Thursday, September 27, 2007

Anti-marital Affairs

' They say marriage is an institution.
Who wants to be in an institution?!?'
- Old joke

Had another joust with family members on my lifepath again. These people can never give up... if they could apply the same tenacity towards minding their own business as much as they do mine, we'd all be a much happier bunch.

Having bourne a good many years of this horse doodoo, I've near given up on trying to explain that perhaps I might have a plan for myself too, and it's not just them.

If you're the average Sri Lankan female, you'll understand what I'm going on about. If you're not , here's a clue - I'm 28, female, Sri Lankan, and unmarried. And this last status is deemed absurd by my society's standards, paving the way to many an argument in family circles.

I am not single (for the more speculative of you). I just choose to have a boyfriend as opposed to a husband, for reasons clear and relevant to me alone. There's no point in me defending my decision to live life this way with a multitude of explanatory bullet points because, dammit, I just shouldn't HAVE to! To each his own, I believe, and I have my views on the matter just as much as the next person. Honestly, it boggles the mind as to why people in this country just cannot fathom the idea of a woman my age wanting to remain independant of institutionalized and documented commitment... and even if they can't fathom it, so what? It ain't their beeswax anyway. The conventional definition of this thing called 'marriage' is just NOT for me, and the idea never really appealed to me either, for whatever reason.

Yes, sometimes I feel for the man who's chosen to be with me, because, being the stubborn opiniated creature that I am, his life is that much more difficult as a result of this rule I've applied to myself. But then again, I've always made it crystal clear from the inception that this is my personal choice, and that I do not expect anyone to agree with it, or stay with me if they seek otherwise.

That's not to say I suffer from commitment phobia. On the contrary, I'm the kind of girl who's very much into long-term relationships and fidelity unto death. I just have my own methods, and it doesn't involve me signing a piece of paper to prove my word, and dressing up like the chinese new year for the benefit of a social norm. As much as others can't understand me, I find it difficult to grasp that matters of the heart need to be documented in order to be deemed correct. Pah. A commitment, to me, needs just two things. His sincere promise and mine. If two idnividuals choose to be faithful to each other for however long the universe determines they should be, then no pomp, pagentry and official pronouncement should be required to validate those promises.

For all my gas, I may very well change my song in the years to come, and I don't dispute that. There's a good chance that one fine day I'll be a fat housewife with a gaggle of children hanging on my stained apron strings... but not today. Today, I'm enjoying my independance, whilst at the same time basking in a healthy romance. Ideally, any developments in my love-life would entail a mutual agreement to live together, sans the legal procedures. But it'll be a cold day in a hell of pig-filled skies before the rest of my environment gets with my preferences.

But I will fight on. Someday (and soon, I hope), I will have a place of my own, and fill it with cats, dogs, frogs and the man who wants to be with me under those circumstances.

For now, I'm putting up with the family's pontifications....

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sabbe Sattha Bhavanthu Sukhi Thattha

The title is one of the most memorable lines from ye olde school days, where we studied the poem 'Plead Mercy' by Anne Ranasinghe for O/L English Lit. She writes of the compassion she feels for an old bullock she sees on the street, and the pain and suffering it undergoes whilst trying to pull a cart tied to it's weary back, and at the same time she references her encounter with a Nazi concentration camp and cruelties to humanity back in her youth. Being a hard 'n' fast animal lover from day zero, the poem has stuck with me ever since I read it first, and make the biggest impact that any piece of writing has ever made on me. The title, a pali-sanskrit saying taken from The Buddha's teachings, translates into 'may all being be well'.

Animal rights is a cause a little more than close to my heart, and a cause that, sadly, too few Sri Lankans fight for. Ironically, we hypocritically claim pride over our staunch Buddhist beliefs and at the same time encourage senseless, inhumane euthanization and slaughter.

A land like no other for sure.

