Wednesday, December 27, 2006

To trust again

About a year and a half ago, my friend and I were searching for topics to base our honours theses on. My friend took about a month to settle down with a topic, but it took just half an hour web-search for me to land on something that got my mind drenched in ideas – computer forensics and network security! I always had a thing for ‘investigating’ and an obsession with ‘defence strategy’ that ran back about half a decade, so I had a healthy appetite for what I was going to bite. Now, with my degree way behind me, my daily experiences and qualms has made me look back at my research in a different light.
Reading and keeping up-to-date with the latest tech-news is something I get paid to do, so I always had a good idea about the various dangers that were associated with the Internet. But when I started learning about the inner workings of computers and computer networks, things became a bit more serious. The curtain of enchantment that hid the principles of hacking and sending emails under someone else’s identity were burned down by simple logic. The technology that seems magical to most, turned out to be primitive and so easily exploitable when dissected. I would have expected all that knowledge to make me feel powerful, but it didn’t. Subconsciously, it made me perceive the Internet as inherently untrustworthy. I could not bring myself to trust anyone that I met exclusively online. I’ve heard of too many scams, phishing and cyber stalking to make that leap of trust.
Then came online communities – I got an invite from a friend to join Hi5, which I did. I liked the idea that it was a sort of easier and more fun way of keeping in touch with my friends, yet never ventured into cyberspace in search of new ones. When I browsed through the many networks of friends, I found out that most of my generation of Sri Lankans were more closely linked than I could ever have imagined, yet it did nothing to make me trust anyone that I didn’t know already. I came across a few interesting profiles and there were times when the temptation to share an idea or a suggestion overcame my reluctance to interact with strangers, but interestingly enough, I never expected to make new friends out of it and I never expected them to trust me either. It's almost funny when I think about it now, but I have often tried to explain to total strangers that they should not be so willing to trust me. I may have seemed like a psychopath!
Maybe, after devoting a year and a half to studying how the Internet can threaten my privacy which I covet a great deal, I may have become too self-conscious, maybe even paranoid. The fact of the matter is that, I live in a foreign land separated from family and most friends and the Internet offers the only practical mode of keeping in touch. SO, whether I like it or not, most of my social interactions now take place online. Maybe I am a victim of my own knowledge and maybe I am still unable to see these things in perspective. Maybe… I will have to learn to trust all over again…

Walk in the rain

O dark and heavy cloud
Wash me and refresh me
With your rain drops as I walk.
I am tired, yet I have far to go.
Pierce the dull gloom of the sky
With your needles of lightening.
Spark happy thoughts in my heart
With the shivers of a cool breeze.
Shake me and drench me like a tree
And awaken with your moist winds
The sleeping buds in my soul,
Then calm my weary eyes, to sleep
In the warmth of her dreams.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Today, I will remember

Today, I will remember you
For the love
That you poured generously for me
And burdens you bore willingly with joy
So that I may dream

Today, I will remember you
For the moments
We didn't have each other to share with
And the lonely tears and laughter we lost
To the cold winds of night

Today, I will remember you
For the thoughts
And little words that set me alight
For the beautiful inventions of our minds
And their inspiration

Today, I will remember you
For the strength
That you shared with me generously
The words, the laughter and things we did
And memories we made

Today, I will remember you
For the joy
And pride in the things we achieved
The simple and lasting happiness we found
Within our own hearts

Today, I will remember you
For gunshots
That you fired and those fired at you
And the deep trenches you dug in your soul
For me to take refuge

Today, I will remember you
For the waves
You battled against, and drowned
And each and every heartbeat and dream
The ocean stole from us

Today, I will remember you
For smiling
That sincere and warm smile
And the generosity that flowed from your heart
That uplifted another

