This review of Rag: the Musical is absolutely brilliant and articulates spectacularly (and bilingually) the poor treatment of ragging culture in the musical. Only issue is that it fails to address the absolutely cringey gender politics of the production. The article promises another writer’s article on the subject, though, hope that comes through!
Part II: How to name a dog
Duke is the dog every affectionate family dreams of having. Loving and obedient to his owners, ferocious – despite his diminutive size – to outside threats, and soft and cuddly to boot. He had eyes that you could read and communicate with. When he was afraid, I’d hold his little face in my hands, stroke his cheeks and I could see his pupils visibly relax, knowing he could trust my love for him. He didn’t know to sit, stay, or fetch, but he’d bound up to us when we came home, wagging his tail so furiously that his little body wagged along with it. Always patient with us and a caring older brother of our other pets, Duke was always there with his unconditional love to make the world feel ok again.
My brother and I adopted the dog above to replace Duke when he died. Duke’s death took a real toll on our family. Ammi and thathi refused to love again, saying they could not bear to go through the cycle of inevitable heartbreak again. As impetuous children will do, my brother and I disregarded their wishes, thinking we knew better, and surprised them with an adopted puppy.
They came around pretty fast though, my mother soon cuddling the pup like a baby and not letting her go.
We let my parents choose a new name for her. They wanted to name her in honour of Duke ‘but it’s a girl, so it should be a female name,’ observed my father.
I started: ‘So Duch-,’
‘Dukie,’ my father continued with finality. I bit my tongue and affirmed, ‘Dukie it is.’
Part I: How to name a cat.
My cat’s name is Eddie.
This is Eddie trying to wear my pants
A while ago I wrote an ineloquent rant about a British article that portrayed Sri Lankan cuisine and its people as curious objects of the tropics, the latter of which didn’t understand what a national treasure our hoppers/aappa/appam were and needed a white woman to ‘discover’ it for international/British consumption. A few weeks ago, while eating said aappa at home watching television I came across this advertisement by Munchee for the release of their new (and admittedly delicious) cracker, the Sun Cracker. It shows a white woman tourist who blogs and internally discusses what makes Sri Lankans such curious people, referring to an interminable number of stereotypes about ‘island people’ such as how they’re ‘easy-going’, ‘agree to anything’, and ‘the best part is, they let things go’. She posits that, oh, it must be because of *drumroll* the Sun (cue images of Sun cracker hidden in people’s hands/pockets). I swallowed my aappa in quiet anger, infuriated at this same caricaturing of Sri Lankans as harmless, happy-go-lucky, sun-dazed simpletons who don’t know what they’re worth and need a benevolent foreigner to point it out. Of course, I was even more so outraged that this advertisement came from a group of Sri Lankans them/ourselves. Since when did we start defining our own self-worth by how foreigners see us? OK, I hear you, since forever. But to the point that we are reproducing this Orientalized image of ourselves to market products to ourselves. My disbelief warrants the double bold-italic emphasis. Continue reading
Demons in the plural
Demons in Paradise is neither the only creative work that provides a critical introspection of the Tamil community, nor the only one that constructs the image of the perpetrators of violence as otherworldly ‘demons’. In 2014, Neervai Ponnaiyan, a veteran Sri Lankan Tamil writer, published a collection of short stories called Devils and Demons. The stories are creative fictions but based on situations and stories rooted in reality. It is critical of violence, as perpetrated by all sides, giving primacy to depicting the suffering caused to ordinary people. However, the fame of Ratnam’s work and recognition at the Cannes Film Festival, the immediacy and easy dissemination of the film medium, and perhaps the aesthetic and storytelling, will eclipse other similar works such as Ponnaiyan’s. This critical introspection is also sure to capture public attention and imagination for a while; there was consternation amongst the audience whether this would be co-opted or cherry-picked to suit convenient political narratives. It is important to note, then, that Ratnam’s movie treats demons in the plural: colonial legacies, ethnic violence, community violence and more. As Ratnam deals holistically with his own critical introspection through the movie, he challenges the audience to do the same.
Ratnam’s film is part of a wider trend in the artistic community towards using citizen memory and art to fill in the gaps in our history books and media sources. Radhika Hettiarachchi’s Herstories exhibit used stories from women across Sri Lanka affected by conflict-related violence, drawing upon commonalities in their shared experiences. Ruwanthie de Chickera’s Dear Children, Sincerely…, a play and series of monologues, is based on stories narrated by older generations about happenings in Sri Lanka from the 1930s onwards.
Perhaps the preoccupation of the arts sphere with citizen memory stems from a desire to fill in the silences that we grew up with. Where we do not have clear information or hard facts, we still seek stories. Nearly 70 years from 1948, official sources are still not able to look truthfully at the multiple violences of our post-independence years. Yet, our desire to know motivates us to listen to the stories of our elders, as Ratnam does in the film. But are we then, especially young people, to rely on the arts to fill in these silences? Must the arts shoulder the responsibility of providing to the Sri Lankan community what official sources still refuse to?
This is an excerpt from an article first published by Roar Life. See the full article here
On the dirt road from Wellawaya to Buttala, there stood two little shacks in a small expanse of garden. One would often spot an elderly gentleman there dressed in a sarong and simple baniyan. Peering out at the world from his characteristically oversized glasses, Fr. Mike, as he was referred to affectionately, seemed like any other villager from Buttala, an isolated farming village in the eastern district of Moneragala in Sri Lanka. Yet he was something quite out of the ordinary. Continue reading
(pix courtesy Malaka Premasiri)
On April 1, the crowd at the Lionel Wendt gallery kept buzzing, ‘What do you think it meant?’ They had been captivated by Mesh Academy of Dance’s Deconstruct the Embody but were struggling to make head or tail of it. Different ideas floated amongst people: some believed the dance had a storyline about escape, others connected emotionally with the frustrated, screaming bodies, others yet remained gobsmacked and chuckled to themselves about the shock of the performance.
Deconstruct the Embody was a multimedia performance combining the choregraphy of Umeshi Rajeendra with photography by Malaka Premasiri. As an abstract, experimental piece, it was a much-needed addition to Sri Lanka’s artistic landscape. It thoroughly disrupted the audience’s expectation of neat storylines or clear messages and demanded instead that you connect with the tensions of lighting and movement. Continue reading
Article published on YourCommonwealth.org
To quote its preamble, the Act aims to ‘to foster a culture of transparency and accountability’ and to ‘thereby promote a society in which the people of Sri Lanka would be able to more fully participate in public life’.
On going live, there was a frenzy of activity with some high profile cases. It is an exciting time for civic engagement in Sri Lanka, as the Right to Information (RTI) officially changes the government culture of secrecy into one of open government and accessibility to all. Continue reading
This article was published by Roar.lk. Full article here: http://roar.lk/features/of-dynasty-and-double-standards-women-leaders-in-south-asia/
While the U.S. has arguably shown the world that it would rather have a leader that grabs pussies than has one, in South Asia only the Maldives and Bhutan (which is a patrilineal monarchy in any case) have not had a female head of state. Political scientists have been fascinated by this exceptionalism of female leadership in Asia but much of the research says the same thing.
“… the easiest way for a woman to enter politics is to marry a politician”[i]
My first illustrated poem and first attempt at watercolour 🙂 Merry Capitalism everyone!