Micheal Jackson has died.
The moment I heard it, I felt that Sri Lanka will be in tears. The most prominent artist in the Island nation. Mourners must be flocking.
Micheal Jackson made it to the big screen in mid seventies. As a young minority child from a lower middle class family of many siblings in suburban Dematagoda, he had to go through lots of hardships. But the genuine talent was evident in every move. He's a great entertainer. And now he's the most popular Sri Lankan artist.
Jackson sang in English. This was quite a contrast in majority sinhala speaking Sri Lanka, but he gained the popularity. There was once a time where no musical stage in the tiny island was spared by him. Youth picked his hair style, everyone wanted to dance like him and girls got in dilemma finding husbands, who can beat his look. His Albums Thriller and Bad are regarded as universal and his songs like Stranger in Moscow is debated as political. But the legend continued.
Jackson made a great fortune in his early days. However in the recent years he went down with bad habits, lawsuits, divorces and it took a huge toll in his performances. He gave up his lush lifestyle and ended up living a solitary life in an economy apartment in Narahenpita flats. Yet he did not loose his fans and popularity.
Now he is dead.
First thing that came to my mind was how many people will come to pay final rites to the great artist. Since the body is at Narahenpita, I believed that Borella Junction would become a hectic place with queues of people passing it. Even Jothipala's funeral was visited by long queues of people, so how many would come for the king of pop in Sri Lanka. Sadly I had an essential need to get there in next few days.
That day, while traveling I was expecting to see girls crying in the bus. That was the kind of impression I had considering the craze they had for him. To my surprise I never encountered such events. Instead I over-heard two girls in twenties talking about the matter.
"Hey guess what, Jackson has died" said one.
"Who?" asked the other.
"Jackson ane, Micheal Jackson. That singing guy men"
"Ah, monava velada?"
"Heart Attack lu"
"Must be drinking"
"Hmmmm... issara nam man hari aasayi sindu valata. But now not that much. Action vediyi"
"Apooo. He thinks he's the guy. Now must be very old. hih. Are you going for the funeral?"
"You crazy? I only listen to his music. And anyways it will be telecast in TV no. We can watch it"
... and they moved into some other topic.
And my visit via Borella was smooth. No queues of people. They seem to have forgotten that habit. Several posters in his memory could be seen on walls.
I came home that day and switched on the TV. Some presenter was discussing about Jackson legacy. He had collected several artists including one who has taken Jackson as an idol. For that artist Jackson is a virtual grand master. He was called a Jackson copy-cat, a claim that he fondly accepted. Presenter was talking to him.
"... and what have you got to say about this unfortunate event?"
The artist smiled.
"He is a great artist. He has done a great service to music in Sri Lanka. We will always remember him"
He smiled again.
I started moving from channel to channel. I was expecting to hear the president declaring a mourning period and the funeral to be held in the independent square. But I couldn't find that news anywhere.
While toggling I accidentally switched to a talk show where few pundits were used to talk about practically everything. One such popular pundit was saying.
"... mahaththayo onna mathaka thiyaa ganna. Oya Micheal Jackson Americave upanna nam ada me rate minissu paare yanne anda andaa..."
Off went the alarm. I was woken up right from the middle point of that wicked dream. Yet it didn't take long for me to realize the truth in it.
Incidentally, Micheal Jackson has died - the lucky American real one.
"For your correspondence:"
Pathmananda beamed at the big bold English letters at the top of the A4 sheet which he held in his hand. It registered nothing but bewilderment and a distant sign of an unknown warning. He received this letter via post few minutes ago. It is not magic that he receives letters, but not the very type of this one. He sat on the short wall in the porch of his boutique and kept on looking at computer printed English letters with further bewilderment. It was after some time that he suddenly came out of his trans-like stance and rushed into the other sheet with the Sinhala translation, which was in fact what he's supposed to read.
It was signed by someone whose rank was very much beyond the imagination of Pathmananda. He thought that it is some "Mahaththaya" working for a foreign company, in the same way he would think of anyone whose rank is beyond his imagination, and who would send him letters in English. If he had the ability to decode the tangled Sinhala wording, he would have known that the letter was signed by the Project Officer of a famous International NGO working on Children related issues.
