Monday, January 28, 2013

Who took my Muss Plate

Namo Thassa!

So, finally, Panadura  will not see a "Waiter, Muss Plate ekak Genna" anymore. The wheel of curry spins, round and round she goes, where she stops, nobody knows.

The wave of Buddhist nationalism sweeping across the sweet sunny isle of Sri Lanka makes every attempt to take away the prevailing privileges that everyone enjoyed, from Lord Nelson in the Fort to the Orient Hotel in Galle and all the way back to the Lion Pub in Nuwara Eliya.

So, it is worthwhile to note  that Buddhism has, all along, made the consumption of Meat and Alcohol to be "Haraam" in a Buddhist kind of way. Yet, no one paid any heed to it all these years. Maybe the Brits, the last of the Colonials, brainwashed the locals to indulge in order to generate the much needed revenue to the state and also make a handful of local "nobodies"into "somebodies"?

What will happen to whole assembly line of men, women and hands that bring the beef to the buffet? Will they have to look for a livelihood in the St John's Fish Market?

And what about the Booze. No liquor slaes between 2 and 5 pm in Panadura, again. Looks like "Dooona Para" is taking the lead in cleaning up  the sordid nation?

Will the people have to start their first shot at breakfast time? Reminds me of the Colombo Chetty bank tellers who worked at Chartered Bank in the 70's. They just couldnt count the cash without a quarter after bfast.

So whats next? A clean Sri Lanka devoid of booze, meat, polygamy, and tips. Where will all the cattle graze? Not in my backyard, I hope?

We could certainly export them to Arabia where the big meat eaters thrive on Shawarma, Khabsa, and Mandhee rice, 24 X 7 X 365. Maybe that could supplement the income from housemaids remittances. The girls can stay home and mind the store now. Also keep a close eye on the roaming hubby.

What about the goats? Arent they not as sacred as the cow? There goes my mutton kurma!

Lets all stand up and offer our Pan Sil for the day, fellers.

Saadu, Saadu, Saadu!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hospitality Unlimited/Lankan Diplomacy

Sunday Morning Sermon - Jan 27, 2012

Having waited for almost 6 weeks for KIA to deliver the new glass replacement for my Carnivals rear window, from their spares store in Dubai, I was so fed up that I called them up and told them I cant wait any more. Instead I decided to drive by the  local "Panchikawatte", west of Riyadh, a place called "Umm Al Hammam", and see if one of the auto dudes in there could replace my glass.

The auto garages located in Umm Al Hammam extend over a very large plot of land that borders the Umm Al Hammam cemetery. The place is filled with small and large auto workshop joints that can provide anything you need for your auto from a bolt & nut, to a brake, bonnet, and body. Sections of the place cater to the various different needs of the auto. 

There were about 20 glass repair shops at the far end of the plot, allocated adjacent to the cemetery boundary wall, when I drove past at around 8:00 am just about opening time and only one was open. I  parked outside and a big burly Sudanese guy emerged from the dark inside, which was stacked from floor to ceiling with all types of car glass. I explained my plight and he did a quick review of my rear window, made a quick call on his cell phone, and said he can do it for SR 250 and it will take 1 hour.I said fine, since I had to get it done, sooner or later, even though so much time had already passed after the mishap and the bloody agenst had been keeping me hanging on a string all this while.

He didnt have the particular glass in his shop so he had to order oit from his store  and said it would  take about 20 minutes to arrive. I said, no probz, I will wait.

His young assistant popped up, another Sudanese guy, and they chatted in Arabic, and the young fellow took off. Waiting for the glass to arrive I was chatting up the big guy and we discussed everything from Sudanese politics to how the Muslims came to be in a Buddhist country  like Sri Lanka. After 10 minutes his assistant returned with breakfast from the Yemeni restaurant close by. Steaming hot Yemeni "Fathree" (a kind of poached egg wrapped up in a small rotti meal) and tea. They pulled three dirty white plastic chairs from within the shop, all with some part ripped off but still seatable. A rickety old brown broken plastic chair without its back rest and a hole on the seat served as the table. They sat and invited me to join them. I resisted saying I had already eaten breakfast bit they insisted saying it would be impossible for them to eat while I stood by. So I didnt want to hurt their feelings and joined in and enjoyed the meal and cuppa. This is typical Arab hospitality where food is concerned. No Arab will ever eat or drink anything in ones presence without offering a part of it to the next person. Even a banana will be split in two and shared. This is one trait they gotta be proud of, without any doubt.

