09 December 2010
Take the revelation that Hillary Clinton had inquired of her aides whether Christina Fernandez was on medication and if so, how the meds affected her decision-making. It's a perfectly legitimate question for a secretary of state to ask before meeting the president of a foreign country. Yet Ms. Fernandez is hardly likely to be pleased to learn that it was asked, and this makes relations between Argentina and the US ever so slightly more difficult. Much worse would be the consequences of harsh words used by US diplomats (in a confidential discussion) about the chief Chinese representative at the Six-Party Talks over North Korea, and the revelation that some American diplomats think an important Turkish minister is a bit of a closet Islamic extremist. Publicizing such matters makes the going along the rough edges of international relations just that much rougher--and makes the world a slightly more dangerous place.
Back on the home front, what good purpose is served by making public the knowledge that some American diplomats in Colombo, at least, believe that President Rajapakse and his military commanders are guilty of war crimes? It is not as if the news is going to change the views people already hold. It may briefly put fresh heart into human-rights campaigners and civil-society activists, but its practical consequences are all negative: they consist mainly of increased friction, distrust and resentment between Sri Lanka and the US, and between Sri Lanka and the west in general. It will make working towards final reconciliation and accountability harder than ever. That benefits nobody.
'Freedom of information' also means freedom for information to flow. By turning itself into an obstacle to its free passage in this way, Wikileaks has made the world a shadier, more secretive place. This is nothing less than a terrorist attack on civilization. It will have a far greater impact, in the long term, than 9/11 ever did or could. And it is not just the West that is the victim here. It is everybody.
01 December 2010
Unfortunately, I find that the impression it leaves behind, at least with me, is also as ephemeral as the effect of fine brandy: a slight hangover the day after, and then gone for ever. I've enjoyed nearly every book of his I've read, as long as I was reading it. A month after I'd finished it, though, I could remember little of plot, character or indeed, anything else. Surely this can't be good?
Solar, however, is a book I will remember, because it is the first time Ian McEwan has completely failed with me. I think I understand the trick he's trying to pull off here: create an unsympathetic character, one deserving of nothing better than pity or contempt, and try to interest the reader in him, even feel some sympathy for him in spite of his faults. It doesn't work. Michael Beard, the Nobel-prizewinning protagonist of Solar, is a gluttonous, womanizing slob to whom essentially unbelievable things happen, and not very interestingly. We are privy to his thoughts most of the time, but these neither bring us any insight into his creepiness that would help us understand him and possibly empathize, nor do they seem to me like the workings of the mind of a physicist--unless physicists' minds work just the same way as everyone else's, which may be the case most of the time but surely not all of it. The fact is, Michael Beard doesn't seem very intelligent at all. Is that McEwan's point, then? That Nobel-prizewinning physicists are just the same as all of us, only intermittently bright and otherwise slaves to their passions and habits, not very interesting apart from their work? We knew the first already--it's a truism of the most banal sort--and as for the second, it's a lie. People like Einstein, Dirac, Feynman and Bohm were far from uninteresting as human beings. They were all, in their different ways, a little bit peculiar. There is nothing in the least peculiar about McEwan's physicist creation Michael Beard.
Somewhat to my astonishment, I actually found myself speed-reading the last third of Solar, just to see whether anything worthwhile would happen in the end (nothing did). Speed-reading Ian McEwan! Has it come to this?
24 November 2010
|Real photographers can't spell|
|Kalpitiya sunset by reformed former |
shutterbug. Yes, it's a great shot.
|A better photographer than he looks, |
not that he looks bad
18 November 2010
|Galapagos finches' heads|
drawn by Charles Darwin
|Bruce Chatwin, taking |
a hike as usual
|Karen von Blixen-Finecke |
in Kenya, 1918
|The other Karen|
15 November 2010
As someone whose background has a few things in common with Salman Rushdie's--South Asian, heavily Westernized, bluntly secular, roughly similar in age and both writers by profession--I'm ambivalent about the man. Some of what seem like virtues to his Western critics look like faults or cheap tricks to me, and vice versa.
