OPINION|CHILDREN OF MEN*

Our Earth, now home to almost 8 billion humans. Also home to 153 million orphan children. Also the nursery to 140 million new births every year. Empirical population statistics when you look at each one individually. But when you connect them via the human equation, one can see the bizarre manifestation of our humanity gone awry.

The need to procreate has been so essential to our culture, beliefs and even our biology, that to build a family unit without passing on our exclusive DNA to our progeny is unthinkable; even unchristian, unislamic. And so, we continue to go from generation to generation, bequeathing with unrelenting tenacity, not so much our values, ethics and a spirit of industry, but the genetic codes that cellularly define us. We proudly bring another nestling into the world, the amalgam of our essential genomic structures, while another child somewhere not far off, adds to the global orphan count. The latter faithfully, effortlessly remains a de-sensitised statistic.

Even organized religion has given in to its baser instincts; and via insidious cloak and dagger plots of familial temptation and intrigue, has summarily discouraged adoption. For how can an adoptive father not be carnally tempted by the fact of the unshared DNA; or an adoptive mother blame herself for her lack of love and care for the child who is in fact, not her child. These are the ugly predispositions that guide our belief systems. And so it has come to pass that some of the most devout nations on earth continue to have the highest birth rates in the world.

I don’t profess to being maternal. The sum total of my maternal instincts extends to my niece and my nephew (they’re as close to my own children as I’ll have), my team in my corporate past life, the support staff in and around my regular surroundings, and the animal world. (It would appear, there are vestiges of the instinct after all; just not in the customary manner of speaking!) However, I have seen many, many… too many snot-nosed little kids that have become a part of the crazy, conveniently distant tumult on our busy urban streets. And I have heard countless … heartbreakingly countless horror stories of the forgotten children that are manipulated and mauled in the same orphanages and sanctums of faith that avow to protect them. Somehow, somewhere down the line, we have forgotten that we, the human collective, are the nurtures and providers of all the children that we bring into this world.

I am also not a detractor of the traditional family unit. It is, in fact, still one of our conventional social constructs that constantly reminds us that we are innately compassionate, loving and tolerant. However, I am a detractor of every dogma, ideal and manifesto that equates those same human qualities with the sharing of DNA. I am a detractor of all the myths and parables that typecast the concept of adoption in anything but the most judiciously humane light. In our current existences where economic inequality is shamelessly rife, the right of every orphan to be loved and cared for, unassailably surpasses our own need to perpetuate our heredity. The traditional family unit has to evolve into a more conscionable, accepting and diverse whole. The patriarchal ego has to take a back seat as we gradually but steadfastly make the word “Orphan” obsolete.

We no longer have the luxury of compartmentalising the children of our planet into a hierarchy of care, based on genetics. It is high time in fact, that we rallied together like the proverbial village to raise all the children of our world.

*Title inspiration from a 2006 dystopian science fiction movie thriller of the same name.

VERSE | LOVE ACTUALLY – Part Deux

Almost but not quite beleaguered and bemasked – February 23rd, 2021

In the spirit of well-meaning satire, a droll little tribute to our visiting PM, Imran Khan. You’re still our best hope. (Read to the general lilt of “Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat…”)

The flags are flying at full mast
The PM’s coming to town
The green and white, oh what a sight
For diplomatic, foreign affairs of the heart.

He’s also got the go-ahead
To traverse through enemy space
The Indian stratosphere, oh dear oh dear
What if he disappears before arriving here!
A conundrum, a tragedy, a veritable geo-political disgrace.

But when all is said and done and he brings
His cooperative politicking to town
Then if things go his way or the way of the Modi
Is superfluous as he leaves some of his aura behind
That persona, that charm, oh what a man!
It is Love Actually* that i feel for Imran Khan.
The icon, the enigma, the sportsman turned statemsman of Pakistan.

(Yes, with sugary sweetness this verse is replete,
But I hope you can read the gentle comic relief)

And so I end this tribute with a nod and a cheer,
You’ve got your hands full our PM dear,
So while you’re trippin’ around,
This erstwhile seaside town
Do get some R&R with Lanka’s favourite Arrack and beer.

A view of the Galle road, Colombo from my cafe vantage point today

*Read Love Actually – Part 1 here: https://theroamingdesi.org/2020/09/21/love-actually/

FILM PICKINS| STAR TREK – VOYAGER (1995 – 2001)

The crew with hearts of gold pressed latinum and the luck of the devil!

My trek across the galaxy that began with Star Trek, Deep Space 9 (DS-9), has continued with the constant state of high adventure of the Voyager. Although I’m still traversing the Delta quadrant with the intrepid crew in the middle of season 6, the glimmers of home in the alpha quadrant seem brighter with each episode. And after almost 150 episodes, I feel like I can put some pixel energy behind the cause of the on-screen Voyager effort.

