Archive for January, 2008

The Guilty Popsicle

January 24, 2008

I posted this sometime back, but felt it was apt to re-post it….

Here was I sitting around with a smoke and not doing or thinking about anything in particular, when the sight of an ice cream cart trundling by, took me back in time. All the way back to 1983. Strange huh? 

Well, not really, when you consider the fact that I have a very good reason to associate ice cream carts and popsicles in particular with what happened in July of 1983. Now for most of you the very mention of that specific month in the year of ’83 will hold many memories, none of which I’m sure have even the remotest connection to ice cream. So why then do I? 

While my memories of that day are not totally complete, I do have this series of snap shots that somehow don’t seem to leave my mind, so let me take you through them and hopefully you’ll see the connection for yourself. 

Snapshot 1: Me playing with some of my classmates (not sure what the game was) during the morning interval. 

Snapshot 2: Panicked parents arriving and dragging my friends away. The words they were saying are total gibberish. 

Snapshot 3: My brother, his classmate and myself making our merry way down the leafy lanes of Mount Mary. Quite thrilled to be allowed to leave school early. 

Snapshot 4: A very loud and violent crowd screaming and shouting around an overturned ice cream truck. 

Snapshot 5: A cash box being flung high up in the air and money tumbling like rain out of the sky. 

Snapshot 6: A sarong and vest clad man (scary looking, like the ‘gonibilla’ we had been warned against) shouting something unintelligible at us. 

Snapshot 7: This same scary man offering us a huge bag full of popsicles and icy chocks, which we promptly refused saying we didn’t have any money to pay for them. 

Snapshot 8: The bag being shoved into our hands and being cheerfully waved away as sudden flames sprouted from the ice cream truck. 

Snapshot 9: The three of us continuing on our merry way, now even merrier thanks to the generous stranger. 

Snapshot 10: (which is not too clear, maybe it didn’t happen) Being scolded by my brother’s classmate’s father for taking the popsicles. 

Snapshot 11: My dad’s relieved yet tense face when he came to pick us up. 

Snapshot 12: Sitting on the petrol tank of my dad’s bike and seeing lots of scared and angry people. 

Snapshot 13: Burning cars, burning buildings, lots of fire and smoke. 

Snapshot 14: A moth balls factory on fire and looking like the gateway to Hell itself. 

Snapshot 15: My mom’s scared face and hearing the panic in her voice as she spoke about my uncles and aunts. 

Snapshot 16: the worried faces of our house owners as they spoke to my dad about the gang planning to visit our home in the night. 

Snapshot 17: Standing at the rear fence of our house and watching another house burning. 

Snapshot 18: My dad speaking to the leader of the gang and explaining in broken Sinhala that we were burghers, not Tamils. 

Snapshot 19: Sitting in the house with no lights on as yet another house down the lane was broken into and set on fire. 

Snapshot: 20: screams of terror and rage in the night. 

Snapshot 21: Walking with my dad through the refugee camp set up in the Kollupitiya Methodist Church Grounds and seeing friends from Sunday School sleeping on mats and wearing someone else’s clothes. 

Snapshot 22: Wondering if the Ice cream truck owner was there and watching me… 

Up to date I still feel a sense of guilt when I remember how much I enjoyed those free popsicles, and wonder if while I was happily feeding my face, some poor family was being burnt alive.  

So is it really all that strange that I associate ice cream trucks and popsicles with July of 1983?

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A disappointing trip to Galle

January 21, 2008

Saturday was a much anticipated day. It marked the session on blogging at the Galle Literary Festival and was something I was looking forward to as it was probably the first time blogging has been addressed as a topic in Sri Lanka.

Having left Colombo at the crack of dawn (which was delayed to around 9.00 am just for us), we made our leisurely way down the coast. Things started off pretty good with the traffic being not too irritating and a stop at Hikkaduwa to sample the famous ‘rotis’.

Having reached Galle with some time to spare before the session, we walked about a bit and then decided to grab a seat. The location for the the event was the Maritime Museum which is in the process of being restored to its former glory. Quite a nice choice of location I felt. Of course, the stage could have done a bit more to blend in with the venue instead of looking rather like a political rally stage. But hey, it wasn’t too bad.

The session began with the panel members being introduced to us and it was nice to finally be able to put a face to the names of some of the most famous local bloggers. It was even nicer to see the inclusion of a ‘VBlogger’ from Mahavilachchiya on the stage. From then on however I felt the session sort of lost direction. The subject was meant to be ‘can bloggers be taken seriously?’, but the discussion as a whole hardly touched on this subject. It meandered around the reasons each of them actually blogged or maintained a blog and also the role certain blogs (Groundviews for example) play in Sri Lanka’s present situation. The session ended with an informal question and answer section.

All in all, I left the session feeling disappointed. Having posed a question in the title, the session itself failed to provide a sufficient answer. I felt the moderator should have played a much bigger role in concentrating the discussion to the specific topic. While I discovered why certain people blogged, I didn’t find out why they should be taken seriously.

