Monday, January 30, 2012

Shehans's Colombo

This article appeared on Newsweek. SK is one of my favourite writers and as expected I found this article absolutely amazing and a treat to read. So I am reproducing it here to share it with everyone who might not be able to or have the chance to browse through this weeks issue of Newsweek or was it last last week? I sincerely hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
If a visitor is planning a trip to Sri Lanka, I usually advise that they skip Colombo. Not being harsh, but on the island’s buffet table of scenic delights, the city is very much a side dish.

Shehan Karunatilaka Reflects On Colombo, Sri Lanka

On first glimpse, it’s just another Asian metropolis, trying to peddle that East-meets-West thing. Not as berserk as Mumbai, not as sober as Singapore. Most travelers will drive straight through, en route to the beaches down south, the hilltops out east, or the fallen kingdoms up north.

If you’re in Sri Lanka to upload pics, there may be some boxes for you to tick. The sun setting over the kites on Galle Face Green. The city ablaze with light and color during Vesak. Elephants by Beira Lake in full-moon fancy dress. Or the Town Hall that looks like the White House next to that mosque that resembles the Kremlin.

But cities aren’t just for tourists. Dismount from your air-conditioned car into the heat and the dust, and you’ll find that there’s plenty below the surface if you’re only willing to scratch.

The Greeks, Romans, and Persians used Colombo’s harbor as a trading port. The Portuguese built their fort here and commanded the coast. The Dutch seized the city in the bloody siege of 1656, before ceding it to the British a century and a half later. Every colonizer left his paw prints. You see it in the clock towers, the schools, and the grand hotels. In the railway line that snakes between Galle Road and the coast and in the cricket games that fill every street. Colombo’s the only city in the world with four test-match venues, a place where the game is practiced as a religion and celebrated as a carnival. Cricket binds this city, as it does a nation not short of divisions.

Colombo houses many worlds. From the malls of Bambalapitiya to the palaces of Cinnamon Gardens; from the dives of Slave Island to the balconies of Havelock Town. It’s a city that straddles the beautiful and the banal, that wavers between tacky and transcendent. Pathways decorated with lush trees and colorful kovils run by rickety billboards and smelly canals. Roads crowded with buses, trishaws, and trucks make way for motorcades of Pajeros and Lamborghinis. Gaudy casinos rub shoulders with churches and pavements full of kitch lead to cafes jeweled in high art.

It’s a city that doesn’t know where it’s going but is determined to get there. Today Colombo seeks to reinvent itself. Where once there were checkpoints, high structures are rising. Walls will be knocked down, highways extended, and slums replaced with greenery. While the sun shines without pause and the monsoon comes and goes as it pleases, everyone pretends to forget about the slaughters of the past. The burnings of 1983, the explosions of ’87, the abductions of ’89. The electoral bloodbaths, the prolonged power failures, and the parade of assassinations that punctuated the 1990s.

Today, we prefer to remember the victories. The cups won, the guns silenced, the bigotry overcome. We ignore the ghosts of the unresolved, the unconsoled, and the unforgiven that haunt our present. We try to celebrate our many communities and remind ourselves that we have no more excuses. No more war to hold us back, no more scapegoats to blame.

Because the city no longer belongs to the rulers who deface it, the thugs who defile it, or the bureaucrats who slow it down. It belongs to street vendors who serve up glorious kottu. To the trishaws adorned with misspelled slogans. To the bloggers who share secrets and the lovers who hide under umbrellas. It belongs to the girls with their straightened hair, the workers crammed into wobbly buses, and the strays that prowl its streets. To the drunks that mix arrack with baila and to the theatre groups that dish up biting satire and hammy acting. To those who appear in Colombo’s gossip mags and those who pretend not to read them.

Colombo is both big city and small town. And, like the nation it belongs to, it is on the cusp of something. Something that could be wonderful or malign. It is poised on a precipice, about to plummet or to soar.

For those who live here, who’ve seen it morph from city by the sea to garrison town to this shiny emblem of our unseen future, Colombo offers its own buffet table of delights. It may not be a city that you instantly fall in love with, but it is one that you grow to adore.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Some guys have all the luck?

