Radio Head

30 11 2009

When I was a little kid, I loved the radio. I would get home after school every afternoon and spend the rest of the day listening to the ancient ‘mono’ radio which was all that most people possessed at the time.  In those days there was no television and only one English language radio station, I believe. On this they aired several slow paced programs, including a hugely popular afternoon show called ‘Housewives Choice’ – the mention of which still makes people smile who remember it. It was hosted by several chatty ladies (who took turns on different days of the week) and one of its more tedious features was the Recipe Corner where long recipes for odd dishes were read out painstakingly with repeats of each ingredient: “Two tablespoonsful of condensed milk.’ (Long pause for scribbling housewives…). Then, “Two tablespoonsful of condensed milk.’ And so on.

The rest of the time they played cheesy retro pop music, by request. The program had a faithful fan base of all ages – elderly couples included, who all wrote in regularly with requests, so everyone got to know each other’s names, their favorite singers and general locations. (“And this one goes out to Eardley and Carmen Perera of Moratuwa…”)

We also had a few programs like Now Music USA and Top of the Pops from the UK that aired in Sri Lanka (or if you were really fanatical like me, you could try and tune in to the rather fuzzy shortwave broadcasts from overseas). But otherwise the youth of Sri Lanka didn’t have much access to the huge revolutions in popular music that had just taken place in the US and across Europe. Instead, we had Jim Reeves, Nana Mouskouri and recipes for milk toffee. But that was all we had so we were happy.

Today, I hardly ever listen to the radio.

I know we now get to choose from several English language broadcast stations and the music one hears is much more contemporary. It comes off the billboard charts and you don’t really have to listen to outdated crooners of your parent’s generation on primetime shows anymore. Instead you get the djs who are surprisingly conservative in their views though obviously young and presumably hip. But there is so much advertising, slapstick and inane chatter that the music seems to be the least important factor and then it seems to come down to the same relentless string of pop hits all day on every station.

And so radio, though it has advanced mightily in terms of technology and reach, seems in some ways still as irrelevant to real life as it was so long ago. What could have been such a powerful tool in the battle against insularity, encouraging progressive thinking and a wider world view has instead been reduced to the lowest form of mass entertainment – a sad victim of advertising revenue and ratings.

Wouldn’t it be so much more interesting if we could have more English language radio stations that actually played different sorts of music or featured a variety of shows in the day and late night: rock, jazz, classical, opera, comedy, game shows and talk radio shows…? If we could hear all ages and personalities speak to us with knowledge and a range of opinions, giving us something to think about or a new perspective each day?

I guess our markets are too small to sustain this level of variety or sophistication. But it would be so entertaining for all the old-fashioned radio heads like me.

Our revolution is long overdue

27 11 2009

Here is someone we like….Margaret Cho:

What does ‘naked’ make you feel?

25 11 2009

Write to us: or comment here

…and then he kissed me

24 11 2009

It was my birthday recently and my girl friend took me out to a fancy restaurant in Colombo to celebrate.

After the meal, just as I was feeling blissful and loved, I heard the familiar ‘Happy Birthday’ tune and knew something was up. A few seconds later, out came three waiters bearing a cake with sparklers on top, followed by several other individuals including the chef, all with big smiles on their faces.

All eyes were on me. The cake was placed in front of me and I blushed with delight as they all sang Happy Birthday to me; my girlfriend beamed.

And then a very strange thing happened – the waiter who had brought in the cake with the sparklers came over to me and wished me a happy birthday and – KISSED me on both cheeks! I was totally shocked! Taken fully by surprise I wondered, is this usual?

I was so bewildered that I didn’t do anything or say anything at that moment…..but just felt totally out of place! Is it the done thing for waiters to kiss the guests at restaurants on their birthdays? I knew it was a foreign owned and managed restaurant  but still – is it normal practice anywhere, for waiters to kiss the guests on their birthdays? Has anyone had this happen to them before?

I remember coming home and laughing about it, but even now when I remember the incident, all I can recall is my total shock and how the sweaty waiter smelled of perspiration… eek! Totally repulsive!

