May 28, 2011

14,000 things to be happy about

Settling down here hasn’t been easy – and that comes from someone who wasn’t expecting a fairytale to begin with. Still, I have to say I wasn’t prepared for how difficult it would be. A lot of the time it was like I was watching myself from a distance, with a growing sense of alarm as I floundered about in this new life, but unable to do anything to help myself out.

The first month was great: after months and months of waiting, I was finally here in Sydney. As with all new chapters, I felt awash with inspiration and hope, reveling in a fresh sense of freedom without all its worrying limitations. My parents were taking care of me until I got back on my feet, I had a great new apartment and after three long years, I was finally spending more time with my sisters. Summer was giving the weather its best shot before its imminent departure, so I spent many a morning rambling around either my neighbourhood or my sister’s in shorts and a tank top to stave off the heat (which actually reminded me a lot of home save for the lack of feeling like I’d be run out of town for wearing shorts anywhere other than the confines of my house or some remote beach). Life was good.

But soon, Summer waned, taking with it the warm security of the phrase “…but I just got here”. There was nothing for it but to start looking for work. And anyone who has been in my position (and by this I mean looking for that first job out of Sri Lanka) will sympathize because it is the single most demoralizing experience – ever. It is abominably cruel that we are meant to remain sprightly and brimming with self-esteem and worth when we’re met with rejection at every corner. So – being hideous at selling myself at the best of times – I had a truly ghastly time of it. I went from being headhunted in Sri Lanka to being at the bottom of the food-chain in Big Bad Corporate Sydney. Suddenly I felt like my experience amounted to nothing, that I was horribly unqualified and generally rubbish at everything. Applications got harder and harder to write, I started sending my CV out to places I wouldn’t have dreamed of applying to a month ago, and all the while alarm bells were going off in my head, accompanied by a voice that was telling me with brutal conviction that I was never going to find a job and would have to return to Sri Lanka with my tail between my legs come a month or two. Continue reading May 28, 2011

Lift-off; touch-down.

Airplane_by_MiekoMiley

The plane purred into the humid early morning air, as if it was rousing itself in preparation for the journey ahead. Strapped not-so-comfortably into my seat, I was doing exactly the opposite. Literally minutes away from lift-off, I was plagued by a sudden and unfamiliar urge to run back the way I came.

I plugged in my iPod, leant back in my seat and closed my eyes, and when I opened them again, we were taking off. Glancing out of the window, my throat constricted as I watched the ground rush away from me. I hadn’t expected to miss home barely before I’d left it. I blinked hurriedly but a couple of embarrassing tears slipped out before I could stop them. If I hadn’t been feeling so sad, I could laughed at the irony. I am the ultimate escapist – always wanting to run away, always dreaming about new beginnings. But there I was, at the brink of changing the direction of my life – literally – and all I could think about was what I was leaving behind.

The journey passed in a haze of literal and metaphorical cold feet. I don’t remember much of it now, save for a brief chat with the passenger sitting next to me; an elderly Australian man who allowed me to indulge myself by telling him all about what was now essentially my old home, old job and old life. In turn, he told me about his and we swapped snippets of each other’s lives in between the odd movie, or whenever we paused our separate viewings to eat a meal.

All I really remember, though, is being consumed by thoughts of home. My parents, my friends, my job. The small, sometimes chaotic, but still precious little world I had built for myself in the three years I had lived there as an adult.

The announcement of our descent towards the Sydney airport roused me from sleep. Half submerged under my blanket, I attempted to drag my thoughts to the present as the plane turned its nose to land. My stomach lurched, half from the elevator-like sensation of our descent; half from something else altogether. I got my belongings together, clutching my bag to me protectively, feeling suddenly rather small and alone. The plane landed, shuddering on the runway, gaining a rush of speed before it slowed down to a mellow amble. As its slow motion faded into stillness, I held my breath and glanced up. The yellow light of the seatbelt sign blinked off.

