Friday, November 25, 2011

Take my Land, take my People.

Ian had a house,
That was blessed for those living in it,
Yet times were hard and Ian left to build his home elsewhere,
His Roman neighbours were not cordial,
and neither were his former friends the Crusaders.
In his absence Ian’s brother Phil, bhought his house and built a home for himself.
Phil was a fair person, he invited his brother Ian to come and live in their neighbourhood, peacefully.
But Ian had other plans and spread his wings around the world.
Many years later specifically in 1948, after great suffering in Germany.
 Ian decided he wanted revenge on someone.
Phil was an easy target. So Ian went off to Uncle Nate to demand his house back without Phil’s knowledge.
Uncle Nate got the house back for Ian but not completely. Ian now owned the house and Phil simply “occupied it”.
The community and the neighbourhood liked Phil better and were weary of Ian and his precarious ways, they wanted Phil back.
“On what premise are you giving Ian my house Uncle Nate? ”, pleaded Phil. “ I have a family and this is MY home now. What if it happened to you? Would you give your ex ex ex ex ex tenants their house back?”
“Ian was here first he sold his house to you but you are not as important as he is to our family so, we can do whatever we want Phil; Uncle Kingsley and Uncle Stanley also think it would be fair. After all who do you think you are?”
I am Palestine; Wronged.
Still bleeding without justice; you do not even recognize me as a legal person. You do not allow my people to have the least of all human rights, protection of their sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Take my Land, take my people, take my religion; but realize that if you indeed believe in a “Holy Land” flowing with ravines of blood then you believe that there is a God up there to whom one day you will answer to.
Till Palestine is a country; we are not humane.  

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Osama, Prabhakaran and Me.

