Sunday, October 29, 2006


Its here again: that time of the year when you wish you were anywhere else but damp, sticky, moldy smelling Sri Lanka. Its monsoon time- or to use less exotic terminology “drippy, grey, rainy days are here again”

My cats are frozen into catatonic lumps- you see them lurking like watchful gargoyles, on sideboards, in the ceiling ornaments, on cupboards, too cold to shake a limb but occasionally blinking balefully at the podgy geckos they are too lazy to catch.
The half Persian has swollen to twice her size because she is cold and her bristles are sticking out, and taken to answering the calls of nature indoors, ie, in the kitchen sink.

And the Ally living room is permanently damp and dotted with empty plastic Cargills ice cream tubs strategically positioned to catch stubborn leaks. Friends are compelled to fend off the damp feline advances of kittens who are trying to poach body heat from them, and have to sit across from me on the couch and make themselves heard through the gentle tymphany of heavy tropical droplets of water landing on plastic. To the optimistic feng shui enthusiast, this may have its special charm but I personally hate the whole idea. Leave aside the limp underwear and tea cloths with things growing on them, rugs so damp that you have to actually fight them to get your shoes back, reeking feline foot prints patterning across the tiles in livid muddy shades- there is the Smell: take old army boots , a second hand chicken coop , manky towels, a lot of rotting wood and a generous dollop of pulsating tropical lichen (and this mind you is after the household dogs have been banned and cruelly locked out to fend for themselves!)- and you come somewhere close to this, keeping in mind that its not very strong, just a faint whiff, since we have got used to it anyway and if it were stronger we would have to root it out some how: no- the damp atmosphere does not smother – it just hangs about sheepishly.

But the smell does get to me – so once I land at home in the evenings I need to light two Ninja coils and 3 Dhoop sticks before I can even begin to think straight. –that’s after the trip home since I need a little time to “unwind” and recap that journey home-

..oh, did I forget to tell you how I actually get home? Well, I cant use the moped because my spectacles get foggy in the rain and don’t have wipers- so I have to travel in bus like all the other normal middle class peeps, which means squeezing in with about 85 other damp wheezy people who have just folded their dripping umbrellas and found a spot to stand in that’s not half an inch under water on the bus. Then we spend 45 minutes in the compulsory company of all kinds of droplet infections produced by the copious hacking and sneezing and occasional snorts from people who forgot their kerchiefs and are using their sleeves instead (or even perhaps your shawle if you doze off a minute-) …

Anyway having survived that theres the lovely tropical trek, home depending on how far you live from the bus halt. Wonderful Serendipity! Ten to fifteen minutes trudging cheerfully up those rustic, winding little side tracks that lead to home,if you think about it carefully :these puddles are SCAREY. Never mind the typhoid and gonorrhea that must lurk in them I personally have a horrible phobia ( due to watching too many horror flicks like Jaws , the Deep and Lake Placid) that if I put my foot in the wrong puddle I may not actually get it back!

And here at last is a problem that we cannot blame on the GOSL,LTTE , globalization or the IMF!So theres no point ranting about it on Kottu – unless Waruna* gets His own blog running and allows us to post comments and suggestions to him. So till then, happy sloshing,while I go off to microwave my undies.

*Balinese deity of Rain, Oceans (and thus tsunamis) and other water related issues..

Thursday, October 26, 2006

At last! a Full lenght photo of Aljuhara!

At last, for all my new online friends who complained that my mugshot was too small and blurred (-and deceptively young looking-) heres the full lenght photograph, courtesy Daily Mirror. I honestly love this ! the artist has actually managed to visualise me perfectly right down to the mildly bemused head scratching ...:-)hee.hee.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sadism alive and well in Colombo

