So in my second year of university we’re studying Russian literature – Dostoyevsky, Turgenev and the likes (nothing short of amazing), and a lot of European poetry – 16th century poetry, from the era of ye ol Will S. (no, not Smith).

You know, here I was, thinking all that chivalry and those dramatic declarations of undying love you read in English poetry exists only in pure fiction, in Shakespearean plays — but apparently, in the Elizabethan Court, men in court would literally, according to historical records, write sonnets for the women they were after in that exact fashion. It was the real thing. Of course the women they wrote for were usually of a higher rank, so critics say most of these lovelorn sonneteers were just kissing ass to get extra privileges and money from them in Court. Nevertheless! You should read some of the stuff they’ve written for these women, pretty damn convincing.

In the Petrarchan love sonnet convention of the Court — the woman to whom the sonnet is being written is talked about by the poet as someone who is superior to him, morally, spiritually, intellectually, whose love he is unworthy of, and the woman typically never responds to his advances, ’cause she’s all like, whadeva I’m 2cool4u. The sonnets involve his musings about the woman’s qualities, without any base sexual references, focusing more on her ways and the spiritual high he feels. There’s a lot of wit involved, not just ‘omgz i luv u bby’ so that’s refreshing to read. But basically the guy is pining like an emo and keeps fluctuating between the extreme ups and downs of being in love. It’s all very Beverly Hills 90210. Someone in class piped up during this lesson and declared this man a dumbass, while I asked the lecturer if they smoked recreational drugs in Court back then.

But deep down I think it’s kind of adorable – a bit sad, but adorable – the whole devotional, lovelorn man thing. There is something commendable about a man who can completely disregard his male ego and go out on a limb for someone like that, especially with no expectations of getting laid. Do those types exist anymore? It’s some form of chivalry I think. Someone said chivalry is dead, ever since the feminist movement came along. Why is that? Women have equal rights, therefore opening the door for her or pulling the chair out for her is unnecessary? I still think chivalry in its minor forms shows consideration, is very cute and will definitely earn you brownie points with your ladyfriend.

People of 16th century Europe, however, were expected to behave in a certain way, so there’s an element of being forced. Men were expected to be macho, brave, well versed in several languages and literary skills, be master horsemen and swordsmen and so on, and women were expected to be ‘pure’, chaste, soft-spoken and despite all this superior-woman stuff in sonnets – submissive to the men in their families. Clear gender roles were expected in the Court and those who failed to fit them were shunned as madmen or whores. So maybe bygones are bygones for a reason.

Still, who writes sonnets for women anymore? Who expresses feelings through wit and impressive literary skills? I hang out with some guy friends today and for sure they’re going to be talking about some girl in terms of DAT ASS! and Damn she fiiiine. And it’s all so base and sexual. On the other hand, some girls I know go DAT ASS! and Damn he fiiine too. Is romanticism a primitive concept? You hear some of it on the radio, though, and in some stupid romcoms – both categories of which are fictitious again and consequently incredible, pretentious and kinda annoying. Do Shakespearean lovers fit into today’s world anymore? Perhaps the problem is that the educated and original romantic is extinct, it’s only the nauseating clichés that are left – the ones who get flowers and candy because they saw it in a movie, or Bruno Mars, who wants to catch a grenade for me. He just makes me want to throw a grenade at him and see if he’s bluffing.

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I talked to my mum a month ago about the time I almost lost my leg and realized that surprisingly, I hadn’t talked to her about it before! She narrated to me the whole story and I thought it was a cool one to share around the water-cooler. And it was pretty unnerving to come face to face with the fact that I was extremely close to being in a wheelchair forever — makes you really reassess your life.

So once upon a time, I was 3 years old. My aunt was lightly holding my pudgy little hand in hers and we, and the rest of my cousins and such, were strolling down the lane towards my house. I remember the day in vivid clarity even though it was nineteen years ago. Sunny, warm, trees, family walking beside me, I was wearing a frock.

Suddenly my brother and cousin, both older than me, decided to run across the road. They were laughing and flailing, it looked like so much fun. According to my aunty, I looked up at her at this point and said rhetorically ‘Do you know how old I am?’ and she indulged me and asked me how old, and I said ‘Threeeee!’ with a wide grin that revealed my missing front tooth. Then I let go of her hand and ran across the road too for the fun of it, flailing like a little fool.

