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5th April 1998

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Pre- Millennial blues

Our Man in London

I think I'm feeling ill. It's nothing physical or psychosomatic, it is a condition that trip-hop artist Tricky pithily defined as PMT - not the kind suffered by women once a month, but the kind that comes around once a thousand years. In short, I've developed a bad case of Pre-Millennial Tension. The French, with their penchant for elegant phrases call it the 'fin-de-siecle' syndrome. (Roughly translates as 'end-of-century') It refers to that uneasy feeling that humanity gets once a century, when we stand on the brink of a new era, a new set of worries and woes, of aspirations and inspirations.

The symptoms are a general feeling that there is no fixed direction for the human race, that we have all become lemmings running toward the same cliff. (Of course, it was recently scientifically proven that lemmings don't actually blindly throw themselves off cliffs, but until someone comes up with a better metaphor, I'll just claim poetic licence, (thank you very much). It's bad enough once a century, but when you multiply that tenfold and throw in a healthy dose of predictions and premonitions about the end of the world after two centuries of riotious and licentious sinning from human beings, then you have something altogether bigger and more worrisome.

There's been a spate of television programmes delving into the art of prophesying - quoting the Bible for instance, which claims that the end of humanity is nigh when the number of natural disasters increase, when war and the threat of war infects our consciousness, and the phrase 'going to hell in a hand basket' begins to be bandied about with increasing abandon. OK, maybe that last one isn't a direct quotation, chapter an d verse, from Revelations, but you get my drift. Add to that, the words of my favourite doomsayer, Nostradamus and you have a recipe for Armageddon. For instance, did you know that he predicted three great Anti-Christ who would stalk the Earth ? He got Napoleon and Hitler dead right, and the third one he predicts will 'rise from the East and his name shall be MABUS'. Write the words MABUS on a piece of paper, hold them up to the mirror and what do you get ? Kofi Annan, please give me a call. Add to that, we have the problem of that asteroid that's due to crashing to the Earth in 2028 and you can see why I'm not really thinking too hard about collecting my pension from The Sunday Times.

But I'm not just being swamped by the bad news, I've had it up to here with the good. Millennium Fever has hit Britain and the hot question at dinner parties these days is 'Where are you planning on spending the Millennium ?' We're being bombarded with options from hiring Concorde and following New Year's Day around the world (imagine that jetlag) to spending it on that Polynesian island that's the first to encounter the New Millennium. An uncle of mine suggests renting a yacht and hanging out on the Great Barrier Reef. I'll consider that option, but I'd prefer slightly more stimulating intellectual conversation partners than Great White Sharks and plankton.

My own secret plan is to find out where Prince (none of that Artist Formerly Known as blocks) is playing that evening, and tag along just to see him perform one song. That's right, '1999,' the one that goes 'Two Thousand Zero Zero, Party over, we're out at time/So tonight we're going to party like it's Nineteen Ninety Nine.' After that night out, I think I'll just lie down with a cold towel on my head. Please leave a message after the tone and I'll get back to you. If I don't hear those Judgement Day horns first.......

If I were a cricketer

I'd wink at the umpire. Always best to have the guy on your side.

To add to all the other madness we have in this country, Sri Lankans are cricket mad. A cricket match can single-handedly bring the entire country screeching to a halt - a feat that even bombs find difficult to manage these days.

Cricket seems to have become more than just a game. It has become a question of national pride. Which I think is absolutely silly - how can the national pride of an entire country rest in the hands of eleven men of less-than-average height?

It must be absolutely awful being a cricketer. The hero-worship and stuff must be kinda cool, but the pressure and expectation must really get on their nerves. Every Tom, Richard and Harry has an opinion about the game and what everyone is doing wrong. But none of them really have any better solutions, and so they can't afford to talk. I can't afford not to talk, so I've come up with a list of ...

