Bus Travails


Traveling in buses is a tiresome experience most of us endure every day. Crowded conditions, molesters, bus conductors who never bother to return your Rs.1 or 2 but throw you out if you are 50 cents short of the required bus fare…

I don’t know about you but all that and more are just a few of the things that brings me to office minus the bright morning cheeriness and chirrupiness that psychologists tell us we have to start our day with.

This morning however, I had to endure another particular torture that I don’t undergo on the public transport every single day but one nevertheless that I am quite often subjected to. I had my heart lurch into my mouth every few minutes with every lurch of the bus. I have a highly intricate conspiracy theory worked out in my own mind (I’ll tell you the intricacies some other time) that bus drivers are part of some deep dark movement to jiggle our internal organs every opportunity they get by lurching the bus through every stop and start.

That in itself is bad enough if you are a healthy young adult with good motor co-ordination skills like me, (well ok, so I lied about the motor co-ordination) but what about elderly people and children? To see people fall on their backsides or fall over the driver or fall over each other is not a rare occurrence in buses. But what made me especially anxious today was that a young mother was sitting with her baby on the very first seat.

If you are a regular bus commuter, you would have seen this scene countless times; a mother gets on with a very young child and immediately the front row passenger on the aisle side gets up. I have never understood this particular logic. Why the aisle side passenger? Why not the one by the window seat, who will thus ensure that the mother has something to hang on to, other than her baby? But by some unfailing logic that I have noticed time and again, mothers with young children are always given the only seat in the bus that has no hold or railing anywhere nearby to use as leverage.

And so today with every lurch and heave of the bus, my heart sympathetically kept time. The woman with the baby fortunately had a very good sense of balance, no mishap occurred, but had that been somebody with my deportment and grace, the results would not have been so fortunate.

Though a true blue Sri Lankan myself, I am unable to understand this unique Sri Lankan logic. Why on earth are mothers with babies/ toddlers given the front row seat by the aisle? That is the one place in the entire bus that should NOT be given to them. We as a people should be a little more intelligent and informed in our thinking and actions. Offering the seat in the first place is a good enough action but next time, make sure the seat will be of the kind that will not bring unnecessary harm to the mother and child. Traveling in buses is hazardous enough without tempting fate thus.


‘Kids these days are so brash, we were never like this when we were growing up,’ is a refrain that I constantly heard from adults around me while growing up.

Not that the refrain has stopped now, it’s just that I myself have joined the ranks of the moaners, something I would never have thought was possible in my harassed childhood years. Who on earth would want to be one of those ‘holier than thou’ adults with their constant stock of stories of what perfect children they had been, how terrifying the adults of their childhood days were (as opposed to the liberal adults they themselves were being), what deprived childhoods they had had in comparison with us and yet never rebelled or complained etc, etc.

Twenty years ago, I would never have thought I would be one of these stuffed shirts, they simply couldn’t seem to see anything good in the budding next generation.

I was hardly a teenager myself however before I started noticing what brats all the single digit aged kids around me were. They all seemed to have longer tongues, bigger ears and sharper eyes (why does the Red Riding Hood wolf come to mind) than my own peers at that age.

It’s probably partly the fault of the parents who spoil their children but nevertheless I notice a trend these days in which children simply are not so innocent anymore. Most of the joy of children is in their very innocence but it is a trait that I find so rare among them that I find myself pleasantly surprised whenever I come across such a child.

Mostly, it has to do with a growing level of intelligence. I was reading up on IQ recently and came across the fact that apparently there is a 10% increase in intelligence with each successive generation.

They certainly seem to grow up much faster and know a lot more than we ever did at their ages. I remember our teachers condemning us as too fast because some of us who had barely entered our teens had started getting boy/girl crazy.

One day, my sister came home intensely irritated because she had come across an apparent love scene between two primary school kids, still in their uniforms, straight after school.

‘Kids these days are maturing too fast, the next batch will probably start romancing straight from their cots,’ she grumbled.

