2006-12-29

End of Hibernation

Life in Taprobane







A Couple of months have come and gone, and my blog hasn't seen an update. I have been hibernating. Doing nothing, watching DVD's, one after another and just taking off whenever I fancied. I needed a break, a break from the world around me.

So I escaped from the routine. Didn't even take my camera. But couldn't resist capturing some of those moments with my mobile phone.

2006-10-18

Habarana Blast

Life in Taprobane
Here we go again. We were just planning to go on a jeep safari in 10 days time – to Habarana and beyond. A couple of nights in Amaya Lake and then to Kaudulla, Minneriya and hopefully, to Maduru Oya once again. We must have passed this place of incident a zillion times.

Now the trip is off. Not that we are scared, but we don't want to hurt the feelings of some of the dear ones by being 'utterly and totally insensitive' at this moment.

I still don't understand the people in this country. The country is already divided - Colombo vs the rest of the country. The beemers and the flashy cars turn to bullock carts and haggard buses just 20 miles outside the capital. It's another world beyond that perimeter. Perhaps, the 'fourth' world – if there's any such thing.

I was arguing and screaming my guts out before the last presidential elections – about the planned economic policies (or the lack of it?) of the current regime. Not even my 'educated' friends understood what I was saying, and now they are complaining of the rupee being depreciated. I'm telling them to get ready to witness the nosedive, while I contemplate life some where else...

The real issue is battling the numbers, not the terrorists.

While the races and religions divide, economies unite. When will they get this..?

2006-10-12

Keeping up the Promises

Life in Taprobane
Just heard that there's going to be a new Rs 2000 note.

Well, Chinthaka promised he'll double the salaries – this one is for the pick-pockets!

The Gentle Giants

Life in Taprobane

It's been almost a month since I last wrote.

Life in Paradise has been a bit "outdoor-sy." Since the Bradby in Kandy, haven't had a single 'sober' weekend. Been busy intoxicating, recovering, and travelling in between.

Went to Maduru Oya last weekend; to see the pachyderms in their natural habitat.

This is them, a bit alert, sensing our presence.

Never believed that the local tracker could actually communicate with elephants – until a roaring wall of elephants stopped charging us – a mere 10 meters short of us. They stopped, turned, and roared back - and we were dumb-founded in amazement, fear and shock.

Luckily, I have this on film. But it's a bit foggy - we were facing the evening sun. An amazing experience – makes it all worthwhile to live in the paradise (even with all the red-tape and annoying bureaucratic crap).

2006-09-19

September 17

September 17th, a day to remember one of the greatest leaders of our time, the first Executive President of the country, Junius Richard Jayawardena - fondly known as JR.

Undoubtedly, he is my hero in politics. Clever, cunning and shrewd as a leader, kind and compassionate as a human being. He was a man who saw the future, and had a vision. A vision – had it worked the way he imagined and planned – that could have propelled this island in to the future.

I was too small to understand his politics then, but I remember him visiting our school, often. Receiving the class-prize from this great man is a memory I cherish, and so is the fond memory of him making a surprise visit and offering the whole school a treat of ice-cream. Nothing was impossible for him, except, in his own words, "turning a man in to a woman."

Once, we – the Royal College Cadets – were at a guard-of-honour to the President. He had this habit of spotting the students from his college and pausing for a chat. The cadets knew the protocol by heart – the drill, the salute and the whole works – and to reply beginning with a specific salutation Uthumaneni..!

So there we were, a few batallions of cadets, at the parade. JR, inspecting the guard of honour, passes me and my colleague, and, then pauses. He looks at the young cadet in front, and asks, "What is your name, son?"

Tap, tap, tap... after a perfect drill and a salute, and my fellow cadet screams, "Uthumanenie... My name is Ranasinghe, G. H. K...!" (not the correct name, for obvious reasons)

The whole parade had to grit their teeth to stop the laughter - my dear friend didn't realise "Uthumaneni" (Your Excellency) wasn't English!

JR nodded his head, patted my collegue's shoulder and continued with a grin on his face.

September 17th was declared the national tree-planting day to commemorate his birthday.

The Japanese erected a golden statue in his honour, for saving Japan and enabling her freedom from the allied forces after the war.

We issued a coin. And also plastered posters and painted graffiti all over the country: "JR maramu!" (Let's Kill JR!).

The Seven Wives: Lankan Style

Life in Taprobane
Women. Can't live with them; can't live without them. Men declared war, built monuments, wrote epics and did the strangest of the strange – all because of them. And of course, our forefathers were no exception. According to one of the chronicles (Dhatuwamsa) a king called Giri Abhaya built a town in the name of his consort – Somadevi – and aptly named it Soma Nagara. King Vattagamini Abhaya aka Valagamba (89 - 77 BC) built a monastery in honour of his (second) queen Somadevi called Somaramaya.

Wifely virtues expected by the ancient Sri Lankan society were merely mainly centered on chastity, religious fervour, sagacity and affability in conversation. Mahawamsa eulogizes the virtuousness and other wifely attributes of the consort of king Parakramabahu the Great (1153 – 1186 AC), thus:

"a dear consort who has come forth, rejoicing the eyes of the poeple, as the moon (rises) from the ocean, from (the house of) the great king Kittisirimegha, who loved him, the highest of rulers, as Sita loved Rama. Amongst all the ladies of the harem, many hundreds in number, she was by far his best loved. She loved the frail of the jewels and beyond her own husband who was like to be the king of the gods (Indra), she cared for none even as much as grass whoever he might be. She did what the Lord of Men wished, had friendly speech, was adorned with the ornament of many virtues such as faith, discipline and the like, was skillful in dance and song, possessed an intelligence (sharp) as the point of the Kusa grass, her heart was ever cooled by the practice of the virtue of pity"

One must be extremely lucky to find a woman of exceeding beauty, as well as beauty within. Though there are many notes of women of such nature written all over the history of this island, the marriage brought out the true colours of most women (and men too, I suppose).

“Conjugal affinities, in the contemporary Hindu society of India, was fundamentally different from that of Buddhist Sri Lanka. The conduct of the Indian wife was based on a perpetual code that was considered sacred and inviolable. But the attitude of the Sri Lankan society, guided by the most rational liberal doctrines in the world, was that marriage was a union that bound two individuals physically and spiritually. The partners of such a union were not entitled satisfy their unfiltered whims. Just because his sex, the husband could not treat his wife as a slave. He provided for her and gave his protection and affection to her. They lived as partners of a union that was governed by mutual love and affection, trust and responsibility.”

The Sattabharya Sutta defines seven types of wives, based on their attitude towards their husband:

1. Vadhaka Bharya (executioner): a wife who's rough and inconsiderate to her husband.

2. Chori Bharya (robber): she who wastes her husband's wealth and indulges in surreptitious misbehavior

3. Ayya Bharya (master): a wife who lords over her husband

4. Bhagini Bharya (sister): she who's obedient and adores her husband as if he was her elder brother

5. Sakhi Bharya (friend): she who is trustworthy, concerned and attached - as if her husband is her good friend

6. Daasi Bharya (servant): a wife who never tires of working to please her husband

7. Maata Bharya (mother): she who is loving, concerned, attentive and protective as if her husband was her son

Motherly types and the friendly types have been the most popular. The three evil ones, I suppose wouldn't have been the topic of conversation much, even then.

Source: Sri Lankan Women in Antiquity - Prof. Indrani Munasinghe

2006-08-21

Woman: Lankan Style

Life in Taprobane

There are many instances in our past where the kings "imported" brides from the neighboring states. Not that the island lacked pretty women of suitable stature or the Kings got bored of their harems, they wanted to make some symbolic gestures. The Lankan women were a common topic of admiration, as evident in Sigiriya frescos, various temple paintings, carvings and literature.

The poets and writers ran out of words describing their beauty. The most memorable description of the Lankan beauty comes from a buddhist monk, who was also a great poet: Venerable Thotagamuwe Sri Rahula.