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has written to President Mahinda Rajapakse highlighting what the organization called the blatant mistreatment and violation of basic human rights of psychiatric patients in the mental health wards in Colombo and elsewhere in Sri Lanka. In the letter, the human rights watchdog highlights several such violations as follows:
The AHRC says that patients are systematically given shock treatment (Electro-convulsive Therapy -- ECT) as it is cheaper than giving them antipsychotic drugs. Whenever psychiatrists are asked what they want from overseas the response is "a new ECT machine". It is said that this treatment settles the patients for about 3-4 days and then they are back to being shocked.
Patients are beaten when perceived as unmanageable. Patients are also tied to their beds or wall hooks when seen as difficult to manage. Food that is given by visitors is taken away. Patients walk around with a 1/4 loaf of bread in their hands as their evening meal when the government provides adequate money for a better meal.
The AHRC also says that items given like sewing machines for occupational therapy are used by staff to run their own small businesses from the ward for instance patch work, quilt making. Meanwhile patients remain unoccupied, and their behaviour is not managed, and then they are subjected to inhuman restrictive practices.
Food that is provided by the family on a day out is taken away by staff. Any meat is confiscated and plain buns are given instead as the staff say that the meat will not agree with the patients. But observers have noticed that the meat is not thrown away but taken away by staff in bags.
Then, soap and basics provided to maintain hygiene are taken away by staff and pieces of inexpensive soap like Sunlight is provided instead which reacts badly with the skin of the patients giving rise to added problems. These things are actually happening within these wards and the information is reported by credible NGO staff, mental health professionals and support persons.
What is worse is these atrocities are happening to an extremely vulnerable section of the community who cannot advocate for themselves. All they can do is plead with their relatives to remove them from the wards. However they are not believed and considered delusional by their families. Also the families are afraid to remove them as they are not sure how to handle the patient at home.
What becomes clear from this information is that the psychiatrists, nurses and attendants are abusing these patients and obviously see this group as anything but human. On several occasions mental health organisations have taken up these issues but the results have been negative. What happens in the end is that the staff of such organisations are prevented from visiting the wards and hence are unable to monitor the situation or act as a deterrent against this behaviour.
As a result the organisations stopped pursuing legal action in order that they would be able to continue visiting the wards. However, sadly they believe that there is much that happens when they are not around.
The situation of the treatment of psychiatric patients needs to be urgently investigated and the practices that prevail at the moment need to be prevented immediately. The AHRC has thus urged that appropriate action be taken on this matter as an urgent priority.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Dentists had it good those days too!

Thieves, secret excavations and long forgotton curses.....Now you know why the Middle East never ceases to fascinate me! Some things are so happening even though the story is 4000 years old.

SAQQARA, Egypt - The arrest of tomb robbers led archaeologists to the graves of three royal dentists, protected by a curse and hidden in the desert sands for thousands of years in the shadow of Egypt's most ancient pyramid, officials announced Sunday

Sunday, October 22, 2006

hear Kitty!

FMM decries bombing of the Voice of Tigers (VOT)

The Free Media Movement (FMM) decries the bombing of radio station Voice of Tigers (VOT), the official radio station of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam ( LTTE). Fighter jets belonging to Sri Lankan Air Force bombed the station in Killinochchi, an LTTE held town in Northern Sri Lanka on 17th October 2006. The attack destroyed broadcasting towers of the station and injured two workers.

find the balance at

well..hello, this is the Voice of Tigers, we are talking about, and they have been banned in the pretty much the rest of the civilised world (not just had their broadcasting licenses revoked! )although the GOSL has not yet come around to noticing this .but-
how cruel is bombing Tigers! - surely there are more civilised ways of making them conform.... Revoke their permits!Tax their stamps ! FINE them! or something-

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Where have all the beggars gone?

Uh, well, I know I should actually be asking the Central Bank or Ministry of Poverty Alleviation or whatever, but I was personally facing this question last week as I cruised the blazing tarmacs of Maradana under a blistering midday sun looking for these beings of legend because of a little plan I had to “Do good” (Further embarrassing details below- )

You hear people griping about the economy, the cost of living, the sheer exhausting poverty of this third world city we live in – and you’d think logically that the number of destitute people (ok ok Financially Challenged Fellow Citizens) would be an excellent indication of the levels to which we have sunk , but goodness, have you noticed there just aren’t any when you need them! Deserving looking ones I mean, not those unshaven intense looking ones with bloodshot eyes who reek of alcohol, and twitch suspiciously when they talk– I’m talking about real deserving honest-to-God cases of serious “Have.Not.”

