Monthly Archives: June 2010

Children – happy smiles do injustice to their predicament

Of all the extra-curricular activities I have done, be it during school or afterwards in uni, one of the most endearing and satisfying experience I had was working on a children related Architecture project I worked for in Trincomalee.

More about the project and more photographs can be seen here.

It’s amazing how photogenic children in their carefree ways can be, the most sincere emotions that children reflect from their smiles makes them such joyous subjects to capture. This is one of my favourite photographs I have captured of children. This was taken at a school in Muttur, Trincomalee, North-East of Sri Lanka.

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Filed under kids, Sri Lanka, Uncategorized

A ship is called a she because –

I was going through some of my old posts in my other blog and I came across this! I still think it’s hilarious and was worth a post in this blog. Read full post here.

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Filed under architecture, england

Pink razors ? not for you Sir!

I read Halik’s post and remembered one of my own.

When I was still in school in 2004, when having a phone was the ‘in thing’ and the likes of twitter or facebook were unheard of, I toured the UK for two weeks. I met other students from other countries and it was a good convention of like-minded students and teaching staff where we learnt of and saw a lot of things.

The tour itself was great, it was my first visit to the UK and I had a lot of highlights. Even if not one of the most academically important, I think this particular incident really did teach me a lot of things.

I think it was in Aberdeen or Glasgow in Scotland where this took place. Now this was a 14 day all expenses paid tour, I took one (yes just one) razor as part of my toiletries. I really didn’t need that many, because facial hair growth was minimal and things on the face were only starting to happen, well pimples apart that is.

I can’t really remember the details, but we were to have a dinner or tea-meeting with the city’s mayor or someone of some significance and we were to be dressed smart, bow tie and all. And I realised that it may be better to just shave off the facial hair just beginning to sprout and look more in one extreme, I should either have a proper well groomed beard or none at all, as it was- my facial hair growth then was about one hundredth of the way towards a proper beard.

With all the stuff I had, little stuff like cables, chargers and those of the same ilk I had lost my razor in the suitcase.

So I walked into the shop nearby, male ego and all – going to buy a razor you see. Went through the aisles looked around, walked around pompously as if I had a whole bank to spend and then I went to the counter, where ironically razors were behind the sales girl.

I waited in the queue and then it was my turn to make my order, and by now there was quite a queue behind me, from the normal queen like old woman with a regal outlook to the suave executive. With my school boy confidence oozing I said pointing at the most expensive pack of disposable razors, ‘can I have one of those please’, I heard a deafening hush behind me – the reason for which I didn’t know then. The salesgirl who may have been about five years my senior looked at me, smiled and with a slight sarcastic politeness said as if to deflate my confident air, ‘we don’t sell singles sir, you have to buy the whole pack’.

This was new to me, I was used to going to the shop near the junction, five minutes from the road I live in Colombo and just said ‘uncle Gillette ekak denna’, when I was out of pocket money I just say ‘uncle bic ekak denna’. Being the eldest in the family, and the first to go through life’s changes, asking money from my parents to buy a razor was more embarrassing than it was painful for Oliver when he asked for more.

When the salesgirl told me this, I was in a new kind of predicament – now what! The pack of razors I had shown her was about £ 8.50 and as a school boy in 2004 the cash rate converter rang alarm bells in my head just then. I was going to do a transaction of about Rs. 1750 for a pack of ten razors which I will take at least 8 months to exhaust, at the rate my beard was growing.

I quickly looked around, and with renewed confidence spotted the cheapest pack of razors – given the amount of facial hair I had, anything would do I thought. The cheapest was a pink coloured pack (I must’ve thought it was salmon), I pointed at that and said, ‘oh, in that case I’ll have that pack’. Connecting with the smiling queue behind me, she said ‘pink razors aren’t for you sir’ as if I hadn’t got it already she reinforced that by saying ‘they are for ladies’.

I was stumped, as a losing warrior on a quest for redemption I bought that £ 8.50 packet of razors and walked back to the hotel I was in, knowing inside that I was a man beaten, boy rather. I had bought razors for Rs 1750! It kept haunting me every time I saw that pack; I could have had seventeen meals at MC food court with that amount! Hell I could have taken the whole of my AL class to MC food court and been the hero! Yeah, MC food court was sadly the decent hang out place then.

In my defence, those were different times – whilst we (or I) knew things in theory, the fact that a product such as a razor also has a market amongst the ladies had not really sunk it. Or maybe I was just the slow weirdo who didn’t catch up with the times.

Then in Sri Lanka, I can’t recall ever seeing a tv advert showing razors for women, razors were always a men’s thing and was always attributed to a smooth cut a man can have. Plus, those were times when twitter, facebook, online activism, youtube were unheard of if they were already there and even a high speed adsl internet connection was only owned by a very limited amount of businesses. Adsl was just beginning to be marketed and only a handful of people had it then, I certainly had only my dial up connection. Free flow of information was not as rampant and effective as it is now.

Lesson learnt I guess.

Have a great week!

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Filed under england, humour, personal

The 'Sri Lankan' smile.