Straight off, I have to get this little confession off my terran, earth-bound chest: the Voyager despite its majestic galavanting across uncharted space, just doesn’t warm the cockles of the heart as DS-9 did. The fact that DS-9 was a space station and therefore some semblance of “solid ground” where the inter-galactic shenanigans took place, could have been the magic bullet; or it could just be the quirky wholesomeness of all its alien characters. Either way, my sojourn with Voyager has seen its fair share of hoping for a quick photonic catapult to Earth, which would also gracefully allow me to wormhole out of a few episodes! And when frustration with the elusive Caretaker and his speed devil of an invention becomes over-powering enough for me to pull the plug on the whole thing, a fabulous little episode or two come along and I continue to fondly persevere through yet another ST-Voyager cloaked pandemic evening.

All the main characters of Voyager appear to be doppelgängers of the primary DS-9 crew: Tom Paris is fashioned after our endearingly narcisstic Dr. Bashir; B’ellana Torres, like Kira, is as fiery as she is compassionate; Harry Kim is the youthful avatar of Chief O’ Brian; Tuvok is as painfully forthright as Odo and carries himself with the same idiosycratic panache of one who is obliged in his professional capacity, to deal tolerantly with the rabble around him; Neelix is like a glorified Rom, compassionate and wise under a jocular exterior; the good doctor is a combination personality imbibing traits from across the spectrum while holographically catalysing the episodes where the usual flesh and blood would put a quick (and gruesome!) end to the story. With his cool temperament, Chakotay is the Jadzia Dax of Voyager, bringing that essential equilibrium and balance to the management equation. Seven of Nine is definitely the embodiment of many an adolescent male’s fantasy: beautiful, robotic and not shy. Captain Janeway though makes a much better captain than her DS-9 counterpart. That husky voice and the southern drawl combined with her peculiar professional maternity quite nicely clinches the part.

Other Deep Space Distillations:

-The staff quarters are like 5-star hotel suites, roomy with panoramic views of the stars and any number of cosmic aurora borealis. The experience is further authenticated with the complimentary chocolates (read: replicators!) and floral arrangements from across the galaxy.

-Many of the episodes are tear jerkers in their overload of drama and emotions. I admit to having wiped a tear or 3 at the fag ends of an unusually large number of episodes! (I did put it down to PMS the first few times but the Voyager and I have been steady roommates through the last 5 weeks and the lachrymal glands continue to keep pace).

-There is little to no chemistry between Torres and Paris, except maybe of the phonetic kind regarding their last names. The directors did well to keep that relationship nuanced rather than giving it an all-out screen presence. However, Seven of Nine’s largely unemotional “Borgness” and the Captain’s authoritarian maternal aura were spot on; permanent/ deep-seated love interests would have detracted from the believability of their characters.

-The little red thread that goes through most of the Voyager episodes is the almost fable-like quality of its various plot lines. Social issues across a wide gamut are sometimes playfully and sometimes poignantly portrayed. From wars, to parenting, to AI/ holographic rights and ethics, to sexism and racism, the intergalactic heart is mostly in the right place, even if human ethnocentricity does come across from time to time. (After all, as far as we know, the audience species for the series is one: Earthly and humanoid!)

-Since the DS-9 and Voyager productions overlapped for over 4 years, there was a fair amount of character trading as the same actors embodied various species and personalities aboard the 2 galactic strongholds. A few noteworthy examples are Tony Todd who was Worf’s brother and an older Jake Sisko in DS9, was also an alpha hirogen in Voyager; J.G.Hertzler who played General Martok on DS-9, was also a johnny-come-lately, well-meaning hirogen in Voyager; and Jeffery Combs who played Weyoun and the relentless Ferengi, Brunt in DS-9, continued to be the wringer of inter-galactic skill and strength in Voyager as Penk, the insidious organizer of galactic gladiatorial competitions.

I have about 40 episodes to go before Voyager reaches home or arrives at the fate sketched for it by her creators. And I still have to see a heart-warmer akin to the Vic Fontaine episodes of DS-9. The Voyager crew, however, does make ample use of their holodecks to recreate 19th and 20th century European utopias such as they are/ were. And so, between leisurely trips to Sandreine’s in scintillating Paris, and Fair Haven in old world Ireland, the crew and I are calling upon all our Netflix binge prowess to go a-tripping across the last 30,000 light years or so to the final finish.

Will I be embarking on another Star Trek sojourn after this? Unlikely until Discovery puts forth new material.

Until then, live long and prosper and while you’re at it, stay safe and be kind to one another.

Read my blogpost FILM PICKINS | STAR TREK- DEEP SPACE 9 here: https://theroamingdesi.org/2021/01/22/film-pickins-star-trek-deep-space-9/

OPINION | Ghosts in the Shell*

A gender-optimal philosophy for more effective, ethical and harmonious global leadership

I’ve been thinking. Not quite in the usual staring into space for a moment or four, while wispy little disconnected thoughts do a bit of a foxtrot around the noggin. But more akin to the aftermath of a persistent intuition, a nagging logic that marches around the brain until one’s forced to contend with it. And so this opinion piece has come stridently into the light of day, hoping to give some pause for thought, or at the very least, to become part of the endless, reverberating ether of information.

