Friday, April 30, 2010

Life's Funnier Moments

I was at the gym and there are two doctors working out along side me. One guy is encouraging the other while on the phone. He is saying “Push” “Push” to his colleague and at the same time shouting “give the patient the spinal injection!”. Now that I have written it down it does not look as funny as when it happened. But what the hell I thought I should share it.

Talking about life’s funny moments I can’t thank the Big Bad Blond Bahu enough for posting some you tube links to “Goodness Gracious Me” on her blog. Oh woow I had completely forgotten about how much I loved this program and me and my family spent an entire Sunday evening enjoying season 1 and season 1 of it. My entire family loved it including the kids and dog I think. I just thought I will post one of the funnier clips here to tickle everyones’ funny bone.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Getting Screwed by Dialog

You know getting a new phone is generally a nice experience. Like a walk in the park and or eating ice cream on a hot day. It should not be an ordeal like natural child birth for instance. But this was my experience when the kind folks at Dialog decided to upgrade my phone.

Firstly for some strange reason they decided to disconnect my line. Even though all the bills were paid. When I checked it had been a mistake as someone one has requested a disconnection and given my number by mistake and these nincompoops have just gone and disconnected it without double checking who the number belonged to. That was just the starter.

Since the new phone was a black berry a technical assistant came to my office to transfer the information. And we realize that the charger of this phone is not working. He speaks to the technical division and tells someone that the charger is being sent please check it and replace it. I send the charger through a messenger as per this gentleman’s instructions and then we are told that you have to bring the phone along with the charger. How stupid is that? All they have to do is plug the charger to an available phone and see if it’s working or not.

So in the evening between meetings I personally take my phone and charger to their excel world office between meetings as it is the less stressful thing to do. I go to the technical division and they check the charger and finally agree it needs to be replaced. It takes over 30 minutes for the inspection and paper work and now and I am standing and waiting for all this to be done as there is not even a chair around that area. Now instead of giving me a replacement charger they give me a form which I need to take to customer service. They will do the necessary paper work and give me a charger which I need to bring back to technical so that they can check if it is in proper working order.

Once again I trudge to the other side of the building and wait till a customer service rep is free and go tell him my problem. Of course he is quite helpful but suddenly the system software is not working which means we have to wait another 30 minutes for everything to be figured out and finally I get my charger get it checked and step out of that place after wasting over an hour in there.

Now the entire customer service is done in all chrome and metal plate and looks extremely high tech but the service is years behind the appearance of the place. If not for the posh interior I would have assumed that I was in a government office. In fact they display signs saying if you are not happy please send a text to a number which I did. And I got a reply saying a customer service executive will call me to find out what the problem was. Of course till now I have not got a call regarding same.

Generally when competition sets in you pull up your socks. At least that’s what I thought modern organizations do. And I thought this company was one of or if not Sri Lanka’s most progressive company. Guess that was just an illusion.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

If I cant change the circumstances then should I change the mindset?

As I was driving into work today in traffic a vehicle escorted by a police bike was driving through on the wrong side of the road. I had to nearly crash into a wall trying to avoid these guys. This was not the kind of escort which a minister has. This was just one lone police bike with two weak looking cops who would have been blown away by a gust of wind. And the car was not one of the posh ones which the ministers drive this made me conclude that who was being driven in this manner was a judge. I remember being told along time back how judges were overjoyed that the government decided to give them escorts and how they would not go anywhere without their escorts. It made me sad to realize that even people who are supposed to uphold the law are abusing it and behaving like third rate politicians. The past few days I have been absolutely dissapointed about the way this country is moving. Hooliganism. Lack of respect for the law. Drug smugglers and criminals in power. Surely the voting public cannot be blind. The final nail on the coffin for me was Merv the Perv being made the dputy minister of media. Isnt it like entrusting an anti smoking campaign to the chairman of the Tobacco Industry or worse. These situations made me wonder if I should seriously consider moving to another country as I am feeling like an alien in my own mother land. I also know that my opinion is not the opinion of the majority and it will never be. And that however much I rave and rant nothing will change. I have been thinking of writing this entry for many days now as the frustration kept bubbling inside me and it was the final act which happened this morning which made the words spill out. Well then I remembered what one of my mentors told me "If you cant change the circumstances then you should change the mindset" and thats what I am going to do for the time being at least. Long live the MR!!!!!!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

His Masters Villain - How low can one stoop?

