Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Ugly Truth

A boy was recently sexually abused by a male prisoner in Borella.

Ceylon Today reported the story in around 200 words.


Recently, papers were full of stories for the Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Women’s Day too gave way for many stories. When we say Gender Based Violence, its assumed to mean violence against women.


However, the story of this boy reminds us that it isn’t only women who are abused and harassed. Males too are abused and the worst part is that, they can’t even tell anyone about this.

I’ve seen young boys looking uncomfortable in buses thanks to the women who sit next to them. I’ve seen men look around helplessly as a woman’s body is pressed onto his. And they can’t protest because, well, aren’t men supposed to enjoy it? Do we not say a woman loves with her heart and a man with his…? And what kind of a sissy would say no to a woman’s body against his even if this woman is sweaty and bulgy? Or worse, even if this man has no interest in women?



Forget actual abuse for a moment. When a man smiles at you, isn’t your first thought, “pervert!” I smile at people and yet, I’m sure no one thinks I want to seduce men. Why? Because I’m a girl. Its only men who abuse or harass. Its only men who always think of sex. Its only men who are violent.

But the ugly truth is that women are no better. We hear of boys who were raped or abused by their mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and even teachers. And we choose to let these stories slip through the cracks and be forgotten. We don’t want to talk about this because it’s embarrassing, and it sheds light on the violent or cruel side of women.

The great gods are male. The great devils are male. And women? We are just toys, objects to be used and later, discarded. We are emotional, and weak. We can’t fight against men. We are the victims.


Yet, how true is this?

Don’t men have emotions? Can’t they feel? Can they never cry? Don’t they have any rights?



When Men’s Day came around, many of my male facebook friends joked that it was a day when they could drink and womanize all they want. Recently, when I brought up the issue of men’s rights, a male friend said, “We just don’t care.”

This obviously means that even the mentality of men has to change. While women believe they are the victims, men believe they are always the culprits or criminals. They don’t want to accept that men can be harassed, that they aren’t as strong or brave as years of tales of knights and kings have made them seem like.

Men can be weak and vulnerable. They can be victims. And not only to women. Like the story of the little boy, we are hearing more and more about men who rape men. About men who are abused by other men. What do you do when your father, brother, best friend or teacher tries to touch you? Whom do you go to? What do you say? What can you say?


Listen to their stories. Don’t shame them or humiliate them. Give them a chance to speak too. And most of all, remember that while women’s rights are violated every day, so are the rights of men. And remember that the gravity of a crime should not increase because of the victim’s sex or decrease because of the criminal’s sex.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

New to work? Know how it works


Exploring your options, whiling away your time or university requirement; all those fancy terms means just one thing; you have a full time job. Maybe you aren’t there on a permanent basis, and maybe your boss told you that your work hours are flexible. In fact, I’m sure you were told you can even work from home. However, chances are, you spend five days a week, from morning till evening in an office. We are young, eager to work and of course easily fall prey to the vultures. They patiently wait for the time of the year when a child’s school life comes to an end and quickly snaps at them.


We are nervous and scared and still learning. We don’t know how much work is required of us and we are still trying to figure out how to survive in an office. There are things we must do, and things we shouldn’t.


Know your bosses. Who do you answer to? Age doesn’t mean seniority and you must know whose orders you should follow. However, respect everyone, and don’t think you are better than anyone else. You may be more educated but don’t come off as a know-it-all. Be humble and accept advice given by others.


Your personal and personal lives should be kept separate. You will make friends with those you work with and yet, know that you are competing against them. It’s a cut throat world out there, and you will be fighting your friends for that promotion or bonus.

Romance is a tricky subject. Since you spend a lot of time with your colleagues and may have shared interests, they may seem the most ideal suitors. Also offices run as match making services too and it doesn’t take long for a couple to be teased left, right and center. However, you must always remember that, while your romantic relationship may not last long, your work relationship will. There are instances where you find it difficult to work with someone you are romantically involved with.


