10 April 2023

Saturday slides in after Monday and Sunday somersaults into Friday

I am not sure which came first, cars, jeeps, motorbikes or push bicycles, but it’s safe to say that there must have been a time where police constables had to get by on foot. When the first machines came, it is reasonable to assume that it wouldn’t have been hard to imagine a police officer upon a motorbike or inside a police car.

Reality allows for extrapolation. We know there are police constables. We know there are rollerblades and roller-skates. It is not impossible to imagine police constables on rollerblades or roller-skates.

But then again, consider pedestrian crossings. We know they exist. We’ve seen them. We know that countless feet have walked over them. We know that the white or yellow lines that make pedestrian crossings are painted on black tar. We know there are birds. We know there’s a thing called flight.

Can we then or have we ever stopped to consider the possibility of pedestrian crossings, freed from the tyranny of tar and the weariness of feet, wandering willy nilly over roads, congested or traffic-free, stopping at intersections to exchange greetings with traffic-lights, taking cover from torrential rain in a sheltered bus stop, jumping into a bus or negotiating temporary residency in a bird’s nest?  

Now, how about policemen on roller-blades furiously pursuing such errant pedestrian crossings all over the city?

In other words, a cityscape or indeed anything you can imagine can be extracted from context, removed from frame and set free. Anything can be made to converse with anything else. We can also script such conversations and consider the possibility of script-replacement.  For example, why can’t we consider the possibility that alarm alarm-clocks can be alarmed or that a clothesline could ask for a cup of tea?

It may seem like a meaningless exercise and a frivolous pursuit indulged in by someone plagued by the unbearable burdens of boredom. The question can also be asked, ‘to what end?’ Except of course that those who are fascinated with ‘end(s}’ often forget to notice bystanders and byroads and the innumerable charms of the wayside.

We could, on the other hand, leave the unimaginable or rather the less imaginable alone and focus on what’s apparent and apparently fixed. Raindrops and roses, whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with strings, as the song goes, just a few of your favourite things. You couldt take note of the fact that someone has stuffed flowers in some vase, someone filled the balloons. Familiarity does give comfort during uncomfortable moments.  

It is interesting however to scramble things. Imagine a week where Saturday slides in after Monday or Sunday drips into Friday. How about the short month coming first, followed by the 30-day months and then the long months? Easy to imagine, hard to get agreement on, obviously. How did we get weekends, anyway, have you wondered? Why not a ‘weekend’ of a Wednesday and Thursday, to keep things all secular and those who are religious can do their religion-thing on their own time?

Someone once scribbled the following on the page carrying a preamble to a collection of poems: ‘books belong to those of us who have eyes that feel and hearts capable of reading.’ Interestingly, the poet had self-described himself on the same page:

I am
a hole in a flute  
that the Christ’s breath flows through —
to this music

How should we live, then? How should we see, feel, breathe, touch and listen? And what textures would we encounter, what visions would we see, what fragrances breathe and to what songs will we open the windows of our hearts?  At what crossroads do we abandon right and wrong? At what moment do we resolve to look beyond good and evil? The poet, Hafiz of Shiraz, suggests that all is possible, not later but right now.

Now is the time to understand
that all your ideas of right and wrong
were just a child’s training wheels
to be laid aside
when you can finally live
with veracity
and love

The streets are lined with rollerblades and roller-skates. There is a friendly squirrel at each set of wheels ready to teach you how to use them. There are pedestrian crossings waiting to be peeled off the road and be turned into long, fluent and fluttering flags.

A million voices will scream, ‘don’t wreck things!’ A soft voice will respond and the response will be heart: ‘things are wrecked beyond repair, didn’t you know?’ A policeman will descend from the skies on a flying motorbike carrying new songs for a revolution in a magical satchel and announce with a smile: ‘the country called ‘Tomorrow’ is eminently habitable, if only you can see that today is an untenable proposition.’

['The Morning Inspection' is the title of a column I wrote for the Daily News from 2009 to 2011, one article a day, Monday through Saturday. This is a new series. Links to previous articles in this new series are given below]

Other articles in this series:

There's a one in a million and a one in ten

Gunadasa Kapuge is calling

Kumkum Fernando installs Sri Lanka in Coachella, California

Hemantha Gunawardena's signature

Pathways missed

Architectures of the demolished

The exotic lunacy of parting gifts

Who the heck do you think I am?

Those fascinating 'Chitra Katha'

The Mangala Sabhava

So how are things in Sri Lanka?

The most beautiful father

Palmam qui meruit ferat

The sweetest three-letter poem

Buddhangala Kamatahan

An Irish and Sri Lankan Hello

Teams, team-thinking, team-spirit and leadership

The songs we could sing in lifeboats when we are shipwrecked

Pure-Rathna, a class act

Jekhan Aruliah set a ball rolling in Jaffna

Awaiting arrivals unlike any other

Teachers and students sometimes reverse roles

Matters of honor and dignity

Yet another Mother's Day

A cockroach named 'Don't'

Colombo, Colombo, Colombo and so forth

The slowest road to Kumarigama, Ampara

Sweeping the clutter away

Some play music, others listen

Completing unfinished texts

Mind and hearts, loquacious and taciturn

I am at Jaga Food, where are you?

On separating the missing from the disappeared

Moments without tenses

And intangible republics will save the day (as they always have)

The world is made of waves


The circuitous logic of Tony Muller

Rohana Kalyanaratne, an unforgettable 'Loku Aiya'

Mowgli, the Greatest Archaeologist

Figures and disfigurement, rocks and roses

Sujith Rathnayake and incarcerations imposed and embraced

Some stories are written on the covers themselves

A poetic enclave in the Republic of Literature

Landcapes of gone-time and going-time 

The best insurance against the loud and repeated lie

So what if the best flutes will not go to the best flautists?

There's dust and words awaiting us at crossroads and crosswords

The books of disquiet

A song of terraced paddy fields

Of ants, bridges and possibilities

From A through Aardvark to Zyzzyva 

World's End

Words, their potency, appropriation and abuse

Street corner stories

Who did not listen, who's not listening still?

The book of layering

If you remember Kobe, visit GOAT Mountain

The world is made for re-colouring

The gift and yoke of bastardy

The 'English Smile'

No 27, Dickman's Road, Colombo 5

Visual cartographers and cartography

Ithaca from a long ago and right now

Lessons written in invisible ink

The amazing quality of 'equal-kindness'

A tea-maker story seldom told

On academic activism

The interchangeability of light and darkness

Back to TRADITIONAL rice

Sisterhood: moments, just moments

Chess is my life and perhaps your too

Reflections on ownership and belonging

The integrity of Nadeesha Rajapaksha

Signatures in the seasons of love

To Maceo Martinet as he flies over rainbows

Sirith, like pirith, persist

Fragrances that will not be bottled 

Colours and textures of living heritage

Countries of the past, present and future

A degree in creative excuses

Books launched and not-yet-launched

The sunrise as viewed from sacred mountains

The ways of the lotus

Isaiah 58: 12-16 and the true meaning of grace

The age of Frederick Algernon Trotteville

Live and tell the tale as you will

Between struggle and cooperation

Of love and other intangibles

Neruda, Sekara and literary dimensions

The universe of smallness

Paul Christopher's heart of many chambers

Calmness gracefully cascades in the Dumbara Hills

Serendipitous amber rules the world

Continents of the heart