“Why do Sri Lankans celebrate Poya, the night of the full moon, with a holiday every month?” asks my granddaughter. It’s a family celebration. One branch of the family has come from Sri Lanka. We are staring at the full moon from the terraced parterre in the swimming pool area of the Park Hotel in Chennai. The moon hangs down from the clear sky like a ripe melon waiting to be plucked. Its reflection looks like undulating orange slices on the pool’s aquamarine surface.
“Because we are an island people, who love to celebrate our island life,” explains one of the guests.
“No,” says another. “It’s to remember the words of the Buddha who attained Nirvana on Buddha Purnima, which marks his birth, atonement and death. He said, ‘Thou shalt not kill. Thou shall respect all creatures of the earth as one.’”
“Maybe it’s just to remind us of how...