Image of the Week

sunset sri lanka
“The setting sun flames up the sky. The sea is like molten lava. The people frolic in carefree abandon. It’s 2015 signing off.” Lilamani Benson
Gaya: ‘Peace in a time of grumbling’ on good governance and new governments may be the chirp of the times, but such cameos of carefree fun in paradise remind us how far better off we are now in contrast to the uncertain no-hope dawns of consecutive new years, not so long ago.
LilamaniLilamani Benson is best known for being herself—Lilamani—rather than Founder and CEO of a leading advertising agency or as an artist. As Lilamani, she inflames her art, her ideas business and life with flamboyance and passion. This casual shot she took on her phone on New Year’s Eve is used with permission.


Soap Opera – Brahmanawatte

I wouldn’t dare introduce Renu. She is a poet who doesn’t give a damn whether you read her poetry or not, a creator of food fusion that follows mood and emotion as one who is in a continuous sensual dance of life, which you may only sense by her writings, not imitate or follow. That is, until she decided to host a blog: Fenugreek from which, if I am good, posts could be shared on iSrilankan, which will touch a chord with many Sri Lankans living on this planet; most of all, with those who live away from where it all began.
“My father is dead. For a few years now his body parts have been educating someone in some medical faculty somewhere.

From time to time when I go to the Tamil shop I buy a certain soap. Not that I make a list and go looking for it. I just see it and my hand reaches out and it follows me home…Read more

Rani soap

2016, We’ve got a few fireworks of our own… Bring it on!

Ok so with that corny header, here’s wishing all iSrilankans and friends of Sri Lankans who read this stuff, a YEAR OF STARBURSTS AND SPARKLERS, whatever lights up your sky!

IMG-20151231-WA0002– twirling a few nilas with the kids,

– hurling a few gundus (politicians eh? Navin Dissanayake already said on his Fb message to the world to expect a few surprises ;))

– multiple get- togethers to organise with the old friends you spent the best years of your life and still greet you with a hug and a cackle,

– daughter’s  (or son’s) graduations to celebrate,

– weddings to plan which family attend from many continents (I will be attending one in December where the Tamil and Sinhala and Burgher Diaspora will be there in flying form in Melbourne as my niece weds her adorable fiancé),

– new initiatives to lead – good luck to GoodKarma, launched by certain citizens of Sri Lanka who are quirky, clever, fun and absolutely the goods when it comes to civic-consciousness and sustainable thinking whats-it.

– Sitting quietly by a lil bonfire in the great outdoors and reflecting on things gone by and more journeys to make ahead…

– commemorating 150 years of the school which grew me into ME, the best school of multi-ethnic multi-faith growing up with no airs and graces, Methodist College Colombo 3 by the sea.

– and more…

Despite the cancelling of public fireworks in Brussels, the police presence in Paris and all the fear and paranoia that Trump would like his minions to mimic, a hotel in Dubai going up in flames and all making the media headlines all over the world…

We will not be cowed, scared and deterred from celebrating this next year. Hey, some of us have emerged from bomb-dodging the best years of our life and never gave up on ourselves. We won’t begin now!

Here’s to our private starbursts and fun fireworks folks! Last night an author from the Diaspora of Tamil ethnicity wished me on email a happy new year! My very close friend from the two schooldesks-together time we shared sent me the above glorious pic of the fireworks in Newcastle, NSW. This morning on whatsApp, my old school friends had already begun their new year and more faithful friends I knew from Italy sent their viber stickers from Japan, Florida and San Jose and am expecting another from Belgium. Yes! we’ve got friends by the bucketful. We are born Sri Lankan and though we don’t always make friends and influence people the right way up, we definitely make friends and keep em for life!

So here’s to whatever 2016 may bring!! We are in good company!

I hope I can get this space going to keep the bonds of Diasporan friendship with local Sri Lankans closer together!

Please send me your thoughts and letters and anecdotes and messages if you have the time to write a short one to share on iSrilankan through this year!


Sri Lankan–Africans from Puttalam: visiting my “long-lost relatives”!



Along a narrow trail that wound a short distance from the Puttalam /Anuradhapura road, lay the quiet village we were searching for.  We reach Sirambiandiya after a four hour trip by bus from Colombo.  We are unsure of what type of reception we will get, as the research we had done on them, told of a people who were fed up of being treated like a circus freak show!

The knowledge of their existence has since been publicised by musical performances at the Barefoot Café,  so the novelty had worn off. Yet we were still interested in meeting them, despite the possibility that they may be wary of visitors. We took the chance and were delighted to find them open and friendly.

Puttalam1I have wanted to visit them for a long time, but till a restlessness born of inchoate melancholy drove me into taking the trip, I had been postponing it.  I am curious to find out how much they have integrated into the Sri Lankan culture, perhaps due to my own feelings of displacement; I am grasping at straws, in desperate search for a source of attachment to Sri Lanka. I am hoping that they might have it, and I could learn from them. [Read more…]

Whatever the party, Lanka knows how to party!

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No one trusts politicians and no one’s fooled by election promises really. Yet there’s been too many sad mornings after, after the riots, after the bomb, after the funeral, after the tsunamis, after the end of the war.  Now  the voters are voting and the band’s playing in August as it did in January.

It’s amazing! It’s a reason to celebrate. It sets us apart.

You’ve gotta hand it to Lanka…
Whatever the party, they know how to party!
O what a show of votes!

I love every single voter cos they voted,  every single enthusiastic campaigner fired up, glitter- eyed peeps who were behind the win cos they wanted to run the race.

Was this a peaceful or more peaceful election than we’ve ever had before in Sri Lanka?

