Books vs Movies

19 09 2010

Why are books so often better then the movie versions of them?

Have you ever noticed how when you watch a movie made from a book you have already read, it never lives up to the book version? I always get this sense. I have read so many books that were subsequently turned into movies. One of the most disappointing movies I saw that was based on a wonderful book, was Love in the time of Cholera. The book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez was absolutely brilliant. The lead character, in the book was a strong man, with determination and patience. In the movie, he seemed so weak and almost pitiful… that was one big disappointment for me.

Another film I didn’t like as much as the book was The English Patient. (Barring Ralph Fiennes). The same goes for Memoirs of a Geisha, The Lovely Bones and even The Da Vinci Code! More and more books are being made into movies with hardly any time in between the book arriving on the shelves and the movie in the cinema next door to you.

Take a look at the newer books for young people – the Harry Potter series, The Eclipse and the Twilight sagas. I can’t say much about either of these as I haven’t read the Harry Potter series, except for the first book, which I didn’t really enjoy. But I’m a realist by nature and I enjoy a different type of story.

I think the main reason for this recurring disappointment is that films leave little to my imagination. When I read, I guess I’m creating my own movie in my imagination, in a way – my own interpretation of what people look like, how they speak and what places look like. I get to decide these things. This process of imagining and creating and interpreting is so personal, that in a way it’s a creative process of my own. No movie could live up to the books in my head.

If you come across any movies that are as good as the books they are based on, do let me know and I will be sure to look them up!





What does Pride mean to you?

30 08 2010





Would you get married if you could?

15 08 2010

I have always doubted the whole institution of marriage. My parents had a terrible one. My mother married young and it just killed her spirit. They separated after about 7 years and divorced sometime later. My grandparents, as far as I remember, were happily married although my grandfather once told me, rather morosely, he gave up ballroom dancing because his wife didn’t like it….he still wanted to dance…but that’s beside the point.

What I am talking about here is good marriages, based on trust and faith in today’s context….in the age of the internet and online sex. A marriage in which people are together because they want to be with each other and that alone keeps them together. Not children, not a shared bank account, not the lack of finances and not your families. Just you and the other person, wanting to be together.

I haven’t seen too many couples around me who are truly happily married in this fashion. That’s not to say there aren’t any. It’s just that I haven’t seen too many.

So in the West, when lesbians and gay men started wanting to get married, and advocating for the same rights as straight people, I looked on with scepticism and doubt. I kept wondering “Why should we want to ape what straight people have, why replicate an institution that has failed in our current context.

Why can’t we try and create something different?”

We often spoke of this among friends. Many gay people I know have migrated to the West from Sri Lanka and the rest of the sub continent, because they can’t be themselves in their home countries. Some went as asylum seekers, some migrated legally to work, most just went as students and found ways – legal or otherwise, to stay on. Some have obtained citizenship overseas and are thinking of gay marriage as well. But that’s because in some countries, lesbians and gay men can get married. Canada is one such country – full of Sri Lankan immigrants! In Europe, the Netherlands, Sweden, Iceland, and Norway are a few. I think there are others including Belgium and Spain. In the UK, same sex couples can enter into a civil partnership. Some states in the US also have this system of Civil Union or partnerships. However a marriage and a Civil Partnership are not the same. Far from it.

For example, in a marriage, the relationship is recognized across cultures, countries and religions. Although I marry in Anuradhapura, it would be accepted and recognized in Afghanistan. Not so for a civil partnership. That would be recognized only in the country where it was performed. Worse still -if, as a Sri Lankan, I chose to marry an Australian, we would be able to choose to live either in Sri Lanka or in Australia. Not so for a gay couple. Gay couples being forced to separate because of immigration regulations are more common that we realize. (I believe there was a film made on this subject as well!)

There are loads of other benefits that married people have that the rest don’t. Getting a bank loan together in joint names is another. Or a joint insurance policy, Or a joint club membership. People who aren’t married, can’t do these things together.

So I find myself now advocating for rights to marriage  – for those who want it, that is. It should be equally accessible to gay people as it is to straight folk. I think civil partnerships are a poor replacement, but better than nothing at all and far better than being considered criminals in your own country!





What slang words are used to describe lesbians in your country?

5 08 2010

Here are some from Asia.

