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I have to follow up yesterday’s post on ‘The mystery of the missing posts’ with a bit of information I got in response to it.

A buddy, and fellow-blogger, who also had some problems similar to the one I described, sent me a mail, part of which read as follows: “…not sure about the reasons but you may want to try that “manual update” thing on Kottu. I  just did, for your blog, and it went off and found 3 posts which are now listed and weren’t before.
I have noticed this on mine before too, that posts haven’t showed up but do once I have manually updated.”

So I checked kottu again – and sure enough, there they were! Is that weird? Or maybe there’s more to it that I don’t fully comprehend, being virtually illiterate when it comes to tech shit. But what ever it is, maybe it will help the administrator(s) to iron out whatever it is that is inhibiting posts getting directly to their intended destination.

The responses to ‘Mystery’ indicate that I am not the only one whose posts have been diverted to some place other than where they were directed, so clearly there is some problem here that needs attention if kottu is to clean up its act and get things working like they are meant to. And hopefully it will.

It was pretty irritating to begin with. I mean that generally when a provider of a service or utility does not provide what is due, one tends to get pissed off. This is true of a phone service and utilities in general. And then when one makes an enquiry about the problem, not getting even an acknowledgement of the complaint, let alone an attempt to rectify it, gets to be not only more irritating, but also frustrating and the tendency is to bad-mouth all concerned with the shoddy service. At least that’s how it works for me.

Anyway, to get to the point of this post – I did the usual routine number with a post on ‘Is it to do with ego?’ and several hours later when I checked kottu for the entry, none was to be found, although it appeared on ‘Ephemeral’. So I thought there may be some delay and checked again the next day. Still missing! I then dropped Indi a mail about it, as he is the only one I am aware of who is involved with administering kottu (I may be wrong about this) but there was no response. Thinking that another try to get the post on kottu was in order, I did it again, but although the post appeared for a second time on ‘Ephemeral’, nary a trace on kottu! I then contacted a mutual friend, told him of my dilemma and asked if he would mention it to Indi if he saw him – in case my mail went astray. He said he would and then a few hours later the entry materialized on kottu. Great! So I immediately e-mailed Indi to tell him ‘problem solved’ and thanks if he had made it happen.

The next day I bunged in another post on ‘Nutmeg – of all things!’ – same problem. I did it again – both entries got into ‘Ephemeral’, but were ‘no shows’ on kottu. In the meantime, taking a tip from a buddy, I checked the feed validator who promptly informed me that “this is a valid RSS feed”, which, I am told means that there was nothing wrong with the feed, implying that the fault or glitch resided within kottu. The next day, after looking for the posts on kottu and finding none, I e-mailed Indi again. This time there was a response which said: “I dunno, I think it’s the feed. You can try a manual update via the link on the bottom right – I”. So I replied to say that I had checked the feed validator and all was well there and if it was something else and he could check, please to let me know.

And that was it!

So here I am, in a limbo of sorts. Not exactly lost in cyber-space, as WordPress and ‘Ephemeral’ are ensuring that I am able to put those ruminations out there, but kottu still remains out of reach.

This made me wonder if this is a one off, or if others have also been subject to the inconvenience. In any event, it’s time that the problem, whatever it is, gets solved.

Reading the post ‘Even More Drug War Hypocrisy’ on The Libertarian (NOT the Sri Lankan guy), turned me on to the Daily Dish and Andrew Sullivan’s piece on ‘Drugs and Toxicity’. It seems that:

“ ..the least toxic drug known to humans is now illegal. The most toxic is available at Safeway. None of this makes any sense at all. And yet we continue to imprison people for ingesting substances far less harmful than others freely available. One has to wonder what the prohibitionists are smoking. Maybe nutmeg”.

Nutmeg (Myristica fragans) – of all things! Yes, the same nutmeg that is used as a condiment and is a vital ingredient in many of our local deserts, now deemed illegal by the powers that make these laws. Laws that make no sense at all. Let’s consider the following with a view to the legalization of narcotic substances:

Is it even possible to conceive of the gazillions of $$$$ that go towards maintaining the massive drive against the growers, manufacturers, dealers and users of illegal narcotic substances? Whatever it is, it need not be spent if these substances were legally controlled – as much as the alcochol and tobacco global conglomerates are.