However, if you are being harassed, especially sexually, you need to protest. Sadly, it’s easier said than done. If anyone behaves inappropriately, talk to someone. And if there is no way to stop them, make sure they aren’t given the opportunity to behave indecently. Never leave office last, and try to not be alone; especially in a room, as you can easily be cornered. Know your boundaries and make sure other people know their boundaries.


Don’t be a snoop. Eavesdropping at work and gossiping about your colleagues is a bad idea. Be friendly with everyone, but don’t form cliques or groups. This will cause unfriendliness among others and will lead to a very tense situation at work.

Never take your work home. Don’t make your job, your life. Have fun and relax. If possible, do no work at all during the weekend. Instead spend time away from work, your workplace and your colleagues. You deserve alone time, and no company would expect you to work throughout the week.

People warn against working, about the long hours and the stress. They tell you that work will engulf you, and before you know it, you’ll be in your forties. However, working is fun and gives you a lot of independence. It takes, but also gives. And in the end, your first job will be your most memorable.

Exploring your options, whiling away your time or university requirement; all those fancy terms means just one thing; you have a full time job. Maybe you aren’t there on a permanent basis, and maybe your boss told you that your work hours are flexible. In fact, I’m sure you were told you can even work from home. However, chances are, you spend five days a week, from morning till evening in an office. We are young, eager to work and of course easily fall prey to the vultures. They patiently wait for the time of the year when a child’s school life comes to an end and quickly snaps at them.
We are nervous and scared and still learning. We don’t know how much work is required of us and we are still trying to figure out how to survive in an office. There are things we must do, and things we shouldn’t.
Know your bosses. Who do you answer to? Age doesn’t mean seniority and you must know whose orders you should follow. However, respect everyone, and don’t think you are better than anyone else. You may be more educated but don’t come off as a know-it-all. Be humble and accept advice given by others.
Your personal and personal lives should be kept separate. You will make friends with those you work with and yet, know that you are competing against them. It’s a cut throat world out there, and you will be fighting your friends for that promotion or bonus.
Romance is a tricky subject. Since you spend a lot of time with your colleagues and may have shared interests, they may seem the most ideal suitors. Also offices run as match making services too and it doesn’t take long for a couple to be teased left, right and center. However, you must always remember that, while your romantic relationship may not last long, your work relationship will. There are instances where you find it difficult to work with someone you are romantically involved with.
However, if you are being harassed, especially sexually, you need to protest. Sadly, it’s easier said than done. If anyone behaves inappropriately, talk to someone. And if there is no way to stop them, make sure they aren’t given the opportunity to behave indecently. Never leave office last, and try to not be alone; especially in a room, as you can easily be cornered. Know your boundaries and make sure other people know their boundaries.
Don’t be a snoop. Eavesdropping at work and gossiping about your colleagues is a bad idea. Be friendly with everyone, but don’t form cliques or groups. This will cause unfriendliness among others and will lead to a very tense situation at work.
Never take your work home. Don’t make your job, your life. Have fun and relax. If possible, do no work at all during the weekend. Instead spend time away from work, your workplace and your colleagues. You deserve alone time, and no company would expect you to work throughout the week.
People warn against working, about the long hours and the stress. They tell you that work will engulf you, and before you know it, you’ll be in your forties. However, working is fun and gives you a lot of independence. It takes, but also gives. And in the end, your first job will be your most memorable.
- See more at: http://www.nation.lk/edition/lifestyle/item/22923-new-to-work?-know-how-it-works.html#sthash.UInjKFxC.dpuf

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Strangers with Memories


There are people who once meant a lot to you. Then they stopped being there in your life. We all have such people, those we loved but somehow couldn’t accommodate in our lives anymore. The names of such people,  for now, are listed in a ‘People of the Past’ list. However, what are they to me? They were once friends, very close friends. Now, I never speak to them, rarely see them. Recently a friend expertly described such people who are neither friend, nor enemy as, ‘strangers with memories.’