John Davy, in his Account of the Interior of Ceylon (1821) writes about the Kandyan damsels:

“The Sinhalese women are generally well made and well looking, and often handsome. Their countrymen, who are great connoisseurs of the charms of the sex, and who have books on the subject, and rules to aid the judgement, would not allow a woman to be a perfect belle, unless of the following character, the particulars of which I shall give in detail as they were enumerated to me by a Kandyan courtier well versed and deeply read in such matters...”

and he goes on to describe the courtier's interpretation of Venerable Sri Rahula's benchmark:

“Her hair should be voluminous like the tail of a peacock: long, reaching to the knees, and terminating in graceful curls; her eyebrows should resemble the rainbow; her eyes, the blue sapphire and the petals of the blue manilla (mānel) flower. Her nose should be like the bill of the hawk; her lips should be bright and red, like coral on the young leaf of the iron-tree. Her teeth should be small, regular and closely set, and like jasmine buds. Her neck should be large and round, resembling the berrigodea. Her chest should be capacious; her breasts, firm and conical, like the yellow cocoa-nut, and her waist small, almost small enough to be clasped by hand. Her hips should be wide; her limbs tapering; the soles of her feet, without any hollow, and the surface of her body, in general, soft, delicate, smooth and rounded, without the asperities of projecting bones and sinews.”

The young lady Prince Sāliya fell in love with was said to be a chandāla woman of exceedingly great beauty. The prince married her with the blessings of his father, King Dutugemunu, and renounced his right to the throne. I'm sure she must have been worthy of that sacrifice..!

Womanly beauty and grace often received the attention of the authors of ancient times. To them, the woman was an object of perpetual loveliness, glamour and was fascinating a being to every onlooker, charming, enthralling, endowed with golden skin, gifted with two rows of teeth resembling two lines of conch shell plates and possessed of childlike grace.

Sande'sa (communique) poets of Gampola and Kotte periods also admired women from an aesthetic point of view.With apt similes and metaphors, they created verbal portraits, which vied for clarity with the paintings of highly talented artists. The women these bards saw had faces like the moon or full blown lotuses, bosoms like frontal globes of elephants, broad hips like clean white sandy plains and rounded thighs like elephant trunks. In short, to these poets, the woman as an entity was a marvelous creation of nature in which all the most desirable features and qualities are accumulated.

2006-08-20

Love: Lankan Style

Life in Taprobane
Love comes in to one's life, uninvited.

"In ancient Sri Lanka, parents usually arranged marriages of their children. But marriages based on love affairs were also not unknown... The pages of chronicles and literature are diffused with the stories of young lovers getting married without parental intervention. Some of these unions, such as those of Unmaada Citra and Diigha Gaamini, Pandukaabhya and Svarnapaali, Kaakavannatissa and Viharamaha Devi and Saliya - Asokamala have become immortal both in our traditions and written history.

"The Saliya – Asokamala love story is one of the most beautiful and sublime stories in the world. In this story, the culmination of this love affair speaks not only one of the strengths of the couple's attachment to each other, but also the magnanimity and rare greatness of the kingly father who granted permission for the union to take place. If the story of Dutthagaamini's marriage with the cultivator's daughter is authentic, his son Saaliya's affair was the third love marriage in three successive generations."

Saaliya had to give-up the right to the throne - that's the price he paid for his love. But, as we know, some royals and the people of the higher castes could get away with murder. It was "okay" for them break the norms of the society. Did the average man and woman have the same privilege?

"...like the lotus leaf to which drops of water cannot adhere, her mind does not adhere to no one except her lord. They, whose love for each other was immense, passed their entire youthful days like gold and quicksilver."

...writes Ven. Thotagamuve Sri Rahula in Kavyasekharaya describing a young couple in love. Looking back, we still have the evidence to show the grande status of the ancient Lankan civilisation. It was a far more "developed" society - people had a good life and extra time in their hands for indulgence. There were parks and entertainment. There was music and dance. Love must have flourished in abundance. The kind of parties king Kaasyapa must have thrown on top of the Sigiriya fortress would have been second to none, even in hollywood standards.

"The Mahavamsa has many examples to show that caste was not always the primary requirement in selecting a marriage partner. Nor did race play any insurmountable barrier to marriage. Several kings had their consorts from other races. Candamukha Siva (43 - 52 A.C.) and Mahaanaama (406 - 428 A.C.) had Tamil queens while Mahinda III (801 - 804 A.C.) and Vijayabaahu I (1055 - 1110 A.C.) married Kaalinga princesses. Vijayabaahu I married a Kaalinga princess particularly because she was a beauty with a majestic appearance and a delicate disposition.

"Other than the princesses of Royal birth, even girls from less august heritage enjoyed the privilege of marrying young men of their choice. According to a story in Rasavaahini, a young woman called Hema fell in love at first sight with a merchant and married him. Another maiden named Sumana married a counselor of king Dutthagaamini on her own accord. Commentaries state that a certain young woman hopelessly desired a monk. As the bhikku spurned her love, the lovelorn damsel became so inconsolable that she refused to take any food and died of starvation..."

Some gave up their kingdoms, some gave up their possessions, some sacrificed their lives for love. Love is blind. It has been, even then.

Source: Sri Lankan Women in Antiquity - Prof. Indrani Munasinghe

2006-08-14

The time is Now

So, what next...?

Scenario A - LTTE gains: Army loses Jaffna, LTTE bombs Palaly and handicaps SLAF air-power, LTTE gains the upper hand and they begin sporadic attacks all over the place. We will end up in one fine mess.

Scenario B - Things will cool down: Army maintains the defense lines, carries on with "missions" without any strategy as usual, the government calls for peace talks, unconditionally. (again, without a strategy, as usual.) And Chintaka says Ohoma Yan, please let me live my dream for the next 11 years..!

Scenario C - Army gains: What, I don't know.

Scenario D - Divine Intervention: The God has had enough and sends a message to Bush. Bush sends shiploads of ammo and thousands of white brats for a real life ps2 game. From Yala to Batti to Jaffna, the whole place is bombed to bits, nothing is left of the spotted kind. No LTTE, no war. We ride humvies in Colombo.

Scenario E - ......................................... (yours to fill in the blanks)

The truth is, the war in this country cannot be won with guns and bullets. The government must win the war in the hearts and minds of the discriminated Sri Lankans (I chose not to divide Sri Lankans in to Tamils, Sinhalese and other "races"). Then, and only then, will there be a lasting peace prevailing in the island.

We are one country, one nation. We have been intertwined for thousands of years, there is no blue-blooded pedigree left anymore in this land. Each and every one of us have a mix of Sinhala and Tamil blood running in our veins. We are inseparable, we have been inseparable for many, many centuries. It is like the four kovils in every Buddhist temple.

We have already seen far too many men, women and children being killed all around us. The "fresh" air in the Paradise smells of raw blood. The bloodbath has to stop, we have suffered enough, we have seen too much.

We have wronged each other for far too long, we have destroyed each other far too much. We have hurt each other far too deep.

It's time to give up one's pride - it's time to let go of the ego. It's time to say "I'm sorry..." and mean it.

The time is now. The time is now to bring back the smiles and touch each others hearts. We are one nation, we are all Sri Lankans.

It's that simple, and it's that complicated.

2006-08-12

News: Paradise Style

The news is unnerving. One of my Tamil colleagues has tears in his eyes. He is worried about his fiance who's stuck in Jaffna. The situation, as we hear, is not so good. It has become a numbers game between the government controlled media and pro-terrorist news groups.

No one knows what the reality is. No one knows where the truth lies.

The beauty in Sri Lankan media is that there is a newspaper for everyone. In paradise, every single news item is warped, skewed, and sugar-coated to your liking. They report what you WANT to hear. You just have to know which paper to pick.

Once, there was a protest march about a year ago, and it was passing the Bambalapitiiya Junction heading towards the city. The police had to break-up the march in order to accommodate the intersecting traffic. One television station showed those broken-up bits of the march and reported the whole thing was a failure; while the another channel reported it as a grand success and they showed the continuous rally that ran into miles and miles.