I suppose a sort of instinctive sense of etiquette took over at the moment it happened, not to mention total surprise. Maybe I should have said something reproving to him or even to the manager …but I was just plain dumbstruck. Unfortunately.


The long-stalked

23 11 2009

The long-stalked,

stiff and strong.

So beautifully soft,




So many memories.


holding hands,

throatful of


looking out the window,

the blue curtain,

love on the floor,

silent passions.

One for each petal,

these many memories.

Each time I see

these luscious flowers

vivid colours

of remembering.

So many memories

that no one else got


long-stalked flowers.

On a sleepy afternoon in bed would you read a poem?

21 11 2009

I have been looking for poems in blogs and found myself wondering: is poetry the pastime of elitists and lovers? It appears to me that poetry is not something people are really ‘into’ these days. When do we really read poetry? Other than in school as part of Sinhala or English literature. Did we ever read it as a leisure activity? As something to do on a rainy day in bed? Would you go looking for well-written poems in cyberspace or go to the well-known classics? Would you have sent this poem to a friend as good reading material, however beautiful you think it is? Would you think of sending this to your beloved as a gift? All these questions whirl around in my mind as I look for poems in blogs.

And now, I wonder why – as a generation – we are not ‘into’ poetry. Is it because good poems are hard to find, especially on blogs? Is it because poetry is considered the posh marginal in literature – people think it is sublime, but not many read it. It is not fiction, which lives on the preoccupations of lives. Is it because many people feel that writing – and reading – poems is a deeply personal thing, at a level that fiction isn’t? That it is something to do when in love and in pain?


my fingers.
my mouth.
my tongue
my mouth.






I know myself now

That I shall wait

As I have waited,

as I will always wait.

Patiently, patiently,

As the earth, as the sky.

Patient as water I will wait.

Patient as death.

It makes no difference

Where I go or what I do.

I know after all this time

That there is no time.

Still I wait and wait.

And whatever happens,

whatever I may look back upon

when its all over

I know that there is no end

no beginning.

Nothing but me and you

And the times I wait


Oh, who would be a security guard?

18 11 2009

A security guard is usually a privately and formally employed person who is paid to protect property, assets or people.

Have you noticed how security guards seem to have suddenly proliferated all around Colombo? Wherever one goes – the restaurant, the nightclub, the corporate office or eco-resort – there they will be, ubiquitous as bajaj, standing around in little groups of three until you show up, all wearing those badly tailored mud-brown uniforms with fake badges and fake military caps…whining, intimidating and entirely irritating.

The average security guard has, like Pooh, Very Little Brain. He will manifest himself inappropriately, appearing suddenly in your rear view mirror standing directly behind and as close as possible to your car as you are reverse parking neatly into a space you have found after much blood, sweat and tears. Having made this maneuver as difficult as possible by constantly getting in the way, he will then wait till you have climbed out in the rain to tell you firmly that you have to move the car somewhere else at once.

He also has a habit of looming up out of the dark in empty car-parks at night, minus his badly tailored mud-brown uniform and fake military cap, looking instead like a small serial killer and frightening you half to death until you realize he’s just doing overtime annoyance duty in civvies.

Security guard recruitment apparently doesn’t have very strict regulations regarding size or strength since a high percentage seems to be below average height and size. They can also be found in an aged and feeble model. Either way, one cannot imagine anyone who was planning a burglary or murder (or even a disorderly parking activity) to take the security guard factor very seriously. Indeed the temptation to laugh in the security guard’s face and walk away quickly as he froths about your car needing to be moved two inches to the left is always very great.

Right now people are eagerly contributing to our list of places that employ annoying security guards. This may be published as a public service. (There may be companies and individuals that employ strong, silent, intelligent security guards but we have not discovered them yet. Please let us know if you have met one of them because we would like to go meet him too and you should learn to share.)

But I don’t think I’ll be hiring a security guard to protect my property, assets or favorite people anytime soon. It would make me feel too terribly insecure.