22 February 2011

Narahenpita Railway Crossing . 0645 am

Dark children , plastic buckets dangling  off their twig like limbs 
Like some bizarre fruit   
on their way to the tap at the end of the lane,  where rusted water run
wave their hands
 at the Six seventeen rushing past 
more of  habit than with any hope 

The train hoots 

19 February 2011

Prince William from Pollonnaruwa

It was the first day at school and by 7 o clock the front yard of the grade 6 block was buzzing  with parents.
However, this was not wholly the usual flock , who would park their vehicles under the majestic Maara tress and  walk to the school ( College as they call it. ). 

It was the day that the scholarship recipients were coming to school , and this was a different kind of a crowd.
 These were people who have  come most of their journey by public transportation. These were people who’d  got down from Thunmulla junction and hired  a Three wheeler to bring their son, (who has more or less won a kingdom for them ), to the school gates  . Because first impressions count.

While they gathered in the school yard, the humble three wheelers were  parked in between the row of Prado’s and Audis ,  on this side of the tea house where a myna bird in a cage hung low by the entrance, like commas in a string of words punctuating what matters

That was the first day I saw him . His name…..That  I would hold to be stated later, lest dramatic effect in the flow get’s lost.

In appearance he was like any others eleven year old , clean white suit , side parted hair. Another  lad who has got through the year 5 scholarship exam and was  selected to go to the best college in the country (arguably), far away from his village .

His father , in his white national dress, strolled around  marveling the sights and sounds of this esteemed institution that his son would study from that day onwards. The village lad would study here and come out someone who mattered in the land.
His eyes were fixed on the ancient Ehala tree giants who had spread over their branches , the  usual saffron flora rash , common to that season. Lest he meet the glances of the gentlemen with their loosened silk nooses  and sunglasses on their foreheads .
He did not want to face an awkward situation of a conversation. What could he talk about . He did not want to humiliate his son.

Inside the class room the teacher was marking the attendance.
Prince William Sooriyabandara”  she called out the name

The boy stood up “ Present Madam” .

The laughter has spread from the front row to a few rows behind ,  by the time the kind hearted  teacher asked
“Oya lamayata  wena namak nathda” (Do you have another name)

“ I am  Prince William Sooriyabandara from Polonnaruwa, and madam I can not speak Sinhalese “ the boy answered in proper queen’s lingo .

Here was a son of a school teacher from a small school at the edge of the Pollonaruwa district. Keeping with his father’s dream from his younger days being coached for years  to pass this one exam and enter the big college in the city.
 Father being an English teacher, that was the language the boy was encouraged, tutored and forced to speak in. The mother,  although a teacher herself,  spoke very little to the boy in her broken English , so not to spoil the sons progress and feel out of place when he attends the big school, so we learnt later.

That is how Prince came to be our acquaintance.

A Boy’s response . A Father’s pride. Blooming Esala trees.

It has been about 4 years since our first meeting and we were at Prince’s father’s funeral. 

 The coffin was kept in the middle of the small hall .  The bare brick walls, hoping to be one day covered in white plaster,  told the story of a school master’s meager wage.

 A small girl served us plain tea in water tumblers. Her cheeks were blushed pink, she kept her eyes turned to the ground . Her friends were giggling in the background at their friend’s plight. Boys of a certain age notice and remember these things.

Our friend’s mother rushed out in a white Saree , so evidently  wrapped around in a hurry.

In her hands were two bottles filled with luminous colored liquid, bottled by the good folks at the Elephant House.

Ane mama meka aran thiyagenamay hitiye , Handiye kaden ,  . Me daruwanta oya kahata puruduyay?
( I bought this in advance from the boutique in the town, don’t think you boys are used to plain tea)

We did not go to explain about the quality of plain tea in the school canteen or how one packet of rice is shared among six people . That wasn’t the moment for modesty.

We knew , at that moment, in this humble funeral home , we were the proof of  the school master’s dream coming true.  That his efforts were not in wane.

The boy who spoke no Sinhalese has conquered his kingdom impossible and returned with his friends from the college in the city.