It probably stems from the Islamic scripture  and the story of Prophet Abraham and his Jewish wife Sarah and Arab concubine (maid) Hagar. The Book says that Abraham took his concubine Hagar and their son, Ishmael, to Arabia,on the the instructions of the jealous Sarah, and left them in Makkah by the Kaaba and supplicated to God that this land be never devoid of food and hospitality across all of the people that live in it. Believers claim that the request has been fulfilled, since even to my own 3 decades in the sands I am yet to see anyone sleeping hungry here.

Finally, the glass came and the buggers fixed it in 10 minutes. See some pics, that I took on my mobile phone, attached.

After that I drove over to the SL Embassy to get my daughters profession changed. That was a different kettle of fish.

It was about 10 am when I got there and handed over the papers to the consular reception, an old Royalist of new vintage called Dhanushka, who wanted me to wait for 30 minutes for processing. I said OK and sat in the lobby and watched the fun. The janitor, an old Sinhala chap who looked like Adolf Hitler, moustache et all I(like our Bakeys pater) was vacuuming the carpet, something that was so worn out that even a goat would not have wanted to lie on it. The machine was plugged into the wall by its two wires only.There was no plug attached to it, maybe they cannot afford to buy one? There were telephone cables hanging from the wall behind the door. The reception phone rang several times and the "thamby" receptionist answered in all four languages,including Arabic, although the gist if it was simply hilarious.

So Dhanushka now opens his "Flintstones" CR book, enters the description of my service request, with date, time, and other details and stamps my passport with the change of profession stamp on page 5, and puts the passport and all attached documents into the book and lays it beside him. Another female clerk is processing a newborn inclusion request for a Mullah type Lankan who came just before me. She finishes her job too and notes down the same info in the same CR book and puts the docs inside. next, the messenger boy comes along and collects the CR book and takes it upstairs for signature by the authorised officer. We wait in patience.

The phone rings again. The receptionist answers in Tamil. "Sri Lanka Embassy, Yaar pesuringo": (Who is calling), possibly cos the caller also spoke in Tamil. He insisted on knowing the callers name and tried transferring the call to an officer and not finding him in his seat, responded, "Avar setila illai, ara manila call pannungo" (He is not in his seat call after 30 minutes). Another call, this time in Sinhala. "Oyage nama kiyyana?" Some discussion. And he explained some details about the fees for passport renewals etc. An English call follows,possibly by a Non Sri :Lankan. Something about visas for Saudi passport holders. The guy was efficient although his patter, in all 3 languages, was totally ridiculous.

The supervisor, another grumpy lady in her late 40's perhaps dressed  in a hipster Saree with her belly button protruding like a tit above her hips. I was wondering how the Saudi's who come in there must handle that view? I felt nauseated myself. Theres noithing in that belly button to show, not even to a half starved bastard.

11:00 am. No passport yet. I waited patiently. What else can I do? No cuppa tea even from the land of the best tea in the world. Not a smile from any one of the staff. Even the Lankan drivers and maids walking in to get their work done do not show any signs of contentment in their faces. All grumpy and sore looking. So sad to see.

The walls needed painting. It was virtually devoid of any proper design or decor. Looked more like an empty hall. The carpet needs changing. The wiring needs to be properly tidied up. The lobby needs some sprucing up. Perhaps a young lady, dressed in national, serving the best of Ceylon Tea? Some color. See pics attached.

Finally 11:15 and he called out my daughters name and I collected the passport and hooked back to office without even looking back. On checking the stamp I did notice that the name "RIYADH" on the rubber stamp has been mis spelt. More Phew!

What more can I say?

What an awe inspiring Sunday morning. Should I say three Hail Mary's, one big Allahu Akbar, Haroo Haraa, or just a simple and straight forward Saadu Saadu Saadu?

SL Embassy Riyadh Lobby

SL Embassy Riyadh Reception

Vacuum Cleaner wires plugged into the power socket

Telephone cables hanging down the wall

Rubber Stamp with the word Riyadh misspelt

Sudanese guys at work on the glass replacement

The new glass pane in my boot

The new glass pane carton

More new Glass Panes inside the shop

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Where have all the Good Men Gone?