Quite often if you take the time to sift through the Sunday papers, there will be at least two articles citing local cruelty to animals or pleas for adoption of strays. Having secured a reputation for being creature-friendly, I myself am subjected to numerous calls and emails begging me to either adopt a stray kitten or puppy that someone has thrown out mercilessly to the harshest of conditions, or use my media contacts to publicize some unspeakable act of cruelty that has been commited in parts of the island. It's depressing to think that the majority of humans (IF they can be termed as 'humans') in this country care more for their discarded toenail clippings than they do for animals.

I've never known a day without an animal in my life. I will always thank the Good Lord for having been born to parents who live compassionately, and have instilled the love for any animal, scaly, feathered or furry. Ever since I can remember, we've housed veritable zoos, from the conventional dog, cat, hamster and fish, to an array of birds, rabbits, squirrels, a calf, and even a monkey, two deer, a mongoose and a couple of leopard cubs! Non-believers usually have to see my 'Palbum' (Pet + Album) for sufficient proof. And each and every one of these pets have been treated with the utmost care and respect, with as much freedom as can be allowed. When it came to the exotic pets, we'd usually end up with them in the house as a result of them being given to us or rescued, and we'd care for them until arrangements were made for them to lead a protected life back in their natural habitats.

As much as I get that not everyone has the finances or mindset to bring up animals in the way my family does (Which doesn't mean we're filthy rich, btw... far from it. We just choose to feed our pets before we feed ourselves), I cannot for a second fathom why the general public can't seem to muster even an ounce of sympathy when they witness the countless acts of cruelty or neglect that we see so much in our environment. Many are the times my heart has gone out for a starving, sick dog on the streets who can barely stand, who, amidst all it's pain, is also being brutally kicked around by schoolboys. I've cried my eyes out every time I've seen boxes full of new-born pups and kittens discarded at garbage dumps or by canals, in the hopes that they'd drown or die with as much suffering as possible. Quite often, these boxes end up in the backseat of my car, and then in my kitchen, until time and much pleading brings kind foster parents to my door.

But I cannot blame the perpetrators themselves. This heartless mentality is bourne out of a sick government and a history of bad parenting, where the cost of living compels you to sell your own children, and future generations are not taught to care. People don't know HOW to care for their animals. We have no legislation that truly supports the rights of these silent innocents, and there is absolutely no protection or concern provided for the wellbeing of animals in Sri Lanka, save a precious few privately-funded societies.

Visit the municipality dog pound if you don't believe me. Hundreds of animals are stuffed into cages until they stand on top of each other, are not fed or given water, and end up eating each other just to survive, before they're 'gassed' to death. By gas I mean being given a less-than-adequate dosage of poison (because the fucking governement claims they don't have the funds to buy enough with the enormous taxes we pay), so that the dogs don't immediately die, but instead bleed internally and suffer endlessly before succumbing to their ordeals. One of my dogs was taken by the dog catchers once whilst he was out having toilet time down our lane, and when we went in search of him, I almost vomitted at what I witnessed at the pound. Because the authorities find humane euthanization too expensive a cost to bear, puppies are bundled into sack and BEATEN to death.

And we endorse this. We, as a friendly and compassionate Buddhist nation, look the other way and let them carry on their evils, simply because it doesn't concern us or affect our lazy, indulgent lives.

Although I am by no means a fan of our president, one thing that I did applaud him for was the law to ban the merciless killing of strays by the municipality authorities. That was until I realized that apart from imposing the ban, he did little or nothing else to actually address the issue of populating strays in the public, thereby causing a general outcry by neighbourhoods overrun by mongrel animals. Had the government thought beyond their narrow vision and provided some form of care and vaccination for these animals, and tried to educate the public on responsible pet ownership and imposed strong animal rights laws in the country, the issues would have not been as severe as they still remain.

Sigh. I could grouse for days on this subject, but I've already written quite a lengthy post, that, if you're still reading, you must be tired of. There are so many areas of animal owernership that I would gladly write on, when time and your patience permits. But perhaps another day.

