So, who voted for whom?

It was one of the early Presidential Elections. I had bicycled over to my buddy’s place in Sea View Avenue and we were going to hangout with our clique on the Election Day. Colombo wasn’t as exciting as it is now, but at least we had planned a good Chinese lunch and a chilled beer at the Chinese Lotus Hotel – which stood where the Carnival Ice Cream is today.

First things first: we had to vote. It was my first time, but I wasn’t even interested. Hanging out with buddies was more important to me than standing in a long queue, and therefore, I had left my vote in the capable hands of an unknown fellow countryman who would vote on my behalf towards to end of the day. Well, that is the norm with us – the Sri Lankans.

My friend on the other hand, was a responsible citizen who insisted on casting his vote duty-fully – so I had no choice but to drag myself along to the Methodist College polling centre.

Since I was making my way over there, I decided to take my buddy’s brother’s ticket with me in any case. The good fella was studying overseas and I managed to cast his ballot – adding one more Colombo vote for the former President R. Premadasa.

Walking out, we were faced with a big hullabaloo. Apparently, someone’s vote has already been cast, even before that someone arrived at the polling booth. And that someone was none other than Pieter Keuneman – a key figure of Lanka Sama Samaja (Communist) Party. Steal the votes from the one’s who don’t show-up just before wrapping-up for the day, don’t steal a party leader’s vote first thing in the morning.

The gangsters from the Colpetty shanty town were “running” the polling booth that day. And obviously, they did not pay much attention to the names when picking which votes they would cast on on their own. Even if they did, they must have thought that Pieter Keuneman was a foreigner or something, the name never clicked with the communist labour class of the country.

Even though we were quite inquisitive and wanted to see some action, it wasn’t such a bright idea to hang around the place or be part of the action.

Pieter Keuneman lost his vote to the mob. Wasn’t his fault.

Sarath Fonseka loses his vote due to sheer negligence or stupidity. How could someone run the affairs of a country when he is incapable of running his own? I hope those who voted for him saw something in him that we didn’t. Honestly.


Monday Morning Treat for the Boys

Source: worktobejudged.com

Came across this in my email. Have no idea who should be credited for the film, hence the weblink above. Enjoy – watch the whole film. ;)


Pu Erh: Tea. Friday Morning.

Friday morning the city of Jeddah looks deserted. I cross the road almost blindly, there is nothing but six lanes of emptiness where streams of bumper to bumper traffic congregated and congested at 1.00 in the morning. January. Friday. Morning. Three things that make walking irresistible in a place where walking is impossible, any other time. This morning is too beautiful to waste inside an air-conditioned automobile.

I meet up with my friend at Teayana, the tea-lounge and café. Coming from the Paradise Isle of Ceylon, I thought I knew my tea until I flipped through their elaborate menu. More than 125 types of distinctly different teas, from over 25 different countries and over a thousand tea gardens. Almost everything from Green or Herbal, to Black or White. Blended, unblended, flavoured and not.

If there was paradise for tea-connoisseurs, this was it.

To my horror, I discover only two varieties from Ceylon. In a bouquet of exotic teas that had even more exotic names, I spot “Nuwara Eliya” after much effort. Surely we should have had more than two varieties, I thought to myself, and spent next 15 minutes trying to prove myself in vain. It seems that the much sought-after teas from Ceylon have failed to move with the times – just like their name. Ceylon, and Ceylon Tea: soon to be nothing but distant memories.

With a long sigh, I settle for a Moroccan Mint tea. And a zatar with labneh on the side.

We chat about life at large. We talk about the impending elections, the future of Sri Lanka and our role in shaping-up the world. We talk about building libraries around the country and how to help our people in need.

We talk about marketing. Or rather the lack of it, when it comes to selling our paradise to the world, tea being one of them.

Later, much later, I decide to try some unique tea and decide to flavour a vintage variety: Pu Erh. (pron. = purée).

Vintage. Like wine.

Older, the better.

Pu Erh is the only tea that improves in flavour and value with age and it takes around 30 years to reach maturity. Until then, the teas are stored in breathable, usually unglazed, clay canisters – leaving them to oxidise and ferment slowly. Once matured, they are stored in sealed containers similar to any other tea. Apparently, some of these Pu Erh teas are coming from the days of the last Chinese Dynasty and a small, compact brick or a cake could easily fetch a few thousands dollars, if they are genuine. Finding such specimens are said to be very rare though.

Since I haven’t made my million$ and billion$ yet, I try the commercial variety that is sold at the lounge: Pu Erh – 10 to 20 years old. Full-bodied, heavy tea that tastes like a fine whiskey. Only lighter, and smoother. My taste buds remind me of the flavour of roasted tobacco and the warm sunshine in Paradise back home.

Sipping that and looking out of the window at McDonalds across the street, I marvel at the power of branding. Then I momentarily wonder where Ceylon Tea would be, if we don’t revive the industry, rejuvenate the market and reclaim our former glory.


From Beijing to Dubai in 55 Frames

At 10.25am, we were heading towards the Plateau of Tibet. “Distance to Dubai: 2,790 miles” read the little touch-screen. I look out of the window and see the snow-capped mountains just below my feet. It feels like 800 feet above ground-level. We were flying north of the Himalayas, 36,000 feet above. Sache to the left and Almaty to the right, we were cruising through the middle.

The scene outside the window was magical. Snow covered mountains and clear skies; nothing else but the shades of blues and the whites.

Jammu and Kashmir lay further south on the map.

The terrain below is impossible and impassable. It looked like as if it had rained mountains. Mountain peaks as far as the eye could see. The view had been like this for a couple of hours, only the size and the colour of the mountain-tops changed.

A scene from Ice Age flashed before my eyes and I tried not to think of the unthinkable. Surviving a fall of a few hundred meters and being frozen to death is not my style. I don’t think I would make a good exhibit in some Discovery Museum in 2375 AD, either.

I hate the cold. I recall my memory and find consolation in the fact that no aircraft fell to its death in this region since the World War II.

I grin to myself and look at the time. We still have four hours to the destination. We are going to cruise above the clouds for a few more hours. We would take a left further ahead to fly over Pakistan, cross over to Iran and descend over Bandar Abbas to head towards the big city.

Nine hours of scenic beauty is what I’m going to enjoy this time. A few movies, two meals, and capture the view from the window with my mobile every so often – so I could put them together, quietly.