From North India:

  • Chapat Baaz – meaning stuck things. For more on this read Ruth Vanita’s book Same sex love in India.
  • Ran Chandi – the word denotes an angry butch warrior like woman. Hmm, I think the Daily Mirror would like this in referring to us as man haters!
  • Bhayada – Hmm, I like this one. It literally translates as ‘androgynous’, not a man but not a woman either. The world needs more of these!
  • Babu Baai – meaning ‘man-woman’. Or sometimes just ‘babu’, meaning man but by calling a woman that, it implies she is not a woman.

From Sri Lanka:

  • Aappa – ahh! our favorite and the name of our blog!
  • Kello-Kello – meaning ‘girl-girl’. Pretty tame.
  • Thori – ‘thori’ is the feminine form of ‘thora’ which is the Sinhala word for Kingfish or seer fish. So lesbians are basically called fish. Great (must admit I do like the water!)
  • SLS – this one is a classic. It stands for ‘Sama Lingika Sevavan’, or ‘same sex services’! It can also be used to describe gay boys. I believe it is very popular in universities around here..

From Jordan:

  • Is she a taxi? – apparently taxis in Jordan are green and yellow in colour, and in conversation, when you ask “is she a taxi?” you are actually asking “Is she gay?” Green And Yellow = GAY, get it? Of course in Bangladesh calling someone a taxi is calling someone a prostitute.

I am fascinated by these words and expressions and wonder where they come from. I think of taking pride from these expressions and in re-owning these words. They take on a different meaning in a different place and time…. Of course there are more slang words for gay boys but it’s interesting to see what gay women are called.

Please feel free to add words from your countries.





What a woman can be and cannot be

8 07 2010

https://aappathachchiya.wordpress.com/2009/09/04/gender-test/

For the last year I have been intently following the story of Caster Semenya. (For those of you who don’t know who she is,see earlier blog post linked above).

Well at last the South African world 800 metres champion was cleared to compete in athletics – as a woman.  The IAAF have concluded medical tests to ‘prove that Semenya is a woman and she is now being allowed to compete in the sport she loved. Thankfully as well, the medical details of the case remain confidential and the IAAF will make no further comment on the matter! Three cheers for confidentiality and dignity.

To Caster Semenya – you are an inspiration to more people than you realize. Thanks for turning on its head everyone’s ideas of what a woman can be and cannot be.





Beyond gay

5 07 2010

Last Thursday evening we were all invited by the Deputy British High Commissioner to a reception hosted by him as part of Colombo Pride. Now for those of you who are wondering what Pride is, it’s a huge celebration of being gay/lesbian and everything in between – an event held in the months of June and July, all over the world.  The concept is new to Sri Lanka but many people at the event last week were quite aware of what Pride was all about.

In between the rush for the fried prawns and the downing of unlimited refills of red wine, we watched a film called  Beyond Gay; The Politics of Pride. This documentary takes a good look at the role of Pride events all over the world. The narrator – Ken Coolen from Vancouver takes us on a journey from Sao Paulo in Brazil, where 3 million people join the flamboyant parade, (most of them shirtless); to Warsaw in Poland, where the shirt wearing Catholics, nationalists and skinheads vastly outnumber the handful of courageous marchers. Things are far more exciting in Moscow where Russian activists risk their lives and eventually get arrested, but do it just to mount their 10-minute demonstration.

The highlight of the film for me and for many others was the coverage given to Colombo Pride. The biggest surprise was to see someone we were all acquainted with onscreen and a long section on Pride in Sri Lanka! I was so happy to see Mount Lavinia beach and a gang of familiar brown-skinned people flying kites by the sea…

The movie is somewhat grim in parts (the Sri Lanka bit was grim, grim, grim) but also jubilant in others. I left the room holding hands with my queer brother who had tears in his eyes! Oh these drama queens! But speaking of queens, it was great to see a large turnout of men in drag, some of them so beautiful they put the women present to shame.

It’s not surprising that many people don’t know about Pride or the events in Colombo, after all Pride events here are only advertised in the mainstream media, after they take place, in order to protect the identities of the participants. Also, Pride in Sri Lanka is obviously not conducted exactly as in the West. Here it is a closed affair, mostly patronized by city-based English speaking people who can afford to attend many of the events organized. But it is still a valid celebration of what and who we are. And the courage and passion of every participant is very real. We hope that this event will one day be more inclusive and reach a wider audience around the island as well.