Income from taxes and other revenue generating sources related to the sale and use of these substances could be used for more productive social or environmental-friendly purposes.

The drug barons, crooked law-enforcement and other government officials that benefit from the illegal trade would be out of that kind of business and the collosal amount of tax-payers’ money spent on all the ‘legalities’ of prosecuting small-time users and dealers as well the expense of maintaining the ‘criminal’ growers, manufacturers, drug users and dealers in jail at taxpayers’ expense could also be put to better use.

There would be legal access to the substances of choice for users which would obviate the time and expense used to punish them.

There would be access to medical treatment for those who abuse the substances to the detriment of their physical and psychological well being and crime related to illegal drugs would plummet.

A new Landmark study “…concludes that alcohol and tobacco are more dangerous than some illegal drugs like marijuana or ecstasy and should be classified as such in legal systems, according to a new British study.

In research published Friday in The Lancet, Professor David Nutt of Britain’s Bristol University and colleagues proposed a new framework for the classification of harmful substances, based on the actual risks posed to society. Their ranking listed alcohol and tobacco among the top 10 most dangerous substances”.

There are many other reasons for legalization. So why is it illegal to use an intoxicating substance of choice (other than, of course, the ubiquitous alcochol and tobacco)?

It just doesn’t make sense – or does it??!!

For more on this, see

I was rapping with The Enchanter on blogging, commenting, tagging and such and pondered on if the need to express one’s views to public display in as best as one can – whether it be ‘clever’, literate’, ‘attractive’, or any other – is equated with an egotistical urge. The Enchanter, however, had doubts. The doubts had to do with whether ‘display to the public’ was only motivated by ‘ego’, as then it would follow that authors, journalists, academics, actors, actresses, producers, directors and others, were all doing their thing for this reason. Valid point! My response to him was that, in whichever of the categories he mentioned, the individual would undoubtedly be pleased with positive feedback and feel the opposite with the negative stuff. And it would follow that very negative or insulting remarks to describe their efforts would surely affect the way they feel – probably resulting in resentment, grief, (or perhaps if they were ‘enlightened’ enough) understanding – in which (latter) case the ego would not be affected. The Enchanter then responded with the thought that although anyone could be the recipient of positive or negative feedback or criticism it would be too general to say that it (the egotistical urge, I think he meant) motivates them to any great extent. Fair enough. But I still wonder…

One definition of ‘ego’ is ‘somebody’s idea of his or her own importance or worth, usually of an appropriate level’. Another is ‘an exaggerated sense of your own importance and a feeling of superiority to other people’. In Buddhism, I believe it is referred to as parinirvana, which, in order to attain enlightenment, must be done away with. The term itself is attributed to Sigmund Freud, who initially referred to it in 1920 in an essay titled ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’ and later amplified it in 1923 with his ‘The Ego and the Id’ which firmly instituted his theory. The word itself is taken from the Latin, meaning “I myself”. What I mean by the ‘ego’ in this piece refers to that part of each of us that feels hurt, different degrees of anger or happiness or sorrow and all the other emotions that result from anything that relates to ourselves. Or, as Freud put it – the ‘pleasure/pain’ thing.

Anyway, to get back to the crux of the post – which has, I guess, to do with the deeper reasons for blogging, commenting, tagging and the like. The need to express one’s views, or ‘cleverness’, or creative / artistic ability, or intellectual prowess, or original thoughts, or whatever else, must surely be rooted in some need for appreciation? Or could it be that it is simply a need to express without any thought or care about the effect it has? If the latter be the case, then I would suppose that the person doing the expressing would not care about the effect of the expression and not even bother to see what the results may be. Comments, whether they be critical or appreciative or attempts to initiate a dialogue on the expression, would not be bothered with either, as the only intention would be in the expression and no ‘ego’ would be involved. If, however, the opposite be the case – that is, the expression is put ‘out there’ for feedback, there must (in my view) be some amount of ‘ego’ involved, as there would most probably be some effect on the psyche resulting from a critical view and the opposite with a complimentary one.

