27th May 2001
One thousand lights
All for the lucky winner,
proud on the pedestal.
I silently rise
Happy in my own way
warm blooded dark room
I dwelt for three
hundred days and two!
With crossed legs
And cramped body
I listened to the heartbeat
And felt the gentle fluid
The sticky eyelids
Fixed by the sticky liquid
Threw a dark curtain
Of extra lining around my room!
My world was quiet!
The city embraces me in the folds of her black gown
She flashes her jewels of the night
Coyly, at first
Then, boldly, as I explore
Pearls of white
Rubies of red
Sapphires of blue
Blind me with their brilliance
As I stumble in an intoxicated dance.
But give me in the end the soft home lights
And the retiring gentle glow
Of wisps of candle flames
In paper lanterns
Swaying in the breeze
And bathed in the benign light
Of a vesak moon.
Vesak lanterns gently swaying
In a May night's breeze
Soon to billow to a squally monsoon.
A lone sentinel on the ramparts
Sweeping beams across the sea
On stately ships and fishing-boats alike,
Bobbing on the dark horizon.
Rare carnival lights
Silhouetting the Butterfly Bridge
Against the night sky
Across the green.
Festoons of brilliant lights
Illuminating the portals of the Dutch bastion
On a February night o'er five decades ago
When our country cast her shackles aside.
The lights dazzled me -
I gazed, incredulous -
I was only a child.
Mrs. Thilaha Yoganthan
I suddenly spied
Through the inky darkness
Lights flashing in the sky -
Some alien spaceship
Or giant star?
They winked and blinked at me
Next day -
A massive Vesak lantern
But I know that in the darkness
And so new to the world
When I first held you,
As time passed.
You wanted me to be your light,
But my dear sister,
That colour topicHey people! So far we've been reading the comments of three dark-skinned folks. Well, I guess it's now time to hear from the other side.
First of all, Shammi, Kay Jay and Taaro seem to have a violent dislike of people who are fair in complexion. But let me just make it perfectly clear that just 'cos I'm fair, I have absolutely nothing against dark-skinned people. In fact, let me also mention that my two best friends in the whole world are dark. I love 'em loads and I know they love me just as much, if not more.
I'm sorry that you guys and/or gals had to go through some unfair experiences with fair people but how about blaming it on the individual's attitude instead of on his/her colour huh?
Let me tell you that I've been insulted about my skin colour - to my face mind you - by dark people as well as by other fair people. But I have nothing against the colour of the people who made those comments, only their attitude.
Anyway my point is: if you three want to defend dark people, go right ahead, knock yourselves out! Just don't dismiss fair people in the process 'cos that only makes you as low as the people who dismissed you. Plus, all you're doing is making fair folks really mad.
Not all fair people are cold hearted snobs and not all dark people are either. The cold hearted snobs are both fair and dark people with major attitude problems (but that's another topic altogether).
So c'mon you three, I've given dark folks a chance, now how about giving us fair folks a chance? Who knows, we may surprise you! And finally, I welcome any criticism and/or compliments on this article - just don't base your comments on skin colour, okay. That's all.
Thanks 'Clothes Line',
Peace and Luv, Jody
By Ruhanie PereraLilani (20), now a career girl, clearly remem- bers what took place when she was about 17 and part of a group of girls who once tried out smoking. "It was at a time when we felt that we should try out everything. However, cigarettes did not tempt me. For although I felt the same way as my friends did where attitudes were concerned, I also felt that there were some things that were not worth wasting time or effort over.
I was never tempted to smoke at that time. The act of smoking held no appeal for me, there was no thrill in doing it and I'm not sure that even smokers get a big thrill out of it either. That's why I don't understand why my friends wanted to do it. I knew it was harmful and there was nothing cool about it at all. I never wanted to try out smoking then and I don't think I ever will."
Where girls are concerned, Lilani feels that sometimes smoking is just about being on an equal plain as their male peers. "If that is the case, I think we can find much better ways of proving our worth. Women who ape such habits are as inferior as their male peers because they lack strength of character.
How can you be a strong individual when you are a willing victim to a force that makes you weak, (in every sense of the word)?
The incident that took place when she was a student was a sad one for her. Her friends were all intelligent, bright individuals who deliberately made the decision to smoke, some even triggered off a habit that has seen their deterioration, she says.
"There were no right reasons for what they did. It was all wrong and they knew it - we've read about the habit, we've been taught about it, we've even written essays about the harmful effects of smoking. After all that, they still convinced themselves that what they were doing was 'fashionable' - it was pathetic and pitiful!"
Pathetic and pitiful though the case may be, although statistics are relatively low at this point, girls in Sri Lanka are beginning to take to smoking. The main reason for this being that, according to information available at the Alchohol and Drug Information Centre (ADIC), everything that may have made girls think twice before they smoked no longer holds fast. Health hazards are glossed over by the tobacco industry as they sell a created image in order to sell a deadly substance. Marketing cigarettes to women in a slim, slender form invites women to be like those who hold the cigarette between their well-manicured fingers; youthful, vibrant and liberated.
'Liberation' is one man's idea which has duped generations of women into smoking. Recognising women as an untapped but potential market, in the 1940s Edward Bernays who worked for the American Tobacco Company went about a massive advertising campaign, which created the myth that elegance was linked with smoking, going so far as to build up an association between smoking and being slender.