That is news, paradise style.

Majority of the newspapers are filled with partial and biased news reports. Between the pro and anti government propaganda, no one knows where to look. Local newspapers are just a plethora of depressing stories of people died, killed, or committed suicide around the country. The papers are more like extended obituaries - from cover to cover.

I'm starving for a good newspaper. I want to read some cheerful news. I want a papre that celebrates life. Where there's some flesh, trash, sports, cars, goss, and some political news from Romania, for example. I just want to see a paper that makes me feel good, and positive, about life. I just want to escape from this news trash. I've had enough.

2006-08-01

All we need is an alien intervention

Apparently there's positive proof that aliens are visiting the troubled isle, according to the latest newspaper reports.
- The Daily Mirror, Tuesday August 01, 2006

To succeed the Norwegians, perhaps..?

[See my previous posts on aliens: Part 1 and Part 2]

A new kid on the block

There's a (yet another) new publication in town. It's a Sinhala newspaper, called Mavubima (Mother-land) and carries a fascinating tabloid named after a machine gun.

Why, because it wants to be a weapon that shapes the future.

You could contribute your articles, views and opinions to the tabloid - but they'll be published without your name. No credit to the writer. They say, what matters is the substance and the contents of the feature - not the person who wrote the piece.

Pretty neat, pretty cool attitude, I thought.

And of course, I loved the design. In a country where graphic design and art direction is (pretty much) at its infancy, it is heart-warming to see a newspaper tabloid of such quality. I don't necessarily agree with the "new-age Sinhala language" they are using, but I love the design and the presentation. It reminds me of Loaded, and some of those weird German magazines where the new design trends are born. It reminds me of the work that I used to see from AUB and AUD graduates. Fresh, liberal and unconventional.

I hope the good work continues and the spirit never dies. I'm going to buy that paper next weekend.

2006-07-26

The Bells of St. Lucia's Cathedral



"A cathedral is an eloquent testimony to what can be achieved when artistic inspiration and far-sighted vision collaborate harmoniously with deep Christian faith. That is why the pilgrim to Rome is overwhelmed not so much at the immense scale of the basilicas or by their artistic splendour, but by the sheer faith that inspired artists like Michaelangelo, Raffaello, Bernini and Maderna to visualise and execute such breath-taking wonders for the glory of God. Similar feelings awe and administration flood the soul of the visitor to St. Lucia's Cathedral, Kotahena, Sri Lanka. He is overpowered by the majesty of the dome, the gracefulness of the vault and the grandeur of Corinthian pillars. But above all, he is wafted high on wings of faith as he kneels to pray and contemplate this beautiful cathedral, such a magnificient Alleluia of praise to God, the creator of the universe."
- A light Set On a Hill


Had the rare opportunity of seeing the renovation work that is being carried out at one of the oldest churches in Sri Lanka - the St. Lucia's Cathedral. Construction of the Cathedral began in 1873 and was completed in 1902, with additions going on till about 1905. Over a century old, the cathedral today needs major maintenance work done, to restore the building to its former glory.

Among the many wonders at the Cathedral, are the chimes of bells. Donated by Mr A. N. De Silva of Mayfield House, Mudliar Henry Perera of Wasala Walauwa, Mrs F. J. Alles of Ternon House and Mr J. C. Peiris of Grandpass, the four bells were shipped from a foundry in Marseilles (France) in the SS Himalaya and were transported to the cathedral on the 5th of November 1903. Installation of the bells was a mammoth effort: the largest bell weighes 4,300 pounds. Messrs Walker Sons of Mutwal - one of the well-known engineering companies of that era, completed the task.

The bells were christened at 4.30pm on the 13th of December (the Feast of St. Lucia) by His Grace Rev. Dr. Th. Andrew Melizan - the Archbishop of Colombo. They were first ceremoniously washed with salt and water, then anointed four times with the Oil of Chrism, and named. When this was done, His Grace the Archbishop of Colombo sounded each bell once and this act was repeated by sponsors, the clergy and the Religious present. The wooden frames and the main teak beams were covered with white cloth, tied with green ribbons, Broad-lace, and gold paper. The bells were dressed in white satin robes edged with lace and embriodery. A thurible with burning incense and other aromatics was placed under each bell.

The whole ceremony lasted nearly two hours. That evening, the Angelus was rung on the newly christened bells.

The four bells are engraved with the Crucifixion, and the likeness of Fr. Chounavel. The name of the Foundry is inscribed on each bell: Georges & Francisque Paccard, Founders - A - Annecy - le - Veux Hte Savoie - France - 1903.

1. The biggest bell weighs 4,300 pounds and is christened
ANTHONY THOMAS.
It has engraved on it beautiful floral wreaths, the Crucifixion, the Sacred Heart, Our Lady, St. Joseph, and the twelve apostles. It has the crest of Oblates of Mary Immaculate with the caption Evangelitur Pauperibus Misset Me
This is the main bell of the cathedral - rung only in occasions whence the statue of St. Lucia is taken out in procession.

2. The bell next in size weighs 2,000 pounds and is christened
CONSTANT HENRY LUCIA EMILIA.
This, along with the bells three and four, are connected to the clock - to chime hourly, every half an hour and every fifteen minutes consecutively. The clock is still in perfect working condition, while the mechanism to chime the bells have ceased to function.

3. The third bell weighs 1,400 pounds and is christened
FRANCIS THERESA.

4. The fourth bell weighs 950 pounds and is christened
JEAN BAPTIST EDWARD ANNA.

The clock that is at the facia of the cathedral has the mechanism located elsewhere. They are connected with a long set of "differentials" that run through the thick walls. That is, another marvel, another story.

Perhaps, later.

2006-07-23

Ignorance is bliss - ii

Life in Taprobane
"you are all I'll ever want
but this I am denied
sometimes, in my darkest thoughts
I wish I'd never learned
what it is to be in love
and have that love returned

is it written in the stars?
are we paying for some crime?
is that all that we are good for
just a stretch of mortal time?
is this God's experiment
in which we have no say?
in which we're given paradise
but only for a day?"

(Written in the Stars - Elton John)

Ignorance is bliss

There is a little roadside tea-shop in Balungala (Balanagala) closer to Girandurukotte, on the way from Polonnaruwa to Mahiyangana. The woman runs the shop while the husband tends to the patch of land they cultivate and other manly affairs in life.

Inside the little shop, there's a couple of plastic chairs for the odd traveller, and a kettle on fire in a corner on ground level. In the dimly-lit corner, next to the fire place, one would find a family of cats snoozing. Their toddler, with a home-made toy - an old tuna tin with a string or something - keeps himself busy while the mother attends to the guests. There are some skinny dogs loitering about - life in all forms and shapes exist in harmony around the place.

You will taste the best Vade, halapa, dodol and laveriya there - and of course a plain-tea with a piece of jaggery would be THE treat for the weary traveller.

The woman, has the most amazingly calm look I have ever seen on any woman's face. Peace, serenity, tranquility - crosses my mind. Her face says she is content with life. It says her life is perfect. It says she is the happiest person on this planet.

Ask her about the cost of living, or who voted for whom at the elections, she wouldn't know. Has she read the papers or watched tv lately? She doesn't find an absolute necessity there. What's going on in the next town - is there a musical show or a political meeting taking place - that's not at all important to her...

That is life perfect. That is bliss. Not to know the thing that you don't need to know.

The image of her serenity is carved in my memory - and every time I get frustrated and emotional about issues that are beyond me, I keep telling myself that ignorance is bliss. The more we know, the more we complicate our lives.

Sometimes, I wish I were an illiterate peasant living in a remote village, somewhere deep in the bush. My life, my aspirations, my expectations, would have been much less complicated. Sometimes I just wish I had never known most of what I know now.