Today, I will remember you
And pray,
That tomorrow I may not forget

Monday, December 25, 2006

Of kites and dreams

There was once a time when it was warm and humid in July and yet December would bring along with it the cool dry winds for my kites to fly. I was still careless enough to run barefoot along the little streets with the excitement that only a fragile kite made of bamboo and tissue paper could bring. Its red and white frills dangled just below the electricity cables and telephone wires. Yet I never wanted to fly like a kite at the edge of a string. I wanted to soar like an eagle and breathe in the purple air of the sunrise.
I was young and so were my dreams. They were about kites that flew at the edge of a long nylon string and about airplanes that flew above them. I treasured the string, because even though a kite was just for a season, the string would remain in my closet for another year and then another. I may have spent half of my school holidays untangling its knots; because I enjoyed the puzzles they took solving and it taught me to be patient. So the string grew in length every year with new additions that seeya brought from the market, but it never grew long enough to let the kites fly as high as the airplanes.
One of seeya's joys was to see these simple and colorful creations of mine in flight, when I flew them from the little hill near the house. Perhaps it took him back to his boyhood and the simple dreams he had then, because the dreams of a young mind are simple and they don't dictate to you what you ought to need and how you ought to live. Dreams then were happy and ambitious. As I grew older, my dreams became more complex. They began to take the shapes and forms of people and things, and dissolve in the anxieties and worries of real life. Life has become a kite, flying under the impression of freedom in the sky, yet no further than the length of a string. It becomes almost impossible to fly against the wind.
As a boy, I flew the object of my dreams and as an adult the objects of my dreams fly me at the edge of their strings. I was once the creator of my dreams, but now I wonder, whether I have let myself become one of their creations.

Friday, December 22, 2006


I think I have finally bailed out after a few months of "writer's block"...

After Life (draft)

Chapter 1

I realise what it means now. I now understand why thousands of sweaty hands carried banners and why their coarse voices shouted through those dusty streets, even though they themselves still don't. I know why young men wore green uniforms and polished their brown boots. I know why powerful men gave speeches from lecterns and why millions of powerless men applauded. I know why some men wrote and spoke and why others did not listen or read. I understand why they would sometimes try to cover the red blood on the ground with thick black ink on paper and later glorified that same blood with the same strokes that their heavy pens had made. I know why pages of magazines and books once overflowed with their stories and ours and why people paid to read them.
I understand peace, because now I feel it, like I used to smell the sweet scent of flowers and burning incense at the temple. I know it surrounds me like the wind, because I breathe it in. It flows though me now, like a river through a dessert, fertilising its path through my soul, then eroding it and carrying it away like sand and loose rocks, on its way to the greater depths of the universe. It has become my sustenance, the same way that fear once was. After a lifetime of searching, I search no more. Through all the tribulations of my short life, I have at last found life's purpose.
Men strive to carve out their own space with their own tools and their own skills, during their own lifetime. Some do so with their speeches, some with banners and coarse voices, some with their pens and yet others in their green uniforms. Many of them believe as they struggle, that they will have more than a lifetime to benefit from it. My struggle has led me to my life's fulfilment and its completion; for I am dead now.

My world is dark now, but I see my place in the universe more clearly than ever before. I did not know God, but I know him now. My loved ones and friends do not recognise me anymore, but I have carried their memories with me. I did not march out of the battle the same way I marched into it. I do not yearn anymore to give or to take, for you take, only to give back and a lifetime is all you have; to give or take. The battle field broke my life before it mended my soul. I walked through a gate of violence to enter the world of peace. There are those who enter this world from different gates after wearing off their own tools, but mine weren't worn off. There are those who are never remembered beyond their lifetimes, but when I died, a nation stood up and remembered me in silence for two minutes, because I once held a gun against my chest.
That gun was my tool. Life had assigned it to me and I carried it with skill and honour. They told me it was mine, but it belonged to another man who died before me. The fire within it was responsible for the deaths of many. I kept it at my bedside and carried it on my shoulder. I stood with it at attention and guarded their peaceful world as they quietly slept, for I never had any peace in my own world. It was there to protect my life, the lives of men who marched beside me and the life of my nation. I never considered it vulgar or brutal when I held it with the same fervour with which I held my wife and my first born son. I did not see the irony then, that it would be such a weapon in another man's hands that would end their dreams and spill their tears. I did not understand how that which was commissioned to save lives, would eventually destroy them. I did not know then, that the path to my peace lay inside a metal barrel of fire and violence. But death takes as much as it gives and recreates what it destroys. Soon the time will come, when the life of the one who took my life will also be taken. But not yet.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Words under threat of extinction

21st December 2006
A severely homesick Harendra Alwis (who is also mildly depressed about not being able to come home for Christmas) reports from his little corner of the world in Melbourne, Australia