We just played the part. The guests of honour at the funeral.


After a while, I  lost track of Prince. For what I know , he too like many of us,  would have lived the life of a price horse , won the race. and waned . Was it too soon? Who are we to judge .

Then I ran in to him one day at a big match, at P Sara Stadium , the year  I think was 1997.

The big match. Those 3 days , distinguished men from all walks of life , from presidents to  humble university undergrads , from the who’s who of the private sector to the young who have just joined the fray , acted like old boys .
Got drunk to the brim for 3 days and acted silly , all in the name of  a fraternity of sorts.

I digress , anyway there he was in one of the stands, waving a flag of three colour strips, leading a choir of like minds  singing the infamous songs about the Thambi  and his daughter,  and the one about the cause of death his Lansi  neighbor.

Side parted hair. White shorts.
 “ Prince William Sooriyabandara from Pollonaruwa  who did not speak Sinahalese” . 
Not bad .

Venue :Sarasvathi Bawan (a Dosai serving restaurant ) in Wellawatte
Time: 10 am Tuesday

There he sits , dressed in a short sleeved shirt and a  blue tie ,having a cup of plain tea .

“Prince” I call out  to him.

“ah machan , kohomada? (how are you). “ pleasantries reciprocated, he take a long look at me .

“After about 10 years Machan “ he sighs

“Yes” I can not think of anything else to  say. Silence flows gently under the bridge

He gets up
“Love to chat up Machan, but  mata thawa three places cover karanna thiyenawa , I need to go” , ( I  need to cover three more places )
"Let's meet up sometime"  He hands me a business card , that reads Sales manager
“call me after five machan , and ask for Suri”
“Campus yanna bari unanae .  Hondha welawata college eke namay , ara poddak Kaduwa puluwan nisay me job eka hamba une ”
He summarizes his life story . How he could not get in to the university but found a job in sales thanks to the name of the college and his ability to speak English and  gets in to the van with a smiling lady holding  a packet of washing powder , painted on the side.

A Sales manager.  Washing powder. A wiry body in a white national attire. Esala trees . 

16 February 2011

Have you smelled sleep

Have you ever smelled sleep
A sunset
The poya moon
Or a rainbow

ever heed upon the glow of a smile
the jab of a glare
the chill of shades of indigo
deep in to your bones

Have you ever heard?
the gentle rip of the clouds at dawn
blooming daffodil’s stretched yowl
Or the haunting howl of the daisy field

May be
Your mind
ought to get away more

14 February 2011

How many monkeys does it take to write Illiad?

How many monkeys does it take to write Illiad ?

With apologies to Homer, it is said that if you put enough monkeys in front of typewriters, there is a probability that one of them would produce Illiad.

Before you discard this as pure lunacy , consider the possibility (in a mathematical , and a scientific sense) given a large number of monkeys (say million to power million) , how probalistically Illiad could be produced .

Now comes the second part , how probable is it that particular monkey who produced the first classic would go on to produce Odyssey ?

Once Illiad is done , our mind , which was hesitant of accepting the rare probability , accepts a rarer occurrence (of ape producing the second classic as well) with more certainty .

Now , let me draw your attention to many such things in everyday life , where we conclude that a rare occurrence would trigger another such occurrence . From random acts of kindness , to isolated incidents of devastations , from political history to financial market behaviors, don’t we draw patterns on random events and try to foretell future comings?

13 February 2011

Between here and now

Between here and now
Lies a place
That makes little or no sense

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10 February 2011

21 grams

There, an old man laid perfectly still on the white sheets.

Today was the day.

It was a simple hospital room . White walls , white ceiling , white floor. White table , glass vase . two orange carnations to break the monotony. Waft of antiseptic trying to mask the smell . The smell of death . Looming in the room , the smell was very evident .

Then again , the old man has remained in that unconsciousness stage , for almost 6 months now. Touch . light, sound and other elements no longer trigger any sensations on him. Except for the blinding white light and a constant hum in his ear nothing can he feel. . Not even memories. Eighty years of living should have at least have some , one would think . But strangely he can not recollect anything from the bygone days .

