My dear Uncle Sam, What a pleasant surprise it was to receive your letter this week after a gap of about four months when you wrote me last and advised me in  your strict usual tones not to travel about and stay put at home for safety’s sake soon after the Easter tragedy. Rest assured, [...]


Dear Uncle Sam: Take good care there


My dear Uncle Sam,

What a pleasant surprise it was to receive your letter this week after a gap of about four months when you wrote me last and advised me in  your strict usual tones not to travel about and stay put at home for safety’s sake soon after the Easter tragedy. Rest assured, I followed your stricture to the letter and hardly ventured out but whenever I did dare to brave the risk to buy the bare necessities at the nearest food store, never did I leave the home door without the words of your caution  ringing loud in my ears. I was worried about you too and wondering why no missive from you but I guessed you were busy attending to the hectic work you have to do in the States to keep, as you have often stated, the ’world on tiptoe and the meter ticking’.

THE STATE OF THE NATION: Political leaders fattened day by day by the sweat and toil of its peasants

Don’t worry, the children are fine and doing well, though, like Oliver Twist, always asking for more — now they want me to double their pocket money, my fault, I guess, for spoiling them from the start — and though there are some brushes with hubby, part and parcel of domestic bliss I suppose, the saving grace to return quiet and calm to the home turf, is his regular foreign trips abroad. Presently he has taken off to Cambodia and thus it’s why in my solitude, freed at last from marital pressure, I thought I will pen this missive to you.

In the course of the other matters you have mentioned as to our general finances, your query as to the condition of our sofa you supplied us from the States twelve years ago and whether we needed a new one, I have to say this. First, how thoughtful of you to remember it after all these years and your readiness to supply a new one. What generosity. May you be blessed.

But my dear Uncle Sam, I must decline for I can just guess that times must be hard for you too at an hour when the world is facing the onset of Hard Times. I say thanks  with all my heart and still, and even my kids to whom I mentioned your offer to provide us with a brand new one,  share the same sentiment and  thus I must say thanks but no thanks.

The sofa is good as it stands and if the day ever dawns when the dog, who often jumps on it and sometimes roughs it up, should make a complete mess of it, perhaps that day I will seek your favour. But not to worry now. We can get a good new sofa from the local furniture guys at a cheap price – ah I can imagine what you uncle are whispering under your breath now and condemning my impudence in refusing your kind offer,  right now, good things, no cheap and cheap things no good, typical of you, but let me say, rich things come at a price and makes one wonder, whether one can afford to pay for it, even when offered free, for gratitude’s debt is not one that  easily be satisfied. Beside there are scores more of Indian and Chinese sofas in the market. Costing more or less than the American product. But for the moment I thought it best to wait and see.

Please do not misunderstand me and take it amiss. For I do not know what hubby will say when he return from Cambodia. He might say yes, but then again he might say no. You know him, no? Between you and me, confidentially  speaking, real katussa, no? Sometimes, no not sometimes but increasingly so, I think I should never have heeded Chandhi akka’s command and married him. But then it was all the pressure that was brought upon me. That I would remain a spinster all my life if I refused it – as you know it was a shotgun wedding – and that this marriage proposal would change my fortunes and give me the run as mistress of the household. And the rest of the relatives and friends put the pressure on me to go forth, tie the knot and jump into bed with him. What to do? Life No?

By the way how is Uncle Abaya doing? I heard the shocking news that he has filed papers to divorce Aunty Libby. Is it true? I felt so sad when I heard it.  I still can’t believe it. I thought he was so happy with her and to part from her now after some twenty years of marriage must be heartbreaking for them both.

I only hope he has not been afflicted with the male menopause syndrome, or the guilt complex as many physiatrists label it,  many Lankans who fled the country in their prime  to make their future abroad suffer from when they hit  the soul searching seventies and suddenly become very nostalgic of their motherland and express  patriotic  longings to return home and serve her faithfully when their time has long passed and their services are no longer required. Their wish is to die on the soil that gave them birth and be buried beneath its sod. It’s almost as if they think Lanka is not a retirement paradise but a cemetery. In fact, worried as I was, I phoned Uncle Percy and asked him what the prob was. He was surprisingly mum and told me to be patient and that he will let me know the real reason for Uncle Abaya’s return and his intention to resettle here. He said he will let me know this Sunday afternoon.

So how’s the political scene over there? We see Trump being blasted every night on CNN even as we see Ranil blasted every night on TV numero uno. At least you must be thankful that you know, one and a half years in advance, who will be the Republican contestant and who the democrats have got lined up as their potential nominees. Here, of course, no such luck. We have to wait until the last moment till a small bunch decided and then demand us to vote for their nominee. That is the ambit of our freedom of choice in choosing our masters who come at election time saying they will be our servants.

