Same Same But Different

Passing my fingers through an open display of cheap and cheerful watches on the sidewalks of Pataya, teleported me to Wijesiri Stores, the only fancy electronic shop along the Main Street in Panadura.

Forty years ago, at Wijesiri Stores, I was doing the same thing… looking at the display of watches. The difference was those watches were inside a glass cabinet and padlocked, out of bounds and out of reach for a ten year old girl. I couldn’t touch them nor could i buy. I could only admire them with my face squashed against the glass.

‘Same Same’ but different circumstances!

Standing in front of the display in Pataya, I didn’t have to think twice about buying, not just one watch but a couple if I felt like it. But not at Wijesiri Stores when I was a little girl who didn’t understand family priorities.

Times were very different then. Watches were more or less a once in a life time buy. Kids were not bought multi coloured, ‘break if you like’ watches like today. It was a luxury item then! It definitely was for me, with a price tag of hundred rupees.

I wanted to own this watch so badly and I also knew it was very very expensive. After many days of agonizing, I remember whispering to my grand mother about my dream of owning a watch. She was our every day family Santa Claus in disguise.

At meal time, when the family gathered, she broached the subject of my fancy desire. I noticed the nervous glances exchanged between my parents. My father was smart. He promptly threw in a challenge instead of making an excuse. ‘You come first in class and I shall buy you that watch’. Little did I realize that this was his way of convincing himself that he didn’t have to agonize over finding the money to spend on a hundred rupee watch, when his monthly salary was less than seven hundred rupees as an engineer. This I learned much later in life which craeted an unexplainable guilt that I carry with me to date. However at that time my father’s proposition was as good as getting the watch.

Days passed and the subject of the watch was never discussed at home again as it was not worth talking about. I was never going to come first in class. At least this was my father’s conviction. But not mine!

My time in the fifth grade came to a happy ending with my bringing home the great news of coming first in class. I was elated. But was my father? Where was he going to find hundred rupees to buy the watch that was promised? To date I wouldn’t know how my parents managed, but they showed absolute joy in my achievement and took me straight to Wijesiri Stores to my greatest delight.

This time, I could actually touch and feel the watch. My first expensive possession…it was a silver square with a black fake leather strap. I can almost feel it on my wrist even now.

Each frame of this experience unfolded infront of me in vivid detail as I stood looking at the watches on display in front of me.

I choked when I thought of the financial burden I would have placed on my parents without any feeling of guilt.I almost wanted to buy a watch for my father from Pataya to clear my conscience.
But realized that a fake watch wouldn’t do for all the sacrifices he would have made to meet our multitude of childhood demands.

I wondered off thinking of me and my kids, telling myself that kids will continue to demand and us Parents will somehow find ways to oblige.

Same Same – but NOT different!

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Thais show the world the power of Maithree Karuna Muditha Upeksha in the face of national trauma

The agony of eighteen days of waiting ended in euphoria, when all twelve ‘Thai Football Heroes’ and their young coach were rescued unscathed, from one of the most grueling real life dramas that the world watched in disbelief. Their safe return was never a confirmed outcome due to the unthinkable challenges that lay ahead of the rescue mission. But the world prayed in unison and the prayers were in fact answered!

While watching this nail biting, heart stopping encounter, I was most amazed at the Thais’ calm and composed power of ‘waiting in anguish and hope’, displaying no hatred or anger. This was seen at all levels; be it the government, the community leaders, the rescuers, the parents and in fact the whole nation!

Being a Buddhist country, it seemed like the Thais showed the world by deed, the power of the immeasurable Buddhist principles of Maithree,Karuna, Muditha and Upeksha in its truest spirit.

They had only one goal; to rescue the trapped kids and their coach, unhurt. That’s all. With this common goal, they practiced what they knew best; ‘loving kindnesses’ to all beings. The Thai government led by example. They readily accepted all the help offered by cave rescuers from many parts of the world. There was no ‘ego’ nor ‘political agendas’ that came in between the decision they made. They welcomed the out pour of support with Karuna. The experts and the professionals were given the space and the freedom to carry out their tasks as needed. This was Muditha at its best.

Never did anybody even once, point a finger at another or lay any blame for this catastrophe. All those affected and involved seemed to have practiced Upeksha at all times.

Media was exceptional. They only shared positive stories and never sensationalized this ‘almost fatalistic’ situation. They displayed compassion and empathy throughout the ordeal. No wailing mothers, outraged countrymen or opportunistic politicians were given a platform to exploit the situation. They did their job in the most sensitive and responsible manner. In fact even the death of the brave navy diver was never hyped up in to a frenzy, instead, it was projected as a part of life’s many debacles, which we Buddhists call Karma. The composed statements captured of the brave navy diver’s wife and father were calming and consoling too. Never a moment of anger or hatred was shown towards anybody.  This was amazing and almost surreal from the usual media reportage we are used to.

The young coach of just twenty five years was an epitome of patience and resilience for the helpless little boys under his care. It was learnt that he taught them to meditate during this grueling, hopeless eighteen or so days. This obviously calmed them and gave them the inner strength to carry on. He seemed to have practiced all four principles of Maithree, Karuna, Muditha and Upeksha inside the cave and was reported to be the weakest of the lot due to not consuming the leftover food which he made sure the boys had instead. What compassion! Not one person made any accusations on the coach who led these children into a seemingly fatal expedition. Like a captain of a ship, he held the team together until the last kid was rescued. What agony and anxiety he would have gone through. The power of the mind seemed to have given him inner strength and courage to face this unenviable burden.

