Friday, April 27, 2012


 Voyages (c) Harendra Alwis

It is never a question about moral or virtue, what is right or wrong; it is about being able to bear witness to your life and be proud; being able to say it and know you mean it; being able to give of yourself knowing it would be a worthy gift; being able to love and bear only the reflection of your lover - clear and beautiful without haunt or shadow - in your eyes.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Power to the People

Too Much Baggage 

Power to the idiots, power to the fools!
The tattered shed full of rusted, blunt tools
Power to the ignorant, obnoxious jerks!
To their misguided lives with unlimited perks
Power to the unimaginative and blatantly crude
Their bird brained followers and deluded brood 
Power to the beautiful, intelligent and wise 
Their desecrated hearts and dysfunctional minds

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Darkest Hour

  Blessings (c) Harendra Alwis

Go back to sleep, oh restless heart
Doze not in the abyss of fragile dreams
Mind the sting of that infectious dart
Add no more tears to brackish streams

Go back to sleep, dread not the night
Her eyes will carry the first rays of dawn
Wake not till that smile on her lips doth bloom
And the mountains echo her mermaid song

~ October 2011 ~

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Asymmetric Ode

Non-Geometric Asymmetry
Geometric Asymmetry (c) Harendra Alwis

I see you change form, take on a myriad faces
In my dreams, thoughts and everyday places
You are in every cup of tea and woollen sock
But most often I see you on the face of my clock
You are in everything I touch, from cradle to cemetery
So this is my ode to you, oh non-geometric symmetry!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Land like no other

Workbench (c) Harendra Alwis

Isolated by International and local travel bans because of a civil war raging within its jungles, the northern region of Sri Lanka offers contrasting views of life and adventure to those who dare cross the Forward Defence Lines (FDLs). This week, Harendra reports from behind enemy lines, about the lives of those who have been caught in the crossfire - both literally and metaphorically - for many years.

To say that ‘Sri Lanka is a land of contrasts’ would be an understatement that could get you thrashed in a night-club or run over by a three-wheeler. From the shacks of tea estate workers in its cool hills, to the luxury condominiums in the capitol Colombo, it is a country that shouts out myriad life stories, but perhaps none so forcefully as the stories of those who live in or near the war zone in the North and East of the country. Their stories are more elusive, so I went searching for them.

Starting off on my trail, I met Kandasamy (36) a local farmer and his family of five who welcomed me to their ‘earthy’ villa. The courtyard is lined by a rock garden on the furthest edge of their one hundred acre estate which coincidentally is also a minefield. Only last night, they were trapped in the middle of an exchange of heavy artillery fire, followed by Ariel bombardment. Despite the sleepless night, Kandasami and his family wake up early morning to start another peaceful day in the village of Kodikulluppu, just 236 kilometres north of the capitol Colombo. Kandasami’s family had spent the night underground in a bunker that they dug themselves. Despite the smoky morning sky and smell gunpowder in the air, Kandasami - a wine enthusiast - is optimistic about the future.

When the war is over, he plans to have his own vineyard and winery on his mine-infested land and of course, turn his underground bunker into a cellar. “I think Sauvignon Blanc will do exceptionally well on this land. The soil and weather is just ideal” he says with a sparkling smile that is iconic of the people of this tiny island off the southern tip of India. De-mining his fields however, could take many years even after the end of the war but that’s not going to be a problem for Kandasami. “I think the mines on the field will add an ‘explosive’ undertone to the taste of my wines, which will compliment the melon taste of Sauvignon Blanc, so I will not have to blend in any Semillions” grins the future entrepreneur.

As I make my way on cratered a landscape I am greeted by Periadorai who has just opened a coffee shop beside the esplanade. Its large French windows offer stunning views across the large man-made tank and what little remains of the main highway. Periadorai’s coffee shop is a popular hang-out for the social elite of Kodikulluppu, including the teenage boys and girls of the only International School in the area, who invade the place soon after school hours. Periadorai, who has received his barista training while living in exile in South India, offers me his speciality – a sublime Macchiato and a delightful bacon and egg sandwich, toasted, with Swiss cheese on freshly backed Italian Herb bread. It leaves me wondering at the end, how good his lemon cheesecake or cinnamon doughnut would have been if only I have been there for afternoon tee under a sky lit up with artilary and anti-aircraft fire.

If business is the lifeblood of Kodikulluppu, then art would surely be its heart. My next stop is at the house of a young and promising painter. Sivagi, a child prodigy who began drawing on the dusty floor when she could barely crawl, had already sold her first crayon painting at the age of 6. Even though her first buyer was her uncle who bought his portrait for a mere Rs. 5, she (was) literally ‘shot’ to fame when she lost her arms to an unexploded shell. She miraculously survived and so did her love of art. Now she draws with a paint brush held between her toes and has since inspired hundreds, if not thousands of children like her, who has also lost their limbs as a result of the war.

Despite the occasional – albeit rare – claymore mine explosion and slightly more frequent kidnappings and just above average murder-rate, the northern and eastern regions of Sri Lanka are a tourist paradise waiting to be discovered. It is a must see destination for every traveller, as any would soon find that the flat arid space and wide cloudless horizons that cradle the stars at night, the white sandy beaches that stretch for miles and the tall palms are only a fraction as delightful or fascinating as the people who live there and their warm embracing smiles.

(Published in The Sunday Times - Mirror Magazine (25/11/2007)

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Half Life

Paddling accross the Milky Way
Paddling accross the Milky Way (c) Harendra Alwis 

Time’s flow carried her, half drowning in its currents, half buoyed by bygone memories, projected from the recesses of her mind, with a blue tint, until she found herself washed up on its western bank, half conscious, at a bend half way in its path, just before dusk on an ordinary day, indistinguishable from any other, and there she lies still, awake, but half asleep, waiting for dawn, as time, flows on by southwards…

(From March 2008)

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Virtues of News


Bad news makes good news. This is quite true for mass media, but only because people consume bad news better and more willingly than good news. Bad news is sensational by itself and has a slightly longer shelf life.

What do disaster warning systems, SMS messages about bomb-blasts and network monitoring tools have in common? They all alert us to bad news and can potentially save lives and property damage including intellectual property and information stored in computer networks. Not only governments and large corporations, but even individuals invest in technology that can warn us of impending dangers and threats and more often than not, they bring dividends – because bad news has tangible utility than good news.

We take it for granted that the surf is calm at the beach and don’t need to be alerted to that, but especially those who live by the sea will definitely pay to know if a Tsunami was imminent. We install network monitoring tools, not to flood our mail boxes every five minutes with messages that the Network is safe but to warn us of much less frequent infiltration attempts.

To be fair by the mass media, consumers are far more willing to pay for bad news than they are to pay for good news, but why?

The bad news is we can’t yet know for sure why bad news is more important to us than good news. Perhaps that’s how our brains are wired; perhaps that’s how we have evolved – because access to bad news is far more critical for our survival than access to god news. It is also bad that as a result, much of the good news never gets reported.

So what’s the good news? Well, there is plenty of good news all around you, if only you would bother to look. I could tell you what the good news is, but if you can’t see it yourself; there is little hope that anyone else will be able to show you.

(Published in The Sunday Times - Mirror Magazine (20/01/2008)