Sunday, May 25, 2014

PDA needs to stop

Story appeared in The Nation newspaper, and was criticized by some. Sharing the post here, as I usually do, but also adding emphasis to words and phrases people seem to have missed when criticizing this.
(If you want to, criticize away.)

Public Displays of Affection (PDA) are one of the worst forms of torture when you are in public transport or some public place. It’s a way for couples to suffocate others with what they call love. PDA is a form of assault. It needs to be stopped.

PDA begins with words. In a country where people are generally loud, you don’t need to be an eavesdropper to know what people are talking about. Conversations between couples take place in public places and while some are about acceptable topics, most are certainly 18 plus material. It is doubtful that people sitting near couples want to know about all the unspeakable things they plan on doing to and with each other when alone. Of course, the perverts will enjoy it, but it isn’t only perverts who use public transport and enjoy being in public places.

From words, we move on to the innocent form of physical contact: Hand holding. Today we see enough and more couples holding hands in public. This is all okay, but why do some insist on holding hands everywhere they go? If you feel insecure and worry your partner will fly away the second you let go of their hand, you need to ask yourself if the relationship is a good idea. People have complained about couples whose handholding has become a nuisance. Do you need to keep holding each other’s hands while getting off a bus or train? It’s understandable that couples want to do as much touching as possible. However, this needs to stop when it starts getting ridiculous and when it starts becoming a nuisance to others.

Another form of PDA is the ‘her hand in his back pocket.’ This makes everyone uncomfortable, and for all the good reasons. In a country where even the most innocent of touches are frowned upon, this form of PDA is truly horrifying. Kids are often told not to put their hands where they don’t belong (for instance, power sockets). What example are couples setting when one’s hand doesn’t leave the other’s back pocket? Forget what kids make out of this. Think about how uncomfortable it makes other people?

Hugging is an innocent enough gesture. We hug family and friends. We do a lot of hugging in our lives. However, there are various kinds of hugs. Of these, the too long, too tight hugs are not meant for public places.

Couples then move on to kissing. We all know what happens between the couples who hide behind umbrellas. We have seen that magical kiss between the princess and prince. However, this does not prepare most of us for a couple who insists on kissing in public. And do they stop at a peck on the cheek or a light brushing of lips? No! Why stop there? When the couple does not stop at just a kiss, and continue to have a make out session, things go from bad to worse. You feel uncomfortable; you keep looking away and try to shut off the noises and voices. Besides the important question of, ‘why make out in public?’ couples must also be extremely considerate of who is forced to watch this intimate moment between the couple.

You may think that such public displays of affection do not happen in Sri Lanka. Well, have you gone to the beach, cinema, parks and especially, buses? And why put a stop to PDA? Forget children who could be observing and later, imitating. Forget making other people extremely uncomfortable.
These are intimate moments. They are for your partner and yourself. Don’t give your life, especially your love live, an audience. Make those moments, those hugs and kisses, private moments. Don’t cheapen your love by making it too public.

- See more at:

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Who needs a [social] life?

When I left school two years ago, I left without making many friends. I did have 'friends,' people I spoke to because we took the same classes, and had spent most of our lives together, in the same school. Besides that, I had very little in common with most of them. Very few ended up being people I continued to be friends with, and two years after leaving school, I have just one friend who actually has an inkling about what is going on in my life.

This isn't to say people have alienated me. Some make an effort to keep in touch, but I'm not the kind of person who really wants to make an effort to be friends. Slowly, people lost interest, I stopped appearing online and now, from a hundred students, only five or six can be considered friends, and only one can be considered a close friend.

The Nation became my home last January. At first the people scared me a bit. I was just a school leaver, naive and new to this working world. Here were people with experience. People who knew what they were doing. Thanks to the nature of the job, I met a whole lot of writers, readers and people who are excited about the geekiest things. These were people I could have actual conversations with. People mature enough to not discuss nothing but boys/girls, parties and the latest boy bands.

Here were people who didn't make plans to meet up at places with weird names that sold very expensive food and beverages. They didn't care if you bought your clothes from the posh stores. They knew that "I'm broke" isn't an excuse, but the truth.