Needless to say the situation was extremely delicate; the whole world was waiting and watching, Thailand was experiencing its own share of political challenges, anxiety of families of thirteen innocent lives were hanging from a tattered thread… but there was a calmness all around. It was almost meditative.

It seemed as if the Thais taught the world a lesson by taking a leaf from the true Buddhist philosophy that they live and abide by. It’s as if they silently chanted the stanza …”this moment too shall pass!”

Thai Cave Rescue

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Why should a Woman prove to be better than a Man to be a mere number on a Corporate Board?

board room

I don’t get it. Seriously.

For years this conversation has taken place in our boardrooms, cocktail parties, corporate circles, media platforms, professional fora… you name it.

The last one I listened to, last week, was the same as the previous two plus decades; same arguments, same views, same issues, with the addition being, ‘do women need a quota system to be on boards?!’ Sigh.

For crying out loud, the only reason women don’t get on boards is MEN!

If a man on a Board wants a woman who thinks and acts like a man, then why look for a woman at all?

Having said that, I must say I have had the good fortune of knowing a handful of men who have absolutely no squirms nor complexes about working shoulder to shoulder with women, and in fact they welcome and appreciate the very different and diverse mindset women bring to the party.

So take a bow, I tell these awesome Men.

A woman is wired differently and that’s precisely the point. Why don’t they get it, pray tell me!

For a (regular) man on a Board, it’s nothing but a numbers game and achieving the bottom line month after month.  But for a woman on a Board, the deliverable is not that simple and straight forward. For her it is not just about the share capital. She cares about the human capital, social capital, emotional capital, sustainability of the process, the business environment as well as the natural environment that affects the business, corporate harassment that goes on in the company and many other ‘how’ and ‘what’ factors that makes her company’s bottom line ring.

For a man, this is a typical woman’s rant which delays the decision making process, not getting to the point and finishing the discussion soon enough for him to get to the next boys’ club dinner.

No wonder they can’t be bothered with this trivia!

Over fifty percent of our population is women. Our economy is run because of women; it’s their sweat and tears that bring in our meager Forex to the country. This contribution itself is worth a greater consideration for more women to be considered on our Boards.

The woman knows the pulse of the people, the consumer insights, and the customer needs of her business much more sensitively than her male counterpart, with or without formal research. She doesn’t always need to be a number crunching financial wizard who spews out profit and loss figures of the company for the decision making men to lap it up and concede that the company is healthy and strong. Most often men over look that which lies beneath the tip of the ice burg of the much awaited quarterly financials, while for a woman, the softer management issues become serious pain points that need long term solutions.

So the mantra continues; women are not ready to commit to long hours, women don’t compromise when it comes to the family, women are not numbers driven, women are quiet in the board room, women can’t quite compete with the men and their intellect, women put other women down ra ra ra…

I ask the MEN, “Have you given her enough space and support within your company to be this Super Woman you want her to be at work, while being a trophy wife, a hands-on mother, a devoted daughter– in-law, who also runs a smooth home front?”

The answer is NO.

Sadly, until the chauvinistic male in our corporate world accepts that ‘Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus’ and the gender diversity is what brings the value to the decision making process, this saga will continue, with or without quotas!















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Feeling trapped in a failing state


That illusive dream

It is three years since that euphoric day of change the country woke up to: the illusive ‘Yahapaalana Dream’. A dream never to dream again, and a day never to experience again either. At least not in my lifetime, for sure.

The defeated sulked, the sceptics smirked and the victors rejoiced, while the majority of the country embarked on a journey of hope.  The silent voter hoped against hope that the country would see a new era in the political landscape devoid of fear, mass scale corruption, rampant nepotism and cronyism, blind wastage of public funds and a clean-up of the rotten system that prevailed for a decade or more. Three years to date, the day Yahapaalanaya was ushered in, the country breathed a whiff of freedom and sensed an ambience of good governance.

Those who dreamt of a better country placed their faith on an insignificant politician who came forward as the ‘common candidate’; only with convincing oratorical skills, he swore to usher in a clean state, while the many times defeated ‘wannabe’ Prime Minister put all his efforts behind a ‘now or never’ political ambition. The desperation to see a change from a rogue government was at the core of this drama, in which we all played our part in blind faith. It was undoubtedly an ‘anti-MR’ force more than a ‘pro-MS’ vote of confidence. Talk about being in the middle of a rock and a hard place!

Wake up call

Unfortunately, the rot started to set in very early in the day. Before we even realized the downfall, the old boys’ networks had kicked in, scams were hatched, deals were struck, offspring had sprung into motion and the old familiar political circus was back in town.

Three years into this nightmare, hardly any promises have been fulfilled. It is a ‘free – for – all and ‘nothing- happens- at- all’ kind of feeling all round. Lack of strategic communication from the government hasn’t helped the situation either.

Yes, now I accept we were a group of political suckers. Suckers who clung on to a quivering hope of a better run country with a better tomorrow for our children.  Suckers who foolishly believed that politicians can in fact be a decent breed under different circumstances. Suckers who believed that good governance is finally possible. Sadly, a naïve and gullible majority has been truly duped!

