OPINION|Faith

More and more, a tenuous ideology as it has traditionally existed. Increasingly, we are seeing how conventional belief systems are becoming less and less able to minister to the spiritual needs of believers at large.

As our spheres of existence evolve, leaping and bounding into the digital age; as we progressively become a part of a smaller and smaller global village, we are being faced with challenges heretofore quite unprecedented in terms of how we interact with the communities we live in, and others around the world. More and more we see how intolerance, strife and suffering are being directly perpetrated in the dubious paths of organized belief systems. The way i see it, we have slowly but surely lost our humanity to the puissant machinations of modern day religious powerhouses.

What is faith then, in the current times? What does it mean to be devout and devoted? Is it a copious measure of ritual practice while the heart continues to race in fear and the mind is a cacophony of discord in times of trial? Is it the demonstration of exalted acts performed in the way of glorifying one’s particular faith which, at their very core, are underscored by bigotry, inequity and divisiveness? Where every “good deed” is discharged on a quid pro quo basis: you are charitable primarily so YOU can go to heaven, and not because someone is needy – (that’s just a circumstantially advantageous outcome). You go to church and to the mosque so YOU can get into the Almighty’s good books so YOU can skip into Eden, not because you have the well- being of your community at heart. All, spiritually depleting ideologies of faith practised solely from a fear of consequences, rather than the simple desire to exteriorize and celebrate our humanity.

What is it to believe then? Could it be simply, the genuine attempt to be the best version of oneself spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically? To be able to look within to become a force for good without? To be able to think for oneself more and to rely less on the dogmas of centuries ago? To finally pay fit tribute to our innate “God-given” spiritual and mental assiduity? To finally breaking through the meretricious matrix woven by self serving belief systems and sifting through the spiritual antimatter for ourselves.

Look around you. Nature itself has manifested how irrelevant caste, creed and racial differences are. How even more insignificant religiously wrought community and political boundaries are. Why then are we not heeding what we instinctively know to be true? That our shared humanity is bigger than any individual religion. That our communal joys and sorrows are more spiritually potent than any Sunday service or Friday ‘Khutba’*. That together we are a stronger, better, more spiritually evolved species than we are when projecting our ecclesiastical differences. Because at the end of the day, the very essence of all religions is entrenched not only in equality, kindness and charity in and of themselves, but in thoughtfully and inclusively channeling these all-embracing attributes to ensure one becomes a more universal force for good.

It is time. Time to break through the inertia-encumbered shackles of our different religions; of the ensuing illogical but deeply ingrained ways we are habituated to hate one another. It is time to start having the difficult but essential discussions on breathing fresh life into archaic, counter intuitive belief systems.

My religion is Humanity. What is yours?

De khudai pe aman.

*Khutba: publicly held formal sermon, especially delivered after the communal Friday prayers in the Islamic religion.

PANDEMIC 2020|The Corona Theatre – the Muses weigh in

We have indeed entered the Age of the Mighty Microbes as the days go by and mankind continues to buckle at the knees in the face of the latest onslaught. Welcome to 01AC – Year 1, Anno Coroni

Despite the obvious ravages wrought by the bacillus, one can’t help but take an existential view of the situation. Twenty first century Political ideologues, Economic powerhouses and Moral custodians all continue to be similarly baffled and besieged by the all-embracing, unrelenting sweep of the “invisible enemy” – some would say a Diviner, a harbinger of things to come.

In the midst of this unprecedented assailment, Melpomene and Thalia* have managed to do a few merry dances together choreographed by Dionysus** himself, as we continue to see blitzes of comedy, madness, revelry and of course, kindness and triumph in the advancing milieu.

The Comedy and the Madness: personified so aptly by our very own planetary resident uno – the 45th president of the US of A. His initially altogether bewildered, butted-in-the-stomach look has very rapidly evolved to his signature winging-it-with-the-confidence-of-a-rocket/ (microbiology!)-scientist avatar. This time though, the usual spin doctoring is very hard to believe even if one is a Die-Hard Trump supporter. Because when all’s said and done, there is a difference in dying hard literally, especially with the Corona at the helm of the transition from figurative to literal. Entertaining and cringe-worthy simultaneously are the expressions of the medical professionals of the American Coronavirus Task Force while Trump oscillates between making comically absurd statements (the “Chinese virus”/ we are hours away from a vaccine) to downright obnoxious ones (slamming a journalist who asked for his response/ reassurance for the troubled American populace at large). Other charming inclusions here are the Brazilian president who thought congenially rubbing shoulders with Senhor Corona was a political tour de force; and the Sri Lankan politico who was convinced that his act of taking off his own well-worn mask and putting it around the face of another was the ultimate apex of on-point political savviness.