Semantics Task Force (STF) inspectors of the Department of Words in the Ministry of Communication have discovered millions of cases where certain words are being misused and abused. In a series of raids carried out worldwide, the ministry says it has collected alarming evidence of the deterioration of language, right out of the lips of offenders. Senior analysts at the department say that this is a very dangerous threat to communication that requires serious attention on a global scale.
In an effort to educate the public about the misuse of words, the ministry has released two comprehensive reports; one listing expired words that are being cheaply recycled and used with distressing frequency and the other containing a list or words that are under severe threat of loosing their meaning.
The first list include words such as 'like', 'whatever', 'love', 'so' (alternatively spelt 'sooo') and also phrases such as 'shut up'. Investigators who managed to successfully infiltrate a group of school girls in a bus, found statistical evidence which suggest that teenage girls are the most common offenders of this mass abuse of words. However, 'gangsta rappers' and their brain-dead followers and nincompoops who don't read are also among those who have been held responsible for this severe degradation of semantics.
Four letter words such as 'shit' were found to be abused mostly for swearing. However, evidence suggests that illiterate thugs and idiots whose command of language is limited to a few hundred words are using these words to convey their narrow spectrum of thoughts and ideas. The findings suggest the possibility that, these words have evolved into super-expressive tools of communication for their users, as such words offer versatility in the use of language for people with a limited vocabulary.
The second report covers more serious issues that may even effect our perception of what it means to me human. Investigators have found instances where politicians and even religious leaders had misinterpreted words as fundamental as 'war', 'peace', 'freedom', 'God', 'good', 'bad' and 'justice'; arbitrarily choosing their meanings to manipulate public support for unjust causes and to promote their personal agendas.
While acknowledging that at least some of these changes could be considered to be part of the necessary natural evolution of language, the investigation also shed light on the fact that words such as 'love' and 'respect' have all but lost their meaning. Previous studies have proven that human thoughts and feelings are shaped by words and their semantics. The range of human emotions and sentiments are limited to the availability of words that can represent them and convey their meaning. Therefore, if this process of abuse is allowed to continue, humanity may soon loose its ability to experience even the most profound of all emotions and sentiments.
Commentators on the subject argue that the loss of emotions and positive sentiments is already taking place causing dire consequences. They point out the increase of domestic violence and divorce rates and the decrease of goodwill and cooperation among individuals, groups and most notably among nations as a direct result of the degradation of words and the meanings.
In its final analysis, the report suggests the invention of new words as a possible solution among others such as making it compulsory for people to read old books and legally enforcing the dictionary definition of words that have been identified to be under threat. Experts point out that the latter will cause more harm than it aims to prevent, by limiting the creative use of words. They also warn that such moves could even be a threat to sarcasm and humor; the cornerstones of entertainment and laughter. In reply, the ministry emphasized that the contents of the reports are open for public debate, iterating the need to find creative solutions to the problems they aim to highlight.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


The stars are silent. The moon has waned.
Even the busy street has gone to sleep, tucked under a blanket of scarlet lights. It is the hustle of the trees and the songs of crickets and beetles that fill the air.
The ocean crashes on a desolate beach, but its hum has already faded into empty space.
I wait here as I have waited all my life, wondering whether I will see you in my dreams tonight... wondering whether I will hear your voice and smell your hair... unsure whether I could feel your hand slip into mine or see the way you part those tender eyelids to spare a glance for me or smile back when I smile. I wait for a touch I have never felt, a light I have never seen and a warmth that has never shielded me from the cold winds. Hope keeps me company.
I try to imagine the conversations we will have one day, the quarrels we will resolve with a kiss, and the prayers we will pray together cuddled in each other's arms. I try to invent new words to draw a portrait of you. Simple, beautiful, timeless and honest words that would describe the cheer in your laughter, the grace with which you walk and how the rhythm of my heart would change when you smile.
I need you tonight, even in a dream. I am tired... tired of receiving too many blessings when I don't have you to share them with... tired of days passing by too fast without a sincere smile. Friends stand by my side. Time offers me a hundred adventures. Freedom promises a thousand thrills. Sometimes I search for you in a verse that flows out of my heart or in a book I take up to read. Sometimes I see your radiance in an image that flows out my camera.
Yet they can no longer fill the emptiness in my little corner of the world. I try to be brave, to deal with the speculations of my mind and the yearnings of my heart. This night will pass, and another as I wait here... I will wait, and I will smile... always.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Balance brought forward