The rudderless ship

We are told the economy is turning for the better. It’s unfortunate that the masses aren’t feeling it! The bureaucracy is at a standstill and no one knows what’s going on with the government institutions. There’s a gross lack of urgency and accountability at all levels. The country hasn’t seen any newsworthy FDI’s coming in for the lack of consistent policies and a pathetic ‘doing business’ climate that prevails. The kickbacks are climbing through the roofs while corruption is rampant in all quarters. No wonder development is stalling! The cities are dirty and the bill boards and cutouts have reappeared. Sadly no one seems to care. Politicians and the government officials are busy feathering their nests.  The so called ‘engine of growth’ is frantically looking for greasing spots. The looters and the murderers of the last regime are being protected for political allegiance it seems. The Vision of the unity government seems to have turned into a Mission of clinging onto power at any cost.

Weather gods haven’t been too kind either to an already battered nation, punishing us with rains, floods, landslides and droughts as if to teach a lesson for misleading a trusting countrymen and women. Managing disasters doesn’t seem a priority for this government. It has always been the citizenry that has risen to the occasion each time.   A coalition that came into power promising a rainbow nation seems often deaf and blind to ethnic unrest. Reconciliation seems to have gone into the backburner, with the North starting to simmer with its own post conflict challenges.

Ah, that unity!

A unity government is supposed to be ‘united’, not pull in different directions to suite their individual political agendas. Sadly this seems to be the modus operandi of the government which gets worse by the day. The President is ruling the country constantly looking over his shoulder to see who is going to stab him from the back, while the PM is busy strategizing his next political move. And we, the tricked citizens are wondering what our fate would truly be in this catastrophic state of affairs.

I shall do it again!

While regrets are many with the current status quo, there are none with the efforts put in to changing a regime that would have left the country worse off than today, for sure. In hindsight, that is my only solace.

Let’s not overlook the few positives

I try to focus on the few positives that I keep telling myself we must not forget. After all, we have freedom of expression without fear of the ‘white van’. Yes we can say we have democracy, although it’s taking the government hostage due to its lack of direction and leadership. The international image has been turned around by hundred and eighty degrees. The nineteenth amendment which paved the way for the many commissions, which may or may not function independently, and the RTI bill that was passed even though its true implementation is a question in my mind are the few achievements that I count as blessings. Noteworthy is the setting up of the FCID which has made a positive impact on the government servants fearing wrong actions, which sadly has also contributed to them not making any decisions at all due to their FCID phobia, which in turn has slowed down the government machinery in the most disastrous manner.

I for one have been trying to cling on to any kind of glimmer of hope, but find none; not in the economic upturn, cost of living, governance, policies, political commitment, a tangible vision for the country (yes, there is a 2025V somewhere!) or at least some faith and trust on those we voted into power. Sadly, we are being pulled into an abyss on a daily basis. I ask myself if we even have a choice now.

Choiceless choices

Maybe we do have a few choices in the offing, come next elections; a dead swan, a senile elephant, a shriveled up beetle leaf, a broken chair, a lifeless hand, a withering bud and a corroded bell. Alas, a ghost of a Gota beckons too. It’s truly a Hobson’s choice!

A trapped voter in this failing state has very little to hope for.

Despite all this, I believe there still remains a small window. A window of opportunity to make good the hopes and promises of a nation in waiting. A nation that put their lives on the line for a better tomorrow that promised a ‘Yahapaalanaya’; a better governed country for all its people. That window is slowly closing however, and our hopes slowly fading with it.





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‘කොළඹට  අසාධ්‍යයයි!’


නවසිය අනූ ගණන් වල බෙරේ කුණුවෙලා, කානු හිරවෙලා, කුණු කඳු ඉහලට එසවෙන කාලේ ඔන්න ලෝක බැංකු ආධාරයෙන් කුණු මැනේජ් කරන හැටි සමාජ ගත කරන කැම්පේන් එකක් මෙහෙය වන්න මටත් චාන්ස් එකක් ලැබුණා. මාර සතුටින් රිසර්ච් එහෙමෙ ලොකුවට කරලා ‘කොළඹට  අසාධ්‍යයයි’ කියල එල කැම්පේන් එකක් කරා.

නමුත් එදත් ඇත්ත කියන්න බයවෙච්ච සෙට් එකක් තමයි අපිට වැඩේ බාර දුන්නේ. අපේ කැම්පෙන් එක බලල කට්ටිය දාඩිය පිහිදාන්න ගත්ත. මේක දැම්මොත් ඒ සෙට් එකට යන එන මං නැතිවෙන බව තේරිලා බොරු බයිලා කියල රිජෙකට් කරා. මම ඉතින් හැමදාම දෙන ෆයිට් එක දුන්න. එත් මගේ ඒකාලේ හිටපු බොස්ලත් ඒක කරුමෙට ජබොස් කරා. ඊට පස්සේ ලකයක් නැති, ඇල් මැරුණු ජරාවක්, සල්ලිත් නාස්ති කරලා, අපේ කාලෙත් කාලා ‘සෝෂල් මාකටින් කැම්පේන්  ෆෝ ගාබේජ් මැනේජ්මන්ට්’  කියල සත පහකට වැඩක්  නැති ජරාවක්  සොබනේට මාධයගත කරා.

ඒ පරණ කතාව මට මතක් වුනේ අද කොළඹට විතරක් නෙවෙයි මුළු රටටම වෙලා තියන නස්පැත්තිය දැක දැක හුල්ලන ගමන්.

මොකක්ද අපේ රටට ගහල තියෙන මේ හේනේ?

