Sunday, February 25, 2007

Crowing about Pocky-Part 2

What followed was about 40 hours of wild and total chaos. Pocky’s condition improved exponentially and he gorged himself on papaws and salmon, which he naturally had to expel pretty soon; crows either have short digestive tracts or this one was so starved that whatever he ate went right through. Pretty soon my bedroom was covered with a series of artistic streaks of half digested muck which I did not want to analyze. My bed, carpet and walls, in fact any patch of room I did not cover with newspapers and polythene was liberally decorated with half formed guano. My monitor and keyboard were favorite areas as well as the dressing table where Pocky would land near my deodorant collection and preen in the mirror.

At some stage in the proceedings Mom reported on me to Thaththi and he mercifully adopted a “Wait and See” approach since it was a bit late in the day to worry about germs. This meant if anything went wrong (or wronger than it already had,anyway) I could probably look forward to a humbling lecture on how I should be more responsible and not Do Nonsense like this etc. The rest of the family came by to see things for themselves and were rudely judged by Pocky.
The Persian cat gave me a long silent look I wont forget and stayed beyond a radius of 30 feet from my bedroom, for Pockys entire stay.

Within 24 hours Pocky had learned two tricks. To come when he was called, and sit on my mouse pad if I tapped it(perhaps it looked friendly and familiar like an helicopter launch site?) and the Silly Cotton Bud Trick: Cotton buds were to Pocky what a red flag is to a bull- you showed him one, he would take it as a personal challenge, and grab it from you, yank it angrily out of your fingers and place it on the ground. Then he would give you a beady-eyed look as if challenging you to touch it. If you did try to touch it, he would hold your finger very threateningly in a strong black beak and push your hand away. But there was a glint of mischief in the beady eyes that spoke of smiling inside.

This then, is why it has been outlawed to harbor crows, their intelligence is incredible for something that bird-brained, and I believe uncharted, I’m sure if they had opposable digits these little black suited gentlemen would be running the show. This was a wild crow that could not possibly have known a word of human, let alone English and here he was answering to a silly name I had given him within a matter of hours.

The worst challenge was catching hold of him for long enough to force-feed the tetracyclin as per the six hourly course. This was an exercise in guerrilla warfare that took about 2 hours for me to win, and helped me lose a lot of weight since it involved me stalking, crouching , pouncing and missing around my bedroom. Pocky did not want to have a bitter powder shoved down his throat and freely expressed his disgust in no uncertain terms. From the strangled objections it was pretty obvious that I would soon be hauled in by the Wellampitiya Police, not just for harboring a crow but for general breach of peace, environmental pollution, and if Pocky had his say, animal rights violations too.

48 hours of this was the giddy limit. SO two days after I had rescued a weak droopy lump of crow on Greenpath, I opened my windows in Wellampitiya and told Pocky he was free to go.

The croak he let out was definitely something like “that’s more like it” and out he flew like a large relieved black torpedo. Characteristically he did not disappear at once, but sat down on a banana leaf outside my window (prudently just out of my reach in case I changed my mind ) looked hard at me, sideways, and burst into an earnest and elaborate monologue of cackles and caws.

It definitely included an element of grudging gratitude in it, hidden among possible indignation that this was Wellampitiaya I was releasing him in , which was probably an affront to a Colombo 7 crow; I can also safely assume it was something in the lines of “So long and thanks for all the antibiotics!” or he could have been warning me about the plots my cats were hatching, or telling me to go easy on the deodorant- I do wish I had an interpreter.

Either way, within a minute, he was soaring off into the wild blue yonder and I was sitting in a really smelly room, feeling sorely dumped.

Pocky may have left me in favor of freedom but I have sweet memories, which I treasure, of two days spent hiding a little black suited refugee in my bedroom. And now whenever one of them comes and sits on the branches outside my window, I cannot help but smile and wonder if he’s telling me that a friend is going to visit – or if its Pocky come back to see how I am…

Got more endearing crow experiences? All furry, feathery, even slightly mangy stories about Sri Lankan fauna are welcome at :

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

My Darkest Secret

Its been up on two years now but the guilt of it has kept me silent so far. Even now I will not tell you who I am, for your author, dear gentle reader, is guilty of having broken the law, violated the penal code and /or acted unconstitutionally to boot and what’s worse now intends to crow about it too!

The cause of this was a beady eyed, near comatose bundle of black feathers I found on Greenpath , one Monday evening last July on my way back from work.