I am also a lifelong lover of rock music, so I was suspicious of this book in particular. The Ground Beneath Her Feet is the story of the rise and fall of the two greatest rock stars who never lived, and of their fated, fatal love for each other. High-culture attempts to get under the skin of rock are rarely, if ever, successful, being usually either blandly patronizing or quivering with embarrassing wannabe enthusiasm. Though he avoids both these awful extremes, it turns out that Rushdie is no better at writing about rock than any other grown-up author or critic. His vision of the Rock Life is pretty tabloid, and the song lyrics he comes up with for his fictional band, VTO, are beyond dire. If you're a rock fan who doesn't read much high-class fiction, and you're attracted to this book because of its rock subject matter, my advice is: forget it.
Worse, the damn' thing is science fiction, and a stock example of a stock sub-genre at that: the alternative history novel. I guess Rushdie figured that two Bombay Indians could never become the world's biggest rock stars in this universe, so he created a whole new one for them.
Third, the book starts really, really badly. Rushdie's prose in these opening pages is overburdened and clumsy, and the metaphoric imagery that is so vital to the magical-realist project is in some cases more worthy of Rushdie's imitators than of the man himself. There were times when I was reminded of...Ashok Ferry. No, really. But thank goodness, the style settles down after the first forty pages or so, and after that the book becomes a real pleasure to read. The pleasure is alloyed, however, by further, though occasional lapses into, well, if not quite Ferryism, at least Arundhati Royism. Salman, that's so not a good look...
In the end, however, I found The Ground Beneath Her Feet to be a damn good read, and it made me think. It is one of the most philosophical of Rushdie's novels, and its discursive first-person narrator often digresses to share with the reader his opinions on this and that; and I found these philosophical interludes and observations on life amusing, enjoyable and very much to the point; there were several times when I caught myself reading with a nodding head and a rueful grin on my face. This is not how Salman Rushdie usually takes me.
The book sort of falls apart at the end. Its narrative arc is that of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, and as the narrator informs us fairly early on in the proceedings, that myth makes for lousy showbusiness because it has an unhappy ending--Orpheus's attempted rescue of his lover from Hades fails; he lives out the remainder of his days disconsolate and is ultimately torn to pieces by a group of maenads, crazed female devotees of the god Dionysius. This dog of an ending clearly had Rushdie seriously worried while he was writing the TGBHF--so worried he actually shares the problem with the reader a couple of times, maybe so as to prepare him for disappointment. In the end he contrives a happy ending of sorts without straying too far from the narrative arc of the original Orpheus legend, but only at the cost of having to introduce a new major character to us in the dying chapters of the book. And that is all that I'm going to say about that little trick.
Despite its faults, I really enjoyed reading this book. Very few people in the world can write so well--on his day--as Salman Rushdie, and well-made prose is always, I find, and regardless of content, a joy to read.
08 September 2010
All along Parliament Road from Alexandra Place to Pelawatte, the rent-a-crowds are gathering. The Transport Board buses that brought them fill every lay-by, lane and empty roadside lot. Expensively-dressed thugs and thuggish-looking cops are walking busily up and down, talking self-importantly on mobile phones and walkie-talkies. In spite of the cops, the traffic is an unholy mess. The crowds have taken over the streets.
30 August 2010
26 August 2010
the partnership will utilize iris biometrics... as the base of the security for all aspects of day-to-day life for Leon’s 1.2 million citizens. Portoss will integrate iris capability across the city, install miles of fiber optic cable and construct the central iris database with power to enlarge the scale to include private sector corporations for a variety of applications.The Herald article explains how it's done:
When the... residents of Leon go to the bank, get on a bus or walk into a medical clinic, their eyes will be scanned by machines that can handle up to 50 people per minute in motion, automatically entering the information (about where they've been and what they've done) into a central database monitored by the police.This sort of thing instantly evokes thoughts of Big Brother watching us. And of course, Big Brother, or someone with an internet link to him, is watching us already; consider the recent case of the British woman who got caught on a private security camera while stuffing a cat into a dustbin. The fact is, technology now makes it easy for those with an interest in keeping tabs on us to do so, and it's getting easier all the time. It's also getting cheaper, and the combination is going to make routine surveillance and data-gathering on members of the public more widespread.
I don't see how the trend can be halted. It isn't just biometric scanners and security cameras; the technologies of surveillance, data-gathering and data-mining are forging ahead on all fronts, and the infrastructure to support them is growing ever more pervasive. And most of it is happening with our explicit or tacit consent. We willingly give up the information in exchange for the goodies and conveniences we obtain thereby.