යහපාලනයක් කරන්න කියල අපි ෆුල් ෆයිට් එකක් දීල ගෙනාපු දේසපාලුවෝ ටික පිස්සුම පිස්සු කෙලිනවා. රටේ බොස් කවුද කියලත් මට ශුවර් නෑ. මොකද අගමැති තුමයි ජනාධිපති තුමයි මට දැනෙන්නේ රටවල් ගානේ රස්තියාදු වෙවී හැංගිමුත්තන් කරනවා කියල. රට අයාලේ යනවා. ඇමතිලා ‘ගස් මාරු-පෙති චෝරු’ කරනවා. මැර සාධු සෙට් එක කඩ පුච්චනවා. හොර දේසපාලුවෝ උන්ව හංගනවා. පොලිස් ලොක්ක මේවා ඔක්කොම දැක දැක භාවනා කරනවා. දොස්තරල කොන්දොස්තර ලෙවල් එකට බැහැල වීදි සංචාරය කරනවා. ඒ අතරතුර ඩෙංගු හැදිලා ලෙඩ්ඩු මැරෙනවා. කුණු කඳු පුපුරනවා. ගං වතුරෙන් රට නස්පුට් වෙනවා. ඒවා කලමනා කරන ඇමතියා මෙක්සිකෝවේ පච බානවා.

අවුරුදු දෙකක් ඉවරවෙලත් රටට පෙනෙන දේශපාලන හෝ ආර්ථික දැක්මක් තියෙනවද? තිබුනත් අපිට ඒක පෙනෙන්නේ නම් නෑ. ආයෝජන මුකුත් එන්නේ නෑ. මොකද ප්‍රතිපත්ති කියල පිළිවෙලට දෙයක් ඉදිරිපත් කරන්න තරම් රාජ්‍ය යාන්ත්‍රණය ක්‍රියාශීලී නැති බවයි පිටතින් බලන කෙනෙකුට පෙනෙන්නේ. ජරාව ගැනිල්ලෙත් අඩුවක් නැති බවයි කවුරුත් කියන්නේ. මේවා සහ ගහන අපරාද.

මිලියන විසි එකකගේ සිහින, බලාපොරොත්තු මෙහෙම තුට්ටුවකට ගණන් ගන්නේ නැතිව, රජයක් කරගෙනයන එක සහ ගහන අපරාදයක් නෙවෙයිද?

අවුරුදු විස්සකටත් වැඩි කාලයක් ගිහින් අද මට හිතෙන්නේ ‘කොළඹට අසාධ්‍යයි’ කියල කැම්පේන් කරන්න නෙවෙයි, ‘මුළු රටටම අසාධ්‍යයි ‘ කියල අර බාගෙට හදපු නෙලුම් කුලුන  උඩට නැගල විලාප තියන්න!

එත් බීරි අලින්ට වීණා ගැසීමෙන් පලක් නැති බව මම තේරුම් අරන් දැන් අවුරුදු දෙකක් කිට්ටු වෙනවා… වෙන කරන්න දෙයක් නැති කමට මමත් සියලු සත්යත්වයන්ට මෛත්‍රී භාවනාව වඩන්න ෆුල් ට්‍රයි කරනවා!

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අපි කවුරුද?


අපේ කුඩා රටේ කුඩා ශරීරයක් තුල විසු විශාල යුග පුරුෂයා, පතාක යෝධයා, මිනිසුන් අතර විසූ ඒ අසම සම මිනිසා, පන්ඩිත්  අමරදේවයන්ගේ වියෝවත් සමගින් දැනුණු නොපිරවිය හැකි හිස් බවක් හේතු කොටගෙන මම ස්වයං ආවර්ජනයක නිරායාසයෙන්ම නිමග්න වූයේ ඇයි දැයි මමම නොදනිමි. කොම්පියුටරය ඉදිරියේ මම අහේතුකව හිඳ ගත්තේ අප රටක් ලෙස සදහටම දුප්පත් වුනාදැයි හිතට වදදුන් නිසාවෙනි. අවුරුදු අසු නමයක් රටේ කලාවට ඉහටත් ඉහලින් දායකවූ අමරදේවයන්ට අපි සමු දියයුත්තේ බැති බරින් හා ස්තුති පුඋර්වකව වුවත්, පෘතඥන මිනිසුන් වන අපි මෙවන්නකුගෙන් තවත් චිරාත් කාලයක් අපව අමන්දානන්දයට පත් කළ යුතු බවට බලාපොරොත්තු වන්නේ අපට තවත් ‘අමරදේවයකු’ පෙනෙන ඉසව්වක වත් නැති හෙයිනි.

අප හැර ගිය යුග පුරුෂයන්, කලා කරුවන්  කිහිප දෙනෙක් පිලිබඳ ආවර්ජනයක් කරන්නේ ඔවුන් සතු විරල ගුණාංග සහ මනුස්සකම් මොනවාදැයි යලි මතකය අවධි කිරීමටයි. මොවුන් සියල්ලෝම නම් කිරීමට අසීරුමුත්, සරත්චන්ද්‍රයන්, මාර්ටින් වික්‍රමසිංහ ශූරීන්, චිත්‍රසේන ශූරීන්, ජෙෆ්රි බාවා, ඛේමදාස මාස්ටර්, ආචාර්ය  තිස්ස අබේසේකර, කරුනාරත්න අබේසේකර මහතා, ක්ලැරන්ස් විජේවර්දන මහතා, ජෝතිපාලයන්, ආචාර්ය ගාමිණි ෆොන්සේකා, ගාමිණී හත්තොටුවේගම, සෝමලතා සුභසිංහ … ආදී මෙකී නොකී අපගේ ජීවිතය යම් හෙයකින් වත් ගුණාත්මකව සහ කලාත්මකව ස්පර්ශ කල පතාක යෝදයන් තව බොහොයි.