Remember the old record label His Masters Voice? This is what came to my mind as I nearly threwup my breakfast when I opened The Sunday times this morning and saw the picture of merv the perv sitting at the feet of the president.

Virtually licking his feet. Like a pet dog. Or should it be a guard dog? A guard dog who is only faithful to the hands that feed him. And I could not help but think what an appropriate metaphor it was. My mind went back many years back to the era of Premadasa where minister A. J Ranasinghe proclaimed that he would drink soup made out of the slippers of the president. But then if you are an absolute moron with nothing tangible to offer but want to be in power to carry on with your nefarious activities guess you have to resort to this kind of public displays of servitude.
It is not the grovelling behaviour which dissapoints me. I cannot expect anything more from some one like him. But the biggest dissapointment is of the leadership who silently encourages this kind of behaviour by doing nothing. about it.

Devilled prawn heads!!!

I always thought that The Beach Wadiya restaurant was highly over rated and had not visited it for many years and had not visited it for many years. Also I think they cheat their customers. But I thought things might have changed over time and decided to visit it after nearly a fourteen year gap last night. Sadly to my amazement nothing had changed. It is still tacky and over priced and the food average and worse of all they still cheat people.

Of course this time we were not billed for more drinks than we consumed. But they do something which reminded me once again why I do not frequent that place.

We ordered some devilled prawns and one third of the dish was only the head of the prawn without the body. Since this is a regular occurrence at this place I thought I will place the prawn heads in a separate dish and take a picture to share with the blogspehere. As you can see for yourself it is quite a lot.

When we got the bill I realized that we could have enjoyed a better meal in the 5 star ambiance of the Lagoon for a similar price. Well guess they wont be seeing me their for another decade.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

5 Star kiri koss

And it was cooked over an open hearth too.
This all came about because the past few days I had a visitor from abroad who loves local food. And we were running out of options of "decent" Sri Lankan restaurants to take him to. After all there are only a handful. Suddenly I remembered that someone had told me about a nuga something at the Cinnamon grand and found out more details about it. And this was how ended up walking into Nuga Gama at Cinnamon Grand on a rainy friday night.
It felt like that we were entering the set of Survivor as there were torches lit on both sides of the path and in a few seconds we had left the city behind and walked into a typical village. The romanticised view of the picture book village I might add. But still the atmosphere was remarkable. Thatched mud huts around a centerpiece of a giant nuga tree.
What I can't believe is how I had not heard of it for so long or seen it. And I visit the cinnamon grand quite a lot. The fact that it is hidden away in the back yard and to enter it you have to go through the cheers pub could be one of the reasons. But I had not come acros even one article or face book status update or anything like that other than that whisper sometime back.
Fortunately it had stopped raining. Nuga gama can not be experienced in the rain unless you like the thought of walking to the hut where the buffet is under an umbrella.
We had a table set up under the nuga tree but it was damp humid and hot. The atmosphere though was amazing. The staff are dressed in traditional sarong and baniyan and the captain is dressed up as a headman. The buffet consists of all local delicasies. And everything is cooked right in front of you in clay pots on open fires.
They even have toddy to drink which is nice though I was adviced by the waiter it should not be drunk in the night as it ferments in the stomach.
I only wished the pricing too could be as authentic as the village atmosphere.
Well personally I don't like to pay five star prices to eat string hoppers, red rice, kohila and kiri kos. Predictably I found the food dull and tasteless I am sure it has been made to suit a foreigners palate knowing no Sri Lankan would visit this place of their own accod unless they have someone to entertain. But my guests enjoyed it I think.
However I could not help but feel absolute admiration for the money making skills of those who run this hotel. This would have been one of the cheapest restaurants to invest in. No light fittings (they use lamps - you can see how dark it is in the picture) or air conditioners. Absolutely cheap to construct since its only mud huts. No expensive kitchen equipment. And no expensive food items. This is stuff which you would find in a hundred rupee lunch or dinner packet. And they are selling it for roughly fifteen hundred bucks per person. Don't let me start on the price of drinks one round of drinks and dinner for four came to ten grand. And the place was crowded.
Is it pure genius or sheer greed what do you think?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The absurd way some clients bargain with their agency

In my twenty years in the ad industry I have heard all the storied outlined in the video below. You know what really hurts we (I) have come to accept these bullshit statements and excuses from clients and actually pander to them. This video really made me open my eyes and take not as to some of the absurd arguments they use with us in the agency world which they would never use with anyone else in real life.