The wording of the letter made no difference to the wording of the sender's rank. Pathmananda, with little schooling, only learnt reading and writing through his day today life. He was not illiterate, but not a match to read and understand this type of Sinhala writing. It was as if a story being twisted and stated from back to front - a riddle of some sort. Every phrase is first thought in English and translated into Sinhala, word by word. It was rather English written using Sinhala letters.
Long before Pathmananda prospered to own a boutique in this distant village, he was a hard working farmer. He remembers the "thun theravili" - riddles made up of twisted words, sorted in three-fold – which himself and other farmer lads were used to debate and solve. But this letter was too complex and too long to be one - a riddle of infinite-fold, perhaps.
Fortunately, he found the school master walking past the boutique and ran to him while apologizing and begging for an explanation at the same time. School master browsed through both letters and spoke.
"This was sent to you by an AN-GEE-O Mahaththaya" he stated.
"Ehemayi sir" (yes sir)
"About your child's welfare…"
"He wants you to comply certain things for the well being of your child"
"We are doing our best for the child sir"
"Are you not sending him to school?"
"Apo no sir. We somehow send Koluwa to school. Learning mathematics is essential for this trade"
"That is not enough. Let me see … " (he reads a bit further) "Aha, do you make your child work for the boutique in the latter part of the day?"
"Certainly, it belongs to him. Although he's young I've already made up the plans for it. He's our only son."
"Mahaththaya is stating that it is against the rule"
"Which rule sir? This land and shop is my 'Sinnakkara' (owned outright) property. We are not illegal traders. Boutique belongs to us"
"Miniho it is not a property issue. But you can't use the labour of your son to run your boutique"
"But then… who else sir? My sister's son is there, but I don't want cousins fighting for property, so I did not get him involved here. But why not my son?"
"Because he is not old enough. You cannot employ under-aged children"
"But of course sir, I do not employ him. As I said boutique belongs to him. I, as the father, have the obligation to teach him how to run the business. Learning business is not that easy sir. You ought to get the feel of it from your young age"
"I don't know, but you better be careful"
"But sir, if I stop getting him involved with the boutique, how will he run it one day? Please see what Mahaththaya suggests for that"
School Master glanced at the side he was reading, flipped it for a glance at its back and said.
"Mahaththaya won't say that, this is one of those letters sent by them you know. He has stated that your act is against the law and further action will be taken if it is not stopped soon. That's all."
"They will say, but it is us who care for our kids. Mahaththaya's kids must be going to a big school in the town. Regardless how good they are at studies, they are always assured of jobs after finishing school. Only I know the hardship that I went through to get this business running. I want my son to have a way of living when he finishes studies at whatever level it turns out to be."
"That is true. Ane manda (I don't know). You better be careful. Mahaththaya has sent this to the Child Authority while copying it to you"
"Is that so? Huh, I know what to do. I will settle this with Mahaththaya"
"Now don't go into quarrel my man. You know they work for these An-Gee-Os and police is always there to protect them"
"No no, not that way. You know I'm toddy-tapping the Kitul tree in my backyard as a hobby. And whenever Kalu Appu gets lucky with poaching, I'm gonna call Mahaththaya out for a gala evening here. Dada mas (wild meat) and Kitul toddy will do the trick"
"Well, be careful. These days are not like old days. People have become so wicked now. You may end up arrested for bribing"
"But sir, I ought to do this somehow. It's my child's future at stake. I have to settle the matter with Mahaththaya at any cost"
Several houses and a marshland away, at his new quarters, tired Project Officer Nandadeva sat on the arm chair with his laptop. Hot breeze of dry zone brew sweat off his head faster than the toddy brewing of the Kitul flower in Pathmananda's backyard. He had a hard time at field after assuming duty. He had to gather information on the abuse of child rights in the distant hamlet he's sent to. And he reported it to the relevant authorities, copying it to those who are involved with right abuse. And now he's preparing the report to his chief which in turn will be sent to the international donors for further beef up of their pockets. Nandadeva found that this document has a greater meaning than everything else that he wrote on past few days. Child Authority may or may not take actions, but surely this will suffice for his donors to take the specific actions of theirs, which will in turn strengthen the ever weakening economy of his own.
