Thursday, October 28, 2010

Warning: Laughter Hazard - Be careful when reading.

Whoever said laughter was the best medicine had not read “Chilli Chicks & Heart Attacks” by Sanjaya Mendis. It can cause grievous bodily harm and trust me when I tell you I learnt it the hard way. First I nearly died through choking because I was trying to stifle the laughter which was threatening to break through. It was late into the night and I did not want to wake my wife up. But oh the book was too funny and I could not hold back and suddenly like a volcano erupting I was laughing my butt off in my bed and facing a very angry and disgruntled wife who was wondering why I was shrieking like a banshee? Fortunately her clout missed me as she was sleepy. But seriously guys this book is so funny it is not funny. It is about a young Sri Lankan Doctor who is interning in a hospital in Australia. Guess it is like a Sri Lankan version of Kumars at 41 and Carry on Doctor combined. Someone said Grays Anotomy but I have not seen it so I wouldn’t know if it was apt or not. Right from page one it takes you surfing through wave after wave of laughter. But amidst the pages of laughter there is a real intriguing story with bad guys and good guys and true love. In fact some of the situations at the end brought a tear to my eye. I am so glad to see that there are so many talented Sri Lankan writers. I recommend this book highly. But I must confess there is one blot in this beautiful picture. The inner pages are printed on such low quality paper that it’s virtually transparent resulting in letters of the previous page being partly visible. Which really messes up your reading experience. It is like trying to eat the most delicious rice and curry from one of those polythene bath sheets. What a shame but guess you can’t have everything.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

City Island: So easy to miss…

But then you would be missing out on quite a charming dramatic comedy. I know this is the first time you might have heard of a dramatic comedy but that’s exactly what this is. This is one of those low profile movies which do not merit a second glance at the video store. The only reason I picked it up is because I keep an eye open for these nondescript movies as sometimes I end up finding absolute gems. Of course another reason why I picked this up was because Andy Garcia was in it and I have not seen a recent movie of his for a long time. Even reading the cover one would assume it is a boring piece of shit. And to be honest it is boring but in a funny way. Cos it starts out slow like sometimes laughter does and towards the end you just can’t stop because it is so absurd. Well this is not a review but just a little flag about the movie to see if it piques your attention. I loved it and would have hated to miss it. I think you might feel the same way too.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

When does No Know mean No No?

Never as far as I know. But then we live in strange times and sometimes us Sri Lankans prefer to hide our heads in the sands rather than face reality.
There were two articles today which appeared in the Sunday Times today which distressed me. One was the picture of the head of the ICRC crying because the tractors which were to be given to poor people in the North were given to the supporters of some politician. The other was this article which appeared about a sex book which was given out to students at CIS. Apparently a parent is revolted about the fact that his child of twelve should learn about making love, birth control and abortion. He alleges that it’s a book given to 15 year olds in the UK and since his request was refused has reported it to the media and the Child Prevention Authority.

To me this is a classic case of sensationalisation. Sometimes I wonder why a respected paper like the Sunday Times does not check the facts. A simple google search would have shed so much light on this issue. That’s what I did and this is what I found.

First of all it’s not a sex book. It is a book titled “Moral Issues” and a very good one at that. I did find it on google books and did skim through some of the pages. All I found was a publication which takes some of the situations young people face head on and provide honest and clear views about them. On the other hand what I found most revolting was the way the chairman of the NCPA reacted. One would think the school has been found guilty of distributing hardcore pornography amongst the kids. Take a look at some of the screen captures I have published and decide for yourself if someone is being overly puritan or not.

I think she and this parent believes that by educating the children about birth control, sex and abortion will encourage them to go out and procreate like rabbits. In other words prevention breeds practice. Also the fact that this book is only given to students is also false. In fact this book is introduced to students in Key Stage 3 which is years 7-9 (11-14 year olds) in the British Education system.