Yet he knew he was still not dead , there was something , something existing in him. Something hung heavy . He could actually feel the burden of it on the whole of his being.

But in his perfect stillness , he could feel the amassed guilt and grief adding mass to his soul .
How much would it weigh , he was thinking.
May be a ton . Surely about that much

“Thank you for agreeing to this. This is essential for proving my cause” the man in the white coat tells his audience.
All the old man’s children have gathered in the small room.

“What we will do is , we will weigh your father’s weight now , and once we switch off. I mean once passes away , we will record the weight again “

Doctor Duncun was never good with words , or saying the right thing .

Lucy would have known what exactly to say this. She would have been very exited to find out how much it weighed .

He wondered what the final reading would be

Here was a man of almost 80 years . He has spent his youth in a tough neighborhood, built his life from nothing. Six children and two wives later , surely there must be some regrets hanging heavy on his soul. His soul. Duncun contemplated on how his mind was getting used to believing the existence of it as an absolute certainty.

“It is time now” , the nurse told in a solemn tone.

The troughs and the peaks on the heart rate monitor, settled for an amicable compromise of a straight line.

Doctor Duncan with his spectacles on his head, checked the reading of the scale .
And wrote 21g at bottom of the page and circled it as if to ring-fence it from escaping.

How much does the soul weigh ? that was the question .
After 3 days of reading and searching ,I was itching to be put out as a post.

While appreciating the disbelief of the actual existence of soul or it having a significant mass noticeable on scales , I found it interesting to find that some people have actually tried to do test same .

A doctor named Duncun Mcdoughal has tried to weigh a terminally ill patient before and after the heart ceases to beat. Despite the profound flows in his experiment, in method, assumption , sample size and other areas , even after a century later some people still refer to the results.

Just imagine with all your guilt, moral flows , grief and other negativities hanging so heavy on your soul , the measurement came to a mere 21 grams.

03 February 2011

One million cherry blossoms in Tharir square

A million cherry blossoms in Tahrir square…how one by one they bloomed on the brown veins. The streets of silence , street of pain .....That is how I wanted to start my post. Talking about people power, how great  it is to see people taking their destiny to their hands . The romance of a revolution all were there in the patterns made my the words . Line after line.
But for some reason I shelved it  without immediately posting it. Between then and now I have gone through many reports articles and interviews  and very little of  the original post remains within this .

One million people march to Tahrir square , The liberation square , how apt?  Students , Doctors  , poets  , teachers all join in to get one tyrant out . He fights with his tanks and army. What drama !
Che, in your grave , this is how a perfect revolution should be .
All the usual scenes were there. Bloodshed,  water cannons , tanks , loud slogans . Of course the  call for  evening prayer from the nearby mosque added a regional flavor.
Then I started reading about how this was mainly spread through social media . so a revolution for the 21st century?
There are more questions than answers.

From One million people in the streets , what do you do when nature calls?
Is facebook the true medium of the common man in Egypt
To whether this was actually , sponsored by  some corporates .  Site hits , TV ratings and the sort are definitely  worth investing in .

Somebody once said anarchy is five meals away. But these were not hungry people fighting . These were for actualization needs . For freedom.

I watched an interview in Al jazeera with a 60 year old , women. A professional  who splits her time between Cairo and London . Who has just cut short a business visit  to be there . And show her support .
“This government is no use . They apparently kill people and all that.  They need to go “ She said

Next  was a man who insisted that his “phd” was mentioned when his  name is mentioned  said  “ I came to the square to enjoy the revolution, this is history in the making”

Now today apparently people who support the defiant dictator has taken to the streets .  Whether they are rent-a-mob or  civil clothed police. This adds another dimension.

Of course there are the opportunist opposition politians , who are trying “volunteer” as the alternative.

All this behind , this is the question in my mind. 

From the format of the media reports , the mood , tone of the reports , the camera angles to the statements by the heads of states , UN . All sounds very familiar , as in Iraq, as in Afghanistan , as in Israel.

Is this the same script, another screening of the same show …Is it the same ending

Lime moon & the three chillies