I have a bone to pick with these two, in fact maybe an entire rib cage. One of them caused me to question my nationalism and my identity as a Sri-Lankan and the other caused me to have to answer countless questions about my religious beliefs. In essence throughout my youth, my religion and my country have been under attack; and yet how did I turn out to be such a pacifist? Shouldn’t I theoretically have bombs in my make-up case and hidden amongst my Manolo’s? Considering the chaos that these men have caused in their bid to achieve their agenda’s I should be a roving lunatic with a thirst for vengeance. As noble as their intentions may have been to their followers, they did harm their own and others in the process, to no significant outcome. In my opinion that is and although they may be dead their imprint in our lives cannot and will not change.
Firstly let us start close to home. I was brought up in the comfortable bubble that was the Middle East with no real sense of what it meant to be Sri-Lankan or what the trials back home were like. Sri-Lanka was a holiday; cricket, grandparents, cousins and Tipi-tip. After moving to Lanka for secondary education, having lived in Kandy the bubble was further extended since we did not have a real sense of what was happening in the enveloped hills. Then there was the blast at the Dalada Maligawa; that changed everything. We began to notice people who were Tamil and we began to form a “them” and “us” mentality. In Kandy however this notion was and thankfully is not acute, however it exacerbated the already tense ethnic division within the island.
The problem got worse as the LTTE stormed the country and caused tremendous civilian casualties. It made us become desensitized to human suffering as we began to make it part and parcel of our morning cup of tea to ask “how many dead” and “where” nonchalantly. It also caused an exodus of human capital and a distancing of recognition as being Sri-Lankan. This extension was very evident abroad, more so than in Sri-Lanka. As I travelled to Australia for Undergraduate Studies, I realized that at university generally Tamil students grouped among themselves and tended to foster a more “them” and “us” mentality than at home this was also the case with the Sinhalese students. This is primarily because as you migrate, you form enclaves and feel comfortable amongst your own. Some of these students had much more vigour and zest for the Eelam cause than any tamil person I had met in Sri-Lanka. They had never been back home but they believed that the cause of the LTTE was Just and the means it was being carried out with was fair. I wondered how they can come to a country like Australia and live in its sanctuary, enjoy its comforts and freedom and believe that it was FINE to attack others. Yet I understood that their devotion to the Eelam cause came from their parents who would have suffered much hardship in the 70’s and 80’s and their stories would have been Just cause for these youngsters to find a reason to create an ethnic division that in essence did not need to exist. However I also found that some of them had put behind all the baggage that comes with being Sri-Lankan and concentrated on one thing; being Sri-Lankan. They used dance, sport and created an Association to form kinship and this was a wonderful thing to be a part of, because up until then I had never needed to be part of an organization just due to the fact that I was “Sri-Lankan”, and that whatever the politicians in that parliament say or do it should not ever affect how we behave towards each other.
I was caused more strife by this Civil War, but this was entirely my own fault. I studied International Politics, and therefore opened the door to being questioned about my country and my religion. When you put yourself in that vulnerable position you need to have answers, and at university these answers have to be good ones. I found that some students, specially the European exchange students were more informed about the politics of my country than I was, about the past carnage and the atrocities committed on both sides. I no longer could hide and turn a blind eye. I had to answer that YES we KILL because we are threatened, and, thankfully on the issue of the Sri-Lankan Civil War there was proof that indeed we were being attacked. At the time however I was yet to learn about the huge scale displacement of muslims in the East- the forgotten people of this war, I was also not acquainted at the time with humanitarian law, the use of child soldiers, suicide bombers, and the colossal loss of civilian life in the North because of use of weapons against “jus in bello” or what was permissible during war.
 However a “threatened” argument did not suffice on the religious front. That was a whole other ball game because in the eyes of my peers I was on the wrong side. Discussions during subjects like “War and Peace”, “International armed conflict”, “Just cause”, “Terrorism in the 21st Century”, often left me upset, furious and tongue tied, causing me to defend and explain myself for something I had not been educated upon. Being a Muslim in a Post 9/11 world meant having to answer constantly about your beliefs, when in fact your form of Islam did not encompass and in fact had nothing to do with what happened on that fatal September morning.  Questions on Jihad, Violence, Martydom, Abuse, Nikab, Polygamy, were directed like a fully loaded Klashnikov at me, and I had to consider things that were not part of my day to day religious practice. We pray, we eat halal meat, we fast, we treat our neighbours and family with consideration, we act charitably, go for Hajj and we have a good jolly Biriyani during Eid; that was up until then MY Islam. Now I had to stipulate the conditions of Prisoners of War during Jihad, and the intricacies of fatwa’s. In order to set the record straight for my own personal justification I wrote a dissertation titled, “Islam: A religion of Peace?” and this allowed me to clinically explore my religion leaving me at peace with my findings.
 On the religious front however I am both thankful to Osama and frustrated. The good thing was that he made it necessary as a muslim to be more aware of what islam entails, since educated muslims refused to be hood winked into believing that destroying the twin towers is what God wants. It caused a conscious switch in mentality from the brutish behaviour of Arab countries to a more informed global movement that is still strong and growing. A greater thirst and understanding for the true meaning of Islam and the evident need for its teachings now more than ever was apparent in order to bring about world peace. On the other hand the frustration was caused by the difficulty it brought about to many people who had to constantly be cross examined because of religious beliefs, having to answer questions at airports, explain the right to wear a headscarf, defend the right to pray at work and have a mosque, having their sovereignty be slowly eroded and shaw-shanked away. The daily make-up of muslim lives changed forever; each and every muslim had to search within them and decide how much of their faith was really what was out there in the global media and how much of it was really just what it was; faith, a PERSONAL belief in a higher power.
Today these two baddies are no longer around. How do we feel? Our lives were shaped by these men. I have lived where I lived, studied what I studied and believe in what I believe because of what they have done. Have they left deeper scars in our lives than we can simply take off with a bullet to the head? Conspiracy theories aside, there were wars, people were killed our lives were affected. Yet their deaths cannot change our pasts or our personal beliefs and views, because those are already ingrained. What it can cause however is a hope that dialogue can make things different. That as Sri-Lankans we do not become arrogant and continue along ethnic divisions and that as muslims we do not become complacent and let the perverted agenda’s of extremist militants interfere with our religion, we need to ensure that a candle is lit with knowledge that as- Sri-lankans we believe in Unity and that as muslims we believe in Peace.

