12 Simple Sins

Sach tags me on simple pleasures of life. So here I go, with my sins, in random order:
  1. There’s nothing like a a lazy day in bed, snuggled up with the missus. Being a Leo has its own advantages, being a husband has its own privileges.
  2. Post-dinner chats with my dad in the hill-country residence, sipping a good cuppa brewed from the local tea. Nothing beats the cold weather, hot-tea and an indulgence in enjoyable recollections of the past.
  3. Spending time listening to my mom in the kitchen sitting in a little wooden bench, while watching her “order” around “achchie” telling her what to cook and how. (She does this every single day). Equally entertaining are the conversations with pans – my mother-in-law – who always finds a bright spark in every dark spot.
  4. Champaign Thursday. Romantic, candle-lit dinner at home with the missus...
  5. Watching the sunrise away from the hustle and bustle, from the middle of nowhere.
  6. Reading bed time stories to my kids and occasionally falling asleep with them. God knows I miss them.
  7. Feeding the crows from the balcony, early morning. That was before Prima bread went up in price and I moved out of the country.
  8. Afternoon naps under the mango tree in Kataragama. Specially after a hefty meal of home-cooked Sri Lankan cuisine that usually consists of wewu-maalu, parippu and pol-sambol and other delicacies.
  9. Music and the open road. The open road that usually leads to Bandarawela, Kataragama or Habarana; yes I love the long drives.
  10. Stopping by a roadside joint for a cup of plain tea with a piece of jaggery; accompanied by a laveriya or a piece of kithul-piti.
  11. Making fun of my nephews and nieces and teasing them about their “kabal” schools.
  12. Occasional cartoon or a silly movie where I get to behave like a five-year old, all over again.

Now I’d like to pass the turn to Jerry and DeeCee to enlighten us with their pleasures in life.



Sky above, Water below and Surrounded by Beauty...

It was leading to a good weekend in Paradise. I was with the boys, having a regular wind-down to the week. We were at our usual watering-hole and the clock had rung long past midnight. Suddenly, B reminds me that we should call it quits and head home – apparently we have an appointment to see a man about a boat in Ambalangoda – 80-odd kilometers away from Colombo – at 5.30 in the morning.

Five friggin’ thirty in the morning on Saturday is far too early for my liking. Usually I get home closer to that time, and the weekends are supposed flow at a leisurely pace. I curse B for making such silly plans, but he assures me that everything is gonna be well worth the trouble.

Its still the curfew time, outside. The cops are on the streets – sniffing our bad breath. I suspect they are secretly conducting a research for Wrigley’s Gum, but my pals tell me they are cracking down on drunk drivers. I can spot a drunk a good few meters away even when I’m well-marinated; I don’t think the cops need to bring their lips closer to ours to know if we are sober. I think they are a bunch of kinky bastards anyway.

We head home once the road is clear, well past 4.00 in the morning. Home, quick shower, change. B calls me to remind me that I should pick him up in 10 minutes. It takes me barely three minutes to reach his place, I decide to make myself comfortable on the sofa. Five minutes of bliss before another long and adventurous day is just priceless.

Bang, Bang, Bang!!! And I get thrown out of my skin, and out of the sofa. B is at the door. I had dozed off for that little time. There’s a long list of missed calls on my mobile. He warned me not to catch a wink for a very good reason.

A little over an hour later, I find myself in a gray and misty surrounding that reminds me of those Chinese paintings. We are on a boat, in the middle of some vast emptiness, on a mirror..! A gigantic mirror – made of calm, still waters.

Sky above, water below and serenity surrounding us. Tranquility. Serendipity. Peace. I pinch myself to make sure I’m not day dreaming. This place is untouched, unspoilt and unruffled yet.

I struggle to capture the beauty around me, but I have forgotten my camera at home. Finally, the multi-purpose Sony Ericsson comes to my rescue.

Madu Ganga is an amazing place to watch the sunrise. Sri Lanka is, indeed Paradise.

We approach what looks like a barricade across the water in the distance to discover a shrimp-trap. The two brothers have been harvesting shrimps all their life. There’s a unique bond visible between them, the wetlands and the water...

As we weave our way past the islets, seeking the river that feeds it, we come across the odd-fishermen paddling across the twisted labyrinth of water-ways. We pause at one, and he proudly demonstrates his prize catch. But the fella was in no mood to model for us. So the dead-fish poses all by himself – fins digging two inches in to the styro-foam box:

There’s a whole lot of things to do, and see, in and around Madu Ganga. Exploring the islands, visiting the historic Koth Doowa temple which once housed the sacred tooth relic, learning more about the endangered and endemic flora and fauna at the conservation centre – or simple boat ride followed by a sumptuous lunch sitting by the water... the list is only limited to one’s imagination. Really.

Get there and discover yourself. I have learnt to trust B when he says, everything’s gonna be well worth the trouble!


Advertising in Sri Lanka: Part 3

A year after the Kandyan episode, I left the country and joined a fairly large, multinational agency in Dubai that handles a spectrum of big brands in the Middle East and North Africa region.

In my very early days at the new agency as an art director, I was once briefed to develop advertising material for Comfort – the fabric conditioner from Unilever. Comfort rejuvenates fabrics, and therefore, my “big idea” for the campaign was based on the simple truth: Comfort brings clothes to life. The agency was so confident of the work that was on brief, and on brand – we didn’t bother having any other alternate creative routes. Known brand, known client, brilliant work, we felt that we had the recipe for success, that a Plan B wasn’t needed.

Agencies are quite cocky sometimes.

The D-day comes and we drive to Jebel Ali Free Zone, where Unilever had its offices. We meet the team of clients, exchange pleasantries and go through the boring part of the presentation. Then it was my turn to reveal the creative work. I re-cap on the brief and pre-empt the thinking behind the campaign. As I whetted their appetite, I sensed the usual excitement and anxiousness in the room. They were eager to see the work.