2006-07-21

Of Mascots and their Creators


Sometime back, I read some interesting comments on why Sri Lanka has no good designers (See www.nidahas.com). Lack of training and coaching facilities, no proper design schools, not getting paid well etc. were some of the reasons discussed.

This mascot of the SAF Games - the infamous Pandan Allan Kukula - is a testimony to the calibre of self-acclaimed 'designers' we have today. It is such crap and a load of shite, it makes me want to puke. I'm so shameful to be born in a country that qualifies such crap to be national symbols.

Here are my two cents to the designer. I hope you'll take it as constructive criticism and do something better next time. (That is if there IS a next time)

1. A Mascot is a mascot, not a real animal. Understand your brief first.
2. Create a mascot based on the real animal. Give him a personality, make him adorable. Bring him to life.
3. Inject the spirit of the event to the mascot - if it is sports, make him playful.
4. Give a name. Christen your child. Call him something. I still remember my Mishka (aka Misha) I got from Moscow Olympics, and this year's Football mascot is Goleo vi. His football is Pille.
5. Make sure your mascot is versatile. Remember he is going to be used commercially to generate funds.
6. Make him flexible in application. Make sure the mascot reproduces well in different mediums, processes and material etc.
7. Read, read, read. Do some research and learn what the world has done. Look at the Football World-Cup Mascot, look at Olympic mascots. Learn from them, get inspired by them, and do better than them.
8. Take ownership. Set up guidelines.
9. Offer a digital library of poses and applications. Don't let others massacre your baby.
10. Remember, simplicity is key. Don't complicate your design.

There's more, but at least try to stick to these basics - you won't go wrong.

I wouldn't blame the "designer" for this disaster, the governing body of the SAF Games Sri Lanka should have had some better brains. People, if you know that you are in the wrong job, please, please leave. Leave with dignity - don't hang around and expose your ignorance and stupidity. You are bringing shame not only unto yourself, but to the whole nation.

Pandan Allana Kukula

Just saw a piece of communication for the South Asian Federation (SAF) Games, soon to be held in Colombo.

There was a man throwing something (I think it's a Kabadi player), and a rooster with a torch - both being used as graphic elements promoting the event.

My first question: why two symbols? Answer: One is the logo of the event, the rooster is the mascot.

It's not just another rooster - it's a Vali Kukula, the symbol of the nation, I was told.

All these years, I was under the impression that the symbol of the nation was the lion. And peacock, the national bird. They both have a sense of regality, sense of pride and integrity, above all - a commanding presence.

But, a rooster? That too a rooster that runs for life, into the bush, the minute it hears the slightest noise? A bird that gets picked on and pecked on, a bird that is better off dead than being alive? One that lives in constant fear? One that has no pride or presence at all?

And the best part of course is the pandama (torch)..!

What the hell is wrong with this nation? I cannot understand. What is a lion or a peacock, and what is a rooster?

Then it dawned on me - this is an extremely clever plot to symbolize the nation what it stands for today, in reality: pandan allana kukulo...!

2006-07-15

Evolution of the Sinhalese - Part 2

The Laws of Evolution

Mammoth died, the cockroach lived. The law is simple: the clever, smarter species would survive and the weaker ones would die away.

If I were God/Mother Nature/Supreme Power/Brahma or the Matrix, who would I choose between the Tamils and the Sinhalese?

With the current score, I would pick the Tamils and let the Sinhalese be wiped out of the plant earth. I am a Sinhalese, but I have to be fair - I'm the Matrix.

We, the Sinhalese, have time and time again, proven that we are a weaker race. We are ignorant, we are foolish. We have no vision. We are a bunch of frogs in a well.

Pick 10 people randomly, and ask what would they be doing in five years' time? I've tried it - the majority of the Sinhalese are clueless. They have no idea. They have never thought about it. They have never planned anything.

Apply the same to the Tamils, or to some foreigners, if you must. Majority would know what exactly they want, what exactly they'd want to be five years down the line.

It's like the JVP and the LTTE. The JVP had the first revolution in 1970, second in 1988-89, and over a period of 36 years, their objective, their mission, has changed like the weather. LTTE, in the meantime has held on to their demand - they have never lost focus.

Perseverance. Integrity. The fighting spirit. I can keep adding words, it's only going to favour the Tamils.

The law of evolution, the matrix, says, keep the Tamils and let the Sinhalese be gone. And the system has begun work, and guess what - the Sinhalese are doing a brilliant job in wiping out their own race.

Evolution of the Sinhalese - Part 1

Why are we shocked at the recent betrayals?


There is a debate going on about President Rajapakse's decision to let Daya Master be treated in Colombo. Is it right or wrong, good or bad, I wouldn't know. However, this has prompted discussions leading to LTTE vs SLGov and the Tamils vs Sinhalese comparisons.

We, the Sinhalese think that we are the greatest. We are united, we are peaceful, we the cultural, we are this and we are that. We are the dog's bollocks. For all the Sinhalese in this country, let me offer a self analysis.

We descend from Vijaya, who's grandmother - Suppadevi (a princess from Vanga) - ran away from home and mated with a lion (Could be a human from the "Lion" tribe). Their kids, Vijaya's parents - Sinha Bahu and Sinha Seevali - were twins. It is also said that Sinha Bahu killed his own father for a reward from the King of Vanga, and later assumed throne.

As we know, Vijaya and his boon friends got deported from his own kingdom - they were that 'well-behaved.' The first thing Vijaya does upon landing in "Tamba Panni" - or the copper-coloured shores of Sri Lanka - is to get laid with the very first woman he sets his eyes upon... The woman, Kuveni, becomes his mistress and betrays her own clan to help Vijaya exterminate them. What does grateful Vijaya do eventually, after assuming the crown? He "imports" a new bride and sends Kuveni and his two kids packing in to the jungles of Adam's Peak. Kuveni doesn't survive in the hands of her enraged kinsfolk, but the kids are said to be the ancestors of the "Pulinda" race - the current "Vedda's."

Now boys and girls, aren't we proud of our heritage? A proud heritage of incest, thuggery and betrayal?

Does 'selling one's soul' sound strange to the Sinhalese? Does anyone wonder why the top ranks in key positions are selling information to LTTE? Does anyone wonder why the Sinhalese are offering the LTTE all the logistical support in carrying out their missions?

Friends, don't blame them, blame our ancestors. It is in our DNA.

We would sell our fathers, get rid of the wife, throw the kids out... we Sinhalese would do ANYTHING for selfish gains. Our fingers itch, if we don't make a fast-buck.

Even King Parakramabahu (12th Century), who had the greatest ever Sinhala army in the history, had a "Solee (Chola)" regiment to safeguard the tooth relic, it is said. He could trust his army to invade Burma, but he knew he couldn't trust them with the symbol of the crown. He knew, even then, the true colours of the Sinhala race.

My dear countrymen, fellow Sinhalese, open your eyes and smell the coffee. Don't ever be surprised at the Sinhala traitors and the ones who betray the country - it is not at all a new concept to the Sinhalese.

We are born to have fun, make material gains, and live a life full of joy. Can't find a woman - sleep with your sister. Need some money or power - kill your dad or plaster him to the walls with cement. That's the heritage we are proud of, that's what we are made of.

Who are we kidding?

2006-07-14

Aliens - Contd.

Have you ever wondered why the “aliens” are always dressed in the same costume? Did they just go “Ok, from tomorrow, all of us shall wear green tights with gold polka-dots on them...” and unanimously passed a bill?

Or is it simply because we have always seen the Star-treks and the Blakes-Sevens in their “uniforms” and it makes us think that the aliens also must be in their uniforms when they visit outer space?

Whichever way, it looks like there's no room for fashion designers or the skinny models in the future - or in the outer space. No wonder the aliens get sick of their planets and start wandering around the milky way - how would you like to see all the women in the planet in the same under-wear? Only different in size? No colours, no laces, no strings, no thongs, no frills - life must be boring enough to hop in a space shuttle I suppose.

:-)

2006-07-12

Aliens in Paradise?