Act 1, Scene 1Thalia and Melpomene are hamming a demented fox trot all over the summer harvest; the picture is both jocose and psychotic.

The Revelry: with the younger denominator around the globe and the fogyish in places where it is “UnBritish” to enforce controls of any kind, there has been an almost unhinged disregard for the calamitous prophecy embedded in the Corona DNA. Pubs, clubs and beaches have continued to be thronged by the Corona cynics; because communal drinking and socialising traditions that have prevailed even through the extreme exigences of WW2 can hardly be sidelined by the scare tactics of a (Boris) Johnny come lately.

Act 1- Scene 2: The Theatre twins are pantomiming a steroid-fuelled ballroom dance across the streets of the First World.

The Triumph: And then, the veni, vidi, vici moments of some nations as they adjusted for, battled and triumphed (at least for now) over the ‘C-adversary’. In an ironic twist of fate, the bulk of the nations here have been from the Asian/ developing world. The dignity, gravitas, foresightedness and pertinacity with which these nations brought their people together to ‘little by little, drive out” the enemy is unparalleled, given, in some cases, the relative vastness of their populations.

The Corona may yet turn the tables and angle the tide on the current world order. It may yet drastically change priorities and aspirations, visions and goals, neighbourliness and compassion, community and connections – the very essence of what defines us as humankind.

Act 1- Final scene: While Melpomene slumbers, Thalia sways gently to the rhythm of the swishing leaves as a fresh, new breeze blows lightly through the field.

De khudai pe aman.

*Melpomene and Thalia: the Muses of Tragedy and Comedy respectively

**Dionysus: Greek god of Theatre and other fun things! Look him up 🤓

PANDEMIC 2020|Why this Kolaveri, Corona-weary, Covid-19?

These are strange times indeed! It’s almost like the human species is being cosmically positioned at the brink of a life-altering crossroad. Like we are being asked, nay, told by the universe to excogitate to the next level mentally, emotionally, spiritually and materially. The time for cosmic requests and gentle omens is probably done.

Each day is unfolding in an alternate macrocosm kind of way – unprecedented and grandly imbibing the nature of all the apocalyptic sci-fi plots the celluloid and literary worlds have regaled us with all these years. Like Aldous Huxley’s “A Brave New World” meeting Orwell’s “1984”; like all the Hollywood and J-horror pestilential and malefic microbe-driven, world decimation plots unraveling in real time! To those able to take an existential (and somewhat empirical) view of the current crisis, we are now residents of a very peculiar, almost alchemistic world. Collaboration, sharing and compassion, rather than geographic, economic and political oneupmanship are the ironic catalysts to see this through; and the inevitable gamut of similar Sui generis global debacles that our planet will face in times to come.

Our current state of affairs, what we call living a successful life, is now more than ever, worth introspection, cogitation and transformation. Our ethical and moral compasses, our belief systems and our very humanity are all up for realignment. We have known this for some time now, but the unrelenting bustle of our “regular” lives has served to make this intuition hazy and peripheral.

Maybe it’s Nature’s way of telling us to re-harmonize ourselves with our world at large, or be subjected to a brutal all-pervading culling, followed by an entirely contradistinct evolution of body and mind. Maybe the virus is the Last Prophet explicated by most organised religions, come to offer a final call via a master plan we are likely to understand- a Doomsday scenario playout- to get our “intelligent species” act together. It is conventionally deistic too, in that it is indiscriminate and all-encompassing in whatever it is doling out (full of brimstone and fire to boot, in an apt salute to the sinister overtones of all self and institutionally appointed custodians of faith these days). Any which way, the Corona will probably quite permanently change the way we interact, assimilate, empathise and connect across social and political divides.

In ending, these old lines come to mind with new pertinence: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way”(A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens).

De khudai pe aman

VERSE|The Creatures of the Coffee Shops

Following from “The Creatures of the Park”, this piece is inspired, nay, made quite imperative by my varied experiences at the 2 or 3 cafes i regularly frequent in Colombo city. Because, as with my obligatory evening walk, i am also a devout tea and latte aficionado. And as a creature of habit, i do tend to absorb the full gamut of gastronomic, service and atmospheric experiences at the handful of places i go to. So here is my affable ode to the characters who, like me, can be found at the oft-frequented coffee places around town.