මොවුන් අපි අමරනීයත්වයෙන් සලකන්නේ අයි දැයි මම මගෙන්ම ඇසීමි. මෙම යුග පුරුෂයන් අප රටේ රසඥතාවයේ  යම්කිසි හැරවුම් ලක්ෂයකට හිමිකම් කියූ බව සක්සුදක්සේ පැහැදිලි නොවේද? තමාගේ විෂය පථය තුල  නව නිර්මාණ කරණයේ පුරෝගාමීත්වයක් සෑම විටම හඳුන්වා දුන්නා නේද?  ඔවුන් සෑමවිටම තම අදාළ විෂය ක්ෂේත්‍රයට පරිබාහිරව ජීවිතය නමැති නෞකාවේ නියමුවන් හා පෙර ගමන් කරුවන් සේ ක්‍රියා කළ සැටි දුටිමු.  .

ජාති ජම්ම ආගම් බේදයකින් තොරව රසිකයන්, ප්‍රේක්ෂකයන්, පාරිභෝගිකයන්ගේ නිලය අල්ලුවානේද? ශ්‍රී ලාංකිකත්වය අභිමානයෙන් ජාත්‍යන්තරයට රැගෙන ගියානේද? කල්ලි වාදයෙන් තොර, ‘මම පොර’ මානසිකත්වයෙන් ඔබ්බට ගොස්  ‘අපි පොර’ බව ලොවට හඬ නගා කීවා නේද? තනි පුද්ගල රාජධානි නොසාදා ස්වකීය නිර්මාණයන්ට දායක විය හැකි සුසංයෝග නිතරම උපයෝගී කරගත්තානේද? චිත්‍රසේන, අමරදේව, සේකර, ලෙස්ටර් වැනි සදාතනික මිතුදම් වලින් බිහිවූ නිර්මාණ අමරණීය නොවේද?

‘අපේ කම’ පරතෙරටම හදාරා එය දූපත් මානසිකත්වයෙන් ඔබ්බට ගෙන ගියේ වසර දෙදහස් පන්සීයක අපිට උරුම ඝාම්භීර සංස්කෘතිය අනෙකුත් ලෝක පූජිත සංස්කෘතීන් හා නොදෙවෙනි කොට නේද? එම කෘතීන් සහ නිර්මාණ විශ්ව  සමාජයට මෙන්ම අපේ සාමාන්‍ය රසිකයන්ට සහ ප්‍රේක්ෂකයන්ට එකසේ රස විඳිය හැකි නිර්මාණ නොවුනේද? මොවුන් තමන් තෝරා ගත් විෂය පරතෙරටම හදාරා තිබුනානේද?

ජාතිවාදී, ආගම්වාදී මානසිකත්වය අහලක වත් තිබුනේද? ගාමිණී ෆොන්සේකා හැරුණු කොට මොවුන් කිසිවෙක් දේශපාලන අතකොලු හෝ වන්දිබට්ටයන් වුවෝ ද? තම නිර්මාණ සියල්ලක්ම අනුකරණයෙන් මිදී සෑම විටම නව්‍යකරණයෙන් පොහොසත් නොවුනේද? නිර්මාණකරණයේදී මුදල වෙනුවට තම ආත්මයට මුල්තැන දුන්නා නේද? මොවුන් මාධ්‍යයේ අතකොලු හෝ ගැත්තන් නොවූ අතර, මාධ්‍යය මගින් මෙම යුග පුරුෂයින් ඉතා වගකීමෙන් සමාජගත කළා නොවේද?.

අද අපි කොහිද?

අද අපේ පෙර ගමන් කරුවන් කවුරුන්ද? ඔවුන්ගේ කාර්ය භාරය මගින් පොදු රසික රසිකාවන්ගේ දැනුම, රසඥතාවය, දැක්ම යනාදිය  කෙතරම් දුරට ඔපමට්ටම් වන්නේද? අනුකරණයට  මිස නවීකරණයට කෙතරම් අවදානය යොමු කරන්නේද? තම විෂය ක්ෂේත්‍රය කෙතරම් ගැඹුරට විශ්ලේෂණය කරන්නේද? එම විශ්ලේෂිත දැනුම කොතරම් දුරට යාවත්කාලීන කොට පවතින සමාජ ආකල්ප ඔස්සේ රටට උචිත පරිදි සහ ගෝලීයකරණයට සරිලන පරිදි ඔප මට්ටම් කර ඉදිරිපත් කරන්නේද? උදාර කර්තව්‍යක් වෙනුවෙන් කණ්ඩායම් හැගීමෙන් කෙතරම් සහයෝගයෙන් එක්වන්නේද? මාධ්‍යයට මුදලින් එහා ගිය චින්තනයක් නැතිද? දේශපාලනීකරණය නොවූ නිදහස් කලාවක්, සංස්‌කෘතියක් අපට අද තිබේද?