My paradise isle has been attracting all kinds of tourists. Some come with their sweethearts, some come with their families. The Dutch, the Portuguese and the British came with their armies, and didn't leave for centuries.

The latest, it seems, are the aliens.

Saw some news reports indicating that there had been some alien sightings in the Southern Sri Lanka. There were the landing marks, crop-cirles, pictures taken from a mobile phone etc. etc. to back-up the claim.

"Do you believe in aliens..?" a friend asked me.

I told him that I don't believe these particular reports, but I wouldn't disregard the fact that there could be some other life forms in this universe. After all, the earth is just a grain of sand in the desert.

I think the problem is that most people are "pre-conditioned" in this day and age - they have read about aliens and already have formed an opinion and a visual impression of the strangers from the outer space. So it's very easy for one to describe the sight - and more often than not, they all tell the same story:
Big eyes, small figure, proportionately larger head... all too familiar and seem to be in line with X-Files and "Bhavathra" (the local version).

Look at this planet earth. There is an umpteen number of different life forms that roam the earth. So, why can't the aliens be present in the form of a... say, a bird, a beetle, a snake or a chimpanzee..? Why must be they imitating the human figure..? Why only stop at fauna - why can't be there any alien flora, growing somewhere in my own back yard, transmitting some sort of signals to the outer space..? How amazing would it be to discover that the little dung-beetle in the garden is an alien..?

2006-06-13

Journey and the Destination

What would you enjoy most - the journey or the destination?

I, for one, pick the former. It's the journey that counts.

It's the thought, the planning, the anticipation. It's the adrenalin, it's the excitement. Once you have reached your destination, all you have is a beautiful memory of how you got there. Once you have got to your destination, you need a bigger challenge, you need a bigger task. You get bored once you have completed the task.

Destination feels empty, while the journey can still be a cherished memory.

Just like sex.

You could enjoy the journey with any given woman, even if it is a one-night-stand. Enjoy the ride, and get off at the destination. You wouldn't be able to enjoy the destination the same way, would you?

2006-06-11

Long distance love

Absence diminishes small loves and increases great ones, as the wind blows out the candle and fans the bonfire.


- La Rochefoucald

Fanaa

For the first time in my entire life, I watched a Hindi movie in a theatre.

fanaa, it was, at the Savoy. Three hours of song and dance.

It was a beautiful movie, apart from the story-line. In terms of art direction, colour composition, and production qualities, the movie was a top hit. Glamour, beauty, energy, oozing 30 frames a second. The sound was superb. Didn't feel the three hours (had it anything to do with the quick vodka at the Savoy Restaurant and the beer that followed, I have no idea...), it was indeed quite entertaining.

I guess, once the mindset is adjusted to enjoy the Hindi Cinema, one could comfortably blend in with the masses and have a great time. The women, the music, the stunts, the tears, and the whole nine yards... this one could even beat Bond in the snow scene.

Nice movie. A refreshing experience.

I envy the music lovers hear

I see them walking hand in hand, standing close to each other
in a queue at a theater or subway station,
heads touching while they sit on a park bench,
and I ache to hear the song that plays between them:

The stirring chords of romance's first bloom,
the stately airs that whisper between a couple long in love.
You can see it in the way they look at each other, the shared glances,
the touch of a hand on an elbow,
the smile that can only be so sweet for the one you love.

You can almost hear it, if you listen close.

Almost, but not quite, because the music belongs to them
and all you can have of it is...
a vague echo.

- Charles de Lint, Saskia, Moonlight & Vines

2006-05-30

The Chillies - with a pinch of salt

Well, the Chillies have come and gone and this is somewhat a long overdue postmortem.

The Chillies looked hot before the event, and the hype was good.

However, I think it was the best self-analysis that ever took place in the local ad-industry. It was an eye-opener, a reality check. A show that showed us the naked truth about local advertising standards.

There was a significant enthusiasm about the awards within the advertising crowd, and I believe there was a good number of entries as well. All, but few (like Ogilvy), participated in the event. It was a success, in terms of the number of entries received.

However, majority of the work I saw on display at TransAsia was mediocre. They lacked originality. They lacked craftsmanship. They lacked thought. There was no passion behind the work. There was no innovation.

Saddest part is that, most of the work reminded me of the Archives, the D&AD's, the New York Festivals and the One Show. I knew that I had seen the "idea" somewhere else before. Was it the imported creative director trying to recycle ideas, or was it the local talent lifting ideas off the books, or was it sheer coincidence, I wouldn't know...

I don't even want to know.

But why can't we be original? "Steal with Pride" says Unilever - when they see a great marketing idea.

We should never apply that to local advertising. Because, we are different. Sri Lankans behave differently to news. The Western theories don't work most of the time, unless and otherwise it is a simple, universal truth.

Throw a cracker on the street and we'll see hundreds of inquisitive Sri Lankans gather around. The Europeans or the Japanese don't behave in that manner. It is easy for us to gather a crowd and pass a message across. It is easier for us to manipulate the way people think.

We are great at spreading rumors. We love movies. So much so, we just watch even the Hindi ones without understanding the dialogue. Unlike the West, we are a lot more receptive to communication channels. And there are a dozen unique communication channels that are hardly being exploited by the advertising agencies. There are perhera's, gam-madu ulela's, viridu kaarayaa's, anda-bera kaarayaa's and even kelaa paththare's to tell your consumer what he wants to hear.

We don't have to work hard to bring a brand to life in the consumer's life, if ONLY we think beyond the box. That's "activation" and that's "experiential marketing" that everyone is talking about.

There are unique communications channels available and a ready listener waiting. Just be original, be different, and do something new. Win an award. Come up with an "idea" that Neil French would be jealous of.

Advertising is about ideas. It's about great ideas that win awards. Not only here, but all over the world.

I can't even imagine how Paracetol "pettha vs pottha" got a nomination for the campaign of the year. How can it be campaign-able when the idea:
a) doesn't translate to Tamil
b) doesn't translate to English
c) doesn't have any other executions (ad 2, ad 3, ad 4 and so on) in the "campaign"
d) doesn't seamlessly evolve?

And, of course, I would like to see what the follow-up ad would be like.

It was a good tactical ad, but was never a campaign.

Then there was the Surf Excel Sellam - a great activation example - which, unfortunately didn't get noticed much becuase the judges had no idea what "activation" was all about.

There are some more examples - but I guess I have made my point.

We are at the infancy of global advertising standards, but the Chillies was a good start. Let's work on the ideas, originality, craftsmanship and polish-up our work; let's be uniquely Sri Lankan. Then, and only then, shall we be able to compare ourselves with the big boys in advertising.

2006-05-11

Blogger Power

Read this article this morning. It's about this one man who discovers some corrupted-advertising-deal at the Maine Tourist Office and how his blog www.mainewebreport.com starts this whole saga.

Life threathening incidents, law-suits and after all the arm-twisting, the big boys drop the case, and now they want to forget about everything. Why? The blogger had gained the upperhand, he had the public support. Why, because the big boys have their jobs on the line now.

Well, hurrah for blogger power!

I only wish we could throw the monkeys out of our parliament with our "Blogger Power" one day!

2006-05-10

Getting caught in the Island Life

I have been a total waste of space the last whole-month. There were far too many holidays, far too many friends and far too many "good times" to celebrate. So much so, even my bottle of Lebanese "Arak" - which, usually gets sniffed and kept back - found it's way to the table. Desperation, in good times.

Life in the paradise isle is great. I've lost some weight since I arrived, but gained a thin layer of "comfortable fat" around my belly. Time to consider working out; but haven't found a gym that opens early enough, yet.

Have spent some quality time in Mount, Galle and Bandarawela - the holidays have been amazing.

There are two significant changes taking place in my life.
1. I’m beginning to sleep a bit more than my usual four-hours. It's becoming six hours, another reason why my blog hasn't been rolling as usual.
2. I’m beginning to develop a taste for, or rather learning to appreciate, the brown skinned women with 'long' hair. A radical departure - considering that I've always fancied the fair-skinned, with short hair.