Angst, amusement and even downright vexation
Are some sentiments that have inspired this particular narration.
Because when my adrenaline is not racing haphazardly around,
Yours truly can’t weave verse or prose that is suitably profound.
So here’s a bit of a congenial ramble
About coffee shop folks and their queer, quirky angles.


The first of this set that I chanced to espy,
Was the gaggle of ladies who meet over coffee and pie.
They are genteel and smiling and conversing lightly
Of Ruwani’s boyfriend and Andrew’s new-found sobriety.
Of weddings and parties and stand-out memorial services;
Of yoga class affairs and other sexagenarian caprices.


Following sharply on the last set’s heels,
Is the would-be Romeo who’s eternally spinning his wheels.
While on his regular tarriance through the cafe,
He’ll go through the motions, happily epitomising the cliche-
Sauntering gait, wandering eyes, and obnoxiously loud!
Because how else would this Adonis be noticed by the crowd?
This one engenders both, frustration and pity,
Deluded sense of self; diddly squat in the mental kitty.


This next one (my favourite) is quite off the charts,
The nonagenarian with tremendous love in his heart!
He’s delicate and fragile and yet undauntingly sure
Of his libidinous vigor and marvellous allure.
He speaks in faint tones, each gossamer vein outlined;
“I want to make love to you”, he solemnly opines.


There is also the resident troop of servers,
With personas as varied as their gelato flavours.
There’s the hero who averts a gastronomic disaster;
And the shrinking violet who couldn’t have disappeared faster.
You’ll also see “Lurch” on his tropical vacation
Waiting tables, no doubt, for some fiscal augmentation
(Who’d have believed the fiendish frugality
Of the profusely munificent Addams’ Family!)
There’s also Happy and Dopey and Sneezy and Bashful-
Each cafe with its own quirky take on the fairytale.


The likes of me, of course, continue to be,
The nose-in-the-book kind, with the-tail-on-the-seat.
Looking up only to rest remonstrating muscles,
Perennially ensnared in the Introvert’s social tussle:
Latte on standby, with napkins and spoon,
I’m in a world of my own in the bustling tea room.



The rest of the coffee shop throng is assorted
The foodies, the guzzlers, the loners, the courted.
The suited and booted, the flip-flopped, the Collared*
A theatrical cycle of life streaming onward.
This gamut of movement, that with spirit is rife
Is what makes the modest coffee shops larger than life.
And so i continue to frequent the tea rooms and cafes
To reclusively delight in the milieu and lacteous lattes.

*Collared: priests, monks and other caffeine-relishing clergymen.

VERSE|The Severance

I should have seen it coming ... I felt it coming.
The personal angst, both sitting with their own.
The self-deprecation; the momentary loathing; the struggle to dignify; the failure to clarify -
The ever-triumphant Status Quo!

He speaks; he accuses; he rails and he rants;
He threatens; he shouts; he’s shaking - he’s livid.

I recoil in disbelief; something sinks beyond the grasp of our shared togetherness.
I watch him before me, as i watch us inside me,
Sink.... sink........ drown.

I feel the cold sweat break out, but i don’t feel my hands or my feet.
I feel my heart thumping against my chest, but i don’t feel the warmth of the blood gushing through me.
I dissociate; i levitate.....

I see a woman.

She sits there transfixed, pupils dilated. Then something snaps -
She speaks; she explains; she questions and she battles;

She shouts, her voice hoarse with tears of frustration.

She diminishes; she’s silent.

She’s broken.

She should have seen it coming - the end of the line.
She just didn’t see it coming.

VERSE|Thank you for the Joy

They say the creative types produce their best work while in the throes of incredible happiness, or while in the savage, unrelenting grip of immense anguish. Much like the perpetually conflicted Michaelangelo, who while being devoutly catholic was also inimitably homosexual. The constant inner conflict arguably served to inspire his best work, lesser known of which is the “Prisoners” series of sculptures.

And so (on a much more modest scale!) the below came about while I experienced an extraordinary time of tremendous joy 2 years post my mother’s passing away after a protracted and distressing illness. I share this heretofore very private memorialization in the hope that it may bring a few moments of comfort to folks going through something similar.

THANK YOU FOR THE JOY

I saw you in a dream a few nights ago
I had your gold bangle on - the one you always wore
And i felt you near me
I closed my eyes - so afraid I’d lose the thread.....