I couldn’t help laughing but I was also slightly disturbed. Remembering my parents going on and on about everything about our generation being awful when compared to theirs, especially our movies, music, fashion sense etc, I couldn’t help cringing to think that I might one day behave in a similar fashion with my kids. I already don’t like some of the newest music, literature, movies that cater to the teens who have come after me.
I have a nasty suspicion that at this rate, I will absolutely hate anything my own kids will like by the time they hit their teens, it seems to be a vicious cycle that one just can’t get out of.

I once read of a father who had written a despairing letter to a close friend about his son. It went something like this;

‘He spends hours in front of the mirror trying various ridiculous hairstyles and absurd styles of clothes. He hasn’t any sense in his head, all he can think of is girls, girls and more girls. His taste in books, theater and music are appalling, he is such a philistine. I quite despair of him….,’ etc, etc.

Apparently this was a real letter, written by a Greek father some thousands of years ago.

Oh, well then….!

My parents never admit that their own parents were ever anything less than absolutely satisfied with them. I wonder if I will admit to my own kids that I had problems with my senior generation?

How many of you take it for granted that women are silly vain creatures who spend all their time on make-up, gossiping and back biting? They are also the ones who love cats – silly vain selfish creatures just like themselves. Right?

And if you ever come across a woman who’s kind, gentle and intelligent – she’s the exception to the rule! The same goes for a cat; if you ever have the opportunity to really bond with one and discover there are many other facets to it than just being the annoying, manipulative little critter that your girlfriend loves and so you have to put up with – that’s just an exception to the rule as well! 😛

I am a woman and a cat lover – but growing up, bombarded with the above two stereotypes continuously, I fell for it too. Some of the girls / women I knew were gossippy, back biting and very conscious of their looks and ways to improve it – so obviously, I thought, the stereotype was true.

And as for cats and dogs, well I grew up in the Maldives where there were no dogs but plenty of cats – but unfortunately, I wasn’t particularly knowledgeable about either on a personal level because of my mother’s ‘No Pets’ policy.
However we grew up with various stories about my father’s childhood dogs and so I learnt to love dogs without ever having one of my own; so that stereotype held too – cats were stupid and uninteresting and only silly people liked them as opposed to dogs who were almost human in their intelligence and ‘cool’ people liked them.

Both the stereotypes that I accepted without question developed some cracks around the same time in my life; high school! I was for the first time, in my A’Levels attending a co-ed school and came into contact with guys! Until then, all my friends were girls! Around the same time, a cat walked in one fine day and decided to adopt us. And with all the intelligence of her sex and species, she decided my mother was the one to please and work on and soon had her wrapped around her little finger – or paw as the case may be! 😀

It took her only a couple of months to demolish all my misperceptions of her species – but for some reason it took far longer to get over my misperception of the female sex! Or rather my misperception of the male sex! I think therein lies the problem; it was not so much that the stereotype of females being silly and vain was untrue – it was that males were by no means any better. Having interacted with both sexes for a long time now, I am convinced that shallowness and vanity are human problems – not a problem exclusively of one sex or even predominantly of one sex as all the media around us – books, movies, cartoons, newspaper articles et al would have us believe!

When I first attended high school, I was extremely surprised by the guys’ behaviour; they gelled their hair, they carried combs and mirrors in their pockets (in all these years, I have never carried a comb OR a mirror in my pocket *snicker*), they couldn’t seem to pass parked vehicles without checking their reflections in the rear-view mirrors and they continously traded notes with each other on which cosmetic products were the best. I first found it shocking and then hilarious!

On a side note, what’s the word you’d use to describe this? Effeminate? The culture around us is decidedly anti-female, whether we are conscious of it or not! These are words and ideas we’d use without even thinking about it first! If so many males do it, then obviously, it’s typical of their sex. Why bring in a feminine connotation into it?

This post was inspired in part by my annoyance with myself over a certain conversation with my sister.

She brought up a certain Hollywood actor whom I considered to be a gossippy jerk – someone who whined about his colleagues and bitched about fellow actors to the media; typical spoiled celebrity behaviour I’d say – of both males and females, but when the fellow’s name came up, I snapped “that guy is such a female.”

She laughed and agreed, but ever since I started working in the media myself, I am a little more conscious about my use of words. I was brought up short; Why on earth had I used that word? I am a female myself and (at the cost of sounding self-congratulatory) am most certainly not the stereotypical bitch that most females are portrayed to be. Yes, I knew some women who fit the stereotype but only some! I have many female friends who are not at all in that mould and so, unlike in my naive youthful years, I no longer subscribe to the stereotype – at least consciously! So why on earth had I used that word to describe a male whom I considered to be gossippy, vain and stupid?