I guess the only achievement in the last month has been the APP (Apple® Product Professional) Certification, which, in a way proves that my grey cells are still intact.

There's Vesak holiday around the corner. I don't think I will ever be able to recover from the holidays in this country. Too much, too often, it's killing me.

2006-04-07

Warning: Pedestrians cross everywhere!


Driving to Water's Edge Sunday morning on the Baseline Road, I get stopped by cops for speeding. True, I was driving fast - but when I spotted the cop with a camera from a distance, I slowed down to a speed that I thought would be “reasonable” for a three-laned highway.

Having driven in a fairly good amount of countries, I made the first mistake of calculating the “reasonable” speed in the fast lane to be around 80 kph. What a mistake that was, I was caught at 79; apparently 50 is the limit.

I have been driving in Colombo for the last 8 months, but have failed to see the signs that indicate the speed limit. Eventually, I managed to discover some: hidden on pavements, camouflaged by trees, lamp-posts, election posters and parked vehicles.

Apparently, the road signs are for pedestrians, that's why they are fixed on the pavements. So that, when they jump to the street - as they always do - they would know how hard they are going to get hit. Fifty kph doesn’t kill you; that's why it’s the limit. Beyond sixty does (as it was advertised in Australian tv sometime back). That way, one would get a hefty compensation and a well deserved rest, and of course a great topic to boast about in dinner tables.

Driver's shouldn't know the speed limit. That's why there are no warnings (such as “This road is controlled by radar”) or the speed limits on the central divider for the drivers to see. If they knew, how would the cops survive?

I think it's just that my Taprobane is too developed for me to fathom; they expect everyone to have the sixth sense in driving. I’m just new here, I shall attain it in due course...

Of Beamers and Corollas

A strange island this is. We are (supposed to be) one of the poorest nations in the world, but on par with the western world in literacy rate, no of deaths at child birth and health/medical care etc.

Even the shanties in Colombo have televisions, some even have their own set of wheels – be it a motorbike or a three-wheeler.

We no longer see the age-old automobiles frequent our streets, seeing a classic Morris Minor in Colombo would be a pleasant surprise. Most of the latest models are here - I'm just waiting to see the H3. American cars were never a hit here a few years back, but thanks to dimo, the Chrysler range is here.

Buying a Toyota Corolla or an equivalent here would cost you as much as you'd pay for a BMW 3 Series in a cosmopolitan city like Dubai. I don't think even Dubai has as many BMW's as Corollas in Colombo. Same could be said about most cities in the world.

Just imagine, if there were no vehicle taxes here, every Corolla owner could be driving a beamer instead. Would we, or could we, are a different kettle of fish altogether - but it's a nice thought though...

2006-04-06

All you need is a Mac

Life in Taprobane

Here's some great news. Apple has released "Boot Camp" (beta) that enables new Intel-based Macs to run Windows XP as a native operating system.

A Mac and a PC in one cool machine. Imagine that.


My iPod & Mac

2006-03-28

The Consumer is NOT a moron

David Ogilvy, the founder of Ogilvy Worldwide and the father of advertising, once said that the consumer is not a moron. He said, treat the consumer as if she is your wife - with respect and dignity.

Well, look at the Sri Lankan advertising scenario. I was disgusted by what I saw when I came back and started watching television.

Let's leave aside the poor creativity, Indian influence, lack of originality and craftsmanship etc. Let's leave aside the issues that are unique and inherent to us. Let's, for a moment forget the budgets and restrictions and look at ourselves.

Television is a visual medium; and what the consumer sees is what he believes.

- Anchor 1+ runs a commercial that draws arrows showing how that particular Anchor kid is growing taller than the rest. When did calcium elongate or lengthen the bones..?

- Dettol runs a commercial that signs off with 100% Protection (I saw the Sinhala ad; the back-translation suggests 100% Protection). There is nothing under the sun that carries a 100% guarantee; Dettol would never be able to have such claims in the Western world. If you had the statistics to back-up, you could claim 99.9% at best; never a 100%. “A Dettol home is a safe home” is what I remember about Dettol, in Sri Lanka the marketers tend to claim claims even without thinking.

- Then, there are the electrical goods (plugs and switches etc) from Orange. They proudly claim that their merchandise is for “Once, and Forever.” I would really love to meet the Orange engineers who, obviously position themselves on par with God, the Maha Brahma, Allah and the rest; capable of creating things eternal. They must have won the Presidential Award for Innovation.

- Then there are these comedies taking place between Anton PVC and S-Lon; Sri Lanka Insurance and Ceylinco Insurance etc. for the number one position. Anton is No 1; so is S-Lon. They all claim to be the number one...!

The list is endless.

See how loosely we use superlatives and adjectives such as “100%,” “the best,” “forever,” “No 1” in our advertising. Basic rule in advertising: always tell the truth. There must be evidence to support a claim. No evidence, no claim. It's not only the regulations, it's also the common sense.

In this Paradise Isle, the agencies and the clients have taken control of the media. They are taking the whole country for a ride, totally disregarding morals and ethics, only to meet their numbers in profits.

The ministry of information tells me that there is a “Code of Conduct” for media institutions and that should protect the consumer against such rubbish advertising. But, who’s following the code of conduct? Where is our common sense? Where are our ethics? Being an (ex)agency guy, I know the amount of responsibility that lies within an agency. Dear Mr Agency Guy, Dear Mr Client, please, please stop disrespecting us. Stop treating the consumer like a moron. Majority of us are not as dumb as you think.

And most of all, what hurts me most is, have we become such a stupid, dumb-a** nation to tolerate all this crap?

2006-03-24

Komital.com

Bored to death, just to entertain myself, I went and registered a website. It seemed like a great idea to have it named as “komital.com” and I thought I could have it floated as a common space for all my buddies to post stuff that qualify to be “komital” as in Sinhalese-slang sense.

Now that my techie is getting married and me having zero knowledge in web-designing, I have an empty home page staring at me - another komital scenario.

This is what happens to decisions taken, when you are sober.


UPDATE:
A year later, I find more funny stuff in my Inbox. I bid farewll to Komital.com.

Middle of Nowhere

Offroading in the Emirates


Two things to avoid in the desert: 1. Camels. 2. Driving in the night.


Taking a break, having a Kit-Kat.


The first rays of sunshine greeting the camp-site.


My wheels and my shelter.


View from the other side. Shows the fossil rock in the background. And the beautiful morning sky (ok, I manipulated it a bit).


The big boy is stuck. Ramzi's maneuvering his defender out of the blog. I'm sitting there and thinking, "Oh my god, if a defender could get stuck, what could happen to a Jeep?"
Well, the Grand Cherokee is the best, that baby rocks.


The sun is beginning to toast us - off we go again.

2006-03-22

I found my arcadia

Life in Taprobane

If I have ever asked you to define happiness, in a drunken state or not, consider yourself lucky to be consulted. It has been my quest to find an answer that satisfies me, for as long as I remember.

What is happiness?

Some said, it's a moment. Some said it's a state of mind. Some said it's a feeling. Some said it's what you see in someone else's eyes...

Hundreds of people, hundreds of different answers.

And then, one day, I found an answer that satisfies me, while watching BBC. I know a blog-page isn't enough to explain this, but I'll try, in brief.

We, the mortals of this earth, are all taking the journey of life. We define, decide and shape the journey we must take. Some, are on the way to become great artists. Some, are on the way to finding eternal bliss. Some are on their way to re-shape the world. What ever it may be, we all have different agendas and we are all taking different routes travelling our different journeys.

So, where are we heading? Where is our destination? What are we seeking for? What are we chasing after? What do we want to find in life? What is it that we want so bad that we are ready to sacrifice a lifetime, searching...?

That, my friend, is the "arcadia" or the "happy place."

That is what we all want - to find our happy place. To find our arcadia.

And finding arcadia, is, happiness.

