Categories

Humility

Soon my father turns a year older. A year wiser some would say. As the head of the clan (so to speak), it’s amazing understanding for the first time that he is setting the precedence that I would one day have to live up to. I believe that my family’s modern history began two generations ago with my grandfather. Someone who has eternally been my role model. An industrial tycoon who helped propel Sri Lanka in the mid twentieth century from an agricultural economy to industrialization. He left an impossible legacy for my father to follow.

This type of scenario is not unique by any stretch of the imagination to my family. There exists an identified and documented pattern among business-centric families where a generation of success and wealth is ironically followed by another of reckless mismanagement and failure. So at the age of nineteen with my grandfather becoming increasingly sick leading up to paralysis, my father took on the reins of a business empire that under the natural laws of probability was doomed to follow the said pattern of destructive inheritance. Thirty seven years later, our businesses have stood the attrition of time and the stigma of second generational inheritance. Contrary to all the nay sayers, today the firms stand poised for their third generation of existence as an iconic landmark in Sri Lanka’s post-colonial industrialization.

An exception to the rule, my father has taught me the most powerful lesson I could possibly learn during my entire life. His philosophy was that power and wealth go hand in hand, where the existence of one will result in the other invariably following it. Yet he taught me that as much as the two becomes your tool, you in turn becomes its tool. Discipline he said, would ultimately decide your course in both life and legacy than the size of your inheritance and nature of the control you wield over power and wealth. Without discipline, succes and the resulting power and wealth would be nothing but a single good poker hand among life’s countless cycles of opportunity to succeed or fail. He taught me that through this generational discipline alone, inheriting nothing but your heritage, you can do wondrous and amazing things. It was the one true way to evolve a family under the stress of insurmountable expectations. How this fundamental understanding occurred to my father barely into adulthood I will never understand. Yet this knowledge and the unique method this wisdom is imparted through the generations would from here forth forever define our family’s legacy. Should the family one day blossom to meet his expectations, it should be known that it did so purely due to the strategic maneuvering, self preservation and guidance under his present stewardship of the clan.

What do you do when at nineteen you inherit one of the biggest industrial empires at the time? In all honesty, my father had a choice to make; does he become the life of the party with the prospect of living fabulously never having to work enjoying the fruits of generations before, or does he become the steward to guide his kin through troubled water. He chose the latter. He chose me over what could’ve been the most impressive youthful years of any Sri Lankan of that era and undoubtedly would’ve been the envy of an entire nation. I like to think that given the same choice at nineteen I would’ve taken a similar path, but then I’d be lying and underestimating the temptation to do otherwise. He made sure I wouldn’t be posed with such a question and for that I’m eternally grateful.

In the past, I’ve often referred to myself as the grandson of generations past, rather than my father’s son. Today, and increasingly more with each passing day, I only hope in becoming half the man he’s shown me I can be through example.

Buy a map before you make an Ad!

Watch the video first! There’s no getting around it. While you’re at it, assume the guy in the ad to be called “David” and the girl to be… “Joanne”. It takes exactly two minutes to watch it end to end.

  1. Meet David. The Boy.

    Meet David. You would think he's looking into the eyes of the devil.

  2. Meet Joanne. Way out of David’s league.

    Joanne obviously smoked some 420 on her way home.

  3. Meet the Dad. Maybe he got a job as a bouncer at Clancy’s.

    Only this kind of white trash gets transferred to Sri Lanka.

  4. David really knows his geography. Kudos for the American education system.

    Even better than hitchhiking a ride to Sri Lanka from America, is buying a bus ticket.

  5. Jumping in the ocean and swimming to Sri Lanka is always a good idea from US of A.

    Yes! Swim son, Swim! It's just the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean between you and paradise

  6. Attention! Now arriving, Idiot who tried to do a cross-continental swim.

    Service at Airlines just keeps dropping. These days they drop you just short of the Coast at Katunayake.

  7. Sri Lankans really dig funky head gear and self-fashioned spikes. Sri Lanka’s the Island from LOST?

    This is how tourists see Sri Lankan customs...

  8. Okay nevermind, so you stumbled into some random Pacific Island and now you’re scaling the Grand Canyon?

    Another detour? Grand Canyon maybe?

  9. Psst… You’re going the wrong way. Gobi Desert? Really? Buy a map already!

    Dude! Where in the world are you heading? The Gobi Desert? Really?!?

  10. This is really a good idea. Scatter highway signs on surrounding micro-islands for inbound swimming tourist.

    It's hard to imagine a 1 KM more sign when you're heading for an ISLAND!