There are blogs that I read regularly due to my own selective process that deem those contributors to be ‘worth’ reading, based on my own set of values of course. And there are those that I skip, as past experience of checking them out have indicated that they will not turn me on. And reflecting on my own reactions to criticism, compliments, ridicule, obnoxious and irrelevant stuff or attempts to extend the content into a more meaningful or wider perspective, I found that the ego is indeed involved. And for me, that is a bummer, as I would much prefer to be unaffected by whatever the response would be, maintaining a nice level of equanimity and responding to the feedback with a purely objective view and with no personal values applied to the response I received – whatever it was. But alas, I find that this is not the case – although I am working on it! Java, as usual, has a different take on this whole matter:

Shheeet maaan, da whole thang be a fuckin waste of time!

Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead’ OR ‘The After-Death Experiences on the Bardo Plane’, according to Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup’s English Rendering’, aka ‘Bardo Thodol’ is a pretty heavy number – used in Tibet as a breviary that is read or recited on the occasion of death, it is said to have been originally conceived to serve as a guide, not only for the dying and the dead, but for the living as well. And as a contribution to the science of death and of existence after death, and of rebirth, the treatise is unique among the ‘sacred’ books of the world. The book is compiled and edited by W.Y.Evans-Wentz, who is said to have sat at the feet of a Tibetan Lama for years in order to acquire his wisdom. He was a scholar of Jesus College, Oxford and was a dedicated student of Eastern Philosophy, having authored a number of books on the subject – particularly on Tibetan Buddhism.

In the Tibetan Buddhist philosophy a Bardo is a ‘plane’ or ‘level’ of consciousness and there are, according to the esoteric Tibetan teachings, six Bardos representing different states of consciousness: Skyes-Nas Bardo – the state of ‘normal’ or waking-consciousness, Rmi-Lam Bardo or dream-consciousness, Bsam-Gtan Bardo or trance-consciousness, as when in deep meditation, Hchhi-Kha Bardo or state of consciousness whilst experiencing death, Chhos-Nyid Bardo or state of experiencing reality and Sid-Pa Bardo – the state of rebirth-consciousness.

Carl Jung, well known for his exploration into areas of consciousness outside of the strict discipline of the conventional psychoanalytical field, has pointed out in his psychological commentary on The Tibetan Book of the Dead, that although Freud’s “ the first attempt made by the West to investigate, as if from below, from the animal sphere of instinct, the psychic territory that corresponds in Tantric Lamaism, to the Sidpa-Bardo. A very justifiable fear of metaphysics prevented Freud from penetrating into the ‘occult’”. He also reported that “psychoanalysts even claim to have probed back to memories of intra-uterine origin”, indicating that if Freudian analysis had pursued these so-called intra-uterine experiences still further to the past, “ would surely have come out beyond the Sidpa Bardo and penetrated from behind into the lower reaches of the Chonyid Bardo”.

The Tibetan Book of the Dead was first published in 1927 and has been reprinted many times since. It’s acceptance among the professionals in the field of psychology and psycho-analysis, intellectuals and philosophers gives credence to the fact that it isn’t some ‘esoteric’ mumbo-jumbo that has no base in what students of the mind consider to be acceptable in terms of what their own research has pointed to as real possibilities that originated in spiritual wisdom come down through the centuries. It seems, according to Evans Wentz’ investigations, that the Great Guru Padma Sambhava, who introduced Tantric Buddhism to Tibet, was the one that committed the Bardo Thodol  to writing in the 8th century AD. The original text was among hundreds that were secretly hidden away, probably in the 9th century AD when the persecution of Buddhism was prevailing in that part of the world and many teachings were hidden in caves and among rocks to prevent their destruction.