Friday, April 15, 2011


How many of us go around searching for ‘the one’ our ‘soulmate’? Sometimes this search may come to an end after a long relationship with trials and tribulations, and at others it may come through a chance encounter between two strangers.
 For those of us who have decided to take the time tested road of a proposal and may not have been lucky in the pursuit of love, there is no manual, no safety net no procedure to follow, just basic guidelines to act as training wheels.
Proposals these days come in various formats and I am specifically speaking from a format where it is our individual choice to go ahead with it. Some of us don’t have a choice and usually have proposals thrust down our throats at an early age, others may mess around but leave the final choice of marriage eventually to parents via a proposal. Still others wait patiently till they establish themselves and then seek a suitable partner through the grapevine.
So in December a few of us “proposees” met at a well known watering hole in Colombo and discussed this topic. Wedding season was drawing to a close and we had all been to weddings and had done the usual scouting; inquired and had been inquired about.
 The main concern on everyone’s mind these days seems to be compatibility, then looks, then money. Of course there are the mercenaries amongst us, try and skip, hop, jump over that lot, but when you decide to genuinely go ahead on this journey just try and do one thing; be BRUTALLY HONEST. It’s all fiction and prose out there today it seems.
Simply put if you are going to play the proposal ‘blind date’ game a few basic rules should be adhered to and I say this purely from information given to me at this discussion. Lads, DO NOT go ahead with this to please your mum while you are on holiday and then go sow your seeds at Amuseum, and ladies if you have a cassanova tucked away in a corner then find a way to communicate this to the person you meet, eventually without looking for flaws in their character to avoid this proposal.
Foremostly, it is important to set the record straight from the beginning, if you want to live in Sri-lanka, then make it clear, if you want to pursue a career or do your Masters then SAY SO. Do not expect THEM to be straight forward with you, however this way they can make a decision based on more than just looks and your surname and citizenship status elsewhere. I find that most guys would prefer girls who do open up and tell them what they hope to do with their future, if you don’t have a clue then that’s fine, because there are guys out there who are marrying solely for their benefit, however ladies if the guy doesn’t have a clue, chug that coffee bean latte and make a bolt for it.
Things you should mention at a ‘first’ meeting are your future career plans briefly, do not be too over the top or the other person may not see themselves fitting into your 5 year plan, and your crusade to conquer aids in Africa might be a bit too overwhelming. Mention your basic family values, what you hold important, your education, hint at your degree of social life, interesting experiences in travel and/or other work you may be involved in such as charity, sports etc, so that the person can get an all-round view about you. Things NOT to mention on a ‘first’ encounter are, past relationships, family pressures, family obligations, MONEY, Vices, Friends, and by all means try to avoid putting on an air of arrogance. These topics are better avoided till the two of you decide your mutual compatibility and goals.
A friend of mine, being the honest lovely person that she is, told a prospective groom that she was just out of a messy relationship with a boy who was not of her religion and that she wanted to put all that behind her.  What she did not anticipate was his reaction after she politely declined the offer because she did not feel a connection with him. He went around spreading the word that ‘HE’ rejected her, because he found out that she was not of good character due to of her previous liason.
 This is too much information for a ‘first date’ after all this person is STILL a stranger. The most practical way of looking at it is to imagine that you were going to a power lunch with a future client and go in this frame of mind, business-like but casual with room to joke and discuss other topics besides your ‘proposal.’ Do not ask questions that you do not feel comfortable answering yourself. Also play fair. Go ahead with a proposal after sorting out your own issues, not because you want to get over someone, or cannot find time to wash your clothes and cook, if that’s the case please have a fling, or hire a maid. It is a cowardly act to jeopardize another person’s shot at happiness due to your own insecurities.