The top ten things I'd do if I was a Cricketer;

I'd use a bigger bat. Duh! Game of skill my foot! Sure it's gonna be hard to hit the ball as long as you've got a small bat. Try getting a ball past my 5'x 5' bat. I wonder why no one's thought about this before?

I'd do my best to steal runs. As the bowler is running up, I would suddenly let my jaw drop in surprise, point at his fly, and burst out laughing. As he quickly turns away to zip it back up, I'd steal a run.

I'd wear my underwear on the outside of my trousers. If you're a batsman it's really important to walk out onto the field with a real "don't mess with me" attitude. But this message doesn't always get to the opposition, because sometimes the batsmen wear helmets which cover their faces, and other times the fielders are too far away to notice. So the most effective way to send out the message that you're a tough-guy, is to wear your underwear over your pants - well, it worked for Superman.

I'd find better motivation for hitting sixes. I'd pick out the most beautiful girl high up in the stands, and aim at the guy sitting next to her holding her hand.

I'd sulk. If the bowler is bowling too fast, or if I'm feeling kinda bored, I'd just sit down in the middle of the pitch and sulk.

I'd scratch myself openly. Since cricket is a "gentleman's game" it has always looked down upon uncultured ways of doing things - even very essential things like scratching. So we often see players employing very surreptitious methods to deal with persistent itches. Bowlers for instance use the ball to deal with itches. There's no way in the world any ball needs to be shined that much. And I'm pretty sure that's how they decide bowling changes too. If someone suddenly develops an itch during the match he rushes up to the captain and asks for a bowl. But what do you do if you're like me and can't bowl too well? I'm not gonna suffer like a gentleman. I'm gonna scratch myself whenever I need to.

I'd modify my victory gesture. When batsmen get their 100's or their 50's they usually celebrate by raising their bats up in the air. I think this is so bogus, everyone knows that he must be absolutely ecstatic and dying to rub it in the face of the opposition. So for my victory gesture I'm gonna hold the bat from the bottom of the handle, look at the bowler, and make a quick, upward thrusting gesture to him with it.

I'd start a fan club for myself. Membership fee would be a very reasonable Rs.1000. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to rob my poor unsuspecting fans who worship the ground I walk on. But if they're stupid enough to think that I'm some sort of a God just because I play Cricket well, you can't blame me for trying to make a few bucks off it. Would you rather have me plugging soap or something on TV?

I'd wear shorts and a skinny. It must be so uncomfortable wearing all that protective equipment as well as loads of cumbersome clothing. It'll be like a mundo fashion statement dudes!

Moral values?

My darling daughter

Can you believe it, yesterday a friend of mine came in saying that there was a new disco or whatever you call it where strip- tease shows were being held. Well, I was aghast. Here in a country where we talk so much of protecting morality! My friend smile at my simplicity and said "These things are the fashion now, like adult only movies which appear to be catering more for the young than the adults. We are so modern, that things that would have shocked our parents are discussed and displayed with ease. Look at the TV shows that even young children watch, the pictures are so suggestive and the songs disgustingly specific."

She was right, I thought, for often when watching TV with my young friends across the road, I myself feel embarrassed, and the little ones, what confused ideas they get. I sometimes think that many of those programs should be aired at a time when adults could view them, not a time when the family is sitting down for a meal or spending the early hours of the evening together. But I suppose such niceties will not bother the producers whose main idea would be the income they could get.

Daughter I wonder, can we stem this flow of 'modernity' which seems to be infiltrating every aspect of our lives, providing the excuse to modes of dress and behaviour, contrary to our traditional customs and way of behaviour. Now don't think I am old fashioned, but if we destroy the spiritual and moral values and regard our bodies as just commodities to give and get pleasure, then surely daughter are we not destroying the dignity inherent in us. I wish daughter you and those of you who are young will not rush to emulate ideas that in the garb of modernity make us lose the respect we have for our ownselves. Our bodies are precious daughter not objects to be cheapened in public. Modesty in dress and behaviour show the respect you have for yourself .


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