කළු වළාවක මා දකිනා රිදී රේඛා

‘ට්‍රේල්’ පාගමන මම තනිවම  විදිනා ‘අපි හරි දුප්පත්’ මානසිකත්වයට නව පණක් දුන්සේනාසේය! හිතුවොත් අපට කලනොහැක්කක් නැත. ජාති ආගම් සහ පටු දේශපාලන න්‍යාය පත්‍ර ඇත්තේ අතලොස්සකට පමණි. රටක සෞභාග්‍යය උදා කිරීමට ඉදිරිපත්විය හැකි සැබෑ නායකත්වයකට නොකළ හැක්කක් නැත. පිරිසිඳු චේතනාවක් වටා මුළු රටක් එක්වූ සැටි මම ‘ට්‍රේල්’ මග ඔස්සේ, මසක් තිස්සේ සතුටු කඳුළු මද්‍යයේ බලා සිටියෙමි. ‘යහපාලන සිහිනයක්’  වටා ජීවිත පරදුවට තබා රටින් අඩකට වඩා බාල මහලු සැවොම එකාසේ එක්වූ සැටි දුටිමි. එසේම යහපාලන සිහිනය බොඳ වෙන සැටි බලමින් සුසුම් හෙලන අනාගත පරපුරක් මම දකිමි. ඔවුන්ට පරාර්ථකාමී යොවුන් නායකත්වයක දැක්මක් සහ බලාපොරෝත්තුවක්  නුදුරු දිනෙක ලැබෙතැයි මම නිරතුරුවම විශ්වාස කරමි.

අමරදේවයන්ගේ වියෝවත් සමග මාධයය නව කඩඉමක් පසු කළා වැනිය. දෙදිනක් තුල බොහොමයක්  මාධ්‍ය නව අත්හදා බැලීමක් නිරායාසයෙන් කළා වැනිය. ඔවුන්ට දායක වන්නට අනුග්රාහකයින්ද ඉදිරිපත් විනි. මෙයම හැරවුම් ලක්ෂයක පෙරහුරුවක් කරගත නොහැකිද? ජාතියේ රසඥතාවය තවමත් පණ අදිමින්වත් ජීවත් වෙන බව ගිය සතියේ මම දුටිමි. මෙය තේරුම්  ගෙන, මාධ්‍යය අදට වඩා සමාජ හිතකර, නව චින්තනයක් මාධ්‍යය සංස්කෘතියට එක කරනු ඇතැයි දෑස් දල්වා බලා හිඳිමි.

‘අපි මචං’   වැනි නව පරපුරේ කලා කරුවන් අමරදේවයන්ගේ ගීත යාවත්කාලීන කර ඔවුන්ගේ සහෘදයන්  සමග බෙදාහදා ගන්න සැටි මම අත්වින්දේ ඉහ වහා යන සතුටිනි. අතලොස්සක් වත් තරුණ නිර්මාණ කරුවන්ට තමන්ගේ තෝරාගත් ක්ෂේත්‍රය ගැඹුරට හැදෑරීමේ අවශ්‍යතාවක් ඇති බවක් පෙනේ. මෙය සුභවාදී නව මුහුණුවරක්  සේ දකිමි.

මහේල, සංගක්කාර, සරින්ද, නාදන්, වැනි තරුණ නායකයින්හට රටේ උන්නතිය උදෙසා කළ හැකි කාර්ය භාර්යය ඉමහත්ය. ප්‍රසන්නලා, තජීලා, රාජිත ලා, කසුන් කල්හාර ලා, අමරකීර්ති ලා වැන්නවුන්ට යෑමට තව බොහෝ දුරක් ඇත්තාසේය.

සමස්තයක් වශයෙන් ගත්කල මට හැගෙන්නේ, අපෙන් සමුගත් යුග පුරුෂයින්ගේ අඩුව පිරවීමට් අද අප රටට අවශ්‍යයව ඇත්තේ පටු දේශපාලන අරමුණු ඇති පොදු අපේක්ෂකයන් නොව, නව පරපුරට ආදර්ශයමත් පොදු යුගපුරුෂයන් (කාන්තාවන් ඇතුළුව) බව මම තරයේ විශ්වාස කරමි.

එය කළුනික  සොයන්නාක් වැනි කර්තව්‍යක් වුවත්, ඒ සඳහා මට කළ හැකි උපරිමයට සැමදා කැප වෙමි.

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The un-strategic me!

For some reason, this word ‘strategy’ has begun to irk me no end and I find it being used loosely ever so often. As a result it has totally lost its value for me. The irony is that I am known to be ‘strategic’ in my thinking, and I am saying the exact opposite, or am I?

Here’s the thing. What really is strategy? It is simply the way to achieve a goal or an objective, right? So my simple point is, if you know the problem well and if you know who is impacted by the issue, then you find an engaging insight to fix it. That’s it. No drama!

Unfortunately we like to make life complicated. So we go round and round the issue, complicating it with irrelevant information, data and a million theories. Why? Because if you don’t, you are not professional, and not ‘strategic’ either, sadly. I would rather go to the target audience and find a solution and execute it! But that’s not what us marketers like to do. We like to ‘develop strategies’ that go into pages with not much substance either! Yes. That’s what we are paid to do right?

I enjoyed working with two corporates who were polar opposite in thinking. One corporate spends months and years researching and strategizing possible solutions for their brands and the other found solutions on the run. I must say a lot of the times I saw that the corporate who found solutions literally ‘on the run’ did amazingly well with their marketing than the other, which labored with numbers and models and projections, driving everybody nuts.

I believe that an insightful idea supersedes all the strategies in the world, because an idea if properly hatched, would be a winner without having the label of ‘strategy’ and the usual road map. May be the whole journey gets processed in the mind instead of filling pages on a report.