This creature was later named Pokey and he*was ill; birds of his feather had gathered around thoughtfully and were noisily discussing their intention of putting him out of his misery. Hint: this would involve being summarily pecked to death because they did not want to leave you to the cats. They obviously give a lot of thought to this sort of thing, crows.)
Well, you know me, I cannot walk past a creature that desperate, with my eyes wide shut- so I called up a passing tuk tuk , demanded a polythene bag from the surprised driver and placing the uncomplaining black mass in it, hired a lift home.

My Wellampitiya Vet and I have an excellent understanding: he maintains a straight face and does not burst out laughing or screaming hysterically when I bring the latest case in – and I provide him with lots of useful On the job experience. This was no exception.

Pokey was examined closely , his wings flexed , his rigid, gnarled claws forcefully unwrapped, and his throat shed light into with a good torch, after which dear ole Dr Perera decided that the paralysis could be treated by modern day anti biotics. He showed me how to take a “karala” and divide it iinto eight parts one of which I was supposed to administer at 6 hourly intervals.

So there was I saddled with a limp, dying crow, a 3 day course of tetracyclin and a cardboard box which I hastily requisitioned from the nearby supermarket.

The next challenge was to smuggle said refugee into our house without my father noticing.
My father is the serious, strict, Decision Maker person at home, the king of the Castle so to speak, who gives a lot of thought to possible calamity in life and solidly disapproved of anything with feathers on the basis that “they can have all kinds of dirty diseases” and this ,mind you , was in the seventies, decades before bird flu was even invented, and in spite of the fact that he grew up practically on a farm.
This therefore had to be a quiet back door entry kind of thing and so it was that I managed to sprint my unresisting secret up to my bedroom before the gate man could even turn around, and shut the door firmly against inquisitive family members to take a deep breath and really think about what I had just done.

Im a working girl, out from 9 to 5, and I have a small carpeted bedroom about 8 by 10, a very peaceful feminine pad furnished in pastel pink d├ęcor with lots of stuffed Disney characters- and now I had a large heavy rude black bird convalescing in it. Just how rude he was I was about to find out.

The first dose of tetracyclin was a breeze because I d found a needleless syringe and mixed the dust with honey, and Pokey was not expecting this , neither had he enough strength to object. Down the hatch it went, with a bit of feather – rustling.
And within an hour or two , it was working ! The listless doomed look was replaced by a suspicious calculating look, the head stood alert. Even the feathers were glossier. It was one of those good moments in a pet rescuers life.
It was also when the problems really started because Pokey began expressing his opinion, in a harsh and unlovely tone, probably listing his constitutional rights etc …

7 or 8 hours and two doses afterwards, Pokey was visibly transformed from being a limp beaten black heap of feathers with an obvious death wish- he was now walking around in his cardboard box bobbing his head critically up and down like a hygiene inspector, testing his wings for flightworthiness and emitting short , rude judgmental test -croaks which sounded anything but grateful.

The challenge was now to get him to shut up, because I was not supposed to harbor crows in my bedroom. Leave aside the penal code and the neighbors, my dad would have a fit. My mother came around as she usually does on her evening -bringing-the-tea-walk, and I opened my door about three inches and had a bright chat with her after which since she knew the funny look on my face was anything but innocent she began pushing very gently at the door and saying sad things like ‘ is something the matter? I know you are hiding something. Im your mum. You can talk to me, you know,” that sort of thing.
Subterfuge was pointless here so I pulled her into the room and shut the door firmly – subsequent conversation went something like:
“You can’t hide a crow in here, darling.
“ I know”
“Puthey, First of all you’d better own up to dad,”
“I know , but he wont approve,”
“You don’t seriously think you can hide a crow in here? You know it might be conceivably possible to hide a man, but a CROW?””
“It’ll get better in a few days and Ill just put him out. Will dad notice ,do you think?”
thats a dumb question if any -would he notice all the raucous shrieks, flapping and thumping and the steady build up of guano on the windows –let me think, YES!

at which point, and as if to prove a point Pokey chose this moment to burst noisily out of the cardboard incarceration he was supposed to be quietly recuperating in , emit a loud Jurassic Park type caw, and go for a preliminary test flight around the room which ended in a loud and negative thump as he connected with the window pane.
Mom was right about this. It wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought.

Next week: A crows got to do what a crows got to do:shit!