That’s another reason why I – and for the life of me fail to fathom – cannot  understand Uncle Abaya decision to leave America and the freedom he enjoyed there with Aunty Libby  when most of us here – call us traitors if you must – wish they could take the first fast boat to the States and be welcomed by the Statue of Liberty and to the land of freedom and opportunity.

Alas, all of us are not that lucky to change citizenship at the drop of a hat and to pick it up at our whim and fancy  but are stuck with fate’s will and must make do with our lot. Anyway, terrible as it must be for him, after having first cut the umbilical cord from his motherland for Aunty Libby’s love and marriage, to now break the legal chains that tie him to that foreign field, I hope Uncle Abaya will find the summer he seeks here in his winter .

Anyway, on the political scene here, sorry to say uncle for I know you’re much interested in it even from afar and await even a tidbit of info, I have nothing  much to add except to say that at the moment it’s like the weather we are presently experiencing. Windy, rainy and gloomy.

Oh, gosh, I nearly forgot. There’s a little bit of sunshine planned to break out. I saw in the papers yesterday that the Lankan born, Dubai bred, Indian made model and Bollywood starlet, you know the one who runs that fancy appa kade is to arrive here this month to give Lanka’s tourist sector a much needed boost. Good no. As the papers reported, it’s part of bringing a pal home campaign. The report says she will kick start her travel to the island with fifteen of her friends and family to celebrate her birthday. Then she will travel to Trinco and have a barbeque birthday do, complete with a bonfire to set the night alight. She will also, the report says, be coupled with a performance with a saxophonist. And if that was not enough to make the tourists make a dash to Lanka to bask in the sun and sand, she will be spend a day snorkeling at Pigeon Island and then after viewing the fish, make a rush to Minneriya to witness ‘ a gathering’ of elephants. Wow. At a time when some have set their sights on culling the whole herd.

Talk about good luck to have a Lankan born starlet coming here to lift the nation’s spirits. What more could we have prayed for but thank heaven keeping the door ajar to let some Bollywood bimbo slip through.   Like a Lankan born presidential hopeful coming here to lift its hopes to blue yonder,  what more fleeting rainbows can we hope to see light the skies at night?

Yes, cheer to say, we are now in the process of importing from foreign shores foreign citizens Lankan born to give the nation the image boost it needs and the discipline it is said it requires to arrive at and fling open Utopia’s barred gates;  even as we are now in the business of  importing faeces ridden mattresses from Britain to reduce the deficit in the budget and make money out of muck. In fact a foreign friend of mine asked me just the other day how many bottles of perfume she can bring duty free to the country. When I said about two or three the most, she exclaimed,’ is that all but  over a hundred containers of western waste is no problem, is it?’ I had no answer to give her but to only slink in silence to hide my innermost shame.

As least it’s a sign of confidence, a positive signal sent from the world that it believes in us, in our enormous potential to become the world’s wasteland; and must serve to give us an enormous sense of pride when it demonstrates their faith in us in so devout a manner to know when told they hold Lanka possessing, for all her problems, a golden future as the paradisiacal receptacle for the world’s toxic garbage.

Sorry uncle for the prolix, for I have digressed from the main reason I am writing this letter.  I guess I caught the habit from my salon friend Wimal, that loud mouth who I meet regularly at Ramani’s where he comes to get his nails manicured, his toes pedicured and his gotie trimmed and styled.  During the hours he spends there with his face mask, he cannot but help keep his mouth shut but goes on and on like a babbling brook speaking of kings and cabbages in the foulest manner. Sometime one catches viruses even at famed and fancied tonsorial houses from its patron’s enlarged tonsils.

But coming home more to the point, apart from the above blah blah, what really moved me to put quill to paper and post this papyrus was to thank you most sincerely for the immense and concern expressed in your letter.

I thought it very sweet of you to warn me, as you did earlier soon after the Easter carnage, not to venture out in reckless disregard to the dangers that await on the streets, in hotels and even in places of worship and prayer. As you have stated in your letter you were doing it in view of the latest travel advisory issued by the United States Government last week.

To quote verbatim, “The United States Embassy in Colombo reiterating the travel advisory issued on Sri Lanka requests US citizens in Sri Lanka to be more vigilant of probable terror attacks that may occur within the country. The security alert was issued by the embassy in acknowledgment of the upcoming holidays. The United States has issued a Level 2 Travel Advisory (Exercise Increased Caution) on Sri Lanka in line with the April 21 Easter Sunday terror attacks. The Embassy points out that terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets, shopping malls, government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, hospitals, and other public areas.”

I also appreciate the fact that you have even gone to the extent to specify where I should not go, and to follow the instructions given by the US Embassy here which though it is meant to applet to visiting  US nationals and expats, I take it that it also applies to me, if only to save, though a full-fledged Lankan, I  can, too,  demand the same right to life. The extent of your concern was overwhelming when you I found you had taken to jot down     the do’s and don’ts and I will state that henceforth, I shall try my best to follow your advice and the travel advisory your government released last week.