Four years ago, I marked the completion of my 21st year of existence without much ado, but I vaguely remember being a bit excited about legally being considered an adult for all practical intents and purposes. Or perhaps it was just that everyone else was all excited and I am sure part of that excitement rubbed off on me too, but I already felt ‘grown up’ enough to despise the idea of a birthday party, because that seemed too childish and therefore too embarrassing to even consider.
But hitting 25 just four years later was different. Well, I am alone in a foreign land and nobody can hug you over the phone even if they wanted to. But its not just that - things have changed a lot... I have changed. I have no idea as to why I am blogging this, but it probably has a lot to do about the fact that I am just ‘me’ and I can’t help it.
Being 25, I realise perhaps for the first time that, I am not just ‘old enough’ to do anything, but sometimes ‘too old’ to do certain other things that I may never have had the chance to do… or never made use of the chances I had. I started taking stock of my life and the way I have lived it… wondering whether I should have been a bit more foolish at times… a bit more irresponsible and careless… a bit more rebellious… a bit more daring… perhaps also a bit more brave? Well, I guess it takes a brave person to wake up each day and face it with confidence, and you have to be brave to hold on to your course when others change their direction with the wind...
Looking back, I am proud of what I have done with my life so far and the way I've lived it. I probably won't change most if I got a chance to do it all over again, but I wonder whether a part of me regrets the fact that I didn’t make as many mistakes as I should have… taken chances without so much fearing their outcomes… wondering whether it would have been a tad better if I hadn’t been so focussed on living life the 'correct' way and dared to challenge my perceptions and beliefs a bit more. I always played it the way it was inscribed in ancient texts and was at times a misfit among those who embraced the version of 'modernity' that flowed out of American soap operas on TV.
Life has started to accelerate now and it will eventually catapult me into careers, mortgages, marriage, kids… as I battle to squeeze through time and space without as much time to stop and think as I would like to. Decisions have to be made in haste. My friends and I have all but lost the innocence of our childhood, each fighting for his or her place in a world where we have to win just to survive. The transition of best friends into adversaries may have started a few years ago, but the process is nearing completion now and only a few remain friends as we've always been, even as new ones come and go... a few of them might remain.
So I guess, when you turn 25, you just have to brace yourself for the future... close the accounts of gains and losses of the past and just carry the balance forward.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Victoria Bushfires

My four-day holiday at the edge of the bushfires turned out to be one of the best ever... had a feast of a time caving, catching the surf and bushwalking... and came back with some nice photographs in the bag...
These pictures are exactly the way they were taken... I have not enhanced their colours or edited them in any way.

The days were dim and the sun was a purple disk in the sky behind a thickening cloud of smoke...

when I set up the tripod at the edge of the freeway...

to capture some fiery shots...

driving by the 100km firefront

and taking in sights of the cloud of smoke that only the 600,000 hectare fire could create (and also the ash and black rain drops)...

the fires at a distance and the smoke covering the landscape...

a lone windmill seemed unconcerned about the advancing flames, swaying its arms in the wind and smoke...

with fire trucks whistling past in both directions with us scambling behind them...

but even with all the fires around them, people would still pay to eat fried chicken

Monday, December 11, 2006

It's a matter of trust

Last week, the CEO of the online auction site eBay boasted that his company had taught 13 million people to trust each other – almost all of them total strangers! Contrary to any conclusion that ‘pure reason’ may take us to, most of us would trust a stranger with our money – given the right conditions and circumstances - even though we have little or no clue about their identity. It is tempting to reason that people trust eBay and therefore anybody who is selling something on eBay would ‘inherit’ part of that trust, but that may not be the ‘whole truth’.

The fact is we are far more willing than we can even imagine; to trust anyone who is in a position to give us something we want or need at a reasonable ‘price’. What is meant by ‘price’ may not necessarily be a monetary figure, but anything we deem valuable such as social acceptance or even love and reputation, because that is the force that has propelled ‘social networking websites’ into one of the most active realms of the Internet. While a considerable number of members on social networking sites seem to shun interacting with strangers, even most of them are likely to initiate interactions with a stranger who may have common interests or a ‘profile’ that seems very interesting or attractive in some level.

So is the Internet telling us that trust is not something that always needs to be ‘earned the hard way’? What would the word ‘trust’ mean if it is something we would trade willingly to buy the desires of out hearts and minds?

Saturday, December 09, 2006


When old trees creek with happy songs
And the sea kisses the beach with delight
Shall we trace our steps through the woods
And sit by the sea shore on a starlit night?

When old roads wind up along a lonely hill
Lined by old houses with limestone walls
Shall we walk up the hill on rainy afternoons
And stare through windows at candlelit halls?

When old stars die and with blasts in the sky
On a distant dark corner of the Milky Way
Shall we lie on a little tuft in a grassy plain
And whisper little secrets and tangle in fray?

When old friends hide in the shadows of time
Leaving old memories and their happy tales
Shall we just hold hands and find our place
In each other's hearts, in love that never fails?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Digital touch

I explore the world
From my little corner of the world
Through a seventeen-inch window
Browsing my own thoughts
And dreams
That has condensed
On a flat-panel
Where I can increase
Their resolution and depth
Or make them a bit brighter
If I wanted to
But I click my way through
Until I see you there
And pause, because
I see those eyes in my dreams
And you are in my thoughts