For fans of Martin Wickramasinghe

The article I did on the Martin Wickramasinghe collection housed at the National Library and Documentation Services Board (NLDSB) in Colombo.


Old and New…..How advertisements exploit our weaknesses

Of late, a company that is world-renowned for its milk products has been under fire for releasing adulterated milk powder into the market .With the initial uproar caused by the expose dying down the Company has adopted a clever ploy by playing an old advertisement, both over radio and television that automatically makes those of us of a generation ago get all nostalgic. Hearing it after so many years made me go back in  time. I had  came to associate it with  perfect mothering , with perfect kids sitting down  and enjoying a hearty meal  with butter made by the same company playing the crucial role of mood lifter of the crowd.

This got me thinking about how advertisements are almost always used to manipulate people, playing to their sensory weaknesses, creating nostalgia and making false promises of making us  big and strong or pretty and fair or intelligent and healthy to name a few miracles promised.

In India recently, the decision by a leading jeweler to show a dusky woman, either a divorcee or widow with a little daughter remarrying, to promote their jewelry has caused quite a sensation. Many including some big names in Indian show business have gone all gaga over it and lauded it. I find the attention rather superficial     given the social taboos not only associated with widows and divorcees remarrying but also the scorn with which dark-skinned people, especially women , are looked down upon in general  in that country.images (2)

I would like to think that people in India who can afford to buy diamonds and gold jewelry    are also enlightened enough not consider remarriage taboo and also be able to look beyond the skin color of people. The reality is this kind of advertisement will have no appeal to millions of Indians who can barely afford to get by with a square meal a day let alone buy diamonds and gold. And for them the shallow ideas inculcated  in their mindset for generations and reinforced by movie actors and cricketers, both male and female,  that you need to have fair skin to succeed ,  will not go away just because they see a dusky women in advertisement remarrying.

The one industry in Indian that can influence people the most is their massive film industry but what most Indian films do is also reinforce stereotypes.They gloat over the fair-skinned dowry laden  bride, the obliging and dutiful wife and daughter-in-law, the domestic goddesses who look perfect after spending hours in the kitchen preparing the perfect meal, the conscientious widow who would never consider remarriage come what may etc. Given the massive appeal Bollywood stars have among the Indian population, it is they who can make the biggest impact in changing  people’s  mindset but such challenges are hardly addressed by the Indian movies except for a few odd ones.images

Now back to the big milk products company. Despite the fallout from negative publicity over the quality of its products, the company is determined to make a comeback and they are using the perfect tool. Many of us who were young adults when we first watched the advertisement and were completely bowled over by it  are now parents and it’s likely that the nostalgia for the time gone by will lure us back into buying the same products again.

The advertising industry survives on fooling and  hood winking  people but then again there are millions of us who want to be fooled and hoodwinked. In a world where reality is often not mundane, they provide us the getaway to a world of make-believe. And we don’t here too many people complaining about it.

Finding love in a hopeless age…….Gabriel Garcia Marquez style

Gabriel García Márquez, the Colombian born Nobel Prize winning writer is best known worldwide for his two most popular novels – One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera.


While I ve enjoyed reading Love in the Time of Cholera, I haven’t been able to digest the other of the two books that eagerly but then there is more to the great writer than those two books as I discovered after reading “Memories of My Melancholy Whores.”

It was one of those books I randomly picked up from the book shop, being impressed by its outer appearance as well as the synopsis .I was not disappointed as the story   turned out to be the most unlikely sort of “love story”, if you could call it that.

Well for a start the protagonist is a man who gets by in life due to his writing skills, who on his ninetieth birthday decides to treat himself to a night of love with a virgin. So he calls up the madam of the  “illicit house” that he had  patronized  from his young years but where he has not gone  in nearly 20 years and asks her to procure the virgin for him.  How much more bizarre can a story get, you will begin to wonder at this point. A ninety year old man trying to procure an adolescent virgin? It does sound absurd but the man himself admits that at his age he knows “what he can and cannot do.”

images (1)The woman does succeeded in finding the virgin but what follows is not exactly what one would expect to happen. The night of love does not end the way as expected and for the protagonist, who remains unnamed throughout the book, it is the start to the buildup of brand new emotions that he has never felt in his life before. Instead of lust which is what he associated with his acquaintances with women throughout his life, be begins to feel love for the young girl, who driven by poverty   has to work as a whore to support her family.