Anyhow, reading the book itself is a pretty heavy trip – if you’re into that sort of thing. It is full of Tibetan Mahayana doctrine, with its pantheon of lesser Buddhas and all sorts of other pretty weird stuff, but if one can get beyond the symbolism and images of ritualistic dogma and get into the substance of the ‘art’ of dying, it looks to be rather good advice and preparation for the journey to be embarked on. So if you know anyone who seems to be close to calling it a day, check it out and maybe you could help make the passing that much less traumatic.

Java was buzzing! I heard the front door click shut and looked at the time. 5.45 am – the light was just breaking through and I could hear the Red-Vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer cafer) on the Oleander tree (Nerium sp.) outside, start its early morning repetitive call. Dead on time – my reliable alarm. I got out of bed to get my coffee going and there he was, spacing out on the couch in the study.

Heey maaan, it’s Sunday mornin, how com yo be up so early? Coffee time, huh? Fix me one while yo at it, okay?

I told him I was up because of the racket he made getting in – that and the Bulbul.

Shheeet maan – sorry bout dat. Did’n mean to wake yo ass up.

So I ask him about the night before.

Saay whaat maan? Las night? Sheeet!! Ol Nahorp pick my ass up and we head on down to Mr. Zippy’s fo a nice quiet evenin – like I told yo. Dey start havin da usual – Famous Grouse for Mr. Z, ol Nahorp hav his Absolut Citron an tonic an I wit my brew. Dat match be goin on upstairs, but it look like England be on dere way to getting dere asses kicked, so we start to rap and get our heads into higher spaces. Den, jus as we be settlin down, laffin and jokin wit each odder, dat door bell ring so Mr. Z reach out fo dat remote an get dat garage door to roll on up to reveal Crazy Kris da poet an anodder dude we don recognize – Baalu – short fo somting. So dey com in an settle in wit us. Baalu be visitin from Oz and comin to da end of his visit. He start tellin us bout his trip up nort to visit his ancestral home and how he be stunned to see all dat devastashun jus bout everwhere. An so dat conversashun get to da state of tings prevailin – shock an horror for da mos part, wit human rites abuse, corrupshun, all dat bread bein made by dat trio an how da country be slidin down da tube. Deepressin sheeet!

Jus bout den I get a call. Cinimod – trapped at som photographic dinner thang an tryin to get his ass outta dere. An he be promising to join up – an he did – som time later. In da meantime, dose two elefunt-dung paper dudes show up an Mr. Z let dere asses in and dat conversashun veer off again to all sorts of odder shheet. Mr. Z’s got Pink Floyd doin ‘Comfortably Numb’ – kinda suitin dat vibe!

Jus bout den all hell break loose wit Jace, Mr. Z’s very cool lab startin to get all excited, barkin an runnin aroun and shheet and lookin towards dat swamp dat be borderin Mr. Z’s garden. So we all look out dere to see dis straaange light in dat sky – it be getting bigger an brighter reeal fast, until we see a sorta-shape, like som kinda alien trip – a flyin saucer or somting like dat. It be soo fuckin bright, we don see it so clear – bright white light wit all sorts of flickerin colours pulsatin inside it. No sound at all – jus dat bright light getting brighter an brighter – until it envelop us.

Nex ting I know is I wake up at Zorba’s pad. Da fust ting I see is Ramundo – da man wit da plan – sprawled out an fast asleep on dat coffee table nex to da sofa dat I be on. Da time be 5 am. Nex to Ramundo I see Mahmud crashed out on da carpet – an in da corner be one of dose elefunt-dung dudes wit Rani, still sippin dere arrack an mix. Don know how I get dere or when – or what happen in between, or to dat spacecraft or whatever, or to Nahorp or Mr. Z!

Heeey maan, jus give dose cats a buzz an see if everting be cool…

And with that he drifted off to sleep.

Achcharu is a site to behold – not as a visual feast or anything that mundane, but as an aggregator that has more to offer than the few others that I, admittedly a neophyte at this sort of thing, have come across. Unlike those just referred to, Ach has a few more things going for it. For one, the tag-thing is a feature that adds a whole lot to the experience of sussing out a site. These ‘indicators’ can prove to be pertinent, funny, appropriately insulting, inappropriately off the wall – reflecting the banality of the tagger, personal, cliché-ridden, totally irrelevant and much more. And I find myself being far more attracted to it than I am to kottu, for instance – simply because of the diversity it offers.

