Monday, January 30, 2012

32. YOU ALSO THOUGHT SRI LANKAN DRIVERS ARE THE WORST IN THE WORLD? THEN TRY THIS FOR SIZE!

If you thought the Sri Lankan drivers are the worst drivers in the world, you are not alone. Almost everybody seems to share this popular opinion. Join the club. I’m one of them.
 
Those who haven’t been to Sri Lanka believe the Italian drivers are the worst.
There was a post on the blog වෙදගෙදර about an incident where a driver who tried to pick up the phone he dropped while driving causing an accident. 

Actually this isn’t a scheduled post. I was in the middle of the series “Close Encounters Of The Cops Kind”. Anyways this seemed so relevant and a kinda ‘eye opene’r so I decided to insert this interrupting my series. 

On the other hand this is hot and was screaming for priority.

Kokola, who is a very good friend of mine has been a great inspiration for me to be a blogger, though he is not one himself. I met this dude while working as a teacher in the country I’m currently working. It’s amusing that I’ve never met him back at home in Sri Lanka, except at the airport. Anyway he was my kid’s Physics Teacher, too.

Kokila, who is now in Michigan, USA, set off to see The North American Motor Show in a friend’s car. Kokila and his wife were sitting in the back seat of the black state car in the photo. At a color light controlled intersection they made a right turn on the green, when the young woman in the white car jumped the red which she didn’t see as she was busy texting on her cell phone. She rammed into our dudes’ car and you can see the result in the photo. 
 
Luckily they escaped without serious injuries thanks to the airbags that deployed a in a split second! And also, due to the fact that it was the engine compartment that took the impact and not the mid section which would have changed the outcome. And these winter days when the tarmac is icy and slippery things could have been worse if they ended up in an uncontrollable spin! 

The funniest thing according to Kokila is according to the Michigan Law, it is only texting while driving that is illegal, not talking on the cell phone. So that woman can’t be prosecuted for driving while talking on the mobile phone jeopardizing other people’s safety!

Another day, he wrote to me, while he was at the wheel waiting for the green light at an intersection, he saw the young woman behind the wheel in the next car was busy texting. So, he was on the lookout. When the lights changed she hit the gas and shot the car forward and swung in front of Kokila without turn indicators or anything. Kokila who was half expecting  something had just managed to take evasive action and save himself.
Another day a driver who had parked on the shoulder of a highway (an interstate I think) and changing a wheel was hit and killed by a woman who was driving while using a cell phone.

When I blogged this in my Sinhala blog, Kokila commented that when he told this incident to one of his American friends, he said that he saw a woman one day driving on the interstate while reading a book. So he honked to get her attention, mouthed the obscenity “What the F…!” and steered clear of her way.
And they drive like this in a country where the traffic laws are tight and fines are high. And where there is a system of scoring demerits for each traffic violation which could lead to the suspension of the driver’s license for months or perhaps years making the driver to take the driver’s test again.
So, do Michigan girls beat our private bus driver dudes, truck driver dudes and the lot in their own game? I’m definitely gonna think it over…


Monday, January 23, 2012

31. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE COPS KIND


I think the Sri Lankans those who have emigrated and those who work abroad are a much neglected species in their own land. They are bound by several invisible bonds. I wish to discuss about them in future blog posts.

One of those most important bonds is to be back on the scheduled date. As lot of things ride on that, they deliberately avoid situations that could end up in,... say specially courts. They drive more carefully than the others. Never argue with the cops, if it can be helped.

No matter how careful I am, I pay a fine or two every vacation. Mostly for speeding or overtaking. One vacation I was busted at 12.30 a.m. in the middle of Kurunagala City for speeding. I had to return to Kurunagala to pay the fine and retrieve my driver’s license, which we made into another family Road Trip and visited Anuradhapua, too.

One major problem a driver who returned from abroad faces in Sri Lanka is the changes made to the traffic flow and the roads. In most developed countries it’s no big deal to drive through a strange city because the bold road signs give proper guidance. In Sri Lanka, it’s not easy to know which is the one way and which is not. You have to check before you enter one particular road which way the other dudes are driving. Then you follow. In the night, it’s a different story because you get to know quite late because of the absence of traffic. And you learn it the hard way being fined.

Even my fellow blogger Jayya had very recently written about an incident he had faced in Sri lanka where he reversed his car all the way out of a one way street. As he accuses, we have a method of baiting and lying in wait to bust when the law is broken. They don’t seem to believe in warning people not to break the law in the first place. 

If you want to drive in a Sri Lankan City, you need to case the joint first. You have to make a full survey and study about the traffic flow, the streets and the works, first by walking, or taking a bus or a taxi or being driven around by someone else. Then only you should attempt the feat yourself.

