Friday, August 26, 2011


Have you ever had a baby chipmunk on your hands? It’s a common situation I know in Sri Lanka where these tiny high-metabolism rodents get themselves into all kinds of trouble and then leave us wondering what to do. Sri Lankan mornings seem to be all about crows cawing, cocks crowing and chipmunks ting-ing to wake you up. At least since Im lucky enough to live in the suburbs. To be honest I am quite astounded at the sound a chipmunk makes in relation to its body size.
Chipsy is our latest family member though she is much smaller than a regular rat, she commands incredible love from all of us. We hardly dare breath with the wonder of her tiny delicate existence. Outside, Itchy the cat and Foofy and Mucky , the stray dogs are breathless too, but sadly its mostly with insane amounts of jealousy and repeat murmurings of “just you wait” . Sadly orphaned when her mother was gobbled by one of our backyard dwelling stray mutts, Chipsy too is a tiny and very transient miracle. I have no idea what her future will be, but I’m pretty sure predators out there are monitoring it. I try my best to protect her, with rather fanatic determination. It should be possible, for man who walked on the moon, to bring up and release a chipmunk successfully. I do not want to hold her in a cage. Next week I will tell you how best to look after a baby chipmunk.
For more photos and videos of Chipsy, read my blog

1. Do not give them powdered milk, or cow’s milk. The best for their delicate tummies is goat’s milk, diluted half half with boiled warm water.
2. You can feed them through a ball point pen, with the barrel removed and a cotton wick passed through the nib -space; it has to be a brand which does not have holes in the barrel. Strangely for the moment all I could find was a brand named “RADIENT” and I made the stationary shops very puzzled with how much I tried looking for this brand. Use the hold in the back to control the flow of the milk so that not too much comes.
3. Be really clean with the feeding equipment, don’t let the milk get sour; don’t let the pen get dirty. Change the wick daily, or better still, at every feed.
4. Keep them clean. Don’t let their fur be sticky with old milk etc. wipe with a ball of cotton wool dipped in lukewarm water , but make sure they are warm afterwards
5. After nourishment, the single most important thing to keep a baby chipmunk alive is warmth. How you keep them warm is simple, fill a plastic bottle with warm water, not boiling hot, but quite hot, put it in a sock or wrap it in a towel and then place the rodent on top of it. Baby chipmunks love the heat and stay sticking on this contraption for ages.
6. There’s the delicate and unmentionable matter of pee. Baby animals often cant pee themselves, and need the mothers “stimulation” aka licking for that too. If this is not done, they literally (and it must be a terrible way to die) could burst. All we can do is use a small ball of cotton wool or a cotton bud dipped in comfortably warm water, to wipe their unmentionables till they do pee. It takes patience, and yes, it has to be done, for the tiniest of baby orphans.
7. Last but not least, do not handle them by their tails, these can and do come off and that HURTS.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Shores of Another Sea Part Two