World Leadership. That cunning, convoluted beast that has taken on a form that neither the gods of war (NATO) nor the cormorants of peace (the UN) nor any semblance of a half way evolved human ethic would have ever envisioned for it. From hiding in its dank, dark cave because some post facto stab of conscience made it scurry back, it now proudly, fearlessly, openly dons the mantle of bigotry and apathy. It struts about our borders, spies into our lives and tosses a western grenade when neighbours become too peaceful. That beast has to be fed and war is its nutriment of choice.

I don’t want to go on a prolonged impassioned whinge about the state of our lives and indeed our very species as the Cognocentibus – the original Intelligent Beings that have somehow gone awry. That understanding and knowledge now is like organized religion: after thousands of years of wrangling with querulous belief systems, everyone knows what there is to know, yet there is power in creating ever new vacuums of faith and filling them with ever more profitable doctrines of fire and brimstone. And so it is with the way we behave with one another across our planet. We know the ultimate panacea is some semblance of peace and equality for all; but that’s no fun when you’re riding the Cock Horse to Banbury Cross* and can partake of over USD 90 trillion dollars* of global riches on the way.

So what am i really getting at?

A changed world order. I won’t say new; that would be naive and ideological and by those very facts, impossible to achieve. But i will say, modernised, reconditioned, improved. Here’s what I believe will at the very least, begin to bring about some viability, some sanity and some heart into our lives.

No MAN over the age of 65 should run for the office of President or Prime Minister. More and more we see how the patriarchal septuagenarians and their seniors have doggedly held on to mores and codes which are not only outright dogmatic and sexist, but increasingly at odds with mainstream thought and ethics. The barely veiled misogyny and racism in the hearts of the fagged and ageing US congressmen are a sputtering but compelling beacon for other similarly inclined world leaders. And it was difficult to miss Japan’s 83 year old ex PM, Mori’s absurdly sexist comment made recently in his capacity as the 2020 Olympics Head https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/2/12/tokyo-2020-chief-yoshiro-mori-resigns-over-sexist-comments . It is time for these seniors to sit back, dated ideals and all, and let the global human equation finally begin to re-evolve.

At least 40% of all senior political appointees to be women. We have some absolutely scintillating examples of wise and wonderful female leadership: Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, Angela Merkel of Germany and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia to name a few. However, women serve as Heads of State or Government in only 21 countries, and 119 countries have never had a woman leader. As of October 2019, the global participation rate of women in national-level parliaments was less than 25%, with only 14 countries having achieved 50 per cent or more women in cabinets (unwomen.org). More than two-thirds of these countries have applied gender quotas – either legislated candidate quotas or reserved seats – opening space for women’s political participation in national parliaments. With some concerted effort, these indices can be made more representative of global male/female population ratios. Indeed, it is high time for women to resolutely take the other half of the global leadership reins.

Female Leaders around the globe, 2020.
Still a dismal, despairing, desperate, sad rarity!

Head of State tenures to be capped at 5 years at one time, with the opportunity to run again after at least 5 years, for no more than another half a decade. This will serve to discourage self serving oligarchs and quell dynastic politics. The shortness of the tenure and with it, the duly limited opportunity for power-mongering will mean that only the serious nation builders will apply for the job of running a country. This will, in time, spearhead the creation of a new brand of Statesmen and women who will safeguard the interests of all their people while leading their nations to peace and prosperity.

Every Executive Government position holder and parliamentarian to undergo Executive courses on World History covering the last 500 years, with special emphasis on how their particular region has impacted or was impacted by the events therein. This would entail essential courses on colonialism, slavery, the wars of the 19th and 20th centuries and their respective aftermaths. A specially designated, international body of scholars will keep the content of these courses true and relevant to the times. This simple yet critical geo-political prescript will help to bring about global baseline knowledge and sensitivity around some essential truths that are still dogging the socio-cultural fabrics of so many nations. Reparation and healing will then begin top down, via an informed, “woke” and upstanding world leadership.

There is much to be said for the sadly dismal distribution of global wealth and the vulgarity of the Billionaire concept in our current times. But that will require more than just a shift of quotas and governance standards as these are the very themes considered as stalwart markers of success and happiness. It will take a few generations of unlearning to erase the greed that is now inherently a part of our DNA. And for that reason, I am not putting it down as a current critical imperative; the prescribed hopeful/ logical/ nuanced global administrative change will gradually take care of it.

In the aftermath of the last 4 years and indeed post the apocalyptic past year of the Pandemic, I’m hoping, like so many others, that our humanity, the simple homogeneity of our species and Better Sense prevails. I’m hoping that by embracing the best parts of our human collective, we can finally create a better world for ourselves and for our children; that we can finally be more than just ghosts in our dated, jaded, cracking shells.

