Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
What is large, almost weightless, highly inflammable and can be used to assassinate characters and dry soggy dogs?
When my friends go abroad (and so many seem to be doing so, quite often, which leaves me wondering…) and ask me what Id like them to bring back for me, can you possibly guess what I request? Not clothes since Im picky about what I wear and not toys because they inevitably break apart down here, but yes, a strange request by some standards, I tell them to bring back any English newspapers they can get their hands on.
My parents tell me that I have been reading newspapers from the age of three, which probably means that I spent my childhood more indoors than I should have.
Newspapers fascinate me, although quite often I don’t get the time to read them, and I end up without the political and sensational bits, since I carry them home from office roughly after the media monitoring team goes through them and before the cleaning woman ties them up to sell to the kiosk up the road, weighed by the kilo.
They tell me about a country, about the people of that country. They are a quick frozen intellectual snapshot of society at any particular time complete with the quirks, the hopes and the silly superstitious fears inherent, generously censored in some cases, and wildly exaggerated in others, newspapers will hold the (albeit biased) meaning of any peoples’ human day in one little tube of cheap newsprint and ink.
They cost much more than the nominal amount charged to buy one, and so have to be subsidized by the income from advertising. And yes, they advertise hoards of things. They also educate, inform, surprise, confirm and twist stories. They make you love, hate, laugh, cry or just shrug. They make you think. They also provide lunch wrapping, a meditation mat, sound proofing, a clean spot for a sudden home delivery and excellent drying material. You can wipe down damp pets, clean vomit and poop, wipe windows down with a dab of vinegar, wrap inconvenient corpses before disposing of them * apart from fill out crosswords and Sudoku and check your horoscope too. and if you need an apartment, a new job, a business partner or a suitable spouse, check the Sunday papers…
For me the strangest thing about Sri Lankan newspapers, are the matrimonials. So many excellent and upstanding young people all on one page, all teetotalers, non smokers with dazzlingly unblemished characters that one wonders where in the woodwork they are hiding. You just don’t see them around in real life. Divorcees are ALWAYS the innocent party and older wanna be spouses invariably look MUCH younger. They are rich, attractive and intelligent and would not dream of beating their wives. So where do all the realistic half human people disappear to? How about some honesty, how about being closer to the truth, at least in some respects and advertising like so:
" balding, downright mean looking but very conceited well connected 49 year old business man in fairly good health apart from mild episodes of piles, diabetes and liver trouble, with lots of lucre and a house in the hills, seeks ....
or "anorexic 38 year old acne prone virgin spinster with absolutely no sense of humour but good collection of jewellary who likes watching Hindi teledramas and sewing and strongly disapproves of sexual intercourse, seeks...."
Some time back the parents of a nubile and ostensibly very fortunate young lady of 25 , had advertised in the matrimonial column and (I seriously have no idea how this happened )given out my gmail address** for return correspondence. This resulted in my inbox being practically stuffed with hopeful enquiries from the most eligible available financially well endowed, handsome and downright eligible bachelors in the country,(sadly about ten years too young for me) such an unbelievable collection of decent and holier than thou teetotalers, non conners and do gooders, and such a concentration of sheer overpowering virginity (arrrk!) , that I was quite staggered. This was obviously where all the “good” men had gone; they certainly were not walking about in Colombo…honking, swearing and trying to run over innocent pedestrians and hoodwink their landladies, or sell their sisters, nah…that was different people….so for people who like reading fantasy, again, I do recommend Sri Lankan newspapers.
Still on the subject of how many things you can do with a newspaper, last but not least, how about making efficient gags, starting arson attacks and cutting out letters to paste in ransom notes. I mean, seriously since Im catering to all my readers here not just the decent ones. And im not finished yet, there are more ideas coming but since I have a deadline to meet in this paper, I shall stop for now…
* and now Im wondering, has a corpse ever actually been convenient ?
** all you nice people out there who sent in your sons’ horoscopes and really personal details to firstname.lastname@example.org, now you know what happened to that information. It’s safe with me.
next article: 24 things to do to a cat on a boring sunday afternoon.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
They look like you and I and sometimes they are beautiful, charming, and they captivate us always don’t they.
And then they take our life blood and walk away leaving us to either die slowly or survive for another day. Is it true that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? But is it worth it ? Why do bad things happen to good people and vampires simply walk away? I have always wondered.
Consider my friend, Jenny.
Jenny is perhaps the closest I have to a sister- since I don’t have one of my own. She saved my life ten years ago, at considerable risk to herself. She stands not even 5 foot high and has the weight and expression of a pretty little pixie and yet she took on the wrath of my heavyweight six foot owner-husband at the time, because I was being abused and she felt something was wrong and that at risk to her life she would interfere in my domestic misery and solve this problem for me. I doubt that I would go out of my way to put myself in danger for someone unknown as she had done and I was her bosses wife. That’s a long story involving police entries and the threat of acid disfigurement but she withstood it all and stood by my side because she has faith in the power of good and right.
Jenny was one of the unfortunate investors in the recent scam carried out by a small set of individuals who set up a sham financial institution, wrote out promissory documents in exchange for cash deposits and escaped the country with all the money.
She is one of the few people I know who I can trust with my children, my money, my life, and if I had a man, my man- and it breaks my heart to see this happen to her. Can you being to imagine what this means to her?
The money her family saved for the last 15 years, and they have a very modest income from government jobs and clerical wages; the family wealth and hope for a house gone; her dignity, her security, her future, and perhaps her marriage, gone because of one mistake she made.
