Its been two years since a friend called one morning, as we were studying for exams, to ask why lamp-posts were shaking. Two years since another friend called from Galle Hospital; tired, depressed, fiercely determined to see things through, utterly helpless. Two years since we heard that Tharini was missing; that the place we stayed at the last time we visited Unawatuna had disappeared along with the occupants. Read the rest of this entry »

(This began as a comment to a post by Electra, which featured Arundhati Roy’s Acceptance Speech for the Sydney Peace Prize)

Arundhati Roy writes stirringly, and she writes truth. The sad thing is, when we build temples to truth and beauty, we exclaim and despair too often over the realities of the world in which we live.

War was never fair. Fairness to human values is a tautology in the context of any war; it never stands upto close scrutiny. But this does not mean that war is never necessary. It was needed when one mad Corsican tried to destroy European culture in the name of a new French Republic, and it was necessary when another mad Aryan tried to wipe out an entire race of people, and his own diseased brethren, in the name of racial purity. Closer to home, it was needed when princes from South India invaded our own country a thousand years ago.

But it was never fair. And not being fair, it has no place in the temples of truth and beauty where all artists pray. And therefore, no writer, I think, will ever find it in themselves to say that any war was a good thing. Perhaps they will say that the men and women who fought in wars were brave and good and true. But never war as a whole. Read the rest of this entry »

Fruits and Nuts

December 8, 2006

To start with a bad pun, the color orange stems from the fruit. This is because Englishmen have orange oranges. Be this as it may, in the Old Days, all we Sri Lankans knew about our oranges was the fact that they were, most definitey, green. Hence, when the first Englishman, in the throes of the first British small-talk attempted on the Island, ventured to say “…that thing with the color of an orange, what?”, we intitially believed them to mean green.

Most unfortunately, the Sinhalese word for the color orange also stems from a fruit, because although our oranges were green, we had coconuts that were orange. All, however that Englishmen knew about coconuts was the fact that theirs were decidedly green. And thus when the first Ceylonese that the above Englishman made small talk to, casually mentioned that something or the other was the color of ‘thambili’, the visitor naturally assumed that the host meant something green.

And so came about a period of blissful ignorance where both parties actually meant to say orange but were understood to mean green.

Things went swimmingly until the first Temperate Orange (fruit) arrived.

Then the Ceylonese clustered around this wonder, and with one accord, chorused “Thambili!” (colour), much to the consternation of the Englishmen, who worried whether the sun was finally getting the better of them.

“You silly chaps! This is not a coconut (thambili)! This is here is an Orange (fruit)!”

This, being said to a race recently persuaded to believe that orange meant green, elicited instant dissent:

“Nae, Nae! Thambili (colour)!”

To shorten a painful story, the worried natives brought their guests (whose judgment they had already begun to deeply mistrust) to the nearest king-coconut grove, and directed their attention to the first orange (colour) coconut that a White Man had seen. And the Englishmen, in their haste to make amends, said exactly the wrong thing to a race of people whom they had previously led to believe that orange, the colour, means green.

“Mehe thambili orange paatai neda!”

Thus were sown the first seeds of discord. After a man has tried to tell you that green is actually orange, apologizes, and then says what he really meant to say was that orange is actually green, you  realize that you will never be able to trust him. You begin question his judgment and motives. You openly call him a liar.

We all know where this ended. The mistrust that took root that day eventually bore fruit in 1948, when we finally saw the back of the biggest breakdown in communication since the naming of the Kangaroo.

Thus ended this sad tale of human blunder. However, lest the future forget the lessons of its past, lest past mistakes be repeated in future folly, an Emblem was created by the Fathers of The Nation bearing the seal of a Brave and Unified Land, Standing Guard Forever over the Distinction that Green and Orange are Separate Things.

– – –

n.b. A friend has suggested on reading this that the whole issue with Britain and Oranges has been a universal picking-bone, and not merely confined to Lanka, citing the Orange Men of Ireland and their struggle to obtain Home Rule as an example… inferences are not compulsory.

To Helen

December 7, 2006

helen4.jpg

Lady, if I were Paris, you’d never have seen

Whether I even came or went.

And the Odyssey would never have been

Since Supernovas are silent.

Since thoughts make hay in the hardest rain.

Since battles begin in belief,

To me you would have remained

The face that launched a single ‘if’.

Oil for Food for Thought

December 4, 2006

Up to a few days back, I was awed by the degree of activism shown by my people about the US’s involvement in Iraq. Whenever the thing came up – at a party, after a show, someone’s reading, or online (which goes to show just how drab my proclivities are getting) – I was very impressed by the degree to which people seemed to theorize on the issue at hand. And most of it wasn’t mere armchair talk. These weren’t your run-of-the-mill Fahrenheit 911 buffs. These were people who had read and quoted Vonnegut and Chomsky; watched the Presidential Debates, balanced Kerry’s diatribes against Bush’s, and skillfully concluded that this was a very bad thing to be happening. And so I sat and listened, and my admiration grew to the point where I began to perceive faint haloes (in dim light) about the more initiated speakers’ heads, when there was this terribly loud explosion in Colpetty. Read the rest of this entry »

“Starlight never seems brighter than when

The spaces between are utterly dark”,

You say, and almost begin to cry again…

Smile. This is supposed to be an Amusement Park.

And nothing i have brought you; the candyfloss, the coke,

The conversations; can make you put away those claws.

Christ, what else do you expect from a bloke?

You arent drowning, you know. Stop clutching at straws.

We’ll simply have to weather out this universe.

Stick side by side. Stuck side by side with cotton-candy lies.

Every last one of us. For better or for worse.

You. Me. Even this Dynamic Bloody Ribbon Device.