Some people I know never drive in Colombo. They leave the vehicles with a friend or relative in the suburbs and take the bus into the city. All this because they can’t cope with the Colombo city traffic regulations.

One vacation, on a weekend I was driving with my family in a Colombo street. I came from Kollupitiya along Dharmapala Mawatha swung right at the roundabout near the War Memorial and on to the public library street street. This used to be a dual carriageway. We had planned to visit the Girl Guide Headquarters Building which was a popular venue for various bargain sales throughout the year. As this was situated opposite the library I had to drive all the way to the next roundabout and return.

So, I drove down to this Green Path roundabout and made the 180˚ turn and tried to enter opposite lane of the road I came when I noticed some vehicles were coming on that lane heading towards me on the wrong side. I realized something was wrong and continued till I was blocked by the traffic cones. 

I hadn’t realized that they had made this a one way street because it was the weekend and there were no traffic on that lane for me to see. I looked for a gap between the cones and steered towards it so that I can make another swing and enter Green Path. Then I heard the ear piercing police whistle. There was the traffic cop standing patiently near that statue near that unused library gate.  He waved at me as if waving to his best friend. I steered through the cones and drove near him.

“Park the vehicle over there and come with the documents, sir” the cop said kindly.
I parked and stepped out with the documents, the typical Sri Lankan way.

Even my son followed me to taste a new experience live which he gets everyday on Need for Speed. 

The cop was dark sknned Dude just like me. He welcomed me with a broad smile.

“Ooo a very fair skinned gentleman, just like me. Come on sir”
I couldn’t believe my ears. He looked at my son and asked, “Is this your son, sir?” I said yes.

Then he said very lovingly.

“Son, you go and sit in the van. I’ll have a chat with your dad and send him back in ASAP!” Amused he returned to the vehicle.

“You and I both are the handsome dudes of the same skin tone!” The jovial cop said, laughing. I was wondering what the hell this cop was up to.

“Where on earth you were going over there?”
“Officer, I didn’t know it was a one way street.”

“Why sir, it was published on the newspapers. It has been a one way for some time now. Are you new in Colombo?”

I avoid mentioning that we work abroad because we believe if we do so everything would be overcharged, including the fines. People seem to believe that we are on the gravy train. Only we know the bitter truth behind.

“Do you accept that you committed an offense.”

“Well officer, do I have a choice?”

“Come on sir, don’t say like that.”

“I didn’t know it was a one way street.”

“Why my dear sir, didn’t you see those traffic cones?”

I had never met any other police officer who talked like that. This was quite contrary to what most of us had experienced. So I also made some extra enthusiasm in talking to him. Still a doubt was lurking in my mind about his unusual approach. After some time he asked me if I wasn’t working abroad.

I plead guilty.

“Which country is that, sir?”

I told him which.

“Ah. Your president was here last month.”

I lost my composure for a moment.

“Look Officer, that is not our president. Our president is the same one as yours. We are Sri Lankans, though we work there.”

I got a bit angry because I felt the same hurt I feel when our friends and relatives make such remarks to the effect that we are no longer citizens here making us lose our identity that we cherish so much. The cop loved my attitude. He said it never occurred to him that I would be hurt to hear him say so.

“Ok sir, most of the people who return from abroad circle that roundabout just like you did.” The cop laughed.

“No doubt about that, ‘cos there’s no way to know. No signboard, nothing!!” I said.

“Ok then. What do you prefer? A court case of a spot fine?”
“A spot fine is much better.”

“Ok then a spot fine.” He opened his book.
“How big a fine?”

I was flabbergasted. I gaped. He was smiling enjoying himself.

“How should I know that, officer?”

“You and I being handsome dudes of the same complexion...How can I say it?” “If you think so you can let me go without a fine.” I said with raised hopes.

“No, no let’s have a verrry small fine… as a good luck charm.” 

He opened the clip of the pen and got ready to book me.
“How small?”

He pouted his mouth.”Oooh  what about five hundred rupees?”

“Five hundred rupees isn’t a small fine.” I protested. “You do anything you want.”

He closed the clip of the pen with a snap, shut the book, too  and looked at the van.

 “Is that your wife and the kid in the van?”
I said yes.

“So you are going shopping?”

“Yes, we have an idea like that.”

“Okay sir. You are my fair skinned mate. You can go.”

“What?” I thought but didn’t say it.

“Okay sir, then you can go. Drive carefully. You know sir, so many dudes who return  from abroad, go around that roundabout, ha.. ha!!. Ok then God Bless You!”

I thanked, shook hands and walked to my van. I started the engine and drove along the boulevard behind the Viharamahadhevi Park and swung around the roundabout at the very end near the Horton Place. 