I also felt the time allocated to this sort of discussion was way too short. It wasn’t enough to even scratch the surface of the topic, let alone arrive at a proper conclusion. Maybe the organisers should relook at how they allocate time for each session after discussing it with the respective panel members.

So, while it was nice to have bloggers being recognised at a literary festival, it didn’t come close to being a satisfying experience.

I’m sure there were many more bloggers at the session and I would love to know what they felt about it, so comments are very welcome.

Kill all the bastards…it’s what they deserve!!

January 17, 2008

Who exactly am I referring to here? The entire Tamil population of Sri Lanka of course. Of course, the sentiments expressed in that line are not my own, but those of a friendly neighbourhood trishaw driver.

There was I casually enjoying a long smoke, while trying my best to avoid being roped into doing some work, when this worthy gentleman decided to share with me his profound opinion of the current situation in the country. Now, me being the polite person that I am, felt it best to listen to what he had to say without hurting his feelings. I subsequently wished I had promptly butted out my smoke in his ear and walked away!

It all started very innocently, he sympathised with me about the rising cost of living and how hard it must be for middle class people such as me to survive these days (I wonder if there was a hint of sarcasm that I failed to see at the time), and then went on to talk about yesterday’s events. It was at this point that I started to get a faint inkling of where the conversation was headed.

He gave me a very concise and apparently well informed situation report on what was going on at the war front. About how good the armed forces were at killing hoards of barbaric terrorists, and how well the air-force bombing raids were going awesomely well. I guess he has the privilege of sitting in at high level defence ministry briefings, because at this point he leaned in close, and informed me in a stage whisper about the brand new rocket bombs the armed forces have acquired recently. Apparently these marvels of modern warfare are capable of totally exterminating all living beings in the entire Northern Peninsular with one massed strike!

Having being shocked into prolonged silence at being allowed to share in these top secret goings-on, I was a bit taken aback when this not-so-worthy-gentleman suddenly started on the woes of being a tri-shaw driver. But of course his intentions became much clearer when he revealed that his usual parking haunt has been ‘invaded’ by two Tamil drivers. Apparently these two scoundrels have had the cheek to undertake hires without asking him if he would like to have first pick. For this heinous crime, they too were lumped together with the terrorists, and in his opinion should be carted off to the North to await the apocalypse.

Much to my relief, this gentleman who was no longer exhibiting any signs of gentleness, was called away on a hire. Of course, he had to leave me with a passing shot. “We should kill all the bastards…. after-all its what they deserve.”

If this person, who normally is a very friendly individual, is any indication of what the majority in Sri Lanka think , we’re in for a whole load of shit!!

Show the world we mean business!!

January 16, 2008

I won’t start this post with what has been happening today, as I’m sure most people already know about the horrendous loss of life that has marked today as one of Sri Lanka’s bloodiest days.

As usual the blogosphere is in a turbulent mix of opinions about what has taken place and what actions should be taken about it. Nothing new about that right? We’ve all got so used to screaming and shouting about an incident for a few days and then happily going about our usual schedule without a care in the world. Nothing it seems has changed in our own lives.

The sad thing about our behaviour is that it is very indicative of the entire war situation in the country. People keep dying and the war just keeps on going back to it’s usual routine. They attack us, we attack them, they bomb us, we bomb them, etc, etc. But nothing seems to be able to change that routine. It seems to be an ingrained part of our society now.

Instead of thinking about what the government and the armed forces should be doing in the short term regarding this latest attacks, we should all be thinking about the long term. As in what are we going to do in order to ensure there is a lasting peace, that keeps everybody happy in the long term, without us having to deal with yet another resurgence of war.

Easier said than done right? Unfortunately whatever solution is put forward, there will always be some party who will be upset or aggrieved about it. But maybe we should be thinking about the greater good of the country and the overall majority (not just the racial majority). We need to have a solution that’s going to prove to everyone that we as a nation definitely want peace. This solution needs to prove to the world that we will go to any lengths to achieve this peace. I have a very simple solution, let’s see if any of our so called leaders will have the balls to stand up for what’s right and do it.

Firstly let’s look at what the main grouse of the LTTE is. Basically, they claim the Tamil people have been discriminated against for decades by the Sinhala majority. Ok, let’s take that at face value, without bothering to argue the point. A simple way to end this grouse would be to ensure there’s absolutely no discrimination when it comes to the way the North-East is treated.

Let’s take a good, hard look at the North-East provinces and decide what the people of those areas are lacking. Firstly, get rid of the check points and army camps. Then, take our country’s entire defence budget, and turn it into a rehabilitation budget for the affected areas. Build them the hospitals, schools, universities, harbours and even airports that they feel they need in order to feel part and parcel of this land. Why not even go to the extent of offering the LTTE leadership advisory roles in the entire project? Let them advise the government on how they feel the people of the North-East can be helped by proper infrastructure development.

If there’re are no longer any armed forces in the area, how can they claim they are being attacked? If the North-East areas are being developed on an aggressive schedule, how can they claim discrimination? Where then are they going to find reasons to continue this war? If the Tamil people are given not just the same treatment, but preferential treatment, won’t that automatically make the LTTE a redundant entity?