Sadly this kind of view it seems is more prevalent in Sri Lanka than I thought. And I was surprised when I was confronted with it in my own home whilst my wife and I were having a chat about a neighbor’s daughter. Now don’t get me wrong we were not gossiping. This girl is like an extended daughter to us. She has just turned 18 and found a job. She had a very rigid and closed upbringing when she was young. And now she is enjoying the new found freedom adulthood and work has brought her. However this has caused great agony to her mom and grandmother. Sadly they don’t have the patience or the tact to handle this kind of situation. Since this girl was experimenting with boys I was telling my wife I think it was wise if she told her a little bit about birth control and other adult stuff which her mom would be too shy to do. They are quite old fashioned and conventional. Sadly my wife too was of the same opinion that if she was to give her some basic sex education it would encourage her to be promiscuous. I nearly fell off my chair when I heard this but there was nothing I could say or do because I had hit a wall of moral objection.

This is the same attitude taken up by the Catholic Church about contraceptives. Sadly the world does not work the way we would want it to. If so there would be far less teenage pregnancies and less aids.

No one taught me about sex when I was young. I had to find out all I know from my friends. Fortunately I was not negatively affected by this. But today girls are attaining age at a very young age. I know this for a fact. I have two daughters and one has already become a woman though she is not even in her teens. And I would like her to be informed about what could happen to her and what options are available to her than suffer the consequences of my false sense of pious morality.

‘Land Of My Forefathers Has Descended From Paradise Deep Into Hell’

Welcome Speech In Houston By Tamil Attorney George R. Willy published in this weeks Sunday Leader.
Your Excellency; Mrs. Rajapaksa; Hon. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee; Hon. Consul General Arora; Distinguished Guests; Ladies and Gentlemen.
Welcome your Excellency to this great city. If you can ignore the oak trees and the mockingbirds, you could easily mistake this for Sri Lanka. It is in Sri Lanka that I was born, and my mother and the parents of my wife Shanti, our grandfathers and our grandmothers are all buried under the sacred soil of my motherland. I grew up, your Excellency, in Jaffna and moved to Colombo when I was only 10 years old. My wife is from Badulla and grew up in Diyathalawa, where her father was a well respected Captain.
I have smelt the sweetness of margosa trees in Jaffna and tasted the red jambu fruits that left red stains on my white shirts as I walked to school in Colombo. I know the lure of jack fruits ripening on the tree as the crows begin to break them open. I have seen the bright colored pandals during Vesak and shamelessly eaten the food at the dansalas meant for the poor and I have heard the chanting in the kovils and inhaled the smell of jasmines and the josticks.
I have heard the bells of All Saints’ Church as I assisted Father Herath during mass. But since I left Sri Lanka in 1975, there has been such pain, such sorrow and such agony. The mighty Mahaweli Ganga that usually brings its sacred waters to the paddy fields spat out blood, both Sinhalese and Tamil. From up here in the United States, I have watched the land of my forefathers descend from Paradise deep into Hell. No one can say with any certainty who is to blame. But the time for blaming is long gone.
Your Excellency, you are descended from Duttu Gemunu and my people from Elara. Remember how Duttu Gemunu fought Elara on his elephant Kandula and killed Elara. Duttu Gemunu, of course, is still remembered for uniting Sri Lanka for the first time. But he is also remembered for something else. After defeating and killing Elara, he built a monument for Elara out of respect for his worthy opponent. He ordered all citizens of the land to stop, dismount, and pay respect to Elara. In so doing, he not only showed what a great nobleman he was but also proved to be a great politician. He knew that he had to rule the Tamil people too after the defeat of Elara.
Your Excellency, fate and fortune and your great political skills have placed you at a unique point in history. Children, in years to come, will read in their history books that a great leader, a great warrior by the name of Mahinda Rajapaksa finally defeated the rebellion after nearly 25 years when several before him failed. They may even say that you are the Duttu Gemunu of the 21st Century. But if you want to wear Gemunu’s mantle, your Excellency, then you will have to build a monument too. That monument does not have to be a dagoba or a building. It will have to be new policy backed by law with teeth to enforce.
Do not make the mistake that sparked the ‘58 riots. Do not hold back Tamil youth who want to get into universities. Do not make the Tamils feel as though they are second class citizens. Respect their religions and respect their language. There is something about the Tamil people you need to know, Your Excellency. To them their language is God. There are only a few cultures in the world that have such devotion to their language.
You were trained as a lawyer, and in your early career you were a formidable defender of human rights. Now, you have the popularity; you have the power of a hero like Julius Caesar returning to Rome from his conquests. No one can deny you what you ask. Ask the parliament to pass some of the entrenched clauses you and I read in law school when we had to study the Soulbury Constitution. If you need my help, I will give it free as many in this audience would. The Tamil people are naked and hungry looking for you to assure them that there is a place for them. Make sure they have one. You killed one Prabhakaran, but do not let another one grow. You cannot prevent another one with swords and guns. You can only do that with your heart and wisdom. The compassion, truth, and justice you learned from the Buddha are the only weapons you will need.
According to Dhammapada, Buddha said: “Hatred does not cease by hatred at any time: hatred ceases by love, this is an old rule.”
Your Excellency, as you leave this fair city and return to Sri Lanka, promise me that the ten-year-old boy walking to school tomorrow in his white shirt will have no other red stain than from the jambu fruit, the morning crow will not open anything other than the jack fruit, that there will be nothing else hanging from the margosa tree than the fruits I smelt. Your Excellency, return us to Paradise! Return us to Paradise!