The tag-thing has more to it than just being an ‘indicator’, though. Folk that are anonymous taggers are able to compose their tags but have to be subject to moderation, which means, I suppose, that their efforts will not see the light of day unless it is determined to be of some value and not some garbage to be dumped. Apparently ‘Access Key Holders’ are allowed to zip their tags through so that they will be immediately visible and this obviously means that the reason for their selection is probably because they are deemed to be reasonably ‘sane’ as far as their tags are concerned. I may be completely wrong about this, but then I’m sure to be corrected if I am!

Then there is the voting on tags, which is a newer feature (I think) that enables the Access Key Holders to vote either positively or negatively on tags, which in turn, piles on the ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ scores that may enable Key Holders to graduate to Moderators. Of course it would be up to the ‘graduates’ to decide if they wanted to be Moderators in the first place, but then it would  appear to be most likely that taggers spending time tagging would not find it too much trouble to moderate.

Among the other features on Ach is the Achcharu Grapevine, another that I find to be useful and informative and an additional convenience that the other aggregator sites I have visited do not have – and another reason for the preference for the site to the others. And there’s more – like Black List, Selector, CloudConfig, History and others, but I haven’t really got into them much, so ignorance is bliss.

The one thing that I have observed about the tags is that some bloggers attract a whole slew of derogatory tags, most of which are insulting and irrelevant. To be insulting would be cool if the blogger deserved it and if the tag were to be relevant, but being insulting just for the sake of being obnoxious or due to some personal hangup is, to me, not really the intention of the exercise. I see that RD has been attracting some stupid remarks and can’t help but wonder why. Some of the ladies out there have also been preyed on by mealy-mouthed creeps, who, if they had something smart or relevant to say, would not need to descend to the cesspits to spew their shit around. But then that’s my view – most likely a result of my conditioning and I guess the folk I am referring to must be of a totally different mindset. Different strokes!

So let’s see how this goes. Maybe the voting business on Ach will account for the creeps, or maybe the creeps will survive and guys with views like mine will be selected out. Whatever happens, Ach is providing a forum for diversity in the blogosphere and that is a good thing – however it is looked at – by whoever it is that is doing the looking.

She celebrated her 75th birthday yesterday. Vajira, inarguably Sri Lanka’s first Prima Ballerina – if one were to apply the title to the foremost exponent of the traditional Kandyan dance whose choreography, together with her mentor and husband, extended the original traditional movements to play her part in the evolution of the  Sinhala ballet or dance-drama.

The celebration was at the Chitrasena Kalayathanaya – the first ever ‘public performance’ to be held at the new venue. The invitees were limited to close friends of the school, loyal students that have been supportive throughout the years and the extended family – perhaps around a hundred folk. The setting was picturesque, with the guests playing ‘audience’, seated outside and facing the Kalayathanaya that was converted into a stage for the entertainment part of the evening. Pandans (flaming torches) lined the periphery of the compound and other traditional decorations made of banana tree-trunks and young coconut fronds with lamps embedded in them enhanced the ambience. The evening had threatened rain and as the light drizzle intensified, the guests made their way to the canopies that had been set up – just in case! Soon, however, the light rain abated and the word was that it was a ‘mal vessa’, traditionally known as an auspicious sign signifying a blessing from the Gods. The chairs were re-aligned, the guests got back in place and just before the performance especially conceived for the occasion, the rain returned. This time a harder shower that threatened to intensify, but fortunately only lasted around fifteen minutes. Anyway, to make a long story shorter, everything quickly fell into place and the show began with a drum item. Twelve of the finest exponents of the art got the show on the road and had the audience, all fans anyway, enthralled and into the mood for more. A special item choreographed by Heshma (Vajira’s grand-daughter) that combined modern dance moves with the traditional, and set to a very avant-garde piece of music informed the audience of the evolution of the tradition in the manner that Chitrasena had, in his time, begun. A few more pieces followed and the climax was the ‘Theiya’ (described below), where Upeka, eldest daughter and heir to the legacy of her parents, and Ravibandu, led the leading dancers of the school in a series of segments of traditional dance. And finally, in what was to be the highlight of the evening, the dancers went up to Vajira and brought her on stage, where, to everyone’s surprise, she joined her students in a few segments. Ever graceful, but with reduced vigour, Vajira captured the audience yet again – perhaps for the final time.