Shores of Another sea Part Two

part one was here

The tsunami struck Matara at 9 23 on the morning of Sunday the 26th December 2004. I was in a small 30 seater inter-city bus on the coast, with my beloved father and a dear friend named Dieter. There were perhaps 3 minutes between us and a monstrous, 30 foot high, wall of destruction ploughing directly towards us at the speed of a runaway train.
This was the most terrifying moment I have ever faced and perhaps ever will. Thousands of metric tonnes of churning, raging, impersonal annihilation was coming straight for us. We were staring certain death in the face. I could not move.
Passengers in the bus had begun screaming in panic and grappling their way out. Human decency had given way to a sheer atavistic desperate race for survival. They had chosen, tragically for everyone of them, to outrun the wave.
I felt screams locking up my throat but somehow I was too weak to even let them form. I was simply paralyzed. I knew we had to run, but looking back at my father and then the wave, I simply couldn't move. I turned to Dieter, choking incoherently, feeling my breath twist in panic.
"No," he said, suddenly holding me by both shoulders, as if to shake me, but I knew it was simply to give me the strength I needed now. "Listen to me" he said. "Breathe!"
There was a moment where I thought I would lose consciousness but mercifully it passed. I looked into his steady blue eyes. They were very calm. "We may die anyway. "He said, turning to his mother tongue which he knew I would instinctively pay attention to, since he had taught this to me for so long. "We have to face this, my gazelle, so we must be strong. We will not run like wild goats but face this with dignity"
He released me suddenly and moved as quick as a dancer over to the doors, which he pulled shut firmly. Suddenly there was only one sound in the world. The engines had been gunned, the screaming had faded, there was only the roar of the wave, and it was coming closer.
Dieter reached me as quickly as he had gone and we sank into our seats again, in a strange little huddle, my father on one side, me in the middle with tears streaming down my face because no matter what Dieter said, no matter what happened to me, I could not bear to think of my beloved father dying this way- because no matter how brave I tried to be, this was that final moment I was going through and I was bewildered and unprepared.
And then the wave hit us.
The bus simply lifted off the ground. Dizzyingly, unbelievably it was being pushed along at a un definable speed, without any kind of resistance for uncountable yards inland. We braced ourselves…there was suddenly an obstacle of some kind and then there was a strange silence.
I knew we were now underwater, stuck against something. Little trickles of water pushed in at the seams of the windows. The curtains were still drawn and I did not want to look out.
Minutes passed and we cried our prayers quietly. In those moments, I faced sheer unbelievable terror: I also found out the meaning of true love: I felt the unbearable dread of losing my beloved father above all, and then Dieter took, from around his neck , his most precious talisman, a locket with the beautiful face of Mother Mary engraved in it , which he slipped into my hands, with a quiet prayer and a small smile , asking me to be strong for him.

The world had grown silent except for sinister gurgles of water trickling in through crevices of the vehicle. And yet we knew that there were strong currents pushing at it, and heavy bodies of matter passing close by. There could have been trees, debri from the destruction , whatever was pushed along by the current- in my minds eye I saw the bodies of my co passengers of late dragged helplessly along.
There was terrible brooding power in this silence.
And then, agonizingly, slowly, the water began to subside.
It would be over.
We had made it- strangely, unfairly we had been spared. We who were perhaps the most ready to die, had been allowed back to this earth. Because Dieter had not let us run, we would live to see another beautiful Sri Lankan day. I will never understand why.
The bus had lodged into a building, someones house, about a kilometer inland , which I heard was something that had happened to quite a few vehicles that day. But out of all passengers who entered that bus , we were the only ones that had survived.
The following hours were a dizzy haze I can barely recount. There were bodies everywhere, blank faces, mutilated people , the injured running vacantly around , and at some point I was carrying twin babies of about six months of age , whose bodies I had found in a car , and I was crying inconsolably. I cannot accept the fate that had led me to them, they were beautiful and as I recount this story the tears are beginning to flow again. I remember praying that some day these two lovely children would come back to me.
If ever I had children I wanted their souls to be reborn as my own children. They deserved to live, and to be happy and to play on the beach.
My people too miraculously, were safe, and Dieter remained in the country a few weeks more, the caring, gentle soul that he was, helping people wherever and however he could.
Continuing on the journey he began on the 26th of December, he subsequently left the country, left my life totally and he did not look back.
Something changed that day to all of us, and to Dieter, it was a flash of realization.
That there was a meaning in life and a meaning in death and that there had to be a way towards understanding both. This was something he had to search for. He had seen a higher calling, had laid eyes on the shores of another, darker more dangerous sea, one that we must all escape from someday
I understand this.
Time passed.
In time I met a wonderful and understanding man of my own race, who helped my heart to heal and my soul to sing. Just last month we were married, basking in the delighted smiles of our parents and all our relations.
The beach is clean and sunny again, life is good to me and the future looks promising.
But, I will not forget Dieter for as long as I live.
And now you understand why.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Environmental Impact of Vesak 2011

Floats, displays, Buckets, lanterns, “pandols,” flags, posters, cutouts, banners and swathes of bulb vines were festooned in a bewildering, dizzying display of colour, this Vesak in Colombo.