So now when you do meet someone, how do you approach important issues? Another friend of mine was asked directly within the first 10 minutes of speaking to a girl whether he ‘drinks, smokes and goes clubbing”, and “whether he prayed 5 times a day”. This sort of brusqueness is not only rude but undignified since it assumes the worst about another person. If you want to communicate that these things are important to you in searching a partner do it in a civilized manner by expressing it in terms of yourself. You can say, that you are looking for a partner who embodies these attributes since you embody them yourself, however do not put the other person on the spotlight and make them answer a question that may put them on the defensive or that they might find insulting.
Anyway lets face it after you do meet them or even prior to meeting them you are going to Facebook stalk them and this should reveal some clues. Yet then again assumption is the mother of all “Muck Ups”. This brings me to the all important Facebook. As much as it is important to be honest and true to yourself, it is always best to reduce explanations, so try keep it uncomplicated. There will always be someone who is a mutual friend who may be closer to the person you are going to meet and may show them your profile or divulge information. This is not a problem because at the end of the day that is who you are. But we have all heard the stories and I don’t need to reiterate that it is not always black and white, its best to avoid the grey, (also maybe avoid grey outfits on a first date, it doesn’t bode well for our skintone).
So first there is the awkward HI! For me it came in the form of a phone call which then lasted 3 hours. Till today I do not remember WHAT I said since the adrenaline was pumping in my ears but it was the most comfortable conversation I had ever had. Nevertheless initially it can be awkward. It helps to break the ice if it is just the two of you. Acknowledging how awkward it is, might be a good way to start, do not push the jokes though. A friend who saw a picture of a guy and instantly developed a crush on him and then agreed to meet him completely got put off by his “joke”, “Rumour has it”, he said “that you want to marry me.”
If you have met proposals before and are used to the whole routine then use that experience to make the other person comfortable. If you haven’t then say, “I’m sorry this is my first time and I’m a bit nervous.” This is easier said than done since I ran 360 degree circles around a concrete column before I calmed down. Yet giddy heads like me are the exception.
Also just because the other person rattles on about themselves do not feel obliged to ‘match’ them, instead assess whether you would be a good partner for them and vice versa and then if they would like to meet you one more time or see where this is going you can divulge more information. In the end use your discretion of how much to tell and not to tell on a first encounter, but do not lie and make bogus pompous claims. One guy I know borrowed his uncles Rolex and his cousins Mercedes before he went to meet a girl. Not Impressed! Still another claimed he was going to do his MBA but poor soul hadn’t even started his BBA. The worst and I kid you not this is TRUE, was a guy who wore a toupe because he was slightly balding but he claimed that once he found the right girl he would oil his head and hair would miraculously sprout. The worst kind however are the fella’s (you know who you are GRRRRRRRR!!!) who want to marry what they claim as ‘decent’ girls but only will change their indecent ways after they have got engaged. If you want something in life the only way to get it is to be who you are, because the drama and fa├žade will catch up at some point and will become tiresome to yourself.
One thing that must be followed is this, do not make decisions based on what other people say. I was once brought a proposal by someone who told my parents that the boy was doing very well and was ‘qualified.” I have no idea what that meant, qualified for what? Driving a car or sailing a ship? Turns out “qualified” meant he knew English. Another girl I know was gearing up to marry a guy who was working in Canada and had ‘500 people under him.”, once again hearsay from somebody who knew somebody who knew him.  3 months later when her brother who was studying in Canada went to investigate his work place he called back and said, “Sis, my deepest sympathies, this fellow works as a lawnmower in a cemetery.” Thus be weary of who you ask and whose information you take as many people may have vested interests in a relationship. The best judge of character is yourself and most often your father. I of course am speaking from a very narrow socio-economic perspective which allows us to make sound decisions based on an encounter with someone, because of the amount of people we have met and mingled with. If you have not had this luxury and cannot place a finger on the person it is best to talk to a parent or sibling. By all means do investigate, but avoid asking around to a degree that everyone in your extended family and beyond has an opinion and a say. I know of very good relationships that have been soiled because of the vested interests of others who may either have their own preconceived notions of whom you should marry or jealousy may play a part.
The advantages of a proposal are that usually families are more comfortable with the method and do not panic since it’s not something they do not have control over. It may feel like a transaction but it does give a sense of stability and security as it progresses if both parties are sincere. It gives you a chance to see your ‘stock’ on the market and lets you meet interesting people who may become great friends even if you do not end up marrying them.
So as the June/July wedding season draws nigh,  and you all once again decide to embark on the marathon speed dating route clean up your acts, be genuine, humble and honest and really look for what’s best for yourself and your family and look for qualities in the person that are unique and attractive instead of run-of-the-mill generic. Most often someone ambitious and with a zeal and passion for life will make you want to live it to the fullest and be a better person.  Good luck, and if cupid strikes you this season send me a wedding Invite J!

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