Not so long ago, the average Sri Lankan, in his youthful mid 20s, had achieved most of the milestones of adulthood: a high-school diploma, possibly a degree if he/she was fortunate enough to get into one of the two campuses in the island, financial independence, marriage, a home, and children. Today, most young folks in their 25's  hang out in a novel sort of limbo, a hybrid state of semi-hormonal adolescence and an irresponsible reliance on external entities. This "pre-adulthood" has much to recommend it, especially for the college-educated. But it's time to state what has become obvious to legions of frustrated young women: It doesn't bring out the best in men.

"We are sick of hooking up with guys," says a female writer in Colombo. What she means by "guys", is males who are not boys or men but something in between. Guys talk about communal differences as if they are being oppressed by it; a guy's idea of a perfect night could be a hangout at a Nite Kadey with the boys down the street, or a sleepless evening browsing some internet chat site hoping for a hookup and some online sex with an unknown who could be of the same gender pretending to be otherwise. One female writer wrote, "I had to stop several times and think: Wait, did I date this same guy?"

For most of us 59ers, the cultural evolution of pre-adulthood was a journey filled with exciting challenges, hurdles, victories, and defeats. Bollywood delivered a lifestyle of songs and running around trees reaching out for Saree falls in the early 50s. Hollywood dished out a great array of movies that kept us all spellbound waiting for the next release at the Majestic, Savoy or Liberty. Then came Television deepening the mind mashing, dishing out the multi flavored soups of all sorts of rubbishy soaps and drama, laced with violence and conflict. And eventually we had the world wide web with all its hidden and clandestine communication and relationship offers through social networks  and chat rooms.

But for all its familiarity, pre-adulthood represents a momentous sociological development. It's no exaggeration to say that there are a large numbers of single young men and women struggling to survive independently, while also not having enough ambition and courage to initiate a true relationship between themselves that would fill up their dreams and future.

Yes, at other points in our local history young people have waited well into their 20s to marry, and yes, office girls and bachelor executives have been working and finding amusement in back seats of Morris Minor taxi's across all our cities since independence. Today's pre-adults are a different matter.

What also makes pre-adulthood something new is its radical reversal of the sexual hierarchy. Among pre-adults, women are the first sex. They graduate from college in greater numbers. As most professors tell it, they also have more confidence and drive. These strengths carry women through their 20s, when they are more likely than men to be in grad school and making strides in the workplace. In a number of cities, they are even out-earning their brothers and boyfriends.

Still, for these women, one key question won't go away: Where have the good men gone? Their male peers often come across as aging frat boys, maladroit geeks or grubby slackers—a gender gap neatly crystallized by a group of sloppy friends who spend their days playing video games, getting into bar brawls, gorging on fast food, smoking pot and unsuccessfully planning to meet up and have online sex with people they have never met before. Facebook and Twitter have also given rise to a new mode of cloak and dagger communication where anything goes.

So where did these pre-adults come from? You might assume that their appearance is a result of spoiled 24-year-olds trying to prolong the campus drinking and hook-up scene while exploiting the largesse of mom and dad. But the causes run deeper than that. Beginning in the 1980s, the economic advantage of higher education—the "college premium"—began to increase dramatically. Even before that the "Sinhala Only" policy had already eaten up a good slice of potential opportunities. The 30 year ethnic war made another mess of these growing minds. And then the internet comes along and swallows them up all.

Good jobs usually go to those with degrees. And degrees take years.

So where have all the good men gone?

Saturday, January 12, 2013


Sunday Morning Sermon Jan 13 2013

Was listening to Frank Sinatra's rendition of "As time goes by" in the car this morning while I was dropping Nadia at school. The melody is so soothing and the lyrics  penetrated my mind on this cold "Nuwara Eliya" style morning in Riyadh.

Time, the pundits say, is a dimension in which events can be ordered from the past through the present into the future, and also the measure of duration of events and the intervals between them. Time has long been a major subject of study in religionphilosophy, and science, but defining it in a manner applicable to all fields without circularity has consistently eluded scholars. Nevertheless, diverse fields such as business,industry, sports, the sciencesmusic, dance, and the live theater all incorporate some notion of time into their respective measuring systems. Some simple, relatively uncontroversial definitions of time include "time is what clocks measure" and "time is what keeps everything from happening all at once".
Two contrasting viewpoints on time divide many prominent philosophers. One view is that time is part of the fundamental structure of the universe — a dimension independent of events, in which events occur in sequenceSir Isaac Newton subscribed to this realist view, and hence it is sometimes referred to as Newtonian time. The opposing view is that time does not refer to any kind of "container" that events and objects "move through", nor to any entity that "flows", but that it is instead part of a fundamental intellectual structure (together with space and number) within which humans sequence and compare events. This second view, in the tradition of Gottfried Leibniz and Immanuel Kant, holds that time is neither an event nor a thing, and thus is not itself measurable nor can it be traveled.
Time is one of the seven fundamental physical quantities in the International System of Units. Time is used to define other quantities – such as velocity — so defining time in terms of such quantities would result in circularity of definition. The operational "clock" definition of time leaves aside the question whether there is something called time, apart from the counting activity just mentioned, that flows and that can be measured. 
Furthermore, it may be that there is a subjective component to time, but whether or not time itself is "felt", as a sensation or an experience, has never been settled.
Time is also of significant social importance, having economic value ("time is money") as well as personal value, due to an awareness of the limited time in each day and in human life spans. The economists and financial institutions use time as the basis of bringing in revenue. 

