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.