When I was driving past him on the opposite lane, now to enter Green Path he was questioning another driver. I tapped on the horn. He looked, gave me abroad grin and wave  before he returned to the new dude.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

30. PROUD TO BE SRI LANKAN, DUDE!

An evergreen hit series of Sri Lankan Yarns is "Us Vs the World". Almost all stories belong, more or less, to the same formula. After the typical cynical American, Russian, Japanese and the others dudes fail at the given task our Sri Lankan dude achieves it , no sweat!!

Example: The Grabber Croc in the Lake.

With these Tall Tales, whether we are bragging about our smartness or confessing about our stupidity, if you read between the lines, in some of them we are laughing at ourselves. Which I believe is one of the most advance forms of sense of humor.

Example:The International Hellhole (If you really don't know, just comment) 

A sub category of the same series is "Our Dude Vs the boasting, swollen headed, insolent, cynical  European".

Well if you can't recall any, here's one.


A taxi driver was driving a tourist around in his taxi. While they were passing Colombo Fort, the taxi driver showed one building and commented that it was Sri Lanka's tallest building.

The tourist, laughed contemptuously and said,

"This is your tallest building,huh? Dude in my country some of the buildings reach up to the sky. That's why we call them skyscrapers."

The taxi driver, quiet taken aback said,
"Scrape the sky? Really? Oh but, that's impossible"
"Well," the tourist stroked the behind his ear and said, 
"not exactly the sky. A little below that."

Both traveled in total silence after this exchange. After they passed Kollupitiya the taxi driver who seemed to be in deep thought broke the silence.

"Do you know sir, in Sri Lanka we eat through the nose."
The American who never watched Nat Geo or Discovery Channel, sprang to attention.

"What?  Are you serious dude? Eating through the nose? That's impossible. I don't believe you. You are lying aren't you?

"Well sir," the taxi driver rubbed his nose a little with the forefinger and said, "Not exactly through the nose. A little below that."

Now back on the track. Us Vs. the world!!

Our dudes are not like the rest of them. Very creative, intelligent, and resourceful dudes. Won't believe me.

Let me take you through a guided tour.

This is the International sign for TOILET. See nor creativity. Just dull and boring.


Now compare our one I photographed in 2007 in a car park wash room at Sigiriya. See how creative. See where the hands are! Wow!
To us Asians who are very much concerned about personal hygiene, washing hands with soap after using the  toilet is a familiar thing. That is after #2 job exactly. The Asian who use the left hand and water, and the westerner who uses toilet paper to clean himself, used to condemn each other's method for centuries.

Washing hands after #1 job is mandatory among westerners, but not given due attention by the Asian. At least that's what I thought until I last December 29th, when I saw this!! How wrong I have been!

Our dudes not only wash their hands, they wash their feet, too. I felt myself swelling with pride when I saw the following notice, again in a car park wash roomat Arpico Super Store, Nawinna, Maharagama.



Everybody knows about windshield wipers, right? Years back some auto manufacturers like Volvo, Saab and Mercedes started fixing headlight wipers, too. I bet you have seen enough.

Our dudes went even beyond that.  I saw this last December in Sri Lanka, They pushed it to the limits by fixing a license plate wiper, too like this. I was so proud to be Sri Lankan. Wow dudes, WOW!!!

Simulblogged at my Sinhala Blog මට හිතෙන හැටි.

Friday, January 6, 2012

29. HOME SWEET HOME, HERE WE COME.2

I promised to write part 2 of HOME SWEET HOME, HERE WE COME, when we really got home, but things really didn't work out that way. Now the vacation is over and we are back to reality.

I had a long to-do-list. You'd know the list, if you've visited my Sinhala blog as I had suggested. Well, like any other to-do-list, we couldn't do them all. 
But we did most of the things. which I believe is a huge success.

Here we go:

Must fill the gap between the main road and our drive:       
YES.
Dudes, see the gap!!

Thanks to Sudu Ayya. I wanted to name this road after him.


AT LAST! BRIDGED THE GAP!

Batteries for vehicles:                                                 
YES. Bought one borrowed the other, Thanks Mahinda

Start engines                                                                      
YES, both started without a problem. Starting an engine after one year of standing still is a huge challenge.

Insurance for both:                                                              
YES. Third party but yes.

Emission test (Eco test)                                                       
YES, Both vehicles passed with flying colors. Again, passing emission test as soon as you start an engine after one year of standing still, is a real victory. Some dudes with no visible smoke and newer vehicles failed and were exasperated. 
This is a vicious circle. I can't get revenue license till I pass the emission test. To pass the emission test you should run the vehicle on the road, a reasonable distance for it to work normally. And to do so is illegal because you have no revenue license. So to get the revenue license.... Like the old song "Hole in the Bucket!"