“Comfort brings clothes to life..!” I exclaimed with pride, and I could see the facial expression of the senior-most client, changing. I could see his face turning red, I thought he was just excited to see the work. Little did I know what was coming next.

A few more sentences later, as I repeated the words “Comfort brings clothes to life,” the client exploded in fury.

How dare you?” he thumped his clenched fist on the table and rose quicker than lightening. The chair went reeling back and bounced against the wall behind. Suddenly, there was an eerie silence that swallowed us. Time, stood still for a moment.

Nothing brings anything to life – except Allah..!” he screamed from the other end of the conference table.

I was shocked, horrified, and mortified.

We all were.

A bunch of expatriates working in Dubai have overlooked a tiny detail in the Saudi culture. Even before we could present a single board, we were thrown back to the drawing board, mercilessly. What would have been a very successful campaign in the United Arab Emirates didn’t fly at all for the Saudi market. Strategy, creativity, brand-relevance and all the nice, clever terms associated with good advertising went flying out of the window, simply because we forgot to pay attention to minuscule, but extremely important, socio-cultural sensitivities.

2. Knowledge: Can Indian Creative Imports fill the need?

There’s lot more to advertising than just doing some ads.

That is one of the problems inherent to importing creative talent from India, or any other country for that matter. Agencies sell creativity, and if the creative minds don’t possess the cultural insight, one couldn’t expect the same magic to come out of their brains.

When one isn’t aware of the deepest darkest secrets of a certain culture, they are only capable of producing ads that are universally applicable, and understood. This kind of advertising that’s packed with universal appeal but hardly any unique “local” flavour, might win awards but they’d fail to win the hearts of the consumer. When there is no Sri Lankanism captured in their creativity, advertising would “feel” foreign and it would pass like a ship in the night. No amount of reading, research or socialising with the locals could make up for the missing element of magic for the expat creatives in Colombo.

Indians are Indians, and Sri Lankans are Sri Lankans. One cannot “pretend” to be the other.

Sri Lankan cameos like “Heen Seraya” on the other hand, have clearly demonstrated the difference. They feel the heartbeat of the islanders. Their ads bring a smile to our faces. Their work, more often than not, genuinely touches our heart.

Indian creatives (the good ones) bring in a few good commodities. Knowledge, passion and craftsmanship top the list. We have the local talent, and possess the local insight. Combine the two cleverly and one finds the winning formula for great advertising that sells goods, builds brands and wins awards. A recipe for success, a weapon to blow the mediocre agencies to smithereens.

But if one party in the combination is a rogue, the formula fails. We tend to blame the entire republic of India if the rogue happens to be their one. If one chooses to ignore the bad and learn from the good, then the Indian advertising industry as a whole is a great university for the budding local creative. There is a whole lot to learn from them, considering that we don’t have any formal education in advertising in this country, yet.

By being only a few miles away from Talaimannar, Indians have had a remarkable influence on the islanders since the beginning of time. Buddhism crossed over to this side of the Palk Strait, and so did King Vijaya and his battalion of friends. Later on the Bo tree, Hinduism, the ethnic divide, the TATA bus and the three-wheeler blaring a Hindi song, too followed.

We cannot escape the Indian influence. India, is all over this tiny island. The advertising industry is no exception.

Thanks to satellite television, we are exposed to a great amount of Indian advertising everyday. From time to time, we are treated to some gems that we would love to say “wish I had done that” too.

Comparing the two, It feels like Sri Lankans are somewhat “ashamed” of their poverty and the true state of affairs. Sitting in ad agencies we tend to think of using BMW’s and spankingly new kitchens and crisp clean living rooms in our ads. We have white women in commercials feeding their white kids yogurt, and our soundtracks sound far away from the tunes of Paradise. There’s a classroom in a soft-drink commercial set in a school in a funky country far, far away from my island. Watching these, and more, sometimes I feel like a foreigner and I would really love to visit Sri Lanka that’s portrayed in our television commercials. Somehow, I find it hard to relate to most of these ads.

Aspiration in advertising is a virtue. Surrealism is something else altogether.

Indians on the other hand, are not ashamed of their reality. Havell’s cables has a beautiful ad that shows the plight of the poor. There is a plywood commercial that celebrates the chaos in the city. The famous Coca-cola ad has the nation playing cricket in the middle of the traffic madness. Cops take bribes, peons push envelopes in a series of ads for a famous newspaper.

Watch an Indian ad, and it feels like India. Sadly, the same couldn’t be said about the Sri Lankan advertising. Not most of the time.

If we were to learn just one thing from the Indians, that would be to celebrate what is truly Sri Lankan. A water-soaked cricket pitch, a clogged drainage, a muddy road – shouldn’t be avoided in our commercials. Its quite ok to have a commercial shot on the main street, not in Nawam Mawatha. It would be fine if there is a poor kid in the frame; but not as well dressed as the ones we see in biscuit commercials.

Indians are telling us to be proud of who we are.

That’s just one aspect of their positive influence.

Perhaps it is the first step in our adventure to discover the true Sri Lankan identity in advertising. Perhaps it is the first step in our long march to get where Thai and Indian ad industries have already reached today.


And... We Are Back!

As I was flying back to my prison, I had my last gin and tonic just before the SriLankan A320 entered the Saudi airspace. I held the disposable plastic cup in my hand for a brief moment, and gulped down the contents promptly, stretched myself to relieve my benumbed nether regions and prayed to God that there won’t be any hassle at the Saudi Customs. Not because a considerable amount of my blood cells have been displaced by a great volume of alcohol – thanks to my liquid diet over the last 5-6 days – I was seriously worried about the two books on Buddhism hidden amongst the other reading material in my back-pack. Detecting the books on Buddhism could lead to alcohol, and vice versa – both of which are banned in the Holy Land of the Moslems. Saudi authorities are known to be one of the worst (if not the worst) in the entire world, one must be unfortunate enough to experience them first-hand to understand the true meaning of this statement.