When I started having more fun with these people, I started having less fun with my school friends. I gave, and still give, excuses to avoid them. I gave away my phone, and started using an old phone, for many reasons, including the fact that this phone didn't have whatsapp. I found ways and excuses to avoid people. Except of course, that one friend I did my best to meet up with regularly.

So while I was happy living in this little world at the Nation, my mother and grandmother started pointing out that I had the same few friends, and didn't spend much time away from office. Which is true. I didn't go out with my school friends anymore. My cousins and I rarely meet, and that too, for a few minutes only. So yes, I didn't have a life outside the Nation.

Some say I'm a lonely person. No boyfriend, not many males to talk with, the same group of friends to have fun with. And its a valid thing to say. But I'm not unhappy, or lonely. I don't make an effort to make friends because I don't need anymore friends. I could say yes to those meetups to have coffee or a few drinks. I could send messages to people I don't talk to anymore.

But I'm happy being me. I don't want to go out. And even if I did, I don't have the time to have a life away from the Nation.

Here's the thing. I work five days a week. That is, I spend five days a week at office. The two days spent at home, well, I either work, catch up on TV series, watch movies, read and mostly sleep. I live away from Colombo, where my school friends live, and I don't have the energy to make that one hour trip to meet them. And of course, I don't have the money to do so either.

This lack of interest in having a social life will result in me having few non-workplace friends. I will never find a man. I will never know how wild parties can get, and why spending 1,000 rupees on water-like coffee is worth it. I won't know what the latest movies are, what the latest posh store is. I won't know these things. But I will be happy. I will spend my days at office, with people I get along with. People who will laugh at the same lame jokes as I would. People who, even when it gets too overwhelming, are easy to love.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Faith in humanity restored

A small, brown puppy, grubby. Not of a known breed, a street dog, as they are called. He runs across the Galle Road, making vehicles come to a halt. He could be easily knocked down, but the people are kind. At first, they are annoyed about the sudden halt in their journey. However, when they see the little culprit who is causing the traffic jam, they wait patiently while the puppy walks over to the other side. Then a motorcyclist gets off his bike, runs behind the puppy and gets it to the side of the road. The vehicles continue their journey, passengers stealing one last look of the puppy.

An old man,  his walking stick held tightly by his twitching hand. He stands at the yellow crossing, waiting to cross the road. Vehicles go by, none stopping to let him cross. Finally, a few others gather around to cross the road. Vehicles stop. They cross. The old man takes longer than the rest. Hands are already reaching towards the vehicle horns, hoping that would make the old man hurry. He’s trying his best, and can feel people staring at him, cursing him. Slowly the tooting starts and he quickens his steps and finally reaches the other side. He looks back and feels tears clouding his eyes, the impatience of some, so hard to understand.

Why did they have more patience for the puppy than they had for the old man? He is someone’s father, someone’s grandfather. We know that the old man wasn’t taking his own cool time. He was trying his best to cross the road as soon as possible. Yet, people often forget about kindness and patience when dealing with humans.

It is true that that puppy couldn’t have known that people have places to be. It is true that that puppy couldn’t tell us what he wanted, and couldn’t understand what we told him. The old man could, and he did. Yet, the curses and stares and annoyed looks of people did not give him the strength to walk faster. People knew this. Yet, they didn’t seem to care.

Such moments make us feel disgusted of humans. We can’t believe that we tend to treat animals better than we treat other humans. We hear of people who isolate themselves from people because they cannot bear to live with such inhumane beings. They are so disgusted by the hate, anger and injustice around them.

However, what keeps us sane in such a world? What gives us all a reason to wake up each day and face the world? Those sometimes too rare moments of pure kindness give us strength. They make us have some hope.
The late evening sky is dark orange. She carries bags heavy with groceries. Her breathing gets faster and faster until her world becomes a blur and she falls. She lies there on the pavement, unable to get up. Then she feels warm hands on her cold body, lifting her up slowly. They help her on to her feet and see if she has any bruises or wounds. They are strangers to her. And yet, they were there when she needed them.