How often have you sat in a waiting hall,looked at your watch, and observed the passage of time, sometime taking ages and sometimes moving at break neck speed? How do we account for this from our own mental perspective. In reality the timepiece is perfectly stable and uniform and the lapsed time is still the same although the perception to the human mind may be different.

It must have a dependency to whatever else goes on within the thinking process in order to provide us with this long and short perspective we experience, day in and day out.

We also hear that "Time waits for no one". Now why would Time want to wait for anyone in the first place? What does time care about us waiting, hurrying, cursing, or smiling? Baffles me!

Yet, we all still think and believe that Time is the driving force into which we are born, live our lives, do our dirty, Abbots and all, and eventually leave this earth.

Imagine if Time were to stop? What would that require? The earth to stop rotating, revolving and the rest of the planets to halt? Would that be the Armageddon everyone was expecting on Dec 21, according to Mayan predictions which never came to pass?

Funnily, I stopped wearing a watch since I got myself a mobile phone some years ago. Why? Well I can tell time on the mobile. Why would I need a Rolex? Yet, I still see  many men and women wearing watches in addition to carrying two or three mobile phones. Baffles me even further.

Have a great Sunday!


Friday, January 11, 2013

Who killed Rizana Nafeek?

Who killed Rizana Nafeek?
I, said the Father,
together with her Mother,
We killed Rizana Nafeek.

Who sent her out?
I, said the Agent,
with a little resentment,
I sent her out.

Who gave her work?
We, said the family,
to take care of our baby,
We gave her the work.

Who choked the baby?
The bottle says the evidence,
without any pretense,
I choked the baby.

Who tried her case out?
I, said the Shariah,
just like a warrior,
I tried her case.

Who chopped her head off?
I, said the hood,
with my shining sword,
I chopped her head off.

Who didnt do his biding?
I, said the Embassy,
we dont want to be fussy,
We'll take the blame.

Who has to answer?
Society, and its clout,
who force the lasses out,
They have to answer.

Who'll be the loser?
Humanity, has lost,
Pipped at the post,
Humanity is the loser.

Who'll stop this mess?
No hands to be seen,
No one is clean.
Can you stop this mess?.

All the people on this planet
fell a-sighing and a-sobbing,
when they heard the axe fall
on poor Rizana Nafeek.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Woman: the Mother of humanity

The recent gang rape of a 23 year old girl in New Delhi has created massive waves all across the region and even internationally on many social media networks and discussion forums, thereby giving rise to a need for a way out of this madness, especially in the third world. Many are the views and outrage of the general public who are now engaged in massive protests seeking the severest of punishments to the criminals.

An interesting view was expressed in an article sent to me by Skanda as follows:- 

"Perhaps, we men can never understand what our women go through every single day. We can at best sympathize with them, but not empathize in the true sense. Imagine – those awkward whistles while walking on the pavements; the ‘oye mere bul bul’ comments by the street urchins; the intentional touches and nudges in crowded trains, buses; the cheap stares that they encounter on a minute to minute to basis at schools, colleges, work places, shopping malls; the apprehension with which they get into an auto rickshaw; the fear with which they go out for an evening walk; the trepidation that they face when out for dinner with a friend – well, the list is never ending. How can I not mention the frightful tension that parents of girls face every single day, every single minute when their kids are out?   So, to sum it up in one line – we men have made lives a living hell for our women folk."

This, sadly is a very valid fact of life, even if we care to look back at our own youth and its multi faceted traits that we came through as teens. Although we, in our own innocence, passions, and emotions, would never have resorted to abuse, oppression, or crime, the need to chase women, be it for pleasure or for keeps, has always been a significant factor in the minds of men within all communities across the globe.