Hmm I came across this on FB and could not help re-posting.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Dawn

A Magical night...

A Beautiful beach… 

Colorful Lanterns.. twinkling Christmas lights

The beach is crowded with people from all across the world

Wisps of music assail our ears

As we sit back; relax and chill.

I feel the cool breeze against my skin

As the warmth of the first sip of my drink hits me

I watch a sky rocket lazily wind up and explode

And a beautiful magic Chinese lantern float up to the sky

I make a wish as I see it disappear into a tiny dot

That there would be many more dawns such as this

With you by my side…

Sunday, January 22, 2012

My “Why this Kolaveri Di!” story!

Oh goodness I got on the Kolaveri band wagon so late – actually when it was going out of fashion – but am so glad to have found it. I loved it so much that I had to find out more about the song. And realized the phrase “Kolaveri” means “Murderous Rage”. The guy singing is asking his girl friend why she is so angry. Well I am quite sure you know all this already. But this song is the perfect title for a story I want to share. About something which happened to a close friend of mine.
He was in love with this girl. But he was in a marriage and she was going through a divorce which meant circumstances prevented them from being together as much as they wanted to. This lead to lots of stresses and fighting and the relationship was strained and in the end they decided to part and still remain friends.
When they were together he had given her a handmade birthday card. It was not very pretty in fact it was an A4 sheet folded in two. But the idea behind it was how the letters of her name were a part of his name and how if those words were removed his name would not have any meaning any more. Anyway he still cared for her a lot and made sure her interests were looked after even though she may or may have not realized it. One day he met a lady missionary who he thought would be of immense help to this girl as she was going through a lot of mental stress and trauma. So my friend engineered a meeting and made sure that they got to know one another.  My friend, the girl we are talking about and a few others were all working on a project together. My friend made sure the missionary invited her for Christmas dinner because she was going to be alone on Christmas day otherwise. The dinner was a success and everything was fine. During a conversation the girl told my friend the lady missionary’s birthday was a couple of days away. Sensing an opportunity to spend some time with the girl my friend decided to organize a dinner for the lady missionary and the team who were involved in the project. He even asked the girl to find out what kind of food the lady missionary liked. Anyway one night my friend and the lady missionary were having a conversation via email and the conversation led to food and my friend informed her about his plans of taking everyone out for dinner. The next day the missionary met the girl and told her about the invitation for dinner. For some reason the girl became quite upset that she was not informed in advance about the invitation being extended to the missionary though she knew that the dinner was planned.  And from that time onwards she started behaving quite crazily towards my friend who was trying to pacify her. After all the main reason he did it was because of her. Anyway things did not go well and it all came to a climax on the day the dinner took place. Of course the girl had refused to attend the dinner. And as the dinner was progressing she created face book mail/group-chat message where she put the picture of the inside of the birthday card my friend had given her along with a message about how cheap and uncaring my friend was for not treating her in the same fashion that he treated the lady missionary. According to her all what my friend had given her was a folded paper. What was sad also some of the other people who were part of this chat was making remarks encouraging further dissent.
To say my friend was shocked beyond belief is an understatement. He had never intended for things to go this way. But to his credit he did not respond to any of messages going up and down.  And the raging fire of jealousy and hatred has died down. Hopefully this would also mean that what remained of the embers of their relationship too would be extinguished with the fire. Though it is difficult to say when you are referring to people’s emotions. But one thing is for sure who ever said that Hell hath no fury like a woman (who believes she is – at least in this case) scorned was absolutely correct.

Monday, January 16, 2012

An unlikely place to find a decent sandwich at a decent price!

You always find rarest of thing in the most unlikely places. 
In this case a decent sandwich at a decent price. Trust me it is indeed difficult to find. Especially in Fort where the options are expensive Barista which does not necessarily mean good quality or the not so expensive low grade Perera and Sons muck. Of course I found my sandwich haven in the last place one would expect - if you are on a hunt to satisfy your hunger pangs that is - because it was in a tea bar. The Heladiv Tea bar or lounge to be precise. At the Dutch Hospital in Fort.
An interesting side note. I was with a group of visitors from overseas when it was discussed that we should be having lunch at Dutch hospital. The confused/concerned look on their faces was priceless.
If you haven't been to this place you should. It is sad that it has not created any kind of buzz. Especially when compared to all the excitement the fraud Starbucks created. By the way pardon the bad quality pictures it seems I have been shaking with anticipation when clicking.