For now, I leave you with Anne's words, in the hope that they affect you enough to take a second look into your own attitude towards all creatures great and small;

Plead Mercy (sabbe sattha bhavanthu sukhi thattha)

We pass a bullock yoked to a cart
Straining uphill. He shivers
With effort, his bones
Protrude and the taut skin quivers
At each whip of the sharp-thorned stick
There is no expression on his face

Only his eyes plead mercy

Foam slavers from his lips
As he travails to increase his pace
And slips. My daughter asks
Does he think life is worth living?

I tell her what I know
Is not true, that life
Is always better than death.

She frowns
If there is a revolution, she says,
I’ll kill myself. All those horrible things
They do to people.

The bullock has fallen on the rough
Edge of the road. He tries,
But in spite of the stick he cannot rise.
Lord, have mercy on his eyes.
My daughter is just thirteen.

- Anne Ranasinghe

The Boredom Blog

So here I am... recuperating after 9 consecutive nights of performing on stage in 'Blood Brothers' by the Workshop Players , with our final show looming just three hours away. For the first time in about a month, I've actually allowed myself to sleep in, and it feels AWESOME. I haven't set a toe out of bed since I collapsed into it last night, and it's already 3.30 pm. With another hour to spare before I trudge off to the Lionel Wendt again, I thought I'd wake myself up by musing on this here blogpost.

I think the sleep and boredom combined have brought on a feeling of nostalgia in me, and I've spent the last hour or so going back to the memories of the many shows I've taken part in, and started taking stock of my life and how it's grown in 28 years. Thought I'd share these musings with those of you who are just as bored as I am, and have the voyeuristic urge to read about my uninteresting life.

I've come far. Further than I thought I would by this age, and yet, not far enough. Back when 28 seemed like years away, I always dreamt I'd be somewhere else by now - a wildlife vet, working in the african savannah and raising lion cubs in my living room. Or a Hollywood star, complete with artificially enhanced teeth, nose and boobs, sashaying down red carpets with gorgeous millionaires hanging on me for dear life. Or even an eminent Egyptologist, sifting out the next biggest find in the Queen's Valley (always figured I'd be the one to locate Akhenaten's missing mummy, and solve biblical mysteries).
But I haven't done any of it. I'm still here, wasting away in a land like no other, in bed and blogging.
That's not to say I haven't done anything with my life at all. I've done quite a bit more than the average female my age in this country, and I'm quite proud of it too. My school years were a lot more colourful than most, what with the adventures, rebellions, achievements and non-stop drama. Then there's everything else I've done since- working in five different industries that are as different to each other as chalk is to cheese, getting myself on TV as a show host, frequenting the stage and making a name for myself through it (both good and bad!), saving countless creatures from starvation, winning dance competitions, leading a colourful love-life with three relationships in my past and one in the present (each an experience by itself), and now running an ad agency and using my creativity out there in the public. I know it's not very humble of me to harp on about what I've done, by why not? This is my blog, and I'm quite proud of how much I've managed to do in a short time, and it's nice to be able to talk about it. I'm no PHD case with a million public awards to my name, but neither am I hidden from view.

Yes, I'm very different to the person I thought I would be by now, but I'm not regretting the way life has developed in the least. I can only look forward to much more learning, laughing and loving in my future. Who knows.... Maybe I will realise some of those dreams someday, eh?

For now, I'm me.... trying to live in the moment. Speaking of which, it's time for me to bugger off to the Wendt and put on a costume.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Team Impression

Most people never have the pleasure of a work environment like mine. I thought I'd make all those people jealous by dedicating today's blog to my extended family - my office team.

To put it in a nutshell, my team (Whom I fondly refer to as 'The Imps', given that our Company's name is Impression) is like no other. And I should know, having worked in four other organisations before joining this one. When Impression first started up, I was of the jaded view that there will always be a bone to pick when it comes to office colleagues. I had come from a history of politics, backstabbing, mismanagement, complacency and questionable professional ethics, and I expected nothing better of this place. Four years since, how supremely happy I am to claim that Impression displays none of these.

In one word, my team is awesome. I have never enjoyed spending time with a crazier, more down-to-earth, motiler crew more than I have with these guys. The variety of personalities within the group (and for that matter, within each individual!) would amaze you. Despite the hassles of the industry in which we work, their attitudes and work ethic is the stuff of textbooks.