A motorbike was speeding down the lane at the time and it was probably my fault of way, but anyway it hit me, and I ricocheted off it and fell into a wide drain on the side of the road. I remember looking up from inside the drain and everything going black.

Obviously there was total bedlam. The drain is the one right next to the gate of my house. The man on the motorbike had fled the scene. Lots of screaming and panicking and I was carried into the house; there wasn’t much blood, but my mother completely broke down – when she looked at my right leg and realized it seemed to be hanging loose. It was broken at the thigh. Dad was at work and didn’t know yet. So she pulled herself together and with my aunts and uncles I was transported to the hospital.

While I was in surgery, the doctors told my parents that there was a very good chance I would never walk again. The hit-and-run motorbike guy apparently had his guilty conscience get the better of him and visited us at the hospital, and apologized to my dad, but everyone was too distraught to care and just asked him to leave (I wonder where he is right now and if the memory keeps him up some nights). Call it luck or whatever, the surgery was extremely successful and my fracture was made right. My leg was all wrapped up in cast and bandage and hanging from a sling as I lay in a hospital bed for some weeks. I was back to running around in three months. I don’t remember much about the recuperation period — my mum says I was oblivious, and would just sit up in bed and cheerfully sing songs for people who visited.

Hearing the story at this age made me shudder to imagine — wow, a life in a wheelchair. What if the surgeon was sleepy or pissed off that day and didn’t work as hard as he usually does, and as predicted by the odds I woke up from that bed not being able to feel my right leg? I wrote an article for a newspaper once about how our society is not wheelchair-friendly, or friendly towards physical disabilities in general. I mean you get the ramps at the entrance of the mall and at the supermarket – but what about someone who wants to go to the theater for a movie? Or wants to go to the top floor of Queen’s and play foosball? Or get on the bus for that matter? And I’m not even going to start about all the staring and gawking.

How many people in wheelchairs have you seen in restaurants? How many friends in wheelchairs do you have? I for one have seen barely three or four out in public, and when I think about it I’ve personally just seen most cooped up in certain ‘homes’ made for the elderly or the handicapped. This is stupid and backward, I think, and someone needs to put up some sort of program to make our public services and places more accessible and enjoyable for people in wheelchairs too. I mean to think with just a little bit of bad luck in the surgeon’s room, my entire life would have taken a totally irreversibly different course? All that’s left of my accident is a little scar on my right thigh. I look at it and wonder, if it had been on a leg that didn’t work, would I have still hopped on a plane to Delhi to study film and literature? Maybe. I guess we’ll never know.

Is anybody out there?

Posted: August 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

Ever wonder if we’re being watched?
By some superior intelligence?
What if God is just an alien?
And destiny or karma or fate or coincidence or those times you think someone with a twisted sense of humour is controlling your life – are electromagnetic forces emitted by an instrument in the hand of an alien creature whose microscope slide our universe is sitting on?
And then you die and enter an alternate dimension?

Yeah.

Speaking of if anyone is out there, I’ve been considering shutting down my blog for a while now, because well let’s face it, I’ve been extremely lackadaisical about blogging this past year, I barely read other blogs in the Kottusphere, and sometimes I feel like I’m talking to myself because my posts don’t get commented on. But what’s kept it going is the heated insistence of a handful of close friends and mostly my WordPress statistics — which keep telling me at least 120 people still read this blog every day. The top three countries from which my readers hail from are the United States, Sri Lanka and Argentina.

Who ARE you people? o_O

How come you never leave a comment?

It’s so mysterious I tell you. Say hi or something here so I know you’re actually there.

Sigh. Janith, is that just you visiting my blog from 120 different computers? 😛

The sun beat down hard on my brow. 48 hours to go of this hell. I mentally checked my supplies.

Three eggs
Six slices of bread
Some butter
Some frozen packeted stuff
Bottle of chillie paste
An old toffee I found in my wallet whose expiry date I couldn’t find on the cover… do toffees have expiry dates? I’ve never seen an expiry date on a toffee wrapper. Omg toffees are immortal.

But I digress.

My stomach was making sounds. I looked up at my roommate shiftily, but she was engrossed in her laptop and had not heard the guttural roar of my belly. Okay.

I went inside and contemplated whether I should break my fast early. I felt weak. Oh god… the end… it’s near. I can see the light. Grandma is that you?