At her peak, Vajira enthralled audiences all around the globe, from Australia and Tasmania in the southern hemisphere to Moscow and Leningrad in the north and several countries in Europe and Asia in between. Command performances for royalty and presidents included such dignitaries as Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip, Prince Akihito of Japan, King Birendra of Nepal, Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev (with Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike) at the Kremlin Theatre in Moscow and many others. The roles that Chitrasena conceived for her and that they created together in their classical repertoire of ballets that included Chandalika, Karadiya and Nala Damayanthi, she made her own. Those who had the good fortune to witness her artistry during this period have never forgotten the grace, technique and finesse she brought to those characterizations.

An extract of a piece by Bandula Jayawardhana (Vajira and the Ballet-Art) gives an indication of how the public saw her in the 1960s:

Out of the ferment of an experimental phase emerged Sri Lanka’s most accomplished ballerina, Vajira, with her natural talents and her ideally balletic figure bursting into the foreground of Sri Lanka’s theatre world, like the dancer in Degas’ famous painting, as essentially local product.

From those early experimental days when she danced as Chitrasena’s pupil, right through the floodlit international stages echoing with repeated applause at her curtain call appearances, even up to the celebration of Chitrasena’s forty years of dancing, in January 1978, Vajira illumined her husband’s career and shared his efforts to speak as Sri Lanka’s ambassador of the dance, the most universal language of the arts. For Vajira, each year of performance has shown not the signs of age, but rather a steady maturation as an artiste and a gradual refinement of essentially individual grace. She has flowered into a modern ballerina with a wide emotional range so ably demonstrated in her role as the oppressed but militant fisher-girl in Karadiya and a beautiful fluidity of movement, a sense of style and a rare musicality in her oriental Swan Lake  role in the classical Nala Damayanthi . And then there is her transformation, or rather, transmutation of the original masculine Gajaga Vannama into a thing of unrivalled feminine grace without losing anything of the beauty of this treasure of the traditional Kandyan dance.

Vajira’s development into a choreographer was more intuitive than propelled by any result of academic pursuit and was inspired by Chitrasena’s concepts and guidance. Like water and oil, they had a hard time merging (their ideas), but out of this energy the spark of creativity ignited the process that resulted in those wondrous creations for the stage. And as she matured, Vajira insisted on creating her own productions – an expression of ego that was difficult for Chitrasena to accept at first, but then being the epitome of a Guru, he did accept that Vajira ‘had arrived’ and the rest just flowed from there. Hapana, a children’s ballet about fish, was a major accomplishment and a big hit. Chandalika and Bera Handa followed and it was apparent that Vajira’s initial solo efforts at creating ballets was no flash in the pan and even Chitrasena gave his somewhat grudging approval – and for those that knew the man, this was to reach the pinnacle.

Not only was Vajira a dancer and choreographer par excellence, she was also the mother of three and had to administer the Chitrasena Dance School together with Chitrasena – no mean feat, considering the implications! In the halcyon days of the Chitrasena School, when it was located in that beautiful old building in Colpetty, classes would be conducted on Saturdays and on some days of the week, but rain or shine, dancing continued every evening with the Chitrasena family and the senior members of the troupe gathering for the evening’s dance sessions. The highlight of this gathering would be at the end of the session – the incredibly energizing Theiya, an informal showcasing of the Kandyan dance technique in which the dancers displayed their virtuoso movements in interpreting the particular segment, with the most advanced among them switching roles as the lead dancer, that blasted whoever was fortunate to be present, away – just by the embodiment of sheer joy, energy, movement and the synchronicity of it all. Chitrasena’s guru Lapaya Gurunanse would make the bus journey from Potuhera to Colpetty each Tuesday evening for special classes. This journey was also special in that his relationship with his special sishaya, Chitrasena and his sishaya’s sishaya, Vajira, was akin to a parent – reciprocated accordingly. Little, if any, of these special guru – sishaya relationships exist any longer in today’s Sri Lanka and even Vajira, who must have hundreds of ‘sishayas’ will never have a relationship with a student similar to that which she had with her guru’s guru ever again.