One of the most important, if not THE most important element in any group is trust. If you can't trust your teammates, then you are, quite simply, fucked. I am quite proud to note that with The Imps, I don't have that problem. I trust them with my life, and I know they do each other. These guys go beyond the call of professional duty to be there for you, every step of the way. Many are the times that my team has supported me outside work, and I love everyone of them for that. I have no qualms about being there for them either, for it is the least i can do in reciprocation.

They're a fun bunch. Not a day goes by without a reason to erupt into floods of laughter inside our office, because invariably, someone will play the jester for the day. More importantly, in the middle of having all this fun, the team is also super efficient and productive in what they do, and we've managed to secure quite a few clients and their faith in us as a result of these excellent internal dynamics. True, they still have a lot to learn (we all do), and are not as experienced in the field as they should be, but man, can they kick professional butt with any competition out there.

We've had alot of adventures together, the Imps and I. From everyday work disasters, unforgettable trips to the great outdoors, insane team member birthdays, the sporadic coffee/shopping/soup outings, sleepless nights and even online social gatherings. It's been one big, bouncy, blissful ride.

I could go on for hours, of not days on each and every person's virtues, but I won't bore you. Besides, one blogpost can't do justice to the colourful personalities I am proud to call my team. I'm just happy I've met them in my lifetime.

Sadly, I'm leaving my Imps towards the end of next month, and I know that's gonna kill me a bit inside. I made a very tough decision to take up an offer that I don't think I'd get twice, as it would help my career by leaps and bounds, but I do know for a fact that there will never be a set of people like this to work with ever again. Ah well... come what may. They've carved themselves a permanent place in my heart, and will forever be some of the coolest people I've ment in this lifetime.

Go Imps!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Bitch - How to Deal

A comment left by 'anonymous' on my previous post spurred me to blog on this my next subject - that of people and their nasty ways. (Thanks, 'anonymous', for the inspiration!)

We've all known a bitch or two in the span of our lives. They're not always females, either. People who seem to have nothing better to do than to loudly and publicly pass unwarranted judgement on others without invitation, most of if not all the time. Admittedly, I've done it a couple of times myself, and whilst it's a bad habit that I've tried over the years to get rid of, it not necessarily a trait that I'm proud of at all. There are some people I know who seem to be afflicted with the disease (I call it a disease because it's certainly not a good thing, and it should be cured with immediate effect) to the point where they have no other aspect to their individual personalities, save their venom-filled mouths. These are people I've learned to avoid at all costs, unless it is absolutely essential that I be in their company for some reason.

My recent blog-joust with 'anonymous' got me thinking and attempting to understand the psychological make-up that is behind this obsession with being nasty. Why do we, as humans, feel this need to strike down so forcefully on other people at the cost of scarring them emotionally as well as building up a negative reputation for ourselves? Why do bitches exist? What brings out the bitch in an otherwise normal person with the potential to be affable?

I mused and pondered on this topic with a good friend of mine who pointed out that it's very often an insecurity complex teamed with dangerous levels of competitiveness and jealousy that make some people nasty beyond tolerance. She has a point. Most of the 'bitches' I know have always criticized things that they themselves cannot or would not do as well as their victim does. More often than not, the subject of their bitching has nothing to do with them, but they feel the need to pass scathing judgement nevertheless, because it makes them content to assume that their opinion matters (which, in reality, it rarely does).

As humans we are a territorial and insecure bunch. Someone else shining out bugs us because our ego is threatened. And sometimes, that feeling of insecurity is so large (often due to us having little or no belief in ourselves) that we tend to 'cover up' with the obnoxious persona of a bitch. Running a person down to the ground seems to be the only alternative, because we aren't able to be the bigger person and focus on our own business and would rather mind someone else's.

And then there's the classic case of really not knowing any better than to be nasty to people. This is possibly born out of years of frustration and subjugation to similar bullying and bitching at the hands of others, that you are compelled to 'take revenge' on the world at a later stage. Very much like abused kids growing up into abusers themselves. In fact, it IS a case of abuse - emotional abuse. You give what you received, because you have never known anything else in life.