As the story unfolds, we learn about the early life of the 90-year-old man, his parents and his life spent as a bachelor. All his life he has paid for sex but now, even at the age of 90, he wants things to change. As one of his former love- for- hire women tells him quite bluntly, “ Don’t let yourself die without knowing the wonder of fucking with love. “Fortunately for him, there is love waiting for him even in his old age.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is known for writing unconventional stories and this is another one of them. It’s easy to read and a complete page turner. Makes you wonder if it’s ever too late to start living the life you want.

A blog a day……………….

images (1)

I have been staring at the blank word document for quite a while now wondering what to blog about today. I usually blog when I am in a mood or find sudden inspiration from somewhere but since I signed up this morning for the NaBloPoMo, I have to write a blog every day. I am wondering if by trying to keep up with the target of one blog very day in the month of November, whether  my writing will suffer and I will just write useless stuff just to say I met the target. But I also like the challenge as it will lull me out of my laid back attitude towards most things in life.images

A problem I face often is that when I sit down to write I also need to be in front of a computer that I like and the place I like to write most is in the office. It’s in my room in office I do most of my writing for the newspaper I work for but also for my blog. But today is Sunday so I have to use the home laptop and it’s not something I relish. I know if I feel bored, I’ll just grab a book and start reading or else start doing something around the house. In office except for people who walk in and out of my room from time to time and distract me, I can keep writing away. In fact I am someone who can write when I am close to a deadline. When I know the deadline is drawing near, the writing just flows. Most days, I have enough material to finish a story, but I wait till its closer to the day of the deadline to start writing. Then with the deadline looming, my fingers pound away at the key board.

blogRight now my thought stream is rather numbed. On one side there is loud new generational rock music playing which is mixed with the other mundane sounds of home.

So it’s unlikely my mind will think up anything interesting to write today. Will aspire for better things tomorrow.

An unchanging home truth………….

Its 10.00 clock in the night, some would say  pretty early in the day to go out looking for a boy who will turn 20 next month. But yesterday night I did just that. I dragged my husband out of bed to go looking  for our son as there was no response to calls I made to his mobile phone several times nor  a reply to my  text messages.  The phone was switched on so I could not figure out why he was not answering it. I knew he was having a Halloween party at his college till 8.00p.m.but this was two hours later than the time he told me he would finish.20050803

Halfway into our drive  from home, he calls   and the first thing he asks me is, ”Amma, why are you calling everyone?  I had left my phone in the bag so could not answer.” I brush off his question with some vague answer and say I did not call everyone. ( Just two friends and the mother of a friend.)

The simple answer to the Why?  question should have been,   “Because I am a mother.”  Plain and simple. Just being a “Mother” is enough reason to overreact at the smallest hint of a perceived threat to their offspring. Most times these threats are imaginary and something the children would brush aside without blinking an eye. For me it an instinctive reaction. I can’t help it and I know it’s certainly NOT JUST ME. I am not aggressive by nature but when the “MOTHER” in me kicks in I am a Tigress. It’s funny how I completely change and become the over protective person trying to shield the children from all kinds of things. And I am not even close to being a very hands-on mother.  The Tiger Mom is not me, but it’s also very much me.

oil_12Later back in bed that night, I stay up thinking that it’s time to let go.  In December he will turn 20. He is legally an adult. He can operate his own bank account, he has got his own driving license,  he is  entitled to vote whenever the next election comes around  and  he is old enough to take  a wife if he so wishes. (At this point he made it known to me he has no intention of ever getting married and  I have in turn told him it’s a wise decision as I have no intention of taking care  of grandchildren in my retirement years. )

I get  annoyed at times  when my mother  still calls to check if I am getting late to come home, when  she asks if I have had my meals, when  she gets overly worried if I complain of being unwell. I am itching to tell her I am a grown up woman now, I can take care of myself but I don’t.  It’s true what they say. For a mother her children will always be her little ones. It’s one home truth that will not change.

Revisiting old letters…………….