Now why, you may ask, would Al, actually “need” beggars? Well, the truth is I’ve been well brought up on some serious Buddhist theory and occasionally when someone close to me conks off, or when I go through some narrow scrape, a prickle of unease nags at my conscience: a positive inclination to go fourth and do something “meritorious” so to speak.

Since I personally hover delicately at the edge of lower middle class penury, large scale organized charity like saving herds of cows(!) or donating prime land for orphanages is beyond me, but I do pride myself on the occasional “Food- Packets- For-Hungry- Beggars” thing, duly arranged on Saturdays in auspicious quantities of 3,7,9 or 21 which hopefully will keep Saturn happy and keep me out of serious trouble for just a little bit longer( And I have given up trying to even begin to figure out how an entirely gaseous planet billions of miles away may possibly directly affect things like my education, my marriage and the sporadic bouts of eczema I suffer. I just accept it like death, taxes and server outages)

So, to cut the cackle, last Saturday found yours truly cruising slowly through the Dematagoda /Baseline/Maradana route in the cornea-frying noon sunlight with a “dicky” full of lunch packets, looking for tatty deserving looking beggars poor people who would kindly take these things without actually insulting me about it – yup, I was getting pretty desperate.

Trust me this is an excellent way to get sunstroke, migraine and a lot of *fishy* looks from the army. A fat woman on a rusty moped is odd. Same woman going really slowwwwly looking left and right, is just pushing it. You get my drift.

Well, the sad conclusion I came to last week (or the happy one, from the National Policy making point of view-) was that there just are not enough really deserving beggars in Colombo!

I mean, sure, under the Baseline flyover there were people blissfully sleeping it off in little happy bundles of rag and newspaper but I was too afraid to actually go and tweak them for lunch, since you never know what they could be sleeping off.

Three( 3) of the more coherent ones relieved me of the (by now really silly looking) rice packets (possibly for the resale value= one cigarette?)with condescending grunts and walked off insouciantly without so much as discussing the attendant blessings and fortunate afterlife that I was hoping would accrue to me as part of the bargain.

Two (2) people asked me for money and would not budge until I parted with cold hard cash and one of them mumbled something about the fifty (50!) buck note I had given him (eh ,did I hear that correct? 50 bux wasn’t enough? Raising cost of living ? but ,erh-these people didn’t actually DO anything , they just sat there- what kind of bills did they have to pay anyway?- )

Well , I admit I was here for a totally self centered and petty personal-gain reasons, so yes I would have liked a “bohoma isthuthy” even if “pinsiddhawechaawe” is now out of fashion, even “jolly decent of you,old gal " would have been ok, but these cool, nonchalant shrugs were kind of , how shall I put it, bloody annoying, sorry - rather discouraging, actually.

Finally in Maradana near the Police station , under some leafy trees I stumbled upon an endearing young old lady beggar with a really charismatic smile who along with her hubby (ok here I was assuming it was the hubby unless they were not married and just begging- in – sin-) at least bestowed gracious smiles upon me when I handed out the final packets – and yes, there was even a brief hands clasped moment too so I must bookmark that spot for future reference in case I need beggars again. (Alternatively, I think I will start practicing Tonglen, instead. At least it doesn’t involve making the long suffering STF uneasy)

But then it happened , near a Base line Road temple , at last , I came upon that One True beggar who finally made my whole Sunday worthwhile, a wonderful character of enduring fortitude, the memory of whom still brings tears to my eyes- a speech challenged ,shivering, gibbering octogenarian on a crutch who actually smiled widely and toothlessly and mumbled the old fashioned intonations I had wanted to hear, thanking me, blessing me, referring to my parents in a positive light, wishing me the best in life and the hereafter, (for eons actually) -perpetual, everlasting cosmic success and eternal beauty in return for a 50 buck packet of Kowloon Take Away’s Delishes Fish Curry Special .He sure knew the words and he sure made my Saturday, and although I bet he was as well fed as the rest, I guess he was one for keeping to traditions!