Stupid Singaporeans’!!!

Until now there words were an Oxymoron to me. You know quite similar to American Intelligence. But today I made the most appalling discovery at how stupid and irresponsible some people can be.
And it all starts with a pair of shoes.
Not just any shoes but a pair of Dr.Martens boots. I have been a fan of Dr Martens boots for many years. I still remember quite fondly parting with 80 pounds which was a far more princely sum back then even though the pound was only Rs.100 in London for my first pair of cherry colored Docs. And how good I felt when I held them in my arms much to the amusement of my travel companion. Believe it or not I am using this pair of shoes to this day. And the only thing I had to replace in the past ten or so years has been the laces.
Well recently while I was in Singapore I treated myself to two more pairs of Dr. Marten boots which were absolutely awesome. The first pair of boots was perfect and was an absolute pleasure to walk in. However the second pair of boots was kind of tight especially the right foot making it quite uncomfortable to wear. I can distinctly remember that the shoe I tried on was absolutely comfortable and I was quite confused as to how everything could change once the shoes were bought.
In fact I was thinking I had eaten so much in the past few days that my feet have put on weight. Well I sent it to Mr. Mint as well as a variety of other cobblers to see if they could stretch it or do something to make it less painful to wear but no one wanted to accept the challenge.
This morning I took the boots and tried them on hoping I could break them in by wearing them for about half an hour just so that they might stretch a little bit.
This was when I realized that the left shoe was bigger than the right shoe! I could not believe my eyes. I looked closely at the labels, extremely closely and finally found the solution to my problem. They have given me one size 8 shoe and one size 7! The shoe I tried on was perfect because it was the correct fit.
I managed to find the number of the store and called them. The first time I dialed it was a nightmare as the lady on the other side could not understand English very well. And her thick accent did not help. But I did manage to get a number and speak to someone more capable, another sales executive and he wanted me to bring the shoes over. Now how am I going to do that? Finally I decided that I will send it through someone who goes to Singapore regularly and get the shoes sorted out.
I could not believe how someone could be so inefficient to be able to mix up a pair of shoes. Specially in a country such as Singapore where it was believed people were more smarter and more efficient. At least I thought so.
To say that I was frothing was an understatement.
I was relating this story to a visitor from abroad who was working with us and had lived a very long time in Singapore. What he told me really surprised me as he said this kind of behavior was “Typically Singaporean” and that most Singaporeans were quite lackadaisical in their work ethic. And he outlined a couple of instances where he had been treated shabbily. Some of them were quite unexpected and quite an eye opener to me. But deep down inside I knew I could have avoided this trauma if I had taken an extra moment to try on both shoes before buying them.
Of course I still think that the guy who mixed my shoes up is an imbecile.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Real life in an ad agency

Since I read DQ's post about the some of the frustrations of working in advertising I have wanted to post something about it. And today someone showed me this great video which I have to share with you all because it is soooo true and representative of what really goes on in an agency if you peel one layer off. Enjoy!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Moved to tears by a movie...

I confess I am a big marshmellow most of the time. Yes I cried at the ending of titanic. But the last thing I expected to be was moved to tears watching Sandra Bullock. Of course this could be one of those dreary puns we advertising people are prone to spout at the most unexpected moment and I could tell you that it was tears of joy. After all she has been acting in a few comedies hasnt she? hasnt she? The movie that moved me so much was "The Blind Side".
The amazing thing is that it is not a great movie it is mediocre at the most as a review i read put it "Whether you love it or hate it, you respect it for what it is: A well-made version of a story worth telling that does nothing extraordinary, but does everything well enough to open itself to a massive audience of women, sports fans and more." My words exactly but I still loved it and cant wait till I see it once more.
What really impressed me was the simple act of unselfish kindess the lead charachter showed to a boy who many would have thought would have robbed the house and raped all the women in it. See even I am guilty of racial stereo typing. Also Sandra Bollocks acting in the movie was not over done in fact I would call it slightly restrained and that was what I admired the most. Even though I winced when I originally heard that Sandra Bullock had won best actress now I have nothinng but sheer respect for the panel of judges who saw the talent required to play chose to bestow this award on her.
What was most amazing was that this entire film was based on a true story. And that really blows my mind that in this world full of unfairness and injustice there are a few people who still care about others and can give unconditionally. If you havent watched the movie yet it is time to watch it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A place to call home for the new year…

“Welcome home” along with a big hug was the greeting I got when I stepped into the quaint little house in Gampola on the 12th of April. I could not help but let the warmth wash over me and luxuriate in it like one does when you step into a hot shower after a tiring day.