Having considered the factors behind bitching, one almost feels sorry for the bitch. They don't have a grasp on their own lives, and therefore try to shatter someone else's because of their inability to control their jealousies. It is a condition that deserves pity and compassion, but also intolerance.

So how DO we deal with a bitch? I found the following article online, and it had some interesting points of note-

The majority of our stress comes from two areas; our relationships with people and our relationship with money and sometimes our relationship with people with money and more frequently people without money. This article is dedicated to minimizing the effect of negative or nasty people on our lives. What follows are some suggestions for maintaining congenial cohabitation with nasty, negative people whose only purpose is to invalidate your reasons for existence.
#1 Minimize ContactNegative people sap your energy. They pull your best from you and leave you frustrated, angry, emotionally depleted. When you see them coming, you have my permission to go the other way. There is no valor in confrontation. They thrive on it. They are experts, professionals even. This is not a place for amateurs. Abandon ship. Let the women and children fend for themselves.

If avoidance is impossible, you can still avoid them emotionally by resisting the urge to enter their dance. As difficult as it might be don't give into the urge to correct, chide or scold. They have heard it all before and all you will do is upset yourself and begin the ruin of what could have been a nice day.

#2 Think about something elseWhat you think about you give power to. The more you dwell on a subject the larger you make it. That's just the way things work. If you would like less of that person in your life. Don't spend your time talking about how you dislike them, because you are only enlarging them in your sphere of operation.
What you should do, on the other hand, is to find something or someone else to talk about that is more positive and you will find that the negative influence will become less overwhelming to you.

#3 Don't let their negative feelings for you dictate your feelings This is a way to free yourself from the cyclical power of negativity. This is also a means of empowering yourself. Too frequently we define ourselves by other's opinions of us. As a result we act out of those impressions. There is a Christlike dignity in the person who is unbowed by insult. And we are capable of being positive as we realize the value Christ places on us.
We have the power to choose how we feel. If we are having a bad day, it's nobody's fault but ours. Consequently, since you have the choice of feeling good or bad, why not choose the mental state that is of more benefit to you?

#4 Look at yourself from their perspectiveIt's good to get another viewpoint. Very few of us are perfect. We might even have a trait that sends everybody else crazy. Trying to appreciate someone else's perspective means that you might have to take some time to get to know them. And that brings the possibility that you might even get to like them even with their nasty ways.

Thoughts worth considering, eh?

One thing I do have to say to them bitches out there who tried to bring me down (this one's for you, 'anonymous') - darling... you point one finger at someone else, and you only end up pointing three at yourself. Please don't for even a moment think that your words, harsh as they may be, are worthy of my time. You are entitled to your opinions, love, but I am entitled to choose to ignore you. Grow up.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Being Mrs. Johnstone

I never actually thought I'd relate to motherhood until I got myself involved with the Workshop Players' production of 'Blood Brothers' this year.

As mentioned in my previous post, the show's doing quite well, and we're all enjoying watching grown men cry in the audience during the finale. :)

When Jerome first gave me the soundtrack of the original production, I have to admit I kinda sorta hated it. I couldn't really see the point of half the music, because until then I'd been brought up on the conviction that a musical entails much flair, pomp and pagentry in terms of orchestration. This one sounded more like a pop-ish jazz to me. But then I started listening to the actual lyrics and it all made sense. Before too long I was in love... with the music, the story, and most of all, with the idea of being a part of it.

I was lucky enough to be selected to play Mrs. Johnstone on some nights, and it is a role that I relish. It has been the most challenging one I've taken up thus far, both musically as well as in character. I've battled with a million personal concerns since the day we began rehearsals. What did I know about being a 52-year old mother? What personal experiences could I tap into, to relate to this role? How on earth did Jerome expect me to do justice to the mammoth amount of singing this woman had, when I have the voice of a christmas turkey? And what about that semi -Irish/ Liverpool accent eh?