A knew a British couple who lived in Jeddah a while ago. Their latest addition to the family was born in the Kingdom and the couple decided to head back to England for the Christmas holidays. They were stopped at the airport and not allowed to leave, because the baby’s birth certificate claimed he’s a Christian, just like the parents. Naturally.

Technically, and according to tradition, NO non-Moslem is born in the Holy land of the Moslems.

The parents had two options. Change the kid’s religion – which could take as long as “Inshah Allah” takes, or call the British Embassy for assistance. They resorted to the latter and managed to head home just in time for the annual family gathering, albeit the hassle and delay at the airport over silly technicalities.

Then there was this other friend of mine who was followed around the block by the religious Police in an unmarked car, as he went jogging along, one fine Friday morning. He was stopped, taken in, and detained for 24 hours – for “wasting time and not getting ready to get to the mosque for Friday prayers on time.”

These, and many other horror stories were flashing before me as I stood there at the long queue at the Customs. I was thanking my gin and tonic intake for preparing me for a possible good night’s sleep on a cold cement bench somewhere, should the unthinkable happen.

My bones were cold, and I felt frozen in time. I felt the longest minute in my life as I waited for my turn.

Five minutes later, I discovered God.

I mean, I discovered that he exists. Somewhere. Somewhere, where he could watch me, and watch over me.

For a brief but essential moment, he was looking down on me. No hassle, no harassment at the Customs and and He let me out in a flash. I almost regretted the fact that I didn’t copy some naughty movies to my iPod, or tuck-in some Playboy magazines, but then again, that would have been pushing my luck, just a tad too much.

I think even the Almighty himself agrees that there is no punishment worse than having to spend time in Saudi Arabia. This country is not exactly the most desirable place on earth – and He must have spared me from the tiny trouble at the Customs. He must have been looking at the big picture and spared the details, since I am paying for my sins already.

I’m sure He must have watched me with a cheeky grin on his gracious face as I walked out of the terminal unhindered by the authorities – to my own prison, at my own will...

God or not, I was out – unharmed and untouched, and in one piece.

So here I am, back after the Big Match. And the Stag Night. And the Cabaret. And the Russian Lesbo act. And... and, and... lots of things that are “haram” in the land of the two Holy Mosques.

Here I am, miles and miles away from home, away from my Paradise isle. Here I am, back in my virtual life in Taprobane.

Much has happened in my absence, much to be read and much to be digested and deliberated. There is the Part 3 and beyond of the “Advertising in Sri Lanka” that needs to be written – all in due time, since time is all I’d have in abundance in the days to come.


Temporary Notice

International Men’s Day: An X-rated thought

International Women’s Day passes by and Jerry wonders why can’t men have a day reserved for them too.

I too was thinking more in the lines of a day for us once a month, not once a year.

I was actually thinking why couldn’t men have the power to control the “egg” business? I mean the fertility thing that keeps the human race alive? What if we were shooting blanks all the time and once a month we shot the real thing?

There wouldn’t be any need for condoms – the couples could do what they are meant to do the way the nature intended, without anything getting in-between, right?

There won’t be any “Oh my god, I forgot the pill” businesses and we wouldn’t have to run around pharmacies or pineapple markets, either.

Guys will never be spending weeks and weeks in “wonderland” in torment and agony wondering if the female party is actually pregnant, our life would be totally stress-free for sure.

And most of all, the tables would turn... it would be up to US to populate the world – as and when WE fancy, and as and when we are in the mood! The women would be begging us – and the world would be at our mercy, totally!!!

Plus, once a month holiday... to get drunk and make sure the real thing doesn’t go anywhere near a woman – friend or foe!

Just imagine the perks...

Oh wow!


27 Letters from Pakistan to all Sri Lankans

I know quite a lot of Pakistani people. From Nur Gul – the Pakistani driver who couldn’t read or write, but took me around Dubai when I was new there, to Khan who made my cup of tea, four times a day for 12 years without changing the recipe one bit; to Muji, to Kahled... to Sharmeen who I got to know in Colombo. I know quite a lot of Pakistanis from all over – they are a wonderful bunch of people, really.

After the incident in Lahore, many of them have written to me in person – but this one below just blew me away.

As I read these letters one by one, I could feel the warmth and sincerity of these words. I could feel the pain in their hearts and I could feel the tears forming in my eyes. I know these people, and I can understand how they feel.

The least I can do, is to publish these letters here – hoping that the word gets spread around in Sri Lanka. As a Sri Lankan, as a cricket fan, I do not want to forget 1996. And I will not forget Pakistan.

Here’s to the friendship, and here’s to the spirit of the game!

Dear Sri Lankans,

This is only a very small representation of how the millions in Pakistan feel about this most unfortunate incident. We in Pakistan are truly sorry that the courageous bunch of cricketers from Sri Lanka who defied all odds and still ventured their way to support cricket in Pakistan had to experience such trauma.

We salute you for your courage!

Despite what happened you have shown us what a great nation you are.

We are humbled by your magnanimity.

We as a nation are truly remorseful, apologetic and sad.

Sorry, dear Sri Lankans!

We would be grateful if you will kindly forward this compilation of letters to as many Sri Lankans that you know.



Letter: 01

I believe I am expressing sentiments of every single Pakistani when I say kudos to the Sri Lankan team and to the Sri Lankan nation.

We are highly grateful to the Sri Lankan team for coming over and playing cricket with us at a time when all other countries refused. No words can express the sorrow and regret we feel for the atrocious and heinous act committed by perpetrators of hate and terror.

Thank you for your support and bravo for the courage shown in the line of fire.



