Thursday, July 30, 2015

Save... but also delete

When you work with words and your job is mostly about article-writing, the act of unconsciously pressing Ctrl and S comes to you naturally. In fact, one of the first things you learn in the field is to save the document after each new sentence. And when you are battling writer’s block, you tend to save the document after each word.

Saving is important, whether you are saving a document, money, or someone’s life. More often than not, we regret not saving before it’s too late. Imagine you are typing a long document. It could be something personal, may be about a recent breakup, epiphany or experience. You keep typing and pouring your heart out to this Word document. And then suddenly the power goes off and you realize you’ve lost everything. You regret not saving the document. Save but also delete.

If you are lucky, you will find everything or most of what you typed saved by Word itself. However, there’s a chance the most important paragraph is lost somewhere, and you feel something valuable has been stolen from you. When this keeps happening, you learn to save without fail. In fact, there will be times when you save the document even when no changes have been made.

While it’s important to save, have you taken a look at everything you have saved? We often save all our thoughts and memories online.

Blogs are treated like diaries by some. It’s not merely a place to share opinions or talk about current events, but a place to store one’s deepest thoughts and experiences. A blog is sacred and precious. So, imagine what would it be like to find that the blog you maintained for six long years has been deleted?

So no matter how careful you are and make sure your posts are saved, a mistake could be made and you may have everything you ever honestly wrote deleted. All those words could be erased or wiped from the face of the Earth. When this happens, you feel crushed. You feel robbed. You feel empty.

However, as time goes by, you realize something important; that none of it matters.

At some point of your life, you need to clear all the shelves and need to wipe away the dust too. It’s not as dramatic as turning over a new leaf or having a new beginning. It’s the same you, the same life you lived but you delete or erase the past. You let go of all those dreams and nightmares from the past.

This could be something huge like moving on from certain people and situations. However, it could be a simple deletion of posts, (Facebook) friends or messages. Go through your contact list. Why do you still have your ex’s number saved? Is it because you still talk to him or because you are still waiting for him to call? If it’s because of the second reason, maybe it’s time to delete the contact. And once you do it, you feel relieved.

However, not everything that is saved should be deleted. And not everything that is saved can be deleted. Further, this act of getting rid of things need not be a painful experience.

Think of a jar you fill with coins to collect money to buy the books you want or for the holiday you badly need. Emptying your savings for something you need and deserve isn’t as bad as deleting all the messages that keep haunting you. So not all savings that are gotten rid of are bad or sad. Sometimes, it’s a good thing.

Knowing this is important in life. It’s important to save, but it’s also important to delete.

Monday, July 13, 2015


If you know the right people on Twitter, then you are sure to be invited for a number of different events or meet ups. There’s TweetUpSL, the many mini TweetUps, there was GalleByRail and so many more. These events are planned, people are invited or asked to attend, the event is tweeted about and then life goes back to normal until another event is decided upon.

However, not all of these events are about having fun. RanaViruMeetUp which will be happening on July 25 is bound to be less about the tweeps and more about the armed forces or war heroes.

Usually, the armed forces are only remembered in May, when people argue over if the end of the armed conflict should be commemorated each year, while others suddenly remember their patriotism. Some opt to put up the national flag and share posts about the people who actually fought the war. Others can’t decide if they want to call it Remembrance Day or War Heroes Day.

The men and women in uniform, dead or alive, who carried the arms we were too afraid of and were part of the battles that finally led to ‘peace’ are heroes, there’s no doubt about that. And they aren’t superman or batman type of heroes, with clean and shiny outfits and superpowers which mean they are always safe at the end. Those of the armed forces didn’t have lavish apartments and luxury to go home to after a day of fighting evil. Instead they spent months in dense forests, living in fear.

Six years ago, we were eager to praise and commend them. As the years passed by, we forgot their heroic acts. Now we hear of ex-military men who work as drivers or security guards. We hear of soldiers who have no legs or arms and are ignored by people. We have stopped picturing them at the battlefield when we see a man limping or using a wheelchair. We are forgetting.

Your time is all they need.

On July 25, a group of people will be going to Ragama to spend time with those at Ranaviru Sevana. People have questions about the motive behind this and if the donations will be put to good use. However, the site and various event accounts constantly keep people updated. Maybe it won’t be as great as it’s made to seem, but you wouldn’t know unless you go for RanaViruMeetUp.

According to the event site, Ranaviru Sevana doesn’t accept cash donations. However, this doesn’t mean they aren’t in need of donations. Below are items that can be donated to Ranaviru Sevana.

  • Wheel chairs
  • Elbow Clutches (Comfort brand)
  • Ceiling fans
  • Stationary items (A4, A3, notepads etc.)
  • LQ 2090 ribbons (for printer)

The RanaViruMeetUp site has all the information you need.

I’m sure there will be people who take a billion and one selfies and tweet to and about everyone they meet, but none of that matters. What matters and what’s important is that you can spend time with people who have fought to end a thirty-year period of darkness. That’s not much to ask for.

Consider it. Make a donation. Attend. Find some time to be with people who deserve it.