*Ghost(s) in the Shell: title inspiration from the American adaptation of Masamune Shirow’s original 1989 manga/ Japanese anime of the same name.
*”Ride a cock horse...”: part of an old English nursery rhyme
*USD 90 trillion: the approximate USD value of global GDP as of 2020

TRIPPING GOALS| CALAMANSI COVE VILLAS

HOTEL: CALAMANSI COVE VILLAS BY JETWING
AT: Wijerama Road, Balapitiya 80550
TYPE: LUXURY BOUTIQUE HOTEL (with 12 villas in total)
DISTANCE FROM COLOMBO: ABOUT 2 HOURS DOOR TO DOOR

In the spirit of getting away from the urban milieu for a bit and taking advantage of the south western coastal season, the Calamansi Cove Villas visit came about. This was our first time at this little gem of a place in Balapitiya and it was serendipitously refreshing.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT:

-We were served our meals in the alfresco dining area overlooking the coastal side of the property.  While the other meals were delightful, dinner was fraught with a militant army of mosquitoes that were bent on vanquishing the enemy!  There were no coils or other repellants in place.  Thankfully, the much travelled, much beset duo that we are, we’d come prepared with our own cream repellant and citronella incense sticks. Once we lit the sticks and slathered ourselves, the meal became lovely.  Would be a good idea for the hotel staff to light a few mosquito coils or the Lanka Sumeda citronella/ cinnamon/ lemongrass incense sticks (priced at ~Lkr 250/- for a 100 sticks).  They are very effective and make all the difference between having a memorable outdoor meal or becoming an aperitif and an entree for the entire resident vampire-insect population.

-There was a body wash and a shampoo (which felt eerily the same) but there was no little tube of hand lotion. And so, the palms of my hands and the soles of my feet remained in uncomfortable arid limbo post our splash in the briny sea.

-The Calamansi is a small, contained little place with 12 villas in total. As such, there is not too much ambient lighting from any surrounding hotel recesses/ areas, and so towards the evening, the place had taken on a dark, deserted look. We had to request the staff to switch on the lights in the garden/ pool area which the dining hall overlooks. It completely changed the atmosphere, making it more welcoming/ lived in.

-The check-out area was also outdoors. There was not even a pedestal fan, and in the heat of the afternoon (the usual check-out time), by the time we were done paying our bills, we were drenched. Settling the bills somewhere inside or at least having a fan outside would make for a fitting end to the entire experience.

THE GOOD STUFF!

-The entire property is beautiful.  Small and contained, the Calamansi is perfect for getaways in our current Pandemic-stricken times where big places with teeming dining areas and pools pose a hazard all their own. 

-The villas are reminiscent of lovely, airy little apartments, each with its own little garden and the structural amenities that come with an outdoor area: a beautiful veranda opening out into a private little garden. The beds are made for hours of beauty sleep and then some! The pillows were perfect too. (Having, on a number of occasions, lost many hours of sleep in the dubious intimacy of a hard/ lumpy bolster, I appreciate the head-hug of a plump, downy pillow).

-The Calamansi definitely has one of the better ocean views/ feels. The beach is absolutely gorgeous with its powdery fine sand and gentle undulation into the water. The February waves were perfect for body boarding or, for the more gentle of demeanour, a walk along the lapping, foamy edges of the water.

-The food was quite palatable and was part of a set menu with 3 or so main choices to select from at every meal. There was a combination of local and continental cuisine to choose from. Because of the set menu, we also had the flexibility of having our breakfast quite a lot later than the usual 10.30am meal time limit.

-The piece de resistance at any of the resorts is really its people and their expertise and service. On that front, I have to commend the Calamansi for having a lovely set of people on its staff. From the life guard, Sujith, who had more than a few palpitations as my partner and I gambolled in the sea, turning inadvertent somersaults in the cresting and waning waves; to our main server, Chandana and the chef who obliged us on more than one occasion with fulfilling the little culinary requests that we made that were not a part of the set menu.

-The villas are perfect for an intimate getaway or a little holiday with the entire family. Suffice to say that the Calamansi Cove Villas has already become a favourite and we’re already planning a subsequent trip in the next couple of months.

SOCIAL FICTION|A BRAVE NEW WORLD*

A tribute to the brave young men and women who battle everyday to come to terms with their identity and a perennially judgmental, dogmatic society. May each of you find the strength to be the truest and best version of yourself.

Geena woke up with a monster of a headache. She sat up slowly, disoriented, the neurons in her brain firing a piercing staccato. She held her throbbing head as the events of the previous evening flitted across her hippocampus in discordant technicolour… a night out with friends, B52 shots, Neelu was there, more shots, they’d talked, vodka shots, she was definitely the one, they’d danced, even more shots, they’d kissed…. The memories bounced around her head in weird harmony with the stabs of pain in her body, making her grimace. Geena, the fighter of causes, the Robina-hood of small but essential kindnesses, the dogged agent of change for others, was a frightened, anxious little girl when it came to herself. When did she become so weak? She frowned against the whipping, curdling flow of her boozy blood, arming herself with the shifty valour of self-suggestion.

Say it Geena! Just own it! SAY IT OUT LOUD!

Her head pounded harder, punishing her… for what? For what she wanted to say? For what she couldn’t say? She quivered with the effort.

She couldn’t voice it; her identity, her very being continued to hide inside her like a deep, dark, dirty secret. She crumpled, her spine bent, her voice as silent as the tombs of long forgotten conquerors. No, this wasn’t the day she was going to be her own hero.