University Students the new Tigers.

Somehow after listening to all the drivel spewing out of the government propaganda machine - specially about the international conspiracy to make the students rebel - I can't help but wonder if this is true. After all nothing unites Sri Lanka like a common enemy to beat to a pulp. That way it keeps the eyes and minds off more unsavory things. Wonder who will it will be next?

We are not talking to fools you Idiot!

I was driving peacefully enjoying the empty road and listening to some beautiful oldies on Gold FM. It was a blissful moment. And then of course a commercial interrupted it and shattered my bliss like a bomb being thrown at a wedding. This particular spot was about an air conditioner which would cost only 150 bucks a day. Listening to this spot irritated me beyond belief. I think it was because it took me back in time to a time when I was dealing with certain clients who consider that their customers absolutely dumb. They want to simplify there proposition to the lowest possible value thinking it would make it more interesting for the gullible consumer who would swallow his spiel hook line and sinker. Firstly I am sure you can't pay for this AC on a daily basis and it has to be a monthly fee. Secondly 4500 bucks a month for an air conditioner is an excellent rate which (I believe) is far more attractive to someone who would want one. And more importantly afford one. Surely they can't be misguided into thinking that some one like a three wheel driver would rush an buy air conditioner just because its available at that price without factoring in how much more they would have to pay for their electricity. And I would argue that the spot would go over the head of a prime prospect as he would not bother to do the math. I can remember reading somewhere once, a quote by a legendary advertising figure who said "the consumer is not an idiot she is your wife" well guess these guys never heard of it.

A classic case of too much business!

I always thought I cut an imposing figure but it seems sometimes their seems to be a mismatch between what we think and how others perceive it. As was aptly displayed when I stepped into Fresh Fish to get my weekly dose of sea food. I was completely ignored by the service staff behind the counter. Either they were blind or I was invisible. Well it has to be the latter because they were seeing all the other customers who came in after me well enough to serve them.
I waited and waited for about twenty minutes and then left in a huff thinking to myself that I was going to take my business elsewhere. But oh the shame of it! I realized there was nowhere else I could take my business to. The lure of the large prawns were too tempting. I swallowed my pride and went back in and complained to the sales supervisor and got someone to serve me. But even after I was served it took a good 20 - 30 minutes to get my order to the check out counter because I had to get one fish cleaned and sliced. Generally the clean the prawns and give but apparently they did not have enough people to do so. This is with over ten people behind the counter plus supervisors who look after customer welfare. Somehow I don't think there were more than 20 customers to be served at any given point. If you look at the numbers there shouldn't have been any problem in servicing all the customers without a problem. But it seemed that they lacked a proper system. I must say now I have new respect for the Keells Super guys who carry out a much larger operation with a similar staff.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

One night’s shelter – from home to homelessness - who said drugs and religion does not mix?

