Enter Grandson Thomas

“When in girlhood my heart was opening its petals, you hovered

as a fragrance about it.

Your tender softness bloomed in my youthful limbs, like a glow

in the sky before the sunrise.

Heaven’s first darling, twain-born with the morning light, you

have floated down the stream of the world’s life, and at last you

have stranded on my heart.

As I gaze on your face, mystery overwhelms me; you who belong

to all have become mine.

For fear of losing you I hold you tight to my breast. What

magic has snared the world’s treasure in these slender arms of

mine?”

Rabindranath Tagore

Thomas Alexander Glenn

Nickie with new born baby Thomas Alexander Glenn. 20 March 2017, Sydney, Australia

I had been reading a few days ago Tagore poems and thought this was so apt for my daughter-in-law, when I saw this photo. Today, when she asked me “Aren’t you going to do a blog for your new grandson, like you did for Freya,” I was taken a bit back by surprise! “That blog came up faster,” said the son, a tad accusingly. Achchi is the self appointed family historian but lately, the Achchi has been accused of laying bare her life on the blog and FB, being addicted to techie gadgets and teaching granddaughter to take selfies! Besides, Achchie has not been blogging for a long time but said “Sure!” A good time as any to get back to blogging and writing.(No matter that I accidentally deleted the first draft pics and all an hour or so ago!)

Photos had been coming in thick and fast today. Looking at them I had a little time to reflect on how times have changed. For all those who talk about the good ole’ times, I say these times are greater. Dads have evolved a lot more and mothers go to work, keep their careers but still find time to have babies, nurture them and hold the family sacrosanct. Fathers, when we had babies stayed well outside the delivery rooms and had to be told to send flowers the next day! But now they are in the thick of the drama armed with the ubiquitous iPhones. So the Best Photo award for this year goes to my son Suren for capturing this decisive moment , when the grandson took his first breath and yelled his lungs out. This was awesome, and yes this was how Thomas Alexander Glenn de Silva, arrived into our family.

First breath & cries

Thomas takes his first breaths & yells his lungs out. Photo copyright Suren de Silva

“I wanted to call him Thor after Thor Heyerdahl,” says son. Good thing they didn’t, that would have been more difficult to explain to the Sri Lankan family than Freya! ( Thor in Sinhalese is a less refined form of you – to put it mildly).

Suren, Freya & Thomas

Suren, Freya & Thomas

Freya had a long preparation to welcome the baby brother. Gifts from baby brother were brought, etc and that reminded me that I too did that and we bought a train set for Suren to say this was what his baby brother brought him. However, after an initial showing, it went to live on top of the wardrobe, for the father to take down and play, when the kids were safely asleep.

Suren & Freya

Father and daughter bonding and building a toy cupboard, the day before Thomas arrived. Photo copyright Nickie de Silva

Will Thomas one day ask as Tagore said ”

“Where have I come from, where did you pick me up?” the baby asked

its mother.

She answered, half crying, half laughing, and clasping the

baby to her breast-

“You were hidden in my heart as its desire, my darling.

You were in the dolls of my childhood’s games. …” Maybe the big sister will explain as she is almost ready to step into that role.

Bathing Tom day 3

Nickie with new born baby Thomas Alexander Glenn, and Freya joins in bathing baby. 20 March 2017, Sydney, Australia

A baby is a miracle of life, that gives joy unbounded and a new lease of life specially to grandparents.

Liz and Tom

Liz Thompson, Nickie’s Mum and the indispensable Nanna with Thomas. Photo credit Jacqui Thompson.

I will take back unequivocally what I told a colleague long time ago before grandkids actually arrived: “I won’t go ga-ga oover grandkids, all my mother instincts are satisfied!” Just looking at all these photos I turn again to Tagore for so eloquently saying what is in my heart today:

“I wish I could take a quiet corner in the heart of my baby’s very own world.
I know it has stars that talk to him, and a sky that stoops down to his face to amuse him with its silly clouds and rainbows.
Those who make believe to be dumb, and look as if they never
could move, come creeping to his window with their stories and with
trays crowded with bright toys.
I wish I could travel by the road that crosses baby’s mind,
and out beyond all bounds;
Where messengers run errands for no cause between the kingdoms
of kings of no history;
Where Reason makes kites of her laws and flies them, the Truth
sets Fact free from its fetters.”

One last request for all those Techie guys out there – can you please hurry up and get the “Beam me up Scotty” gadget into the market!

