24 December 2010

Merry Christmas to the chosen ones

I have no choice over who reads my blog, those who read it have the choice not to. I wish some would, NOT!

23 December 2010

The last call

The last call

            Two days to Christmas. The DJ plays a soft bluesy number as the house lights come on. I look around with bleary eyes. The less inebriated amongst us have checked our coats out and the bouncers gently try to dislodge us to begin the journey home. As we stumble out the rush of cold air is welcome. Minus 10 degrees means none of us hang around and all bundle into the cab. Everyone’s still in high spirits and talking loudly.
            No one notices as I sink into a corner of the cab and wearily watch the lights of London fly by. It’s early morning and the only one’s out and about are revellers like us, the East-Europeans heading off to their early morning jobs, milk and newspaper delivery trucks. I am looking forward to home, a hot bath and unwinding on the couch with a hot mug of coffee. Although tired I know that I will need that ‘me time’ to properly fall asleep.
            Unconsciously my thoughts roam to the year gone by. As I grow older I have matured. My world has slowed down, while the rest of 2010 flashed by. My other four mates in the cab surround me but yet I feel tremendously melancholy. I call them my ‘mates’ as they are still not my friends. I am more than guilty as they think of me as a good mate, I take long to make friends, and again as I mature it’s harder and harder to change my Sri Lankanisms. I worry I am becoming a grumpy old man. Little things don’t worry me anymore, but the big things worry me more.                                                 Christmas and Christmastime bothers me the most. To me it’s that specific time of the year you are sharply reminded of the income gap that bridges the haves from the have-nots. The homeless man I just saw sleeping under one of the Harrods shop windows as we pass Knightsbridge will haunt me like the ghost of Christmas past. How is he managing in minus 10 temperatures?
            Last year I arrived in the Paradise Isle on Christmas day to party non-stop with my friends in Dickwella and onwards to 31st night at Galle Face. This year in the London-Elstree Holiday Inn Masquerade Ball. Actually my first 31st party in London. With my mates! J
            Non-Christian me will celebrate Christmas in our own special way. My wife’s relatives will come home early morning for mutton curry and milk-rice. Presents will be opened. Sash and San who are my sis-in-laws kids are still 2 and 6. They believe in Santa. One of the nice things about Christmas, Santa. Our kid is a teenager, she knows, but still expects as many presents under the tree.
            I am home. The repeat of the Amir Khan fight’s on Sky Sports. I take a sip of hot coffee and snuggle under the duvet. Everything is ready for Christmas. As I drift to sleep I lay my soul for the good Lord to keep and pray I will not dream of the homeless man I saw earlier this morning.
            Last call.

Is Christmas all about beautiful, fancy, expensive stuff that 99% of the world cannot have or dream to afford?

So it’s Christmas. The time of year that whatever religion or ethnic backgrounds you come from, celebrations are all around you. I presume that Christmas is the biggest celebration in the world after the World Cup of Football. Or is it just another holiday reminding me of all the fancy and great stuff in this world I cannot afford?
i.e. The Range Rover Evoque
What happened to the birth of JC? How many of us will attend mass at midnight on this holy day?
The spirit of giving is now only about the spirit of getting.
Merry Christmas everybody!

2 December 2010

The £600 haircut

It’s past midnight and the night looks surreal. The blanket of snow that covers everything is lit up in a sepia tone from the energy saving streetlights. The surreal feelings further aided by the deathly quiet due to the snow muffling surrounding noises. Steady snowflakes keep falling and I am almost finding it hard to breathe with the wind blowing it directly on to my face. I enjoy the scene before me despite shivering outside our front door in my thin cotton t-shirt and old sarong. Just before going to bed I usually smoke one last cigarette outside, whatever the weather maybe. This is a nightly ritual, wherever in the world I maybe.

I am hoping the snow keeps falling overnight ensuring another snow day and everything in London staying closed. Which usually means some quality time with my daughter. Snow fights in the field, playing catch with the dogs and getting hot drinks from our local Starbucks. All completed by us coming back to a delicious lunch cooked by the spouse. It’s too cold to stand out for too long and I manage only to smoke half my cig. I make my way upstairs to bed and my thoughts turn to my Paradise Isle.