  11. Bear Attacks! That’s what USA Canada Sri Lanka is famous for.

    Sri Lanka is famous for Grizzly Bears... You never know when they pounce! Ahem!

  12. Oooh! Joanne’s been enjoying the isle of Paradise while “HE” was wondering all over the place.

    That's the face you're looking forward to when you've just gone around the globe in 80 odd days!

  13. Duminda, meet David. He’s got here just in time to…

    Ah yes! A fine specimen of a Sri Lankan male (left) next to a dirty American (right)

  14. … see you make out with his girlfriend?

    Dude, your girlfriend's got a Sri Lankan beach boy on her.

  15. You win some, you lose some. Some of them are just Epic Fails!

    Epic Fail!

This map illustrates, David’s potential journey to Sri Lanka.

This also happens to be James Cook's exploration of the pacific in the late 1700s

To the brilliant marketing geniuses who made this ad, research before you spend millions off your production budget on absolute rubbish. Wikipedia, it won’t even cost you a penny.

Put this post up to illustrate the ignorance of some people when it comes to anything outside of their little nook of the world.

The family

It’s easy to doubt the importance of family and kinship when there isn’t a support structure you can depend on from time to time. In my case, I’ve been blessed with some of the most amazing people who have consistently been there to guide me, correct me and more importantly prop me up when I’m about to fall.

I now find myself a little isolated from this familiar security and companionship. Let’s just say life is very different on the “other” side.

What’s more frightening is the realization that I will most likely not get it back anytime soon either. The next “family” will be me and Gnaneeks, and that’s a while away.

The new Liberal Independent

This is a monumental moment for me. I’m a loyalist. There’s no denying it. Yet today, in this post, I am going to make a fundamental change to my mantra. Ever since my impressionable years, I’ve envisioned a prosperous and economically sustainable Sri Lanka. Not the back office where the world’s nuisance calls are made, nor an island of sweat shops where we stitch together underwear for the rest of the world. That about define our economic prosperity today, and we don’t even get the privilege of knitting the material used for the underwear. Nothing fancy, just your ordinary Victoria’s Secret.

A large part of this vision was a nation where entrepreneurship was rewarded and democracy (at least the will of the people) reigned supreme. A big part of this future was wrapping up the civil war that defined “my” Sri Lanka up until recently. I would be well into my forties before, this epic struggle within the country would cease to be the deciding factor in politics, economics and just day-to-day life in our society.

As the conflict escalated and it’s attrition on our economy grew greater, it was quickly becoming evident that the conflict had to end one way or the other. While there were several schools of thought as to how this could be pulled off, the election of President Mahinda Rajapakse in 2004 sealed the deal for an all out military intervention.

The economics of the conflict were pretty simple, and at the end of the day, that’s all it was. The cost and investment required to complete the war. War is more like debt to a loan shark than we care to acknowledge. You can either try to keep up with the interest, and fail miserably or you can pay it off already. With the world in high gear, growth and prosperity all around us; it was the least strategic thing to do if we were to “manage the war” for another decade and hope for a better economic platform. So it was decded to empty the bank, beg, borrow or steal to heal the bleeding wound as soon as possible.

When the assault began on July 26th, 2006; off went our brave soldiers to fight for the homeland armed with all our national wealth and the hedged wealth my generation hoped to one day make in tow. We were all investors one way or the other in this big national “merger and acquisition” venture. Just over thirty-four months later, the job was done and the puss oozing would plaguing our growth and hindering our prosperity had been scorched into oblivion. Mahinda had done just what he had claimed he would.

Throughout the entire war, and even at its conclusion I supported the aspirations of the opposition, it’s leader and most importantly the United National Party. I was proud of what we were accomplishing with every step we took into the LTTE’s heartland, but opposition creates accountability and helps make even already efficient machines better. Yet, during the post-war afterglow, despite my personal differences of opinion I was on meet feet with the masses cheering on our national accomplishment. It was time to unify the masses and get our act together right? No!

Almost a year into our new found independence, the trajectory of our beautiful country has been fast spiraling downward and with increasing haste. We are today one of the most divided societies on this largely globalizing planet. Shockingly enough, the ever looming threat of terrorism over the decades had never exerted sufficient influence to destabilize the nation as it is today. We are fast becoming a free radical in a largely one-way flowing global stream. A sort of a modern Cuba, only without the single coherence and surviving a new elite as opposed to the people. As the terror resided, old rivalries and insecurities that were long forgotten in favor of focusing on the common enemy have fast emerged. Sensing the opportunity, the political sharks are getting attracted to various power plays sensing the blood in the water. My Sri Lanka is now fast on its way towards becoming a shell of the country I grew up in.