‘You is funny,’ said the seven year old in broken english at the door of my room, shining a torchlight in my face. It was the landlady’s kid. Not Grandma. I was still alive. I saw a packet of chips on the table. Oh god, chips. Sweet chips. Come here I shall eat you.

NO YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW WHOSE CHIPS THEY ARE. Stop stealing people’s chips, man, get a hold of yourself.

Ah screw it.

I grabbed a chip. The door of the room opened and my roommate stood there looking at my hand in a packet of chips like O__O

‘Oh, crap. Are these yours?’ I said sheepishly. I was about to tell her my hand has a mind of its own, it’s a medical condition, it is spastic and does things, evil things. But I just said ‘hehe’ instead.

HEHE? THE DELIRIUM OF HUNGER. It is messing with your ability to come up with credible and ingenious lies. Oh god this really is the end.

She shrugged and said ‘it’s ok, you can have some.’ I put two chips in my mouth and tried not to look like a ravenous rabid squirrel. ‘I’m fasting and I’m feeling a bit faintish, had to eat something,’ I weakly explained. She smiled and went to her work. She probably thinks I’m a refugee now. A sri lankan refugee who eats other people’s chips.

WHAT HAVE I BECOME?

Now before you judge me this isn’t me whining about Ramadan. This is me whining about the consequences of losing my PIN number. Yes, I am a big panditha idiot who thought I’d never forget the PIN number of my ATM card – no, not even after a three month long vacation – and didn’t bother to even write it down anywhere. Big surprise, I forgot it.

And now I was in 40 degree weather in Delhi with a total of about 150 rupees in my pocket, a few groceries in the fridge and a presumably immortal toffee. I had had two sandwiches and a handful of dates the previous day, and that was all I’d had for the past 24 hours. Some people can live on this much.

I, however, had been spending the previous two months getting spoilt back at home aka eating a 2 foot tall pile of rice ala  mouth watering curries, and that too, at least twice a day. And this is not counting the trips to eat burgers, ice cream and other cholesterol inducing items at random. There’s an obese person living inside this skinnyass frame of mine.

Anyway back to my tale of woe.

After this self deprecating act of chip-stealing, I took this box of dates that my mum had sent me and just sat on the bed and started eating them one after the other. Dates are not that tasty, they’re dry and sweet and starchy. I didn’t care. I just kept popping those dates. At one point though something snapped.

NO MOAR DATES. CANNOT. MUST HAVE. REAL FOOD. GRAWGRRRRRNNGGGG…
I wandered the apartment with my arms outstretched like a zombie making deathly mumbly sounds.
Then I slapped myself in the face, GET YOSELF TOGETHA MAN, and ran downstairs, borrowed a cup of rice from the landlady, and came back and made a rice meal like a boss with that and some of the stuff in the fridge.

Not too shabby no?
I am such a show off. When it comes to my culinary skills. Which were a mythical thing, before this awesome meal was born. What can I say? Desperate times…

I can’t just borrow rice and wait no, so that was just one lovely lone tasty-meal-involving day. I used up the rest of my money and bought more groceries. I have cornflakes for Ifthar now. IRON SHAKTHI! No, srsly, I feel the ironz in ma bonez.

Someone bought me a brownie today. I think I wept a little into my pillow from the joy.

I emailed my mum about my state of famine and impending doom and she replied like ‘hahahahahaha! eat more dates and you’ll be strong as an elephant!’ That’s a direct quote. Who even says that? Strong as an elephant? Do elephants eat dates, mother? I THINK NOT. She’s not completely heartless though, I’m getting money tomorrow and a new ATM card in a week. Yay.

It was a fun week though. I secretly enjoyed near-death. Made me feel like Robinson Crusoe. Except like, without the beard… and with electricity… and stuff in the fridge…

Happy Crappy Ramadan!

Posted: July 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

So I’ve been having a crappy start to my Ramadan. For the noobs, Ramadan is a month during which Muslims fast from about 4am to 7pm to experience the hunger our less fortunate brothers and sisters go through and all that cheesy stuff, and everyone is extra nice during this month, and at the end there’s this awesome festival where everyone eats gulab jamun and high-fives each other.

