I wonder if you had noticed that there is something called “Virtual Reality”. Basically, youngsters in three-quarter length trousers and a couple of O Levels between three of them, spend a lot of money on electronic devices that translocate them to another world. They then conduct wars in Space against Aliens! In my younger days [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Virtual unreality

Where my normally unreal world becomes more unreal and totally unhinged!

I wonder if you had noticed that there is something called “Virtual Reality”.

Basically, youngsters in three-quarter length trousers and a couple of O Levels between three of them, spend a lot of money on electronic devices that translocate them to another world. They then conduct wars in Space against Aliens!

In my younger days it was called escapism!

We would watch a movie, in a cinema; there being no DVDs in those days, and re-enact the gunfights of the aforementioned movies using whittled sticks as guns.

illustration by N. Senthilkumaran

The lines between Reality, Virtual Reality and Unreality are very thin.

It was in Shinjuku, Japan on April 16, 2014 when inspiration struck. I was high on Sake just like the locals there were and decided to go into Virtual Unreality. I decided that I was somewhere else. I think the Sake that I had drunk had a lot to do with this escapade.
It is easy to fool all the people all the time with a computer. Most youngsters who proclaim to be computer literate only know how to press buttons fast and generally have no idea of what they are doing. You can write any old rubbish, for instance on Facebook, and the whole gullible electronic world will believe you. I did exactly that!

I also took the precaution of using a proxy server to hide my location.

The reaction was almost immediate considering that I was somewhere in..er Japan..or ..er…Armenia or even in Azerbaijan. Most people have no knowledge of Geography. Armenia could be next to Burkina Faso and Georgia could be in the USA.

“Oh Gyan! What are you doing In Armeniastan?” they asked me when I had relocated virtually to Yerevan, Armenia
“Hush Darlings! I am on undercover work” I said.

“Do take care of yourself” advised the lovely Emma and from my lovely but in-your-face-niece Samanmalee (“Sam”) came the usual pithy observation: “Where ever you are Uncle, you are crazy!” which was true!

Miss Moneypenny

The nicest correspondence was between me and “Miss Moneypenny”, my former secretary in GB. She still looks after me even from a distance!

“Oh Gyan! Do take care of yourself! What are you doing in Armen..Armeniastan?”

“I do some hush-hush work for the Sri Lankan government. Because of my British passport I am accepted in other countries more than other Sri Lankans. I should be in London in December, Darling. Will meet you in Dorchester Hotel. I mean The Dorchester Hotel!”
“Oh, how romantic, Gyan! Undercover work?”

“It is not exactly James Bond stuff Darling but it is good fun. Cocktail parties are the best! I don’t carry a gun!”
So here I was or there I was. Even fooling Miss Moneypenny!

I suppose not many people know what an IP address is and how to avoid being identified when using a computer. All you need is a proxy server.

Google Yerevan

Now firmly established virtually in Yerevan, Armenia I decided that I had to post some pictures of Yerevan on Facebook for authenticity. This is easy! You just do a Google picture search and select a plausible picture. I selected one of Yerevan with Mount Ararat in the background, a picture that I could have easily taken from the 25th floor of the hotel that I was staying in, or rather the hotel I was not staying in. That reminded me that I needed a suitable hotel to virtually stay in. I just went into TripAdvisor and chose the Hrazdan Hotel, Dzorapi Street 72, 0015 Yerevan. I then posted a pic of the hotel copied from TripAdvisor.

Most of my associates know me to be a railway enthusiast so a picture of Yerevan Railway Station was mandatory. Again, this was easily achieved thanks to Google.

My only problem now was that Armenia is a boringly nice country with no opportunity to get involved in gunfights or even a simple pub brawl. This did not suit my new image as an International Man of Mystery. Audience attention was lagging on Facebook. I was too far away from the Taliban to fight them single-handedly. I had to do something drastic.

There was only one thing to do: To relocate to Azerbaijan!

Vodka and caviar

Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan is my type of city. The taxi driver from the airport showed me most of the city with the taxi meter on. I had no choice. He had a gun. On my first night I joined up with British expat oilmen and we joined up with some Russians. We had Vodka with Caspian Sea caviar! We then had a friendly bar fight. This was my kind of place.

Then there was “Nagorno-Karabakh an unrecognised republic in the Caucasus, officially part of Azerbaijan, but under Armenian control. It can only be accessed through Armenia.”; which does add to the excitement and the intrigue.

My gullible audience on Facebook were in awe. “Good Lord Gyan! Get to a safe place!” they admonished.

“It was a friendly gunfight and I only got a flesh wound” I said modestly and heroically.

“Dad! Get back home!”, came the terse message from my son in GB. A man of action like me or a Mummy’s Boy like me, he first called his Mum, my ex-wife. They then got the British FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) involved and the British Embassy in Khagani Street, Baku, Azerbaijan swung reluctantly into action. For good measure Mum and Son called the Sri Lankan authorities as well, since I do have a Sri Lankan passport as a back-up.

Things were now happening……on Facebook! My audience were on the edge of their seats.

I then decided to get out of Azerbaijan. Fortunately for me Azerbaijan shares a 15Km border with Turkey and so I could avoid Iran. About the time that the FCO were making inquiries about me in Baku, I was in Van (in Van, which is a town and not in a van!) in Eastern Turkey. Ha! Ha! Ha! Then there was Diyarbakir. I hitch-hiked most of the way across the Steppes.

My Facebook audience gasped.

From where ever I was now it was a simple matter of a few computer keystrokes to get into Ankara, from where I flew into Madrid and then onto my usual virtual hideout of La Paz, Bolivia. It took me 72 hours mas o menos. It took a lot of keystrokes!

La Paz

I checked into the Hotel Rosario in Avenida Illampu (close to the “Witches’ Market”) and Ximena, the lovely dark haired receptionista, recognised me, kissed me and greeted me warmly: “Bienvenido, Senor Gyan!”

There were two unsavoury Bandidos lurking in the hotel lobby. They were smirking and leering at the lovely Ximena and me. So I shot them!

My Facebook friends were not that gullible. I think I just lost a lot of friends.

I checked the time. It was near midnight in Shinjuku, Japan. It was time to get another Sake. A real one.

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