This is all about a young couple who did not have much apart from each other, love, family and faith. And now in one moment of oversight they have lost everything material they ever had.
Jenny keeps smiling, she always has but I know that she is crying inside.
How did it happen I ask her?
“There was a very smart, charismatic girl who came up to me when I was travelling by bus” she sighs, “ she was so fluent with her story and persuasive in her manner. She said she had seen me in the area (!) and asked if I banked at her institution. Since I had been thinking about getting a loan to lease a vehicle for a business, I kept remembering her and the file she gave. We went there one day and they had this impressive office, smart furniture , framed photographs of the president on the walls, shiny certificates….”
At the risk of sounding patronizing, which I am not, my sense of empathy means that I suffer too, when I have to watch evil befalling people I just know are good; and it leaves me wondering , asking, groping for an answer , why them? In particular? Why?
“ of course they deserve it “says another friend of mine rather callously “these sri lankans , just greedy for anything that seems good, its that new lamps for old mentality ; Sri Lankans are just stingy , greedy and stupid”
Well, that’s extreme I would say, because I know Jenny is a very generous soul in her own way, she gives what she can to people she feels sorry for, and if she has no money, she gives of her time, on social causes, maybe its true she was greedy but then think of middle class existence in this country, day after day trying to scrape together some saving to make your future stable, and it never happens. Thousands of people living in difficult dreary drudgery unable to meet basic needs like a house of your own; sometimes you want to dream that there will be a way out of this… and so there are con artists who prey on your hope, who break you and leave you with nothing not even your self esteem.
Give me a mugger any day, give me a full scale armed robber, a carnivore who forcibly and violently relieves you of your possessions, this is much better; I would say, a natural predator who does not play mind games but takes what he wants and leaves you with clean unidirectional hatred. This can be therapeutic.
But conning is subtle, it is cunning, this way half of the hate will be directed at your self and eat you away in regret before you can even begin to think of the perpetrator.
Jenny is planning to leave the country if she can; she is a gentle soul, not very pushy in the co orporate area, but talented in home-sciences, high on EQ and very nurturing , so perhaps she can get a job as a caregiver or a nanny- I will try my best to recommend her to my contacts who can help. I want desperately for this to be an opening to a new horizon as tragedies have often been when they forge the human spirit in steel.
I know in my heart of hearts that she will survive this and today I pledge to do what I can to make her overcome this too.
Because I owe her.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
I myself have a relatively small family to take care of, catering wise, and that too only in the weekends. It ranges from four to seven people (not counting the cats dogs squirrels and occasional tortoise who stays-)but I have repeatedly had to confront so many potatoes in my life that they sometimes come close to boring me.
I view them as fleshy, bearing great taste potential but rather repetitive.
To housewives I think you may agree while the potato is plain and uncomplicated - it is also dependable. If you have potatoes you can definitely do something successful with lunch, your day has been saved...
They ve been around since the old Mohenjodaro Harrappans dug them up Im sure, or the Irish ,discovered them in their bogs…the French fry them, the British mash them and in Sri Lanka we oil them…anyway, the fact that I am writing and you are reading about potatoes perhaps reflects on how predictable and comfortable our lives as housewives or working women has become….plain, dependable, pleasantly starchy and …taken for granted…
Perhaps occasionally we should change that. Go out there and do something different, escape from our comfort zones and test new waters…take a dare!
As you probably know if you have read my previous articles, I do occasionally go out and get involved in something wild, just to break the monotony (perhaps of potatoes?) – years back it was Karate, and I still don’t have a belt, although I know a few moves, and have actually been unlucky enough to have to use them….Then there was the motorbike which became rather dependable and useful so whereas Im no racing star, I do get around “faster” (as one of my colleagues once said slightly tongue in cheek ..)
And more recently it was the Salsa.
My dancing I believe can only be described as torture to watch but unfortunately for the audience, I do still enjoy it very much. I try to tell anyone who listens that this is a truly fun filled pastime but most of my friends develop a glazed, politely condescending expression and smile, for some reason I am yet to figure out. This is why I thought I would wax lyrical in this article about the wonderful power of dance.
Dance liberates your soul. There are those moments when you get a complex step correct and you feel totally on top of the world. Possibly you will never go on to be a world champion but the whole point is the amount of fun you have along the way…isn’t that like life it self?
Dance mirrors, on a happy and mercifully small scale, the complexity of life itself.
You go out onto the dance floor with a partner you have agreed to dance with, ; from dance to dance you may be “seduced” by what seems like more attractive invitation from others you may or may not want to dance with or you may keep eyeing someone across the room who seems to have the most wonderful moves…you may find your self dancing alone because everyone else found partners, and yours couldn’t make it,(often the story of my life-)or you may find that you are the life of the dance and everyone wants to dance with you but you cannot oblige…ultimately at the end of the day you will wake up to a couple of inalienable truths …that the fact that you don’t have a partner need never prevent you from enjoying the music….And then….if you do have one, the longer you spend with one partner the more you understand each other and the more relaxed you are , the smoother your synchronization and the happier your dance.
Oh if only people understood this there would not be so much jealousy, possessiveness, infidelity and cheating going on in real life; I do believe wheras dance is easy going and obviously not hampered by legal issues, it does open your eyes to the value of “monogamy” although this is only a happy virtual world, a sort of laboratory on life and not the real thing…dance I believe is a wonderfully light hearted parody on life itself.
