, and the fishing families were moved somewhere else by the Municipality. The alleyway became the Marine Drive; it even had a supermarket.

Channa forgot about Johnny until thirty something years later, when they reencountered during the sixty day curfew. Johnny flashed the same bent smile that his mother had, holding back the smoke. Throughout the curfew, Johnny would risk selling fish along Marine Drive before the cops caught wind. Although Johnny continued to sell fish even after the curfew, he eventually stopped coming.

Channa often wondered about the old fish-woman’s son—half out of some inarticulate guilt, half out of the nostalgia for his boyhood’s typical Sunday when Johnny’s mother would sit in the garden smoking her pipe and cleaning fish. He asked around the neighbourhood; but, already knew the answer. Nothing is poorer than the dreams of the poor.

Updated: Jun 22, 2022


Image → @jameshausley

Rasa → Veeram (वीरं): Heroism. Presiding deity: Indra. → Bhayānakam (भयानकं): Horror, terror. Presiding deity: Yama

Archetype → Explorer



Jayantha sat down on the wooden bench that was gestured to him. Today is the day that he will be ordained into monkhood. He sat on the bench facing the lagoon waters as the young monk assisting him in the ordination ceremony walked around preparing things to shave Jayantha’s hair. By the peaceful lagoon where the wind played across the water, Jayantha felt like he had returned to his once-upon-a-time home by the endless paddy rippling in the wind.

He dug his big toe into the soil; it was very good earth to grow vegetables in—he realised. Jayantha looked around. The monastery land was bordered by a small farmland from one side, and jungle from another. On the other side, the expanse of the monastery grounds disappeared into the coconut palms, beyond which the land opened to the road with the temple and an image house. The humble mud huts occupied by the few residing monks were further in. Jayantha and the monk assisting him were right in between. Jayantha turned his head from left to right over his shoulders, catching the full extent of the property. ‘It must be at least twelve and a half acres’, Jayantha gauged with his farmer’s eye trained to see land in cultivable units. He wondered if the land was under the head-monk’s name or owned by the temple donors. He shook his head at the idea that someone would just donate acres of good land like this, just for it to be left to the jungle, while he spent six years in courts against his cousin, drowning money and trying to hold on to barely five acres of paddy.

“Ready?”, the young monk assisting him asked. Jayantha nodded. He had been ready for three months, two weeks, and one day since he first came to the monastery asking to be ordained and freed; Freed from the payments to the farmers’ co-op, from the crippling microfinance loan, the shame of his divorce, the monthly bills, the sting of watching his cousin walk away from the court grounds with the entire family paddy in his name… Freed from his life in limbo at a dead end; Freed from this whole grand struggle to be—not even a revered, resourced and important landowner as he always imagined, but a lower-middle class insect making ends meet among millions of others just like him. He was so ready to be free. Following ten rules a day is something he could do in exchange for freedom, Jayantha knew with so much certainty. But, the wizened head-monk insisted on the customary three months as a layman observing and assisting the resident monastics. “Some change their mind after understanding what a monk’s life is really like,” he said, looking Jayantha in the eye; Jayantha understood that this wrinkled old monk held the keys to his freedom, and nodded obediently.

Now, he was finally getting ordained into freedom. Jayantha watched the young monk assisting him sharpen the shaving blade; he polished it on an unnaturally angled rock—a doggedly unyielding granite that has taken on the guise of gentleness from all the years of battling blades. The monk looked at Jayantha and smiled; it was time. He started shaving off Jayantha’s hair. There was no mirror. Jayantha saw a lock of familiar black-brown curls fall onto his sarong. He remembered how his former wife ran her fingers adoringly through his curls; it felt like a lifetime ago. He felt the weight of her memory come off as the second lock of curls fell. Another thick lock stumbled onto the crumpled fabric, taking his farmer’s worries of weather and war with it. A large chunk of hair bounced off his knee and fell to the ground, carrying the burden of his ageing mother. Lock after lock, layer after layer, Jayantha felt his troubles disappear. When he finally saw his reflection on the water surface of the filled-up wash basin, Jayantha was taken aback; A man with nothing left to love, nor fear, looked back at him. Only the hungry beads of eyes nursing his fire to become almighty were recognisable.

Jayantha was asked to wear a white sarong and robe. Then, he was given a set of yellow robes to hold when approaching his preceptor—the old head-monk. Jayantha knelt in front of the old monk. “You have three refuges; your teacher—the Buddha, his teaching—the Dhamma, and your community of monks—the Sangha,” he told Jayantha with the ritual stanzas that send disenchanted men off into monkhood. “...Live by the Dhamma, and you will always be protected by the Dhamma,” he said giving Jayantha the ten precepts to live by. “You will be known as Maliwāwita Gunasāra,” the old monk pronounced.

Gunasāra stood up to a world made his sanctuary.

Updated: Jun 22, 2022


Image → @ocvisual

Rasa → Bībhatsam (बीभत्सं): Disgust, aversion. Presiding deity: Shiva Bhayānakam (भयानकं): Horror, terror. Presiding deity: Yama

Archetype → Explorer



Gunasāra walked over to the edge of his temple. It was his life’s work; Everyone around knew the beautiful temple by the lagoon where he was the head-monk. It was a nearly ninety-acre property by the water, fringed by marshy jungle. Rentable meditation huts overlooked the tranquil waters that barely ever moved. Gunasāra flung the hanging edge of his robe over the shoulder for what felt like the hundredth time that day. He had draped it too haphazardly this morning, in a rush. The robe had been coming undone at the most inconvenient times.

It came undone this morning as Gunasāra patrolled through the little monks’ dorm with his cane in hand; He heard stifled giggles. The oldest of the little monks—a prepubescent boy, who had been displaying quite the urge to rebel, laughingly commented on Gunasāra’s not-so-secret drinking habit. If Anura—the temple’s chief donor—hadn’t walked in at that exact moment, Gunasāra would have made three red lines that would sting at the boy’s shins for three long days. During the alms-giving—which Gunasāra had no choice but to attend as it was at Anura’s house—the robe came undone again. Gunasāra couldn't decide if he was angrier at the ridiculous robe, or at Anura—who politely slid next to him, trying to discreetly caution about the inappropriate exposure. The robe unravelled again during the afternoon worship ritual—this time in full view of the Sunday-schoolers present there.

But now, Gunasāra was finally safe from the scrutiny of his devotees and disciples; by the tranquil lagoon waters, he was free; free to be among the wild and the vile that walk the Earth. No ritualistic pretences; No precepts; No setting examples; No helping spiritually-starved miserable fools; No expectations. Just a man in a robe, freely flirting with his beast self.

Gunasāra glanced around at the beautiful land and took a deep inhale. The arrack coursed jubilantly through his veins. Gunasāra reminisced on how he fought and schemed to win every inch of the immense property, threatening both the neighbouring farmer and the Forestry Department with lawsuits. “The big fish and the small fish; I cast them all in the same net,” he would boast.

He was allowed, he knew.

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