Letter: 02

i know bus no.177 will take me to colombo from battaramulla. i know sliced bread will cost me twice as much as unsliced bread. i know what a gecko sounds like. i know pambuu is sinhalese for snake. i know what poya day is. i know i shouldn’t leave clothes out on the line because it can rain any time. And i know all of this because i spent 5 weeks working in and exploring Sri Lanka.

What i don’t know is how to apologize, or if i will ever be able to meet a Sri Lankan in the eye. When sorry isn’t enough and shame knows no bounds, yet I find no other words to say to the people of the country that's left me with a lifetime of memories.

i am sorry.
we are sorry.
our heads are forever bowed in shame.

Leena S Naqvi


Letter: 03

The cricket incident was extremely unfortunate and it is a game which should not be politicized in this manner.

Regarding the reaction from the Sri Lankan people, I have watched the major news channels all week including BBC, Sky News, Al Jazeera, India's NDTV, Geo, ARY etc. and my first impression was that the Sri Lankan authorities and people have been unanimous in expressing their goodwill to the Pakistani authorities/public in dealing with the aftermath of the incident.

To date, I have not seen any report in which they have spoken ill, condemned or been belligerent in any way towards Pakistan despite being the injured party and despite international and national criticism of the security arrangements in Pakistan. This indeed, shows their humble and gracious attitude. A big lesson indeed is to be learnt by all of us by the attitude shown by the Sri Lankan people.

Wish you all the best.

Yasmin Malik
(Peterborough, UK)

Letter: 04

Ashamed and Sad

To the people of Sri Lanka,

Even though I am not an avid sports fan, I have always appreciated the ability of sports to bring people together. As a development worker I appreciate the role of sports especially amongst our youth. Today when energies are being channelled down paths of destruction and terror, I feel that sports such as Cricket need to be promoted even more. We all enjoy a good game of cricket and appreciate the fact that the Sri Lankan players came to our country when others refused. What happened in Lahore is simply despicable and as a Pakistani; known for our hospitality, I can now only hang my head in shame. Please accept my sincerest apologies and thank you for your bigheartedness and not hating us all!

Pamela Rodrigues


Letter: 05


My dearest friends in Lanka,

I'm so very much sorry for the attack on the Sri Lankan Cricket Team. I express my deepest sympathy with the families of those players who were attacked and who underwent tremendous amount of stress during the course of these three days. May they now forget their past troubles and spent the future with greater love, warmth and happiness with each other and thank the Good Lord for everything He has given.

My best wishes to Mrs Maryanne Hills and Mr Hills (Ex Country Manager of Air Lanka in Pakistan) and to their daughter Michelle and her extended families. My warm wishes and love also go out to all the Sri Lankan Teachers who so devotedly have been teaching at various schools in Pakistan especially in the Missionary Schools in Karachi. God bless you all and my sincerest apologies to each one of you for all the tremendous hurt and pain that my fellow citizens have caused you during these past three days in Lahore. May the Good Lord forgive them and help them reconcile themselves and better understand the people and situations around themselves so as to deal more patiently and peacefully with others.

Aloysious Dacunha

Letter: 06

Words fail me as I try to muster words of apology to all my Sri Lankan friends. I heard about the incident on the radio while driving to work that day. My first reaction was, "Good God not the Sri Lankans!!". I think in the hours that followed, most of us Pakistanis were hoping and praying that none of the Sri Lankan players were seriously injured. Thankfully they were not, but I know the trauma will remain with them for years to come. This act of terrorism, like most of those that our country has had the misfortune of falling victim to in the past few years, is absolutely unforgiveable!! The Sri Lankans however, have been as gracious as ever and probably nothing expresses that better than how they have responded to these attacks.

To all my Sri Lankan friends, "WE ARE SORRY! These handful of people do not represent who we are. We are better human beings who cherish life and peace. Hopefully in the future, with better training, equipment and probably a lot more common sense, we will be able to avert such appalling situations where blood flows like water and nothing is gained but enmity. I hope the sacrifice of those courageous few who laid down their lives does not go in vain."

Sanaa Shah


Letter: 07

Dear Sri Lankans!

All I can say is that I being a Pakistani would like to apologize to the Sri Lankan nation for what happened to their cricket team on the morning of 3/3. I know words cannot turn back what happened that day but still would like to say....... Sorry!

Hope you all can forgive our nation for something which happened in our home land. I hope and pray that such a thing never happens again and the Sri Lankans can forgive us Pakistanis.


Mansur Ali Shah

Letter: 08

I’m deeply grieved on the terror attack on Sri Lankan team in which team players were injured along with 6 security Guards.

I along with my colleagues strongly condemned this heinous act and console the bereaved members of the team and request the high officials to punish the culprits as soon as possible.

May God bless us all.

Rashid Khan,


Letter: 09

Dear Sri Lankans,

I am Erum from Pakistan. I feel sad for the horrible event that occurred with your cricket team. It seems as someone has attacked our own players. We are fans of cricket and respect your team.

Hope someday your cricket team returns back to our country.

Kind regards

Erum Riaz

Letter: 10

We appreciate the kind heartedness of Sri Lankans and the way they support us in fighting against the forces working against Pakistan. Really I can only say that a friend in need is a friend indeed.

Naveed Rabbani,

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Letter: 11

I don’t know what to write. OF COURSE I am horrified and disgusted at what happened in Lahore today. And that too to you guys, the Sri Lankan team- the nicest bunch of people. Who are so amazing to those who come to their country despite having their own set of issues. They are the most hospitable, warm people I have ever met. I am so ashamed that these people who did this could belong to my country. And I feel so angry that I am profiled along with them. That millions of sports fans have to pay the price of what these misguided, law-less selfish people think they were doing in the name of…well what exactly was this in the name of?

I don’t want another day spent feeling like we as country have done today and yes, the people here are good and honest and want nothing better than to live an ordinary wonderful life; one that is free of militants, and conspiracy theories and terrorism.