And now, well past the twilight of her dancing career, a great-grandmother to boot, Vajira is still teaching at her beloved Chitrasena Kalayathanaya, now at its new home by Elvitigala Mawatha in Narahenpita. Stepping out of the spotlight is never easy for anyone who has commanded so much love and respect – particularly for an artiste exposed to so much public adulation and fame. Vajira, however, has now stepped out of the limelight and has passed on the legacy of the Chitrasena Kalayathanaya to the next generation.

She is the last of her breed – much like the role she made her very own – the dying swan – and Sri Lanka must surely be proud of her amazing accomplishments in the world of Dance.

It was too late to slow down – the cop had his speed-gun aimed and had his hand out signaling Runa, the trusty navigator to stop.

It had been a tediously slow drive back from the hills to Colombo as there were sporadic stretches of road in horrendous condition due to the ongoing road expansion. No amount of ranting at the mental midgets in charge of our highways had made any difference to their incompetence and the idiocy continues unabated, causing untold hardships to the residents along the route and to the unfortunates that have to experience traversing it – us among them.

The ‘done’ stretch starts around Beluhil Oya – nice and wide and with a super surface – perfect for reasonably fast-ish driving. Hardly any traffic either, so the going was pretty smooth and we were making up for lost time. Around Ratnapura, however, the traffic intensifies and since it takes only one moron to screw things up, we found ourselves behind a trail of assorted vehicles. An ancient lorry was chugging along at the pace of a speedy snail, followed by a combination of container flat-beds, a small tractor-trailer, private busses, cars and SUVs. The snaking road left few opportunities to overtake, with the oncoming traffic posing problems whenever there was a straight stretch ahead. And so the gradual process of getting ahead of the vehicle in front of us began – until finally, we got clear. And as if in celebration of the liberation, Runa stepped on it and we flew forward – free of the impediments of the crawlers. We were close to Avissawela, which meant only an hour to reach home, when the dreaded spectre with the speed-gun loomed in front and signaled us to stop.

‘Fuck!’, was the automatic expression trhat escaped my lips, whilst I quickly groped for the letter that is from a government ministry that informs whoever reads it that that this vehicle is engaged in rehabilitation work in the east. It was originally meant to ease our passage when encountering the numerous security check-points east of Monaragala on the way to Komari. This document has got us out of many a jam and has even persuaded traffic cops in many parts of the country to let us off with a warning, so it was like an automatic reaction to whip it out. I heard Runa say something to the cop, who was displaying the piddly 76 kms on the screen of his speed-gun, as he handed him the letter. Didn’t seem to work this time though, as Runa returned to get the license, registration and whatever else and followed the cop who was rendezvousing with his sergeant partner who was hiding behind some bushes – sneaky!

Anyway, we got written up and Runa was handed a scrap of paper – his temporary driver’s license, until he redeemed his own after paying the fine. All well and good! However, the major bummer was that the incompetent shit-heads didn’t have the proper form on which to write up the offense, so they told Runa to go to the Police Station, get the proper form filled up, then go to the Post Office, pay the fine, get a receipt and then he could get his license back!

Frustration personified, we went through the process. Cop shop – form filled – Post Office – fine paid (Rs. 1,100!!) – back to the spot where the cops were to get the license back –NO COPS!! Okay, be cool, I tell myself. No point in getting hassled over something entirely beyond control. So I was ‘cool’, but mouthed a few expletives for a few kilometers, wondering why I ever bother leaving the tranquility of Flower Book.