2006-03-20

Buddhism: selfless or selfish?

Life in Taprobane

I've been busy last few days - had to attend a friend's mom's funeral.

So it was a Christian funeral. I'm a Buddhist. I usually do not argue on religion and/or relationships; but the point I'm going to make here is going to piss some people off.

I am going to say that the most important reason for Sri Lanka to be in the current mess is, its primary belief: Buddhism. If Sri Lanka were a Christian or Muslim country, we wouldn't have had this prolonging war and the country would have been out of this mess much sooner.

Why do I say that?

Two reasons:

One, Buddhism trains us to be tolerant.

We keep our mouths shut and take it up our a** - not once, not twice, all the time. No one ever complains about anything in this country. No one points out a mistake. No one fights for their basic rights. We eat tasteless crap from restaurants, pay, and leave without uttering a word. If the food sucks, complain to the manager - at least the next person would benefit. If you don't get the service you deserve, just command for it. After all, you are paying, aren't you?

This kind of behaviour is everywhere you look. What a submissive nation. We are afraid of the system, we are afraid of the cops, we are afraid of - for God's sake - even the bus-conductors and three-wheeler drivers..!

Tolerance is a virtue. Patience is a virtue. But, aren't we getting screwed from all possible sides because of our tolerance and patience?

Two, Buddhism does not deliver what today's Sri Lankan society requires.

Buddhism is a philosophy, not a religion. Buddhism is all about developing one's self so that he or she would be able to let go of the worldly desires and attain the eternal bliss - nibbana.

Buddhism focuses on one's self, teaches one how to become less and less attached.

As a result, we have become selfish to a greater extent as a nation. Our parent's generation does not think of the country; they only think of themselves and how to redeem themselves from the sins they have accumulated. They offer a great deal of money, resources and time to temples in their old age, and "wish" for eternal bliss for themselves (and peace for the family).

But how much of their good wishes actually turn in to good deeds? We all know the answer. Very little.

Buddhism today is breeding a bunch of selfish individuals who only think of their redemption. They must learn to extend their kindness to the world. They must learn to show how much we care for each other. For example, don't pay Rs 5,000 to an orphanage for a meal, go give your neighbour a big manly hug and say that you care. Learn to show the world you care - period.

Buddhism is a selfish script. Listening to the funeral service, I realised that the spirit of Christianity is focussing on family, unity, and peace amongst us while Buddhism is talking about me, me, me and the eternal bliss.

The irony of Buddhism is that, the very "religion" that teaches us to escape from the "me, me, me concept" is teaching us to become more and more selfish with every single step we take further in to the "religion".

In this Paradise Isle, what we need today is peace amongst us. We need to learn to think of "us" and learn to become more selfless. Let's find peace today before finding the eternal bliss tomorrow.

2006-03-13

Cricket, lovely cricket

Life in Taprobane

What a great week of Cricket, what a weekend.

First the big match. Then the Stag Night. The rendezvous of long lost friends. Catching up on years gone by. Friends, chicks, flings, gossip, kids, politics... so much to talk about.

Royal College beats St. Thomas' in their 127th annual big match. I feel so bloody great to be a Royalist.

I'm slowly recovering from the excessive consumption of alcohol. Having been on a liquid diet for 3 days, my body craves for food. And sleep.

Tomorrow is a full moon day; a holiday in the paradise isle. What a blessing; I’m still getting used to these mid-week holidays that are thrown in every now and then. Wink, wink, a good opportunity to catch-up on my sleep.

PS: South Africa beats Australia in the greatest one-day game ever. What a performance! Well done RSA, Shaks, this one is for you!

2006-03-09

Why Taprobane, Not Sri Lanka

Life in Taprobane

In a nutshell:
"Our clock is 30 minutes ahead of the world; but we are a few centuries behind in time..."

Thanks Anna, for putting it in such a simple sentence.

Of tea, hotels and restaurants

Ah, lovely Sri Lanka.

We are officially, The Democratic, Socialist, Republic of Sri Lanka. If we are democratic, how could we be Socialist? or a Republic? That's how confused we are.

Then of course, the fitting associate to the name: the national flag. The “lion flag” is designed with many a meaning, every single design component has a reason for living. Even the colours are chosen carefully, representing the various ethnic groups and stuff.

The best part is, the lion (stands for the Sinhalese) is defending its position against the two minorities (represented by green and yellow stripes). Why aren't the two minorities backing the lion, defending the country, in one united force? Is it just a 'careless mistake' in designing the flag that took so much effort and thinking - or is it just the way it was meant to be...?

I wonder.

Then, there are these "hotels" by the roadside that are actually "restaurants." If there's no lodging, why call them hotels? Go to any of these "hotels" and ask for a 'tea' and you'll get a sweet concoction that is 50% sugar, 10% cream, 10% tea and 30% hot water. (or something like that). If you want to have a good ol' cuppa, remember to ask for "plain" tea, and also don't forget to mention how sweet it should be.

The usual standard is three sugars (yes three!), and you'll start humming like a bee once you have one.

2006-03-06

Friends

It's almost 5 in the morning. Have been chatting online for the last three hours.

Life is amazing. You meet new people everyday. Some, just walk into your life, and walk out without leaving a single impression. Some are there in your life for a nano-second, but they leave memories that last a lifetime.

Like someone said, people walk into your life to play their little part in our life. Once their part is played and when the job is done, they go away. Some take a lifetime to complete their task, some just a few seconds.

Our paths cross, for various reasons. Sometimes, we never know why. In the grand scheme of things - whether you call it God, the Creator, the nature or whatever - we all play our roles, enriching each others lives.

I'm glad I have friends. I'm glad I know people. I'm glad that I don't have to worry if I get stranded in most parts of the world; there are friends I can count on.

Most of all, in one way or the other, in worlds or in kind, my friends have added value to my life. They've helped me live a fuller life, they've been there for me. In a drunken fight or in an intellectual conversation, they've been there to play their roles.

This little note is for all my buddies - where ever you are, in Colombo, London, Cairo, Dubai, Baltsi, Beirut, Vancouver or elsewhere - I appreciate your presence in my life.

Thank you for being a friend.

(I guess I'm getting a bit sentimental in my old age! lol)

Back in Colombo

It's Saturday morning. Slept like a baby - almost 12 hours at a stretch.

We've spent a day on the road covering over 500 km, broken rest, to attend a wedding. We were there for merely two hours. This didn't make sense. Wasted so much time, just to show our faces at a function.

Probably that's why Ranga wanted to buy a new country and build roads that are straight and smooth. I don't think that thought had anything to do with the kind of smoke he was inhaling.

We, the Islanders of Paradise, are a strange bunch of people. Optimistic, to the max.

Most of us, especially the gals, enjoyed the view - all the way, leaving aside the bumpy roads (that are "proposed highways" as Boycy puts it), the horrible drivers, the lack of common facilities and the chaos along the way.

They just said they enjoyed the trip.

In an ideal world, you'd hit the highway, cover the distance in two hours, have a longer presence at the wedding and would have been back for supper. Thank god, we appreciate the natural beauty in our country, I wouldn't have been able to put up with whining and grumbling otherwise.

"If you build it, they will come..." said Kevin Costner's character in a movie that was all about building a baseball field in the middle of nowhere.

I hope our (political) leaders believe in that. We must build the roads, that's the only way to develop this country. Once the roads are in place, everything else will come. The tourists, the industries, the businesses, the money. To the village. Once there is money, people will stop fighting, they will stop stealing. They will forget who's a Tamil and who's a Sinhalese.

I hope those "proposed highways" would materialize soon. (As in "highways" not as two-laned nightmares). I wouldn't mind driving 500 km a day then.


This is a pix of the Welimada Town Council 15 miles Limit signage. Put up by the British hundreds of years ago, it still stands in its original place. What does it say - the road has not changed even an inch since then!

2006-03-01

Trip in pics





700 kilometers and three days later, this is what I have. The beauty of the mountains.