I don’t intend to judge my friends but I do see a lot of pain in their romantic relationships, which I do believe is largely unnecessary, which should not be there in this beautiful dance called life. I see many young people rushing into relationships and marriage perhaps goaded by their well intentioned parents, perhaps compelled by mistaken infatuations, and then life becomes a long journey without music. So many of us have forgotten the vows that make a relationship sacred , but have to live double lives of lies, deceit hypocrisy and finally real loneliness. But why is this? Life is meant to be happy, music has a power to uplift any spirit and dance, (even if you have no where to do it but your own living room as in “the sunscreen song”)…has that irresistible charm of its own once you let it get a hold of you.
On a practical down- to- earth note, for fitness enthusiasts, dance will keep you addicted so that your workouts are enjoyable and not something you dread, for shy people who like to meet friends this will build your confidence and your networks, and for the occasional people watcher like me this is a fascinating theater on life.
So maybe its time now to convince your better half to join if you have one, if not just bully any suitable friend into joining , buy yourself a pair of dancing slippers and come join the fun.
Friday, September 05, 2008
What does this name invoke in you? Is this picture about a place or about a person? A heritage or a human? For me it brings an eternal sense of awe, a silent marveling, curiosity and a breathless freeze on time. I shut my eyes and I can see this paradise from a time long ago.
Quite, for a moment the din of vehicles, media and bustling Sri Lankans caught in this modern frenzy of activity , and please switch off your mobile phone.
Sigiriya will take you back in time, if you still your racing soul and let the orange afternoon scenes take a hold of you. Haunting earth colored pools, sunlight slanting across flat green gardens and an atmosphere thousands of years old. Can you hear the princesses laughing and playing in the water?
Remove for an instant the paraphernalia of modern civilization, your plastic bottles, gadgets, denims, IPods, Nike, Nokia or whatever; lead your mind gently back through the ages to a time when life was enjoyed at a slower pace; you have heard about this so called God- king who built a wonderful fortress on a rock a thousand feet into Ceylons light sapphire sky….think, every inch of its architecture fitted to a complex logical plan of breathless esthetics and practicality ,a breathtaking union of science and art, two thousand five hundred years ago.
This is what your ancestors accomplished.
Sigiriya was constructed using only Ceylon’s bountiful natural resources, there were no imports, no foreign consultants, no bribery and corrupt contract deals, no electronics, no computers, no construction equipment and no animals (or people) were harmed in the production of this paradise on earth. Or anyway that’s what I like to think…
Time for me, warps gracefully, around Sigiriya.
Yet I have a thousand timeless questions ….
What was the king like, and his Queen? Did she poison him or was that just defamation? Did he kill his father or was it because his father was trying to kill him that things happened like this? Are there descendents of his walking, driving and cycling around Dambulla, and do any of them resemble him even remotely (after all, he was supposed to have had 500 women and there was no “family planning”those days added to which birth control was probably not high on his agenda) (and anyway what is it with successful men and their drive to accumulate so many women in the first place ?) and lastly, if he reincarnated ,and I do believe in reincarnation, is he walking among us? Was this really about brother killing brother and are they still involved in that perpetual conflict?
I first climbed the rock twelve years ago with my daughter who was an infant and came tripping and tumbling happily along in a frilly white cotton dress. We dragged her to the top, her father and I , each holding a hand when she stubbornly insisted on not being carried, and allowing her to swing gleefully in the space between us, like a small primate. Predictably we were accompanied by relations, my in laws, her cousins , impish, skinny twelve year olds and I was a harried young housewife of mid twenties, those were what should have been the best years of my life.
So much has changed
My daughter is now taller than me, and sometimes looks after me, her cousins, the cheerful tomboys who argued their way up the steps clicking with complicated Japanese digital cameras, are now doctors, and one is married,; I have changed from a naïve, insecure young housewife , to an independent and self confident adult; I think, watch, appreciate and note life around me the way I have never seen it before.
I have learned so many lessons in life, they have changed who I am. Like a river which from moment to moment changes its composition, there is almost nothing in me of the girl twelve years ago, not even the physical features.
But the Rock Citadel somehow, remains the same doesn’t it.
Thousands of feet attack the steps each day , possibly more than King Kassyapa ever thought possible, and the steps are just as strong and stony now as they were then.
Hair rising accounts of bright ideas of turning the Rock Citadel into a Disney style theme park have thankfully been quashed,(for now anyway) and citizens mercifully have had to stop writing on the mirror wall, an old form of self expression resorted to in a time before internet blogging…so the Rock Citadel will have more time.
I don’t know how long this treasure will remain unchanged in this our modern atmosphere of smoke, pollution , global warming and mindless greed.
But I feel very privileged to have been there, seen it as it was.
I also feel I’ve been there before, sometime long ago….
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
I know its sad to be reduced to worrying about the opinion a digital weighing machine has of you but this is what my life has come to.
There comes a time in life, and mind you, to some people it comes earlier than others, when weight becomes a serious issue we lose dinner over. IN some cases it sneaks unexpectedly on us and a few lucky people wont even know what I’m talking about, but its called the middle aged spread- and for some it happens so much earlier than middle age.