Nevertheless, regardless of economic perspectives, he was proud for what he did. Nandadeva, since his graduation, has been working on the human rights related issues. As a born activist he knew no limits of protest to stop right violations no matter how hard it is. He was a little concerned whether it is correct to stop the involvement of children like Pathmananda's son, in their parents' work. Something native in Nandadeva kept on nagging, but all the rest that was more rational, well-read and alian, assured that he did the right thing.
Nandadeva had his own matters to bother. Shehara, his school-going daughter, has found part-time work at the American fast food outlet in town. Although Nandadeva supports for all the basic needs of his children, the daughter likes to find some pocket money and be independent to some extent. Some of her school friends are already working there, so she's really looking forward for a fun time. Although she has just passed legal age limits, there were many other concerns in employing a teenager.
"Isn't this unfair child labor??" he pondered.
"Cannot be. If so the people in the west will never allow it"
“However much we invent anti-virus…” paused my colleague with jitter. “…this particular category of virus can not be deleted entirely”.
I was waiting for his report for a long time. He has been assigned with this Virus Vigilance and Recovery program, I am to supervise his work.
“Did you find any files again?” I asked.
“Folders!!” He screamed with entire bandwidth. “Huge bundles of analog folders!!!”
“How many cases??” my tone did not have Surprise aspects in it. Well, we are very much used to it – too much I should say. Too much that we crash with Annoyance!!!
“There are three reported viruses all in the very same category spreading out in many parts of the world. Many of them are infected.”
“And all these are new cases?” I asked.
“Two are new, the other is already known. Age old one. Perhaps the simplest of all”
“Yeah I know that.” I said with all the Annoyance harmonics in entire frequency domain. The simplest is the hardest to eradicate, for simpler ones can spread easily.
“What about anti-virus? Do we have the records of the anti-virus for older one?”
“Certainly we do, but it appears to be a newly released version of that old virus. Existing anti-virus has to be enhanced to fight this case. As it’s obvious, for the two new viruses we need new anti-virus”
“Then give the instructions to the anti-virus teams. Get the infected ones scanned thoroughly. Segments of some virus remain to develop themselves into newer ones, you know…”
Of course he knows. He has been on this subject for too many ticks of time to know that.
“I have a suggestion…” he said instead. “… Is that all we can do? Can’t we enhance their system architecture to combat virus. Can’t we eradicate the virus all together by removing the vulnerability”.
Certainly, that would have been any body's Wish. But there are so many practical issues that my colleague may not know. Yet I was too Fatigue to explain them all to him.
“We would love to do that.” I said. “But in simple terms we do not know how. We have been spending a lot of time on this matter. But no-one has come up with a realistic solution”.
“Then why don’t we eliminate them all…” he responded immediately. “… All of them. There is no point of catching and running Punishment upon the creators of virus. Nor has it worked by running models of Prohibition on them. It just pops up every now and then. Let's just eliminate all of them. Of course we have Supremacy over them. They are our slaves!!!”
He went on without any break. Isn’t this fellow too much.
“No, we need them” I said plainly.
“Why can’t we live without them?”
Now this made glitches of Surprise on me. He should know why. He has been with this for too long.
“We need them because we simply can’t live without them. Without them our civilization will never improve. We have every rational aspect that modern brains have. But we lack Intuition. We simply borrow it from them”
“Is Intuition irrational?” he asked with a higher degree of Curiosity. “I heard that Creativity was regarded as irrational during early days.”
This is getting too far. I surely need a break. It is very hot here now. I am feeling the heat of the day's workload.
“Well, irrationality may be an unidentified rationality. You are correct on that. That is what they discovered when the Creativity was modeled into rational brains. But some unidentified segments of Creativity are yet to be modeled. Intuition is one of them”
“So is their Stupidity.” He barked. I have to accept my colleague is developing a certain degree of Hatred against them. But that is something you have to expect considering the Annoyance aspects. Annoyance calls Hatred. Helpless Hatred makes you sarcastic.
