Of baking and soaking
By Rajpal Abeynayake
When it's raining cats and dogs in Colombo, one needs imagination to think of a drought. But weeks ago Colombo was sizzling with the news that Anuradhapura was suffering from a drought. Everyone went around teary eyed, eyelids drooping with sympathy for the unfortunates.

Then the rains came. Not in Anuradhapura but in Colombo. Anuradhapura may have got a little. But certainly with drains getting clogged in Colombo, this was not time for any thoughts of a baked Ruwanweliseya..

But we are not sure that the drought victims have yet been able to find enough water or whether they have been able to get their lives back together.

So we went round asking various NGOs whether they would be following up on the drought story. And some unnamed news organisations too. Take NGO X for example. We had a rough time locating its Chief Executive Officer. Finally we found him with his air conditioner off, and staring at a picture of a sunny beach.

"Excuse me," we said " would you not want to do a follow up about the drought victims of Anuradhapura?''. "But you have a funny sense of vicitimhood'', he said chuckling. "My friend look out of the window -- very soon we will be needing flood relief in Colombo.''

"But… but…'' we said. "just weeks ago there was a massive drought relief effort in Anuradhapura - -and we only want to know what the follow up is?''

The Chief Executive offered us a beer, saying "it will help calm frayed nerves.'' We politely declined, upon which he called for steaming coffee that on second thought, he said, was the best beverage considering the weather.

"All we want to know'', we said sipping some excellent coffee "is whether you have been monitoring the conditions of the drought victims of a month back.'' The CEO rang his bell. He whispered something to an aide, and said "they are doing well -- but I have asked Mr. Perera here to get more information on them tomorrow.''

He asked me whether I would like to have some beer on top of my coffee but I politely declined. Then we left and arrived at the television news room of the Z channel. The Z news Editor was all agog saying the latest is that certain school principals in Colombo are declaring excessive rain holidays. "We have to explore their dilemma too -- on the one hand they will be blamed for not covering the syllabus, but on the other it will be totally unfair by the children if he expects them to keep abreast of their work when there are torrents of rain disturbing their normal lives.''

Then he nudged one of us and said "ha! ha! which of us didn't enjoy a rain holiday?'' and asked the office help to arrange for some tea."We have come,'' we persisted 'to see whether there is any follow up on the drought victims in Anudradhapura.''

"What drought I say - - rain holiday,'' he said and chuckled. He said we really do not understand television. "We run a tight ship here,'' he said “you do not know how incredibly high the story turnover is.” "The pressure is so enormous" he said ' that I'm eternally suffering from gastritis.''

But we asked whether that means that the drought victims in Anuradhapura are now doing perfectly well? He said the news cycle is over. It means the drought victims must be happy, he said. “Until the next drought comes along at least.”

"Is that the next drought or the next news cycle?'' I wagered."Whichever comes first'' he said distractedly. He said there is nothing to worry anyway. A report is being done on the excellent media coverage of the drought.

"But its the follow up…'' we ventured nervously, but as our voices trailed off, he said he is urgently needed for a spot on Things to do During Rain Holidays. "Ta'' he said. We said 'ta ta', still holding on tight to our umbrellas.

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