Sunday, July 29, 2007

of antacids and Destiny

In my thirty sixth year , so the planets dictate, I am to publish my first book. Now that’s big news I just cant ignore, as fanatical as I am about the whole subject of reading , books and the Written Word.
I have to then grudgingly acknowledge that many of the milestones in my humble life have in fact been previously dictated by the same bunch of nine regular suspects that affects everyone else only at a slightly different angle. Birth , Childhood illnesses, a fore doomed marriage and the exact number of offspring I will finally produce , you name it, the same set of interstellar gas balls was at the bottom of how they turned out.

I objected. I scoffed. For the last thirty six years I have successfully dismissed the entire lot of predications as the improbable , impossible rantings of ganga dazed tribal witch doctors (which for the most part they probably all were, except for my darling mum who is a qualified architect, and the best in her predictions) – but now I am forced to cringe at how diabolically accurate they all were.

About a fortnight ago, if I am correctly informed, Saturn shifted to the sign of Leo. Or some such thing. Personally I couldn’t give a fig leaf for where Saturn wants to park itself, but imagine my consternation when no less than five people I know met with accidents on that day( or perhaps this just says a lot for the type of company I keep?)
By bizarre coincidence I too have been plagued since that day, by vague but consistent discomfort in the middle region – more on that later.- apparently there are also other things I can look forward to:

My lord the Sun was generally in some house which gave me regular gastritis, my Lord Saturn was squeezed unceremoniously into some house with Venus and Mercury which meant they were all probably cramped for space and subsequently bad tempered, an that darling gentle satellite the Moon “conjectured” them and sat alone (probably laughing stupidly )across at a tangent on my Birth-chart, giving me my mildly autistic and half dazed disposition.
How could I ever hope to exercise free will over my destiny with such a formidable gaggle of cosmic debri out there to impose their effects on me and generally give direction to my life? I mean- what am I actually supposed to do?
Ill be good in what I study, they say…does this mean that I should study more? Or less? Or just relax and expect to pass by the will of Saturn? Or will I just want to study by default and pass because I happened to turn up for the exams?( I guess I wont be able to if I don’t turn up ,eh?)

Im a spender, it says, due to Kuja being in some place. Good, that means I shall have money( haven’t really seen any yet but one lives in hope) Since of course theoretically its impossible to spend unless you have the stuff (wwwwell, ok you can always spend on debt but that isn’t the same. Gulp. Lets not even go there.) Anyway I thought the whole point if earning was to spend –that would really add meaning to the whole concept of earning , right? Since if you actually had money that you didn’t spend, what exactly were you supposed to do with it? Wrap lunch? Wallpaper the drawing room? Or light bonfires on chilly November evenings?

Since it seemed like an accusation I must admit I kept trying not to. Spend that is. But then with the cost of living in Sri Lanka that’s not really easy. Even if you bank it you find that it’s been spent for you on bank charges, Withholding Tax and odd little penalties. …

Then there is my weak tummy: Im always being hit below the belt by this Shunny character and doubling up in agonies of gastritis although God only Knows I do not have worries (motto: hakuna matata-) nor am I a great fan of chillie( its ruddy expensive for one thing). Oh the Vedhas have a good explanation for this – nasty “heaty” planets in the place of my digestion. So its just me and my absurdly puny defense of a bottle of strawberry flavored antacid against some giant malicious fireball spinning inauspiciously against me some thirty million light years away. Bad show, I say- why don’t they pick on someone their own size?

And yet, destiny has it that I have a few friendly, positive giants on my side too. The Lord of the Rings is really out to teach me a lesson and not necessarily make my life a nightmare- so I will end up wiser and more decent and probably appreciate things I would otherwise have taken for granted. Like non gastric days. For example, how many of you have actually leaned back and sighed with pure happiness and thought, “what a lovely day - my digestive juices are staying down”? Jupiter will make me generous so that my spending will be on the less fortunate (so don’t look at me like I’m some sort of angel-) and Venus will force me to appreciate the beauty all around me (even in stinking Dematagoda- have you seen dew drops on a crow at dawn?) and finally that big gentle moon will keep me mildly unbalanced so that the incongruity of it all wont tax me too much….

Thirty six years after my birth chart was foisted on me, I finally believe in this whole bundle of waffle. I know I shouldn’t -I know its not logical or justifiable – that there is absolutely no basis for this (I mean they talk about the magnetic push from planets but then shouldn’t it affect us the same according to where we live?) but-

Even beginning to figure out the grandiose plan which directs the interlinking destinies of 6 billion humans and probably a thousand times that many non humans- would honestly tax my delicate grey matter beyond endurance.
So I’ve decided to accept what my astrologer says without questioning it and watch my first book come out, by co incidence in the same year foretold in 1971. I shall think of it as destiny. And if you enjoy reading what I write, perhaps you will think of it as something to look forward to. .

Monday, July 16, 2007

Little Peacock Dancer

Stuttgart 2006 then, it is winter and I’m came watching the hippie art students paint on the cobbled streets holding brushes in mittened hands. The sun shines coldly in this beautiful ancient city of art and here I sit in a very modern hair salon with a haute-couture fashion magazine on my lap, listening to my favorite music on a marvelous little gadget I was given for my 30th birthday.