Geoff came inside the house, tossing his keys onto the console table. He was glad to be home; it had been an unusually busy Sunday morning. He went straight up to Geena’s room and found her still in bed. She was asleep. He looked at her, at the exhaustion etched in her beautiful face, at the sweet innocence that still enfolded his 18 year old daughter. It had been another one of those nights when she’d arrived home drunk, angry and tearful. How he wished his wife, Ruwani was still around… was still alive. She had been the loving, grounding anchor for this now somewhat dissonant family. He sighed… Ruwani would have known how to handle this teenage angst. He had tried talking to Geena but had always come up against a wall as fortified as it was high; she wouldn’t let him in. He got himself a glass of ice cold water and sat down, mindlessly switching on the television. Anderson Cooper on CNN was saying something about America’s decaying morality…

Something was nagging at him. It was something about morality and uprightness. About righteousness. It was about family values, about being respectable and … being normal. There was an elusive element of normalcy that seemed to be missing from his life… from Geena’s life…

He shook off the strange, disconcerting feelings – like he always did. He’d have to talk to Geena about her drinking. And he’d make it a point to ask about that new boy he’d seen with her group the other day. He never thought he’d say this to her before she was 30, but a nice boy in her life would actually be good for her.

Geena woke up at past 6pm, splintery glimmers of her hangover still keeping her company. She took a couple of panadols to quiet the tumult in her head and lay back in bed, looking at the ceiling overhead. As the pain receded, she became aware of a faint little feeling in her chest… a feeling of something new, something spirited, something honest. It warmed her, tickled her, strengthened her. She smiled tremulously, blinking in the anticipation of the ultimate truth-telling, of a final release from her demons. She was going to talk to her father about it. She was going to tell him that she … she liked girls. She always had. She was a lesbian. That word… still awkward on the tongue and yet that’s what she was. She let the idea float around her head, felt it fuse with her thoughts, sensed it coursing through her body.

She grinned widely – hopeful, nervous, anxious… but mostly hopeful.

It was another Friday night at apartment TP-1.

Tonight though, there was the ragged aura of broken hearts. The truth-telling, the sharing of confidences, the spiritual reckoning had been had. A father sat slumped in his chair, wounded, silent. A daughter stood looking at him, shattered, resigned, her breath coming in ragged gasps. Despite everything, he wanted to reach out. Even in the abyss of her despair, she looked at him, willing him to reach out.

De Khudai pe aman

*A Brave New World: Title inspiration from Aldous Huxley’s dystopian social science fiction novel of the same name.

FEATURE|THE ENIGMA OF LEISURE TRAVEL IN 2021

When I thought of travel 5 years ago, images of copious, laborious intercity bank visits always came to mind. Job related travels to metropolises, townships and little rural outposts were the sum total of all my hours logged on the road.

Then I embarked on my sabbatical and the whole meaning of the word Travel changed for me. It embodied everything from a leisure trip to Europe or the Middle East, to amiable walks along my own city’s tree-lined, sun dappled walkways. My journeys, big and small, slowly but surely morphed into trips of not only the body but the mind and the soul too as I roamed around and smelled the gardenias, the araliya and the roses. The mind-numbing fumes of business travel were a distant memory in my newly acquired state of finally being free enough to follow my own heart rather than the terse instructions on my work day scheduler. And so it came to pass, that yours truly went from being a reluctant traveller at best, to feeling a rush of endorphins at the very idea of a trip away from the (not entirely unloved!) sweltering bustle of the city. I had become the quintessential Leisure Traveller and I basked in the glorious serendipity of the role.

I also came to realise that Leisure Travel does not have to be limited to trips taken during time away from work. The astute traveller with a love of roaming, can quite successfully combine business and leisure travel with some strategic pre-planning.

-Do a little homework on your destination.  If you’re visiting the place for the first time, it’s always a good idea to take in the top 3-5 tourist attractions.  Take a guided tour for the maximum bang for the buck.  If you’re the intrepid, adventurous type, pick a couple of the places that interest you the most and go it alone.  Some pre-planning on the most optimal modes of transport will be helpful to ensure you don’t find yourself woefully light of pocket post your very first taxi foray.  

-Consult your hotel/ motel concierge. These personages are surprisingly wonderful founts of knowledge on the best, most budget-friendly local sights, sounds and tastes. I have visited some of the nicest little local hot spots and had some of the choicest local cuisine at the behest of their friendly bidding!

-Come prepared with sturdy walking shoes (preferably waterproof), a lightweight umbrella and a light jacket. Whether you’re in the sultry tropics or the cool alpine heights, you’ll be prepared for that unexpected monsoon or seasonal shower.

-Carry a basic medical kit with bandaids, analgesics, anti allergies, mosquito repellant and oral rehydration salts (foreign cuisine can be dicey!)

So what does Leisure Travel look like in 2021?