My personal heartfelt apologies to the Sri Lankan team and to their country. All I can say is that I hope - having had similar issues in your country you know that this isn’t what defines the entire country. We are in the midst of an actual issue right now. The people who did this are not part of our country- or any country- their motives are selfish and largely for no clear reason and they will pay for it in the final balance of things. Right now is again a time for prayer and hope, realization and action that Pakistan cannot be made to mean this in the eyes of the world over and over again by the disgusting people behind this.

As for the cricket part of it, like the whole class suffers for the uncalled for behaviour of the jerk in class, we must too. And maybe in that time out, while serving our detention, we shall find the strength to apologize, to repent, to garner enough in us to pull out the stops and finally take a stand that shows the world that the real Pakistan- and Pakistani- is nothing like this.

Prayers with you.



Letter: 12

Dear brothers and sisters.

What happened in Lahore on 3 /3 was horrible and i am ashamed and extremely sorry. We as Pakistanis have put our brothers in danger. But through some miracle the team was saved.

Please forgive us.

Thank you Sri Lanka.

Salman karachi

Letter: 13

Dear Friends,

From the depth of my heart I am sorry for what happened, my apologies cannot reverse or even mend the damage both physical and spiritual caused to our Sri Lankan friends but it is just a way of saying we value you more than anyone at the moment. I just wished it had not happened. Hope you have the heart to accept our apologies and forgive us.


Letter: 14

We apologise

dear people of sri lanka,

i have had the pleasure of seeing your beautiful country and meeting all u beautiful people and not only am i awestruck at how gorgeous sri lanka is i am so impressed and amazed at how wonderful and educated and polite and gentle you are as a nation. every country has their good and bad people and we are sorry to say these strangers who are neither pakistani nor muslims do not represent us. we apologize for this horrible incident and hope you all can find it in your hearts to forgive us as a people for this misdeed. we all love cricket and we also want to thank your country and ur team for not pointing fingers and not declaring us outcasts for this.

thank you again and sorry again

amna majid

Letter: 15

Sharing Grief

Not that the 170 million participated in what took place on 3/3 BUT because it happened on our soil makes us feel responsible. Responsible because we were unable to protect the guests; our gracious guests belonging to a remarkable nation!

I have spent over a year in Sri Lanka. During that period I developed great affection and respect for the Sri Lankan people. I have met many gracious, humble and loving Sri Lankans whom I am proud to call my friends. The terrible act of 3rd march has lowered my head in shame and words cannot express how miserable it makes me feel.

Cricket is a game widely popular in the region making its players no less than royalty. And when someone treats your royalty in such a horrid manner then it is but natural for you to develop ill feeling towards the culprit. It's the bigheartedness of the Sri Lankan team and the Sri Lankan nation that even during these testing times they have shown kindness, compassion and clemency.

By your actions you have taught us all valuable lessons of humility, forgiveness, generosity and peace.

Sharmeen Fareed

Letter: 16

I feel very bad when i heard this news. And now that it has happened all we can just say is that we are sorry. My warm sympathy with Sri Lankan team.

Nazia Sabir

Letter: 17

To the Sri Lankans

I and my husband went for our honeymoon to Sri Lanka in Jan 2005. We have amazing memories of our visit, especially the people who made our 'special' trip even more special. We know of many other people who have had contacts with Sri Lankans on some forum or the other and I just want you to know that the people of Pakistan think of Sri Lankans with as much affection and sympathy as our own. The terrorism which targeted the cricket team is what threatens our lives here as well. However, we find it even more regrettable that any guests of our country had to face such agony here.

We can only ask for your understanding and prayers that we find peace in the near future.

take care

Sadaf Aliuddin

Letter: 18

Sri Lanka

I've known several Sri Lankan friends since 1975 when they came as teachers at St. Patrick's and St. Paul's schools in Karachi - and have always held them in high esteem. They were always so proud of their country for whatever they did...from their delicious coconut curries to their cricketers. All I can say, especially to the friends I knew - many of them back home now - a sincere apology on behalf of my country. I salute every member of the Sri Lankan cricket team for your bravery in this adversity, we are sorry we could not protect you in our own backyard. May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You in His Care...always!

Menin Rodrigues

Karachi, Pakistan

Letter: 19

I really appreciate your initiative in voicing your sadness in the unfortunate incident regarding the Sri Lankan cricket team's visit to Pakistan.

As a Pakistani, I fully understand your sentiments. And I join you in apologizing to the cricket team for the unfortunate welcome they received in Pakistan.

Kind Regards,

Nicky Petit,
Toulouse, France

Letter: 20

To all players of Sri Lankan Team,

I, as an individual from the city of Karachi, Pakistan convey my heartfelt gratitude to you all players on extending such a warm courtesy by expressing a positive gesture towards the incident.

Frankly speaking, all genuine and sincere Pakistanis are ashamed of the incident and feel sorry for our own country since these incidents are rampant and we are also sailing the same boat. These incidents have become part and parcel of our lives, everyday there is a new incident.

It is our duty to be together and face this with courage.


Mazhar Mawjee,

Letter: 21
Sympathy Letter

My heart goes out to all the Sri Lankan players and their families on the events that happened in Lahore. I just want to say that the people involved in this have nothing to do with the ordinary Pakistani people and all Pakistanis condemn this strongly.

Best Regards,

Muhammad Bilal

Letter: 22

First of all, I would like to express my sorrow on this unfortunate incident which happened on our soil. I feel wretched and actually do not have words to express my frustration and helplessness that this incident happened and we can not do anything but condemn the act and apologize to the affectees.

