By Emil van der Poorten –
Today’s column consists of two unconnected halves.
The Obama inauguration
Watching the huge crowds in Washington on the occasion of Barack Hussein Obama’s inauguration couldn’t but push one’s imagination towards a re-location of the event to Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan practices.
Given the Sri Lankan, officially-approved and promoted reality, video-documented on at least a couple of occasions, where “ pro-government demonstrators” are seen releasing their hold on their weapons in order to accept a five hundred rupee note for “services rendered” (or being rendered) much of which is in the form of assault and battery visited upon those having the temerity to display a lack of support of their Lord and Master, I looked really hard at the milling crowds in the US federal capital at a once-in-four-year’s event for so much as a glimpse of a spindly stick, not even for a 2 X4 or a pole. Alas, that expectation of excitement was not realized! There were not even sandwich boards in support of the US’s recently re-elected President, leave alone giant cutouts.
I then looked for masses of hamburger wrappers in lieu of the debris from kiribath or buth packets which one might have expected to be in evidence in the home of the hamburger. Alas, I was, again, to be disappointed because the usually ubiquitous flotsam emanating from McDonalds outlets was nowhere to be seen. That suggested that free hamburgers and coke had NOT been distributed in order to attract the very impressive crowds at Barack’s inauguration.
Going through news reports of the event however, I finally unearthed a sign of democracy in action a la Sri Lanka. Some (rap?) musician whose lyrics were turning anti-Obama or anti Obama policy during the event, was swiftly removed from his performing stage. Here, again though, the event proved most disappointing because the guy was not roughed up and not incarcerated for rehabilitation under the Prevention of Terrorism Act or its US equivalent. If nothing else, this lack of drama, violence and bloodshed reflected very poorly on a country that is home to Hollywood, that source of so much blood and gore in the area of broadly-disseminated public entertainment. Surely, the home turf of Spaghetti Westerns and Quentin Tarantino could have done better than cutting the sound from a rap musician’s performance and removing him from the gaze of the television cameras? Oh well……….Hollywood ain’t what it used to be and one better learn to live with this deterioration of performance standards, I suppose.
The relative bonhomie surrounding the celebration of the re-election of a “visible” and ethnically “different” person was in stark contrast to what would have happened if by some weird and wonderful confluence of the planets something similar had occurred in Sri Lanka. Imagine, if you will, a descendant of Ponnambalam Ramanathan or Razik Fareed or (God forbid!) Pieter Keuneman elected, as Senior Organizer for the Mattakuliya area. There would certainly be protests against this potential sullying of the national political gene pool. Buses would be made available to bring large numbers of “patriots” to wherever any such inauguration was to take place. Special provision would be made with roof-racks to carry poles appropriate to the assaults to be launched on those who might be foolish enough to enter public space to celebrate such an event. If it was more convenient, contracts would be given to supporters of the “protest against inappropriate celebration” to provide poles of adequate strength and length at the sites where “dissuading action” was to be taken. These contracts would be given to those with a proven record of unquestioning loyalty to those organizing the “anti-celebration” and would constitute significantly higher rates than for common-or-garden “dissuading actions” of the past. After all, payments to friends for such a worthy purpose should take into account the meteoric rise in the cost of (really) living.
However, the dearth of entertainment from the US Presidential Inauguration was somewhat compensated for by a local event that arrived on our doorstep recently.
The “ Great laptop theft mystery”
Some afternoons ago just after we’d sat down to lunch with visitors, our “domestics” burst in on us with the news that the police were here, together with a dog. Now police calling on us, usually when they need a “donation” of some description, is not unusual but doing so with a trained canine in attendance was certainly out of the ordinary and merited immediate response.
At the front door was a burly policeman in “civvies” (I presume he belonged to our League of Protectors because he said so and one doesn’t question such introductions with a request for identification in this country and in this day and age unless seeking a thick ear or worse!) He said he was here in connection with my reported theft of a laptop computer and seemed quite annoyed when I told him I had not experienced such an event. It transpired that a part of the ill humour of our policeman was attributable to the fact that he (and the canine and its minder) had had to trek up our not inconsiderable hill after their police vehicle, riding on bald tires, had skidded off the road while conveying them to our abode!
A flurry of calls on his ubiquitous mobile phone ensued and it transpired that the directions given had been completely cockeyed. The reported theft was in an area which was in the opposite direction to our home insofar as the location of the police station was concerned and there had been a mix-up because of the free use of racial references. They had mistaken me, a “suddha” in their parlance, for an Englishman who lived in another area also within their jurisdiction. A little lesson here in the matter of the free use of racial references leading to hugely unnecessary confusion. Anyway, another police vehicle which had pulled its predecessor out of the ditch, appeared and everyone – policemen and K9 – departed for goodness knows where!
A footnote to the comedy
Incidentally, it seems like Sri Lanka must be one of the few, if not the only jurisdiction in the world, using Dalmatians as police dogs given the fact that these lovable canines have a reputation for being among the least intelligent of dogs!