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Personal thoughts/opinion on results of US presidential election

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Torrential cascades have been written in American newspapers and journals. We’ve heard and seen more on CNN and BBC. My contribution in this article is a mere droplet, but I am sure I voice other women’s views too. I base my very personal views on certain criteria or bases. Oops, I almost forgot to say that I was absolutely happy and relieved with Biden being declared winner and elated about Harris being first woman VP with Jamaican/Indian blood running through her.

My son in Atlanta phoned me the moment the results from Pennsylvania were called: 10.30 pm over here on Saturday. He celebrated with a lonely champagne; me with a can of beer the next day! He was amidst rising hoots of horns, shouts of glee and fireworks bursting. I went to bed relieved; so far away but concerned since no one wants such as Trump proved himself to be in the hot seat with finger on nuclear button. Echoing a Sri Lankan resident over there, it was mentioned by others that the greatest relief would be to wake up not dreading the tweet of the day! I was suitably surprised to hear that many Lankans, at least on west coast of US, are Republican. I asked my informant, how come. Oh being Republican means being recognized as having wealth, she replies!!

 

Sense of humanity, fellow feeling, concern

These come through eyes, smile and natural body language when Biden speaks to the public; more so after he was confirmed Prez Elect. He conveys sincerity. His obvious empathy towards people in general could be adduced to his personal life having been full of tragedy. He admitted he considered suicide when his young wife and baby daughter were killed in an accident and his two sons seriously injured and in hospital. Tragedy did not end there; his elder son died at 35 of brain cancer. And then of course, the insults suffered at the hands of his presidential opponent; “Sleepy Joe” being one of the lesser. Khalil Gibran’s observation: ‘Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars’ is so true in Biden’s case.

For Trump there was always money and with it went power over lesser mortals, like women he groped. His blatant act of non-caring and anything goes for his sake was so obvious in his holding mass rallies packed close together, with him scorning face masks. Sure one million of the two dead of Covid 19 in the US could be traced directly to his disregard for medical advice. Then, causing doubt and vetoing a decent transfer of power, he goes off golfing.

 

Those around

Biden has always been a committed family man. After five years (1972-77) of being devoted sole parent to his two sons, travelling 90 minutes each way from Washington DC to Delaware to be with them at bedtime, he married Jill in 1977. You can judge how sensible and committed she is by the fact she said she will continue her teaching job when First Lady living in the White House

Kamala Harris as running mate and VP is a very wise choice. She will balance Biden well: vivacity against staidness; comparative youth against Biden’s three score and ten plus.

Also, Biden would have made his choice with much consideration, one being suitable to be his successor within the next four years or at the end of it. He may not seek a second term.

Biden listens to advisers; apparently his wife and family; and most definitely has said and will give credence to medical specialists and scientists in tackling the Covid 19 pandemic and his next priority: climate change.

How about bossy, blustering Trump? Any sign of criticism or not agreeing with him, meant ‘Off with his head’. Too numerous the VIPs in his government whom he axed; the many he let down after they compromised themselves on his behalf – Cohen. Absolutely self serving and repugnantly pugnacious. Consider his public contempt for Dr Faucci.

 

Honesty and Integrity

These are certainly not in doubt with Biden. No scandals whatsoever in his long political career of any misdeamenour in political and personal life. He was sixth youngest Senator in 1970 when voted in at age 29; was VP twice over; contested to be president, twice. And no whispers ever of scandal. Trump tried to implicate Biden’s son and even asked the Ukrainian President to act spy for him. That proves he could not ferret out any scandal about Joe Biden, so went the next generation.

Trump is the polar opposite: a businessman who learned from his father and outdid him in shady business deals, undercutting opponents. There is no need to talk of his morals – rock bottom, even gentlemanly behaviour. The way he, with total disregard for human lives, preferred to focus on the economy ignoring Covid 19 deaths. The latest tell-all book on Trump by his niece Mary L Trump in 2020 – Too Much and Never Enough: how my family created the world’s most dangerous man documents the depravity of the man given to lying, evading justice, worshipping money, bluster minus brains, letting others carry the blame, tax evading, exploiting women sexually so that he was considered alongside Weinstein when # MeToo was created.