We as a nation need to showcase this solution and it’s implementation to the world. Show the international community that as a nation we are willing to starve the majority areas in order to make amends for what has happened before. Invite monitors in to see that we mean business when it comes to rebuilding the war torn areas of this country. Put all our cards on the table and make the honest effort to make peace.

Now I can already hear the nationalistic screams of how such a plan would leave us totally open to attack and ultimate defeat, and yes, if you want to look at it that way, you can. By getting rid of all our armed camps and checkpoints, pumping our entire military budget into a rehab project and letting the LTTE become advisories, we are leaving our throats totally exposed for a killing strike. But isn’t that the whole point? By doing so, we will prove without a doubt to the entire world that we mean business!!

By opening ourselves up to even the most vicious of attacks, we effectively put the ball in the LTTE’s court. From that point on, any attack whatsoever, can be highlighted to the world as an example of what a blood thirsty creature the head of the LTTE is. Let the world community then be the judge of who really is interested in a continuing war and what the real agenda behind it is!

So, there you have it, my simplistic solution to this war. What remains to be seen is if any of our leaders, present or future, will ever have the balls to go against the majority opinion and actually end this war on a peaceful note.

Please oh please, don’t sack me!

January 5, 2008

The developments that have occurred since the start of 2008 are simply mind boggling (at least for me). It started with the killing of a well known political figure and has so far seen the tearing up of the much praised and also maligned CFA (Cease Fire Agreement). It just remains to be seen what else is going to transpire as the year proceeds.

As to the assassination of Mr. Maheshwaran, I guess it’s one more killing in a long line of such that has systematically decimated the Tamil political leadership. Whether this was carried out by the LTTE, or by other interested parties, makes little difference. A valuable life and also a valuable leader who may have been able to contribute greatly to this country has been lost.

Right now the authorities are embroiled in the usual finger pointing and accusations that seem to invariably follow these incidents. Where the blame will finally land will depend, I guess, on who can shout the loudest both locally and internationally.

The tearing up of the CFA however is something that, though threatened, was never something I expected to materialize. I seriously expected the President and his faithful acolytes to have more sense when dealing with this matter. It seems they have decided as usual to ape the behaviour of the proverbial bull in the china shop. I wonder if any consultations whatsoever were held with representatives of foreign countries, as to what the international community feedback would be like, before the decision was taken. Judging from past experience, however, I seriously doubt such actions would have been taken.

From a personal point of view, this latest course of action taken by the authorities smacks of desperate straw clutching by a drowning junta. Having come to power on a bandwagon loaded with racial and religious fervour, the Chinthanaya has now slowly but surely started to lose steam, in the face of mounting economic woes and a war that still seems to have no end.

Being also faced with the prospect of various desertions by allied parties, this decision taken by the President, seems nothing but a move to pander to both the majority and his disaffected political allies. It obviously doesn’t matter to Mr.Chinthanaya that his hasty decision will have a severe long lasting impact not just on the economy, but also on the very lives of the people. But then again, what’s so surprising about that right?

Mr.Chinthanaya has established a track record that speaks volumes of his attitude towards the people of this country. Having convinced a slim majority of the population on the merits of going back to war, he has then proceeded to systematically run this country into the ground while hiding behind a war he preached in the first place! It seems now that Mr.Chinthanaya has realised even his ‘heroic’ efforts up to date have been insufficient to pull the people’s eyes away from their ever diminishing pay checks and the starving faces of their children. So he has decided to take his warlike prancing to yet another level.

I wonder how long it’s going to take and to what more desperate measures Mr.Chinthanaya will sink to before finally getting on stage and pleading with the general public to please let him remain in office and not sack him! Of course the way things are going, none of us may be around to see that day happen!

So, Mr.Chinthanaya, if you thought your latest war dances are fooling anybody (except your sycophants), you’re sadly mistaken. We hear the plea of “Oh please, oh please, don’t sack me!” loud and clear!

The brain dead zombie is back!!!

January 3, 2008

Sigh….. It’s one of those days again. Actually its been one of those weeks! It seems my brain has decided to take an extended vacation all on its own. It didn’t even have the decency to apply for leave before hand! I’ve tried various ways in which to attract it back, Alcohol, nicotine, computer games, etc, but unfortunately, no luck as yet.

The worst part of the whole thing is that I have an unbelievable amount of deadlines to deliver, and trying to make my kidneys, liver, lungs and other body parts to do the thinking doesn’t seem to be working out at all. They obstinately refuse to believe they could be creative in any way. Which is surprising when you consider the way they come up with kidney stones of all shapes and sizes, coughs of various sounds and other assorted pains, all on their own! I think they’re just trying to be difficult.

The last time this happened, it was only a part of my brain that went on strike. The parts that were left behind actually wanted to write sonnets and dramas about cars, phones, soap and other such things. This time I think (or I’m trying to think), all the little grey cells have decided to abandon me. I have this bad feeling this time they’re gone for good.

So, if anyone has any good ideas on how to entice rebellious brain cells to come back, please gimme a shout asap. It’s a horrible feeling to have this empty space between the ears!

P.S. Comments about how you doubted there ever was anything up there at all, are not welcome!