Mercy me! Some good things do happen in this island home of ours. The latest is that laws are to be introduced to lesson noise pollution emanating from vehicular traffic. A Gazette notification will be published next month to announce the laws. Never too late is what Menika chanted since she for one wished from long ago that something would be done to curb drivers of buses and vans from tooting their horns.
Some drive on their horns – the tooters built into their vehicles, Menika means. And thus the deafening sound of so many horns being tooted, in unison in a traffic jam and while awaiting the change of colour at a crossing. Some drivers are famous Pavlov’s salivating mice. Stop at a traffic light, see the red turn amber and there goes the finger on the horn. Get caught in a traffic jam with vehicles just having to wait till the snarl is unsnarled, and there go the horns. No one can move but need to wait patiently but that is a quality totally alien to certain individuals so they give way to their horn happy predilection.
Menika dreads the blasts from buses. A newspaper item says: “… research conducted by the Industrial Technology Institute found that drivers often misuse horns.” Understatement of the year! The police will also be behind noise polluters who have in-built beat silencers, whatever they are, which produce a roar of the engine. Those who have this device fancy themselves Schumachers on the highways. They are going to get it soon enough, and that is a law to celebrate and insist upon.
I present a big bouquet to Sri Lanka Telecom. The organisation is so different after it was privatised to the moribund body that looked after our telephones. You phone SLT for a telephone number; to give you a wake-up call at 3.00 am; to complain your internet cannot be connected and they promptly respond with such politeness too. The good morning call will even wish you a good day, and Menika knows it’s a personal call and not a taped message. Recently she could not use email and internet. Phoned and within two hours three young ones were at her door. They looked and then discovered a wire was not connected. Menika felt like a worm but they were so polite. May have been muttering: ‘these old women!’ But nary a word of complaint from them. So there is efficiency around and good people too.
Reading a news item in a daily on Tuesday, April 19, Menika’s ruminating mind slid back to a couple of years ago. She was a member of a group of theatre lovers and this lot getting ambitious, decided to stage the story of Viharamahadevi with a boat on stage and all. The two princes were to be depicted in the play with concentration on the elder son of this queen and her husband Kavan Tissa, curled up in bed proclaiming the Chola King in the North and the Indian Ocean to the South restricted and constricted him. Menika refused of course. She felt unworthy of standing in for this great queen, she, Menika, childless and comparatively pleb.
But the newspaper item reported on the extreme hubris of him who claims descent from the Great King Dutugemunu starring as this greatest king of Sri Lanka in a film for children, no less. Two crimes compounded: act the role of the great and just benefactor of Buddhism and his people; respecter of others, especially the Tamil king he defeated, and have your name that strikes terror in one and all getting top billing in a film for kids. Will the high junks of this individual never cease? Tie people to trees, storm TV stations, get stones pelted, act the chandiya in real life and the greatest king on screen. Will travesty never cease? Menika is toying with the idea of applying to be Gemunu’s mother. This latter incongruity a hint of an insult in the face of the other. She might even turn murderous fiend.
After an age, Menika accompanied a friend to the Galle Face Green – crowded city lung. There she heard a person expounding to his crowd of sightseers the city that is to rise from the depths of the sea. Menika shuddered and it was certainly not the comfortingly cool breezes blowing around her. It was the sheer useless expense of such a project a la Dubai. Male and other Maldivian islands reclaim land from the sea but at little cost since the sea there recedes so slowly to deep waters. Here at Galle Face Green it plunges in, and all that depth has to be covered to make land.
Of course the beautifiers of Colombo may be having the idea of constructing buildings in the sea – a submerged city in the shape of a spreading coconut or palmyrah palm. And then looking across towards the road and beyond, Menika positively shook with trepidation compounded with indignation. The land there sold, yes, sold outright to the Chinese and Singaporeans to build luxury hotels to cater to a fickle business – tourism. Normally land is leased for 99 years. HE the President categorically said no land belonging to the people of Sri Lanka, that is all of Sri Lanka and any part thereof, will not be sold to foreigners. Before the words were out of his august mouth, the land was sold. And we buffaloes listen open mouthed and then shut them and keep them shut.
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