18 December 2014

Shortcuts to becoming a Kolombian

This was taken by Indy Samarajeewa in January 2012
People are asking me about Kolombians.  Not Kolombians – they generally approve and appreciate.  Kolombians thank me for getting the word out, in giving them voice etc.  It’s the non-Kolombians who ask the questions. 

They all want to know how one becomes a Kolombian.  Someone asked if there’s a Kolombian Handbook.   Someone else wanted to know if there’s a residency requirement.  There were questions such as ‘Do we have to sit an exam?’ and ‘Is Kolombianess tested every now and again and if you fail will you lose residency and residence?’ 

Well I can’t answer all these questions in one go.  We are in the middle of compiling a Kolombian Handbook.  ‘We’ as in the Kolombian High Command, led ‘ex-officio’ by the Queen of England and the President of the United States of America. 

There are no formal ‘tests’ but we have our own ways of kicking you out if you don’t fall in line such as making sure you don’t get invited to birthday parties and baby showers, and of course look-down-nose at you if you dare attend funerals.  There are other methods which our ‘Ways and Means Committee’ have come up with.  All this in good time. 

For now let me give some basics. 

Residency.  I’ve mentioned this before.  It’s not about where you are located but how you locate yourself.  Of course BEING IN COLOMBO or more precisely, hobnobbing with Kolombians (doing the clubs, events and parties) helps.  Things rub off, after all.  But it’s more about the sense, the feeling, inhabiting of a cultural condition. 

You have to know English.  Non-negotiable.  The Queen’s English is best, but in these days of Britain operating as another state of the United States of America, Barack Obama treating David Cameron as though he was a doorman and ‘King’ (Lebron) James putting his arm around the Duchess of Cambridge (that’s Catherine, wife of ‘will-be-king-himself-one-day Prince William), US-English is fine too.  

This is not enough of course.  You have to sneer at those who don’t know English (UK or US), laugh at those who don’t get the accent right, cheer like hell those who ridicule such yakkos or baiyyas and act as though everything written, said and sung in Sinhala or Tamil, by ‘definition’, is inferior and worthy only of contempt. 
It is not just language.  If anyone who can’t ‘say it right’ in English or doesn’t appear to show respect to things just because they are said/written in English or borrowed/derived from Europe and North America the idea or theory put forward has to be considered inferior.  Kolombians are required by way of tribal covenant to ridicule such utterings.  

For example, if ‘E equals MC squared’ was dreamed up by someone who couldn’t say it in the ‘Right English’ you have to say that it can’t be true.  No, that’s not enough.  You have to exclaim, ‘the effing gumption of this village idiot’ or something on those lines and vilify him into oblivion.  If you are in a generous mood you can pin a tag on such an upstart.  ‘Native Intellectual!’ you can spit those words out with a lot of venom. 

Another thing.  You have to be seen at English literary events.  The Lionel Wendt is a good place to be seen at, but certainly not when they are showing Rajitha Dissanayake's plays or Sinhala versions of European plays (like 'The House of Bernada Alba') or films (like 'Twelve Angry Men').   The Galle Literary Festival is alas no longer held, but that would have been a great hang-out place for Kolombian wannabes, just to get the feel of the tribe.  Don't worry, you don't need to be well-read, although it helps if you can drop a few names of some white men who wrote decent stuff. Like Shakespeare.  Don't try to be smart by talking of Pablo Neruda because only a few would have heard the name.  

And if you have not already done so, join an NGO.  That'll get you a free pass, almost.  Of course you'll have to learn to hang on to every word uttered by the US Ambassador, repeat them like a mantra as often as possible.  Oh yes! You have to watch BBC, CNN and better still Fox.  Here's a tip, check out what comes from Washington and start seeing the world from Washington's point of view. That's Washington DC, by the way.   

You get the drift.  The key quality is distinction.  You have to rise above.  You have to be apart.  Be aloof.  You have to position yourself so that you can spit on those upstart non-Kolombians.  Metaphorically of course.  If you can’t do that, you can’t be one of us.  It’s as simple as that.  

*Everyone takes note.  Some keep notes.  Some in diaries and journals.  Some in their minds and hears.  Some of these are shared via email or on Facebook or blog; some are not.  Among these people are Kolombians, people from Colombo who know much -- so much that they are wont to think that others don't know and can't think.  This is the tenth in a series published in 'The Nation' under the title 'Notes of an Unrepentant Kolombian'.