I had arrived.

The stars have it… or do they?

Marry Me Young, by PlayPretend

There’s just something about storybook fortune-tellers, isn’t there? Whether they are men or women, young or old; whether they read stars, tarot cards, palms or crystal balls, they all seem ageless somehow; and beautiful, and wise.

The idea of being able to read signs off of people and nature and somehow tap into the grand design has an irresistible pull for me. One can’t help but think that these people must have something within them that is somehow more intuitive and more powerful, even, than the rest of us. They are privy to a kind of knowledge that seems to us impossible to fathom, let alone to attain.

They – these mystical gypsies, fortune-tellers, astrologers and shamans – hear tunes we are deaf to, understand languages we cannot read and feel rhythms to which we are numb. It is as if we go through our lives with blocked ears, rhinoceros skin and a limited understanding of pretty much everything, while they are somehow born with the gift of being completely open to what the universe has to tell them. Are they magic? Are they the warlocks and witches of our time?

These individuals and their x-ray vision into our pasts and futures have always intrigued me. In fiction, they are the characters that attract me the most, even though they may not be the heroes or heroines of the stories I read. It is for this reason that this blog is modeled on the spirit of the Gypsy – carefree and unafraid, mystical and wise, dancing to a tune that only she can hear and enjoy.

Astrology is not exactly fortune telling I know, and many even consider it to be a science of sorts – but I feel that the two are somewhat related. And as with fortune telling, the ‘concept’ of astrology is a strongly attractive one. The idea that the sky and the stars can whisper the secrets of Earth and its people to a chosen few is breathtaking, to say the least.

That being said, my encounter with an astrologer here in Colombo was far less romantic. He looked to be about a thousand years old, more stoned than wise and he talked so much, mystery never even had a chance. Continue reading The stars have it… or do they?

Remembering to Remember

I’m listening to music that is all levels of bad. For one thing, it’s Australian. For another, it’s from the (very) early 90s. AND it’s a girl band. Singing pop.

But I’m honestly loving it. The music reminds me of that incredibly pure time in my life – when I was living in Sydney with my mother and two sisters. I say pure because I don’t have to filter it of upsets or crises – minor or major – to really enjoy the memories. I just remember being… happy. No ‘buts’. Just happy.

This was about 20 years ago, and as worrying as it is to be able to say that about any point in my life, I remember it all so well. I see the memories like old polaroids – over exposed, with a fading sort of hyper colour, but still retaining the simple pleasure of the images they’ve captured. Polaroids should never go out of style. But I digress.

I remember the smell of a sunny weekend morning, walking to the shops holding my mother’s hand. We’d buy candy at the newsagents. My sisters and I would stare longingly at Tilly’s, the art shop, hankering after the glitter and coloured pens. If we were good we’d get VHS videos at the rental store – one I remember in particular: ‘The God’s Must Be Crazy’.

I remember planting that bottle brush tree outside our house with my mum. She taught me how to pat the soil around it and how to water it every now and then – although it was usually her watering and me playing skip with the hose. I remember how it grew over the years. Now, 20 years later, it is a massive tree, bursting with fluffy red flowers.

I remember the corner-shop just up the road from my place. My mum would send me there to get danish pastries and baklavas when we felt like indulging. Sam, the owner, who I think was Lebanese or something, used to slip an extra danish in the bag for me and give me a quick hug before letting me trip on back home. That was before the weight-related insecurities, when I was too young to know what dieting and carbs and calories even meant. Every sweet that touched my lips was savored without an ounce of guilt mixed in with the ingredients. Ah, heaven. Continue reading Remembering to Remember

walk-around city.

