Friday, March 30, 2007
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
The book, when it was shortlisted a couple of weeks ago, was described by the judges as "…neither patronising nor self absorbed, unpretentious yet poetic and very simply, compelling and beautiful". The shortlist was Isankya, Senake, Ashok Ferrey (for Good Little Ceylonese Girl), Rita Perera (Coalescing with Omega) and Vihanga Perera. The shortlist announcement is here. Will update this when more articles appear about the prize.
at 4:21 PM
Monday, March 05, 2007
I wrote on the issue of child sex tourism (CST) a while back (CST in Sri Lanka) and was reminded of that again by a comment left there by Brandix a few days ago...which got me thinking. Before I returned to Sri Lanka, I was under the impression that CST had suddenly, at last, become a “problem”. There was some kind of child empowerment ad released, etc to not only empower kids to say no, but also to create more awareness of the issue within society. Yet, since I’ve been back, I find that nothing seems to have changed. People are still, on the whole, unaware of the problem or are happy to look sad to 2 seconds when the topic comes up before moving on to “let’s talk how to resolve the national problem”. A problem that continues to traumatize and destroy whole future generations is not an issue that is national enough?
What bothers me is the fact that I can’t see anything that’s being done – by anybody. I’ve not even seen so much as an ad – to empower or just simply to create awareness/ eliminate its ‘taboo’ tag. WHY IS THAT?? Where is the NCPA? Whose children do they protect? Do people really not care? Have we stopped caring and have started to rationalize so much to the extreme extent that we’re afraid of at least trying to do something today for fear of it not achieving all that we expected tomorrow?
When I talk of CST, even in passing reference, the reactions I’ve seen makes me think people are generally divided into 3 categories on the issue:
1.Those that just don’t care - the kind who think “it’s not my problem”. These types of people are not worth anyone’s time or space so I’ll not waste my blog space on them.
2.Those that care. They say “oh yes, sad thing, no?” and/ or “something must be done about this”, but think they themselves are not capable of “doing anything” and so they don’t. Or they find it sad, etc, but the subject is still kind of too “taboo” to be really talked about. These people are the most important from an activists' perspective simply because they can be used to the advantage of the issue just the way a floating vote is used (exploited?) by a politician. If they are shown/ told how to make a change, if they are made aware that taboo-ing it and sweeping it under the carpet helps no one, there is always hope for change.
3.Those that reason and rationalize, sitting on cushioned arm chairs – literally or metaphorically. Those who belong to this group are generally “high up” types who carry some clout socially or politically, etc. There are two types within this group, those who listen patiently and then (very logically) reason “they are all good ideas, but where’s the money for all this?” The second type who rationalizes “…but I don’t think ‘solution x’ will work” before moving on to ponder ideas which will work such as a military solution/ peace talks to the conflict.These type of people actually have the contacts and experience to at least try to implement mechanisms to make a change...so why don't they?
And for me, being the tiny individual that I am right now, it’s doubly frustrating that not only do I have to put up with such shocking reactions, but there doesn't seem to be anything to get involved in to at least try to make a change..and it makes me feel like I, too, can’t to do anything about this at all..except for ranting about it every once in a while :(
I picked an Araliya off the mounds
That lay at my feet scattered around
The soft yellow white violently creased
You turned away scowling, quite displeased
For in that bloom you only saw
Its “fall from grace” to sands below
You don't see the defenselessness
Of crushed petals in that browning mess
You point only to the disapproved
Ignoring lost moments, almost unmoved
By the childish fragrance openly stripped
By the smiling face of a nondescript
You tell me not to overreact
But were not the blooms cruelly hacked?
And while the sun chooses to turn away
Will not the bud forced to flower early today
Be judged tomorrow eons before birth
Like an illegitimate child by the mother’s girth?
You see no debris; but only taboo;
Proffering reason to think things through
You crush the helpless, unaware,
You advise blindness of their despair
If your reasoning is what you don’t feel;
Is my frozen tear, their sole appeal?
at 8:04 AM
Monday, February 26, 2007
Anyway, sometimes you get told by adults to "dress properly" (=conservatively) to avoid such harassment. This has no real grounds though since even older sari-clad women complain of being masturbated on/ rubbed against on the bus. Why is this? Because men here are generally perverts who get a kick out of harrssing women/ girls? Or are men here so repressed that this is their only "outlet" so to speak (no pun intended!)??