In all of this, the Great Enabler is, of course, the internet – to which, we are told, not only our computers and workplaces and mobile phones, but also our cars, homes, TVs, refrigerators, air conditioneers and even our clothes will soon be connected. Over five billion devices are already hooked up to the internet; by 2020, say the pundits, the internet of things will have over 22 billion active nodes, all busily uploading information about their owners.
And that's scary. It's bad enough in rich, sophisticated democraies, where concepts of civil society and civic freedom are embedded into the social fabric and governments (or corporations) have to get public approval before they can go ahead with things like this. But Mexico, where Global Rainmakers is wiring up a city with iris scanners, wasn't, last time I looked, a particularly rich country. If a city in Mexico can afford this kind of technology, a city in China probably can, too; and the Chinese authorities don't have to ask anyone's permission before introducing measures like this. Neither do the governments of places like Singapore, Syria, Myanmar and, of course, dear old Sri Lanka.
Of course, there are questions of capacity and competence that arise, too; the Burmese and the Sri Lankans may be able to instal the technology, but that doesn't mean they'll be able to use it effectively. Cerrtainly, the bungling efforts of the Sri Lankan authorities to 'regulate' mobile phones and the internet are no threat to anyone – not yet, anyway. But this is cold comfort for those of us who have seen at first hand how much damage incompetent but dictatorial governments can do by abusing the resources at their disposal.
10 July 2010
IQ is, I know, a controversial statistic. There is massive disagreement about whether it is a fair measure of intelligence or whether, indeed, it measures anything at all. Its origin in eugenics makes it suspect – and scandalously, black people tend to do worse on IQ tests than whites. Less scandalously (since they didn’t invent the tests), East Asians do better than either. All this is worth remembering, yet there is no other measure of general intelligence that works as well as IQ, and it correlates to other measures of intelligence too. Perhaps intelligence cannot be measured at all; yet IQ tests certainly measure something like intelligence.
With all these caveats in hand, then, what do the statistics tell us? The IQ-vs.-religiosity study uses data from a famous and controversial book, IQ and the Wealth of Nations, and it puts the average Sri Lankan IQ at 81.
This is pretty shocking. However, it’s probably an extension of the figure for India, which is the kind of thing the authors of that book did quite a bit of. The more recent Economist study gives figures of 82 for India and – more shockingly yet – 79 for Sri Lanka. This puts Sri Lanka on par with Nepal as the lowest-IQ countries in the non-black world.
Sadly, this doesn’t surprise me. The Sri Lankan environment actively selects for - that is to say, breeds - stupidity. Here's how.
- Because life here is nearly unbearable for an intelligent person, and prospects are so poor, the brightest Sri Lankans of every generation emigrate, taking their genes (IQ, like intelligence itself, is strongly heritable) out of the pool. This has been happening without pause since a few years before Independence – a matter of three generations now.
- The society they leave behind is one that has evolved to nurture and celebrate stupidity, while intelligence and originality are penalized at every turn. Tradition, religion and caste all load the dice against independent thinking and creativity; you can’t even record a new version of the National Anthem without being accused of disrespect to the nation. So intelligent people prosper less than stupid conformists, have fewer children and perpetuate their genes less.
- Arranged marriage, which works against the natural tendency of intelligent people to marry one another and produce intelligent offspring, is widely practised.
In fairness, it must be said that other South Asian countries are not a great deal better than Sri Lanka when it comes to average national IQ. This does not surprise me: the same driving-away of the most intelligent in every generation, the same coddling of stupidity through religion, caste and ‘the way we do things here’, is as evident in these countries as in Sri Lanka. India, of course, is changing fast. But will Sri Lanka? From a Ceylonese perspective, the prospect doesn’t look good.
07 July 2010
02 July 2010
|Early aviation in Sri Lanka|
The photo of a gang of indentured native labourers building the runway at Katukurunda aerodrome tells a less agreeable tale of Ceylon, but one that was always an inseparable part of the experience. Lest anyone think Sri Lanka superior to the land of my birth in even this sorry respect, let's not forget that, right now, gangs of Chinese convicts under the supervision of Chinese warders are hard at work in the South, building the government's vanity projects for it. Meanwhile, some surveys of youth unemployment in Sri Lanka put the figure as high as fifty percent. Yes, you read that right.