It’s the beginning of the end of eating dinner and then you start having to resort to miserable substitutes such as soup and vegetables and pretending you actually like them. Its when you begin considering spending your evenings cycling when you have already reached exhaustion point from the work anyway; its when you consider putting on those silly sporty pants and sneakers and jogging about in the park or in the beach, and trying to look as if its making you really happy. Sadly if the actual evidence is true, all you are getting is lung fulls of greenhouse gas and enough repetitive stress on your joints to really ensure that your old age will be crusty and rigid…
This to me is bosh: give me dedicated couch potato- ing any day. Its sloppy its slouchy and its slow but its my ideal existence and has always been. But its with a sense of grim sasara kalakereema (that’s disillusionment) that I notice that this is just not to be the case for me anymore. I crave to be able to do some of the things that I did when I was young, or well, younger. Such as cramming my stomach with half a loaf of hot hot so called roast paang and excellent Soya curry and then eating that slowly with a good book, whilst lying like a slim young reptile on the sofa. Its not something I can even contemplate now since my stomach has got so used to being deprived, that a half a loaf of bread would probably send it into convulsions.
Starvation, paradoxically has become a part of my life, and mind you, just when I reached the stage when I can actually afford to eat anything I want and there is not much point even being philosophical about it. Eat vegetables and drink lots of water they say, to give you a full feeling. I’ve tried this and if feeling like you are a waterlogged garbage bag full of cellulose is supposed to make you happy – well I prefer feeling starved. It’s the rebel in me. I don’t want to feel full when it’s being self-deceiving and I’m actually empty as a vacuum. Let that traitorous metabolism monster do the worst it can I ve decided I’m actually going to get used to feeling starved (since I’m lucky enough to actually have some choice in the matter whereas millions don’t) and probably accepting it and living with it. ...
Either that or one fine day pretty soon I’m going to totally let go and accept the tires. .. Since what’s wrong with being fat anyway? To be honest, I have noticed that some of the jolliest, happiest friendliest CUDDLIEST people I know are fat, and loving it! And I’ve also read that paradoxically somewhat overweight people are healthier –they try to keep their weight down by exercise and diet control whereas the people who don’t have to worry a bit about weight usually don’t have boundaries when it comes to indulging themselves…
So at the end of the day maybe after all its that famous “Middle Path “ we need to stick to.
...Anything to keep from having to drink silly spinach soups! Yeauch!
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
I still love the words and Im ok so far so Ive decided to post it here in case you have not seen it
you can also wiki for the Sunscreen Song , to get at the credits....
|Everybody's Free |
(to wear sunscreen)
| Mary Schmich |
Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of '97... wear sunscreen.
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be IT.
The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.
I will dispense this advice now.
Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked.
You are NOT as fat as you imagine.
Don't worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.
Do one thing every day that scares you.
Don't be reckless with other people's hearts, don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.
Don't waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long, and in the end, it's only with yourself.
Remember compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you succeed in doing this, tell me how.
Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements.
Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don't.
Get plenty of calcium.
Be kind to your knees, you'll miss them when they're gone.
Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't, maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't, maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself, either. Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else's. Enjoy your body, use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, it's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.
Dance. Even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room.
Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.
Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.
Get to know your parents, you never know when they'll be gone for good.
Be nice to your siblings; they are your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.
Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography in lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.
Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.
Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old, and when you do you'll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.
Respect your elders.
Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse; but you never know when either one might run out.
Don't mess too much with your hair, or by the time you're 40, it will look 85.
Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.
But trust me on the sunscreen.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Im sure you will have fun trying it..at the same time I dread to think what phone thieves will do with your full name and ID no, so... hang on to those phones!
Sunday, July 20, 2008
and I dont mean writers block - Im referring to being stuck out side the backside of the BMICH for two hours due to some Pain-In-the-Propeller ( well, trust me I was thinking lots of worse words to call him during that whole time ) parking his car in front of us and walking off to the Rugby match or whatever. the Motor Show was disorganised enough so it took us about half an hour to get them to make an announcement and then I didnt even bother to walk into the match -it sounded like a Roman festival of feeding Christians to Lions. ..
meanwhile good ole dear Mr Sanath whatsis name (the famous cricketer) rolls up in a vehicle the size of a small apartment and parks it totally blocking ANY chance of us even scraping our way out and that resulted in me unfortunately giving him a look of the kind he was probably not used to (well the Medusa hair would have fascinated anyone-so he did happen to glance at me) - I found out from the fawning lackeys near the gate that he had indeed given them his cellphone number in case anyone needed to escape - but not the gray civic ...so there we were - having lots of FAMILY TIME -(although the small hisses of escaping cuss words somewhat took away from the quality of the experience - till out rolls the charming and ok, CIVILIZED looking youth whos vehicle is blocking us and I sally fourth to give him a piece of my mind - but then remember too late that there is after all nothing much I can get him to do , but apologize , which he did , and profusely- ( seems like a decent kid and evil plans I had of making him hold opposing ears and do squats on the main road were given up -) so I said gruffly "my brother has a few words to say to you, young man!" and of course they shook hands and that was about it....
pic shows my son falling asleep on our bonnet and since the owner of the Blocker car apologised I have left out his license plate...
moral of the story - take dinner, reading material and lots of water if you park anywhere in Colombo, because if someone blocks you and doesn't have his phone number around there is pretty much nothing you can do about it.
Monday, June 16, 2008
probably just when you stepped off the plane and had to choke on a few kamekazi houseflies…
Vermin in Sri Lanka range from curious to positively deadly with lots of slime in between and none of them taste good so don’t try this kind of revenge. Although we are poor and very bored we still have not started eating our insects; and there’s a reason for that, no doubt very cultural.
Here are the worst offenders I can remember and not necessarily in any particular order except that I scream loudest in this order, when I see them.