I have tons of examples to prove my theory and here are just four of them;

Example 1 – There was a glut of chicken in the market. 30,000 tons to be exact. The industry was desperate. We were asked to come up with a marketing strategy to save the poultry industry from sinking! It was a tough one. We are a Buddhist country and we cannot ask people to eat more chicken for sure. So we thought of having some fun with the issue. I remember telling my team to ‘unlearn’ all the marketing theories and just have fun with the ideas. We realized we were about to face an election at the time and decided to make the chicken our candidate. ‘Api Kukulata. Kukula apita’ campaign was thus created. The candidate’s ‘promises’ took off like a bomb. We didnot do the usual 4Ps of marketing because the poultry association had no marketing strengths. The campaign became a hit and 30,000 tons of chicken was gobbled up by the market in no time. The reason was the freshness and the relevance of the idea. The poultry association was ecstatic and we sure had fun creating a crazy campaign! Needless to say we won a gold award for it too. This was the very first time the genre of a political campaign was introduced to advertising in this market which became a total cliché thereafter. Imitation is the best form of flattery they say.

Example 2 – A brand of tractors was struggling with its sales in the dry zone. They were doing all the text book marketing they could, with no success. We were asked to help them with the sales of the brand. We visited the farmers who were desolate in the face of a drought. Their common lament was that only the deities could save them. We knew we had the answer to the marketing problem just there. A ‘maha shanthikarma’ was organized (much to the annoyance of the then marketing director) to obtain blessings from the deities. The chairman of the company saw the relevance and value of this idea. It is not for us to question our culture and beliefs. The farmers needed solace and we provided it to them. The rest is history!

Example 3 – In the face of the market share being eroded of a global toothpaste brand due to a consumer relevant ingredient introduced by a local brand, the challenge was how the global brand could be made ‘emotionally’ relevant to the Sri Lankan consumer. The solution we came up with was for the toothpaste brand to be associated with the world famous Sri Lankan Smile, which is uniquely ours and ours alone. With this unique promise, the Sri Lankan Smile was captured in the Guiness Book of World Records too and the sliding market share was cleverly arrested. It was simply an action of identifying and applying relevant social and consumer insights to a marketing problem. Nothing else.

Example 4 – I was travelling to work and the car radio was playing ‘nobody’s child’. On the road at that moment was a tiny little boy walking on the road, all by himself, carrying a bag bigger than himself. I knew in an instant that he was a domestic worker. I went straight to my team and said we should create a campaign against child labour and in a few days walked into UNICEF with the proposition to curb child labour in Sri Lanka. A year and a half later, UNICEF together with the ministry of Child Care enforced the law against child labour. The campaign continued for many years in different forms, but the original idea was exactly that, ‘nobody’s child’!

This is just a handful of examples to prove that ‘strategy’ doesn’t necessarily have to be a complicated and laborious exercise and a big word that doesn’t mean too much. It is really understanding the pulse of the market and developing a set of actions that would resonate with the selected target group. No drama at all! What is needed though is a confident insight based idea creator and a client who says ‘let’s do it’ without batting an eyelid. Unfortunately, most of the time it is the vacillation and being unsure of a great idea that sends people round the bend that ends up developing meaningless ‘strategies’ that go nowhere!


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To Mr President with love

Dear Mr President,

It is one year since I woke up to an ‘aha!’ moment in my life… A long awaited sense of freedom, not just freedom from terror, but also freedom of speech, freedom of living a life devoid of constant fear of being ‘watched and listened to’,  a violation of basic human rights,  stolen from us for over a decade.  I also woke up to the hope of a clam on ‘excessive corruption’, cronyism, nepotism, lawlessness and political thuggery, to name a few. Yes Mr President, I jumped out of bed on the 8th of January 2015, realizing that the nightmare was over and it was going to be a fresh start for the country with a rainbow coalition lighting up our land. Many ridiculed me for my wishful thinking. But I am an eternal optimist Mr President, just to let you know.

Let me congratulate you Mr President, for the freedom you have given us. Yes, we have an abundance of it. Freedom of speech to write, call you names, criticize you using any form of media, without the fear of facing any repercussion, which would have been unthinkable an year ago.  This is great! At least we can give vent to our frustrations and anger at will, even though nobody seems to be listening! Now that’s another matter altogether.

From the moment you took oaths in a sense of ‘chaos’, we kind of figured that the government would also follow suite, finding some “order in chaos”, especially because we knew that the new government was going to face a lot of resistance and challenges from within. Well, democracy is not an easy game, we know that for sure. So I guess we were willing to give you that space. At least for a while!

Contrary to many of our impatience and frustrations, you have in fact achieved some significant milestones amidst this chaos and madness we seem to witness on a daily basis. I salute you for shrewdly managing to get the 19th amendment passed, even though it didn’t exactly abolish the presidency and had undergone numerous amendments which sadly watered down the original bill.  The fast and furious way you managed to restore our tainted image internationally is truly commendable. The creation of a constitutional council is definitely another huge feather in your hat, or should I say ‘an additional ring on your finger’, Mr President? The Right to Information (RTI) Bill I am told, is considered best in class. Undoubtedly, the country will reap its rightful benefits of these policy changes only later on and since we have short memories, we will forget to thank your government for it then. So thank you for these efforts and more, Mr President

Mr President, your eloquent and sincere speeches before and after taking office, reinforced our belief and faith in you. You willingly or unwittingly positioned yourself as this simple man; “a servant of the people and not a King”. This was a refreshing change for those of us who were desperately looking for a replacement for ‘The King’.