Well -that task completed finally, I rode back home, kind of glowing in the sunlight, not only because I felt I had done something worthwhile at last ,but also I did honestly feel that ,here at least on my track, there aren’t so many truly desperate people and things couldn’t really be that bad. Well, I wish anyway….

The author lives in Wellampitiya with 5 cats named: Patchy, Scratchy, Serious, Curious and Mantal.
And yes, she rides a moped.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Fed up with the general consensus that I am an empty head with a loud voice box, I have decided to edufycate myself further in my current field of work (Current Affairs ) by drawing on the books in my library, at least on the odd rainy days when I cant take a bike to work.

This weeks read was a book by Dr Vellaithamby AMeerdeen titled : ETHNIC POLITICS OF MUSLIMS IN SRI LANKA, a subject about which I think not that much has been written.

Let me hasten to add, I did not have time to read the book from cover to cover but did one of those new age speed reads within about 45 minutes ,which coupled with the motion sickness brought on by my 140 bus winding around in Maradana and Norris Canal road, (whopeeeee!) may have given me not the entire picture but I do have a ROUGH idea of what the book is about and I can recommend it.

Dr Ameerdeen’s presentation and language is GOOD: plain, crisp and straightforward, and Im not just saying this because I ve met him personally and he’s got lots of charisma, but because I could actually UNDERSTAND what I was reading without having to read sentences thrice. This is his Phd Thesis and it’s written in plain English! some of you Policy Maker Academics out there should try doing that for a change!

There are chapters on the Muslim culture in Sri Lanka (pretty much on par with any of the other cultures we have here, what with dowry issues and women being left uneducated etc muslim’s apparently are not too thrilled about marrying their sons to their sisters’ daughters which is such a relief. This leads to inbreeding and imbeciles which may explain us Sinhala) a lot about the Muslim Congress,(bit stodgy) lots of useful statistics (if you are doing your own thesis on anything remotely similar) one or two interesting documents like a SLMC –LTTE MOU in 2002(where they agree on a few mundane day to day things but rather fundamental things like “we agree not to kill Muslims” have been surprisingly overlooked- ….anyone else want to sign an MOU with the LTTE? ) and admittedly a lot of interesting facts on recent political history of Sri Lanka from a Muslim viewpoint.

What can I say , I found the book good and I would read it more thouroughly if I had time.
But Im at work , it’s a busy Wednsday morning and I have just got news that my beautiful ancestral town of GALLE IS CURRENTLY UNDER ATTACK , so I shall stop blogging for now. What a life.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Als first day in print

well: thats the cover page of the Daily Mirrors WOW magazine of 17th October - and my story is in it on page 2 with a reference to this site.

and thats a first for me! :-)

Friday, October 13, 2006

those burning questions

Here are the answers to pretty much all the most important of those serious philosophical questions you have ever asked yourselves on decrepit sunday did the universe evolve? who made us ? and why do we have pubic hair ?

Boardroom notes from that first roundtable discussion on how to create the upright biped- and make sure he stays around....;-An-Eyewitness-Account-Part-One-of-The-Invention-of-Everything/132/

“I don’t know. I think having some hair here and there might help them feel more at home with the other creatures.”
“Instead of all by their lonesome selves on some otherwise desolate planet?”
“Good insight. Very harmonious. I want you to know that. OK, so let’s recap it and take a vote. Here it is. The male has a tube. Can we agree on that?”

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

all that trouble with the anti abortionists and then this:

It may sound morbid, even bizarre, but Sri Lankan scientists are going ahead anyway. In a bid to unravel the mystery behind Lanka's soaring suicide rate highest in South East Asia anatomists will soon start picking the brains of the dead

"An alarming 70,000 people have committed suicide from 1990 to 2000 in Sri Lanka, with an estimated 14 million suicide bids. The rate has increased by 10 times between 1950s to 1990s. To get to the root of the problem, we have decided to adopt a two-pronged approach. While the first would be an epidemiological study, the second one would involve taking brain cells of cadavers to zero in susceptible genes"

here are the stats in comparision with our poor neighbours,proving that its not totally for economic reasons that we die:

and for details of a totally sucidal family read this

yup, Sri Lankans are an inbred bunch but then does it mean we got to kill ourselves due to odd genes...seems so unfair on those lovely parents who take a lot of trouble in bringing us up, a slap on the face to your mother ....pregnancy, lactation ,stretch marks and sleepless nights , schooling ,education etc all thrown to waste.
Perhaps better family planning is the key so that we dont breed kids who wish they had never been born...

or maybe its just the price of petrol driving us round the bend...

pls comment at the entry below too...

tell me WHY.