I see two key actors in this drama. I wouldn’t go as far as to tag one the protagonist and the other as the deuteragonist. No, the cast in this drama is far too vast and interlinked for me to decipher one from the other. There’s the UNP’s Ranil Wickramasinghe who I’ve been steadfastly loyal to, and the current President Mahinda Rajapakse. The present dilemma of the country is without a doubt the responcibility of our protagonist and deuteragonist. One has accumulated and centralized more power and clout than Sri Lanka has ever witnessed and the other has simply stood back and allowed all of this to transpire! I don’t have anything against either of these gentlemen. In fact, I respect both of them very much! That said, I am all but convinced that Sri Lanka cannot move beyond the civil war mentality until both of them have retired from the political arena.

While being great thinkers and strategists of the previous generation, both of them represent a Sri Lanka that no longer exists today. We are not under-siege, nor are we at war, there are no economic giants to lend a hand, and the value of our human resources have all but been undermined in the shadow of over-commoditized labour during the post-recession recovery process.

As of now, I am no longer a loyalist for the respectable Mr. Wickramasinghe. Nor am I a fan of the current Administration. I will align myself with individuals who aspire for a brighter Sri Lankan future. I don’t see anyone of such stature in the game yet, but from now on I’ll be on the look out. Ever vigilant for a force of change. If nothing, General Fonseka inspired the opposition to pose a tangible challenge to the administration, a task Ranil hasn’t been able to muster for quite some time.

Sri Lanka needs change, and for change we need chaos. The UNP of today is too locked up in the past to influence the masses, and far too respectful of the status quo. The establishment is so strong with President Mahinda Rajapakse’s machinery that all legitimate opposition stands on the brink of anarchy and with it the democratic future of our nation. Ranil, nor the present UNP leadership are capable of mustering the clout required to orchestrate the chaos needed for change. The JVP and the other opposition forces are at a far too weakened state. General Fonseka will most likely be courts martial, eventually and wouldn’t see the light of day for at least another five more years.

I strongly believe it is time for Ranil to pass on the torch. Sure the the administration would manipulate the UNP at such a weakened state, but doing so would only hasten the rise of a new agent of chaos that the liberal-right in Sri Lanka so desperately needs. General Fonseka was so close to fulfilling that role. You never know when he’d make a come back though, five years be damned. Off the top of my head, I think it’s going to be Sajith Premadasa that should (at least temporarily) take on the reigns from Ranil. Restructure the new opposition around the very heartland of the new administration; Hambantota. Colombo be damned.

Path & Direction

“Life is no life to him that dares not die,

And death no death to him that dares not live.”

– Behind Blue Eyes: Chapter 18 by Paffy

Life is all about challenge. You need goals to succeed and aspirations to push your limits. Without the two, your purpose, your existence is both futile and unnecessary. We all start life by climbing a small hill. For some it maybe a first step, for others winning that all important athletic race. With time the hills we climb will become both steeper and more challenging. That is how we as a species have evolved, to face ever increasing and infinite challenges from our environment. That is how we will be till our annihilation.

Remember however to never attempt your greatest achievement, your Everest, till the very end. Or soon, you’ll find yourself with nothing to accomplish, and all that you have achieved  up until that time seem both redundant and pointless. With no future to look forward to, however grand a history you’ve lived through, it suddenly becomes irrelevant and ancient. Much like great nations and empires throughout the ages, whom in their day and age were glorious and befuddling only to leave behind the sickly remains and ruins of their once magnificent existence. We appreciate them and bask in their former glory, but always aware that all of it was for moot, as they were eventually led towards their doom. Hence in the end, for these great legions, the gallant warriors that fought for their honor, the lines in the sand wars were waged over – was all for naught. Remember though that nothing escapes the slow decay of the universe. All that is present and all that is still yet to come will face demise in a very similar manner. My advice to you. Be a realist. Plan out life and save the best for last.

Need for Change

“Change is something that everyone has to do sooner or later. You can’t remain the way you were the day before because somewhere somehow, you did something that made you different for the next day. And unfortunately if you cause people to be hurt during that change it can do things later on that are hard to forget.”

