Monday, March 12, 2012

The Cage by Gordon Weiss – Another trip down memory lane

A trip to a hot humid night in December 2007.
 Myself and a Dutch lady who was married to my friend who had come down and two other friends one of who was in the army were having a deep discussion in the middle of the night. The Dutch lady was telling us how the only way to peace was through negotiations and that there was not one country in the world where terrorism has been beaten. I too shared her opinion. During this period the war was being brutally fought and the Sri Lankan forces had not made significant gains. My friend from the army was leading troops in the front lines. And as the argument flared he very confidently told us that within one and a half years they would win the war. This was not mere wishful thinking according to him. He said that this was the first time in the history of the war that the forces had the manpower the equipment and the political backing to achieve their objectives. And one and a half years later on the 18th of May when Sri Lanka announced to the world that the war was won I couldn’t help but think back to how accurate my friend’s prediction was.
Of course we all know what really happened during the last few days of the war are shrouded in a blanket of mystery and there are lots of opinions floating around. It was to shed some light on this that I started wanting to read “The Cage” by Gordon Weiss. Sadly there was not even on copy available. One of my friends had checked all over and he was told that the only copy available was at the Vijitha Yapa book shop in the airport. Which wasn’t any help at all.
 Amazingly a couple of days ago when I was in Liberty Plaza I ran into Rohan who owns this little book cupboard in front of Uthum pathum. Just for the heck of it I asked if he had a copy – I mean I had nothing to lose – and amazingly he dug into his pile of books and voila out came a copy of “The Cage”. Apparently he had got three copies just a couple of days back. One of which I was glad to relieve him of.
I did read the book to the end. But I have mixed reactions. Firstly it was tough reading. One has to wade through the first few chapters of the book as it gives quite a lot of historical and political background. And some of the atrocities described in it are chilling. Some people called this book biased but I did not think so. It did call a spade a spade and was quite straight forward in its criticism of both the LTTE as well as the government of Sri Lanka. What this book has done was put a lot of information which was floating around into one document. But if I were to ask the question did I learn something new earth shatteringly new about what happened during the end of the war? The answer has to be a resounding NO.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Exes Ex

 Awkard is…
being in a house with your ex and the kid you guys made together. With your ex’s ex wife. and her boyfriend. And your ex’s current girlfriend.
When I read these words in bubble butts blog post I couldn’t help but wonder if I would ever get to face something similar. And amazingly a couple of weeks later I did. Well not to the scale of the experience of bubble butt but maybe quite a few notches down the pole so to speak. To appreciate the plot you need to know the characters in the story. There is NA who was my girl friend at that time. And then there is RC who happened to be a mutual friend of both. We were buddies and all three of us used to hang out together quite a lot. When I and NA parted ways RC and NA got close and then they got married. Of course all this developments meant that RC and I drifted apart. It was awkward to be friends and hangout when ones wife is your ex. Many years later RC and NA parted ways. But RC and I never connected because by then we had our own social networks and lives to lead. And our social circles rarely overlapped. Suddenly a couple of months ago I got a face book request from RC. And we started connecting via fb chat and then via phone and amazingly I ran into him at a clients function where we got talking. And as we spoke the old camaraderie we shared came back. It was like old times once again. It certainly is great to have old friends back in your life.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Ironic “Ironic”

I was watching the voice the other day and one of the songs being performed was “Ironic” by Alanis Morissette. It triggered a memory of a conversation over drinks me and my buddy JD had when the song was extremely popular  about the fact that some of the situations outlined in ironic is really not that ironic at all.
For instance rain on your wedding day is bad luck.
Or a fly in your Chardonnay is just a downright nuisance
Even a traffic jam when you are late is a hassle.
No smoking sign on your cigarette break??? Are we working on plane????
And meeting the wife of the man of your dreams??? Well I would call it a bloody shame.
Guess this is a great example of how desperate people get when they have writers block and need to complete a song on time.
Nevertheless it is a great song and I love listening to it. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

In the shadow of a Peoples president by Evans Cooray. A book that took me down memory lane