22 June 2010
W.G. Karunasena, the hero of Shehan Karunatilaka’s novel Chinaman, used to be my neighbour in Battaramulla about the turn of the century. Our homes stood on a quiet, leafy lane, slightly downhill from the ITN studios and transmitting tower. I understand the location was chosen as the site of Sri Lanka’s first TV station because the hill is the highest in the Colombo district. It’s a long, sweaty climb to the top on foot, so when one day I came upon a skinny, leathery old gent in white making heavy weather of the first (and steepest) part of the ascent and recognized him as my neighbour, I stopped the car and offered him a lift. We’d seen each other before, of course, but hadn’t spoken. He’s garrulous, W.G., more so than you might think from Karunatilaka’s portrait of him. In the book, he mostly just asks questions and lets others do the talking, but in real life he is, like many arrack-fuelled convivialists, an eager, indeed unstoppable, raconteur. That was the first thing I learnt about him. By the end of that two-kilometre drive up ITN Hill, I’d learnt a lot more.
He had done all right for himself in the end, despite the booze and the health problems it had caused him, the enemies he made researching the story of Pradeep Mathew, and the machinations of people like Rakwana Somawardena and Newton Rodrigo. In spite of them, W.G. did manage to get a foot in the door of the then-new and burgeoning world of Sri Lankan cricket television. He did a bit of commentating but was rather better known as a pundit, the sort of person who comes on after the match has ended to help conduct the post-mortem. He told me (this must have been later, on our second or third meeting) that he’d given up drinking, though there’d be mornings when he looked remarkably crapulous for a teetotaller. One of these, I remember, succeeded a night on which big, shiny SUVs had congregated in our lane, half blocking it, and unwonted sounds of revelry could be heard coming from the Karunasena house. The next morning he sought me out to inform me that his dinner-guests the previous night had been Ian Botham and several members of the Sri Lanka cricket team. A fine time had been had by all, he said, but this morning the ‘domestic’ (he’d taken up Sheila’s gentrified usage by then) had given in her notice. A famous all-rounder’s hands had been all round her all evening, and the silly girl had been too ignorant of the gentlemen’s game and its famous exponents to appreciate the compliment being paid her.
Readers of Chinaman will learn from the above that Karunatilaka has taken a number of liberties with the biographical details of his sports-journalist hero. Either that, or I have. At any rate, one of us is lying, and I think you’ll agree, once you’ve read the book, that it’s probably him. Chinaman the novel subsists – make that thrives – upon the wreckage produced by the collision of truth and fiction. It features among its characters a famous English cricketer-turned-commentator named Tony Botham and a Sri Lankan sports minister called Tyronne Cooray who had a stadium in Moratuwa named after him. It takes implausible liberties with the geography of De Saram Road, Mount Lavinia. Its overloaded, rattling, magpie-bedizened pantechnicon of a plot advances unsteadily, forever teetering between seizure and disintegration, on stepping-stones of such far-fetched contrivance as a Geoffrey-Bawa designed retirement colony for traitors and criminals beloved of the Sri Lankan state and Dutch catacombs under the P. Sara Stadium crammed with ancient but still perfectly functioning Second World War surveillance electronics.
The plot concerns W.G.’s efforts to research and write the biography of Pradeep Mathew, a Tamil spin-bowling genius who played for Sri Lanka in numerous test and one-day international matches as well as for Thurstan College, Royal College and Bloomfield C.C. Mathew delivered spectacular performances in obscure games and more than once saved the day for his team and his country, but since the Nineties he has been somehow forgotten, lost to history. Even the few people who still remember him – old coaches, former teammates who never made the record-books, family members and an ex-girlfriend who may not be quite what she seems – don’t want to talk. But W.G. is a fine old newshound despite his dependence on the bottle, and helped by his old friend and neighbour Ari Byrd, he slowly teases out and weaves together the threads of Mathew’s story. It turns out that Mathew – arrogant, prickly, too honest for his own good – is the victim of an effective, secret purge. His name and achievements have been quietly but thoroughly expunged from the score-books and public records, and people of importance or authority who once knew him simply pretend he never existed. As for the man himself, he seems to have disappeared.