Like a virgin

30 06 2010

Did you know…that the hymen is named after Hymenaios, who was the Greek god of weddings and marriages?

And do you know what thousands of young women in Sri Lanka are anxious about?
It’s virginity.

A young woman once wrote to me saying “I am a 19 year old girl. I’m getting married in three months to a boy that my parents have found for me. I am bit nervous about the marriage and the customs. Can you tell me how I can know about virginity?”

Working with young people, I get asked a lot of strange questions but this one was tough to answer, not least because this is something I so rarely think about! I was saddened to learn that even in this day and age women are expected to ‘prove’ their virginity. This involves having intercourse on a white sheet, (or on the man’s new white sarong, worn at the wedding). The sheets are later examined by the bride’s in-laws and the bloodstains will decide her fate. If the sheets are clean, there is a problem.

The very idea freaked me out, but more than that I was intensely disturbed that in the 21st century this sort of thing still happens. So I wrote to her saying that as far as I knew virginity refers to whether a person has ever had sexual intercourse. If they have not, they are virgins. The only real way one can know if a person is a virgin is if they tell you. Of course some people associate virginity with the breaking of the hymen in a woman.

People also believe that all women are born with a hymen. (The fact is that about 0.03% of women are born without a hymen.). And as the hymen has perforation anyway, it technically doesn’t need to be broken.

But besides all this scientific information about the hymen and virginity, I told her the real problem was how the concept of virginity is often used as a means of controlling women’s sexuality. People holding power over women’s lives including parents, older relatives and community leaders, often control how a woman proves if she is a virgin and how important this is in her life as well. This is dangerous because virginity is then equated with morality and virtue. People who have never had sex before marriage are not necessarily better, cleaner or more virtuous human beings than those who have. Virginity has always been used to  judge and control women and this cannot be just or right.

This was the real message I wanted to give her but I wondered how, even if she received it, she would deal with the inevitability of her wedding night blues?





The moral police are here.

13 06 2010

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/south_asia/10278477.stm

Young people in Sri Lanka sure have a harder life than their counterparts across the globe: once again the moral police are out to get them!

In this absolutely ridiculous attempt by more powerful people to control the lives and sexualities of young people in Sri Lanka, the police are now arresting couples caught kissing and holding hands in public!

What happens when you arrest or reprimand a young couple for this absolutely normal public display of affection? let me tell you from experience: They find other places to go and kiss. The hand holding and more (done discreetly under umbrellas usually!) wont stop, it will just go underground where people cant see them. And when people cant see them what do they expect will happen? Kissing will lead to touching, touching to fondling and fondling to sex. Sex WILL happen. It is just a matter of time.

This arresting of young people outrages me for more than this one reason. In most of Sri Lanka except for the capital city, there is nothing for young people to do and nowhere for them to go. Having visited vavuniya recently i realized the starkness of their realities, they have not cinemas to go to, no parks in which to play, very few sports facilities, no major athletic grounds, no plays to go watch, no large national events head in their district, basically no entertainment but their mobile phones. And let me not go into what those are being used for most of the time….

Apart from this there is another reason why I am outraged with this arresting of young couples: I cant fully grasp why showing affection to someone is such a crime and is punished with arrest…what a waste of time and resources for the police force! However killing people in the name of war is rewarded. It is better to hate and kill than to love? Is that the message we want the next generation to learn I wonder…

I know more than one person who will tell me that “its against our culture” to be seen publically displaying affection, but our culture is changing and we need to change with the times. Read the papers and have a look at the kind of things that are reported, women throwing babies, 70 year old men raping school girls, someone cutting off a woman’s arm to steal her bangles; what about our culture then? Our culture is definitely changing: people 50 years ago got married by the time they were 14 or 15. Young people have the same feelings now that young people 50 years ago had,t he only difference being young people today have no culturally acceptable way of expressing it except within a marriage. And the legal age of marriage is 18. Something isn’t quite fitting here don’t you think??

I cry out to the law enforcers: Leave our young alone. Equip them with the knowledge and skills on how to live life safely, have safe sex and be respectful of one another. Stop putting them behind bars into overcrowded prisons and detention centres. This will not work.





I come from the hair belt!