“The usual, Dr Rumenegge?” inquires the tomboy hair dressing assistant, by the way, and she knows I will nod. She begins to spray my hair with sweet smelling stuff and I settle into the comfort of being pampered and petted. I ask her about her degree, her mother, her latest companion.
This is my favorite place when it comes to getting my hair done and they know exactly how I like it – half way between lady Diana’s and Demi Moore, in the 80s, it’s a style that never becomes outdated : short, crisp and chic.

Business like hair, no nonsense hair because I am a modern woman in a world I have in the palm of my hand.
I studied, suceeded, met and married a brilliant Austrian professor and settled down with him in Stuttgart. I’m working in one of the city’s fore-most law firms, lecturing in Criminal Psychology, and I continue my dancing ; I have come where I never even dreamed I could and it has been an eventful journey but it began long ago in Sri Lanka. I wasn’t always Dr Rumenegge, I was a student of dance and my hair was longer then.
In dusty beautiful Jaffna a dozen years ago , my first name is Leelawathi, named after the brave Goddess Durga, and my hair then fell like a waterfall to my ankles; when the wind blew it would spread out behind me “like the tail of a peacock,” he would say , and I know that was what enchanted him most.

Jaffna 1995, one of those specially tense times in this war story-the Army had re-taken Jaffna, the Tigers were out for revenge, the streets were desperate and dangerous, we, my family and I, were refugees in an a large decrepit school building near the lagoon.

There had been a incident a few weeks back where in the thick of the war, the Army had started firing on this refugee camp too, tricked by teasing rebel strategy, an incident that may have resulted in a terrible tragedy had not one woman run out desperately with a white flag, into the line of fire.

Miraculously nothing had happened to her, and the shooting had ceased- her act had saved the lives of the refugees in the camp at the time. The woman was my mother and the act was typical of her recklessly daring spirit, she had given us all another chance to live, but we were on the edge of death and we desperately wanted to get away from this town of war.

I remember a numb state of panic, thinking this could not be happening, but it was.
My father, was a retired engineer and a man who had worked hard all his life to bring us to where we were. He could barely come to terms with the horror of having to live in a refugee camp in such basic conditions, we were not rich but we had middle class standards and as a family this was the lowest we had ever been. We were not beggars, we had our pride, we understood the state of the town but we were sinking with it and this was something we would do anything to get away from.

And I know he was worried out of his mind about the lack of safety for me and my little sister, in a city under siege. I was nineteen and I was worried about my puppies. Strange to have pets in a refugee camp where even people hardly got the bare necessities but by some strange concession we had been allowed to keep them , and they were tied up in corners howling and shivering and beaten when they made too much of a fuss, as puppies do, since they are not the priority in a time of siege. In retrospect I realise this was an absurd concession to be granted in such desperate times, but then I was too distracted to realise this. I remember standing on the second story hallways looking down into the school parade ground and crying, quietly, when I first noticed ..him.
Preoccupied as I was with my own grief, I took some time to realise then that this tall, handsome soldier seemed to be looking my way often and seemed to be around more than the rest, seemed to be more involved in the decisions shaping my life and my family’s destiny, for whatever reason, although he never spoke to me.

Perhaps in the circumstances this was wise because in the state we were in, I would have been heartily suspicious and terrified of any man, let alone an army captain, making conversation with me.
It is however an age old prerogative of the female to know when a man is tenderly interested in her and before too long I knew from his quiet smiles and from catching him looking my way ever so often, that he must definitely be enamoured with me. Yet, and perhaps thankfully in the circumstances, there was no communication, no advance, merely a kind, distant concern that followed my situation.

Within a couple of weeks then, arrangements had been made to transport our family out to Colombo. We would be escorted safely away from the war zone, an absurd concession in the circumstances and I knew that he had organized this, using whatever means he could, to obtain a safe getaway for me- my family and our possessions, down to the pet cocker spaniels were loaded onto an airforce airplane and we left one Sunday morning on a flight which would mark a bright new beginning for us all.

On my reaching Colombo and with a safe distance between us, the Captain decided it would be safe to talk to me, he called me from Jaffna one evening and put into words what I had suspected all along.
He was in love with me. He had been from the day he saw me on the stone balcony in the old school, and he had thought about me to distraction. But his life was ruled by a strict code of principles which he would not as a leader allow his subordinates to violate and neither would he bend them for himself. Firstly, he was a soldier with a mission and he could not afford to be in love.

He had, he said, thought about things carefully and he could not possibly take the risk that I would mistakenly reciprocate his feelings based on the power dynamics at play in a dangerous situation of siege, between a protector and a very vulnerable young refugee. So he had used his influence to send me safely away from him, given me wings so that I could escape from him and from the love that might perhaps be a mistake – without considering for a moment that I may feel for him too.

And that was when I knew that I truly had, but then it was sadly too late.