In our current lives, buffeted as they are with uncertainty on so many fronts, I would define leisure travel as any trip that allows you to relax and/ or rejoice; to realign body, mind and soul to attain some semblance of inner peace and quietude. Whether it takes a solitary retreat in the middle of a forest, or a full moon party at a crowded beach, the purpose of leisure travel is to rejuvenate the traveller. To revitalise the trip-maker to get back into the fray of life, feeling less burdened and more prepared to take each day as it comes.

Given the pandemic and the far reaching limits on travel generally, leisure trips need to become increasingly more creative and out of the box. After a year of enduring pandemic-fuelled lockdowns and curfews, people are more than ready to get away from it all.

Leisure travel can be as simple as a day trip to a spa or a hotel a little way away from home. Little bubbles of rest and relaxation that allow one to get away from the milieu of every day life while also keeping within pandemic defined geographies.

Another increasingly popular avenue of holidaying is to rent a bungalow or a villa somewhere. This is a fortuitous remedy for larger families allowing for both, a change of scenery as well as ensuring pandemic health protocols are observed. There are no busy hotel lobbies or crowded pools or overflowing dining areas to contend with. It’s a pandemic leisure traveller’s dream come true; a kind of “home away from home” holiday.

For the intrepid travellers with dogged wanderlust, there are still places around the world where life goes on undisrupted. With the addition of certain basic health obligations like a negative PCR test, wearing masks in all public places and observing state postulated social distancing rules, these places continue to welcome visitors and indeed have much to offer in the way of travel experience. Some tropical destinations fall into this sphere of venturesome travel.

I, in the meantime, while awaiting the ultimately safe vaccine given my myriad allergies, am content with traveling to my neighbourhood cafe and escaping into the world of abundant imagination across vast spaces through the keys of my iPad. And for the occasional temerarious shock to the system, I and my partner in all crimes of high adventure, pack our overnighters and get away to a nearby beachy or green locale, all the while basking in the simple pleasure of the journey itself.

Leisure travel during the pandemic really is akin to living by the compass and not by the clock, as we tend to our bodies and our spirits in the overwhelming tenuousness of our current lives.

POLITICAL FARCE| MY TRUMP RUNNETH OVER**

Jan. 2021 – Feb. 2021:

PROGRESSIVE CAVITY TRUMP

Donald Trump left the White House in the wake of a dithering and irresolute Biden presidency and a looming impeachment. On January 30th, in a bizarre twist of Trumpian fate, Senate Minority leader, Mitch McConnell was abducted by the Proud Boys* for his “disloyalty” to their boss, Donald Trump. He was taken to Waco, Texas where in another peculiar prophetic foible, the septugenerian suffered a massive heart attack and died 2 days later. The abductors were caught and incarcerated but not before becoming inadvertent icons of heroism for the “New America”.

There was another march on Washington DC on February 5th, 2021 led by a brand new coalition of the Proud Boys and QAnon*. Despite a sizeable National Guard deployment, the capitol was stormed in much the same manner as the January 6th, 2021 insurrection. 27 people were killed including Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Congressional Republican from Georgia. She had gone out of the safety of the House Chamber to talk with the QAnon-Prouds*; confident in her right wing sympathies. The raging crowd had seen only a member of the new “fake administration” trying their age old insidious political tactics and had rushed at her with their combined wrath. And so, in another curious turn of events, QAnon’s most ardent supporter became the accidental martyr for the reeling, gobsmacked Left.

53 Republican senators joined the ranks in favour of impeaching Donald Trump.

March 2021 – May 2021:

THE BACK TRUMP PLAN

Donald Trump had watched what came to be called the “Revival Movement”with interest from his Mar-a-lago HQ. Without the megaphone of social media to throw his tweets into the furthest corners of redneck America, he had improvised… or his supporters had. They had set up a ham radio network across the country; Revivalist Patriots manning the amateur radio bands between 7MHz and 20MHz in almost every city. They received a broadcast from Mar-a-Lago and in turn disseminated the message via social media. Almost overnight, a ragtag militia had organized into the pitch perfect exactness of a communications commando force across the entirety of the American geography.

NEVER GONNA GIVE YOU TRUMP

Two months into this new fangled broadcast methodology, DT* being overcome by his ADHD-afflicted persona, got bored. It was too little for too long. He had stopped watching Fox News simply because he had slowly faded away from its screen as its most beloved protagonist to an increasingly dubious and infrequently shown antagonist.

The words Mutineer and Delusional Demagogue had come up a few times too.

How he despised that Chris Wallace!*

Melania wanted out – out of the marriage; of the partnership. He wasn’t having any of it. While his celebrity had diminished into the wasteland of slander and defamation, she was now wearing the cloak of a woman who had bravely survived the madness. She already had 6 book deals and 25 million dollars in the bank. No, he would rather poison her! … that is, lose her through quick, natural causes, than let her bask in reflected glory – his Glory!

Yes, he hated Melania as well.

June 2021 onwards:

PROTON TRUMP INHIBITOR

And now the former president of the United States had clinched the deal of a lifetime. The operation had been highly covert, unknown even to the most ardent of his supporters. In fact, his resentment and even dislike of his base had grown exponentially in the last few months…. how did a man of his bearing and finesse attract these rural, rough-shod bumpkins? He had mulled over it in those rare moments of reflection he was sometimes struck by and could only put it down to Mike Pence. DT had always been mildly suspicious that his VP showed a peculiar preference for the Deep Southern trucker sorts. And now, like some backwoods parasitic mold, they had mobbed together into his adoring electorate. Well, he didn’t have to deal with Pence or his hillbilly, rustic fan base anymore.