1. Dalam- boo-wars:
These are nasty hairy little caterpillars which descend quietly from particular trees, on invisible threads like spider web. Onto your towels or drying laundry no doubt and then they stay there until you unwittingly rub them into your skin , where they cause itching and pain worse than a centipede which lasts for about a month. This is Sri Lanka being really mean. Any landlord who harbors trees which drop dalambuwars should be abandoned forthwith. This is another good reason to really dust your clothes before you wear them and have a good look at them, because this lot are sticky and may not actually fall out even if you do walk around for ten minutes bashing your nightwear across the furniture ; besides a suspect which is just half an inch long and two millimeters across can still cause the same amount of suffering. Oddly the best first aid for both these torturers and for centipedes (see below) is a bit of garlic which has been sliced open –gently rub the area with that liquid garlic. Or mash it and apply it if you don’t mind the stink because it is very soothing. Really.
To not be too scientific about it, centipedes fall into three categories
The first are hardly visible like fine bits of running fiber, the second are larger and bite worse and the last are the so called garudas who fall from coconut trees and are about a centimeter in WIDTH , and have SEGMENTS which carry their hundred thick MUSCULAR legs about. I don’t want to find out what their bite feels like but if you are sensitive enough, the reaction can bring you to an inch of death. This is why it makes sense to batter your clothes before you wear them, and don’t hang clothes in damp bathrooms because centipedes usually come in through the drains. Occasionally you may find one in the laundry bucket or half dead in the suds. This is a nasty experience; cats sometimes alert you to the presence of these and other horrors, but most of the time they just cause another set of problems so, the only solution is to keep things dry and cool if possible.
You have these in any country since biologically they are an evolutionary success story that has hung around for thee million years in spite of the fact that every thing from the dinosaurs downwards tried to stomp on them; but I have heard that in comparison to the Americans, Sri Lankan cockroaches are particularly large, shiny, MEATY and HEALTHY LOOKING. Nothing a spot of bug killer cant handle so this is probably the least of your worries.
Hurt and they are deadly; the list of diseases they carry is expanding from Malaria Filaria and Dengue to Chikunguniya and did we forget to mention insomnia ? There is four ways to deal with them that come to mind. Coils , Mats , Vapors and Nets.
Being mammals are maybe the least revolting, but they are just as dangerous as they harbor obscure ratty germs. They don’t always take to the rat poison you may lay out to them. What can I say, a case for cats again.
6. Geckoes aka Hoonaas :
I don’t actually scream about geckos unless one lands inside my cleavage (and it has happened…) and I actually think they are quite cute friendly little beggars, which actually reduce the rest of the insect population from your walls anyway. I have named the two fat characters that live behind my writing desk at home ,Freddy and Mr Hide, and they often come out and give me a beady cross eyed stare (they have curious pupils shaped like + signs). However they can be deadly if they fall into your tea or curry while its cooking and you imbibe of this. I’ve heard of families dying of this , although Im not sure why and the internet is curiously mum about it too. Cats who eat hoonas are just very sick for sometime and don’t do it again, but boiled hoonas I hear is absolutely caustic. Don’t fry them either , I mean we have lovely little dried anchovies on the market which are much safer. And if you haven’t been frying anchovies but the kitchen smells like it – the reason could be that you have a rotting hoonar in the door jamb. Use a twig and a polythene bag and don’t worry , it wont bite *
This subject is too revolting for me to even consider writing about so please refer to some other guide book, or the internet. You are reading the work of someone under trauma. I have just two words on the subject. Salt and Pee.
The smaller they are the deadlier and sadly we don’t have any solutions for them except that so far they have left foreigners alone, mostly ; needless to say Sri Lanka has one of the highest snake bite rates in the world, not to mention apparently the highest rates for alcoholism and for suicide; a definite sociological conundrum which needs investigation. They hide in laundry and shoes and yes, again, cats notice them earliest.
(1) Lovely swahili word meaning "People". And why am I lapsing into Swahili ? I m darned if I know but Hakuna Matata!
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Not only was the food great but I found some fantastic books too including STUPID WHITE MEN (Michael Moore) which as the critics say is right up my street , written as it is in PLAIN ENGLISH (ohhh so hard to find) which Im on to now. ...
The concept of BOOK SWAP EVENING is so simple I wonder why I never thought of it before– your kind host/ess arranges the ambiance and snacks and you bring any books you have which you are tired of and everyone else in the circle brings whatever they have, you throw it all in a pool and take what ever you like .
It really works.
Drop me a line if youd like to be invited next !
I figure this tradition started about two thousand five hundred years ago when a rascally Indian exile said “I love you bebes, and I Swear I always will” to a local wench with his fingers crossed behind his back; since then we have simply fine tuned fibbing into a National art…financial standing, number of Exes, boob size, age, you name it , we seem to compulsively alter it and present anything but the truth.
Even really mundane day to day facts get twisted with the calm aplomb of dedicated professionalism. Concepts like “ I only had one glass” or “Im just passing Borella (and how many times I have heard that in the Kosgoda bus!)not to mention the mother of all small corporate fibs “Im at a meeting , can I call you back?” from guys on the way to a bit of afternoon diversion…
Passive lying (which is when you have to listen to ground splitting inaccuracies being vocalized in front of you and have to shut up and let them go on) is almost as important as the original sin and I confess I have not had the courage to stand up and object to my moral space being thus violated, which fair makes my skin twitch.
