The month of August
has brought sudden rain – the heat would have been
unbearable, otherwise – the familiar
tea coloured puddles, like mirrors
of sky water reflecting earth

the school yard is strewn with hopes
this school, that is now our home.

we came here in a flock
wading across a hollowed lagoon
against a shower of a lethal kind
death falling from the sky
like the anger of gods

that was May.

in this classroom
the lessons are muted from life’s unfolding
the blackboard
empty like our immediate futures

the row of plastic toilets
is a part of our lives
like those guava trees
in our garden, or the well
the gutters are overflowing
with donated goods
and the kindness of other people

we wear bands
around our necks, sometimes hips
with keys to those homes

like in those power-cut evenings
back in the village
we sit together cracking jokes
as the evenings grow longer
as the jokes run out or begin to repeat
as time refuses to tick


Beauty as a Basic Need

Yesterday, the discussion that meandered through censorship, cultural policies, art and society left my mind racing through out the night. My mind was working through the ideas expressed in the forum, sifting through, scrutinizing, recalling statements, evaluating…maybe like my family feels, I am just plain mad. Or I am just one of ‘them’. So who are ‘they’?

I would like to call ‘them’ as people whose basic needs are slightly different, or more than the others. I really have no idea, if the people whom I meet day in day out, people who seem to have everything, and people who don’t seem to have anything, have anything in common with me. Do they really want the things I want. Have they got them? Are they happy?

Do people feel beauty is a basic need? When I say beauty, i don’t mean the way some men are hung up on some fantasy woman with 32-28-32 figure Naomi Campbell types, or women dreaming of some male equivalent,(whatever their measurements are…) I mean do people want beauty as expressed in nature, in art, in the diversity of our smiles? Do we search for it, the way we search for truth, freedom, justice, identity?

Some of my colleagues expressed that in our community, spaces for social communion and sharing have been erased. Our families are emotionally sterile grounds, a simple site where a struggle is for survival alone. I wonder if it is merely the economics of it, why someone wouldn’t really consider watching a movie every now and then, a need? Or going to a play? At least some of these movies, plays, books, poems,paintings and music fulfill in me a sort of a hunger; they ease my pain a bit; make me reflect; give my mad meandering mind a meaning to hold on to. Why do people around me not want these, the way they want food, clothes, jobs, sex or religion? Or is this only normal, and it is again myself, slightly eccentric in my needs, slightly complicated, doomed for a bit of mad meandering?

Great thinkers have already said that basic needs goes beyond the requisites of basic survival. Maxneef says its well being, freedom, identity, love etc. But why is it only Maxneef and the like, a minority, and not the whole lot of us? Is there no common human element in us six billion?

Sunil says it’s a very Sinhalese-Buddhist disease, this negation of complex needs, as you find in Sri Lanka. I can call it Capitalist-Nationalist disease. I mean, Cancer or Aids; whichever, right?

After the forum, on my way home, I chat up the cab driver. He’s a shaken chap. Locked up in his small car, pushing into middle age. He’s no Maxneef. But his mind has started questioning. He says he hasn’t seen a movie or held the hand of a girl in a long time. he says he feels like living dead. Hacked. Tired. Hopeless. Lost. Lonely.

And I meet so many people like that day in day out. Tired, hopeless, lost, lonely people. It’s like we carry a tiny glass capsule around ourselves, and trapped inside we all feel the same.

And I really don’t know…when I get this feeling, which is not even loneliness, I go watch a film or read a book and it temporarily gives me the beauty I lack in myself, in my life. So, I recommend the same pill to the cabby, ‘there’s Akasa Kusum, go watch it…and about a girl, i don’t know really the way around that one, but i wish you luck!’

Ha ha ha! (Just a way of finishing the whole thing, in wanting better words…)

All in a day’s run

Yesterday – Saturday – was an exceptional day, and I will tell you why. From nine to three was at Trans Asia for the workshop “How to Retire Rich” organised by Colombo Stock Exchange. The market’s devastated so they want people to come in and pick up stocks. The workshop was great. I mean for the material girls and boys. The first session convinced us that our kids will not be able to look after us, our government will not look after us (for purely demographic reasons, if not for others), the inflation will suck the value of what we earn and save and that by the time we retire in say 2030, at the rate of 20% inflation you would need more than five million bucks a month to survive. Ofcourse before that, you got to build your house in say, Boralasgamuwa, and buy a Toyota Corrolla at least and send your son to Middlesex for his IT degree, and oh, you have to afford at least a Pomenarian, right? Say your EPF runs out by 75…if you are a woman your avarage life expectancy is you’ll live till 76. And if you live till 80, HOLY SHIT! 

So in one slide:


So basically, there were more graphs, calculations, predictions, speculations, analysis. The bottom line was you got to have an investment portfolio. Then, you got to calculate: diversify your invenstements. Plan. Research. Strategize. Invest. Buy low – sell high. Shave off. Cut-loss. Re-invest for highest interest rates. If you loose money, don’t worry, the world is not going to end tomorrow. Think Long Term. Think Real Income.

See, now I know a thing or two about Financial planning.

Please don’t misunderstand. I am not mocking this whole logic. It’s probably right; it;s probably true; it’s probably sane. But I cannot live on DELAYED GRATIFICATION!!! I cannot forgo life in order to live rich in retirement. I don’t want a house, unless it is a creative excersice to build one. I do not want dependents. My whole counterpoint was that: you get started on that line, you gonna go sleepless, baby. SLEEPLESS NIGHTS FOR A SECURE FUTURE. Sounds like a way too late sequal to FOR A FEW DOLLORS MORE!

