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

OPINION|The perils of being somewhat discerning!

The title does sound somewhat entitled, and snooty even, but please bear with me. I speak from a multitude of recent experiences that has had me picking at my voluminous but sparsely populated noggin (whether of the keratin or grey matter variety, I leave to your gentle conjecture!😁), and gnashing my already well-worn enamel.

Having been a part of the Customer Experience realm for over 20 years in an exacting industry like the financial services, has honed my BS radar and quite woefully lowered my threshold for plain old bad service of any variety. That’s not to say that I will ruthlessly judge a service provider for delayed service or even providing a pot of tepid tea (the latter though, will depend largely on my then caffeinated state of well being! Tepidophobia is a thing and is quite devoutly and unashamedly a part of my prized anxieties!)

I am speaking of a consistently poor stream of delivery, for instance in the provision of a good or service which, by its nature, is conveyed over a period of time. The caveat is not in the mistakes that can occur – to err is human and all that jazz. Plus, reliable research* has shown that customers tend to remain more loyal to a brand where they have experienced some issues but where the service recovery was substantive, timely and focused. More so than even with places where they have not yet undergone a service breakdown. No, the caveat is not in the faux pas occurring; it is in the dismal failure to even genuinely attempt to fix things. An apathetic attitude is the icing on that poison toffee apple. Too many times, processes are formulated with no attention to service recovery protocols. That is a death blow to repeat business and as we all know, the pie is only so big.

I feel 3 Kgs lighter after that blog post (‘rant’ just sounds guilt-ridden which brings with it its own …. weight (‘burden’ just sounds even weightier!) And since ‘slender body’ and ‘good hair’ days are few and far between after 40, I’m going to go with this being a thoughtful study in the “benefits” of being discerning 🤓

Khudai pe-aman – (may you grow, glow and prosper, or just simply maintain your status quo for now. Until we meet again).

*Reliable research: opinions gleaned not only from the nerdy ramblings of academics or the corporate savvy presentations of management consultants, but from the life experiences of yours truly. That i do promise you with all my heart – to wax (and wane) eloquent with the utmost honesty until death…or just the digital milieu, do us part!

WRITING|The Failure to Launch…

It’s an actual thing! It’s taken me over 2 decades of mental preparation and many self-pep sessions to write this very first piece. Which is also about how it’s taken me 2 decades to start writing my very first piece – an “Inception” type event in my maiden blog! Who’d have thought I’d be able to inject some Sci Fi in the third line of my very first scrawl. Portentous of not-so-far-into-the-future blogs to come methinks!

Right, so back to how it was never easy. Here’s why: I’d built up these enormous fortresses of literary self expectations in my head. It had to be sensationally brilliant or nothing at all. (Modesty is over-rated 😁). That mind-set obviously didn’t work because here I am 20 years hence – the putting pen to paper phase having languorously passed me by – high-teching it during my first (faltering!) steps as a writer. Am I up for it? Hell yeah! …. (Constant underlying self pep: fake it till you make it M 💪🏽😅).

The feel of my first blog is definitely “text-y”. But I’m thinking with my heart more and feeling less with my brain….or something like that. Basically allowing some feel-good (aka, get the hell on with it!) mush to muddle the exacting synaptic connections in my left-leaning brain. I’m cringing and revelling in turn, at the opening of my creative flood gates. You, my dear readers, will henceforth bear irreparable mental scars or if I’m lucky, grin like Cheshire cats. A little more of the latter is the hope in this budding writer’s tender breast 😉🤞🏽

De Khudai pe-aman – (may you grow, glow and prosper, or just simply maintain your status quo for now. Until we meet again).