I would like to express my grief, anger and embarrassment at what happened in our country with innocent foreigners who were here purely to promote sports. The memories will be terrible for the Sri Lankan team and I am sure that there is nothing that I can or anyone else can say or do to make them get over the trauma. However, there is just one thing that I would like to say, that neither we, the people of Pakistan support these activities nor do we want to harm anyone. This incident should please not be taken as a representation of the actions of a Pakistani citizens.

I don't know what else to say except to offer my apologies to the Sri Lankan team in particular and the Sri Lankan Nation in general at what happened with its prayers and that this may never happen ever again to anyone. May Allah protect us all. Amen.

Nasir Ali Khan


Letter: 23

Letter of Apology to the Sri Lankans

Honestly, I wanted to cry upon hearing the news of this horrific incident with our guests; the Sri Lankan team in Lahore. Why could we not protect our guests during their visit? Why did we have to be defamed in such manner in front of our guests, a prestigious cricket team of the world and in front of all cricketing nations?

As a Pakistani I am ashamed; we could not fulfill our commitments and protect our guests, the ONLY country that gave us the honor of sending their priceless cricket team to play in our homeland despite of all the security concerns raised by the International community.

I’ve always admired the Sri Lankan cricket team and undoubtedly their willingness to play in Pakistan made us all so proud and happy but sadly, led to the spectacle of this unfortunate event. Cannot thank the Lord enough for having saved their lives. Needless to say, whomsoever may have conducted this heinous act, we truly hold ourselves responsible. My sincerest apologies on behalf of all Pakistanis to all Sri Lankans, for this traumatic life threatening experience in the life of their cricketers.

We pray that all team players can recover soon from this horrific experience and move on to show these criminals that their passion, their game is way above these hateful acts of terrorism.

With deepest regret and apologies

Your Pakistani sister

Letter: 24

Dear Sri Lankan friends,

We want to sincerely apologise for the unfortunate incident that took place on 3rd March in Lahore. We as a nation feel extremely sad and sorry that our Sri Lankan guests and friends had to face such a traumatic experience. Kindly accept our deepest apologies.


Amna Khan

Letter: 25

What can we say but apologise on behalf of the whole country for the terrible scenario which took place in Lahore!

Many thanks to the entire Sri Lankan team for having come despite the uncertain situation in our country and despite all the trauma they went through they still have maintained a most respectable calm.

We too have visited Sri Lanka on two occasions and hope to go back again as soon as possible. We just loved the place and especially the people.

We can only pray that peace returns to this part of the world and once again say how very sorry we are for the unfortunate incident that took place in Lahore.

Resham – Henri Souffay

Letter: 26

Feel Sorry

We are very sorry what happend in Lahore. As i am very big fan of Cricket and always wanted to see live cricket in ground. Since the situation was very bad when India refuse then England. Everyone push back but its Srilanka who took the courage and came to Pakistan. We all were very happy to see that but…

We are very sorry what happened; they are a few who want to spoil our country image in front of the world.

We pray to Lord pls help us and change their minds and goals that they also try live in peace.

We pray for all the Sri Lankan team and specially those who were injured may they get well soon.

Augustine Dean
From Pakistan Karachi.

Letter: 27

only my gratitude and more, for you came. and all my prayers for an early recovery now that all are safe and home. thank you. thank you. thank you!


Advertising in Sri Lanka: Part 2

Continued from Part 1.

It was somewhere in the early ’90s, and we were hiring graphic designers. There was this young lad who had come all the way from Kandy for an interview. The grey-blue cardboard file rolled in his hands had begun to peel off where his sweaty palms had held his credentials tight, in the hot and sticky climes of Colombo. He looked tired, but had a wonderfully pleasant smile that decorated his little face. A trademark smile that is so uniquely Sri Lankan.

He was just over 18. He has lost his brother to the nationalist insurgency (JVP), and was desperate to get out of Udugampola’s reign of Police brutality and terror.

I wanted to hire him. Mostly because I saw his potential. Then there was this little voice in my head that wanted to help the poor chap. I made my recommendations, and he was hired. I, instantly became his hero.

That was a time when we used to “order typesetting” from Uni-typographers and get “bromides” done from Lazerprint. Petrol, and cow-gum were two essential ingredients in running a studio; Letraset sheets, photocopies and stacks of old magazines never ran out of the studio inventory – they were there for the odd correction in any final artwork. “If you want 12pt Times Roman, look in the other magazine..!” was the norm; “cut&paste” was the order of the day. Advertising, at that time, was a true craft. It required, and demanded, craftsmanship and attention to detail. The airbrush artist was the king, the airbrush was a lot noisier than the one we find in Photoshop. With the compressor that powered the spray and with equipment such as repro cameras, the studio looked more like a garage, in the good old days.

“Align Center” was not a key-stroke – it was an arduous physical task that involved drawing tables, T-rulers, dividers, scalpels and among other things, lots of cow-gum. “Undo” simply didn’t exist. It was “Re-do” all that time.

The little “malli” (young brother, as we fondly call them youngsters in paradise – even if they are not related) was alien to such physical labour and intricate techniques, he had no formal training in design or advertising. But he possessed a wonderful sense of colour and flair for design. Educating “malli” was my pet project. I took him under my wings and began to groom him. From basics in typography to understanding colour, to design and printing, the little fella from the mountains grasped everything quickly and it was just a matter of time before he knew how to survive without any help.

I trained him to think, I got him to question the briefs. I got him to use his brains, as we much as he used his hands.

Barely a year later, he resigned and wanted to work on his own – he wanted to form his own outfit. He was confident that he could run his own business – perhaps his popularity would have given him a bit of over-confidence too early in life.

I felt sorry for the guy, he has not even mastered the craft yet. He didn’t know advertising, communication or the art of story telling. Advertising is very different from designing a logo or a pamphlet. He was in for the long haul, he had the substance to run the full marathon. Instead, he succumbed to the typical Sri Lankan “now-I-know-it-all” syndrome, too early in his life. His shoulder was too small to carry his inflated head.