And that wasn't all.... I had four grown men - Mario, Ruveen, Jithendra and Eraj- each twice my size in height (and sometimes width), playing my CHILDREN. Two of these fellas I've slapped and battled with many a time and played love interests with. Now I was supposed to convincingly look upon them as my babies? Absurd.

And so began my journey. In four months, with the help of the Workshop Players and theatrical genius that is Jerome de Silva, I was to transform myself from a child-disliking, socialite, career-oriented, over-dramatic diva into a lonely and long-suffering Liverpuddlian mother of nine... who could sing for three hours without boring or breaking eardrums. Yeesch.

The ageing came easy enough. Most of the cast is younger than I, and I could do the whole 'I am your revered elder' thing quite well. The motherly affection, however, was more of an uphill task. After failing miserably at every attempt to look and feel like I loved my babies, I resorted to imagining them as puppies and kittens, which immediately helped with the emoting. Mario became a rottweiler pup, Ruveen a bulldog, Jith a Jack Russell terrier and Eraj a Spaniel. It worked. (I suspect that should any of the guys read this blog, I'm probably never gonna hear from them again) At this risk of insulting them, I started to feel the maternal affection that was thus far alien to me.

Then came the singing. Thank god for my alter-Johnstone-ego Dilrukshi, who helped immensely with advice on techniques and giving me competitive motivation. The weekly singing rehearsals went a long way too, as did the hours of solo sing-a-longs in my car. I'm quite pleased to state that I am now able to hit some of those notes that I hadn't thought I was capable of before. I'm still nowhere close to Dil's jaw-dropping renditions though... nor can I come close to the fabulous accent she puts on at the drop of a hat. Mine keeps slipping now and then, but I've managed to maintain it for a good part of the show, and not sound like I've got a speech defect.

And finally came the fitness and energy required for this role. You'd be surprised to note that, although Mrs. Johnstone does almost nothing physically on stage as opposed to the rest of the cast, it is by far the most energetically demanding thing I've done in my stage career. Nothing's ever drained me as much as all this emotional hooh hah has. Just the final song alone takes so much out of me, that I'm ready to collapse by the end of it. Each scene we do is so intense, and I find myself stepping back from reality and actually feeling all that emotion instead of just acting it, that by the end of it all, I can hardly stand. I guess it means I'm doing it right.

And that's what being Mrs. Johnstone in this production has been all about for me. Over the months, the cast has actually become my family, and working with them on stage has been nothing short of a fantasy. The four boys are never going to looked as anything other than my children ever again, and I've started to like my hair being white.

I have this strange conviction that it's gonna be mighty difficult to get her out of my system now....
Photographs courtesy of Shehal

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Did you hear the story of the Johnstone twins....

I'm exhausted.
Just returned home after finishing off the second show night of the Workshhop Players' production of 'Blood Brothers'... a play that I've been putting the entireity of my time, health, heart and soul into for the last five months. I have the priviledge to play one of the lead roles on some of the nights, and has it been one hell of a ride or what....

Granted, we're not Broadway or the West End... but dammit I'll eat my hat if we don't come very, very close. And its not just a biased viewpoint either. Ask anyone who's watched the show . We received a fabulous standing ovation on our opening night, so that must mean something, right?

I'm not going to yap on about the details of the show... I'm too tired at this point anyway. f you want to know about the storyline, then I suggest you do the intelligent thing and google it. Or better yet, come watch.

What I will tell you is that this production, above all others, has replenished my ardent affection for theatre tenfold. The cast is like no other- united, passionate, committed, ridiculously talented and loads of fun. The director is the best thing that happened to my dramatic endeavours, and my personal idol when it comes to artitic direction. The production per say is one of a kind, and holds its own. It will make you cry, laugh, shiver and ponder on your own life. If it doesn't, then you're probably a goldfish with a memory span of two seconds.

SO get yourself down to the Lionel Wendt theatre before the 23rd of September and witness the show that is Willy Russell's 'Blood Brothers', presented by the Workshop Players.

And if chance decides, you'll spot me up on that stage, giving it my everything. ;)