Rain, by Deshan
colombo,
i wish i could walk around you.
on a whim,
on a fancy.
on a silly dream,
to wherever you’ll take me.
.
i wish i could walk your streets,
and get to know you;
take pictures of your secret places,
your three million hidden faces.
.
i wish you weren’t too hot,
too dangerous,
too dirty.
all good in a man – but not in my city.
.
i want my city to cool me down,
be my hiding place,
be rough but clean shaven;
i’d like to take my city home to meet my mother.
.
colombo, i wish i could walk around you.
i wish you were big enough
for me and my dreaming.
big enough for a secret smile to go unseen.
a guilty laugh to go unheard.
for a whisper meant for no one
to be lost in peace.
.
colombo, i wish i could walk around you instead of hurrying
from one indoors
to another
to another
to another.
i don’t want to know you from my house,
inside my chauffeured car.
nor locked in sanitized office spaces.
.
i wish i could feel the skin of you,
warm roads on cool nights.
i wish i could for hours
sit unburnt by your sun,
undisturbed by your irresponsible sons.
i wish i could watch you in the open.
and i wish i could smell your rain from the outside,
me inside you;
my nose wrinkling free
instead of through a sliver of open window.
.
colombo,
i wish you would clean up for me
but still stay irrepressible.
i love your personality
but i want to blunt your razor edges –
just a little.
.
i want to trip along your tree’d avenues by moonlight.
take me to your favorite places –
you show me yours, and i’ll show you mine.

.

colombo,
i wish you’d let me
walk around you.
i know you’d clean up nice.
(edited by Deshan Tennekoon)

Ode to Yoga

8 am, and it’s an effort to crack my eyes open to the sunlight streaming in from my transparent curtains. I fumble around for my phone – I know I’ve left it somewhere, either under my pillow or on the growing pile of books beside my mattress. The time tells me I should get up, but I grumble with myself. It’s a Sunday, I should be able to sleep in… Why can’t I just sleep the day away?

I know my answer, but at this moment, I don’t like it. Cursing my tendencies to make resolves and resolutions in moments of weakness, I grumpily unfurl myself and stumble to the main house to wash my face, which is streaked and smudged with make up from the night before. I stopped wearing make up a while ago unless I have a wedding to sing for or something, so I am immediately aware of how it feels, caked and stale on my face. Ugh.

Back in my room with a fresher face but still-sleepy eyes, I walk over to my computer, check my mail, smile at a message from my big sister and then look for the GERI_YOGA icon on my desktop. Ah, there it is.

I start it from the beginning, but quickly pause it so I can get myself ready. I wear a headband on my forehead so my fringe doesn’t flop over into my eyes, loose shorts and a looser tank top, and fix a thick blanket on the floor to protect my knees – which, I’ve found out, are really weak. In the end, there I am, looking rather frightful, but nevertheless, ready.

I press play. Continue reading Ode to Yoga

Thoughts: Stuck in Transit, Bangkok

Friday, 28 May 2010
10.16 pm – Beijing, China
9.16 pm – Bangkok, Thailand
7.46 pm – Colombo, Sri Lanka

Strange how just a few days in a new city can make you feel like you’ve been there for at least a month. Maybe being alone has something to do with it. You need to familiarize yourself with the place faster – learn where to eat, where to shop and what to see. Work out a route and routine for yourself each day. After just a day or two, you lapse into the pattern and all it takes is another couple of days to make you feel like you’ve been doing it forever.

My last day in Beijing, and it started to rain.

I looked out of my tear streaked taxi window through half closed eyes and felt glad to be going home. From one wet, exotic country to another. The taxi moved sluggishly through badly managed traffic. The fantastically smooth, wide roads, the sophisticated traffic-light system, the cables for electric buses – the infrastructure seemed flawless. But the air still looked and felt polluted with smoky rain; cars honked and confusedly veered every which way to avoid one another; drivers regularly ignored the traffic lights, especially at pedestrian crossings, cooly trying to drive through even with crowds of people trying to get to the other side of the street.

It felt sort of like being a part of a lie. Continue reading Thoughts: Stuck in Transit, Bangkok

Thoughts: Getting lost in Beijing, China.