He was all set to move to North Korea, as Kim Jong-Un’s First Secretary.

The Secretary General of the North Korean Worker Party had been approached by an increasingly marginalised and entirely desperate DT. The world renowned fascist had an admirer all his own, and no less than the 45th POTUS! Surreptitious talks progressed at warp speed as an established oligarch took an aspiring senior under his totalitarian wing. And on June 5th, 2021, DT was whisked away from the land of the free and home of the brave to a secret facility in wonderfully dictatorial Pyongyang.

The Brilliant Comrade was home at last!

THE TRUMP FOR RED OCTOBER

On American soil, Article III, section 3 and the subsequent Title 18 or the death penalty were filed against DT. In the wake of the Great Escape, the Republican Party was thrown into further disarray as Trump supporters perpetuated and publicised their own version of their supreme commander’s act of treason. The great DT was urging them to incite a revolution, a war, a call to arms for the good old days of sovereign authority and Old Northernism*.

The third bomb in as many months, had exploded; this time in New York City. The revivalists had notched up another 500 fatalities. The Revolution Collateral Damage was already at 1,763 dead.

THE NIGHT THE SUN CAME TRUMP

In Pyongyang, there had been a series of short-range missiles launched between July and August 2021 marking its first missile tests since the Brilliant Comrade had joined their ranks; a superb impetus to boosting both, their nuclear weapons prowess and their global confidence. There were already plans to “rock that horrible continent” as DT liked to say. Long range missiles were being readied for a spectacular North Korean fireworks display in LA, NY, Chicago, Hawaii and Alaska.

Meanwhile DT has discovered a newfound love of snake wine*, and KJ-Un has taken to golf with monocratic zeal, all while the empire plots and prepares for an epic change in world order.

Read the first (rather prophetic!) episode here, written on September 1st, 2020: https://theroamingdesi.org/2020/09/01/existential-fictionthe-age-of-stupid-part-deux/

**The main and sub-titles are puns on the word “Trump”. The original terms are: My Cup Runneth Over/ Progressive Cavity Pump/ The Backup Plan/ Never Gonna Give you Up/ Proton Pump Inhibitor/ The Hunt for Red October/ The Night the Sun Came Up

*Proud Boys: A far-right, neo-fascist, and male-only terrorist organisation that promotes and engages in political violence in the United States and Canada.

*QAnon: A far-right cult of conspiracy theorists alleging that a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles running a global child sex-trafficking ring is plotting against President Donald Trump, who is battling them

*QAnon-Prouds: In the wake of the Jan. 6th 2021 Insurrection at the US Capitol, the 2 right wing factions came together to launch the revolution for New America under the auspices of the twice impeached 45th POTUS

*POTUS: President Of The United States

*DT: Donald Trump

*Chris Wallace: Christopher Wallace is an American journalist, and television news anchor of the Fox News program Fox News Sunday. Wallace is known for his tough and wide-ranging interviews. He is especially despised by DT for his vague propensity to tell the truth

*Old Northernism: An ideology of racism which views the Nordic race as a superior and sometimes as an endangered racial group.The theory argues that the Nordic race is responsible for most of humanity’s great achievements and any mixing with other races was “race suicide” where the great Nordic race would be supplanted by inferior races. 

*Snake Wine: Snake wine is an alcoholic beverage produced by infusing whole snakes in rice wine or grain alcohol. The drink was first recorded to have been consumed in China during the Western Zhou dynasty and considered an important curative and believed to reinvigorate a person according to Traditional Chinese medicine. It is also the preferred drink of choice of Kim Jong-Un.

FILM PICKINS| STAR TREK – DEEP SPACE 9 (1993 – 1999)

It was slow I admit, the nascency of a connection with the ST-DS9* characters and their Deep Space shenanigans. But by season 2, I had developed a mild fondness for the Captain and his Federation crew. And by season 4, the affection I felt for the space Station denizens was deep-rooted and personal. By season 5, I was already forlornly anticipating the end of the series and feeling at odds with the rest of the Netflix science fiction repertoire.

That is not to say that i was blinded to the obvious shortcomings of the production; they just became tenderly blurred as the characters became increasingly larger than life. I still remember cringing slightly during season 1 and wondering for the 347th time why i felt such a compelling commitment to see every series through, dubious and otherwise, that I’ve embarked on. Here’s what I remember even as I dredge up the memories from the practical, unemotional series-bingeing depths of my mind:

The characters were more than a tad over-dramatic – Captain Sisko often comes across as a stand up comic endearingly poking fun at would-be space bigwigs; while the good Doctor Bashir appears so entranced by his own look, feel and sound that one would be forgiven for mistaking him for the English, Space version of a Doogie Howser impersonator. Major Kira (Colonel now!) is relentless in her adolescent knee jerk outbursts of anger, vengeance and the insatiable need to be the biggest bully in the Alpha quadrant…. nah… all Space. Then there are the dated special effects: the barely camouflaged fluorescent primary coloured lights blinking on 24th century tricorders and control panels; the landing/ disembarkation pads which looked like ponderous railway tunnels; the defiant, brave little ships in space, dithering ever so slightly against their starry backdrop – trembling reminders of their actual minuscule size and mass; the phasers and other laser weapons put to shame by the contents of aisle 15 in Toys ‘r’ Us. But…. like i said, i had to laboriously dig up these first and not so lasting impressions.