It’s probably because we are all unconsciously influenced by all the media around us – and even if we know something to be true or untrue through direct experience and rational reasoning, we still pick up some of the irrational consciousness around us!

Silly, shallow and stupid is equated with ‘Female’ as opposed to macho, rational and trustworthy with ‘Male’ and we are bombarded with these stereotypes so much that many of us start subscribing to it either consciously or unconsciously!

Ha! Get over it people! I know plenty of women who are intelligent, kind and not at all obsessed with their looks! And I know plenty of guys who attend beauty parlours, have facials, manicures and pedicures (Some even WAX their bodies, Dear Lord) and constantly bitch and back bite on their colleagues.

We even have a term for them now; the Metrosexual male! LOL! SO now they are out there in the open! They no longer stealthily purloin their mother’s and girlfriend’s Fair & Lovely! They’ve got their own Fair & Handsome! And more and more of the beauty salons that once catered exclusively to women have turned ‘Unisex’ now. I still get a kick out of going into salons and passing males with white gook on their faces and potatoes over their eyes 😀 (By the way, I go in there only for hair cuts! I am a thrifty soul who doesn’t believe in Rs.2000 facials, heh!)

And that brings us back full circle – so yeah I know many males like that but then I do know some guys who are not obsessed with their looks or gossip and back bite either! Just like many women out there! The problem is that we’ve lived in a male dominated world for several centuries; they are the ones who were allowed to study and to teach. Consequently they were the ones who wrote books, became orators and philosophers and influenced cultures. And they have been reinforcing the same untrue stereotypes for so many millenia that nearly all the males and even most of the females have bought into it!

The question is, how do we break it? After this many years of die-hard feminism, we are still at this stage today. Pathetic!

It’s a fact of life (my life I mean), that I’ve often noticed. Just after a hell of a roller coaster ride when I am just beginning to feel somewhat comfortable or (heaven forbid) even remotely happy, something comes along to royally mess it up.

A former roommate of mine once enunciated what was wrong in her life thus: “Every time I am happy, somebody up there wakes up and asks, ‘hey, who let this girl be happy?’ and makes sure something happens to make me miserable again.”

Dramaqueen much? Well I burst out laughing much to her annoyance, as she sounded peeved but funny but once I’d finished, I wondered why I had laughed. She had summed up pretty much what I felt about my own life PERFECTLY!

I recently told my mother that there was a Maran like being up there who delighted in making us cry somehow. Maran is my creep of a cousin who once was the bane of my existence. He had this thing about somehow making girls around him cry. And no, he wasn’t the Georgie Porgie type. A much subtler and crueler one who delighted in finding others’ Achille’s heel and pummeling it in. I soon learnt to keep a stoic face and not give him the satisfaction of seeing that he’d scored but he kept on relentlessly until somehow or other, he would get me to break down, at least in the privacy of my bedroom.

Seems to me, life too is like that. No matter how determined I am to be strong and face whatever it has to throw at me, it keeps on at it until finally I break down. Is it just my imagination or is there really some malicious entity up there which delights in hurting us? I really don’t get it!!!

P.S: If you haven’t guessed it already, Yours Truly is in the dumps again. Don’t worry, Life can sock me on the jaw but it hasn’t found a way yet to prevent me from getting back on my feet. Right now, I am still tenderly nursing said proverbial jaw but I’ll be up again, Don’t worry 🙂

Ok – I have a lot of pending work to do but I will take time off from that to address an issue that has been troubling me ever since I saw this daily mirror article.

What exactly is the Royal Asiatic Society’s problem anyway? Hindu Fundamentalists? I don’t see any Hindu Fundamentalists around here. Do you see any Hindu Fundamentalists? Seems to me that these ‘highly educated and cultured’ folks badly need some rabies vaccine.