Picking up a book written by a monk to get information on drugs probably sounds completely unbelievable. But then sometimes fact is stranger than fiction. If I had seen this book in a bookstore I would have passed over it because the cover looks so boring. The only reason I started reading it was one of my colleagues described it as an almanac of Drugs in Sri Lanka and Asia and I wanted to know if there was anything that I did not know about. But what I found was an insightful and entertaining story about an American hippie who ultimately became a monk in Sri Lanka. He started searching for self realization with the help of drugs but ends up in finding it in something completely opposite: monk hood. This story is even more entertaining because most of it is set in Sri Lanka. The only down side is that this book is not available in any of the popular book stores in Colombo. If you are keen to buy it you would have to look at the shops which sell Buddhist Publications. It is a pity because the story rocks.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A sign of the times.

A friend found this on Facebook and mailed it to me wonder where this sign is but don't you love the last one. Gives the phrase "Doggy style" a new meaning.

Monday, October 18, 2010

I didn't know Jack!!!

Till I saw “You don’t know Jack”!

A truer word has not been written on these blog pages my friend was that the first time I heard of him was when I picked up the movie by the same title completely by accident. But thankfully it did the trick of transforming what was turning out to be a bit of a dull Saturday night at home to an extremely interesting one. Just in case you don’t know what I am talking to it is a movie. A movie about a true life doctor called Jack Kervokian who was renowned for his eccentric and morbid ways. Specially on his views about terminally ill patients being given the freedom to die. And to assist in doing so he made a little gadget where a patient could pull a string and activate his own death. The film starred Al Pacino and Susan Sarandon.

I have always loved Al Pacino’s acting skills but it was a treat to see him perform as a 70 year old man bent in two. Jack Kerkovian intrigued me so much that I did an internet search on him and found that Al Pacino really looked like the real JK.

I also found out that JK was a painter though most of his paintings were really morbid. I just thought of posting some on here so you can see what I mean.

However it was a well directed movie and something which you should not miss if you like a good drama.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The down side of being humble!

Simply said it is bad for business.

That is what I learnt when I was having a chat with a respected friend regarding a mutual client. He said this individual thinks me and my company is not capable because we are not as obnoxiously loud and abrasive as some of the others in the industry we operate in.

It hurt to hear this but then isn't it true that the truth hurts? And deep down in my heart I knew it was true.

Because I have been told the same thing once before by another CEO when I wrote him a letter of introduction. He met me secretly later as I was recommended highly to him by someone he respected and he desperately needed my services to get him out of the mess the company was in. So subsequently I did get the business. But when I told him that I had written to him previously and had no response he said “CJ I did not even think it was from the same company which was described to me… your letter was too humble; when people talk about you they talk great things about you and your team and the great work you guys are doing but your letter was so down to earth that I thought you were some new kid on the block begging for a foot in the door.”

I always took pride in the fact that I was not like the others in my profession. Generally they tended to talk big and could be described as all hype but of very little substance. I preferred to be quiet, calm and collected. The one who would under promise but over deliver. I was always aware that by being so I was swimming against the tide. And it would be a disadvantage initially where everyone is used to glib smooth talk. But that is the way I am and it is difficult for me to be what I am not. Over the past few years it has brought good results for me. I have been able to attract a talented and dedicated team and also build strong relationships with my clients who greatly value what I do. In fact I was in my comfort zone till I was knocked off my feet by what my friend said. For a couple of hours I was wondering if this was the time to change. But again I realized that I have to be true to my roots and would not enjoy living a lie. So I have made a determined promise to myself that I will change this clients attitude towards my abilities somehow or other.