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Transient moments

I watched them walk down the road for a long time.  Or at least it seemed like a long time.

Mother and daughter Akashi at Hikkaduwa. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Mother and daughter Akashi at Hikkaduwa. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

The mother and the child the mother held, standing, embracing one another across the road.  I got closer to ask her name — Akashi like the sky.

It was but a brief conversation. “She wants a yoghurt,” said the mother. I would go on and they would go on.  But the image lingers like many others of mothers and babes and they will not be forgotten.

28 year old mum Sewdini with Kuveneshi. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

28 year old mum Sewdini with Kuveneshi, Jeyapuram South, North Sri Lanka. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

These moments of pure joy we capture, in places I might never travel again.

Kuvaneshi steals a kiss from Vijay Kumar. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Kuvaneshi steals a kiss from Vijay Kumar at a meeting to resettle IDPs in Jeyapuram South, North Sri Lanka. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Transient, ephemeral, these images flash across my thoughts, like the swift flight of a blue kingfisher in the garden at Hikkaduwa.

A blue kingfisher among the pandaus bushes. World Photography Day at Hikkaduwa 19 August 2013. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

A blue kingfisher among the pandaus bushes. World Photography Day at Hikkaduwa 19 August 2013. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Important submission info: The Other Hundred Project

image001

A photographer who raised the question about difference in submitting entries via the Face Book link, for  “The Other Hundred Project” was concerned about the loss of rights when he came  across following set of rules:

“6. Rights Granted by you: By entering this Contest, you agree that:

  1. the Administrator, Strutta, and their respective licensees, successors and assigns will have the right to use all or a part of your Entry, your name and address (city and state/province/territory), and the names, likenesses, photographs, voices and images of all persons appearing in the Entry anywhere in the world and in perpetuity, for future advertising, trade, promotion and publicity in any manner and in any medium now known or hereafter devised throughout the world in perpetuity, without compensation and without notice to you and without consideration, review or approval from you; and

He sought clarification from The Other Hundred Project Team and also wanted a clarification on the honorarium. The Team replied to his queries and said:

1.      The honorarium is per selected entry of The Other Hundred – each selected entry may be one photo or multiple photos. It is possible for one photographer to have multiple entries selected from his work and therefore be awarded multiple honorariums.

2.      Srutta is the third party social-media company The Other Hundred Team have used to set up our Facebook page. Unfortunately, this means there is nothing we can do about the terms and conditions they have listed.

However, The Other Hundred Team says any submissions made directly to us via email at submissions@theotherhundred.com  are not subject to these rules and instead will follow our own terms and conditions, the ones we have outline on our website.

If any body is not clear please contact:

Surya Balakrishnan of The Other Hundred Project Team: info@theotherhundred.com

Tel: (852) 3571-8103

See also Previous Post

The Year of Laxmi and Drik

For weeks this blog of mine, which has a mind of its own had been nagging me to write a piece and take stock of 2011.  The question is how do you crunch a year full of events, a stock of photo memories  into a single blog but let’s try. …

Boys will be boys. A son of a doctor plays with his domestic on the rooftop adjacent to my apartment block as a monsoon storm clouds gather. Lalmatia, Dhaka, Bangladesh. June 2011. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

To be exact, the story of course commenced a tad before the start of 2011, when I turned away from a comfortable life and settled myself in Dhaka to work for Drik and for what I called my “rickshaw” life. I had termed 2011, as embracing the unusual, the innovative – even the disruptive.

A labourer on May Day. Dhaka, 1 May 2011. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

2011 will be remembered by me and notched as the year of Laxmi – not only because I had the good fortune to see the advent of a granddaughter named Laxmi Elin but because its been a year full of riches – no, not the monetary kind of wealth and prosperity that Goddess Laxmi is supposed to endow one with – but the more precious riches of family reunions, seeing Tara grow up,  strengthened friendships – both the old ones as well as the freshness of new friendships that working for Drik has brought me.

My friend and colleague Adnan Wahid dancing at the opening rally of the Chobi Mela International Festival of Photography , Dhaka, Bangladesh, January 2011. Photograph©K M Asad

So at the end of this year it’s cheers to Ranil and Aileen for the gift of Laxmi Elin and the thoughtful way of naming her bringing both maternal and paternal grandma’s into the picture.