 

Policy

Biden has outlined the work ahead for the government he leads. It is hoped both Houses will have Democrats in the majority. Biden named four major concerns: successfully battling the Covid 19 pandemic; peacefully uniting the US – politically and racially (he said this in stirring words); climate change/global warming; economy. Among many further tasks is building foreign relation bridges broken or chipped at by Trump; the most important being re-entering the Paris Agreement for Climate Change, NATO and WHO. He will restore, as far as possible, the lead given by Obama in social measures.

There really is no call to discuss Trump’s policies. They seemed to be his wholly and he acted the bull in a China shop world. For instance he left the last G7 meeting early, it is whispered, having heard that Macron, Trudeau, Johnson and Merkel on the fringe, had a good laugh over his pugnacious accusations against Canada and evident rudeness.

 

Peaceful and tolerant

As Senator, VP and now in power, Joe Biden absolutely advocated a non-belligerent US, multiracial and fair to all its citizens. While Trump was rabid against migrants and separated permanently children from parents at the southern border, Biden will not lock out urgent immigrants. He respects Black Lives, was totally for women’s rights and equality and opposed the Gulf War and guns freely possessed by Americans. He was against homosexuality, voting against the army’s recruitment of such, due perhaps to his Catholic faith. Maybe he holds more tolerant views on this and same sex marriage. He is pro-abortion though a regular churchgoer.

 

First Ladies

They play significant roles when their husbands are Presidents. Melania Trump fades into obscurity she rose from after marrying The Trump with wealth and power, when compared to solidly foundationed Jill Biden. Superficial beauty and an East European model, suspiciously (it is said) given a US passport positioned against dedicated teacher who holds a BA, two MAs and a doctorate in education from the University of Delaware. Melania is third wife of Donald Trump who threw away wives as he did women who he bedded, often amounting to rape. Biden married Jill after years of single and devoted parenthood and lives a Roman Catholic life.

 

Sense and sensibility versus gross crudity and overpowering selfishness

That sums up the 46th and 45th Presidents of USA. While Trump lied atrociously, had an attention span of a few minutes and no deep knowledge about the world, Biden is sharp and seems full of good sense. He does make a gaffe once in a way, but that makes him all the more a human being.



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Features

Strong on vocals

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The group Mirage is very much alive, and kicking, as one would say!

Their lineup did undergo a few changes and now they have decided to present themselves as an all male group – operating without a female vocalist.

At the helm is Donald Pieries (drums and vocals), Trevin Joseph (percussion and vocals), Dilipa Deshan (bass and vocals), Toosha Rajarathna (keyboards and vocals), and Sudam Nanayakkara (lead guitar and vocals).

The plus factor, where the new lineup is concerned, is that all five members sing.

However, leader Donald did mention that if it’s a function, where a female vocalist is required, they would then feature a guest performer.

Mirage is a very experience outfit and they now do the Friday night scene at the Irish Pub, in Colombo, as well as private gigs.

 

 

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Dichotomy of an urban-suburban New Year

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Ushered in by the ‘coo-ee’ of the Koel and the swaying of Erabadu bunches, the Sinhala and Tamil New Year will dawn in the wee hours of April 14. With houses to clean, preparation of sweetmeats and last-minute shopping, times are hectic…. and the streets congested.

It is believed that New Year traditions predated the advent of Buddhism in the 3rd century BC. But Buddhism resulted in a re-interpretation of the existing New Year activities in a Buddhist light. Hinduism has co-existed with Buddhism over millennia and no serious contradiction in New Year rituals are observed among Buddhists and Hindus.

The local New Year is a complex mix of Indigenous, Astrological, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions. Hindu literature provides the New Year with its mythological backdrop. The Prince of Peace called Indradeva is said to descend upon the earth to ensure peace and happiness, in a white carriage wearing on his head a white floral crown seven cubits high. He first plunges, into a sea of milk, breaking earth’s gravity.

