18th June 2000

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Down memory lane

I was boiled, grilled and cooked

By Roshan Peiris

Yasmin Cader, pretty and alluring would be reaching the half century mark in two years, with 20 years of hotel service behind her. Yasmin Cader

She can effortlessly compete in any beauty contest although she is an able professional, being the Marketing Communications Director of Hilton Hotel.

"When I look back I realise my life was quite different from the life of today's young people. We had no TV and other diversions, so we fell back on the family. We had a large family then, an assortment of aunts and uncles all living happily together. I still long for those days. Ours was a lively home, with comings and goings. I was the youngest and I had two brothers and two sisters."

She recalls her school days at Bishop's College with a lot of mirth. "We once rubbed glue on the keyboard of the piano. The famous Spencer Shepherd was our singing teacher and when she struck the notes her fingers got well and truly stuck.

"The students were amused but not Miss. Shepherd. The whole class was forced to confess and we were detained after school," she said adding that her school years of friendship and fellowship were the best period of her life.

After leaving school Yasmin became a home body with a yen for cooking. "I used to make an assortment of shorteats among other goodies and my forte believe it or not was buriyani!"

Yasmin said her parents never approved of her moving around with the opposite sex. "I did not mind at all, since I was attracted to my cousin Farouk whom I married later. But once I was caught talking to him on the phone and spanked soundly by my father," she said.

Her first job was as the first woman Guest Relations Officer at the Intercontinental Hotel, 20 years ago. "I had no experience at all, but I managed to grow into my job. I loved my job because it involved working with people."

She moved over to the Hilton about ten years ago.

Yasmin is divorced and has a grown-up daughter studying in the United States. " I haven't still met another man I would like to marry. Of course he has to be a Muslim."

Summing up her memories of 20 years in the hotel industry, Yasmin says, "It is enjoyable but one must be ready to work long hours, if one wants to do a fulfilling job.

"I must pay tribute to the late Gamini Fernando - who was the General Manager when I started working here. In cooking parlance, I would say he literally boiled, grilled and cooked me."

If the dogs cannot get the foxes…Thoughts from London

The American humor ist S.J. Perelman once wrote an entertaining piece called "Crazy like a fox" which became the title for a book of his essays. Had foxes been able to articulate their thoughts on the subject, you can safely lay a wager with the closest match-fixing bookie, that nobody would have cared to ask the harried and harrassed animal what they felt about the description.

Perhaps they would have come with a much more apt and appropriate description of man which would not have done anything to improve the reputation of homo sapiens, already sullied by man's inhumanity to man.

If man can so easily maim and kill fellow human beings with impunity, very often in pursuit of a high moral or ethical cause we are told, why should they worry about some foxes which are a damned nuisance anyway and of no real use to man except as a quarry to be hunted down.

Who, after all, will miss a fox or two except perhaps the foxes themselves. Foxes are only animals. In the terminology of the CIA they should be "terminated with extreme prejudice". Which, in the argot of the modern hitman, is the same thing as being "wasted". That in simple, every day English means being killed.

Here in the UK this cuddly brown little thing that suddenly turns up in your garden or scurries across the road, has entered the political debate. The little beast has become a big political question.

Last Monday an estimated 2000 demonstrators turned up in London, stopping traffic in Parliament Square and staged a sit-down protest outside the Millbank headquarters of the ruling Labour Party. As though this was not quite a show in itself, some of them began blowing their hunting horns causing quite a ho ha or ha ho, depending on your point of view.

Now I can quite understand folk from the rural backwoods turning up with their hunting horns and blowing them near parliament. Had they been trying to hunt down their local MP, they would have been greeted with rounds of applause by the city folk who are also trying to locate their MPs to relate a litany of grievances.

But this is the trouble with politicians as readers would have noticed over the years. One year they are running for office and the next year they are running for cover. All their election promises have been left unfulfilled behind them as they try to hide from their electors.

But this was no search for some parliamentarians who had suddenly disappeared into the bush at the first sight of their constituents. This was a real protest against attempts by the Labour Party government to ban totally or partially fox hunting in parts of rural England. And in case Labour's official machine at its Millbank headquarters thought that this was another demonstration of mid-summer madness, the protestors produced an effigy of Prime Minister Tony Blair, though it was not dressed in Mr Blair's nicely tailored suits but in the hunting attire of a country squire with a horn in his hands.

If Britain had been blessed with a Competent Authority empowered to censor its media we would probably have had a headless effigy or the head of Conservative Party leader William Hague replacing that of Tony Blair. But unfortunately Britain does not have such an incompetent or humourless person in the ranks of officialdom and so there was the Blair effigy for everybody to see in person or adorning the front or inside pages of the newspapers, depending on the political pigmentation of the media.

When the Labour Party under Tony Blair came to power three years ago it intended to ban fox hunting because it is such a cruel sport. Letting a pack of dogs chase a fox and hunt it down while rich asses on horses ride after might be a delectable pastime permissible in mediaeval times. But to permit such a disgraceful spectacle in the modern day is a reflection on the decadence of the society that still allows it.

Had the Blair government decided to circumscribe this so-called sport shortly after it assumed office, it might have got away with it, the opposition being in tatters and the Tory-dominated House of Lords lying low.

Labour is now trying to pick up the subject when its own fortunes are fading and Tony Blair himself is losing his personal popularity. A few days ago Mr Blair was given the real treatment by the old ladies of the Women's Institute when he addressed them in what the media called an utter patronising manner. Some of the audience slow hand-clapped the Prime Minister as though former England batsman Geoff Boycott was at the wicket.

Now the Labour Government wants to bring a bill before the Commons that would place restrictions on, if not ban, fox hunting. The problem however is that the bill is likely to run into trouble in the upper house where reside some of the so-called nobility with thousands of acres of land and nothing to do in the way of intellectual pursuits except chase after innocent foxes with dogs baying at their feet.

At least it might be said for their dogs that they are better than their masters. This was what they are trained to do and so they do it. But the good Lords, most of them the tattered remnants of a tottering aristocracy, apart from trying to catch a fox cannot even run 100 metres without a dozen retainers accompanying them to provide succour.

If the dogs cannot get the foxes, the gallant lords and their country squires will shoot them and triumphantly return to their lordly manors with their day's trophies proudly displayed. Such is the civilised society in which we live, a society that condescendingly dismisses traditional habits in Africa and Asia as those of heathens.

If the ancient peoples hunted animals it was not for 'sport' but to survive. The aristocrats of Britain continue to hunt foxes because the old empire has died and there are no more colonial subjects to shoot down, only poor foxes.

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