As usual, we had our last session of hoppers, katta-sambal (chili-paste) and plain tea at the Muslim restaurant in upper Chatham Street, and walked to the bus-stop near Ceylinco and watched Airlanka girls give us a bit of taste of Paradise at the end of yet another long working day.

I bade him a fond farewell and wished him luck, and watched him get in to a 133 bus that drove away in to the Galle Face sunset.

A good 10 years later, I met him in Colpetty, by accident, by pure chance. He still wore the same pleasant smile – and he was still freelancing and canvassing for work.

In 1992, there were closer to 400 advertising “companies” registered in Colombo; most of them formed by the ex-agency creatives.

Today, this number must be astronomical, considering that Photoshop is a common man’s tool, and that everyone who does a crash-course in software training (Desktop Publishing – as they call it) thinks he is capable of opening an advertising company.

There is a huge difference between an “ad agency” and an “advertising company” that even some of the agency owners fail to understand. I’m not referring to the definition of the word agency, or the affiliation; I’m not referring to the unique agency culture either.

A good ad agency sells knowledge. A good ad agency sells ideas that sell goods – and builds brands, while advertising “companies” sell work. Just work, without any intelligent contribution from the creatives or the suits. Such advertising “companies” are mere suppliers whose work is strictly dictated by the client. They don’t build brands, they cannot.

They are nothing more than suppliers on the street, fighting the price-war – in a dog-fight, fighting for the bone.

Knowledge, is the primary differentiator.

Creative people who had no formal education in advertising wouldn’t know the difference between producing mediocre work and great advertising. When the majority is “uneducated” in advertising, and ignorant, the agencies have a bigger issue at their hands. Training, mentoring and guidance becomes even more so important in the Sri Lankan advertising context.

The agencies have a mammoth task in converting these raw talents in to outstanding creatives that bring them glory at the awards, and smiles at client meetings. But there is a slight snag: the current home-grown creative regime also had no formal education in advertising.

Asking the crab to get its babies to walk straight is indeed a big ask, a monumental task.

Knowledge is the differentiator. When it doesn’t exist within the agency, what do we do?

We import the Indians.

...to be continued.


Advertising in Sri Lanka: Part 1

Is arrogance in blogsphere a bad thing? London Lanka and Drums questions three individual bloggers why they choose to blog in a certain arrogant tone and manner.

Out of the three, Nibras Bawa is someone I can empathise with, to a certain extent, purely from a professional point of view. We are both in the business of brand-building, he’s a suit and I’m a creative. I love wearing yellow and red, he hates them colours. I love to see some boobs on billboards, and porn on the bookshelves – he thinks women shouldn’t wear mini’s to work. When it comes to advertising – which has been my livelihood for the last 18+ years – we tend to find some common ground. While I don’t like to generalise things, we both seem to agree that the advertising industry as a whole in Sri Lanka needs to be revamped: honesty and integrity restored, and ethical business practices re-introduced.

DD wrote an insightful reply to NB’s now famous 45 reasons why he doesn’t like the people in advertising in Colombo. I could’ve easily written a post why I didn’t agree with half of the list, but the job was already done.

Anyhow, going back to the topic, I too think the local advertising industry has lost its respect and we have witnessed a sharp decline in morality over the past couple of decades. Post 1977, the country not only embraced consumerism, we have done it at the cost of honesty and transparency in the business. We forgot what the advertising forefathers said, and started treating the consumers like morons. From the unethical behaviour of international brands such as Anchor and Dettol; to the irresponsible business practices of guardians of the local industry such as Superbrands and absurdities at Chillies, Sri Lankan advertising industry is going down the gutter – just like everything else in the island. Unfortunately.

In a land where there is no value for human life, it ain’t a big surprise to find that respect for the consumer is a commodity that’s hard to come by.

The advertising industry needs resurrection. It would take more than a few whistle-blowers to draw attention to the problems, and it would take a whole new generation to stop the deterioration and mobilise an upwardly move in the industry. People like Nibras Bawa play an essential role in drawing the attention to the issues that some of us would like to comfortably ignore and conveniently forget about.

At the same time, one cannot only blame the governing generation – ye olde club that rides Jags – alone, for the problems. They are partly to be blamed for the mess we are in. This is OUR mess, and the responsibility to resurrect the ad industry lies in our hands.

There are some basic, fundamental requirements that need to be fulfilled in order to establish a “proper” advertising culture in the island. They vary from (but not limited to) education, training, ideation and creativity, delivery and execution, business ethics and good governance; and I would hopefully shed some light on these from a creative perspective.

Let me begin with one. Feel free to pitch-in.

1. Education: There are no proper Ad Schools in Sri Lanka that produce great creative talent

Advertising creatives (both copy and art) are an extremely rare breed in Sri Lanka. “An idea can turn to dust or magic, depending on the talent that rubs against it” said the advertising great Bill Bernbach. In a business that runs on ideas, the importance of the right talent couldn’t have been better expressed.

The state universities produce graduates in Fine Arts, and graduates in Mass Communication – but contrary to popular belief, these graduates don’t necessarily become great art directors or fantastic copywriters.

There is also a serious lack of understanding when it comes to recruiting the right talent – some agencies don’t seem to understand the fundamental difference between a graphic designer/Mac operator and art director. They also tend to think that journalists are copywriters – finding the right person for the right job is a nightmare in Sri Lanka.

The situation is not being helped by the rogue “advertising schools” – a good money making racket led by Wijeya Graphics and emulated by a dozen that litter the Colombo Streets. They offer touch ’n go crash-courses in software such as Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign; and offer certificates which they call “Diplomas in Graphic Design” – consciously misleading the poor-unsuspecting out-of-town wanna-be ad guy.