So in Colombo, that evening, in a moment of calm resolve, I took scissors to that hair and let it fall away from me, taking with it my innocence, my hopes and childlike dreams, to give way to new strength and determination. And so it has been since then.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

My Top Seven Horrors of Modern Living

My grandma was afraid of electric irons. Mortally afraid and simply because, she explained, they made clicking noises which she didn’t like. She spent years insisting on using polkatu irons, which are very quaint, and don’t click, I imagine. My youngest aunt is paranoid that people will hack her yahoo email and unravel her personal details; although one realistically wonders what levels of desperation would necessitate such intervention-I don’t really blame her the unease: the more we seem to evolve as a race and make things simple, the more difficulty we have in staying calm; apart from the recurrent nightmares of waking up with no broadband, I suffer from morbid modern phobias for :

Hotel Taps
Gone are those basic uncomplicated cold (blue) and hot (red) taps :the modern arrangement is a complex joy stick type of device which swivels on a plain of 360 degrees in four dimensions. To obtain water that is still constant at a humanly tolerable temperature you need to think laterally and out of the box while struggling to keep a vertical position ; it helps if you are a retired fighter pilot who regularly loops the loop while gunning down invaders. One slight mis judgement or accidental elbow jab and your poor defenceless behind gets well and truly broiled…

Office Printers
As a rule they get stuck when you are printing your CV on them , which everyone knows you shouldn’t be doing. They can also spew out a lot of strange sanskrit like coding when there is a room full of foreign delegates in a meeting waiting for the one little annexure you forgot to print. They can sometimes blink silently in sinister patterns of green and orange morse which could mean anything from a metallic “ the paper tray is empty ” to “we know what you printed last summer…”They would gang up with the xerox machine except for the fact that they thought it was below them. The latter knows it should get stuck when its replicating copies of your CV…

Microwave Ovens
So either your food is cold and the container is sizzling and making crinkling noises - or it’s the other way around. The result is generally unsatisfactory. I also suspect some microwaves try to influence us subliminally and make up cruel and unnatural experiments we could be doing with the neighbours cat. Something this small and powerful has just got to be evil…and there is a host of stuff you really shouldn’t be microwaving but somehow, in the name of science, it begs to be done. Like damp gym shoes…. Old CDs to see what will happen. Is it our plain scientific curiosity or do they make you do things you shouldn’t? Spooky…

Uhh where do I start… apart from giving you a major headache and an awful lot of interference on your equipment they are rumored to cause brain tumors and did I forget to mention that guys are not supposed to store them between their legs while driving. And have you noticed that they invariably do? Reason? Its easily accessible. Yeah , right. How do we know what kind of human race we will have mutated into after twenty years of having these things sticking with us? I mean- there’s no previous experience with them, is there?

We know there’s an Intel inside but just how safe it is, is the question…The idea was that they should be portable. Next thing you know –they need power, a modem cable and there’s a mouse extension. And you can always drop coffee on them , trip over those cables or just lose them in a taxi. Chose your worry. Even if insurance handles your problems what about losing all that data? Yeech.

Could the guy who got in with you alone, be a stalker? Will the thin cable holding up this ton of steel be strong enough to take all the definitely overweight looking people who got on board (after all they didn’t get on scales before they heaved themselves on-) and last and definitely worst of all , will the doors clamp on your shoulders as you struggle to get out.? Could you live with the sheer embarrassment of it all?

And last but not least- Escalators
Im not exactly what you’d define as a gameh-latha, and yet escalators honestly turn my stomach. At what point are you supposed to jump on to them? Will your floppy bata slippers get stuck among one of those realigning steps, bringing things to a grinding halt and making the entire establishment lose power? Who will you call if so? (perhaps you should just forget your slipper and run away genuinely hoping for once, that prince charming is no where around) - What happens when you get to the end of it , if you just do nothing? will it help if you jumped into the air at the last minute when you are getting off ? And how can you calculate the exact moment? Has anyone else noticed how petrified you are about this? And so on and so fourth…

If you spend valuable time thinking about these scares, and trying discretely to avoid them, trust me, you are not the only one. Quite a few of us just grin and bear them too. Now you know.

local governance week

good local governance is apparently the in thing,the hot topic,the absolute buzz word these days- if you dont attend one of those seminars -take a look at what you are missing :

" we came at 5 but no one called us so we didnt know the seminar had started - thats why we missed yesterdays sessions " PS lady looking fresh as a rose, surfacing from her hotel room on morning of Day Two and asking for the publications she had missed

" Working group? um, we missed that ...we went for a walk.-just got back: sorry " Deputy Mayor dude and male colleague when i asked them how the working group had gone (at 11 am on day two mind you - )(going for a walk with another guy? how sad can you get?)

"This loch ness monster fellow, is he dangerous ? " one senior LA representative trying to chat up Ian, the intern from Scotland...(this is the same guy who went for a walk with the Deputy mayor -Ian,watch out)

and last but not least Deputy Mayor trying to make polite small talk when I said I was the CPA librarian...
" I once knew a librarian ; unfortunatley he died: Last year."