Why is my Ramadan crappy? Well in a few words: my 2.5 month long summer vacation in Sri Lanka just came to an end. I’m spending this month all by myself (cue that song!) in Delhi, India. I lost my PIN number so I have barely any money on me. I’m basically living on a bottle of chilli paste, bread and date fruit (I cut my thumb on a date yesterday, oh god the horror).  The temperature of an average day is about 40 degrees. Dehydration while fasting is such a party.

Yep that pretty much sums it up.

I skipped the first two days of class since landing here because it’s so hot out there you can fry an egg on the sidewalk. Today I went to class and everyone was like, hey how are you! And I’m all, life sucks, get out of my face.

Then while I was looking out the window and wistfully imagining I was in a sad music video, the lecturer told us she wanted to check out our writing styles and asked us to take out a sheet of exercise paper and write down in about 300 words why we picked this course to study. It sounds so dumb and silly when I say this but I felt so much better after writing this. It took all of five minutes but it reminded me of some important things I’d forgotten. Here’s what I wrote.

Why I Chose This Course

I was eighteen, fresh out of school; naive; confused. I was a dreamer, I wanted to paint, I wanted to write. Painters and writers starve, said my mother. So I conceded defeat – and took that pipe dream of studying books, words, stories — studying literature — and shelved it away. I became a journalist – it was writing, sort of, just not the type I was passionate about. The next year I got bored and entered architecture college.

A year later – I had completed a diploma course in journalism, a diploma course in abnormal psychology, had become part of the local media network, had delved headlong into photography, had kick-started an NGO, and had dropped out of architecture college. I was back to where I started at eighteen — confused. I asked myself why I felt so dissatisfied — what was that missing thing that I felt a pang for, when I woke up with no particular sense of purpose just to exhale a sad sort of apathetic sigh as I sipped my cup of tea? 

I don’t ask myself these things today. I’m in my second year of a degree in literature – in Delhi, a three-hour long plane ride from my home in Sri Lanka. For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. The fish has been returned to the sea. It may sound like I’ve just narrated to you a series of random disconnected events, but isn’t that what life is anyway? Random events strung together. I love it. And I guess that’s why I chose this course – literature, to me, is the study of life itself. 

SO LAME, AMIRITE?
It’s all true though! All so very true! </sheepish>

Sigh. I am such a dork.
Ramadan Kareem, everyone!

Diabetes, Here I Come!

Posted: June 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

A poster was published some days ago on Facebook, with words on it that wrenched a tear of joy to my eye. I had been dreaming of this day all my life.

Pay 150 rupees. And eat ALL THE ICE CREAM YOU WANT. Dear god.

So there I was with a party of seven at the Majestic City food court – ready to devour all the ice cream I could between 5pm and 8pm. Flailer and I ran over to the Hub (Elephant House) and stood there in front of the cashier, like total dorky perethayas, at 4.45pm.

‘Shouldn’t there be like a starting signal for this like a gunshot or something?’ I asked Flailer as we twiddled our thumbs, anxiously waiting as the minutes approached 5pm, tensing as the icecream-hungry mob slowly grew around us. I overheard school boys who had strategically sat at a table right next to the Hub talking in Tamil, ‘See will you, with so much difficulty we got a table near the ice cream place but these two girls took our spot!’

SUCKERS!

It was quite satisfying being at the very front of a longass queue, paying our Rs. 150 each, getting our hands ink-stamped, collecting our ice cream and walking off like the cool kids. Yes, that’s totally what the cool kids do OK.

The first serving has 3 scoops, and every serving you get after that has 2 scoops each. I thought they’d let us pick which flavours we wanted, but then there were about 60 people queuing up at the time and giving preference to each person’s flavours would just take too long. So they served us variations each time, of Fruit & Nut, Vanilla, Chocolate, Mango and Strawberry. I didn’t get any Hakuru or Butter Crunch unfortunately, though I spotted those bins in the freezer. Though it was a long snake of a queue that wound right and left and sideways at all angles inside the court from the cashier to the door – thankfully, it moved fast and efficiently.

All in all, Flailer and I went about 5 rounds, and I had approximately eleven scoops of different ice cream flavours. My memory of some of the details of the evening are a blur, but I know the sugar rush took its toll and took it well. Flailer described my behaviour as the several stages of an alcoholic in a bar.

Stage 1: Beginner’s
The first cup of ice cream. Satisfying. Enough space for more.