- Isabelle (Alexandre Shifter Pride Mother)
Harry Potter and the Ashes of Hope by AlysiaStorms

I have always been an agent of change. At least attempted to be. I embrace, breathe change, and frankly I am change in the context of my extended and nuclear family! That is, until the next generation comes along, and the change that I has defined me, not only becomes the norm but potentially taken for granted! At that point, Son, you would become the agent of the change I once represented and I, the resistance to that change. For the evolution of the concepts and behavioral habits I helped instigated would by now have surpassed well beyond my own expectations. It is invariablly the cycle of life, so look not down upon me as I am the old man, resisting the very change change I put in motion in my hay day. Spare me a thought though, for I am new in your world as you were once in mine. Guide me and I may follow, or pride may rear its ugly head and I may loose you forever over this one silly thing; Change.

To Understand

To me a friend means everything. They are the fundamental building blocks of my being. Family defines me sure, but friends, well they are on a whole new plane. I assume it’s because most of my friends don’t happen to share a blood tie with me. I hold no moral or ancestral obligation to care for and love them. Yet I do. Perfect strangers. The choice involved makes them creations of your own, and the resulting beauty rightfully is yours.

I don’t take friendship lightly, it is a sacred bond that I will not forgo without strife or pain. I would defend, guide and support those I consider my friends. Sure it sounds good on paper, but it really is something I practice. I don’t expect them to do the same for me, that would wreck the altruistic goal. Yet I know most would, and some more than others. This certain someone, I believe know to be the very first among them.

Let me not spoil the story by going off at a tangent about a fantasy of how some rather random event triggered what would turn out to be one of the best things to happen in my rather shallow existence. No, that’s not how it panned out. Instead I firmly believe it was the culmination of many, many events leading up to a realization that here was someone that I can call my brother. Sure the realization happened overnight, however it’s not based on some shallow reasoning that twenty-years down the line won’t be so clear anymore. Instead, its reasoning is derived by substance so deep and solid, that it represents the sole testament to the existence of immortality in my life. That’s big coming from someone who eternally sees only the mortality of life and its products. What is this great mystery in this friendship? Its quite simple really. To understand completely sometimes, is to be understood.

That’s it. Understanding. I don’t have to explain nor justify. There’s no need to talk or stay in touch. If I were found in a room, blood splattered and carcasses littering the floor, evidence stacked up and undeniably incriminated of crimes leading up to rejection of all friends, family and the world; there still would remain one whom would fight for me. The accuracy of the allegations would not even play a part in this decision. For he is, as I am. He would know.

We met in school, mostly through chance by mutual friends (one in particular but you’ll learn of him later). I believe the year was 1998 and while I would accept he was an associate he wouldn’t become the close compadre well into the new millennium. Over the next one or two years I assume he witnessed my growth from a rather narrow-minded spoiled brat to the at least modestly progressive individual I would be. Yes, I accept to a few dark years in life. Lets just term them my very own “dark age”. The year 1999, where we happened to be classmates for the first time, would become the pinnacle of such behavior on my part. So if this was a friendship based on first impressions, I wouldn’t be putting much money on the table. From this year on, we would consistently we classmates for the rest of my school career, a stealthy play by destiny perhaps? He I believe knows who I could have been and saw who I chose to be instead.

Throughout the next few definitively life altering years our friendship would only grow and we realized that beyond sharing a like outlook on life, we had infinitely many things in common. Lets just say there’s been a few girlfriends whose been threatened by his role in my journey through life. Suffice to say, they haven’t survived the test of time and he has / will prevail.

Do we agree over everything thing? Thankfully no. We entertain different and contrasting notions on a variety of ideology. Is it playful banter? Possibly. If push comes to shove, my ideology wouldn’t matter. Without hesitation I see myself conforming to fulfill a role he requires me to in any capacity. He would understand my agreement to disagree, and I would acknowledge his requirement of a trustworthy ally. This I guess is how two very stubborn individuals interact.

Now a matured friendship that has grown to be one of the few constants in my life would face its first true challenge; Geography. The bane of any friendship, which comes hand in hand with change. How would we fair being miles apart and communications cut to the brink of non-existence? With everyday at university being a life altering twenty-four hours bracing us for the next adventure, would we change beyond recognition? Would all that we hoped our friendship to be, pan out to be true? Was the immortality simply an illusion of youthful ignorance? Its been three years, and no it wasn’t a lie. We are closer than we have ever been while being farther than you can imagine. With age and unique circumstance, I have found the friend who would stand by my deathbed or I at his (yes we’re realistic that way).

The icing on the cake you ask? At least in the present context? His heart happens to belong to my other best friend. Life is truly ironic in that way. Maybe we will grow old together, or maybe we will age apart. Maybe our spouses and families would be close, or maybe they would find nothing in common. Our careers and new friends might force us to lead life’s that are no longer compatible with one another. Should all that come to pass, nothing would still change who we were and would continue to be. He and I would be friend and best friend for time eternal.