I came across this book completely by accident.
It was a Sunday evening and I wanted some time to myself. So there I was sitting in the Odel book store trying to make myself inconspicuous when I spotted it lying in a corner on the lower end of a shelf virtually invisible. I am sure if I was not seated on that chair I would have missed seeing this completely. I realized that I knew the author who happened to be the father of one of the guys I used to hang out with when I was at school. Though we have lost touch completely now.
I am glad I did not resist the impulse to buy this book. It proved to be quite insightful and was written in a very simple fashion making it quite easy to read.
This book also took me down memory lane. Premadasa’s rise in power coincided with the period of my youth where I was showing a keen interest in politics. I was young and idealistic then and believed that democracy was the solution for everything. Now after seeing the donkeys in parliament I believe third world countries such as us cannot afford the luxury of democracy and does require some kind of authoritarian figure. A benevolent dictator so to speak. I did not agree with some of his intimidation tactics and forceful manner. I regret to say I was one of those who hated him when he was in power and rejoiced when I heard of his death. But today I think losing his leadership was one of the biggest impediments to the development of our country.
Some of those who read this might have been quite young during this era so I would like to dwell on some of the changes he made. He was all about getting a job done. During his tenure government offices were functioning as smoothly as the mercantile sector. You could go to a kacheri and get a copy of a birth certificate within one day. Something one would not even dream of in previous times. He also showed immense compassion to the poor of this country. He was up and working from 4.30 in the morning till late into the night. And he provided the common man with an unprecedented level of access to him. One could go and personally speak to him about his or her problem if they could make it to Sucharitha before dawn.
Many of us in Colombo criticized him and his projects. Specially the  Gam Udawa  scheme which was seen as an absolute waste of money. Time called it the grandest birthday party in the world because it started on his birthday and ended on his wife's birthday. But I have visited some of these celebrations in remote locations and seen with my very eyes how grateful the people of those areas are to be able to experience and witness such an event first hand. For instance some of them would never have seen what the inside of an aircraft if they did not step in to the Air Lanka (now Sri Lankan) mockup which was on display.
This also triggered another memory about some background info I had on his death which I had squirreled away in a murky corner of the memory vaults till now. It is bound to make interesting reading.
As you know Premadasa like most politicians today places a lot of faith in astrology and the powers of the Occult. One of the reasons he was fearless about stepping out amongst the thousands on that fateful Mayday even though it was a time fraught with danger due to terrorist threats was because he had brought down some Malayalam Soothsayers who were chanting protective blessings over him at his office. And he believed those mantras would make him invincible.  One of my neighbors who hail from a long line of Ayurvedic physicians and soothsayers was very close to him happened to be with him at that time and heard the Soothsayers. He realized that what they were chanting was wrong or would not provide adequate protection.  But there was no way he could tell the president that because he would not have been believed and the president would have got angry with him and thought he was jealous of the more expensive foreign soothsayers.
 Guess my neighbor was proved right in the end but all in all it was our country and us who lost the most.
I still wonder what Sri Lanka would be like if he was here today.

The blast from the past.

Remember the old flame which I wrote about on here many moons ago?
Well the good news is there is a continuation to the story. When I did not get an answer for a long time  I thought my fb mail to would have been ignored. But amazingly many weeks later I got a reply. It seems that she is part of the minority that does not spend a lot of time on FB and does not check her mail regularly. But her tone was friendly – guess time is a great healer – and we did exchange our regular email addresses and begun corresponding. And things progressed from emails to text messages to lets meet up for coffee.
 I was quite nervous. And coming to think of it I am sure she would have been too. After all we were meeting after a gap of 25 years! A number which was higher than our age when we knew each other. Would we hate each other at first sight? Would we start fighting? Should I shake her hand or give her a hug? These were some of the questions which were going through my mind. As expected things were a bit reserved during the first few moments. Both of us were tongue tied wondering what to say. So much time has passed so many things had changed. It was tense. But then as the minutes passed and the conversation became less forced and more genuine all the awkwardness just crumbled away. And we ended up talking for nearly ninety minutes much to the ire of the stewards at the coffee shop.  And today I can consider her a close friend.


All I wanted to do

was make you smile

to wipe the tears away from your eyes

But as time passed

The smiles did  dry

The tears however never died

Looking up to the heavens I sigh

Constantly asking why?