Not sure if I have posted this picture before. This post is to complement this other post about the ‘Sri Lankan smile’ and about something intriguingly wonderful that happened to me today!

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A small act of kindness really does wonders – My 100th post

Today was one of those days. I cycle to work now; I have now been cycling for about two weeks. It’s about 25km a day to and fro in the busy streets of central London; funnily enough I seem to like it. My backside was in protest every single day, since it never had been pressed against such a solid surface as the hard bike saddle in about three years, but now it seems to have accepted that giving me relentless pain is not really going to change things.

I went to work today, normal day in the first half – but something about the second half after lunch just wasn’t right. I had a deadline today and was really busy trying to get the drawings out, and working for a seemingly I-am-recovering-from-a-hangover senior colleague who is directly responsible for the project and hence has his backside is in the firing is not very easy. I managed to get work done and left work about 15 minutes late, which is about average.

I very reluctantly had to cycle off route for about 10 minutes to go to Liverpool Street to get something. I locked my bike into a custom made post where other bicycles were parked and went rather hurriedly to Liverpool street and came back to find my bike vandalised.

Mine was a glittering new bike amidst some other hacked or relatively old ones, and someone who really didn’t like seeing it in its well, errm virgin state thought he or she will do me a favour by trying to damage it for the first time. The chain was pulled out and everything was a mess, the vandal had tried more things but evidently didn’t get enough time to do his thing and go. I dirtied myself and spent at least 15 minutes trying to get the complicated gear chaining system in place, fifteen minutes is a long time because it takes me only half an hour to ride home. I pushed the bike to the nearest restaurant to get tissues to wipe my very dirty greasy hands and then started riding back.

I was a bit upset, mixed emotions really. You know that feeling when you buy a new ipad and it falls for the very first time and gets scratched all over? Well it was that with frustration and anger really, anger that some people out there just have fun by causing another unnecessary suffering.

Riding home, past my office again since I had to go in the other direction and went riding in my usual direction home, one hour later than when I usually past that spot. Riding on, I was just not in the mood to take on the slope that was coming, I cut across a park where I thought I may be able to avoid the slope and when I went in I got lost, well not lost in the usual sense – I could have just gone back and taken the usual route, but because of the day’s developments I just couldn’t be bothered.

I just shouted at a fellow cyclist, told him where I wanted to go and after some thought, still riding parallel to each other he said ‘just follow me’ and I did. We went through the park, a really nice one – would be my new route home.

Riding parallel to him we got to speak a bit, I mean we can’t be riding together and just ignore each other can we. Besides this man was doing me a favour, so I just asked him if he was from around here and surprisingly he gave me a fairly detailed response – bear in mind we were still cycling. I was surprised because, after a hard day’s work (and Brazil playing a world cup football match tonight) you usually would want to get on with it and not really spend time with some random stranger.
He asked me where I was from, what I do and the usual.

I told him I was originally from Sri Lanka – and he instantly went ‘I knew you must be from Sri Lanka!’ I was pleasantly taken aback really. ‘That’s surprising, given that I can also be mistaken for an Indian’ I said, ‘well, Indians have several faces, and the Sri Lankan look is more consistent’ he went on. And if I am quoting correctly, he said something like ‘you know what mostly made me think you were Sri Lankan? Your smile – you have a very Sri Lankan smile.

Now this was different, very very different – first of all I don’t smile like this (pun intended), Secondly I am not really known amongst my friends as a ‘Smiler’ of the smiling kind! My sisters will bet all their buttering skills (buttering in the Sri Lankan sense) to say that I don’t smile! Thirdly, I was actually proud and happy for the fact that a non-Sri Lankan European associated a ‘smile’ with Sri Lankans.

We came out of the park and just as we were going back onto the main road my bike gave a weird noise. We stopped to inspect it and I realised a 65mm steel nail had pierced my tyre from the slightest of angles, the angle was so slight that it had gone in from one side and the other side of the nail was sticking out of the tyre – so two perforations.

What happened could easily have not happened if I had just moved 10mm away from where I came, it was so illogical to explain what happened that my new friend very aptly described it as ‘Sod’s Law.

I was told there was a bike shop close by, we walked to it and it was closed. I was getting a bit worried now. There are no tubes stations on that route and thinking of taking a bus with my bike on board is a joke! And unlike in Sri Lanka, we don’t have a bike repairing place (fondly known as a ‘vinkal’) at every junction.

My friend offered to go to his home and help me fix it. I was very much obliged, as I knew I really had no choice at all! Unless – well there was no ‘unless’.
We went to his house, which was a good 20 – 25 minute walk and he pushed his bike alongside mine. I had a very uneasy feeling; you know that feeling where a stranger goes through all that trouble just because I was in difficulty. I mean he could have easily said ‘Sorry about what happened mate, hope you get that sorted’ and cycled on his way, and if he did do that it would still be understandable, surely people do have other work to do.