Like all human beings I yearn for what I do not have.

And in this case it is an extended family of my own. A place I could go to, away from my house. Grandparents for my kids. Someone to admire my achievements and take pride in it. Specially during times of fellowship such as New year or Christmas you can feel the gap in your soul even though you know you are just being a slave to sentiment.

Sure I have tons of close relatives and friends who are a close substitute but nevertheless they are substitutes.

But from a year back we have made it a point to join a friend of ours and her husband to see in the Aluth Avurudha in her parents’ house in Gampola. They are retired teachers highly respected in the community living under the shadow of the ambaluwawa complex in a quaint little house surrounded by greenery. Aunty loves to feed people. And I love to be fed. So for the two nights we were their not only was I showered with love but also all of my traditional favourites. Wild Boar! pol sambol! kiri kos! Polos curry! I am in seventh heaven. And all this cooked over the traditional hearth instead of the gas cooker which is only used for boiling water for tea.
And they have had to really go out of their way to lay hands on the wild boar. Because Gampola is part of the Nawalapitiya electorate where the elections are being held once more on the 20th of April all the politicians are buying up the wild boar so that their supporters can have a bite. And "uncle" had to use all his influence and pull a lot of strings to get 2 kilos of it into his hand. But boy wasn't it delicious.

But what is really beautiful is that when the new year dawns and the first meal is cooked each of us are fed a piece of kiribath by hand by aunty and when it is time for “ganu denu” uncle gives us each a couple of crisp hundred rupee notes in the traditional Bulath Kole.
This time he had to give money to 8 people and sometimes I am concerned how they can afford to treat us as well and be so generous when living on just a government pension. But that’s the way they are. Living a happy contented life and radiating love and kindness to everyone around them. I am so grateful that they have taken my family under their wing and made us an integral part of theirs and given us a place to come home to in the New Year.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Terribly Perfect…

I could not help but heave a sigh of regret and look at what our country could have been as I looked around me in Singapore. At one time this country aspired to be like Sri Lanka. But today the roles have reversed. What I saw was precision and perfection along with excellent planning creating a machine whose sole purpose was to suck out as much money as possible from the poor tourist who landed at their doorstep. I am not complaining. Everything was beautiful the hotel was fine but when you are charged for the water bottles they leave for you in the room you know they are over stepping the mark. I am generally a jungle person but this time I decided to head to the concrete jungles of Singapore instead during the long avurudhu holidays to give my kids the experience of flying on a plane and giving them an opportunity to visit another land. Also Singapore is a great place for kids it has so many child friendly attractions is clean though expensive. The kids loved every minute. Specially the Unversal Theme park which just opened in March. It was absolutely awesome. And worth every penny. A quick tip to anyone who is planning to go their pay an extra 30 dollars per person and get yourself an express pass which gives you priority access to all the shows and rides which means you don’t have to wait in lines to get in which can take as much as 30 minutes sometimes.

Also another awesome attraction I recommend is something called Songs of the sea words cannot describe what it is unless you see it with your own eyes.

While everything was absolutely perfect over their I felt a bit uneasy and queasy about the entire experience. My daughter summed it up in a quite succinct manner she looked at me and said “Dadda this is like living in a fairy tale or dolls house isn’t it”

And then it struck me how right she was. Singapore was perfect. Too perfect. It was as something was meant to be. They have made it the perfect tourist attraction. They have sliced it and diced it and packaged it into nice neat manageable easy to digest pieces. Nothing was too far or too long it was just right. But in doing so they have managed to suck the juice out of the entire experience and all what you are left with is something bland… tasteless though it looks good from the outside.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A well timed funeral

All humans are capable of love. Even the worst criminal can be moved to tears when confronted with the news of the demise of someone close to him. And it was such a situation which caught my attention when I heard that the mother of MP (Merv the Perv) had gone to be with her maker. Of course when the news started circulating there were many jokes that so many people had been cursing the source of MPs birth that it had kind of fast tracked her way to beyond. Personally I don’t think it’s a good joke. I doubt she would have thought her offspring would have turned out to be what he is in the wildest dreams. Loved by the bad and hated by the rest. She was described as a grand old lady by someone I was chatting to at the gym. But I can’t help but wonder what a well timed PR coup that fate delivered straight into MPs hand. Quite similar to the bomb which injured Chandrika on the eve of the presidential election.
On Sunday morning I was aghast (though I shouldn’t have been) when I read the property scams he was behind in the Sunday Leader. But then when I was driving around I saw all the banners put up with the pictures of his late mom (and of course mentioning his name prominently) I could not help but feel sorry for him. Even though he had my sympathy I had a lingering doubt that this could be a fool proof opportunity to circumvent the election laws and have his name up in banners without having the police cut them down. And this doubt was further strengthened when I opened the newspapers on Monday morning to see a full page advertisement of him kissing the corpse of his mom.