There usually are three reasons for my thoughts to turn to the Paradise Isle this time of the year. In priority the first is the party season in Colombo that culminates with the 31st night bash at Galle Face Hotel. Secondly is getting away from the horrible cold weather in England. Call me vain, which I am, the third is my hair. All three compete with each other and I really shouldn’t prioritise them as deep inside a voice tells me the third priority might well be my first.

My hairdresser Chami is one of the greatest blokes in this world and owns a salon down Isipathana Mawatha called Hisa Ke. Going to his salon is an out of the body experience for me. Usually landing early morning I manage to take a quick wash and be ready by late morning to make my way there. Staying at my friend’s house on Fife Road means I am about a three minutes walk from Hisa Ke. When I arrive Chami first has a chat about what he will do with my hair, its washed, coloured and then cut. Afterwards I retire to his aromatherapy section where I receive one of the, if not the best, head massage in this world. I also get a manicure and pedicure. By the time they finish the salon assistants have to wake me up as all the attention has lulled me to sleep. All my jetlag is gone and I am ready to paaarty! All of this just costs around LKR10,000 (60 GBP) at Hisa Ke!

Hisa Ke – 0773 753007 or 5743909. Ask for Chami, he’s good.

In my case you have to add another £600 for the air ticket from London to Colombo and back. Honestly, it’s still fully worth it. 

10 October 2010

1 St.Christopher's Place - Yes I am vain!!!

My new look!

One of the few things nice about England - wearing coats, jackets and cardigans!!! Quite smart eh?

Please note the four earrings. My wife and kid call it my extended mid-life crisis. It's not, I can afford to be eccentric now, and that's what I call it!

22 July 2010

The Motherland – Part 2

The Motherland – Part 2

Life in rural areas of Sri Lanka is very different to ones we lead. Udispattuwa, the village of my roots lies in a quiet valley. During day, the sun shines with the quiet drizzle of rain. Birds chirp merrily. Beautiful ‘Maala Giraw’, green parrots with bright orange red necklaces fly by, Woodpeckers urgently tap away at trees, and the bluest of Kingfishers fly by. Squirrels dance everywhere, chattering. Special mention to the young village lasses bathing in the well in our paddy field, laughing and talking to one another.

But late evenings, and at night with mist covering this little village, the far off cries of birds and the howling of an occasional wild animal and you can’t but believe in the spirits. With darkness only the bravest of souls can be seen walking around with a flaming torch. The villagers call it ‘Gods Country’ for justice at night can be violent. A Cobra who snaps at your feet as you tread the wet, muddy paths to meeting my favourite character of youth, the Pirith Kota. Death is unexpected, but yet an expected part of life in these rural communities.

A figment of my mothers imagination or her own invention, or village myth, too much of Pirith chanting (prayers) will summon the Pirith Kota. The Pirith Kota according to her is the one who goes around collecting lost souls who assemble wherever prayers are held. Unable to get away from our world either to violent death or not receiving a proper burial they wonder around and gather at places where prayers are chanted.

The Pirith Kota who I alike to Charon the Boatman sneak up to these places to catch these lost souls. If you are caught daydreaming you is well in chance of this Pirith Kota taking you away too. A midget with round red eyes dressed in white rags stolen from the cemetery, I would imagine him peering over the lush hedge of my Grandmothers house when ever we had a pirith ceremony or almsgiving in memory of dead relatives.

My mother had the quirkiest sense of humour.  I still can’t understand why she would scare us with the Pirith Kota story. But it is a part of growing up and a memory of her and Udispattuwa I treasure in my heart forever.

Listen very carefully on a full moon night. You will hear the tinkle of small bells, as legend says, the King Cobra managed to sneak up on Pirith Kota to fix an anklet of small bells around Pirith Kota’s left leg, so that they the Cobra’s always hear Pirith Kota when he walks the lonely paths in the jungle and do not strike him in mistake.