We’ve just recently come out of a long drawn out war due to ethnic strife. Does so eminent a body as the Royal Asiatic Society which is supposedly composed of highly refined academics need to come out with statements of ‘Hindu Fundamentalists’ and ‘Indian Intervention’ and ‘Threat to sovereignty of Sri Lanka’ and ‘Re-emergence of claims of a Tamil Homeland’ at a time like this, over something so innocuous as the Ramayana Trail being promoted by the Tourism Ministry? (All these words do not appear on the above article. Search RAASL and Ramayana Trail… They have been spewing hate for a long time now).

So the Tourism Ministry is promoting a Ramayana Trail in Sri Lanka. So it is bringing thousands of devout Hindu pilgrims from India every month. In the process, a lot of tourist money is flowing into the country – the main objective of the Tourism Ministry as they have openly admitted.

Why does RASSL have a problem with that? There is no archaeological evidence of Ramayana in this country? Just who is it who defines archaeological evidence here? Is there undisputed ‘archeological evidence’ regarding all the ‘Buddhist Circuits’ in this country?

I do not wish to offend anybody;as a Sri Lankan Tamil Hindu, I am deeply offended by some of the RASSL’s statements and I don’t believe in tit-for-tat, but seriously who defines the validity of archeology and its findings? Wasn’t this one of the original problems that led to the ethnic strife? Haven’t we learned any lessons at all? If this is how the ‘educated elite’ of this country is going to behave, then the future of this country seems pretty depressing.

Correct me if I am wrong but the Ramayana is a tale believed in by both the Sinhalese as well as the Tamils? Doesn’t Sri Lanka have its own version of the Ramayana? Aren’t there many places in Sri Lanka, traditionally occupied by the Sinhalese, where the local Sinhala people associate the passage of Ram, Sita or Ravana in their areas, through local folklore?

It’s hardly something made up out of whole cloth by the Tourism Ministry. So they stumbled on the fact that Sri Lanka has a lot of places associated with Ravana and Ram. So they decided to exploit that and lure in Indian Tourists. So the tourists pour in by the thousands, perfectly content to tread where they believe Ram and Sita had gone before although there might not be much archaeological evidence to support it. What’s wrong with that?

Ok, so for all we know, the Ramayana might be a myth. Who cares? Believers in the Ramayana like me would still like to see those places associated with that myth. What is wrong with that and how does it in any way affect the sovereignty or whatever else of Sri Lanka?

In one of the statements the RASSL came out with previously, they said that giving legitimacy to the Ramayana would mean that India could then claim Sri Lanka as its own!

Archeological and other expertise aside, could these acclaimed academics please just go read the Ramayana? They can read a children’s copy or an abridged version if they can’t be bothered to read the full one: the Ramayana very clearly states that Lanka was a sovereign nation of its own – one that was so developed and magnificent that the Indians of that time marveled at it.

There is no question of India claiming Sri Lanka as their own because of the Ramayana. Nor have any issues or claims been raised thus far by the Hindu community in Sri Lanka. Why bring us into this?

I fail to see the whole logic behind ‘not promoting Buddhist circuits but promoting the Ramyana Trail.’ By all means, promote the Buddhist circuits but why shouldn’t the Ramayana too?

I fail to understand the argument. Wasn’t Buddha an Indian? Didn’t Buddhism come to us from India? Didn’t the Sinhalese too orginate at some point from India? If promoting all that won’t bring in Indian intervention, why will promoting the Ramayana which talks of Sri Lanka as a sovereign nation eons ago, bring in intervention?

Finally the Ramayana of this country belongs to both the Sinhalese and the Tamils. Can we please, please, please avoid bringing in an ethnic connotation to it? We have just come out from a long drawn out war. We do not need this right now.

Early on in my teens I made a promise to myself:- I would not have any regrets on my deathbed.

Yeah I know – I was a stupid teenager, but I was also a very idealistic teenager. Extensive reading as well as coming into contact with older people who had many regrets about their misspent youth made me firm in my resolve not to misspend my own.

So… I set out on a journey to be the perfect teenager, the perfect young adult, the perfect sister/daughter/student…

You know what’s coming don’t you?

I was about 13 when I made this resolve. Today I am a very unhappy 28… All the emotions I thought I would avoid on my deathbed, I suffer from all those emotions already – regrets, disappointments, disillusionment…

Where did I go wrong? I didn’t drink, smoke, do drugs… I didn’t even try to experiment.