  •  Be aware of my surroundings when travelling to tourist locations and crowded public venues.
  •  Follow the instructions of the local authorities.
  •  Monitor local media for breaking events and adjust my plans based on new information.
  •  Enroll in the Smart Traveller Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate me in an emergency.
  •  Follow the Department of the United State on Facebook and Twitter.

Review the Crime and Safety Report for Sri Lanka.

  •  And always have a contingency plan for emergency situations.

It gave me great comfort my dear Uncle that you have taken the trouble and effort to warn me of the immense risk I face living here; and even as I wipe the streaming tear in gratitude and appreciation of the concern expressed in so specific detail, there is something in return I must tell you. Not only out of love but out of duty. And out of concern for your own safety in the US.

Let me also advice you to please

  • Be aware of your surroundings when travelling to any location and to avoid crowded places, bars, rock cafes, shopping malls, schools.
  • Follow the instructions of the local authorities.
  • Monitor local media for breaking events and adjust your plans based on new information.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveller Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of the United State on Facebook and Twitter.

Review the Crime and Safety Report for Sri Lanka.

  • Not to forget, of course, to always have a contingency plan for emergency situations.

Please forgive me if I seem presumptuous or precocious — as you have always said I was — to give you some advice but I am only doing so out of love and concern for you, prompted as I am by the breaking news of the Ohio killing spree followed by the Texan massacre of the innocents that happened in the States only a few days ago.  I was horrified to learn that two mass shootings in the United States have left 29 people dead within 24 hours, the latest such attacks in a nation torn over how to tackle gun violence. How a gunman armed with an assault rifle killed 20 people on Saturday when he opened fire on shoppers at a packed Walmart store in El Paso, Texas. More than two dozen were injured in the attack. Less than 13 hours later, a lone shooter killed nine people in Dayton, Ohio on Sunday before being shot dead by responding police officers. And all for what, I wondered.  At least here they do it in the name of God or in the name of their race.

Not to mention the many massacres of innocent schoolchildren by mad men with easy access  to guns in a nation that is still the lawless wild west where power came through the barrel of the gun and what was true of its citizens became true of its government on a global level.

Forgive my impudence or my ignorance when I say this that I sometimes wonder whether it is safer to be in a land affected by terrorism motivated of some political ideology motivated for  a specific reason and targeted at some bulls eye to achieve some specific goal than to live in a land where pathological killers armed with machine guns bought freely at  some corner store go on killing sprees and mow down  hundreds for no cause at all but to merely get a kick.

Sometimes I have often wondered whether you, despite the travel advisories your government issues regularly, would be safer here than in the streets of the States where terror ever lurks round the corner. And perhaps you should pass the message to   your neighbours and friends.

Thanks for the advice, my dear uncle, only hope you will also take mine and be careful next time you leave your front door. Death is death whether it comes from a terrorist’s bullet or a maniac’s gun. Now that I have dared in my impertinence to forewarn you, if you have a gun, never leave home without it. Nothing like being fore armed.

Take care when there and may the Gods bless you and may your faith in the divine be the bulletproof vest you must bear to wear on the mean streets  of a country which like its economy also ranks high and takes top billing when it comes to be listed as one of the world’s worst  killing fields.

With love and best wishes

Your loving niece


First shot failed Ranjan’s second shot at the A’ levelsBody builder Ranjan Ramanayake, 56,  after pumping iron for the last many years of his life is now in the process of pumping brain into his brawn as he showed by sitting for the Advance Level examination this week to dare prove to the world that if he had missed the bus the first time round he had the spirit to give it another shot, even 38 years later.

MIND OVER MATTER: One Shot film star turned politico tries another shot to gain an AL qualification

Film star of the movie One shot and a host others, now turned politician and now wannabe scholar must be given hundred out of hundred for admitting to the public his dismal school record. Ah, but all must be forgiven. For that were in his salad days when he was green in judgment and perhaps not so cold but more hot in blood.

How many are in Parliament who do not possess even their O’levels? How many will admit it, even as they do not reveal their assets but gaudily flaunts it in the public air in cars? And how many will have the intelligence to realise that learning is a lifelong thing; and that the more one grows old the more one comes to know how little one knows? And how many of them will subject themselves to undergo the discipline of study even at this late stage in a bid to improve their meager store of knowledge? If only they strived to do so in the self same manner the work underhand to improve the store of their ill gotten gains, the nation will be in a much better state.

All the best Ranjan and may you pass with flying colours.

Only one word of caution.

In the words of the poet Alexander Pope, remember:

A little learning is a dangerous thing;

drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:

there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,

and drinking largely sobers us again.

Best of luck at the exams. And best of luck at the courts too.

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