Gosh this made me shudder. Using your own dead mom as election propaganda. How low can one stoop to? But then isn’t it true that some people would sell even their mother to come into power or in this case stay in power.

The sad reality is that this kind of cheap publicity will go down well with the majority of the voting public of his electorate. And actually would help to soften his image. I am holding my breath to see if this would help him to get more than 2500 votes this time around. I sincerely hope not.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Blare Time is hear again but this time its worse...

No I am not talking about the Blair from the other end of the pond. But it is this time of year again where our ears are assaulted with blearing music from stores. I do not know why that they think that it is their god given right to become a public nuisance by using huge sound systems and blasting the ear drums of everyone within hearing distance in order to create “excitement” which would lead to more people walking into their store. Traditionally the stores are joined by all the Avurudhu Utsawa who takes the meaning of public nuisance to a new level. Not only do they have extremely loud music during the entire event they also hog the road and believe the motorists have no right at all. This year the elections have taken this mess to an all time high. What with all the vans joining the din shouting slogans about the merits of each candidate and the political rallies who think it is their divine right to out shout the competition. Fortunately where I am located churches temples and mosques don’t add to the din. But what can one do other than to grin and bear it.

More pics from Yala

part of the decor of the bungalow skulls are all over the place

Nothing like starting the day with a hearty breakfast and the cook at the bungalow was wonderful

This beach is a couple of meters away from the bungalow and we spent a good two hours watching them haul the net in...

What great character in this gentleman's weather hardened face

The net finally comes in

I thought the catch was really small makes me wonder if all the effort was worth it

The strangest light fitting I saw... I saw at least two more of these I think I think people in this area have a strange sense of humor.

A leopard in front of me a tusker behind me!

No this is not like being caught between a rock and a hard place or being between the devil and the deep blue sea. But a wonderful heavenly moment I enjoyed when I was in Yala over the weekend. This time we were stayin out side the park in the wild life and nature protection society bungalow. It is situated in a faraway corner of the Palatupana salt erns. Infact you would not be wrong if you woke up and thought you were inside the park. The facilities are basic but if you are used to what's available in the wild life bungalows it is more or less the same and helps you make believe that you are actually in the park.

One of the things which were a turn off is that the upstair section is walled up with concrete blocks with little holes in them. And therefore it is warm and claustrphobic. The moment we got out of the vehicle we were embraced by a heatwave and believe me it is no fun. Even though its by the beach the bungalow is surrounded by sand dunes and trees and thus prevents the wind from blowing through it. And to add to it the evenings were still and hot as there was absolutely no wind. Guess if you come to the dryzone you should not be complaining about its dryness. And after a shower you learn to accept the heat and the constant dribble of sweat trickling down your spine and under arms and the charm of the place grows on you. Being in the society bungalow is the next best thing to being inside the park. There are many places where you can stay around Yala but the park authorities give special privileges to those who stay in this location and you are considered as kindred spirits by the staff of the park. Of course the park was packed because of it being a long weekend and we consider ourselves lucky to have seen so many leopard sightings as well a bear.

The final evening we decided to go to the Bundala sanctuary instead of the Yala national park. It was a wise choice. Bundala is a park which lives in the shadow of Yala and has not been discovered as yet. It has no leopard or bear and therefore is not in the radar of most wildlife enthusiasts. But it is one of the most scenic parks one can be in and is a paradise for bird watchers.

At four in the evening we were the only party in the park and it was wonderful to have an entire park to yourself. Especially after experiencing the traffic in Yala. Bundala also has some beautiful sand dunes which we drove through though sadly we did not see any elephants.

Well despite the heat everyone had a good time and KC who planned the meals did a brilliant job. We had the most delicious meals which were nice and spicey. Sonething you would not be able to enjoy at a hotel. The most amazing thing was after all this the total cost came to roughly a thousand bucks per person per day. Life is good.