Ravana kept asking in this post, are men here really so repressed cos "why are all these men so excited by the tame sight of [the] dancer’s cleavage?" No one really gave a very satisfactory answer to that. And I continue to wonder, these kind of men - are they perverts? Or "the repressed"? Which category does this guy (that I'll tell you about in a sec) slide in to since he wasn't bothering a girl dressed "provocatively"? Was he neither your general pervert or repressed but simply a random psycho?
Last evening, a friend and I went for a play - an adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet directed by William Scott Richards. It was held at the Hilton Garden - a very nice setting had it not been for the terrible (and cold) winds, the blast of vehicles on the road outside and the at least 10-minute long ringing of the temple bell from the Gangaramaya (I assume?) in the middle of the performance. Nevertheless, the performance was fantastic - I really loved the alternative uses of symbolism, clothes and lighting. Ironically, before I left home, as usual, the dad threw a mini-fit about "it's not safe to go all alone" for which I retorted "it's at a 5-star hotel for God's sake!". He replied, the hotel bit he was fine with, it's the getting there he worried about. He finally drove me there. I collected my ticket at the counter and they asked for my ID to verify that I am indeed the manshark (as the ticket said)..before I proceeded to join my friend who was already sitting inside.
What happened during the performance was shocking - and that is a gross understatement. In the ball scene, the actors broke out in dance to a fast song. The cast was very young and the dancing very “modern” - what you'd find at a club. Within these youngsters, there was a man dancing - extremely vulgar moves, thrusting his pelvis forward, gyrating. He stood out (even if it were not for his disgusting dancing) cos he was in a white t-shirt emblazoned "Oregon" in red and brown pants with brown (very, very shiny) dress shoes - and, without meaning to sound elitist, he just didn't seem to be part of the audience and looked more like a 'helper' - with the equipment, etc). The cast was in jeans, runners and white t-shirts which had quotes from the play written on them, unlike the oregon dude. Anyhow, the dancing over, the play continued. The Oregon dude sat at the edge of a stage (there were 3 positioned at 45 degree angles to each other) very near a 14 /15 year old foreign boy (British, I think) who was sitting in the row in front of me. He then proceeded to slip his arm around the back of the chair, lean in towards the boy and mutter things to him, staring intently at the boy’s face the whole time. He honestly looked scary - his eyes wild, his head bent, chin tucked into his neck, the eyes rolling around "peeking" at other people every few minutes. Perveted or freaky? The boy mostly ignored him, except to swallow hard a couple of times and move his neck forward when the hand touched him . There was a Chinese mother and son (a 3/4 year old) sitting beside me, and at one point, when the mom sat the boy down next to me and went off for a few minutes, the kid promptly jumped up and was running about. When he accidently knocked into this psycho’s knee, he grabbed the boy by the neck of his t-shirt, brought his face close to the boy’s face, his mouth in a kind of leer and for a second I seriously thought he was going to take a bite, I swear. I grabbed the kid's hand and pulled till he landed in the chair next to me again and I whispered "sit here till your mother comes back" as fiercely as I knew how and held on to him till the mother came back. More perverted or freakier?
The play ended half hour or so later, and the last scene was (an alternative addition after the death scene) was once again of the cast dancing to a fast tempo. Psycho dude jumped up and began the gyrating, staring at the British boy, 3 feet away from him. And as the music started tapering off, he walked up to the boy, lifted his Oregon t-shirt, thrust his pelvis in the boy’s face and gyrated, leering. The boy looked terrified till his mother (sitting beside him) punched the psycho in the stomach, to which he leered at her before joining the cast to watch them (the cast) hug each other, etc off stage. The boy's mother was almost in tears. And the worst thing was, no one seemed to have noticed, not even my friend (sitting beside me!) till that last dance. Perhaps cos the play involved the audience quite a bit (they pulled a few front-row-seaters into dance with the cast as well, etc), perhaps they thought this was part of the play? But seriously? And who could that boy complain to? The play director? The cast? The hotel? I honestly had no idea and it was frustrating that it seemed there was nothing to do. The mother turned around, her face red and teary and said "that man was bothering my son all night! Who can I talk to?!?". I asked her to try both the cast and the hotel management. The only thing I did was leave my name and number with her in case they got treated with the usual "but it's your word against his" quip if they did choose to complain, and needed a witness.