What I do remember effortlessly is the superb characterisation of Quark the quintessential Ferengi who’d grown a heart and a bit of a conscience over the course of the 7 seasons; Garak who was as devious and resourceful as he was genteel and intrepid; Dukat the bipolar Cardsassian who fought a war of conscience for most of the 7 seasons, finally relenting with a Bajoran bow and a twisted flourish to his dark side; Weyoun, the Gamma quadrant clone who was as duplicitous as he was “god-fearing”; and of course Vic Fontaine, a holographic throwback to the 1960s Las Vegas rat pack style entertainment who was as good a singer as he was a psychothera-pal for the DS9 crew. All in all, the alien characters of DS9 delivered a far superior performance to that of their human counterparts.

The piece de resistance of the series however, is definitely its ability to take its viewers on a compelling, emotional journey into the lives of its main characters. The cloak and dagger plots set a million light years away from earth still took place in what was essentially a little town with its very own set of the good, the bad and the alien. And that was ultimately what made the series so memorable.

Other Deep Space Distillations:

-The mainstream ethics/ moral compass portrayed by the Federation of planets, while being lofty and aspirational by our boorish 21st century standards, was still shown to be insidiously riddled with intrigue and deception; its Section 31 dutifully and covertly performing all its ungallant business. I suppose some things are so hard-wired into our psyche, a basic distrust of anyone different from ourselves being at the top of that list, that no amount of evolution and sophistication can wring it out of our DNA.

-America, as is customary across the Hollywood universe, bravely endeavoured to save the day or lead from the front. And so unremarkably, Uncle Sam continued to fill in most of the shoes of the DS9 and the Federation nawabs*.

-I discovered a new-found love for Frank Sinatra’s soulful crooning. I’ve had his vocal jazz and swing numbers on quick recall on my phone for the last fortnight. Vic’s repository of the legendary tunes pulls at all the melody-clinched strings of my heart!

-The MC at Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony sounded eerily like Worf, the Klingon!

I watched the last show of the last season last night. A net total of 176 episodes viewed, imbibed and psychoanalysed nostalgically during the last 4 weeks. Almost made me forget we’re in the middle of a pandemic as I traversed through space and time with the crew and the citizens of Deep space 9/ Terek Nor.

I leave you with a nostalgic old Sinatra refrain sung by DS9’s own Vic Fontaine, just because it’s such a lovely old song and even half a millennium on, it resonated richly, poignantly, on a space station somewhere in our cosmos.

*ST-DS9: Star Trek – Deep Space 9

*Nawab: a male title which literally means Viceroy; the female equivalent is “Begum” or “Nawab Begum”. The primary duty of a Nawab was to uphold the sovereignty of the Mughal emperor along with the administration of a certain province. In modern times, it is often used to denote men of power.

FOOD SWINGS|The Capital Bar and Grill

RESTAURANT: CAPITAL BAR AND GRILL AT THE SHANGRI-LA HOTEL
ADDRESS: ONE GALLE FACE MALL, COLOMBO 3
CUISINE: MODERN, INTERNATIONAL, CONTINENTAL
Ensconced in the modern, luxurious environs of the Shangrila Hotel, this venue is almost a nostalgic throwback to the bars of the 40s and 50s, with a lovely modern twist.  From the repertoire of live music to the atmosphere, it is warm, retro and relaxing.
I’ve been a number of times to the bar and admit, i have had a varied gamut of experiences.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT:
-The Parking area is dismally inadequate over the weekend as wedding parties, mall goers and hotel patrons all vie for a spot.
-Patrons are not allowed to make reservations at the bar. So if one happens to walk in later than 8.30pm, there may not be a seat/ table available. If there are a significant number of no-shows, put in a process whereby reserving patrons are called 20 mins before their scheduled arrival time to re-confirm their reservation. If they don’t arrive despite the re-confirmation, give the table to someone else.

THE GOOD STUFF!
-The atmosphere definitely. It is luxurious yet comfortable - one can sit back and bask in the lap of old world charm at quite its best in Colombo.
-The food is quite good for the most part.
-The service is good (I do go on about service because it really makes up half the food and hospitality experience. Having been in the Financial Institutions Customer Experience realm for almost a decade, it is almost instinctive now to gauge every aspect of service delivered, from the front-desk manner of the usher to the culinary/ spirits knowledge of the serving staff).
-The live music sessions have always been fabulous. The last time it was a lovely myriad of jazz, folk and country delivered beautifully.