Anyway, I found the place absolutely calm and tranquil. The d├ęcor was unique too. At least it was not a cross between Bawa and Paradise Road. I loved the sofas they had it was made from some kind of foam and absolutely heavenly to sit on. I did not sample any of the beverages or desserts. Both which looked absolutely nice and tempting. However the sandwiches were out of this world. The bread was fresh and fresh and so was the salad which accompanied it. It was simple but you could taste the freshness something you don't experience at Barista. I had tandoori chicken but what was really interesting was the beef sandwich as it looked as if it was made out of corned beef. Next time I am going to try it for sure. 
Another side note. After much guessing I finally found out what kind of restaurant WIP is. It is a German Restaurant. I went there for a meal the other day and the food was excellent though the menu did not hold that much variety. A special mention has to be made of the spare ribs which I had. It was truly out of this world. If you have been to any of these two places do let me know what your experience was like.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Never ignore the words of a lesser being...

Or someone who you consider a lesser being. 
Even if you are Enzo Ferrari because you never know what that guy would do. 
In this particular case he went and started manufacturing his own high performance automobile which we know of today as Lamborghini. This is a true story I heard when I was having a chat with some friends the other day. I first thought it was some kind of joke but when I did some serious research – well if you consider typing Lamborghini Story on Google serious research that is – I found it all to be quite true. Now let me do a marvelous job of cutting and pasting the important bit of the article I found so you don’t have to be bothered with navigating to another web page. So here goes:
Ferruccio Lamborghini was born in Italy in 1916. He was fascinated with engines from an early age. During World War II he joined the army and was stationed on the island of Rhodes. Fortunately there was little going on there during the war.  The island was essentially isolated from the rest of  world. Any cars, trucks or motorcycles that broke down had to be repaired on the spot with reused parts.  Lamborghini became known as a wizard at mechanical improvisation and became very much in demand at fixing engines.
After the war he returned to his home near Modena in northern Italy and setup a small car and motorcycle repair shop.  He soon realized that there was a desperate need for tractors in the agricultural area in which he lived. He found he could build about one tractor a month from derelict military vehicles. As Italy's economy grew demand for his high quality tractors started
to grow. He began building his own tractor engines. His tractor business became very successful reaching a rate of over 400 a month in 1960. He soon looked at expanding the business and in 1960 began manufacturing heaters and air conditioning units for buildings as well as maintaining the tractor business. This too became very successful.
About this time Lamborghini started to get interested in developing a high performance car. He had owned Oscas, Maseratis and Ferraris but was always disappointed with them.  Particularly their engines. There is a now famous story about how he was frustrated with problems he had with a clutch in a Ferrari (a Ferrari 250 GT), and went to visit Enzo Ferrari who's factory was nearby. Enzo had no time for a tractor manufacture and simply dismissed him. Lamborghini decided there was nothing Ferrari was doing he could not do better. He decided too build his own car with a V12 engine.  For the design he found a very talented engineer named Giampaolo Dallara who had previously worked on a Ferrari V12 engine.
 And I thought to myself isn’t it amazing what some persons anger can do? And pride? Maybe it is not a bad thing after all.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Just another year?

Certainly not in my case.
As I look back at the year that was I have mixed emotions. The one phrase to describe it would be “Pain and Pleasure”. It was a rollercoaster ride of emotions. And as I look back I can relate to the famous words of Charles Dickens when he wrote “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom. It was the age of foolishness”. I have known the heights of joy and experienced gut wrenching misery. I found love and then lost it. I shed tears of happiness and tears of sadness. If the past year was a movie I would just cut the first half and play it on a continuous loop. And hope that it never stops.
But sadly time waits for nobody. And sometimes what goes up has to come down.