Loudspeakers were placed every few hundred yard, food outlets feeding not necessarily the hungry with offerings in little polythene bags, Halloween masks, music and disco lights expending copious amounts of electricity, polythene and plastic reminded any absentminded Buddhist who was unaware of it that we should be forcefully and effectively, and merrily and COMPULSORILY celebrating the birth of the Buddha. The UN has declared it a world wide national day, so we had kind of won in making other less civilized nations recognize us.

No half hearted, quiet displays of contemplation were allowed, each home, each street each institution, competed raucously to put more orange and yellow polythene and more electricity out in the name of the Buddha. Apart from the sheer tonnage of colored polythene and now, garish completely untraditional lanterns imported from China, (a country known in the civilized world for horrifying animal abuse) there was the incredible weight of evidence of carnival like feeding frenzies of mobs of citizens and their offsprings – ice cream wrappers, biscuit wrappers, food wrapping polythene and soft drink bottles and what not, thrown all over the city by people who clearly thought that Vesak was an excellent an excuse to litter compulsively.

Road sweepers were spotted dazedly trying to manage the damage the next day. It was as though a small religious cyclone had hit the country. So much sheer CELEBRATION! 2600 years of SAFEGUARDING Buddhism , we DID it! its all because of US that Buddhism is still around here!! The PURE SORT!! NO one else even knows what Buddhism is like, so much as we do! Sri Lanka is the one place in the world where pure Buddhism is safeguarded. Says who? Well, says us of course. Its true its pure and its safe here, if the noise is anything to go by, if the carnival atmosphere of jubilation is anything to judge by- we succeeded!!

I wonder if the Buddha would have agreed.

I fantasize and picture Him coming down and walking among us, dressed in normal clothes so as not to arouse suspicion.

He would probably be thinking “these poor people, I told them about suffering about impermanence and about being at one with the universe about being kind to animals and to this earth we share. I told them to live good lives and be kind to people and try and find a way out of samsara; What in the WORLD are they doing with all these blinking lights ? They are missing the whole POINT!! Jesus!

Child abuse, suicide and alcoholism rates are the highest in the civilized world,according to the WHO and UN but according to us we have the "purest" Buddhism. We measured it, on a kind of authenticity scale... Traffic accidents caused by the negligence of regular civilians who could not care less for the life of their fellow man are some of the highest in the world. Women throw babies in rivers, grandfathers rape baby girls, people eat the meat off cows legs while they are still alive, hakka patas traps kill wildlife slowly over weeks, corruption, lies and thuggery are all so normal we simply live with it all and ignore it like the mosquitoes, unaware that there are other non Buddhist countries where these things don’t happen. Countries where perhaps there is not so much noise and light and polythene for Vesak. Where, you know, the Buddhism is less pure.

What am I complainng about you wonder ? Who is this fancy author to tell people how they should celebrate the birth of the Buddha ??? what a party pooper!! Vesak balanna giye nadda?
Well- Im not that religious. I prefer to sit and do silly, lazy things like meditate in my little rented annex . And read old Dhamma books. And plot for a way of going as far away as possible from this madness the next time it comes around.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


When you flush do you know how the soap and detergent goes into your land? What did people do before soap? Have you thought about how your day to day life affects the world? And can you just imagine how the invisible waves around us, the so called SIGNALs must be affecting our heads? Will the whole of humanity find out too late that the results of the greatest biological experiment of all time – is quite ugly ? who can tell?

These are the interesting things I discussed in a chance interview with a fellow called Niranjana Wicremesinha the mind behind the striking, award winning CMEV NO TO VIOLENCE poster ("PRACHANDATWAYA EPA"), who heads his own Advertising gig called MEDIA PLAN.

Niranjana seems an ordinary chap but in quite a few ways has extra ordinary thinking in that he dosnt think the way your “typical sri lankan” does and has a very questioning and creative mind capable of lateral thinking – very refreshing in the local atmosphere.

You can contact him on and 777749924 and 717749924 for any out of the box idea solutions with a definite sensitivity to sri lankan outreach which is something I believe the big advertising firms sometimes over look since their talent is more cosmopolitan.