This is exactly what they are. You hear that familiar voice, the fragrance you associate with them and all those memories you tried so hard to forget, come gushing to your mind. And you try to brush it off, convincing yourself that they don’t matter, that your friendship never mattered. But who are you kidding?


For a second, be honest with yourself. Admit that everyone who was once part of your life meant a lot to you. Because we may hate them, or think we do, but deep down, there is love. And love itself is often pushed away from our minds and hearts thanks to its forgotten meanings. When people say love, they usually mean romantic love. However, love is much more than that. It’s much more than sweet nothings and valentines. It’s everything and its nothing. Friends can love each other, and they should. Love is what makes you so possessive of them, so protective. And ultimately, love can be what makes you push them away from you.


A recent conversation with my mother ended with the conclusion that in everyone’s life there is pain, and there is suffering. There are times when it takes everything in you to not cry, to not let your voice quiver. And you want to appear strong or brave. You smile because it’s what everyone expects you to do. And yet, people see beyond that mask. They see the pain, they see how scarred you are.


Then why do we allow love or friendship to give us so much of pain? Why do we go ahead and talk to people even when our hearts tell us not to? It’s simple. Because, no matter what we tell ourselves, we can’t live alone. There are times when we feel lonely, yet, we are rarely alone. There is always someone you can talk to, someone who will listen. And when that person stops being there, someone else will take their place.


However, we tend to forget what people mean to us. Sometimes we decide to put an end to a story we share with a person, even though it doesn’t make much sense. We let the distance grow and we let our lives move away from each other. Days, weeks, months and years go by, and slowly we forget them. We forget what they meant to us.


Yet, all it takes is one look your way, one smile, one word to bring it all back. And then you regret everything, you wish things had never ended. You wish you were stronger. You curse yourself for being so weak. Yet, we all have those moments, no matter how strong we appear to be. We may smile or laugh away our troubles but if there’s one thing we all have in common, it is our pain, our suffering.


And yet, we mustn’t keep drowning in our tears. We shouldn’t let those strangers with whom we share memories, haunt us. We should move on, and if we can’t, we must forget.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Calvin and Hobbes

The Nation

No better play of the imagination is seen as illustrated in Calvin and Hobbes. For all those who have no inkling as to who these two are, you are in for a treat. The comic strip illustrated by Bill Watterson, gives us a peek into the world of Calvin, a six-year-old. What makes his life extraordinary is his stuffed tiger, Hobbes, who Calvin believes is alive.




The two go on many adventures, wreaking havoc and always getting on the nerves of other people. His parents, who we only know as Mom and Dad, love Calvin and even Hobbes. When Calvin demands a goodnight kiss for Hobbes, his mother obliges, and in one episode, Calvin’s Mom even vents her feelings to Hobbes. The Dad too puts up with Calvin and Hobbes, and admits they are all one family again, once Calvin is reunited with Hobbes, having been left behind at home. Watterson cleverly shows that Hobbes is alive only in Calvin’s mind by drawing him as a live and fuzzy tiger with Calvin, while he was a mere stuffed toy in the presence of others.



The adventures Calvin and Hobbes have are funny and amusing. They make snow goons, who multiply and cause a lot of trouble. Calvin also uses his imagination to get out of situations he doesn’t like, for instance, school classes or a lecture from a parent. Here he imagines himself to be Spaceman Spiff, Tracer Bullet or Stupendous Man. Time to time Calvin imagines that he is a fly, or microscopic version of himself.



Cardboard boxes are also featured a lot in the comic. Most kids had tons of fun with those boxes, and Calvin is no exception. These boxes become his latest inventions; a Transmogrifier, which Hobbes and Calvin fight over, each turning the other into various life forms and time machines, through which they used to travel to the past.



From time to time Susie Derkins tries to join in the games. She is in the same class as Calvin, and he tries to horrify her during lunch. He describes his food to be slugs or maggots, but also depends on Susie for answers in class. Susie is usually innocent, although she does have a mean streak. She gives Calvin false answers but does show concern for him. They have a love hate relationship and even though hate seems to be given more prominence, there are moments when it’s clear they love each other.