5 06 2010

I have a love hate relationship with my hair.

I love the hair on my head. I wash it almost daily, shampoo it up to a big white lather, condition it and am constantly playing with it. I go through periods of wondering if it’s falling, trying to grow it out, cropping it short, coloring it, hiding the grey, loving the grey and buying hair shine products that hardly ever work.

The hair on my body is another story. I’m constantly trying to remove it or to discover a method to remove it forever. I haven’t succeeded. But not for want of trying – I think my hair is very stubborn… like the rest of me.

As a teenager I used to wax my legs. I remember my first wax. It was just before my uncle’s wedding. I was 16. My mum took me to an Indian lady’s house where I had to lay down under a slow-turning ceiling fan while she proceeded to rip my hair out using just one ball of wax. It was excruciatingly painful. She used the same ball of wax, pressing and stretching it out to cover one part of my leg, pulling out the hair, kneading it into a ball again, and stretching it out over the next bit of young flesh. In less than an hour, I was hair-free and clean.

But the problem with starting waxing is that you have to keep it up. Since then I have waxed religiously every month, sometimes every 6 weeks. The worst is when you are approaching a period, the pain is heightened and I scream out loud!

I have tried other less painful ways though. One involved lasers. My dermatologist told me this works best on fair-skinned people with thick, dark hair. I was a good candidate she said – not as perfect as some Arab women but perfect enough. I went to six sittings; the hair under attack was my moustache and the hair under my arms. After spending a shitload of money, I was still left with some hair, but it was scantier.

I have also tried an epilator. This appeals to me as it allows me to grow my leg-hair to resemble that of a grizzly. My niece named me hairy-beary! But epilating is messy and takes too much time and you can’t always get every hair you want. The back of my thighs was particularly challenging.

But my legs, moustache, chin and underarms are just the beginning. And no, I am not referring to my privates before you start thinking of that. I do have hair in other unwanted places. For example, I have a love trail. This is caused by the hair on my tummy leading down to my pleasure pot – hence the name love trail. My girlfriend thinks it’s cute but that’s because she is hairless – as smooth and soft as a baby’s bottom – and I envy every bit of her.

My friend K and I had a discussion once about how leg hair removal is a manifestation of one’s social class. For example, in Sri Lanka, women from privileged backgrounds almost always wax, shave, epilate, use electrolysis, or laser away unwanted hair.  But all this costs money and needs to be done frequently. So not everyone can afford it.

Some lesbians I know choose to keep their body hair as a political statement. I don’t mind hair on other women, but on myself it bothers me endlessly. I just have to tweeze that millimeter of hair on my chin or else I won’t be able to sleep at night!

So I have resigned myself to it. I come from the hair belt! It’s kind of like a volcanic belt or a forest belt and it is definitely geographical. Being hairy is in my genes. I know some men of my ethnicity who are like gorillas – with hair that extends from one end of their bodies to the other. (Wall to wall carpeting, I call it.) But this isn’t cool or acceptable on a woman!

How is it that men can get away with being so hairy and women can’t? When will it be cool to be hairy? I want to be cool and hairy. But for now, I have to stop writing this post because I feel a follicle erupting in my chin and I have to rush to find one of my four tweezers… Good night!





Pass me your panties!

31 05 2010

Do you sometimes wear your partner’s clothes?

My partner and I are kind of the same size and there have been times when I have stolen a shirt or kurta of hers to wear to work. However as I don’t fit into her pants or jeans we don’t wear each others pants. Her feet too, are bigger than mine so we can’t share shoes. (Even if we could, I am not sure I like her taste in footwear!) She owns just three pairs of shoes while I have – maybe fifteen!

What is it about some couples, that they kind of merge into one? I know one other couple who shared clothes, including underwear. Is this common? I would get mad if my girlfriend wore my underwear. There are just some things I don’t like sharing. There are also some places I like to keep personal, like the toilet for example. I don’t want her walking in on me when I am doing my business. I think it’s good to keep some things personal. My aunt never looked into her husband’s wallet for example, even though they had been married for 30 years.

Some couples answer each other’s mobiles regularly, some won’t go places (especially to parties) without the other. I am not sure how healthy this is. Sometimes space can be a good thing, and sometimes hanging on to your individuality is the wisest thing to do when all else breaks down!