Sri Lanka is reportedly worlds number one for
* suicide
*alchoholism and
* child abuse

thats what I hear. Now, what I would welcome, is for all you Colombo bloggers out there to visit my blog and put forward your theories and creative ideas as to
1)whether this is true and
2) if so if there is any link between these three and the general social situation that makes up sri lanka.

meanwhile off I go to Kalutara for a residential course in improving my understanding of something important or another, and I shall be back with all the photographs (of the brainstorming of course) on Monday.Happy blogging.

ps personally I think the root cause of all of this is Sri Lankans dont get laid enough.
or let anyone else get any.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Domestic Bliss- the Kusumawathie Files

Much has been said about the domestic assistant in Sri Lanka, that smokey eyed kitchen beauty the 'ammey" or the gaunt grizzled garden jonson who has been around since forever,and provided support and stability to our lives1[1]..
There are actually Yuppies in this country who could earn millions in greener pastures but do not leave because they would have to say good bye to their domestics and for those of us under-privilaged society snobs who don't have one ...-up there in our wish lists right between "buy private yatch "and "get bust lift" is a small entry "find honest servant[2]"..
Let me tell you from personal experience - Ive been there done that - and you are not. missing. much.

Consider my Kusumawathi:
She comes from an impoverished Colombo slum where she has to wait hours near a community water pipe, fighting for her place among local women of ill fame, to drag up some mouldy slush which looks like water for the daily cooking , then forage for hours in Kabaragoya infested suburban thickets for firewood, for same and she sports an impressive collection of batter and burn scars on her body made by a cross eyed drunken carpenter bass whom she married by mistake a half a century ago and stubbornly insists on staying with "for the sake of the kids"(who ehem, are in their 40s now and earn better than me, mind you)
But: I invite her to work gently two hours per evening in my spartan studio apartment (sans microwave and washing machine and things i have accumulated through years of toil,mind you )and she has the dubious luck to stumble upon a microscopic sediment of glass from a long forgotton beer mug, which lodges in a crevice of her callused bark like, sorry, delicate feminine, sole, and thus begins three MONTHS of reproachful limping, pointed self pitied sighs and the mumbling, groaning and general apathy more reminiscent of a terminal case of what the Victorians called "the Great Depression"
The usual gist of normal doctors prod and poke her while she grimaces heroically but cannot find anything wrong with her so its more general groaning, grumbling and self appraisal , until along comes that perennial champion for lower class[3] human rights, that all around safe haven for poor sri lankans, the General Hospital which decides (after 4 days of visits ,standing in queues and absence from work )that this dot of glass may even Lead To Cancer and to avoid this she needs an "operation"
I swear this is the word she said they used.on this imaginary dot of glass...and they give her a date for the great event:the 4th of October.
So to picture the run up to this, imagine, if you will, the self pitied mumbling, animated purchases of hospital gear, pillows and plastic lunch boxes etc, the writing of wills ,tearful visits from long forgotton relations and a general aura of martyrdom leading to the great day ...(Let me never be accused of callous bourgeois indifference to the sufferings of the underprivileged- but no matter how hard I tried I could not bring myself to show fake sympathy for an operation on a "veeduru katta") ..General hospital staff then proceeded to ensure that this operation hurts a great deal to prove that they are doing something of seriously life threatening import , so from her own groaned cellphoned report, the injection made her scream "a lot"(let me get this clear , that's the Novocain injection, mind you - for the lay person -the "hiri vattana" jab-)and she is currently in great suffering and may not be able to turn up for work indefinitelly: to add insult to injury the supposedly free health system had also landed her with prescriptions of stuff running to "Rupiyal Panseeyaka vithara!!!" which is ehem not really free if you get the drift...
by mobile phone, she also makes it a point to notify me of all the support she is receiving from the local drunkards, kuddas, sundry Sedawatta neighbours, and various ex employers who in their efforts to get her to come back to them, are now showering her with one off bribes and incentives so that I end up feeling like a blood drinking villain-ess for not being able to bring myself to actually say anything sympathetic - and notifys me that she will not be able to come to work for the next.two.weeks.