Must repair my laptop.                                                        
YES. As I feared, dust had clogged the heat sink and made havoc. How I suffered with BSOD last year!!!
Thanks Nalindra malli. And Navam too.

Get a good prepaid internet connection.                               
YES. First Dialog but found it to be a bit disappointing then settled with Etisalat
I'm really mad with these customer service dudes. Some voices were really helpful and handled the customer with kid gloves. Some voices, oh dude, sounded really pissed off for maybe, disturbing their peace. Must blog about them later. 
And dudes, If you really want to access these hotlines and talk to a human agent you got to wake up before the sunrise and talk before brushing your teeth. They were really coldlines, not hotlines. 
And one charge you Rs3.00 for calling their own customer service agent. WOW!

And the communication center dudes who sell recharges and reloads know nothing about data connections. IT'S THE SAME WITH DIALOG OR ETISALAT.  Maybe, it's the same with other companies,too.

Must finish the bathroom construction:                                
NOPE. No mason is available at short notice and ready to accept our deadlines.

Must finish the porch with batik bricks that have been piled up for 5 years: 
NOPE. for the above reason.

The wall behind where flash floods wash off the land:           
No (Same reason as above)

Pave the Drive :                                                                         
No   (Same reason as above)

Must go to Kandy:                                                                    
YES. And returned through Kurunagala. Two birds with one stone.

Must go on the new expressway with cameras charged.      

YEAH!! Hit 110 km.p.h when cops weren't watching. and made the 104km in 1 hour (Six minutes for waiting in line at toll booths). They charged Rs.400! Isn't it three hundred something for vans? 
Gotta blog about that trip, too. Videoed and took a lot of still photos.
Hit brakes only in Galle.

Others were were busy capturing.

Only one pedal  needed!

Never take eyes off the road.

100 km.p.h. No sweat.

ROAD TRIPS:                                                                  
YEAH!! We did them. I'll blog them.


Blogwalkers' mobile kitchen and Meals on Wheels

If Possible must visit Jaffna.                                                
NO. It wasn't possible. Postponed to 2012.

Must make a train trip to Badulla.                                       
NO. Time was a real drawback.

Must walk in the Jungle with Gamini.                               
NO. Visited Gamini, but no walking in the jungle as he was too tied up and also the rainy weather. Thanks for all the hospitality. Met Uncle Simon, too.

Must fix those two fog lights that we carry around in a box at the back of the van. 
NO. Postponed. Not easy as it sounded!

Must check the roof for water logging.                                 
YES. It's done. DIY masonry work too.

Must clean the yard.                                                             
YES. That's what we've been doing for the first few days. Back breaking dudes. After we did that the Environment Police visited us and made Good Comments also. How zat? Cool, huh!

Must improve the sound system with a cool sub-woofer that knock you out: YEAH!! It's awesome now!
It's a pleasure to ride in it.
Sub woofer that really woofs is being installed!

Must go to the Saturday fair: 
NO. Actually I visited the fair in a hurry, not the way I wanted jostling in the crowds in those now nostalgic sounds and smells.(And Yells). Some simple tasks were difficult to achieve.

Must eat පොළොස්, මුකුණුවැන්න, ගො‍ටුකොල, හාල් මැස්සො කොහිල දලු
YES except the last one. Even the others, not to my stomach's delight.

Must have this local delight. ඉඳි ආප්ප කන්න ඕනෙ හින්දපු හාල් මැස්සොයි අල හොදියි සම්බෝලයි එක්ක
YES. One cousin read the blog felt sorry and immediately invited to have stringhoppers with potato sprats curry. We did.

Must buy the Sinhala Sunday papers, must sit with a steaming mug of coffee and read them with my feet up in the morning sunlight. 
Well YES and NO. Bought so many papers but had no time to read like that.

Must go on a rail hike if possible: 
Well NO. I had doubts about this in the first place. Time flies in the vacation dudes. The dudes who are away from home like me should know that very well.
Vacation months have 10 to 12 days. Working months have 52 - 60 days, dudes!!

Must eat hoppers with bananas. 
YES. We had this from a wayside shop somewhere between Kadhuruwela and Dehiattakandiya. A mother and a son ran this small place. Hoppers were delicious. I uploaded too many.
Ha ha.

Must fix stainless steel mufflers for the motorbike. 
YEAH!! Now it snarls when accelerated and gives a deep throated rumble when  decelerated. Cool! It's a real knock out. It performs much better. A real contrast to my earlier leaky clogged but original mufflers.
I'm a DIY Dude. No sweat!

So these were what was on the list of dreams. We did some more things out of the list,too. 

I'll blog about them later.

Anyway it was a nice vacation.