Let alone the non-existence of (Adobe) certified instructors, most of these place don’t have even a course syllabus. There is no preliminary exam to evaluate the prospective “designer” who is going to join the advertising industry one day. As a result, we are treated to an island full of rubbish that we call graphic design. And the country thinks a graphic designer is someone who can draw a ball in Illustrator.

Teaching someone which button to press in the Microwave doesn’t produce a great chef. Learning how to use the tools and filters in Illustrator does not make one a great Art Director either.

Creative flair is not something one could acquire from a road-side shop in 60 hours. Either you are born with talent, or you are not. It is that simple.

While looking for creative talent in Sri Lanka, I have discovered that there are many so-called “Graduates in Graphic Design” who have never heard of Andy Worhol, for instance. I also once met a “lecturer” who didn’t know the difference between RGB and CMYK – and he was teaching Photoshop at Wijeya Graphics!

Ingrin (the Government Press) produces good technical talent that is required in the studio of an agency. These talents, who are called the “Mac Operators, Artworkers or Finalisers” in the West, are hired by Colombo agencies and are often called graphic designers. We have tendency to not-fire people and keep promoting them just because they have been there – and eventually they grow to become art directors and creative directors.

How wrong!

As far as I know, the only design school in Colombo that produces decent graphic designers is the one next to the Cricket Club Café. For Art Directors and Copywriters, we are yet to find a breeding ground (no pun intended).

Except for the handful of rough diamonds in a few fortunate agencies, there is hardly any young blood that gives us any hope.

Thankfully, the industry has realised this situation and has already taken some steps in the right direction. The 4A’s, and veterans like Nimal Ekanayake and Dilith Jayaweera have started ad-schools to scout and train the talent that is desperately needed in the industry. While some of their ulterior motives remain questionable, one could be assured that the product is going to be at least somewhat better than the road-side find. Even if their intentions are honourable, their produce would be only as good as their faculty – there is a serious scarcity of suitable trainers with overseas exposure, expertise and training to guide the raw talent to take on the big brands, and the world.

Right now, overseas agencies don’t even think of recruiting from Colombo, we are that bad.

In the absence of true talent, the agencies in Colombo have no option but to employ half-cooked road-side “graduates” at the entry level and import the mid-level creatives from an affordable place like India, and pray that our ones would learn the good from the Indians. I have made my thoughts clear on the “bad-influence” of Indian advertising; I will also write about the “good-influence” in another chapter in this discussion. Later.

I think, the lack of proper advertising schools that produce outstanding creative talent is one of the primary reasons why we are suffering from mediocracy and stupidity that we witness everyday in the local advertising scene.

My two cents on training and mentoring the talent, next.


This is Advertising!

As I flipped the cover page of the Khaleej Times this morning, my eye caught a clinical-looking half page ad on the front inner-page. Just lots of white space, and a simple dialogue.

Your heart says yes.

Your head nods in agreement.

To discover more about yourself go to

...read the ad.

My being me, sitting with my coffee, the laptop and the television news disturbing the silence in the morning, decide to check out the site. Idle hands, wondering minds, perfect time of the day to get me on the internet. I do have time to spare, so I check-out the site.

A minute later, I find myself with a grin on my face.

Brilliant. That’s what I call advertising.


More Tears for Sri Lankan Cricket Fans?

According to The National – an English daily from the UAE where the ICC headquarters are located – the Sri Lankan cricket fans are in for some more bad news. Quite possibly.

Looks like we are going to miss out on hosting the ICC Championship Trophy, come October.

With Sri Lanka Cricket Committee in total disarray and the growing security-concerns in the island, ICC would be more than happy to take the game away from the alternate venue to a more cosy and comfortable place like the UAE where Dubai and Abu Dhabi are throwing their dirhams around to get some international games in to their newly-built cricket grounds. Australia and South Africa are the other possible, natural contenders; but the UAE has a better chance – considering what money can buy these days.

Instead of trying to swing the ICC in their favour, the Emiratis could easily approach a few Sri Lankan decision makers who would ensure that the games aren’t played here in October. Minister Gamini Lokuge has told The National that there are indications that the ICC wants to stage the Champions Trophy in Dubai, already.

“Some doubts have been raised as far as Sri Lanka is concerned mainly from the weather prospective,” says the ICC’s general manager, Dave Richardson. “Questions have been raised whether it's wise to hold a tournament where rain is often affecting in October.”

Yeah right, take the game away and blame it on the rain..!


It’s March, It’s the Big Match Season!

The Big Match is around the corner. I’m excited, as if I am in Grade 7. There is something magically attractive about this whole affair. It’s not the Stag Night or the final scoreboard that matters – it’s the whole feeling, it’s the whole package that makes one want to cross the seven seas to get there.

My flights are booked, tickets bought, transport arranged. It so happens that I arrive in Colombo on the first day of the match – giving me just enough time to enjoy the rush-hour traffic jam; leaving me with very little time for the ritualistic three S’s in the morning – shower, shave (and of course you know the first one), before dashing off to the grounds.

March, is a significant month in my calendar for two reasons. One, the match. Two, it’s the month of my unofficial anniversary. Things hit a new note between yours truly and the love of his life on the first day of the big-match a few years ago; and this year, the two shall meet one another for the first time: I have decided to take the Mrs to the match.

Apparently, the only sort of “pre-nup” we have is about the match it seems, as she recollects. I had wanted to ensure that I have safe passage to Colombo every March, no matter which corner of the world we would be living in. Yes, for the rest of my life. And she did agree.

I guess that was smart, and I was lucky, to have that sorted out before it ever became an issue to anyone. No woman in her rightful mind would deprive her man of the joy of this wonderful camaraderie of ‘Royal’ life. Aah, the long-lost friends, their adventures with the feminine kind, the wonderful stories, the memories of yesteryear... all cheered and toasted with an ample supply of food and drink – the match is a lot more than just a match.

Enough said. The big match is the Big Match. For everything else, there’s MasterCard.