I grow older, my upbringing as a Sinhala Buddhist becomes more precious. Everytime I go to Udispattuwa and climb those long steps to God Skanda’s temple I silently thank all the gods of the day and night for the privilege.

I celebrate being a Sinhala, Buddhist, Govigama Sri Lankan. In fact I am bloody proud. Especially now, now that my country is one again. 

I believe in the Buddha, Dhamma and the Sangha. I seek refuge from all evil in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. My motherland too, blessed and protected by the triple gem.

A proud Sinhalese has spoken, and will speak more.

21 July 2010

My Motherland

The Motherland – Part 1

Nightfall is here and its pitch black. It’s slightly chilly as I wrap myself more securely in the blanket. I lie on the bed, scared to look out of the window into darkness, and spooked by the sound of insects. My only reassurance is the deep sleep breathing of my sibling fast asleep next to me and all the other cousins all scattered around us in what was called the kids room. I am born and bred a city kid, school term holidays otherwise when it was time for the families to visit my Grandmother in my village of Udispaththuwa, close to Kandy in the middle of farm country in Sri Lanka.

My fear of the darkness was aided more by the fact that I was also scared shitless of my grandmother. A tall stately lady, who used to wear long sleeved, white, lace jackets and a white Osari, the popular form of the saree, worn Kandyan style. We were to never venture to her room and my memories of her were glimpses of her smoking a cigar before bedtime or taking long walks down the corridor of her home. My siblings and cousins had better more pleasant memories and experiences but mine were these. The house itself was large with my vivid memory of the old but still working pinball machine and the brilliant actual Tiger skin hanging on the wall.

The corridor in the back starting with the prayer area leading to the huge smoke kitchen. The long table in the corridor where the less fortunate ate. A huge table in the middle of the dining room where the family would sit and eat. Memories of my father always saying that when he romanced my mother, he was entertained where the less fortunate sat, and how when he married my mother, all she came with was one pillow. Obviously one had to add about 750ml of alcohol into the pater to come out with these little gems. Warm goats milk for the children in the morning with jaggery. My aunt, Cheeti’s occasional forays to the kitchen area to cook us delicious tidbits. The much looked forward to evenings with my huge bunch of cousins, being one of the youngest and always being bullied. The fear of the dark coming from Sumith Aiya’s ghost stories. All of us going to temple. Wesak and all the decorations that came up around the house. Plucking the forbidden Coccoa fruit from the back garden. Thellija, (Honey distilled from coconut trees) each child getting a spoon each as one can become drunk with too much consumption. Walks through the paddy field for baths in the well. Our aunts screaming at the older cousins to ensure we do not fall in.

People, laughter, noise, pets, fun.

All of us have moved on now. Some of us to other lands far away where the ‘Sudhdha’ lived. Exploits of even how the house suffered slight damage in WW2 due to bombing. The house now quiet, locked up. The paddy fields unploughed. Only signs of life being the people hired by my aunt who live in the kitchen area. My grandmothers grave area with the jam tree and cement seat sits forlorn. My daughter I take whenever in my motherland for she must know this is her heritage.

Sinhala, Buddhist, Govigama people from Kandy. During recent years this is fast becoming a point of debate and looked down on. That we the Sinhalese subjugate the others into servitude. I am not ashamed to be Sinhala Buddhist. This is our motherland. Our roots, our culture, our heritage. 

By choice my friends are of other cultures, multi-cultural or ethnically diverse Sri Lankan’s. My best friends and all of them Sri Lankan’s. They belong as much as I do. Especially the Tamils as they are part of our motherlands history and heritage. Not separately, in one motherland – Sri Lanka.

I am not ashamed to be a Sinhala, Buddhist, Govigama Sri Lankan. In fact I am bloody proud. Especially now, now that my country is one again. 

I believe in the Buddha, Dhamma and the Sangha. I seek refuge from all evil in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. My motherland too, blessed and protected by this triple gem.

A proud Sinhalese has spoken, and shall speak more.

(Part 1 of a series)

17 June 2010