And then i felt my heart beat fast
As I felt you closer still,
Eyes closed, i whirled around the room
And then i felt my hand grasped lightly
And i held my breath, Mama
And i whirled with joy - i whirled and whirled
And then YOU held my other hand
And you were there! And you laughed!
And i laughed! And i held on to your beautiful hands
As we whirled together in joy and laughter!


You were well, and you were happy - and you came to me;
In your infinite compassion, wisdom and love - you came to me.


I tear up as I write this not because i grieve this time,
But because I’m overwhelmed; I’m overcome with knowing you’re healed and happy,
And that i danced with you in extraordinary bliss.


I ask just one thing of you today Momsy,
For us to grieve a little less and to celebrate you so much more
Just once, every year, let me and the girls dance with you in joy.


Until we meet again Mama.


OPINION|The myth of “Super Luxury” condominiums

Colombo is still a quaint little city with a population of about 2.3 million people*, a small portion of which lives in apartments. And most of this denominator consists of the super privileged (read: professional expats and local landed gentry who have moved with the times, and therefore, out of their sprawling, oftentimes crumbling homes). And the latter is why venue perceptions have frequently begun to border on fantastic delusions of grandeur – a nostalgic attempt at holding onto the vestigial glory of the olden days. These pipe dreams, brought fondly to life by the Management Committees (made up almost entirely of the genteel aristocracy) are believed wholeheartedly by the support staff (administrative, maintenance and security teams) with fires in the belly of their own, becoming unwitting accomplices to the whole morose charade.

In our little city by the sea, the chimera of the super splendrous residential complexes has been in vogue for a number of years now. And given the fact that these apartments are located in the upscale neighbourhoods of the Galle Face area and all environs within a 5 km radius thereof, the illusion is convincingly imperforate. Until one begins to reside at one of these. Yes, i write this affectionate harangue from copious personal experience. And i haven’t yet got to the point; but some cause and effect/ empirical evidence based background was essential i thought!

The ignis fatuus begins with the misconception that the super luxuriousness of the complex is directly proportional to how dazzling the facade is. The myth is further perpetuated by the presence of ancillary but sadly, quite impuissant benefits like a supermarket, a cafeteria, an in-house maintenance team, a laundry service and maybe even a salon. But that is where the high stakes bucking bronco stops. The service levels at these outlets are usually dismal, tardy and over-priced. Add to it the occasional financial tomfoolery (I’m being kind!) and related mendacity brought on no doubt, by a complacent management committee, and you’re living in an Aldous Huxley utopia – A Brave New World where the art of illusion is paramount and short, anaemic memories serve one well.

Unsurprisingly, the solution lies in getting these basic condominium services to function in a robust, effective and equitable manner. It lies in channelling the quite significant financial flexibility gained from the exorbitant monthly maintenance fee (that is another dubiously proud hallmark of the super effulgent residencies), into developing the support structure human capital in terms of skill sets and work ethic. It lies in enabling them to establish their own superior benchmarks in the industry. That, dear ManCom** will be the key driver in capitalising on your brand equity and building longevity into that status, regardless of how many newfangled condominiums streak our horizon.

Oftentimes, the simplest solutions elude us just because they lack the fanfare and perplexity of, say….quantum physics or even Disintermediation (these are purely for sensation; please don’t dwell on either!) The 21st century, with its plethora of advances has also pulled a fast one on our collective psyche. Anything simple just does not ft into the domain of the affluent anymore. A bewildering, complex, almost always self-defeating whitewash of service levels, ethics and of course, high profile apartment facades is where the super luxury buck stops.

To all the developers/ ladies and gents at the top of the luxury condominium food chain: Stop this madness please!

De khudai pe aman.

*Source: world population review.com
**ManCom: Management Committee - an affectionate vestige from my corporate days

OPINION|The Nostalgia of a nice cup of Tea

Teatime- a word that invokes so many nostalgic memories, while also carrying with it the promise of another little social do right around the corner. I write this from the subcontinental (read: classic) perspective where tea means exactly that, and is not in fact a culinary codeword for another meal…like dinner perhaps!😄

Having lived in a country, nigh upon 4 years now, which is known for its magnificent tea plantations, i came here expecting to be swept off my feet with supremely flavourful tea served with as much fanfare. But oh, the lost pleasure of the perfect cup of tea! Not only has the stately beverage been woefully overshadowed by its more robust cousin, the sinewy coffee, but the genteel art of tea drinking itself has been grievously impaired by our time-constrained lifestyles.