And this made me realize that, in reality, maybe not even 5-star hotels are actually safe since this psycho made it in. And I wondered, was this a stalker/ hotel employee who'd had that boy in his sights for some reason (far-fetched but possible)? Although if that was the case, wouldn't the mom/ boy have "known" him at least by sight? And why did they not complain in the middle of the play? I suspect they didn't want to make a scene and figured if they ignored him long enough, he'd go away.
Or was this a random pervert who made it in with a valid ticket, or otherwise? Was this “a repressed” whose only outlet for his gay tendencies (but perverted anyway since normal gay guys don't gyrate at random people) was to show up here? Or a random paedophile? What was going on and more importantly, what could that boy have done? Hit him? Have complained in the middle of the play? If so, then to whom since there weren't any hotel employees around and it seemed there were only the cast (who did the lighting and the moving of equipment themselves) and the audience? Or ignored him (as was done till the last scene) and endured the groping and muttering? My own behaviour disgusted me then and continues to disgust me now since all I did was to observe this whole fiasco and only get angrier and scared-er and ended up only offering to be "a witness" for them, before choosing to walk away. Couldn't I have done more? Complained myself (after or in the middle of the play)?
I guess these will only be abstract questions now that it's all over and done with. But I must say, selfishly I guess, next time I go out - no matter where - I'll take my dad's advice and have a safety net. Perhaps lots of friends around in case there are more of these perverts/ repressed/ psychos around and next time, the crime goes further and the victim turns out to be me.
at 1:19 PM
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Sometimes when we meet someone, we look, even unconsciously, for a conclusion. A conclusion in the form of a good business deal, a special favour, a perfect friendship, the soulmate. When we meet people, or are catapulted in to situations, then that initially imagined goal becomes a series of stepping stones – profit, happy relationships, growing old together while the gold bands on each other’s fingers slowly grow dull with time. But if that end could not be, does it make the path any more rugged? Does it make the traveling any less sweeter? Isn’t it by looking for that almost ready-made conclusion that the sweet is embittered? When the conclusion is not as glossy as it seemed in the catalogue in which we’d imagined it?
What if we were a spider web - the middle enclosure, where we stand, and the strands, the arms we unravel outwards to the world? For all those bugs and beetles scurrying along the wall, those strands lead in to an interesting, unknown centre..along strands some might slide along with gleeful weee!s while others may find them sticky and cumbersome, and exhale their final breath never really having reached the centre.
Yet to us, those who stand in the middle of that web, the strands don’t necessarily lead anywhere. Could it not be that they lead nowhere, but only exist to balance that inner circle more firmly? Then is it realistic to expect each strand to leave us with explosions of realization which, even for a moment, reach grand unexplored epiphanies? But if that explosion, that epiphany was not actively searched out but left to surprise us if be, would we be as happy? For isn’t happiness found in our minds, in our hearts, only when we imagine that explosion and see the beauty of rainbow sparks? Isn’t it the fact that those sparks never exist outside the realm of our minds that leaves us disappointed with people and situations we might have otherwise found perfectly acceptable?
And so if that final goal which we found in the catalogue of our imagination was not looked for, would we not pay closer attention to the strand stretching outward? Appreciate the gentle diamond glisten of dew drops that balance minutely defying gravity? Realize, before it’s too late, the dust which had begun to accumulate along that fine thread till it was a heavy rope which we lugged around unknowingly or complainingly, had silently snapped long ago?
They say that life is a dew drop balanced on the edge of a grass blade. We’ve all lost someone, by distance, by death, by a sudden cool breeze, in the blink of an eye to know that this goes undoubted. One wayward breeze, one careless footstep and that drop of heavenly water ceases to live.
Then in that infinitesimal moment, between balancing on the tip of the blade of grass and being greedily drunk in by the thirsting earth, should we not endeavour to enjoy every diamond, no matter how small, that lies perched on the strands we unravel outward rather than crane our necks, bending over backwards, in the hope of an end that might very well have ultimately been only imagined or presumed?
at 9:43 AM