The article I did on the Martin Wickramasinghe collection housed at the National Library and Documentation Services Board (NLDSB) in Colombo.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
So it’s unlikely my mind will think up anything interesting to write today. Will aspire for better things tomorrow.
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.
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.
Later 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.
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.
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.”
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???
I 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).
John Lennon would have been 73 years had he lived till October 9, 2013. But he was shot dead on a New York street in December 1980 for no apparent reason. It makes me wonder what it is about men of peace that evokes the wrath of a fellow being to want to kill them? Who would want to still the voice of a man who sang and wrote beautiful songs and advocated passionately the cause of world peace?
While some of the methods adopted by Lennon to send out the message of peace such as the famous/infamous Bed-in for Peace he staged with his wife Yoko Ono in 1969 had mixed recreation, no one questions the power of his music. His song Imagine has come to epitomize the universal message of peace that millions of people worldwide subscribe to.
Some of the thoughts that John Lennon expressed in an interview he gave in London on May 8th 1969 to a BBC Radio-One program called ‘Scene and Heard’, gives an insight into what kind of man he was and are thought-provoking. Here are some extracts: –
Interviewer: A lot of people also feel that if everyone goes to bed and stays in bed for a week or a few days for peace, as a protest for peace, the whole country will come to a standstill.”
JOHN: “Well, wouldn’t it be better than producing arms and bombs. Imagine if the American army stayed in bed for a week and the Vietnamese army. Or Nixon… and Chairman Mao. Imagine if the whole world stayed in bed. There’d be peace for a week and they might get to feel what it was like. The tension would be released.”
Interviewer: “If there was enough trouble and there was obviously going to be a war and you were asked to fight, John. Would you fight for your country?”
JOHN: “I wouldn’t attack, no. I’d defend myself, probably, in a situation. But I wouldn’t attack. I’m a pacifist, you know.”
Interviewer: “What do you want out of life most of all now, John?”
JOHN: “Peace, you know. Really that’s all I want.”
Interviewer: “If anything happened to you, how would you like people to remember you?”
JOHN: “As the great peaceniks.”
Interviewer: “You said you don’t believe in hitting a child.”
JOHN: “I don’t believe in hitting him to correct him. I don’t believe in corporal punishment as the answer. I can understand people think it’s the only way to deal with them ‘cuz I understand those people. I don’t think they’re right, because it doesn’t help murderers to hang them or help violent people to be violent to them. It is all they understand but… Violence begets violence, you know. And you can’t kill off all the violent people or all the murderers. We’d have to kill off the government.”
Interviewer: “Do you take everything you do seriously?”
JOHN: “Seriously with a pinch of salt. You know, I don’t take it too seriously because I think that’s the trouble with Art quotes, Music quotes, the Peace Movement quotes and the World quotes, you know. So I take everything with a pinch of salt. But I take life seriously, you know. The serious job of being happy.”
Interviewer: “Do you really feel you are God?”
JOHN: “We’re all God, you know. I mean, Christ said, the kingdom of heaven is within you. And that’s what it means, you know. And the Indians say that and the Zen people say that. It’s a basic thing of religion. We’re all God. I’m not a God or the God, not the God. But we’re all God and we’re all potentially divine and potentially evil. We all have everything within us. And the kingdom of heaven is nigh and within us, you know. And if you look hard enough you see it.”
Ernesto Che Guevara epitomizes all the romanticism attached to revolution and rebellion and remains an enduring image worlwide till today.
Nearly 54 years ago, Che Guevara visited Sri Lanka to look into the rubber planting methods adopted in the country. He visited the Yahala Kele rubber estate in Horana and planted a Mahogany plant on August 7, 1959 which today has grown into a giant tree.
Dingiri Mahattaya, the man who served Che and his group of visitors from Cuba with biscuits and bananas during the visit, is still alive and likes to tell about his close encounter with the famous man.
Here are some pictures that were taken when we visited the estate some time back.
This is also a link to a story I wrote on Che’s visit to Ceylon.
“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.”
– Mark Twain –
I cannot remember exactly how we came to adopt Siriya as our pet dog but what I remember is that she was a stray animal who used to wonder around in our neighborhood before she became a regular visitor to our home. That was eight or nine years ago. She was the neighborhood dog of sorts and almost everyone around knew her but for several years she had been spending most of her time in our home.
She died on Wednesday morning, in her own quiet and dignified manner. When I got up this morning and opened the front door, she was no longer sleeping there on the floor of the garage, wagging her tail on hearing the click of the door lock.
My sons started calling her Siriyawathie, later shortened to Siriya and she fully deserved the name. She was a smiling dog and was of the most loving sort. She was also a no fuss animal and not an attention seeker. She would sit around quietly, have her meals when hungry and pretty much hang around till one of us took the time to stroke her head and spend some time with her. The one thing she hated was water and bathing her was no easy task. When she sensed it was bath time, she’d run away and come back much later.
She had her fair share of visits to the doctor and she loved the short car ride to the animal clinic. We just had to open the car door and she would jump right in and make herself comfortable.
She had been breathing heavily for a couple of days and despite a visit to the doctor, she did not recover. I went to check on her shortly before she died. She was seated and breathing heavily and looked at me with the saddest eyes I have ever seen and I just knew that she knew then it would all be over for her soon.