Sometime back I wrote a paper titled "The Hitter Syndrome" seeking to try and evaluate the many situations that arise when women are forced to face abuse, oppression, and sexual advances in public places, places of work, universities, schools, within public transportation etc. Having interviewed many women in their 20's, 30'sand 40's, from a mixed group of students,professionals and academics, what I found was absolutely shocking. Every single one of them had suffered some form of abuse, either in  their own homes or outside at some point of time. Incest was also another significant feature that came up during this study. The incidence was way above what we would normally assume it to be under our own understanding and conclusions based on our experiences.

The fact that all this is done in a very subtle and crafty manner where the perpetrator always has a way out to seek his escape makes it even worse in that it appears to be more or less an output of some form of organized and methodical crime that should reap very harsh punishments. However, in the societies that we live in such acts are passed  off as childish pranks, or "boys will be boys" cliche's and even parents and elders seem to turn a blind eye towards its hurting impact on the lives of many women.

The funny part is that we men still chase behind these very same women we choose to abuse in seeking life partners to care and comfort us in our youth and even old age. Thats certainly a massive paradox of our times.

The question one asks now is how to fix the problem. Do we impose stricter punishments, as chopping off heads, top and below, in order to prevent the rascals from carrying out such evil misdeeds again and also set an example to the onlookers?

I remember reading a case wherein a man forcefully pulled a girl towards a bush at twilight, undressed himself, mounted on the girl and tried to rape her. However, he was unsuccessful in the act as he failed to get an erection. Luckily, the girl was saved. But strangely and horrifyingly, he managed to walk free by convincing the court to believe that his act amounted to only preparation and not attempt. What acts amount to attempt and what amount to only preparation can be highly subjective and wholly depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. There are a large number of precedents available which manifestly show us that this vacuum in the statute has been abused repeatedly by offenders.  In order to prevent this abuse, the Law Commission of England in its report on Inchoate Offences, recommended the British Parliament to make even ‘criminal preparation’ a punishable offence. We need to take a cue from them and make even ‘preparation’ to rape a punishable offence.

Yes, we need better preventive mechanisms, stricter laws, competent prosecution agencies and efficient courts. But do they suffice? Can we have a policeman at every street corner? Can the government place a constable in every bus or public transport at all times? These measures can at best, help to reduce the likelihood of the occurrence of such crimes to a certain extent and nothing more. A large responsibility rests on the society as well. People, in general, need to be more vigilant. Incidents like eve- teasing have to be condemned and immediately brought to the notice of the concerned authorities. Nothing can substitute a sound education in morals and values. Youngsters, right from high schools and colleges, need to be taught to respect women. Every college goer must understand that objectification of women is not ‘cool’. In addition to this, at the cost of sounding chauvinistic, I would say that a significant responsibility rests on women too. Though it is true that the government must put adequate security measures in place, it is always safe to take reasonable care and pre-caution.

Lastly, the society must stop stigmatizing the unfortunate victims of rape. While the perpetrator of the crime gets acquitted and struts around in the society freely, the victim suffers a life term punishment of trauma and shame. The responsibility is on the society to ensure that the victims come out of their trauma and join the mainstream again. It is also important for the family – be it the victim’s parents, relatives, boyfriend or friends to stand by them in those tough times. This will not only embolden the victims to fearlessly report such crimes to the police, but will also help them lead a peaceful and happy life, forgetting the unfortunate ordeal.

But are all these measures enough? My friend asked me last night – “You can make laws to prevent sexual harassment and rape, but of what help will they be when a cheap ass tailor touches you with base intentions when you go to get your dress stitched, or when some person makes a contemptuous comment at you while on the street, or when someone purposively nudges you in a crowded train or a bus? Can these tough laws come to our rescue then? Will they prevent us from facing such embarrassment and humiliation every single day?” Her questions were persuasive and pertinent. They were also hard to answer.

Later in the night, I sent her a text message – Yes, laws cannot help as they cannot cure a disease of the mind. But we need not lose hope. We see hope on the streets of our towns and cities where thousands of youngsters have poured onto to express their outrage against rape. We see hope in the hundreds of tweets and facebook statuses of our youngsters condemning the objectification of women. We need not worry, for this new generation is making the independence movement meet its true ends – don’t you remember the Mahatma’s words? “Our nation will have achieved true independence and freedom only when a woman can walk in the midnight all alone and feel safe”