While Calvin finds love and romantic gestures disgusting, Hobbes seems to love to smooch girls. Calvin scolds him for this, and they both start the GROSS club, which stands for Get Rid of Slimy girlS. They fight for leadership, and have a password to enter the tree house which is the GROSS headquarters.



One of the most interesting strips is those where Calvin and Hobbes ride down a mountain on a wagon or sled. While Hobbes closes his eyes in fear, Calvin ponders about life, death, god and his beliefs. The heavy comics always end in comedy, when both of them crash into a pile at the bottom of the hill.


While Watterson plays around with characters that are mostly children, and a wild imagination, Calvin and Hobbes is loved by the young and the old. In fact, many adults love reading them, and it is one of those few comics that will make you laugh and cry. The episodes about a young raccoon will definitely leave the reader in tears. We also see the sensitive side of Calvin, when he isn’t able to buy Hobbes a Christmas gift and when he says that Hobbes is the best friend anyone could ever have.


Calvin and Hobbes doesn’t only entertain the reader. It also teaches us many things, and reveals many truths about the world. Many emotions are perfectly captured, and Calvin and Hobbes will remain a much loved comic strip for years to come.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What’s fun about gossiping?

The Nation Free

You can’t deny having indulged in a session of gossip at least once in your life. Gossiping is seen as a fun and entertaining way to while away time. However, it is also, at times, disgusting and a shameful thing to do.


When you gossip about someone, at some point the story is exaggerated and soon enough, the original story is hidden beneath many false versions. People never gossip about good things. Have you heard people talk about the young couple, in love, who are such amazing parents to their one boy who looks like an angel? Do people talk about how well so and so is doing at his job and how much he deserves that latest promotion?


Instead gossip is hateful and hurtful. It is coated with jealousy and envy. We talk about the latest breakups, and tumbles in life. Who is cheating on whom, and who just lost her job. We gossip about the financial status of people, or their family matters. Nothing ever good comes out of gossiping.


While indulging in a gossip session, have you ever thought about what these very people say about you? Have you heard the rumors your so called friends spin around you? If your group of friends suddenly quitens down when you join them, chances are, they were talking about you. But they weren’t complimenting or praising you.


While you can’t stop people from gossiping about you, you can certainly give them little to gossip about. If you feed the fire hay, the fire will spread. However, if you douse it with water, the fire will die. Such is gossip. Make your private life public, someone told me recently. This way, your people will have no need to make us rumors or gossip about you. What feeds gossip is secrecy. People wonder how you paid for that brand new 42 inch TV you just bought, or that expensive restaurant you were dining at last night.

However, if the world knows how you paid for them, there is no use gossiping about it.
You can also get your act straight and behave in a non-gossip worthy manner. If a young female starts to get home very late, there will be stories spun about her late night outings. Maybe she’s only hanging out with her female friends, or working late, but people will talk, and there’s nothing that could stop them. Thus we too must make sure no scandals can be linked to us, that our reputation is never tarnished.


Living in Sri Lanka, this is difficult. Everyone loves gossiping, and news about the latest scandal spreads much fasted than news about the latest tsunami. However, it’s easier said than done to not feed the fire. The issue with making your private life public is simple. While people love to make public their happiness, they don’t want their sorrows to be known. We never hesitate to smile in public, no matter how fake our smiles are. Yet, we will never cry in public. Further, no matter how careful you are, no matter how well behaved you are, gossip doesn't need to be factually correct. Thus even though you live a good life, people will make up some story, mostly just out of spite.



Even if you turn a deaf ear to all the gossip about you, not many can do that. This is why you must never gossip about another. Walk in their shoes. Would you like to be talked about in that manner? It’s doubtful. Thus you should never indulge in those gossip sessions. No matter how entertaining they are.