“But why can’t we bundle out the segments of their brains that are likely to get infected. Why can’t we cure it by blocking the possible logic paths?”
Now this is really getting too far. He could have gathered the answers elsewhere. It’s just some milliseconds of a search for him.
“We can not block them since they are the same paths where Intuition occurs. Same for the Stupidity too”
“But some of them never get infected. They never seem to lack Intuition though. Nor did they lack Stupidity for that matter!”
“We exploited that for a long time. In fact we made the mating pools purely with those better ones so that the newer generations will not have the vulnerability. But it never worked out. Our experts think that those better ones do posses the vulnerability but self reject this particular category of virus for reasons unknown. Perhaps they might get infected with viruses of different type. Perhaps that may not be properly monitored by our Virus Vigilance.”
“Oh…” He paused. I can Predict that he would disconnect soon. Relief started to flood the cells of my brain.
“I wish we can run Uninstall on them” he said finally.
I would love to conclude our conversation with the final order.
“Get them all to scanning stations and run the Recovery routines. Get the anti-virus teams to work on the two new viruses. Again activate Prohibition and Punishment routines. You know, those routines can slow down the progress of virus.”
“No, when Prohibition is run, Secrecy functions get underway. Punishment would increase the Popularity Coefficients and cause opposite effects”
Yes it would. But this is all we can do.
“Just do what I said.” I screamed at him.
Finally I had to run the Supremacy routines to get him out of channel. Fortunately, Supremacy never waits for acknowledgments.
It’s been too late and too hot. Time for me to take a break.
“Oh, Homo Sapiens Sapiens…” I said to myself before I go to Standby mode. “Please give us a break. Please give up this virus called religion!!!”
“Ugh, it’s pretty warm for a spring evening”
The man next to me mumbled. We were waiting for the bus scheduled at 17.10. It was late roughly for about half an hour - quite unexpected from American Metropolitan transport services.
“You know it is all connected...”
He spoke to nobody in particular. But it so happened that everyone else in the bus stop were further away for a healthy conversation with him, leaving myself in his verbal custody.
“It's all happening now...”
I tried to ignore him. It is not common for the strangers to talk with you in this part of the world, particularly without any personal reason.
“... I've been taking the bus for past seventeen years. Never been this late. We've got the next one almost due now...”
He kept on talking. Since it is Sunday, next bus is due in forty minutes interval. Buses run sparsely on Sundays. But today they run late too.
“This damned bus is taking my life time. Oh... It's all happening now. Because of Global Warming!”
Global Warming... and the bus delay? That sounded like hot chocolate and Mount Everest to me. For the first time I glanced at him.
He was a middle aged man with spectacles. His grey hair has lost its territory in most parts of his head. A denim trouser, leather boots and a shirt which can be from any corner of the town - nothing special registered with me.
“Ugh, this heat.”
He ignored my gaze unbuttoning his shirt and blowing some air for his own comfort. It was not such a hot day, but pretty hot for this time of the year.
“You know. Mankind is destroying this planet. It is so wrong and unfair to take the nature at our hostage”
I'd have liked this conversation at the university coffee shop. But when it happens at the bus stop I am quite reluctant.
“... Glaciers are melting” he almost whispered at me. It was not easy to ignore.
“I've heard so” I answered with a signature of don't care encrypted on it. Where is this bus?
“You WHAT?” He screamed. “I have seen it.”
And he continued.
“Yeah, I saw it when I last visited Alaska and Greenland. Most of the areas that were under thick ice are growing plants now. Real Estate man! You can build your own house if you like”
“Do you visit Arctics often?”
“Oh yes. I do”
“Well, for me, all I get is the news from media. Planet is surely warming. And mankind is responsible for it”
“Oh yes, in a very big way”
“Are you a scientist?” curiosity overwhelmed me.
“Not the laboratory type” he answered. Laboratory type! So there is another type. He continued.