We spoke of a lot of things; he had travelled a lot in Sri Lanka and absolutely loved it! And he had proposed to his wife in Sri Lanka, just at that moment I remembered a few female bloggers/tweeters who may have gone ‘awww’ if they were there ha! He had a decent knowledge of the Sri Lankan and global political scene and what we spoke about is a blog post in itself. Decent from the amount we spoke, but I don’t enough to deny the fact that he may be someone really well read on these matters.

We later shook hands and introduced ourselves, his name is James.

We went to his house and he genuinely took a lot of trouble to help me fix the puncture, borrowing tools, dirtying himself and the usual stuff that involves fixing a puncture. Whilst we were at it, I did remark – and I meant it when I said ‘I am sorry for all the inconvenience, I guess you are missing the Brazil match to be stuck helping me out’, and he went ‘I guess that can’t be avoided cuz you need help, but what I really may miss is reading a story to my little boy’. I was introduced to his son as we came to his house.

After a good dinner, and at the comfort of my room – when I look back, I don’t regret anything that took place today, however malicious or regretful they may have been when they did take place.

When my bike was vandalised, it was so unnecessary, something I really didn’t deserve and something about that incident just didn’t fit in place that I thought – surely, surely there must be some good in this happening to me, and may be in the grand scheme of things this will actually be a good thing.

I got lost, and I found someone who was kind enough to direct me – just then I got a puncture in the middle of nowhere, and if I hadn’t met James I really wouldn’t know what would have happened. Hell! I may still not be at home!

What if I never had to go off route to Liverpool Street? What if my bike was not vandalised? What if I was not tired, and did not get lost? What if I was just 10mm to the right or left and the nail never pierced? Answers to which I will never know. God works in mysterious ways, and I am ever so grateful for the dangerous precision in which his mystery has worked to my benefit.

This post doesn’t do justice to what James did for me, it was a great help that he did and the way he did it was unexplainably refreshing amidst all the negativities we see around us, all we have to do is just look.

Not to be politically incorrect, but if someone in Sri Lanka, where everyone looks like me and talks like me and understands me better did what James did, I won’t make a scene of it. But believe me when I say that in here, in London, where I am as significant to the great city as a dead twig is to the Amazon, and where most people are understandably just too busy to help someone, having James to help me just at that moment is simply just one of those rare things!

This is my one hundredth post, and it is only apt that I dedicate this post to you James, cheers mate!

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Remnant of what once was.

Solitary feather left by the seagulls.

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Londoners against Israel – Photographs

As you may already know, Israel yesterday attacked a ship consisting of innocent civilians which was carrying aid and much needed relief supplies to the Gaza strip. 19 people died according to most reports and much more injured.

As usual Israel is defending the indefensible, but this time the world is less reluctant to believe their tosh. In December last year during the Israeli onslaught in Gaza, several countries called back their ambassadors including Bolivia and Venezuela, this time I hear Turkey, Spain and even Sweden have called back their ambassadors.

It may be argued that the flotilla going to Gaza was rather naïve, and that Israel would not have let it pass anyway. I think it’s a win-win situation.
If they had reached Gaza and much aid was given to them it will ease a lot of the suffering of the people of Gaza, and Israel will have been humiliated.

Now that this has taken place, a senior al Jazeera political analyst was saying yesterday that Turkey was Israel’s closest Muslim ally. Israel depended on Turkey ever so much on a lot of issues, and this is the last straw with Israel since there has been a lot of friction between the two nations. And the only way Israel can mend fences with turkey will be to lift the siege in Gaza! Now that’s even better than the flotilla reaching Gaza noh? With the siege lifted, international aid, Red Cross, UN humanitarian forces can go to Gaza freely! As much as my thoughts are with the families of the people that died, I think this is a win-win situation.

The Turkish flotilla aimed to replicate the Exodus story or, more precisely, to define the global image of Israel in the same way the Zionists defined the image that they wanted to project. As with the Zionist portrayal of the situation in 1947, the Gaza situation is far more complicated than as portrayed by the Palestinians. The moral question is also far more ambiguous. But as in 1947, when the Zionist portrayal was not intended to be a scholarly analysis of the situation but a political weapon designed to define perceptions, the Turkish flotilla was not designed to carry out a moral inquest.

Instead, the flotilla was designed to achieve two ends. The first is to divide Israel and Western governments by shifting public opinion against Israel. The second is to create a political crisis inside Israel between those who feel that Israel’s increasing isolation over the Gaza issue is dangerous versus those who think any weakening of resolve is dangerous. (link)

Turkey I hear, is already planning to send more ships to Israel flanked by the Turkish navy.

There was an emergency protest march organised in London yesterday and within hours after waking up to the news the people had decided to convene outside Downing Street in Westminster and then proceed in a very peaceful and equal vocal march towards the Israeli embassy at south Kensington.

I have never been to a protest before and this was my first, and I am damn glad I went to experience firsthand the solidarity local people have with the suffering of the Palestinian people irrespective of what their governments do.
Deputy prime minister of Britain Nick Clegg said before the elections that there should be an arms embargo on Israeli, should be interesting how he reacts to this.

Some of the photographs I took at the protests yesterday.











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