At first, it felt weird to type this. It came as a request, and yesterday, when I began typing it, I looked at it as something I was typing because I was told to. Today, I managed to write the post because I changed the reason I was typing this. I find the event interesting, would love to attend and so, it didn’t feel wrong or forced to write about it.
We tend to use our words for the wrong reasons. We tend to use our time for the wrong things. Maybe RanaViruMeetUp will be a right thing to use your words and time for. Spread the word and keep the 25th free.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Thoughts on Me Kathawa

You stand before a large door with an intricate design and gold mixing into the brown of wood. You are taken aback by the beauty of this door. This what it feels like reading the first page of Sureka Samarasena’s Me Kathawa. The cover and the first page of the story, white letters on black paper, makes you have great expectations about what’s in store for you. So you open the door and to your disappointment you find an ordinary house, the kind you won’t remember after you leave it. You walk through the house in hope of hidden treasures, but besides a small jar of emotion at the very end, you leave from the back door feeling empty.

Me Kathawa isn’t a bad book. I tend to buy books I’ve never heard of and so I’ve read quite a number of crappy books. I wouldn’t put Me Kathawa to that category, but I wouldn’t call it a good book either. It’s entirely subjective if a book is good or not, so this is merely my opinion.

When I saw the cover (it’s absolutely beautiful) and when I read the first page, I thought, “I need to buy this book right now!” I ended up not buying it, simply because it wasn’t a book I would want to have with me at all times.

And here’s why I didn’t like the story.

I would call a story good if it in anyway strikes a chord in me and if it leaves me with something. So basically, I would say I like a book depending on how it affects me during the journey through it and how I felt after.

While reading Me Kathawa, I felt nothing. It was like listening to a grandparent tell a story and waiting for the climax. Except you never get there in this story because it’s not the kind of story that, I felt, gives into the traditional storyline or ‘how the story should flow’ guidelines. While there is a beginning and ending, it didn’t feel like the story was trying too hard to be a story. This I liked. No, this I loved about Me Kathawa.

However, even such stories can move me in some way. In fact, reading Me Kathawa was like reading an article. I’ve felt this before when reading another journalist’s short stories. However, it didn’t feel like reading an article for the first time. It was like rereading your own article to reduce the number of mistake before you send it to the section head. You read it in a bored, ‘I’m just trying to get to the end of this’ manner.

Further, the book’s blurb implies it will be a female’s story. And it is. It is about three-four generations of women. You’d think it’s the kind of book feminists would use as a weapon. However, it didn’t feel strong enough. It was like drinking weak tea. You drink it, but you are embarrassed to even call it tea. And this isn’t because the women aren’t victims here but because not enough happens. This could be because, as Samarasena said at the book launch on July 9, half the story didn’t make it to the final book.

I haven’t read many Sinhala books. So this sort of story could be new to (modern) Sinhala literature but I’ve read this sort of story before. It felt more like reading an online article on Arundathi Bandara. It made you wonder why the story was published.

I like big books. I love big books. This is because I’m given time to get used to the author’s language, to get to know the characters and imagine myself in the book’s world. Me Kathawa is tiny. I’ve seen poetry collections that are thicker. You can’t judge a book by its size but before you can warm up to the book, the story ends. However, an author, if skilled, can involve the reader in just a few pages or paragraphs. For instance, Malak Katha Karayi by Isuru Chamara Somaweera, one of the few short story collections I’ve read and maybe the only collection I love, involved the reader in the story even though the stories were only a few pages long.

So the book didn’t move me or affect me while I was reading it.

I had hope that maybe the book would make me feel something after I read it. I remember how, after reading On Sal Mal Lane by Ru Freeman, I felt all these emotions slam into each other. I felt torn, as if something had been taken away from me. This is what a good book can do to me.

Did I feel that way about Me Kathawa? No. I read it, I put the book back in my bag and went on Twitter and Facebook. I felt so empty that I didn’t even know if I liked or disliked the book.
It is nice. The story is nice, and it’s told nicely. But I wouldn’t call it a good book.

However, reading the book did make me have an argument with myself about books and the purpose of publishing a book. Now, I found Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala to be a strong story. But I still don’t understand why she had to ‘sell’ her story, her life and why at such a high price. While Me Kathawa isn’t as expensive and it didn’t feel like Samarasena was ‘selling’ her story, it made me wonder why she thought it should be published.

But who am I to ask that?

So why are stories published? What makes an author think his story is good enough to be sold to people? During a time when most of what we write, whether they are poems or stories, are published online for free and accessible to people for free, one would expect only the best of the best to be published. However, reading books, you realize that that’s not the case.

So what makes a story publish-worthy? I would assume it should have the ability to move the reader. If a story is empty, then what are you giving people? Are you giving them a nicely done cover or good quality pages? Are you giving them ink? You are giving them something of value. You are giving them a part of you, your time and effort. You are giving them your words. But when the reader pays money for your book and gets nothing but paper and ink, are you selling something you shouldn’t be selling?

Again, let me tell you, whoever you are, this is merely my opinion. Just because I didn’t like Me Kathawa doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be read. There were many who seemed to have liked the book and many bought the book at the launch. However, for reasons I don’t understand, the story, the entire story, was basically discussed at the launch. Where does this leave the people who hadn’t read her book? A trailer of a film shouldn’t give the viewer the entire story. Likewise, book launches shouldn’t reveal all about the book.

And finally, let me just say that the plot was good. It could have been a favorite book if only it had been told differently.