Thursday, 27 May 2010
11.07 pm, Beijing


I’ve got House on in the background. It’s hilarious, true, but I’ve never warmed to the show. Then again, give me the DVDs and some free time, I’ll probably be hooked on it in no time.

It’s just past 11 pm and I’m in Beijing, wondering what on earth to do with my restlessness and insomnia. I’m in a hotel – I love hotels, especially when everything’s paid for and I have unlimited internet. Still, I’m getting slightly stir crazy. I spent most of today indoors because it was rainy and gloomy. The few times I did pop out, it drizzled all over me, which I hate.

This city is confusing. I kind of love it. I kind of hate it. I love it because it’s new and for that reason, exciting, fun to explore and observe. I hate it because even though I’ve been here long enough to feel familiar with my little part of it, I still haven’t really warmed to it. I feel sort of like a comfortable alien. Funnily, that’s what they call foreigners on the arrival card: “Aliens”. As in, “Aliens must keep their passports with them at all times”.

House is acting gay. Funny. Damn, I think I’m liking it.

Beijing is vast. It really is. Everything about it is huge… Well. Except the people. But even they are not as small statured as I thought they would be. It is as if they are trying to catch up with their environment. You travel the city on massive wide open roads that are pock marked with fancy cars and lined with monumental buildings. Alleyways hide smaller shops and ugly apartment blocks, but on the main roads, there are only these immense, impressive structures. Some of them are post-modernistic masterpieces; yet others look British and colonial; and yet others are just big. Continue reading Thoughts: Getting lost in Beijing, China.

Living with the Other

Originally published on Groundviews.

Imaginary friend, by *V3Nr3VeNG3

I often have to remind myself that I live with a Tamil.

My housemate, Vanessa is a Tamil, married to a Sinhalese and I have been living with her and her husband for almost a year and working with her for over two. She is also one of my closest friends.

She is Tamil; I am Sinhalese. But even as I write, it’s hard to think of the two of us along those lines, because I can’t figure out what defines our identities. Even if I can define what makes her Tamil, I still can’t define what makes her different from me.

Is it colour? She is darker than I am, but we are both brown skinned.

Is it accent? She sounds no different than me, except for a tiny, pleasant lilt in her voice.

Is language? We both speak English. She speaks better Sinhala than I do, and fluent Tamil, of which I do not know a word.

Is it culture and customs? She married a Sinhalese, much to the horror of some of her relatives. But she is happy with her choice.

Is it dress? She dresses just like me and we are endlessly in each other’s wardrobes.

Is it in name? She kept hers. “I like my own name”, she told me simply, by way of explanation.

Is it in political affiliation? Her political views are as vague as mine. We are not for the leadership, nor are we for those who wish to topple it. If she doesn’t find today’s politics suited to her, I could say the same for myself. We both hope instead for something in between – something more palatable, more honest. Something we cannot see today.

Is it in parentage? Her parents voted for Mahinda. Mine for Sarath. Continue reading Living with the Other

Waiting to fly.

Tumblr

It’s only 9 am and I’ve come close to crying more times than I can count. This stress reminds me of heartbreak simply because it’s making me want to crack under the pressure of something huge; something I feel I can’t get through. It’s only a day though. A moment, really. And moments pass. I thought heartbreak would never pass – but it did, and if I got through that, I can get through a few hours of hard work, surely.

And then I’ll be on a plane. I love flying. I’m afraid of heights but when I’m on a plane, that height is unfathomable to me so I’m not frightened of it. Instead, I’m eternally fascinated: I love the grumbling rush of the plane as it ploughs down the runway, I find the lift-off always takes me by surprise – it always happens sooner than I expect – and I love that feeling of suddenly being weightless and airborne. I never tire of seeing the earth shrink by degrees, and watching cars and humans rush around their day like tiny lego people in a child’s make-believe world. Then, even that disappears under layers and layers of cloud. Those clouds. I wish so much that I could play in them. Continue reading Waiting to fly.