Archive for » October, 2012 «

From great grand children far in future to today’s Maldivians


I think it may have been as long as twenty years ago, when we heard appeals for acts to slow the march of climate change. ‘Much of nature will be lost, the biosphere greatly thinned with numerous species gone for good – if we don’t take action now.’  To move the tardy a personal angle was added, ‘Your great grand children can’t be left a sterile world to live in.’  The focus moved to grand children as the threat began to feel less far. Doubters claimed these warnings were of fatalists or those with nothing better to do. People who dismissed the warnings also often held that harming business interests was vile and the work of extremists.

In the last few years the sword is said to be scheduled to fall during the lifetime of your own unborn child. But the cries are less intense and the fear more contained. A threat to the wellbeing of one’s children seems somehow not to be as worrying as a risk to great grand kids afar. The concerns and the call for steps to stop the planet heating are no longer as strident. That even your own unborn children will face huge problems doesn’t cause as much a stir as we saw some years ago. Project that ruin will hit us sooner to spoil the earth for today’s children and the worry recedes further. We hear no whimper now.

Loss of arctic ice this year surpassed projections made quite recently for the end of century. No concern now at all, that it spells such near-term mess. We had more fuss when debate swirled, as to whether these threats are real. Predictably, the urgency has now subsided greatly. The priority is no longer that we stop the looming disaster, but rather that we push our claims to drill for oil much further, in newly accessed tracts, as the ice recedes. Can there be any better way to make the problem worse? We simply choose to speed the process, so we can enjoy the sight of others’ nations drowning as we tweet.

Among those expendable is the country called The Maldives. And now it seems that we’d be here to see that country drown – even some among us who are already over 50? Do you want to live to see the Maldives going under? What would we do if we were citizens facing that fate soon? We’d want to get in place a leader who would spare no pains to make the world move, although late, to save our land somehow. And if he does a decent job and some outsiders don’t like it, we’d try to keep him from being ousted, whatever ploy they tested.

Our Maldivian neighbours weren’t quite vigilant enough. A few agents among them cared little for the rest – and themselves too, I’d say. All these ‘little’ coups too add to the climate mischief done.




Waste not?


Individuals engaged in collecting garbage are nameless. They are given instead an unpleasant sounding collective name in Sinhala and Tamil – rather like some other persons are, who have to wash toilets or clean offices as main source of income. (I note, in passing, that virtually all members of this profession suffer the further indignity of having been induced to take up smoking.) Our anonymous ‘Garbage Collectors’ are employed in large numbers by local government authorities.

Creating employment is a good thing. But whether the profession of garbage collector should persist any more is worth debating. If the whole garbage collecting business (on which a good part of the rates we pay is probably spent) disappeared, would the world not be a better place? Or can’t we at least deal with refuse more sensibly than now? Several alternatives come immediately to mind.

Some suggestions will likely not be taken seriously. For instance, that householders must take responsibility to collect and deliver their garbage, in rotation. We could even ask the bigger producers of rubbish to take more turns. Imagine the speed at which the output of garbage would decline. A less frivolous proposal would be that we pay for what we emit – with charges adjusted to type of refuse, how well sorted, weight and volume. Considerate folks will thereby be spared having to subsidize the careless.

The best option I think is to abolish door to door collection for a start. We can have sites where people take their rubbish and pay to offload it. And we keep increasing the charges until we feel pressed to minimize the amount of stuff we carelessly bring home.

I’ve greatly cut, over the years, the garbage leaving this house. There are things I still acquire, despite knowing I shall be stumped trying to make them decompose when dead. The computer I use here is example enough. But the garbageless world we sorely need is almost within reach. All it takes is a wee bit more than doing our separate best. We can get there if only we could take this on together. To make zero-waste town a reality we have to strive as one.



Who am I?


People with whom we have never spoken still create in us an impression as to whether they are kind or cruel, better try to get close to or avoid, admirable or despicable, likely interesting company or boring, and so on. These impressions about relative strangers are created mostly, I guess, by appearances and ‘demographics’  – and also by rumour. (Demographics here means whether they are male or female;  prefer PA,  FUTA,  UNP or SLMC etc;  of this age or that;  Sri Lankan, Indian, Bangladeshi, Australian, American, Sinhalese, Tamil, Eurasian, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim and so on. )

When I look back at my recent first-time conversations with people, I find that most of these have not changed the preceding image of the individuals concerned.  Only one changed: from ‘probably better avoid’ to ‘maybe good to get to know better’.  Does this show that I am unable to easily alter my baseless assumptions or that my preconceived biases are pretty accurate?

The flip side of this coin is how others see me. If rumour, demographics or appearance has created in them a nasty image of me, am I generally powerless to alter this? If so, it is a serious concern, because we are to a good extent what others think we are – especially if we are politician or ‘star’.  But for non-politician, non-star Diyanath too, what others think of him is included in the package of who he is.  For I am mostly what I think I am – and what others think of me surely does influence how I see myself.



Leadership and cricket – ‘WORLD 20 – 20′


I have no way of reaching Mahela, our skilful cricket captain, to convey my admiration personally to him. The second best option is to proclaim it openly here with friends who may agree or may not.