A foreign reader, unless she is a conspiracy theorist, may find this aspect of the story hard to swallow; Sri Lankans who understand how powerful a force denial has been and still remains in our history and culture will find the suspension of disbelief easy. How many great Ceylonese have been erased from the records and forgotten? How many historical epochs have been blanked out or subjected to thoroughgoing revision? The iconic elements of contemporary Sri Lankan culture – the lying politician’s pristine raiment, the worldly bikkhu with his business interests and political connections, the bland white van of the abductor – are all symbols of denial: denial of truth, denial of reality. W.G. Karunasena himself is an avowed practitioner of the art, not least when he tries, as Sinhalese often do, to lay the blame for Lanka’s ethnic and social divisions (as well as her other manifold troubles) at the feet of the Europeans who ruled us for so long. No-one really believes this, of course – even the spit-flying ‘nationalist’ fanatic knows in his heart that it is lie – but I suppose it helps us live with ourselves.
Behind the wall of denial that conceals Pradeep Mathew, Karunasena finds many unsavoury things: racism, feuds over women, honey-traps, ball-tampering, theft and counter-theft, evidence of match-fixing at international level, and collusion between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE. W.G. is warned off and threatened by mysterious callers. He is taken for more than one white-van ride. It is all very Sri Lankan, masterfully imagined and convincingly presented. For all I know, some of it – maybe even all of it – is true.
But then again, Chinaman is a novel: a work of fiction, although the postmodernist acrobatics that decorate the last hundred pages or so may persuade a few gullible readers otherwise. Fiction, however, is rarely all made up; those of us who write it know that the clay we work with is real enough, the stuff of our own lives and other people’s, though normally so altered in the moulding and firing that the finished artefact bears very little resemblance to the people or events that inspired it. There are exceptions, of course; novels like Tropic of Cancer or Genet’s Notre Dame des Fleurs seem, to this reader at least, to be indistinguishable from autobiography. On the other hand, someone like Neal Stephenson can devise a historically accurate setting peopled by real characters and use it as the backdrop against which to unfold a story that seems fantastic, cut from the whole cloth of imagination. What Karunatilaka has done smacks more of Stephenson than Miller or Genet: his story takes place in the real world and features real characters and events together with fictitious ones, as well as many that are probably best described as half-unreal. Nevertheless – and to repeat myself – Chinaman is a work of fiction and no-one, as Hemingway once wrote, should be so egotistical as to see himself or herself in any of its characters. I think it is important to note this, because an author of fiction in a savage country is exposed to many dangers his colleagues in the civilized world need not fear – unless, of course, they happen to be Salman Rushdie.
There is, however, one aspect of the novel that seems to me to correspond faithfully to real life. It is a metaphorical correspondence, not a literal one, and subtle withal; perhaps only someone who has personally experienced the qualms, second thoughts, boggings-down, crises of confidence and feelings of helplessness that plague a writer who genuinely labours to turn an inchoate mass of half-expressed ideas and half-completed phrases into a work of art will be able to spot it. Indeed, the correspondence of which I speak can only properly be guessed at; but I think I have enough experience of reading from ‘between the shoulder-blades’ – to read, that is, as if one were writing and not reading – to assert with some confidence that it is real. It is this: W.G. Karunasena’s struggles with the bottle precisely mirror Shehan Karunatilaka’s struggles to write his novel. Part One of the novel ends when a television documentary W.G. has written about Mathew is telecast. At this point the real story of Chinaman is only just beginning, and its author, having surmounted the foothills whose conquest has monopolized his energy and attention up to that point, looks up and comprehends in its entirety, probably for the first time, the Himalayan task awaiting him. At this juncture, as if in sympathy with his creator, W.G. has his first serious medical crisis. Afterwards, the arc of his affair with the bottle – his renunciations, backslidings, bouts of illness and catalogues of ever-more-terrifying symptoms – appear side by side with other signs that indicate, to the experienced eye, that Karunatilaka is feeling the weight of his material, that the process of drafting and re-drafting is beginning to confuse and daunt him, and that he fears the multiplication of characters beyond feasibility (we are twice introduced to new ones, only to be told immediately that they will not reappear in the book). Somewhere just past the two-thirds mark, which is the point at which any novel and its author enter the doldrums of creativity, W.G., who’s been concentrating on the Mathew book and letting everything else take care of itself, suffers his worst alcoholic reverse so far. And when Karunatilaka hits the wall, 150 pages or thereabouts from the end, Karunasena ends up in hospital.