So that's why this article is short, and unfocused- Im looking forward to making that kitchen habitable again…

Foot Note Wait a minute - I just thought of something: maybe she wants a raise...

[1] Not to mention the occasional requirement for a strong sedative...

[2] "servant" is a very bad old fashioned word from the Feudal times,.so I promise not to use it again. We are supposed to call them Domestic Assistants.
[3] another bad way of saying things.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Land of Lala

Our lady of Vanga had trouble on her brow.
Trouble brewing darkly on the fair and lovely brow of a beautiful principal consort of the sovereign of Vanga: and no amount of sandalwood paste nor costly unguents couriered in from far away Alesandra could erase the creases that were taking up permanent residence on her fair brow.
It was, of course on account of a Beautiful Daughter.

But then this was nothing new in the Great Chronicle, where most of your Royal Seehala problems could be roughly categorised into:
a) Randy beautiful daughters who must be incarcerated effectively else they would duly elope with the neighbourhood despot and ruin your reputation
b) Calculating parricidal male offspring who couldn’t wait the ten or twenty years of reign an average Sinhala king could expect those days (what with antibiotics and the Hiemlich manoeuvre still being about two thousand years away from being discovered)
c) Drought, famine and a general shortage of war elephants
d) and invading Cholas,[1] usually in that order.

Queen Maya , the herself Beautiful Daughter of Kalingha was now seriously worrying on subject(a)
She had just had this mother – daughter chat with her glowing offspring and this most radiant of princesses had admitted to some of the most scandalous desires she had ever lent Royal ear to.
The princess was of course one of those endearing, mixed up and misunderstood nymphos that dot the Great Chronicle and as this story was written by a few serious minded and generally disapproving monks, in a secluded hermitage in Ceylon, the only possible reaction to her honest confession, was shock(!) horror(!!) and shame… (!!!)
She for her part was a feisty young thing who would not be restricted and demanded her independence unlike the unfortunate Ummada Chitta[2]…and this resulted in her finally being allowed to go for walks in the jungle alone.
That’s what the Chronicle says although it is difficult to imagine that the King would not have sent a pose of body guards at least a safe distance behind her – if he cared, I mean: it was his daughter and his reputation and all that not to mention, a matter of National Security if you look at the facts ….

The princess taking a solitary walk, unattended and disguised ….(pg29)decamped under the protection of a caravan chief who preceded to the Magada country…

And then along comes this lion..

She observed him and recollecting the prediction she had heard of the fortune tellers, freed from all fear , exciting him, caressed him…(pg 30)

We all agree we need to learn from history. My personal observations then are that :
(a) Fortune-tellers are darned dangerous: they tell you this sort of stuff and you take it seriously and then you go and do this sort of thing. If this lion had’nt been randy enough Ms Kalinga would have been just another statistic and there would not have been any Sinhala at all.
(b)If not for how poetically it was drafted, the Great Chronicle would be the oldest document to be rated triple x, considering that this is technically zoophilia we are discussing here.

…by her having thus fondled him, his passion being aroused the lion then…

more next time,folks...

[1] This was of course before the invention of Cable TV and the only recreation these poor dear Cholas seem to have been able to come up with was constantly but half heartedly plotting to invade Ceylon…
[2] another story in its own right

Sunday, October 01, 2006

more corny gardiyawasome humour

It actualy took me years to find this site- which either says Im a terrible googler or the author was very discrete.But I always knew this was out there somewhere and here it finally is

you know,this sumna charachter has just got to be related to me. ..Ill let you be the judge of that

ps it came as a shock to me,but it hit me from a recent wedding invitation, that me and another 8 of my family members have been spelling our names wrong for the last 30- 60 years. Thats unnerving to say the least.