Stage 2: Increasing hyperactivity 
High pitched cackling, wide eyed grinning, tapping the spoon on the side of the cup excitedly.

Stage 3: Delusional behaviour / spacing-out
Once, I raised my hand in the air and was like, why is it so orange… At some point I held the plastic ice cream cup with my mouth. Apparently at another time I firmly held my face between my thumb and fingers and stared into the distance for a good minute, till Flailer was like ‘what the fuck are you doing?’ and snapped me out of it. The spacing out was usually accompanied with short intervals of elfish giggling and making ambulance noises.

Stage 4: Wanting to do stupid shit
‘I want to put that motorbike helmet on my head’ I told Flailer, while standing in the queue in the food court, and then looking at the floor and laughing at it like a fool. ‘I want to poke random people in front of me in the queue but I’m restraining myself’ and ‘I want to punch somebody’ were other common lines used.

Stage 5: Doing stupid shit
Aggressive and weird behaviour. I had this sudden urge to get into a brawl. Or like chest-bump somebody. I saw some stupid boy trying to jump my line and I was all ‘EYY what is this ah?’ and he’s all ‘I’m jumping’ and I’m all ‘NO YOU AINT’ and elbowed him in the face. Ok not really, but I awkwardly pushed him out of my way. While Flailer and I were in our 5th round of serving, the ice cream man told us, ‘Hey you guys have 7 people at your table, but only 2 of you have paid 150, and you’re letting them eat from your cups, that’s not allowed, you can’t do that…’ He was only saying this ’cause he resented the loss of profit, as opposed to if all 7 of my friends paid 150 – but there’s no such thing about it in the rules on the event’s Facebook page. So I was all, ‘HEY, YOU can’t tell me who I can or can’t share my ice cream with, maaan’ and got all GANGSTA on his ass, and then left with my ice cream cup in a huff, with Flailer following closely and highly amused by my shenanigans. I also ended up drinking a cup of some funky strange potion made of Fanta, Coke, a piece of onion, chocolate fudge cake pieces and other miscellaneous items, stirred with an ice cream spoon – on a DARE. I won 250 rupees for the feat from the pockets of the audience at my table. So worth it.

Stage 6: The crash
My head and arms were on the table at some point, and I was mumbling things like, I love you guys, man, before falling totally silently into little spurts of sleep.

All in all, Elephant House’s All You Eat Ice Cream Fiesta was pretty damn awesome. They should make it an annual event. Ice cream tastes better when it’s practically free. And if you love things with sugar in it I think this is the most fun you can have for Rs. 150. Isn’t it awesome how there’s no legal limit to the amount of sugar we consume?! I mean, it turned me into a little maniac, waving her spoon around in the air in the middle of a food court and making helicopter noises… and I could still ask for two scoops more please.

1. Dancing and singing in my own room.
2. There’s always plenty of food in the fridge for a midnight snack.
3. Shampoo or toothpaste is over? No problem, a new tube will magically reappear the next day.
4. Having a huge double-mattress to roll around on even though I really just use one-third of it.
5. Sexy intelligent Sri Lankan boys.
6. My green garden with the big trees.
7. Skipping through the railway tracks on Marine Drive from Bambalapitiya to Wellawatte.
8. Not too hot, not too cold, just right, weather.
9. Strolling down Galle Road on a weekday.
10. Swearing in Sinhala.
11. A quiet beach on a Monday evening.
12. Sharing a sofa with someone you’ve known for more than a decade.
13. A cup of tea and chicken sandwiches made by someone and waiting for you when you wake up.
14. Comically bad acting on local TV.
15. The paan-man’s truck song early morning.
16. Asking the shop guy for a phone reload in Tamil.
17. Getting a seat on a crowded 154.
18. Calling middle aged strangers Aunty and Uncle.
19. The smile of recognition from the neighbor you’ve had for years but have never talked to.
20. Unexpected rain.
21. Stopping at Cargills for iced Milo for 35 rupees.
22. The godayas leaning on the rails inside Majestic City.
23. Perera & Sons chocolate cake.
24. Standing with a friend inside a moving bus.
25. Complaining about the number of Maldiveans in Bamba.
26. The chilli in all my food.
27. It’s not weird to wear a brightly coloured kaftan.
28. Dismissing things with an ‘aney just go men’.
29. Crossing the road wherever, whenever, screw the yellow lines and steel fences.