The timing of the Sinhala New Year coincides with the New Year celebrations of many traditional calendars of South and Southeast Asia. Astrologically, the New Year begins when the sun moves from the House of Pisces (Meena Rashiya) to the House of Aries (Mesha Rashiya) in the celestial sphere.

The New Year marks the end of the harvest season and spring. Consequently, for farming communities, the traditional New Year doubles as a harvest as well. It also coincides with one of two instances when the sun is directly above Sri Lanka. The month of Bak, which coincides with April, according to the Gregorian calendar, represents prosperity. Astrologers decide the modern day rituals based on auspicious times, which coincides with the transit of the Sun between ‘House of Pisces’ and ‘House of Aries’.

Consequently, the ending of the old year, and the beginning of the new year occur several hours apart, during the time of transit. This period is considered Nonegathe, which roughly translates to ‘neutral period’ or a period in which there are no auspicious times. During the Nonegathe, traditionally, people are encouraged to engage themselves in meritorious and religious activities, refraining from material pursuits. This year the Nonegathe begin at 8.09 pm on Tuesday, April 13, and continues till 8.57 am on 14. New Year dawns at the halfway point of the transit, ushered in bythe sound of fire crackers, to the woe of many a dog and cat of the neighbourhood. Cracker related accidents are a common occurrence during new year celebrations. Environmental and safety concerns aside, lighting crackers remain an integral part of the celebrations throughout Sri Lanka.

This year the Sinhala and Tamil New Year dawns on Wednesday, April 14, at 2.33 am. But ‘spring cleaning’ starts days before the dawn of the new year. Before the new year the floor of houses are washed clean, polished, walls are lime-washed or painted, drapes are washed, dried and rehang. The well of the house is drained either manually or using an electric water pump and would not be used until such time the water is drawn for first transaction. Sweetmeats are prepared, often at homes, although commercialization of the new year has encouraged most urbanites to buy such food items. Shopping is a big part of the new year. Crowds throng to clothing retailers by the thousands. Relatives, specially the kids, are bought clothes as presents.

Bathing for the old year takes place before the dawn of the new year. This year this particular auspicious time falls on April 12, to bathe in the essence of wood apple leaves. Abiding by the relevant auspicious times the hearth and an oil lamp are lit and pot of milk is set to boil upon the hearth. Milk rice, the first meal of the year, is prepared separate. Entering into the first business transaction and partaking of the first meal are also observed according to the given auspicious times. This year, the auspicious time for preparing of meals, milk rice and sweets using mung beans, falls on Wednesday, April 14 at 6.17 am, and is to be carried out dressed in light green, while facing east. Commencement of work, transactions and consumption of the first meal falls on Wednesday, April 14 at 7.41 am, to be observed while wearing light green and facing east.

The first transaction was traditionally done with the well. The woman of the house would draw water from the well and in exchange drop a few pieces of charcoal, flowers, coins, salt and dried chillies into the well, in certain regions a handful of paddy or rice is also thrown in for good measure. But this ritual is also dying out as few urban homes have wells within their premises. This is not a mere ritual and was traditionally carried out with the purification properties of charcoal in mind. The first water is preferably collected into an airtight container, and kept till the dawn of the next new year. It is believed that if the water in the container does not go down it would be a prosperous year. The rituals vary slightly based on the region. However, the essence of the celebrations remains the same.

Anointing of oil is another major ritual of the New Year celebrations. It falls on Saturday, April 17 at 7.16 am, and is done wearing blue, facing south, with nuga leaves placed on the head and Karada leaves at the feet. Oil is to be applied mixed with extracts of Nuga leaves. The auspicious time for setting out for professional occupations falls on Monday, April 19 at 6.39 am, while dressed in white, by consuming a meal of milk rice mixed with ghee, while facing South.

Traditionally, women played Raban during this time, but such practices are slowly being weaned out by urbanization and commercialisation of the New Year. Neighbours are visited with platters of sweetmeats, bananas, Kevum (oil cake) and Kokis (a crispy sweetmeat) usually delivered by children. The dichotomy of the urban and village life is obvious here too, where in the suburbs and the village outdoor celebrations are preferred and the city opts for more private parties.