* Neither the vet nor I ever did find out if it was a he or a she , but I prefer to think of all crows as masculine: Compared to other regular birds, they are dark, solid and make a lot of noise and .
its obvious they are discussing politics or cricket.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Letters to the Pet Rescue People

occasionally we get a real gem which we must share

Dear Eva,

i am a resident of Kandy, now living overseas for the past 8 years, i was in kandy late last year & found all these stray dogs, which is a real threat to the safety of children & others
i am sure you guys are going this not for the love of animals. but to get some money from from stupid NGO. all i can say is,if you need money to live "GET REAL JOB" & leave stray dogs to be dealt buy the council...the health & safety of people come FIRST before Dogs..
its sad to see that you & your NGO do not have the respect for the humans, that you have for DOGS....


Thursday, February 15, 2007

a CURIOUS tale if any

for those of you who do read papers the link is
others - I just reaslised that I have not posted this .Enjoy...

Curious* was discovered by a local garbage dump, weak, hungry and crooked, one soggy July evening in 2005 . Numerous unpleasant incidents with our growing menagerie mean, that we try not to see or hear stray orphans as we walk or drive around the streets of Colombo, but this one hit my eyes, solidly and firmly although it probably measured no more than three inches across at the time, from nose to ratty tail tip. This bug eyed, quizzical looking vision of a blurred orange ball with a string on one end, would not leave me. Curious was destined to be my favourite.
Mentally and physically Curious is slightly handicapped, possibly mildly "autistic". Just like with humans, in the animal world too, this happens occasionally but we see hardly any instances of such because cruel laws of the jungle dictate survival of the fittest and shrewdest and even they never get a second chance. Curious it would appear, was supposed to. Add to this the fact that he had lost his mother early in life , and you understand why he is twice blessed , doubly lucky and a symbol of hope in a world gone wrong.
Curious lives his life at a tilt of about 23 degrees, and so probably is the only one among us who actually sees the world as it really is. This is due to some obscure spinal deformity which makes him slant his head quizzically when he's walking about or sitting thinking. To the every day rat or ghecko he must appear an extra sinister and calculating predator, but we find it extremely endearing, probably because we know that he would never think of catching or killing any thing, far less eating it: Curious is the closest feline domestica ever came to being a practising vegetarian, and prefers papadam and cheese buttons to chicken. In fact any crackling sound will inevitably cause him to spring off his perch and come sniffing thoughtfully around.
Curious has been in one or two very narrow escapes.There was the day, which we will never forget , when he went looking at his reflection in my loo and fell in. Yours truly is a working girl who goes out at 7 am and returns at 6 pm, so that drop involved a lot of dog paddling, raucous screaming and commode water ingestion until he was discovered in the early afternoon by the daily help and another generous philanthropist, who put his hand in and fished him out, shampooed him with warm water and Sunsilk shampoo, and wiped him down amidst yowling protests, with one of my tea cloths, whilst admitting that there were, in retrospect, not many people around he would do this for…Curious survived this episode unscathed but with a respect for water closets.
Curious is not interested in the usual singing and serenading competitions that Tom Cats spend much of their waking life thinking about. He is no threat to Patchy (the local princess) and would not know the difference between one end of a female cat and the other, and probably would not bother finding out. As far as she is concerned, he is the epitome of genuine unselfish love and companionship and sits near her on cold evenings, quietly watching the funny humans cooking and arguing about who finished the good curry powder.
Curious accepts life good naturedly, although he does not understand it.
For some weeks he would experience hunger, and look curiously at his food , not realising that the actual consumption thereof would relieve the pangs gnawing his innards, but with the vague idea that some kind of participation was expected of him.
We had to fend off the rest of kittenkind and favour him a bit until he got the idea….
Curious lacks balance and will regularly fall on his backside and look miffed about it. We thus never throw him out of the front door , but place him carefully on the front carpet if we need to de-cat the living room. He is the only cat I know to have missed a fridge, by which I mean he tried a running jump from a table to a refrigerator two feet away and missed it to end up falling short and going down scrabbling half heartedly at the door, again to land on his rump with a audible burp.
Curious is a cat, an ordinary cat and nothing like an ordinary cat. HE was discovered among garbage and yet he has enriched our lives more than many expensive diversions money can buy. He has taught us not to take things for granted and yet to accept some things with grace, even if you cant understand the reasons for them. He's one of the reasons I cant find employment abroad, apart from my attachment to my children and my book and DVD collection and the fact that I love Wellampitiya.
I cannot think of anyone but myself taking care of Curious, and it would break my heart to have to let go of him.
So who's the dependant one, you wonder?
* also fondly referred to as MANTALThere are more abandoned orphans like Curious featured at and we hope you will stop by and spare a minute for them. Well, more than a minute if possible?