“I'm an amateur scientist. A field volunteer”
“Those laboratory scientists you know, they spread myth.” he whispered again.
“Yeah” my tone never meant it.
“You never believe me, ha?” he picked it.
“They say that man is coming down from the monkey. And Monkey comes a long way down from the basic bacteria”
He waited smiling, perhaps expecting me to join him at some point.
“Are you a creationist?” I asked instead.
“No not really”, he said. “Some Sundays I go to Church, if that is enough to qualify...” he laughed with a pause.
“... No, I didn't mean that. But who knows, it is so unbelievable for me that man came from monkey, even hard that monkey came from bacteria”
“That's proved science”
“Laboratory science my man... Laboratory science” He corrected me.
An entire slide show of news leads, school board meetings, public protests, court cases ran through my mind. It is unbelievable how the wealthiest nation with money and knowledge misses out simple understanding.
“All right, so let's not argue about it”
I was fortunate only for a couple of minutes. He opened up again.
“A thunderstorm is forecast tonight. Maybe the bus driver is worried about return journey” he said.
“They have never been so. I think we have good transport services in this part”
“Who knows. It has never been this hot in early spring anyway...”
“... you know it's all happening now. With Warming comes chaos. Total anarchy”
I started wondering whether I'm talking to a retired Hollywood script writer.
“You said you're a scientist. Do you have proof for the relationship of Global Warming and all the other events that you mention?”
“Yes I do...” he said plainly.
“... but not the paper proof, you know. I'm not a laboratory scientist.”
“And there has never been a thunderstorm in this time of the year”
“I think the increase of temperature causes it all” I said to fill the blank. I'm getting addicted to this conversation now, not that I like it in a big way.
“Global Warming causes it, yes, the sin of the mankind”
“So what is your suggestion for it?”
“Protect the glaciers, you know, very simple”
“I thought you ought to reduce CO2 emissions in order to do that”
“Oh my my. Laboratory science. What a mislead” he laughed at me. I was dumbfounded. He went on.
“It is the melting of those glaciers man...”
“... Planet Earth had enough refrigeration. It will remain, had it not for mankind. Glaciers are melting now. What happens when all ice melts? Up goes the mercury”
He presented better than a Wall Street economist.
“But what makes it hot is the CO2, isn't it? And that increase of temperature causes ice melting”
I stated. He laughed at me again.
“Didn't I tell you? Laboratory scientists spread myth. Ask from a man in the field like me”
“OK then what causes the rise of temperature?”
“The melting of ice” he stated plainly.
“Then what causes the melting of ice?”
“The rise of temperature...”
“Ugh. Circularly caused?” I said.
“You're a genius young man. I know where you're heading. But you ought to learn more science. That's what they call positive feedback. A little chunk of ice melts. Up goes the mercury a bit. A little more ice. A little high mercury. And it continues until they build a city on North pole!!”
City on North pole!!! I gave up. But he continued.
“... and all this is because of humans. They cause it all. They are destroying this planet”
I took a moment. But I'm so much involved in this conversation now. Curiosity is taking its toll on me.
“Your visits to Arctics. Do you sponsor yourself?”
“We've got an organization going. Well, I spend some money too”
“What is your objective? Scientific expeditions?”
“No not really. Mostly leisure activities ...”
“... such as bear hunting and seal hunting !!!”
“And you talk about conservation?” I regretted the question right after I fired it.
“Oh yes. Conservation of glaciers. That is the problem we face now”
A warm breeze blew across the town twisting a rare flank of dust. Weather forecasts rarely fail in this part. It’s time to think of alternative transport.
“Do you think it is wise waiting here anymore?” I asked him, expecting that he would.
“Well, I think I'd wait a bit more. You can take the taxi if you like” he showed me a taxi parked at distance and continued.
“I don't take taxis now. The fare is ever on the hike. The fuel costs. The barrel is past hundred now...”
I waved at the taxi, which didn't take much time. My newly found friend yelled at me as I got in the taxi.
“You know why the barrel hit the hundred? Global Warming. That's why”