But when the idea didn't sell quite as well as he had planned, out came 'Plan B' - the liberation of women. By using the cigarette as a sign of emancipation, he organised a march down Fifth Avenue, which saw New York's most fashionable women walk for freedom holding in their hands a cigarette, the 'torch of freedom'. In their minds, cleverly manipulated by Bernays, they were fighting the oppression of women by men. In reality they were fighting the taboos against women smoking. And Bernays, the man who seemingly promoted women's liberation, really promoted smoking among women.
Today Bernays, the father of all spin-doctors, still controls women through his master plan. Many women still fall prey to the habit by believing in the image he created.
However in the west things are slowly changing. Due to some effective anti-smoking campaigns the attitude towards smoking is changing to the point where it is now considered unsociable. But it is this very fact that has prompted the concentration on developing countries where the people still fall for the image of sophistication that comes with smoking.
Says Kumari Welagedara of ADIC, "Smoking was more common among men before women, and the percentages have always been lower among women than among men. Unfortunately, this once-wide gender gap will narrow down and remain constant if action is not taken. By being pro-active we could prevent the sad situation which saw many women in the west take to smoking, despite all the information available of the health consequences of smoking."
Exhaustive research on the subject of women and smoking conducted in the U.S. by the Department of Health and Human Services Centre for Disease Control and Prevention shows that girls who initiate smoking are the ones who are the most insecure and open to the smoking atmosphere. As against those who do not smoke, they are more likely to have parents or friends who smoke. It has also been found that they tend to have weaker attachments to parents and family and stronger attachments to peers and friends.
The research confirms that many of these young girls perceive the smoking habit to be more widespread than it actually is. They have a weaker commitment to school or religion, have less knowledge of the adverse consequences of smoking and the addictiveness of nicotine, believe that smoking can control weight and negative moods, and have a positive image of smokers.
Well thought out marketing strategies of the tobacco industry are the main factor influencing smoking among girls, claims reports at ADIC. Countless examples of indirect marketing have been catalogued at the office from blatant tobacco promotions to sponsorship of trendy events right down to cleverly introduced scenes in films. One such film is Basic Instinct where Sharon Stone is constantly with a cigarette in her hands. "It's no longer the 'bad guys' who are smoking in films," says Kumari, "It's the leading woman who smokes and she's usually the modern day woman; beautiful, strong and independent. You don't even have to go as far as Hollywood to see this, this trend is obvious in both Indian and even our local films."
In Sri Lanka smoking among males is now slowly reducing to the low-income, non-educated males. By smoking girls will not only allow themselves to be manipulated but they will also put themselves into the same groove as the low-income, non-educated male, says Kumari. If girls aren't smart enough to recognize the health hazards of smoking, like women in the west, they will die prematurely from smoking-related diseases like cancer and heart diseases. In addition to that as women they also face unique health effects from smoking such as problems related to pregnancy. Leave aside all that they will make very unappealing girl friends or wives; with their puffy eyes, yellow teeth, bad breath and the overall 'stink' of smoke.
An excerpt from the diary of a young woman smoker goes: "I am tired of smelling like an ashtray. I have gone through enough hiding behind the garage to sneak a quick smoke. I cannot believe what I have done just to have a cigarette. Disgusting.
I love to travel with my friends and they are all non-smokers. We will be able to travel together and not have to stop every hour so I can smoke a cigarette. Funny how at the time, I wondered why they were complaining about the stops and the smell of me...I am who I am I would tell them...like me or not. Foolish words."
For her it's still not too late, but still her life is one of regrets. We don't have to be like that. True girl power lies in recognising and standing up for the healthy reality instead of giving into a very temporary, false sense of security. We don't need to watch our lives go up in smoke.
*Women who smoke have increased risks for conception delay and for both primary and secondary infertility and may have a modest increase in the risk of spontaneous abortion. They are younger at natural menopause than non-smokers and may experience more menopausal symptoms.
*Women who smoke during pregnancy risk pregnancy complications, premature birth, low-birth-weight infants, stillbirth, and infant mortality. Cigarette smoking plays a major role in the mortality of women.
*A woman's annual risk of death more than doubles among continuing smokers compared with persons who have never smoked in all age groups from 45 through 74 years.
*The risk of lung cancer increases with quantity, duration, and intensity of smoking. The risk for dying of lung cancer is 20 times higher among women who smoke than among women who do not smoke. In some countries lung cancer has surpassed breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer death among women.
*Evidence is also strong that women who smoke have increased risk of liver, colorectal, and cervical cancer, and cancers of the pancreas and kidney. For cancers of the larynx and oesophagus, evidence among women is more limited but consistent with large increases in risk.
*Smoking is a major cause of coronary heart disease among women. The risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked and the duration of smoking.
*Women who smoke have an increased risk for stroke and subarachnoid haemorrhage.
*Cigarette smoking is a primary cause of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) among women, and the risk increases with the amount and duration of smoking. Approximately 90 percent of deaths from COPD among women in the United States can be attributed to cigarette smoking.
*Postmenopausal women who currently smoke have lower bone density than do women who do not smoke. Also women who currently smoke have an increased risk for hip fracture compared with non-smoking women.
*The association of smoking and depression is particularly important among women because they are more likely to be diagnosed with depression than are men.
*Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke is a cause of lung cancer among women who have never smoked and is associated with increased coronary heart disease risk.
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