What Men Really Want

see? I told you they dont care if your eyebrows are trimmed or not!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ally’s Day Out…:in Pettah

In search of stimulation yours truly takes to investigative journalism in the streets of Pettah…

Pettah is therapy to me. It’s a dirty, noisy, colourful hippies paradise of low priced marvels from China, India and goodness knows where else, brimming with cosy multi-lingual camaraderie, an absolute kaleidoscope of cooking types and an absolute conundrum of contrasts. I find strangely, in spite of the incessant noise from vehicles, loudspeakers and those cheesy beeping alarm clocks and bamboo bird cages, that it is a place to meditate , to be at one with yourself, to recharge those mental batteries. It’s a crossroads and a hub and some of the richest chaps in the country spend their working days in happy and unhygienic squalor in its tiny winding streets.
Its where I go to recuperate…

The people are so friendly…it could be because they have just lifted someone’s wallet or side lights or groped a passing damsel but those Pettah chaps all wear permanent and decidedly moony smiles. You stop to ask directions and there will be people bending over backwards to help you out and sell you something at the same time if possible. …if you’re out there alone and in tight jeans you will get a lot of very fervent compliments.

Its multi-ethnic ….Religions are represented simultaneously. From the gaudy little glass statue boxes inside tuk tuks and buses, to the eating joints (and I bet the drug dens too,) they have rows and rows of colourful symbols, gods and saints of the major religions hanging out side by side. Joss sticks, funny sweets and candles are presented to them equally. Pettah people like to insure them selves fully, to ensure prosperous businesses and personal safety and that’s probably why they are tolerant of each other too.

The food is awesome…- its cheap and it tastes good too. Not only that - its pretty obvious form the way they prepare it that if you actually survive it your immune system is running at peak performance and now isn’t that something to be thankful for? There are mounds of oily red blobs which scream “diabetes are us”, sugar encrusted yellow balls, rings and squares, not to mention stuff that looks like concrete debri from a demolition site,* dates, raisins and all manner of tropical fruit – can you believe that so many colours are actually edible?? (This is why I so totally approve of ethnic diversity! More choice in food and in guys!) Samosas , peanuts and mangoes with chillie powder and those joints where you drink out of aluminium and wipe your hands on squares on yellow typing paper…and don’t let me start on the waday..

The stuff is fantastic…. Phones, Aluminium kitchenware, Wedding Cards, Trouser Materials, Umbrellas ..whatever you are looking to buy has its own Street… Im not a thread buying person, in general, I go for the gadgets, and Pettah sells the weirdest things that run on batteries And cheap too and everything is multipurpose. Ive just brought this “battery less bulb less torch- and I’m reading the box which says “no need any power no environmental pollution low noise and good health” if those aren’t enough reason to buy it , further benefits are that “constantly using this health torch it can benefit your palm (!?) arm, shoulder and blood circulation so as to let your hands relax and make the brain clever improving hand & brain co ordination and promote memory” all that for 100 bux? Where has it been all my life? This has to be paradise! (hey and it lights up in the dark too, now fancy that!)

In conclusion then, whether you are searching for calm in the eye of the storm, cheap crockery or the higher meaning of life, head for Pettah; and of course, hold on to your purse, it could run off on its own!!!
* I’m told that the word for it is “Aluwa”

Sunday, February 04, 2007


But hello, some of us prefer oxygen…

And so pretty soon itll be Valentines Day. And let me warn you smug, settled twosomes out there, as you wait in anticipation of that sickening waist thickening box of chocolates or the bourgeois frigid roses imported from Copenhagen,which could single – rosedly fund a meal for twenty five local IDP’s….. – that I’m about to attack your comfortable bubble of contentment, and rather rudely at that.

And lest you conclude that I am commenting with the jaded attitude of someone who cant get into this rosy state, let me declare that I have been there, done that Ive reached that stage where I actually find it funny(thats Ally for you) which could be why, the last time someone extremely suitable gathered up the courage to propose suit to me, I actually burst into helpless laughter and had to change the subject in case he took offence. (You can be sure he didn’t do it again)
Its not that I have any thing against romance, its just that there are so many excellent reasons to remain in blessed singledom, a FEW of which Im going to list below:

Benefit Number One : Peaceful Slumber.
My slumber is now truly peaceful and unruffled since the date around four years ago when I last extricated myself from the deep and emotionally charged partnership I was in . It is now only broken occasionally by comparatively desperate insomniacs who are in the thick of intense and committed long term relationships and thus on the verge of suicide / self mutilation and/ or serious damage to property due to some profoundly convoluted argument stemming from a basic disagreement as to who should take out the garbage. So I refer to my otherwise redundant MEN ARE FROM MARS Manual and groggily read out a few basics before I turn the bedside light off and lapse back into happy oblivion. IN case of further disturbance my Nokia has an excellent function which silences further calls from any particular number so that I can view them with detached fascination the next morning and speculate clinically at the varying occurrences of attempted contact, 2 am, 3am 5 am etc.
Let me blow my trumpet a bit here, but I admit to higher levels of EQ and a good telephone voice – both of which combine to result in me being something of an agony aunt to my friends and contacts, although some of the advice I give would definitely not be sanctioned by the Samaritans or even the local Police come to think of it (“so what, hit him back!” or “ Why not adopt a cat – TODAY! Or : “Hey you need to watch BORAT it’ll take your MIND off things…”)
But what does one do when faced with mind-boggling conundrums like:
Aunty Al, shes driving me nuts, she smashed the Flatron today…. Or,
Aunty Al, I love him but I don’t like sex …or
Aunty Al, I think she’s having an affair with a tuktuk driver ,what do I do ? or
Aunty Al, I love her but she doesn’t like sex…and last but not least-

Benefit Number Two : Sheer Independence :
Guys this is one for you. You can work late, get sloshed, get delayed or get laid and you don’t have to explain it to anyone. You can fill your USB drive with hardcore pornography and you don’t need to justify it. And you retain rights to your phone and gmail inboxes. Holidays are something you can actually look forward to, where you RELAX , not drive someone around to in law dinners.Have I given those committed family dudes a slight pang here….?

Benefit Number Three No more faking it
Lets be honest about this girls, we love them but we need only about a quarter of the actual physical intimacy they do. The rest of the time we have to not just grin and bear , but fake it convincingly and there’s the worry about what would happen if we don’t. The onus is on us to get them to stick to one supplier and it gets harder with the years. And then there’s all those mysterious female conditions that happen when you are um, sexually active. Face it lots of those weird funguses and Itises not to mention having to depend on those horrid fattening daily supplements are undoubtedly the by product of all that sweet loving .
Darned if you do, darned if you don’t.

Benefit Number Four. Less Pollution.
Its kind of complex but please bear with me. All this loving means you’re expected to get hitched and then society expects you to procreate. Its odd, because there are about a quarter million orphans in this country alone, who need parents, and there is nowhere in the Constitution that says you are supposed to add to the population. But you go do the I DO thing and all the neighbors- and old wives and new aunts and the lot of them, mostly female , can think about is, “what no kids yet?” So you submit to that pressure. Please don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against kids , precious darlings, its just that I wonder why its so totally compulsory to reproduce once you are mated, almost as its imperative on any one in romance to get hitched, regardless of whether you can provide comfortably for them or even have any idea of the real meaning of what you are about to do.
The results, of this social pressure, who honestly look as if they wish they had never been born, can be seen each morning in Colombo, freshly powdered and stuffed vertically and sometimes horizontally into smokey windowed school vans and buses.( Ive since figured that dusting them with talcum powder is a sort of friction reducing thing to make it easier for them to claw their way out of the buses when they reach school..)
Then there are the “luckier” lots who are piled onto over crowded motorcycles, I often speculate on how they chose which one should be at the back of a bike seating five…do they draw straws, or is it that just by co incidence its always the little girl in the family- And how do you think she feels about more siblings?
In conclusion – is it just me or would it seem that the less love there is, the more peace and happiness there will be all around?

So there you have my complex and admittedly somewhat unfeeling theory about how Valentine is ultimately responsible for the traffic in Colombo, but, as an afterthought, please don’t let that cramp your style. Be there, do that, and, as they say in the Sunscreen song, “throw away the old bank statements but keep: your old love letters!” the reason for that is, of course, they may be harder to come by in future…
See, some people are actually figuring out that Valentine’s Day isn’t actually compulsory.
For true malcontent, google for “alt.suicide.valantines day survival kit”, and order your “HATE IS GREAT” and “SCREW VALANTINES DAY” T Shirts, although I would personally draw the line at bombing the Hallmarks outlets- since after all, although I think love sucks , I do support peace!
* This is rather besides the point I admit. However it wins Ally’s unofficial award for the Single Best Text Message of 2005 and I just had to include it here.