I was told later, that the best way to ease the pain is to slip a Rs. 500 note with the license, saying that if it is a spot fine please take it and they won’t need to bother with the hassle of writing it up. Never have tried that yet, but next time – who knows?

Having read Darwin’s (not the pre-eminent Charles’) post on ‘friendship’ got me thinking about friends and friendships and that memory part of the mind (the hippocampus combining with the cerebral cortex) hurtled back in time to help me consider how I saw what my perspective was on what she was on about. So, in order to get this right, I checked on the definition of ‘friend’ and found it was ‘somebody who has a close personal relationship of mutual affection and trust with another’, and ‘friendship’ to be ‘a relationship between two or more people who are friends’ or ‘the mutual feelings of trust and affection and the behavior that typify relationships between friends’.

For sure there would have to be a personal relationship, with trust and affection between me and whoever it is that I consider to be a ‘friend’ – the closer the relationship, the dearer the friendship I suppose. And the degree of trust usually grows along with the relationship – at least that’s how it has been for me.  And then of course there are degrees of friendship – casual friends, close friends that one meets or contacts on a fairly regular basis, friends from the past who one has hardly any contact with any more, except perhaps for the odd mail or wishes on particular occasions, but who, if met again would be just as close as before the parting. There are also people I consider ‘friends’, even though we have never even met. RD springs to mind, as we established contact due to the blogging and some e-mails followed. The vibe was right, there were things we had in common and he seemed like a pretty decent bloke – and then when he informed me that he was due to visit, we made plans to meet and I looked forward to it. The meeting itself, albeit brief, as I had to leave Colombo the day after and would return only a day or two before he left, was pleasant enough and served to reinforce my view that he could well be considered a friend. The fact that we had mutual friends only confirmed my view (RD only knows what RD thinks about that!).

Friendships, in my life, also cross all sorts of boundaries and spectrums as I have very strong relationships with some of the children of my friends. I know some children from the time they were infants and who are now in their teens that I have strong bonds with and I find it very easy to relate to them on their terms without the hypocrisy or condescension that many adults reserve for ‘children’. The trust and affection are mutually felt and if ever there is a need to be assertive, it is never misunderstood because of the type of relationship that has developed. Then there are domestic or other ‘aids’ who, in the time we have been together, have formed relationships that transcend the ‘employer / employee’ thing. There is, of course, a mutual respect and understanding of certain ‘norms’ or expectations, but that is part of the matrix.

‘Casual’ friendships are usually (for me) with people I have met on more than a few occasions, usually with mutual friends, who I can have enjoyable times with but with who I may not have much in common with, which usually stalls the development of the relationship. But they would remain ‘friends’ nevertheless, for if we were to meet in a strange place by coincidence, a certain degree of affection and trust would be in place from previous experiences and the company would probably be enjoyed.

What I have observed about ‘friendship’ is that with all the trust and affection that may be established, relationships often sour and disintegrate and so-called ‘close’ friends fall out and ill-will replaces the positive feelings. Many different reasons could be the cause – unfulfilled expectations, misunderstandings that egos would not allow to be resolved, betrayed trust or what is perceived as such, jealousy and many more. I have friends with who I can trash out differences in views, where very often emotions run high and where we sometimes get to being pretty vociferous and even getting to the point of being personal and hurtful, but with who the understanding and affection is so firmly entrenched, that we can agree to disagree and go on from there. I feel that one must have a very good understanding of the character with whom a close relationship evolves in order to see differences of view in perspective. Expectations are often the cause for disappointment, which in turn usually lead to a feeling of being let down, and if there is no ‘objective’ view, this is often the first signs of the disintegration of the relationship. ‘Right Understanding’ is the key.

Java, however has a slightly different take on this whole ‘friendship’ thing:

Shhheeet maan, my bes frens be dose dogs dere – uncondishunal love, we dig da sheeet out of each odder’s company, we don say hurtful sheet, dey be faitful to de end, dey don expec too mukin fuch and best of all dey let yo do yo thang witout no bull shheet to hang you up, but what be mos important – mutual love and understandin. Know any humans like dat?

And so it goes…