I believed in being an obedient daughter, in doing everything I could to give my parents comfort and joy, in being the kind of daughter that gave them not a moment’s anxiety or pain…

I tried hard to be a good sister to both my siblings. Where did I go wrong that I have fallen out irrevocably with one and have not much of mutual respect or affection with the other?

I tried hard to be a good human being; I tried to live in such a way as to cause minimum harm to other people and the maximum good.
I never said NO to anyone who asked me for help (even today, when I’ve wised up, it’s a word that refuses to form on my lips though I want it to).

After putting my 100% into whatever I did for others (though being a lazy person, I never took that much effort over my own work), how is it that I earned not respect but contempt in most others’ eyes?

How is it that most of them treated me like a bonded slave and why is it that I went along with it for a long time in most cases, before bailing out?

I am 28 years, six months and 15 days old today – and I have so many regrets about my misspent youth.

The problem is, I don’t have any answers. Where did I go wrong? At 13, I thought I had the solution to a happy and peaceful life. Now I know better – I realise that I don’t know the answers.

I am still looking though – I still believe that there are some principles, some knowledge out there – which if we apply to our own lives will make for a happier and more meaningful life.

That’s all I ever wanted, a meaningful, peaceful life. A life that brought comfort, joy and meaning to other lives, a life that had comfort joy and meaning of its own because of wonderful and sustaining relationships…

Sigh… Reading that back again makes me feel I was too ambitious; When younger, I always believed that I was not ambitious since I did not have any particular aspiration for wealth and fame. How was I to know that what I aspired to was even more ambitious?

Today I am an almost ruined and broken person standing amidst the rubble of a lot of ruined and broken relationships.

Where did I go wrong? I keep asking myself that over and over again!
Should I have been more selfish? Should I have been more sharp tongued and rude? If I had been, would I be happier now?

Life is so very difficult – and I am so very tired. I want out!

Dear Tulie…


This is a letter from your future self in 2009. Don’t be sceptical, it really is possible.

At the moment you are probably snorting your way through a Jughead Time Police comic and wondering what your favourite comic book series has come down to but it really is possible.

Well, we haven’t perfected time travel yet but I am able to write to you, aren’t I?

Anyway, 16 years old eh? Seems just like yesterday though it was all of 12 years ago 🙂

You are going through a very rough patch in your life now, aren’t you? For the first time in your life, you are feeling clueless in classes and feeling like one of the dumbest kids in class instead of one of the smartest.

Don’t worry, this is a necessary experience for you, unpleasant though it be.

You were always a little too arrogant about being the youngest as well as smartest kid in class. Yes, I know you were always outwardly placid and courteous and took care not to associate with the bunch ot snobs in school who banded together, virtue of their ‘superior intelligence’.

Nevertheless, you place too much value on intelluctual capaciy and IQ and are a little too smug inwardly (or at least you were uptil a year ago) of your own intelligence.

You need to understand how it feels like to be a dumb kid in class for a change. As soon as you finish your A’Ls in a couple of months, you will teach in a school for underpriveleged kids and this experience will help you to be more compassionate and focused on the backward kids in school instead of concentrating only on the intelligent ones as most teachers tend to do.

You will look back and remember the time now, your two years in High School doing A’levels as two of the worst years of your life. But the best two years of your life are to immediately follow.

You will surprise yourself by finding in yourself the capacity to be a really good teacher – a talent you were not aware of before. This will do marvels for your self confidence, something that will stand you in good stead when you move on to work in the corporate sector and your ‘superiors’ deliberately try to undermine that hard won confidence.

You will learn during these four years that high marks on the report card does not automatically translate into high intelliegence. You will also learn that repeaters, back benchers and the so called ‘under performers’ are generally bright and intelligent people.

Unfortunately, you would be one of very few people in this world to make this unique discovery.

The rest of the world tends to judge people by their academic records and if they don’t do well academically, then it’s a safe bet to say that their future careers are not going to be too bright, no matter how talented they are.