Leadership is about many things. Nurturing and training to bring out the best in each of such motley crew is probably no easy task. Done so well – and far better than by his even more renowned predecessor, I felt. Usually jaded players came alive during his tenure. This is no easy achievement with individuals who are recognized as indispensable. To inject purpose into those who have lost it, now performing as cold ‘professionals’, must require loads of drive in the leader. This capability is what caught my eye in snippets I saw in the past weeks.

No captain can perform miracles. He must work with the material available. And when many of the players are powerful seniors the task must indeed be doubly hard. For there must be times he wants to leave out a certain player or two but can’t take the risk of backlash. If things don’t go well, leaving out big names, the blame would indeed be severe – and he’d have no way to show that their inclusion would likely have resulted in worse. (There’s no replay, just like in real life. Pick the wrong one and you are done for.) So the few who can’t be moulded must nonetheless be included, whether captain likes it or not.

I know little cricket but watch, though not a lot. And I try to anticipate rather than follow, to make the spectacle more interesting. The mega challenge was predicting the overall place we’d reach, before the carnival began. I predicted that we’d come on top of our groups. Why? Well, we had the strength to beat all teams; and the groups are less of a lottery. So we’d likely come first. That I got right.

What of the semis and finals? There’s always talk, if one’s team does not win, of fixing and betting and the like. Such after the fact claims are a bore. My prior guess was that we’d be knocked out in the semis, in the event there are fixers lurking. Why out in the ‘semi’s? Well, the favourite winning is not a lucrative script. So we’d have to lose in the finals or semis. For us to fail at the final would be no surprise – we’d done it already thrice. We had, I surmised, to be knocked out in the ‘semi’s if match fixers held sway at all. But we managed to pass those semis. Most likely then, based on my surmise, things are not fixed and all’s well. (Admit it now, isn’t this 20- 20 thing more gamble than anything else? And why people find it so exciting?)

If there was indeed a fixing force lurking, our admiration for Mahela, on my reckoning, must be redoubled. He has then turned around what was a scripted rout in the Pakistan match. He must have sensed what he was up against, taken on those forces as well and quietly outwitted them. I cannot guess from his actions on the field what his tactics and strategy must have been. As an outsider, not erudite enough in the game, I don’t know what he may have been up against. If indeed there was fixing it’s pure brilliance on his part that took us to a final again. Mahela almost overcame again, had any supposed forces somehow arranged for a loss is the final now. No captain before had taken on lurking fixers and come as close to outwitting them fully. Bravo.

More likely though, our loss was pure bad luck. Events in this form are not based most on skill nor strongly in captain’s control. If they were, we’d be champions now.

A courageous friend had posted an email, well before our batting began. ‘I think we will lose. The West Indies are hungrier’. Well done! (I had it wrong at that stage – believing we’d overcome by then.)

I am foolhardy enough to continue to predict. I predict that the Windies will do well, but only for a season or two.  My interest in this is not so strong as to check if this too I get wrong. But I do have my reasons. And they go beyond form and underhand dealings. Most of it’s about little things that decide how team spirit grows or dies.






Soothing words in song reached me uninvited this morning, and moved quickly from backstage to spotlight. In captivating voice, the Sinhala words:*


Who rinsed the grain with tears that flood the pot

Whose sighs kindled the hearth

Who scoured local woods for unclaimed fruit

and watches out for my return from afar -

oh mother.


Today’s song rekindles images from an era almost gone. We have developed and left to history the glorified tedium. Suffering may still persist, even in our developed midst, but in altered form. Much is gained as poverty ebbs. But may lots be lost as well?


Romanticizing poverty is quite a common sin, especially among people in material bliss. But being loaded with cash and other things may nonetheless deprive – which is not to say that living in want is somehow the better state. But wealth too can rob us of some truly priceless gifts.


The words of that song depict many magical things. How fortunate the daughter who has concrete form in which to see the depth of devoted love she gets. And fortunate indeed is she to receive such adoration. Had she been rich, would mother have had such telling means to say, ‘This is how much I care’?  In the decadent world all gifts are baubles, and words just empty sounds? Caring touch or sharing time may still remain for some – but I wonder whether these too weaken beside the dazzle of plenty. Being robbed of options for gift that conveys real depth of feeling is the price we pay for holding uncountable wealth. Not too bad a deal, we’d guess. But loss of feeling altogether is as well a risk, further down the line. Limitless wealth may not be return enough for such grave deprivation.


What we commonly call riches may need some qualification. Do we want to say someone is rich only when she is well-heeled? What word shall we use for the huge treasure resident in a large heart? One who’s rich in this other way gets another bargain as well:  she’d likely find it effortless creeping though those eyes of assorted needles. That kind of wealth may also grant benefits here on earth to rival those that lots of cash are known well enough to give. And there may be less of a downside to holding vast amounts in spirit than to having large deposits in bank. This is a hypothesis that deserves careful scrutiny.


The song triggered the question whether great material wealth can dull. Can being loaded stop us inhabiting the greatest depths of emotion? Or does the billionaire too enjoy a rich enough inner life? Are the poor mother’s emotions felt no more strongly than his – but in some strange way become intense and noble, by the image of wholesome poverty entwined?


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* That verse in Sinhala is:


Kandulu hela nembiliyata sahal garana amma

Susum hela gini del gena lipa molawana amma

Wel deni wala avida gosin weralu genena amma

Idi weta langa api ena thuru bala hindiy amma.


and is intensified by the singer’s mellifluous voice.