So I walked out saying that I got to have my kinda strategy. Live Simple. Die Early. While living simple invest as much as possible in food, sex, wine, travelling, movies, books, good music, good clothing, make up, friends, good art. (I might be missing a lot here, but anyway…)Also help a couple of people who are needy, who are around you…say the security guard at your office, or the cleaning lady, for instance. Talk to them! My security guard has a wife with cancer. She cries every time when he bathes her propped on a chair. The cleaning lady wants to send her son to Abu Dabi. See… 

So that was nine to three, Saturday. In the evening, I went to join a group of friends. the art house crowd, ofcourse. No flashy mobiles dangling in their hands like in those in the workshop in the morining. Jesus, it’s like a diffferent planet. So they talked politics for a while. And then, they start singing. Sunil sang a Russian song from his college days, playing the guitar…raising his voice to a pitch that would make any woman’s heart toss!  I was mad about him for those moments, sitting beside him!

And loosing myself in that revelry, I just felt, a fleeting sensation, my heart skipping from on clapping pair of hands to the other, that THIS  is happiness. This is life and the best it could ever be. I loved every one in that room, yet I was not attached to any. I was not aching or pining for anyone, or anything. I had no dreams of things to achieve, personal or higher. material or intellectual. No more money to be earned, cars or houses, no more exams or certificates, no more need for husbands, babies, or even the urge to travel more…or live more…to change the political system of sri lanka…or anything really…i did not want, crave, need, yearn, pine, for anything, or anyone.

Driving back home alone in the night, with Sunil’s voice reverberating in my heart, I decided for myself: I will live simple (like a queen). And die early.

And the rest of the world can keep calling me insane for the rest of my life.

The Most Important Journey

For a long time, I have been searching for this advertisement. I saw it first in one of my early workshops at JWT, when I was just a junior copywriter. This was done by JWT Buenos Airis and won a Cannes. Even if it wasn’t made by JWT and hadn’t won a Cannes it would still be my best add to date. The Dream this add stood for – an affinity to true and guneuine art – sustained me through many miserable late nights in advertising, writing unbearably frivolous lines for Celltell and Lux, I remember. Of course, it couldn’t sustain me for long…I could only last for eight months in advertising. Not even the possibility of an add like this, which I feel is a masterpiece, I will say it without wincing, could keep me longer.

I suddenly remembered this add today, out of the blue…maybe I was thinking about ‘The Journey’. From the one that we were, to the dream that we want to be. It is amazing, I knew instantly the line was from the Air Argentina add.

So, even an add could offer you some imagination, some wisdom.

How I wish, we had more of such adds, instead of the stuff we are forced to see daily…but then, I shouldn’t complain. I don’t watch TV. So I don’t see adds. So I don’t even know if they are better or worse.

Together We Will Live Forever

Clint Mansell. It’s the first time I heard of him or his music. I am yet to see the film by Darren Aranofsky: The Fountain, but it seems promising. Somebody described it ‘a poem’.

Together We Will Live Forever is again a simple A major composition (you could make it B flat, too), that reaches deep into the twilight of our emotions. My emotions. At this point in life.

It has happiness and sadness in the same note. Simplicity and complexity in the same chord. Hope to hang on and the urge to let go in the same scale.  

So I sit at the piano and a small enlightenement comes to me: whatever the tune it is, it has to be in these keys…with a little bit of fumbling and not quite the same scale I start to play Clint Mansell. It’s amazing…

Can day-to-day mundane realities have such a dreamlike quality?

The Heart Asks Pleasure First

pianoListening to Michael Nyman early in the morning…before work begins. Just close my eyes and let the piano keys draw inside a part of me a most beautiful mosaic of moods. I have been so tired this week…even after last night’s dreamless sleep, there’s a yearning for a camatose… a complete black out. A need to loose conciousness for a week or two…perhaps longer…

And I wonder, how much longer will I live? Another 20, 30, 40 years? Jesus! It’s a long time…

What kind of pleasure does heart ask for? It is something my best poetic expressions cannot do justice to, the way Michael Nyman does, in his haunting theme for “The Piano”: The heart asks pleasure first.

I am so lukcy that way, I could find a sort of intimacy so easily, in music; something so elusive to find in another human being. The moment I reach out for someone, they run away for miles…the moment someone reaches for me, I clam up and shut down.

Perhaps, this is why art exists: to fill the gap we cannot fill in ourselves…to complete that  missing piece in our soul, we serach for so badly but cannot find, except perhaps in a poem or a painting or a book or a film or music . What a dream, ah!

And I still wonder, what kind of pleasure do our hearts ask for?

Deep Inside


There’s a song about the girl

Who picked sea shells, on a lonely rugged beach

A girl with a child inside

A child with a woman inside

A woman with love inside


There’s a song about the sea

That plays gentle waves, upon a lonely rugged beach

A sea with a storm inside

A storm with a pearl inside

A pearl with a sign inside


There’s a song about the boy

Who searched for that pearl, on a lonely rugged road

A boy with a child inside

A child with a man inside

A man with a dream inside


It’s the song about the lonely beach

The rugged road, that stormy sea

It’s the song about the voice inside


It’s the song we sing of the worlds we seek

Of the Me in You and the You in Me,

And the faith we try to keep,

Deep inside.