You see, when I was a kid I was told that if I lied the ground would crack and Id fall through and end up in really hot water .To add serious worry to my juvenile concerns there used to be a sizeable crack in the concrete in our front driveway which seemed to expand each time I attempted to so much as stretch a fact or two, circumvent the absolute truth,, or even slightly waiver from the straight and narrow.
I have since figured this was faulty masonry but thanks to this crippling fear I have never been able to polish my fibbing skills to even a remotely passable national standard.
I paint and write passably well, or so I think , but unfortunately professional pretense is a talent I have not been able to master to even a half presentable level compared to the local pros, somehow coming from me, it just dosnt work. I honestly find myself marveling with respectful awe at some of the poker faced, effortless gems of linguistic misrepresentation I see around me on a daily basis..
Mindboggliingly, considering the murder , corruption child-trafficking and an entire list of offences from grave crime to civil misdemeanor (and lots of good old fashioned garden variety adultery too) which goes on around us and is entirely impossible without the use of effective lying , it would appear that this is the one talent this nation excels at
--And this in spite of the fact that Sunday Schools and daham paasals are packed with earnest cherubic little patriots being lectured against lying till teachers and students are both blue in the face…which is a pity because if you consider very carefully, isn’t it obvious to you later on that the better you lie the higher you go!?
And I don’t mean to be a prissy little hypocrite here- so I assure you, that were I actually capable of remembering the facts, I would very much value the strategic advantage in being able to lie my way through life. Unfortunately some bits of wiring seem to have malfunctioned and the few honest attempts I made at properly perjuring myself led me to such obvious red faced perspiring embarrassment that I was forced to give up and retire to the comparatively safe ground of being entirely honest (or at least staying mum) because it was that much easier to remember the facts if they were true. I have trouble remembering things that DID happen (genetic, what with Grandma Isabelle) so trying to make up stuff which didn’t would probably be the giddy limit. So in my case its sheer necessity that makes it important to stick to the truth.
As a nation where we have collectively become so used to subtracting the exaggerations by default, and adjusting for dishonesty, the problem then is that if someone were to go around actually telling the truth , the strain of it all would probably be too much for our lie conditioned hard discs to handle and we would freeze and malfunction.
This does have a funny side, if like me you have given up trying to convince people anything. Sometimes the urge to lie is tied up with the urge to defend yourself against wholesale inquisition leading to large scale gossip- so a good way to nip things in the bud would be to quell speculation at the start and for example give them the information exactly the way they want it, before they have to fish and dig for it .
Try some of my unusual answers guaranteed to make people thoughtful:
· Oh, him ? he’s my Secret Paramour
· Thanks for the complement; I think I’m looking fairer today because I had my monthly bath…
· I’m sorry I got late; I was looking for dry underwear….
Now obvious truths like that should certainly seal the cracks in your masonry if nothing else…
 “But I SENT you the spreadsheet last Friday; just check your junk box it may have fallen there”
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Two and a half centuries ago in a land called India, a great land of traditionalist thinkers, there were alas people who then as now treated their women as chattels, as merely beasts of burden, to be bartered , trafficked , used and disposed of as convenient, …there were powerful people who wanted this to go on.
But consider Gautama who was a Radical, a Extremist Pacifist if you must, a fearless and staunch feminist, daring enough to give us equal rights , to recognize our humanity and potential and ensure women the respect and honor they do admittedly deserve.
No other religious leader has quite elevated the childish and capricious, reputedly confused female human to such a position of esteem and honor in society.
Some have given women equal rights but Gautama placed them higher. Some considered them too immature to know their own minds, deemed them an inconvenient distraction to men, for which they were restricted, penalize and disadvantaged.
Gautama elevated the mother to the head of the household , the divine force within the house.
Consider Buddhist women today.
We are not restricted by undignified rules over our freedom, our dress codes, our choice of whom to marry or speak to or be seen with, we don’t have to dress in carcinogenic colors to please our men-folk, the rules which apply to us are exactly the same as those that apply to our men.
Thanks to this great and gentle feminist we can learn, study, work, be ordained, marry, divorce and basically live the lives we chose. With freedom comes responsibility and if some of us do not recognized this it is perhaps because we do not stop to actually consider how comparatively lucky we are as Buddhist women and respected citizens. The respect is ours to keep or lose through how we live..
Women are welcome to find solace in places of worship, unlike in some faiths where they are considered unclean or unfit, we are welcome to leave the lay world if we so decide and be ordained, unlike in other cases. Recognizing the spirituality within us and the potential for greatness, no where have equal rights been so equal.
A Buddhist mother is the divinity in her household;but this is not to say she exploits the position and abuses her gentle reign.
We are not ostracized of blamed for the misfortune of being a widow.
There is no “love and obey” clause because a Buddhist marriage is a partnership of mutual respect..
There is a clear and beautiful constitution which governs the marriage contract , a set of simple rules which if followed faithfully are guaranteed to make earth like heaven, the famous Sigalovada Sutta. Touchingly a man who takes on a wife is instructed to provide for her and see to her comfort and in turn the wife is supposed to make his home a peaceful shelter from the outside world, so that he can concentrate on earning a righteous living.
Marital fidelity is a responsibility of both parties and so monogamy is our benefit there. …if you ask a woman of any race if she wishes to share the attention of a husband and in her heart of hearts the answer would be a resounding “No”. Amazingly, in India which prized glittering splendid harems as veritable trophies, this quiet, thoughtful teacher with the persuasive personality caused a strong paradigm shift when he laid out a clear foundation for marriages of mutual respect, giving women dignity and self worth. More amazingly he succeeded in a time without mass media, PR drives or body guards, in an environment of the usual hostility without a single life being taken in support of his doctrine.