Fantastic country this is. Just wish my sweetheart was with me, would have been much better than my Davidoff lights and Carlsberg...

2006-02-25

I'm starving

It's Saturday morning. My bags are packed - I'm leaving the city to attend a memorial service, rather the Sinhalese version of it - in the mountains. Nuwara Eliya, the "Little London" as it was known then.

I'm waiting for my travel companion - my cousin bro - who seems to have found "last minute matters" to attend to. I get fidgity; I need to do something. So watched a DVD claimed to be the mother of all cannibal movies. Bloody, horrible, not a topic that suits a calm Saturday morning. Nevertheless.

Cannibalism - quite an interesting topic though. The so called "civilised" people vs the "barbarians" of the jungle. Who's civilised and who's not is a great question. Simulated by the argument, my soul is searching for something. Knowledge, love, the meaning of life, happiness - I don't know. Probably, a mix of all that. My soul is hungry.

I feel lonely in the middle of all these people.

I'm looking for a signal from my soul mate. I miss the intectual conversations we used to have. Comparing Buddhism and Christianity, and learning more about human faith.

What we fail to understand is that no matter what "label" your religion carries, they all mean the same thing. We fight for religion, we fight for language, race, country and waht ever our greed hold on to.

Sri Lankans are a great example in fighting for these meaningless things. We are fighting a civil war, fighting for boundaries. Ask a Sinhalese, if we had managed to maintain a united Sri Lanka, would they ever leave their home towns and re-start in the "claimed" land. Ask a "displaced" Tamil in Germany, if he would relocate to Jaffna if he was given the land?

The most probable answer to both questions would be a big "no."

In a day and age where international travel is a regular thing, and bounderies are almost non-existant, we are fighting for them. Killing each other, by the dozen. We, as a nation, must learn to respect each other, respect life.

Tsunami was a great awakening, a sign from Good to remind us how valuable life is. Barely a year later, we have forgotten all that. Today, tsunami has become a big business.

Disgraceful. Shameful.

This country needs a miracle. A messayah. A Buddha. A revolution.

I hope we find a way to appreciate life, find forgiveness and find peace in this blessed land. Soon.

2006-02-22

Three Cheers for Rice

We LOVE rice. I mean the food, not Condoleezza Rice.

Sri Lankans have rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They love it, they want it. Take away their freedom, but don't take away their rice. Rice here is a national symbol, an icon that deserves to be put on the flag.

A Sri Lankan rice and curry meal is indeed a great treat. A treat fit for Kings. Fit for kings - that's the problem. The preparation requires an army of chefs, and loads of time. If I were a King, probably i could afford to have rice three times a day - the way it's meant to be, in this paradise isle.

But the trouble is, this is the 21st century. The king goes to work, while the queen probably does the same too. There are no armies of chefs at home. The national dish didn't evolve with times; it still commands laborious hours forcing the queen of home to wake up at wee hours - probably by 4 O'clock - to prepare the majestic meal. Imagine the number of hours this nation wastes in cooking their rice every single day?

If the womenfolk at home spends 4 hours a day in cooking (in average), that would be 20 hours during the weekdays. Keep 6 each for the weekend and she's spending a good 32 hours a week cooking. Let's be fair, and say 25 hours a week. Now multiply by the millions who do this every day... What a waste of time..!!

Ask a Sri Lankan guy to spend 25 hours a week cooking - to see what he has to say.

I'd say, evolve, people, Evolve..!

Just look at our neighbours - the Indians. They also eat rice and curry. True, their dishes are different, the preparations different, and the taste is different. But they have evolved. For the rice-fancy men who MUST have their home-made food, the city of Bombay offers a lunch-distribution network that is more complex, but a lot more efficient than DHL or FedEx. The women cook at leisure and send the lunch over to the guy's office - fresh. For those who wouldn't mind where the food came from, there are "ready to microwave & eat" rice and curry packs. Or the restaurants have "monthly tickets" and they deliver.

In most parts of the world, your lunch is delivered to the office. Works out to be fresher, cheaper and convenient. But here, in the paradise island, we love to go against the convention. Our hand-made shoes are cheaper and home cooked meals are cheaper. Who cares about the resources, who cares about the woman who wakes up so early every morning? Where's the compassion in this so called "most hospitable nation" on earth?

Why can't we be efficient in preparing our meals? Why only rice? Even if we MUST remain a rice-loving nation, why can't there be new innovations, new recipes? Russians love potatoes, and they have thousands of different recipes. Some take just 5 minutes to cook.

Why not pasta? Why not noodles? Why not roti for lunch?

We just love our rice. A lot more than our women. We don't really care if the wife, mom, sister, or the maid has to get up at 4 in the morning to cook for us, day in, day out. Do we?

I'd say, Evolve. Guys, love your rice, but love your women better.

Or learn to cook.

2006-02-21

Return to base

Life in Taprobane

Twelve years is a long time. Making up my mind to return wasn't difficult. Once that's done, the rest was easy. Most of my friends, here and abroad, thought that I was nuts. Perhaps, to an onlooker it might have seemed that way. Leaving behind a Grand Cherokee for a Nissan Sunny or a Honda City, and a modern cosmopolitan city for a city like Colombo wouldn't seem to be a fair deal. Anyway, I'm glad that I'm back. My soul needed to return to base.

Sri Lanka is a fascinating country. It has changed in many ways. In many ways it hasn't at all. The roads are still the same - not even an inch wider. There are humvees and shiny beemers on streets that are also frequented by stray cattle. That's the capital - Colombo. Strange, but true.

And the women. I remember the female students of Colombo Campus. They very rarely wore jeans. There were 'baila' songs making fun of women wearing "men's clothes" 12 years ago. It's the opposite now. It's refreshing to see fashionable women. But, still, I think this country has no sense of fashion or there is a significant lack of it. There are some gorgeous women, but shy to show-off their curves - wearing loose pants. Why? There are some designers trying to capitalise on the "exotic oriental" roots we have and trying to bring about a local fashion-scene, but unfortunately, the country seems to be embracing Levi's and Diesel. "Barefoot" has almost single-handedly made the sarong fashionable. Cool. We should have had more of those.

Most annoying thing at the beginning for me was the early shutting down of the city. There's hardly anything one could do in the evening. No paying bills, no grocery-shopping. Not a single bookshop is open after 6 pm. Why? Oh why? Do I have to leave the office early if I have to buy a pencil from a bookshop in Unity Plaza (Colombo 04)? A pencil isn't worth a short-leave; so I have to wait till the weekend. Lovely. Same goes for take-away food, salons, and everything else.

Then, you discover that there's one supermarket that's open till 11pm (if you don't mind the drive), and some of the gas-station mini-marts are open till late. Hallelujah. At least there's beer in my life. One could survive on a liquid diet, I suppose.

I keep discovering ways to address my needs. I'm slowly changing in to an 10-hours-a-day person. 12 would be a push. I'm used to an 18-hour day, and now there is so much time left in my hands. No more buying vegetables at 1 O'clock in the morning. No more cruising the city in the night. This is Sri Lanka. Buy vegetables every Sunday; and don't go cruising in the night.

But, there is a constant smile on everyone's face.

Why, i wonder.

2006-02-20

Welcome to my life

I have been thinking of blogging for a while. Contemplating when to start and what to write. Where to blog. Then, it happens. You stumble upon a link that takes you to a blogsite. Never thought I would be blogging from Monday the 20th February, 2006.

I have been a bit reluctant to start, somewhere deep down a tiny voice kept saying that it might not be a good idea to "expose" my life to the rest of the world... If I were to talk talk about my life - which I like to live to the fullest - there will be names that I wouldn't want to spell-out. People whose paths have crossd mine wouldn't necessarily like me talking about them. If I make-up a name and describe the person or the actions, my buddies would figure them out anyway. Now, that's a sensitive area...

I just want to share my life experiences in this paradise isle (I have come back to Sri Lanka about 6 months back) with the rest of the world.

Let's see how it goes.