My sister who lives abroad told me recently that she had found an old letter I had sent her 15 years ago, just five days after I had my second son Rahel. I can’t remember how I found the time to sit down to write a letter in those busy days but   I had managed it somehow. I asked her to scan the letter and mail it to me after my sister read some extracts from it and it sounded interesting. Rahel turned 15 on October 26 and has grown up to be a not-too- troublesome boy. But he is not the angelic baby that he was when I wrote the letter.

I‘ll share some of the stuff I wrote in the letter because it made me feel really nice re-reading the stuff I had written. It also made feel nostalgic for the days when I actually wrote letters as opposed to the emails and text messages I send now.

B & R
B & R

Here’s some of what I had written in the letter dated 31.10.98.

At long last I have delivered the baby and he’s really gorgeous. He looks a lot like Bhanuka (my older son) did when he was born but much smaller and he has longer hands and feet. We brought him home yesterday afternoon and he hardly cries except when hungry. He sleeps most of the time. What a refreshing change when I think of what I went through with Bhanuka. Although I wanted to have a daughter, I always knew at the back of my mind I would have a boy and now that I have 2 boys I don’t mind it at all.”

Here’s what I had written about how the older one was reacting to the presence of a younger brother:-

Bhanuka has been acting a bit different since the brother came along. We are doing our best to pay more attention to him though it sometimes gets a bit difficult when there is an adorable infant around the house. He’s become more demanding and tries to get more attention. “

 As for what I was excepting the next year, this is what I wrote:-

“I guess I’ll be very occupied in the coming year with the baby and Bhanuka’s schooling. It’s bound to be hectic.”

And on the physical discomforts I was experiencing at the time:-

“I am still going through some pain since the (Caesarian) operation. It should be alright in 2 to 3 weeks. These days in SL, Caesarian are as common as normal child-birth.”

Rahel  -August 2013
Rahel -August 2013

Now that I have the letter with me, next is to let the boys read it and see how they react to it. Might give me some stuff for my next blog.

Do you have old letters that bring back memories and make you smile???

Why I hate hotel rooms…………………

portal-graphics-20_1158648aI hate hotel rooms. They maybe  posh, fancy, upmarket, sleek, exotic, erotic  etc. but  I’d rather curl up on my side of my own not-so- fancy bed at home with my favorite pillow, breathing in its familiar smell, letting my head nestle on it at the end of the day rather than spend a night at the poshest  hotel room anywhere in the world.

I am not exactly  that fat pocketed   that I  can afford to  stay in expensive hotels   but  having  had some such occasional  opportunities  thanks mainly  to  my  paid job (an occupational  hazard I ‘d say)  , I have realized how much I hate staying in these rooms. One such was in Dubai, in a very fancy high-rise hotel from where one had a panoramic view of the city but the room was as sterile as the city of Dubai itself. Then there were hotel rooms in  Pakistan (all five-star), India (some  five-star but some very ordinary), Denmark, Belgium, Norway, Singapore, Thailand and a few other countries, all  pretty decent places  but one common factor in all  was that I  could not wait to  get away from them to get back to my bed at home. The same for the few times I’ve stayed in hotel rooms in Sri Lanka. Nice places to spend the day in but not a night. However late I’d much rather find my way back home than stay a night in a strange room that had been  occupied by one stranger after another. Which is why the last time I was up north for five days, I cut short the trip and took a night bus from Jaffna and endured a nine-hour ride to Colombo to get home.  Most of the next day, I spent like a baby in my good old bed.


The thing with hotel rooms is how do I  know what kind of  people have slept  on the same bed as me and put their head on the same pillow that I put my head on. Its possible someone died in it or was murdered or some other unsavory or savory things happened inside the same room. The bed linen maybe clean, the towels maybe well laundered but the fact remains it’s not really mine. What other nameless, faceless individuals have used those same sheets, pillows and towels that I also use  as my own? I‘ll never know.

It’s funny but people do have an intimate relationship with their rooms, beds, pillows, towels even though they do not fall into the ‘living things” category.

So while I enjoy looking at the beautiful pictures in magazines, on television and  all the pictures that get emailed to me  about fancy and posh hotels that boast of being places akin to paradise,  my  paradise is  my room, my bed and my pillow.(Actually  it’s  not exactly my room. I share it another person so it should be our room).