In a era full of fear and uncertainly Gautama was in fact the first world leader to say to us, “Yes , you can win if you want !” and then point the way.
Its up to us to follow.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
1. It IS possible to collide with a crow. I used to think that the kamaikazi dives they make into the middle of traffic were precision timed foreys of daring skill, but it turns out they are just greedy dimwits like the rest of us and if they see some food speck on the road they go for it with wretched single minded concentration , and that not on the traffic. I dont know if this has happened to other people but I tangled with a CROW near the General Hospital mortuary and the only reason its lived to fly another day is that I was doing a modest 40 kmph and riding near the drains as usual. Im lucky to be alive too, because, for someone who loves all things furry and feathery it was quite distracting to be mixed up in lots of shiney black feathers and small bits of tripe it had picked up from the road...
2. Sri Lankas Police uniform makes then WELL NIGH INVISIBLE at night and they think they have the right to JAY WALK all over the place, so the most hazardous traffic I have seen by far is cops jaywalking in unlighted areas of Flower Road at night. Yikes.
I also did enjoy Ashok Ferreys article on traffic in this months MONTAGE.
Happy reading, folks
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Perhaps we can make a difference , or perhaps this world is too far gone.Perhaps there are better worlds elsewhere. Makes you start to think.
Sunday, May 04, 2008
So over time Ive had this increasingly uncomfortable feeling that something is wrong and this is not how people in the rest of the world live.
Finally last week I found the proof I was looking for- yes its true, Ive always suspected this but never had it in print and here it is; Foreign Policy Magazines ranking of Sri Lanka as among the top 32 “RED ALERT” locations of possible failed State : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_Failed_States_Index
You read me right - Sri Lanka is officially up there among the crap countries list, last among equals like Niger, Iraq and North Korea, and steadily gaining foot hold! The conclusion is drawn from a list of twelve selected indicators, a few of which are uncannily familiar -
The list includes, “Massive movement of refugees and internally displaced peoples” “Chronic and sustained human flight (including brain drain of middle class professionals…) uneven economic development, endemic corruption or profiteering by ruling elites and resistance to transparency, accountability and political representation, widespread loss of popular confidence in state institutions and processes and Progressive deterioration of public services (some things like hospitals and public transport would seem to have hit rock bottom, you will agree) and last but not least … (drumroll)…. widespread violation of human rights….
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Some problems we had around New Year time never seem to leave us; one of my good friends was in a bus accident (due to a case of too much holiday spirit in the driver) and needed four stitches to her chin., she still has a dimple in her chin and a horrified shudder when ever she thinks about the New Year. Another Person I Know was involved in a sandwich accident where a drunk vagrant jumped into the road in front of him and the over enthusiastic young SUV driver behind him braked too late. …the vagrant is dead, but the court case is likely to go on for a few years…
Traditional New year is supposed to be “women’s time” I once heard someone say cheerfully on Radio….the time when Mother takes Pride of place around the home, organizing ,providing food for you ,lighting the hearth, and being in charge. Mother is now the Goddess in the household…well, actually nice try but Ive seen through it all. Call me a lonely rebel but I have realized its actually just another cunning Sinhala (-and Tamil-) strategy for the guys to sit around doing nothing as usual (except getting drunk and lighting fire crackers) while the women (as is usual in any festival time around the world) break their backs shopping, sewing, frying, cooking, cleaning and trying to out do each other.
However oddly the guys do join in shopping. Ladies, do us all a favor, don’t drag them out shopping. Never have I seen such a collection of bored, morose, tortured looking male mugs in one location at one time, as at the famous Colombo Dept Stores I visited just before NY, clutching sadly onto armloads of female apparel , being constantly elbowed and shoved around and not being allowed to openly ogle the other ladies, either , such a cheerless, unhappy bunch they look, one wonders that they have done to deserve this misery. Plus it just doubles the crowd, so please do consider sending them off to the pub or something instead in future, that way you are both happy…
And what is Traditional New year in Sri Lanka about ,you say? Well, the crux of the matter is doing things at the RIGHT time , or the auspicious time, even if the right time falls at a very odd time. So you have times when you drag the complaining groggy kids to the dining table to have breakfast at about 1.30 am…and then you believe everything will go right for you, that you will succeed…. That prosperity and success will follow.
And yet a most notable fault about sri lankans in Sri Lanka, to visitors, is that they never seem able or willing to honor an appointment. If they are supposed to meet you at 3 pm ,they will walk in calmly at about 3 45 with some pathetic excuse, and without even bothering to call and tell you that they were running late. (this is something that totally annoys my aunt who was a manager with Lloyds in London, and she has taken to summarily discontinuing any ganu denu with someone who does that to her with or without good reason, because it smacks off complete un-professionalism ) Office events are a nightmare with trying to get lots of people to congregate at the correct time and weddings usually are over by the time half the people come in, since this country seems to be entirely alien to the concept of doing anything at the correct time, except for this midnight binging. And the worst stand ups I have experienced are from people im waiting to meet who call and say they are “almost there” but don’t mention that they are stuck in some traffic two towns away …why do people undertake things if they cant follow through?