Tepid tea, (whatever happened to tea-cosies?) just this side of being too anaemic or too vigorous, is the norm at most places. Tea brewing is a lost art that even tea timers haven’t been able to revive (those aging relics that lie there, unused, taunting tea drinkers; and then fading a little more into oblivion as they realise the futility of their efforts). Tea strainers are further dying remains of the classic tea trolley. So, even potentially good cups of tea will quickly take on a bizarre, almost bovine experience as one chews the leaves along with each sip.

The silver lining in all this post modern annihilation of the elegant art of tea drinking is the teatime legacy my sisters and i have carried into our lives. Having grown up in a home where tea and the accompanying panoply was the norm, it has been a delightful happenstance. Tea time at home consisted of lavish spreads of everything from pastries and sandwiches to biscuits and dahi bhallas*. And of course it meant steaming pots upon pots of Kenyan tea laced ever so delicately with earl grey. It became an affair, synonymous with togetherness, laughter and chatter. A time for capricious banter and tender confidences- a caffeine-warmed embrace of the ebb and flow of our lives. And at the centre of this lovely intimacy was momsy, the gracious matriarch who made this teatime magic happen.

In conclusion, of all the tea connoisseurs/ growers/ curators of the experience on the island, i ask that you breathe fresh life into this exquisite tradition. It is the assured panacea to many a dreadful day. In the words of Bernard-Paul Heroux, “There is no trouble so great or so grave that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea”. And as we can all now agree, the “nice” there is replete with all manner of ambrosial and rarefied possibilities.

*Dahi Bhalla: a savoury, yogurt-based snack indigenous to the subcontinent.

De khudai pe aman.

VERSE|The Creatures of the Park

A little background to the below piece. My evening constitutional is as integral a part of my day as my first copiously caffeinated cup of tea. I venture out 6 days a week, inclement weather notwithstanding, and no matter where i am (i have an uncanny resourcefulness for finding workout venues, even if the source of my next meal disquietingly eludes me). And having followed this body and mind discipline for close to 20 years now, i have had ample opportunity to observe, experience and expertly categorise my fellow park goers. What follows is the somewhat meandering result. If some of it resonates with other fellow walking track creatures, the bleary-eyed hours writing it, were not for naught!

De khudai pe aman

SOCIAL FARCE|Hairy adventures

(From a lass’s perspective)

Having been blessed with hair that is as voluminous as it is scanty, to this day i continue to be amazed at its anti-gravity feats. I’m waxing eloquent on the subject because folks, my ‘crowning glory’ has experienced an epoch of action: a naive debutante phase, an eerily long era of high adventure, periods of abandonment and not infrequent disasters, all interspersed with the odd interval of a somewhat happy equilibrium. Yes, this head of hair has probably gone down in the annals of “Strand, Bristle and Postiche” history in some other dimension where Keratin is at the top of the food chain! (Postiche, because every alternate universe will have its AI cross/ torch to bear…)

The debutante phase is the most nostalgic – so little effort and yet so much on-point oomph emanated from this crown in the 80s. (The mullet was probably inspired by commodious heads of hair like mine). I was the envy of more than one abundantly silky-tressed beholder with her own hair flowing like a tropical waterfall. This amazing denominator included my beautiful, sleek-haired sister who also went down the dubious path of frizzy perms for a few years, and from which she triumphantly emerged unscathed and glossy-headed (a shout-out to you Zar 😘).

Let me liken the high adventure phase of my coiffure to a zombie invasion on a city – you can run, but you can’t hide from the ever expanding blood/ melanin thirsty, heat and humidity crazed horde that is bearing down on you one frizzy, split-ended head at a time! At the end, you pray for a miracle in the form of an antidotal vaccine (read, conditioner!), or to dream one last time of running in zombie-free fields of gold with thick, lustrous hair flowing down your back until ….. *chomp* – the end.

Gruesome, yes, but then i didn’t quite promise you literary rose gardens either 😉

Nope, no perennial rose gardens, but the elusive yet ever-present silver lining, i do pledge to regale you with in most of my babble. So on that cheery note, I’m delighted to share that the ‘happy equilibrium’ phase is currently upon me. I’m still not sure whether it’s actually my intrepid mop finally acing climate change, or whether it’s illusions of contentment brought on by decades of mental hair fatigue. You know, Mother Nature’s no-frills way of telling me that i can’t control everything, and that my hair was put on my head to forever remind me of that! Either way, I am pretty close to hair nirvana, and hoping that my vision is perennially clouded by these gloriously crowning hues. 🙏🏽

De khudai pe aman