Fortunately, both author and book recover. The final portion of Chinaman contains a number of surprises of an apparently postmodernist kind whose true origin, I suspect, lies in the shifts to which the author was driven in order to bring about any kind of ending to the book at all. This is not to denigrate his achievement, for to turn an innings around with only one wicket in hand, in failing light, is (as any cricket fan will tell you) the work of heroes.
Which brings me to the question you’ve been waiting for me to answer from the beginning: is Chinaman any good at all, and if so, how good?
The first person to ask me this was a friend who had been involved in the design and editing of the novel, whom I met at the Barefoot Cafe hours after I’d posted up a Facebook status note saying I’d reached p. 279 of it. I told him it seemed okay so far, but that I was reserving my judgement until the end. This, I explained, was because I had yet to read a novel by a resident Sri Lankan author that that stayed good, or even palatable, to the last drop. Some of them had arguable literary merits – beautiful prose, a charming sense of time or place, real action and suspense (for instance, the hijack scene in David Blacker’s For a Cause Untrue), the odd felicitous turn of phrase or telling auctorial insight – but none of them were worth a damn as a story, one that kept you interested, had a plot which stayed the course and characters anyone but the author could possibly give a damn about. Not one of them, frankly, ever had a proper ending. Chinaman has that, and pretty much everything else it takes, too. The first genuine contender for the title of Great Sri Lankan Novel has entered the lists.
And Sri Lankan it is with a vengeance. Its blend of fact and fiction closely resembles the ‘history’ Sri Lankan children are taught in school. Its subject, cricket, is, of course, our national obsession (and this is a novel that rarely strays from its subject); but in the background, Karunatilaka touches, without ever making it look like a stretch, upon all the crucial Sri Lankan realities: racism, all-pervasive yet blandly denied; class snobbery; endemic corruption, moral failure and cultural decline; suicide-bombings, alcoholism, paedophile sex tourism, the shadow of the colonial past and the failures of the first post-Independence generation. It’s a depressing list, but in spite of it, as we all know, Sri Lanka is a far from depressing country. And Shehan Karunatilaka’s book isn’t depressing at all. It’s a festival, a carnival, a giddy riot on Galle Face Green after Sri Lanka wins the World Cup. Though portions of it are set in Australia and New Zealand, no novel I have ever read captures, embraces and partakes of the essence of Sri Lanka so perfectly. Even its faults – its fragmentary construction, its occasional grammatical and stylistic infelicities, the imperfect editing that has allowed a few nugatory fragments from discarded earlier drafts to infiltrate the final text – are thoroughly Sri Lankan.
Chinaman, my old neighbour W.G. Karunasena reminisces about how he felt ‘watching Wettimuny at Lord’s in 1984, the first time I realised that a Sri Lankan could be as good as anyone else.’ I don’t give an all-girl softball team captain’s toss for cricket, but I know a bit about writing, and Shehan Karunatilaka and Chinaman have made me feel exactly the same.
The cultures and customs of Ceylon were fascinatingly polymorphous and its faiths multifarious, ecumencial and syncretistic, for many different races called the country home. Walking through the streets and bazaars of its capital, you might hear a half-dozen different languages spoken in the space of ten minutes, and see twice as many different styles of costume on the backs of passers-by. This multiplicity of races and faiths did not always live in amity, but life was largely peaceful for all that. Garden walls were low, gates were left open and front doors ajar. The children of all races played together in the streets.
Ceylon ceased to exist in 1972. It was superseded by a new country, Sri Lanka. Unlike Ceylon, Sri Lanka has not been mostly peaceful: it has been at war against sections of its own populace for nearly all its history. That history is a sorry account of expropriation, ethnic oppression and cleansing-by-stealth, war, revolt and separatism; its successive governments have been noted mainly for their violence, corruption, incompetence and malfeasance, their gradual erosion of the rights and opportunities of those whose lives were in their trust, and their reluctance to leave office when their time was up.
Like every other Ceylonese, I became a citizen of Sri Lanka on 22 May 1972. I am, I believe, a reasonably good citizen. I pay my taxes, obey the laws and do my civic duty as I see it. I am no revolutionary, neither do I think it possible to resurrect the past.
Yet I am not - and will never be - Sri Lankan in my heart. I am a Ceylonese for ever. The tourist brochures call Sri Lanka Paradise, but the real paradise was always Ceylon. The fate of my motherland bears out the the lesson the singer sang, long before he sang it:
Call someplace Paradise, kiss it goodbye.