I hope you will not forget how we partied together till dawn, when all hope was bombed outta the nation. And no one lost friends or colleagues due to political allegiances. That together we abandoned hope of seeing the war end in our lifetime. Will you remember the dead who gave their lives to see democracy restored in one nation north to south, east to west? And give to those who gave?

In trust the country still remains, for the generation born, which did not know war, or fear.

Proud of the democratic tradition of Sri Lanka.
Proud of the phoenix-like quality of our survival.
Proud to be a Sri Lankan today.
Will still be proud tomorrow and thereafter
Of a country that still believes.

Ayubowan Lanka!

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Image of the Week


 Tharindu monk meditating near the sea

Waves of sea,
Break one upon the other,
[Read more…]

Remembrance day 2015: I remember going to ‘the front’

GAYA’S INTRO:  He left his parents behind in Northern Jaffna to join up ten years ago, strangely coincidentally on May 19th 2005. He has much to remember…

bike jaffna




Ten years ago,  this day this time…

many things were in my head.

[Read more…]

To have or not to have? Questioning victory day, military parades et al.


For those saying that Victory Day should be retained, and who use VE Day as an example, and also cite the reasoning that we need a day to remember the men who fell in the cause of national unity, let me point out a few things

[Read more…]

Happy (surrogate) Mothers’ Day!

Ok, so it’s Mother’s Day. I’ve duly forwarded the poetic messages I received from my lovely friends to ten other mothers and acknowledged the hot pink  roses and gift stickers on viber that another mum-friend sent me.

alokaya1My own mother passed away a week or so ago. However, when she did pass away, I had to do my duty to another lady and inform her personally of my mother’s passing. She only knew my mother through me. She is my surrogate mother to me and lives on Kinsey Road, where I was boarded as a young lawyer who needed to be close to the courts and counsel’s chambers. The guidance and sharing of those years and the continued connection we have is  something that gives me comfort and tethers me when the world swims around.

It’s just that focusing only on your birth mum may serve to blot out all the motherly love, advice, good kicks under the butt and salvation from absolute damnation we have received along the way from other people’s mums or those who were never biologically created to bring forth. No one probably knows of those relationships and kindnesses as we hardly publish it as we would, our birth mum’s.

On Facebook, -yes, I love it unrepentantly – the tributes are wonderful. But there were two that stood out:

yellow araliyaA friend of mine thanked her sisters for their guidance and love in the absence of her own mum. Very moving as many of us have had that loving guidance from our sisters in the absence of our mum’s presence of mind and foresight in some cases. I did. My sister intervened very early in my life. Her confidence in my brain power and the solutions she found for me to build up my complete lack of self-esteem and transformed me completely and made me aware of what I was capable of achieving. Am eternally grateful to her for this.

The second was a comment by a cousin to an ‘Aunty who is a cousin’s husband’s mum’ as she put it and always showed us motherly attention and was someone we looked up to and could trust unconditionally.

And of course there are those friends’ mums who took us into their home when thrown out (temporarily) out of our own, when we were treated badly or so we believed or when we nearly did something utterly disastrous or had just done, with a member of the opposite sex at a silly stage of life.

So yes, while the emotional and physical burden of a birth mum who had to nurture us with that umbilical pain we caused her is unsurpassed, here’s to our sisters, auntys and grandmothers, etc. who were our surrogate mums in the Sri Lankan cultural kulla or sulagu;  and gave us motherly love and kindness that saved and formed us and add so much to our lives for very little in return.

Happy Surrogate Mother’s Day !

If you have a surrogate mother’s story to share do write in!


Images: No copyright infringement intended.

No poppies by request! Remembering with olu-nelum-manel, ambal-thamarai-alli!

Screen shot 2014-11-11 at 10.07.09 PM

POPPY DAY? We didn’t have horses who died in battle. We didn’t have bagpipes.

Poppies don’t really mean much to us in Sri Lanka.

But the poppy campaign meant a great deal to the old war veterans when they came to Grants Advertising and asked for a creative poppy campaign, free of charge.

Tikiri de Zoysa wrote an amazing poem ‘Give to those who Gave’  and I remember how proud we were to see creative poppies floating around Colombo in wreaths and singles. Most cars had that wreath, vans too.

We were not remembering, but living it, trying to forget each day for a couple of hours that Sri Lanka, the very name, was loaded with hopelessness, bodies blown apart, shelling and fighting. The year was 1993 and we were in the bloody thick of it. No end in sight. I still can feel the hopelessness as if it were yesterday. Was it yesterday?

Remembering the fallen in our long war, from which we have emerged after decades, with the conviction that war is not the answer. Remembering the war veterans, and the identityless privilegeless members of the forces and the LTTE who are now without power and influence but relegated to poor people in the poorer part of the country once more.

Remembering the relatives who cannot visit a war memorial due to the lack of one both at home and in Canada, UK, Australia, Europe, Singapore, Norway, the list goes on.

Screen shot 2014-11-11 at 10.06.08 PMRemembering the victims of the massacres, the bombings the extorted, the defenseless, the harrassed, the exiled, the victimised and vanquished.

Remembering those who walked away from their childhood homes too far to return and those who walked the last battle and never did return.

Remembering the mothers of the missing and the fathers too. Remembering the children without parents who are in school-hostels today for want of responsible adults in the family to take care of them.

Remembering daughters and sons who left their schoolrooms and teachers and parents for life as a rebel.

Remembering that we can only remember and we can never forget.

Give to those who gave. All who gave. Let us lay an olu, a nelum or manel,  an ambal, thamarai or alli for the fallen.

May peace prevail! அமைதி, சமாதானம் காண்!
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Photocredits: First image is Dev Wijewardhene’s amazing photography on Nil Manel in Kandy, the second and third from seedsofdesign influence website.