What seperation and time doesn’t kill, nothing will. Who is he? Well, his name is Jilan.

Immortality

So… Yesterday was interesting. It was turning out to be the most generic sort of Friday night for me (all of them seem to be as of late). In my PJs with fifteen minutes till midnight and guess who decides to call? None other than Sam (You’ll find out more about her in later entries no doubt). So at midnight I found myself driving off to have a late night (early morning?) snack with my hair suffering from severe post-pajama syndrome and a crumpled up lame tee with jeans. Sam of course has to show up in her finest with jewelery to boot! So it ended up being Mr. You-Look-Like-A-Bum and Ms. Dressed-Up-To-Party at a 24-hr diner few minutes past midnight.

Having been out of touch for the longest time (apart from the occasional run-in at one of the the libraries) we pretty much had a lot to catch up on. It would seem a lot had indeed changed since we last spoke. After a paltry meal (a sandwich we decided to split between us) which neither of us were particularly interested in and some liquid sugar (commonly regularly referred to as “coke”) we decided to go out for coffee. What else can you do at two o’clock in the morning?!?

After driving around looking for a 24-hr Tim Horton’s we landed the most dingy sort of place (rather sure it’s the hottest pit-stop for Brampton’s Weed Junkies – based on the number of cops that stopped by the place and of course the nocturnal crowds sitting in the shadows of the carpark). One and a half hours later with no coffee consumed but a complete re-account of the past few weeks behind us we both decided to call it a night.

Hence ended the midnight escapade of Sam and I at 3.30 the following morning. I realized on the drive back that there were two type of friends. The first requires an inordinate amount of closeness and constant nurturing or it simply ceases to existing. The second variety works in the exact opposite manner. It can be a week, a month or even a decade, whatever the reason, whatever the duration, the closeness you share never expires. At any given moment, may it be through running into one another at the library or a random phone call, you start off where you left things off. No questions, no love lost. The relationship that Sam (and for that matter most of my friends that truly matter to me) and I share is definitely of the latter variety. An immortal friendship.

The Car

A man in my opinion has several key achievements during the course of his infinitesimal existence on earth; First Step, First Kiss, First Car, Finding that Special Life-Partner, Marriage, First House and Children.

In my short journey to date, I’ve achieved another of those key milestones in the form of my first car. After much toil and suffering flipping through the obscene amount of car adverts I finally found that mechanical playmate I’ve been looking for (intentionally made corny). So last Sunday I put forth a deposit for a car that I picked up three days later. The car which happens to be a 2004 Acura 1.7EL is in a sporty metallic blue. It also comes with a good set of rims, a kick-ass v-tech Honda engine and a few dents here and there courtesy its previous owner. However all said and done, like my first girlfriend, it is very unlikely I would ever forget this piece of machinery in the years to come. Although this would be the most expensive item I’ve purchased to-date and I couldn’t be more happier. Having always wanted to buy my first car on my own, I feel I’ve achieved that milestone in good time.

Here’s for a hopefully trouble free ride. Cheers!

Friend`ology

So you have friends, enemies, strangers and then you have those people who don’t really fall into either of the above mentioned classifications. Lately my social graph (working 6hrs a day studying the world of social networking, I’ve picked up some of the jargon) has been dominated by the latter. Where exactly do your ex-s’ fall in the grand scheme of things? and what about those occasional flings and old crushes that have descended into that gray region of uncertainty?

If I really wanted to be optimistic a glance at my facebook account states that my “friends” number in the hundreds. Surely I don’t consider all of these people to be my friends (then why have I given them free reign to rummage through my personal photos and conversations!). If facebook were to be considered the ultimate authority on social relationships then my good friend, lets call her “bambi”, has enough to be elected in Colombo using just her “friend-vote”. So if all my “friends” on facebook aren’t really my friends then should they be classified as such. That-Guy-Whose-Name-I-Can’t-Recall and She-Who-I-Don’t-Know-Where-We-Met come to mind as excellent lists to group these people under. Then again doing so would be at the risk of being on the receiving end of some serious payback. At least the status quo would be broken with the ability to classify majority of the folk under enemies with good authority.

Alas, none of the alternatives are practical under current social etiquette. So for the foreseeable future I would have to continue to tolerate a few people with whom I no longer share any social nor emotional connection as “friends” and shrug them away as figurative party crashers of the most stupendously boring party in the universe that is my life.