You took up the challenge, putting your life on the line as it were, and we in desperation thought you were the answer to our prayer, god’s gift to democracy and freedom, and just the right change the country needed. You told us exactly what we wanted to hear. You promised to change the status quo and the political landscape, starting with the family rule. And we truly believed you, Mr President.

But Mr President, a year into these promises, it seems like our dreams are slowly turning into nightmares.

Nepotism means ‘favoritism granted to relatives’, Mr President. At least that’s what the English dictionary says. When your own brother was appointed as the chairman of one of the most important government agencies, within a few days after you took office, our confidence shook, Mr President. When your son joined the entourage to the UN, the cracks started to appear, Mr President. Yes we remember how he tried to explain to us that his trip to the UN could not be labelled as nepotism and he even went on to quote some dictionary. However, I am not sure we quite bought it Mr President.

My friends in advertising seem pretty upset these days because your daughter has apparently launched an ad agency and most government work is being channeled to this agency, they lament. Now this can be a rumor or a conspiracy theory by these creative types, but may be you could look into this sometime. After all we know how the previous regime had so many companies with false fronts, making money for the family, right Mr President?  You know these things better than me, so why even leave room for such rumors? It definitely wouldn’t augur well for you, would it?

Small things matter to us Mr President. Because we thought of you as a simple, genuine man. We loved the way your family was portrayed; your wife, your daughters and the son, who appeared to be a bit perali but we were happy to give him some time to shape up. Sadly this ‘simple family’ image seems to be changing, Mr President.

When you declared ‘no cut outs of me’ policy, we jumped up in joy because we were fed up with our ex-King waving at us from every lamp post during the last decade. But Mr President, my blood pressure rises each time I go to the airport and see the most grotesque pandol greeting the visitors coming into the country, with you smiling happily on it. It is now faded too, Mr President. Time to take it down, I think. I can see how this old mania of cutouts has slowly crept back into our lives. It is not a nice thing Mr President, to go back on your word, especially when you need to make us believe that we voted in a simple man, who means what he says and says what he means.

This may be also be a rumor Mr President, but your media guys are supposed to be saying that you have become obsessed with wanting to be a news-maker on a daily basis and I was thinking that this may be why you put your foot in the mouth with the ‘bra throwing’ episode, which made you get international media attention, but sadly for the wrong reason, don’t you think, Mr President?

Now that’s another issue I thought of flagging. Do you think it is a wise thing to be policing our culture Mr President? As stated by that great statesman Mahatma Gandhi, “A nations culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people”. I am sure we can take a leaf from India to understand how important it is to be prudent on matters of culture without being seen as ‘prudes’. It is true we have a 2500 plus year heritage Mr President, but don’t you think we have to move with the times? We are living in a world where people should have the choice of selecting how they should live their lives. Don’t you think there are a lot more burning issues on which your attention is badly needed Mr President?

What about making sure law breaking politicians are arrested on time irrespective of their political allegiance and how about hastening the punishment of those you claimed to have committed many a fraudulent and criminal activity and plundered the country? How about putting your foot down when ministers appoint their brothers to high positions under their ministries? We criticized when the previous regime had eighteen or so namesakes in high offices. May be they were indispensable too, come to think of it.  I do have a long list Mr President, but I think you get the drift, right?

One more thing Mr President, what was that song all about? Just curious. The song that equates you to King Parakramabahu, is it? I personally didn’t think that was the kind of anniversary song ‘a servant of the people’ should have commissioned, Mr President. Apart from it being badly conceptualized, badly produced and totally old fashioned in its genre, it badly placed you fairly and squarely on the same throne as the King who was dethroned. Tcha, tcha, Very sad!

Are you struggling with a sense of inadequacy or an inferiority complex or an incompetence on the job Mr President? It sure must be a daunting and overwhelming task. Is that why you seem to have surrounded yourself with the same cronies that our ex-President surrounded himself with? Is that why you seem to slowly but surely be going in the footsteps of the King you dethroned? I don’t think this is a very wise thing to do Mr President. Most of these cronies are with you for their personal glory and nothing else. You seem to have a problem in figuring out whom to trust and get the right advice from. Some of the people who helped you get to the presidency seem to be totally disappointed and disillusioned with your new ways of thinking and acting, Mr President. I am sure you must be aware that Sobhitha Thero was a very disappointed man when he died. He was one person who meant well, wouldn’t you agree Mr President? It is painfully obvious that your advisers are definitely taking you for a good old ride. Has that astrologer chap also visited you by any chance? Do try and stay away from him Mr President, and for that matter form that clan of astrologers, for sure.

Finally Mr President, I feel it is still not too late to get back on track and make good those promises you made to a country of hopeful people. After all, it’s been only one year and you have achieved some great things for us already. May be I am nitpicking, really. Sorry about that, I just couldn’t keep all these thoughts to myself.

May be you could just get a crash course on curbing nepotism, cronyism, kingdom building, and lawlessness. These consultant ‘chappies’ who teach how to create visions and missions will also be able to help with reinstating your credo of Yahapaalanaya which has unfortunately become the butt-end of most political jokes and frustration. With a quick brushing up, you sure will be good to go until the end of your term Mr President. That’s just five years more right?

Let me end this note by wishing that you gain the courage to stand on your own beliefs and convictions as the simple man you claimed to be Mr President! May you have the strength to make those who believed in you, not be laughed at by those who said that this whole game plan to usher in ‘a change the country so needed’ was a sheer waste of time and hogwash.

Optimistically Yours

Sandya Salgado

10th January 2016


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