බෞද්ධ කාන්තාව

බුද්ධ ධර්මයේ පරිහානියට හේතුව බෞද්ධ කාන්තාව යයි සමහරු කියනවා. අපිලු පන්සල්වලට යද්දී කොට සායවල් සහ තද ඇඳුම් අඳින්නේ. අපි විතරයිලු සිල් ගන්නවයි කියල ඕපා දුප කියවන්න පන්සලට යන්නේ. බෞද්ධ කාන්තාව තමයි හැම ප්‍රශ්නයකටම මුල.

මිනිසෙක් හොරකම් කරයි. ඔහු තම බිරිඳට ගහනවා. මත්පැන් බොනවා. ඔය හැම එකකටම දොස් කියන්නේ ඔහුව හොඳට හදන්න බැරිවෙච්ච ඔහුගේ අම්මටයි. බොහෝවිට ඒ බෞද්ධ කාන්තාවයි.

මෙතන කියන්න මට සීයට අගයන් නැහැ. හැබැයි ඉතින් මට පේන විදියට නම් පන්සිල් වලින් වැඩි ගණනක් පද කඩන්නේ පිරිමි. කවුද වැඩිපුරම සත්ත්වයන්ට හිංසා කරන්නේ? මරන්නේ? කවුද වැඩිපුරම හොරකම් කරන්නේ? එතකොට මත්පැන් බොන්නේ?

හැබැයි මොන දේ කරත්, මොන දේ නොකලත් අන්තිමට හැමෝම දොස් කියන්නේ ඔය බෞද්ධ කාන්තාවටයි.

ලඟදි බෞද්ධ කොඩි හදන හේමපාලට කතා කරද්දී, ඔහු කිව්වා බෞද්ධ කාන්තාව කොඩි හදන්නේ නැති නිසා ඔහු ක්‍රිස්තියානි කාන්තාවන්ට ඒ වැඩේ බාරදීල කියල. ඒක අහල තරහවක් ඇතිවුනාට මම මුකුත් කියන්න ගියේ නැහැ. හැබැයි තරහ හිතුනේ කොඩි හදන්නේ ක්‍රිස්තියානි කාන්තාවන් නිසා නොව, ඔහු කොඩි සැදීම බෞද්ධ කාන්තාවගේ යුතුකම යයි කියූ නිසාය.

ඔය කතාව කිව්වේ පිරිමියෙක්. ඔහු දැන් කොඩි හැදුවේ නැතත්, අතීතයේ කොඩි මහපු කෙනෙක්. ඔහු ව්‍යාපාරයක් නිසා හරි කොඩි හැදුවනේ. එහෙනම් ඔය ඉතුරු බෞද්ධ පිරිමින්ට ඇයි කොඩි මහන්න බැරි? ඇයි ඒ අයට ගුණ ධර්ම ගැන දරුවන්ට කියා දෙන්න බැරි?

පන්සලකට ගිහාම ගෑනු විතරද කොට ඇඳුම් අඳින්නේ? ඔය කොට කලිසම්, පාට පාට කමිස ඇඳන් ඉන්න පිරිමින්ට හාමුදුරුවන් මුකුත් කියන්නේ නැහැ. හාමුදුරුවන්ටත් පේන්නේ ගෑනුන්ගේ ඇද කුද විතරයි.

බෞද්ධ කාන්තාව යනු සිංහල බෞද්ධයා වැනි පදයකි. එයට හරි හැටි තේරුමක් නැහැ. රටේ ප්‍රශ්නවලට සිංහල බෞද්ධයාට වැරැද්ද පටවනව වගේ බෞද්ධ ධර්මයේ තියෙන ප්‍රශ්නවලට ලේසිම වෙන්නේ බෞද්ධ කාන්තාවට ඇඟිල්ල දිගු කිරීමයි.

හැබැයි ඉතින් කාන්තාවන්ට දොස් කියලා, ඔවුන්ට හිංසා කරලා, අන්තිමට පච්ච කොටා ගන්නවා 'අම්මා බුදු වේවා' කියලා. ගෑනුන්ට තනිව පාරක යන්න බැරි තත්වයක් උදා කරලා කියනවා ගෙදර බුදුන් අම්මා කියල.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Is smoking the only thing that kills?