 

 

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New Year games: Integral part of New Year Celebrations

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Food, games and rituals make a better part of New Year celebrations. One major perk of Avurudu is the festivals that are organised in each neighbourhood in its celebration. Observing all the rituals, like boiling milk, partaking of the first meal, anointing of oil, setting off to work, are, no doubt exciting, but much looked-forward-to is the local Avurudu Uthsawaya.

Avurudu Krida or New Year games are categorised as indoor and outdoor games. All indoor games are played on the floor and outdoor games played during the Avurudu Uthsava or New Year festival, with the whole neighbourhood taking part. Some of the indoor games are Pancha Dameema, Olinda Keliya and Cadju Dameema. Outdoor games include Kotta pora, Onchili pedeema, Raban geseema, Kana mutti bindeema, Placing the eye on the elephant, Coconut grating competition, Bun-eating competition, Lime-on-spoon race, Kamba adeema (Tug-o-War) and Lissana gaha nageema (climbing the greased pole). And what’s an Avurudhu Uthsava sans an Avurudu Kumari pageant, minus the usual drama that high profile beauty pageants of the day entail, of course.

A salient point of New Year games is that there are no age categories. Although there are games reserved for children such as blowing of balloons, races and soft drinks drinking contests, most other games are not age based.

Kotta pora aka pillow fights are not the kind the average teenagers fight out with their siblings, on plush beds. This is a serious game, wherein players have to balance themselves on a horizontal log in a seated position. With one hand tied behind their back and wielding the pillow with the other, players have to knock the opponent off balance. Whoever knocks the opponent off the log first, wins. The game is usually played over a muddy pit, so the loser goes home with a mud bath.

Climbing the greased pole is fun to watch, but cannot be fun to take part in. A flag is tied to the end of a timber pole-fixed to the ground and greased along the whole length. The objective of the players is to climb the pole, referred to as the ‘tree’, and bring down the flag. Retrieving the flag is never achieved on the first climb. It takes multiple climbers removing some of the grease at a time, so someone could finally retrieve the flag.

Who knew that scraping coconut could be made into an interesting game? During the Avurudu coconut scraping competition, women sit on coconut scraper stools and try to scrape a coconut as fast as possible. The one who finishes first wins. These maybe Avurudu games, but they are taken quite seriously. The grated coconut is inspected for clumps and those with ungrated clumps are disqualified.

Coconut palm weaving is another interesting contest that is exclusive to women. However men are by no means discouraged from entering such contests and, in fact, few men do. Participants are given equally measured coconut fronds and the one who finishes first wins.

Kana Mutti Bindima involves breaking one of many water filled clay pots hung overhead, using a long wooden beam. Placing the eye on the elephant is another game played while blindfolded. An elephant is drawn on a black or white board and the blindfolded person has to spot the eye of the elephant. Another competition involves feeding the partner yoghurt or curd while blindfolded.

The Banis-eating contest involves eating tea buns tied to a string. Contestants run to the buns with their hands tied behind their backs and have to eat buns hanging from a string, on their knees. The one who finishes his or her bun first, wins. Kamba adeema or Tug-o-War pits two teams against each other in a test of strength. Teams pull on opposite ends of a rope, with the goal being to bring the rope a certain distance in one direction against the force of the opposing team’s pull.

Participants of the lime-on-spoon race have to run a certain distance while balancing a lime on a spoon, with the handle in their mouths. The first person to cross the finish line without dropping the lime wins. The sack race and the three-legged race are equally fun to watch and to take part in. In the sack race, participants get into jute sacks and hop for the finish line. The first one over, wins. In the three-legged race one leg of each pair of participants are tied together and the duo must reach the finish line by synchronising their running, else they would trip over their own feet.

Pancha Dameema is an indoor game played in two groups, using five small shells, a coconut shell and a game board. Olinda is another indoor board game, normally played by two players. The board has nine holes, four beads each. The player who collects the most number of seeds win.

This is the verse sung while playing the game:

“Olinda thibenne koi koi dese,

Olinda thibenne bangali dese…

Genath hadanne koi koi dese,

Genath hadanne Sinhala dese…”

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