But of course I will do it quietly.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Management magic Tips

1. Never give me work in the morning.

Always wait until 4:00pm and then bring it to me.

The challenge of a deadline is refreshing.

2. If it's really a "rush job", run in and interrupt me every 10 minutes to
inquire how it's going.

That helps.

Or even better, hover behind me, advising me at every keystroke.

3. Always leave without telling anyone where you're going.

It gives me a chance to be creative when someone asks where you are.

4. Wait until my yearly review and THEN tell me what my goals SHOULD have

Give me a mediocre performance rating with a cost of living increase.

I'm not here for the money anyway.

5. If you give me more than one job to do, don't tell me which is the

I like being a psychic.

6. Do your best to keep me late.

I adore this office and really have nowhere to go or anything to do.

I have no life beyond work.

7. If a job I do pleases you, keep it a secret.

If that gets out, it could mean a promotion.

8. If you don't like my work, tell everyone.

I like my name to be popular in conversations.

I was born to be whipped.

9. If you have special instructions for a job, don't write them down.

In fact, save them until the job is almost done.

No use confusing me with useful information.

10. Never introduce me to the people you're with.

I have no right to know anything.

In the corporate food chain, I am a plankton.

When you refer to them later, my shrewd deductions will identify them.

11. Tell me all your little problems.

No one else has any and it's nice to know someone is less fortunate.

I especially like the story about having to pay so much taxes on the bonus
check you received for being such a good manager.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010

A powerful read: Shanthram by Gregory David Roberts

He is an ex-con, ex-junkie, ex-dope pusher and unbelievably EXcellent writer. I came across the book Shantaram one day when I was browsing around at the little store at Paradise Road Gallery Café. Though the book was a bit pricey – coming to think of it isn’t anything pricey at this place I was mad to discover the same edition 200/- less at the Odel Books Store a couple of days later- but the cover really piqued my interest and I decided to take the plunge and buy it. This is one of the best books I have read in recent times. And in my mind I place it with great reads the like of “It” by Stephen King and “Exodus” by Leon Uris. I was expecting an action packed book more like a good Mickey Rourke movie but what I found was something utterly fascinating gentle and philosophical. Even though the story line was built on a foundation of violence and deceit. One of the lines which are etched into my mind is “There are no good people or bad people only good deeds and bad deeds” Now how deep is that.

Shantaram is not just a book; it is a sojourn, a spiritual journey into life that shows that even the most complex and powerful systems have at their core a simple and beautiful pattern. As a great poet had once said “Simple is the seal of truth, and beauty is the splendour of truth.” Shantaram reinforces one’s belief in those words." This was how it was described in one of the more well written reviews I read online and I can tell you I can’t agree with the writer more.

Identity crises 2

This is not a setup picture! But a real life display I came across on my recent trip to Yala at the little shop called “Freedom Café” just outside the wild life booking office.

While at first glance it seems laughable I personally think it’s a great achievement for Wild Elephant. The reason I am saying so is I happened to speak to a guy who launched Red Bull in the local market. And he was saying that the money they put behind promotions was far more than the total turnover of the sales of the product for one year. This was due to the strong belief of Dietrich Mateschitz - the eccentric owner of Red Bull - that if the brand is looked after and nurtured the sales will automatically follow. Can you imagine any local entrepreneur taking up such a position? Not any one that I know for sure. So Wild Elephant was launched a couple of years back with a fraction of the 300 million bucks Red Bull puts behind its brand in Sri Lanka. Guess these guys are doing something right because the people of the shop seems that Wild Elephant is the second best energy drink to promote when Red Bull is not available. And this is not in the swanky restaurants or night clubs in Colombo.