Yes I know you have read of high school drop-outs becoming great successes but get real… Bill Gates and Richard Branson could be part of fairytale land for all that counts…

I have some bad news for you – you are going to flunk those A’Levels.
It’s not your fault, the teachers were all bad and incompetent – your bad karma to be caught in this particular experiment of the school 😦

I won’t go into all your education related woes from hereon in but it would seem your time as a sunshine girl in school is over.

You will be doing useless courses and encountering useless ‘teachers’ (and I use that word loosely) in rapid succession hereafter.

Right now(Whoops, thats relatively speaking isn’t it? 😀 I mean 12.50 pm, November 26, 2009), your 28 year old self is typing this letter to you in her Dreamweaver class in Journalism College.

The teacher is one more of that useless kind and so I am pretending to work while typing this to you instead – as I have no clue about how I am supposed to do what I am supposed to do 😦

Yes – you have finally achieved your life long dream of becoming a journalist 🙂

It took several years of whining to your parents (but I think the clinching factor was your repeated flunking of CIMA, that put paid to their high hopes of seeing you as a respectable, high earning number cruncher) but you’ve managed to achieve it at last.

Don’t worry, you make a damn good journo (even if I do say so myself) but all the years in between, trying to struggle up the corporate ladder has given you a complex about your lack of qualifications.

So now your 28 year old self is in a prestigious journalism college because, though she knows she is talented, she doesn’t want an M.A in English Literature or Journalism or some such crap walking in later and lording it over her. Believe me – that’s a very realistic fear, most of these nerds are clueless when it comes to the actual work but think no end of their own superiority thanks to their qualifications (that wouldn’t have taught them anything worthwhile in the first place).

So you are now in a ‘professional’ college that gives you hands on training instead of useless academic skills.

See, this is the thing – If you work long years as a good journalist, that still somehow lacks lustre without a good ‘qualification’ but in oder to get that qualification, you need to attend colleges like these, which if you lucky enough will give your some worthwile practical training instead of worthless theory.

So now, in this college, I am doing the same thing I did last year, except now I am a student who doesn’t get paid for my stories, have to find and pay my own way around instead of getiing a vehicle and don’t have a media ID to back me up and get me places to get the story 😦

Journalism is a really fun job, you learn a lot of interesting things every time you go out but somehow it is not so much fun when you are a student, forced to find a happening story every day. You don’t have the access and prestige the real media do and people are not as willing to talk to a ‘student’ doing only a ‘project’.

You probably would have learned far more had you continued in your line of work but the way this world and its values are structured, you unfortunately do need that qualification and so are sticking it out. 😛

Let move on to brighter things shall we?

Erm.. well… You still haven’t found the love of your life, If he even exists, he is taking his own sweet time in showing up.

BUt the good news is you’ve finally settled in Sri Lanka now as you’ve always wanted to 🙂

The war is over now (can you believe that???) but the country still has some way to go in uniting its peoples. *fingers crossed*

All the others who discovered this method of sending letters to their past selves dished out lots of advice, some even gave gambling tips and financial advice but I don’t want to do that, mostly because I don’t know what advice to give 🙂

You were always a goody two shoes who was afraid of putting a foot wrong. Well, you haven’t changed much, you still are in 2009 (for all the good thats done you 😦 )

The only thing I know for sure looking back is that you should have chucked Cima and gone in for journalism from the start but you always knew that didn’t you?

Try to be a liitle more assertive, even though they are your own parents, who fancy they are doing only what’s best for you.

…er…No, I still haven’t upped the assertiveness quotient as of 2009 but try to work on it all the same 🙂

Well, that’s enough for now wouldn’t you say? Cheer up, I know you are going through a rotten phase right now but good times will soon follow.

Perk up and walk straight. Academic qualifications are not all there is to it. You are still basically a good person and what’s more, you are an intelligent person – don’t ever stop believing that.

It’s Ok – there are several pitfalls along the way but you will get up with each one, sometimes hurt and scarred, sometimes strengthened and emboldened.

With all your cautiousness and care, you still can’t avert adversities in life – they are a fact of life and you have to learn to accept them. They are not going to go away with that ostrich like attitude you put up everytime something happens so pull your head out of the sand and face them head on.

Also relax, unwind, enjoy yourself a little – That’s something you never did much of.

With lots of love from your future self – don’t worry so much that no one loves you – I DO 😀