Pictorial warnings are disturbing. Each time I see one of them, I need to barf. I see those cartons, even though I don't smoke. Even though I don't carry cigarette cartons with me.

Will the pictures stop me from ever smoking a cigarette? No. Will they make me want others to stop smoking? No.

As kids, our parents made us do certain things by telling us some horror story. Athamma used to get rid of my brother and I when she was making milk toffees by telling us that the gonibilla will eat the milk toffees if we disturb her. We stayed away because we thought the gonibilla would actually eat the nice, gooey toffee. Are these anti-tobacco companies aiming at scaring the living hell out of us so that we would stop smoking? Is that why they want non-smokers to also be forced to see such gruesome pictures?

In most stores, the cigarette shelf is kept just above the cashier. These stores sell more than cigarettes and we have to pay for goods at that cashier where, just above the cashiers' heads are rows and rows of gruesome pictures. I don't fancy paying for lunch while a picture of a man with bloodied lips and a wound on his cheek stares at me. And I'm sure there are many others who don't like these images either.

Let's say the images do stop me from buying the cartons (who would want to carry such disgusting cartons?). Will they stop me from smoking? I can always find cigarettes without having to buy a carton.

In the end, it's a choice. It's a decision each individual makes.

“It's a metaphor, see: You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don't give it the power to do its killing.”

― John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars

If I choose to take up smoking, I choose to light that cigarette. I choose to let it kill me. Just like I choose to let other things kill me. I know junk food will affect my health. I know missing meals will affect my health. I know letting those mosquitoes feast on my blood could give me some disease or the other. But I choose to eat junk food, I choose to miss meals, I choose to not chase those mosquitoes away. So will pictorial warnings stop me from making certain decisions? I doubt it!

So why shouldn't you smoke? Because it affects other people? Well, what if a man smokes in a room where there is no one else? What if he has no family depending on him, has money to pay for medical care when needed or better, would prefer to die in his home than seek help when he falls sick?

If smoking kills, do non-smokers live forever? If I don't smoke, if I stay away from smokers, if I don't drink alcohol, if I eat all the healthy food, will I live forever?

We are all going to die. To live is to die. Living and dying aren't two separate acts. I'm not saying you need to smoke because you will die anyway. I'm not saying you need to stop smoking because it will cut short your life. I can't tell you what to do. And I shouldn't. It's up to you to decide. In the end, will you stop smoking just because there are some gruesome pictures on a cigarette carton? Or will you stop smoking due to a fear of all those health issues you have always been warned about?

If you have an issue with that 'cigarette smell,' you need to distance yourself from smokers. I can't sit with a group of smokers, and complain about that foul smell. If you worry about secondhand smoke, don't hang out with smokers. You can advice people. You can tell them all the horror stories. You can show them those gruesome pictures. However, in the end, you cannot stop someone from smoking. They have to make that decision.

We can't and shouldn't force our beliefs on people. Anti-tobacco organizations can stop people from smoking in public places. They can have pictorial warnings on cartons. But they cannot force people to stop smoking.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

What we expect from our parents

We are told to love and respect our parents. We are asked to always listen to them and do as we are told. However, rarely can we ask why we should respect them. And even if we do ask that question, the answer will be, 'because they have sacrificed and done so much for you.' Looking at the number of abortions and orphans makes one wonder though, if parents are doing their job anymore.

Recently, I was being dropped off to BMICH by one of our office drivers. He was talking about an accident that had happened, where a three wheeler driver, who was at fault, had demanded money from him. This is what he said, as I remember it.
"ඉස්සරනම් මම ඕන දෙයක් කරනවා. ඒ බඳින්න කලින්. දැන් මට පවුලක් තියෙනවා. මොනවහරි කරලා හිරේ ගියොත් මගේ දවල් කෑම එක ගේන්නේ බිරිද. නැත්නම් දරුවා. මම ඒකට ඉඩ තියන්නේ නැහැ."

(For those who don't understand/can't read the above: he said, "I would have done anything before I got married. Now I have a family. If I do something and go to prison, my wife will have to bring me my lunch. Or my child will have to. I won't let that happen.")

Hearing this made me wonder about what is expected from a parent. Not by society but by children. Here are a few things I expect from my parents, and qualities I look for in parents.