The traditional New Year is rife with exchanged wishes for prosperity. And yet we end up calling our selves a poor country (and expecting aid from foreigners whom we subsequently insult and accuse of hidden agendas…) Poor in what, is what I often ask my self. Tell me honestly; is Sri Lanka poor in natural resources? Then what do you call Somalia and the Chad. Half of Kenya is just sand. Most of China is freezing cold. Australia is mostly desert. Human Talent? There’s now 20 million of us and Sri Lankan students consistently turn out the best in universities all over the world. Are we an ugly looking peoples? Are we poor in Opportunities? Only the ones we lost ourselves. We were given the wealth of the English language by our colonists although we threw it away. We were given a culture of tolerance through Buddhism and we reject it. ………Are we disadvantaged in Global positioning ? Where would that put Iceland, Greenland and Japan which is almost off the world map? What exactly are we poor in, except discipline perhaps, so that we cant seem to do anything on time unless it’s the New Year? Face it, we are not a poor nation. . Corrupt, drunk, stubborn and set in our ways maybe and socially unjust, but certainly not poor…
Meanwhile, I personally had only two days of leave from office after ages, and so I wasn’t in the mood for frying Kavum and Kokis but instead since the time for eating was scheduled at 7pm which was logically dinner time, and the kids wanted something different ,we decided to order pizza instead. And, man, that was good.
So here’s hoping you had a prosperous New Year absolutely swimming in milk and honey and lots of pizza if you prefer alternatives!!
Monday, April 21, 2008
Firstly this is not a Janet advert but yes, I bought one of her “home facials” and “did it myself”
This is the most pampering I have ever had for just 125/= bux and it left the bathroom smelling lovely for hours afterwards.
You will agree the photo leaves nothing much to the imagination- that there is avocado, and the eyes are red because Im bathing –(something I don’t do often) – and one bit of advice , do this at home by all means but not on an empty stomach , because it is torture.
The orange mud pac is ssso delicious to smell and at the point where you reach strawberry mask you are pretty much incoherent with wanting to eat this stuff. (But I suggest you don’t because after all it’s a facial, ie, for your skin, get it?)
Meanwhile the Home Facial must have worked because lots of people were saying that I looked, well… cleaner.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
18th April 2008, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Free Media Movement (FMM) is appalled to place on record that its Treasurer, journalist K. Rushangan, has received threats demanding the payment of a ransom before 25th April 2008.
K. Rushangan is the Editor of the Tamil language news and information website www.inllanka.com and the Tamil journal Saamadana Nokku (Peace Monitor) published by the Center for Policy Alternatives. He also edited the Tamil language daily Thinakkahir published in Batticaloa from 2000-2002.
On Sunday, 13th April at around 4pm, a person who claimed to be “Ealaventhan” from the LTTE demanded that Rushangan handed over a motorbike or the cash equivalent of 1,500 US Dollars. The first deadline given was 16th April. The phone number registered on Rushangan's mobile phone was 0774 343791. This phone number is still accepting incoming calls. When Rushangan refused to pay saying that he is not in a position to do so, the caller threatened to abduct the journalist.
Though Rushangan lodged a complaint at the Dehiwala Police on 16th April, no one has been questioned or arrested by the Police to date, a situation the FMM finds wholly unacceptable in light of the seriousness and urgency of the situation.
The FMM does not have any information on the reasons for or the persons behind these threats. However, given the impunity with which extrajudicial killings and abductions take place in Sri Lanka today, the FMM hold the Police responsible for the safety and security of Rushangan and urge them to take immediate action to bring the culprits to book.
Monday, April 07, 2008
Yesterday one of my overzealous office buddies forwarded to me a sensational photograph (as she thought) of half of a mangled bomb victim who happened to have been a prominent public figure; I told her off for it but when I walked around the office I found clumps of my colleagues staring at this photograph on office computers and commenting over it.
Im sorry but I really don’t get it, Im missing the point here. I honestly don’t have any thing against cheery powerpoints of smiling orangutans that you receive in your email in the mornings, or heck, even a bit of quality pornography ( actually its called erotic art-) but hello, dead bodies? Before breakfast? And of Sri Lankans? Somehow, just like in porn, the fact that these are people of our own nationality is an added jar to the system.
Its not that I don’t find dead bodies quite fascinating, I admit I did my odd share of impromptu scientific experiments with ghekhos in Marmite bottles when I was a kid, and resignedly cut off the head of one of my beloved pets who had died of suspected rabies ( mind you my shoulders were aching for days afterwards, but a woman’s got to do what a womans got to do ) and I did actually have an odd ambition of being a forensic pathologist like Temperence Brenan, which didn’t happen because I got married early and had kids and in laws etc.
But leaving aside how much I love to gaze at other peoples gutted and charred earthly remains, I honestly baulk at the thought of forwarding them to friends on my spam list, simply because there is a sneaking suspicion in my mind that I would not like to find one of my loved ones stripped and hung on display on the internet, because I figure in my heart of hearts that apart from the misery of having lost someone you love to a terrorist attack, the second human rights violation would be to have your fellow citizens standing in little groups ooohing and aaahing over the naked dead and burnt torso of your husband/brother/son or father…are you ever going to be able to put THAT picture out of your mind?
Im left wondering , since I want to try hard to understand them, who these journalists are who grab that brief moment of desperate fame by attaching their names to this kind of cheap thriller. And what kind of people continue this cycle by forwarding this mail around to their friends and relations. Do they think that they are immortal ? that they will never find themselves at the other side of this lens/ or in the subject line of such emails ? you have to wonder.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
girls, I tell you there has never been a time like today when our modesty and integrity as the "chaste" sex is so under unfair threat…!