1. Be there. Always. Now, I know that parents have work to do, money to earn and chores to attend to. They too need to have their own life. So I don't mean being there in a physical sense. But I need to know I can call you, or somehow get through to you at anytime of the day. It could be twelve noon or twelve midnight, but if the need arises, you must be there for me.

2. I need to know I can depend on you. Not just financially. I need to know that when things get crazy, you will keep me sane. I should know that when I have no place to go to, you will always welcome me back.

3. Forgive me. I will make mistakes. I will say things I shouldn't say, and do things I shouldn't do. I will go against your wishes, and I will hurt you. But if I come to you looking for forgiveness, it is because I now know and understand the mistakes I made. So if it ever comes to that I need you to forgive me.

4. Never stop loving me. Even though I pretend to not care, I need a lot of love and need to be taken care of, So I need to know that you will never stop loving me. I need to be able to feel your love even if we are miles apart.

5. Be happy together. My parents aren't together, but they do work together when it comes to matters involving my brother and I. Just don't be an absent parent, and don't abandon whoever you had a child with. We grow up believing in the existence of a perfect family. While we shouldn't believe in fairy tales, don't be in a hurry to show us how wrong our beliefs our. Even if you don't get along, make an effort just so your child will feel happy.

6. Don't hurt each other. A child should never see their parents cry, unless it's at a funeral or some such event. There's a campaign against domestic violence and one of the signboard says, "අම්මට රිදුනම අපිටත් රිදෙනවා තාත්තේ." Don't ever let your child have such thoughts. There's no greater betrayal.

7. Your child must always be given first place. Never ever put work or friends before your family. Make an effort to spend time with your child. Don't make them feel forgotten.

8. This is about both number 1 and number 7. Today, we see many families where both parents work. However, at least during your child's early years, make sure he or she is taken care of by at least one parent. Don't leave your child with a nanny. This crates a great gap between parent and child. And it is not a gap that is easy to close.

There's more to the list, but for now, this is it :)

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Schrödinger’s cat

Schrödinger’s cat is an interesting experiment. What led to the thought experiment is slightly complex, and the experiment is often considered to be a paradox. The experiment involves a cat in a box. The box also contains a flask of poison. When a detector inside the box senses radioactivity, the flask shatters, thus releasing the poison and killing the cat.

Since the box is closed, one never knows if the cat is dead or alive. Thus the cat is both dead and alive while the box is closed. However, to know the real state of the cat, one must open the box.

Schrödinger’s cat has been picked up by many writers. There are various interpretations of it, and the experiment is often used as an analogy.

If you look at Schrödinger’s cat, it’s a situation of maybe and maybe not. We often wonder about the outcome of a situation. Would result A happen, or result B happen? Would the result be good or bad?

We spend hours and hours fretting over what the outcome will be without actually doing what we have to. However, we would never know until we actually do it. In the case of Schrödinger’s cat, we would only know if the cat is dead or alive if we are brave enough to open the box.

Remember when we used to have crushes in our early teens? It was so embarrassing to accept that you actually liked someone. Slowly, these feelings became more mature and you began to question if someone you liked or loved was boyfriend or girlfriend material. And if they were, the next step was to ask them out. Your friends keep teasing you and asking you to take that step. You aren’t happy with those few stolen glances, and secret smiles. Thus you feel helpless and frustrated and want to actually tell them how you feel.

However, what stops you from asking him or her out is the question, ‘does he/she like you back?’ We tend to over think the answers to this question. There are only two answers, he likes you or he doesn’t. And you would never know until you actually tell him about your feelings. If his response is a positive one, you’ll be happy you took that first step. You no longer have to keep your feelings a secret.

If you, however, open the box to find the cat dead, then just throw the carcass away. Don’t dwell on things that will never happen. It is difficult, true. But didn’t you, at some point, stop crying for the pet that died? It died, it was buried, you cried and then, you stopped crying. Likewise, forget your feelings and move on. Rarely does one continue to like or love the same person, after being rejected.

Life is about many cats in boxes. You never know if they are dead or alive. However, life is too short to keep the box closed. Be brave and open the box. Find out if the cat is dead or alive.