It is also cheers to Shahidul and my new found friends at Drik and Pathshala for making this year an eventful one. They’ve tolerated my incessant cry of “Chole jabbo Sri Lanka” (am going back to Sri Lanka), nursed me though the drama of losing my brand new laptop, got me the much needed work visa and made room for me introducing me to their rich world of photography.

There was no better way to start the year than to dunk myself into the world of images.  There was plenty — more than 400 at the Chobi Mela international festival of photography VI (CM VI) organized by Drik –  29 print exhibitions, 31 digital presentations, evening dialogues and discussions and artists from 30 countries.

From the Chobi Mela Exhibition "My City of Unheard Prayers" by another new friend Sayed Asif Mahmud ( Bangladesh).

I had been working from September 2010 with  Reza and Mosafa at the Chobi Mela Secretariat. As the festival day approached it was all hands on deck, and many joined creating and contributing to an amazing spectacular unbelievable gala event that lasted for two weeks. I marveled silently how this comparatively small org could pull off such an international event. See video by Jeremiah Foo.

‘The success of this festival is because of you. The practitioners who have walked the walk, and the audience who have nurtured and supported this crazy dream. It is a dream we will dream together, and triumph we shall” Shahidul Alam. Photograph©D M Shibly

For me 2011 was a year of learning – no, not that much about photography but about myself and coping with the disruptive.  Often I was intimidated to take my camera out amid the abundant wealth of talent. Few instances I did it was mostly street photography.

In Dhaka much happens on the streets. I had thought the rally at Chobi Mela was unique but I soon learned that Bangladeshis didn’t need much persuasion to air their problems on the streets. Hartals still happen here frequently and bring the country to a virtual halt. May day outing was one, where people poured out on to the streets all dressed in red – producing armbands and headbands must be a lucrative business.

May day activists -- the young and the old have time to stop and smile for me. Dhaka, Bangladesh, May 1, 2011. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Life and energy naturally overflow onto the streets in a city that is bursting at the seams.  The traffic is notorious.

A girl tries to sell roses to me while I sit caged inside a three wheeler (CNG) in clogged traffic. Dhaka Bangladesh, 2011. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Amid the incessant horning, the rickshaw wallas swear and argue as they weave in an out, narrowly missing a car, a bus and even the baton weaving traffic police.  I’ve long since learned to balance myself on the ridiculously narrow sloping seat, stopped praying and trust I’ll reach my destination limbs intact. The guard at the apartment block shows off his few English phrases and it is no matter for him that the rickshaw walla will not understand English, he happily hailed a rickshaw for me this morning calling out “Come, come quickly.” Many a morning I have a familiar rickshaw walla waiting outside my apartment building.  He too ignores my Bangla and greets me with a quirky smile and says “Good Morning” in English.

The tea kiosks and the surrounding pavements are the common man’s smoking club.  Office workers regularly gather outside for “char kabo,” a gossip and a moan with the popular smoke.  Streets are the home for many, the poor children’s playground, their work place where they try to eke a living. On my way to classes at Pathshala one morning in April it was fun to see the streets kids, playful without a care in the world, strip naked, climb a tree and jump into the green murky waters of a Dhaka lake making it their own swimming pool.

Morning swim in a Dhaka lake. Bangladesh. April 2011. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

In a year full of happenings at Drik, I had met several charming, very talented photographers.  The most recent meeting with David Burnett the iconic photographer in Dhaka is still the defining event of 2011.

Drik Gallery II held David Burnett’s exhibition “44 Days – Iran and the Remaking of the World" at Chobi Mela VI. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

I had seen this exhibition and also read and heard before about his work, but to listen to David himself was a totally different experience.  Dressed in a faded blue T-shirt, early in December this year, he held the audience spell bounded bringing the events around images come alive – from his photos in Vietnam, to what he thought was a botched up photo of president John F. Kennedy taken as a young rookie photographer. We travelled with him to Iran to catch Ayatollah Khoumeni drinking tea; to other Presidents in jet planes during election campaigns and heard how he captured the anguish on the face of Mary Decker at the 1984 L.A. Olympics and to describe many more defining moment images. He had spoken about his work photographing the refugees as they streamed into India during the 1971 war at the launching of the book and video of the “Birth pangs of a nation.” As a result of seeing so many children sick and dying among the refugees, David said he himself became a more sensitive father, in a way that his wife and daughter couldn’t understand.

But the best memories I have is how comfortable and at ease he was among the people on the streets celebrating Bangladesh’s national day on the 16 Dec.  “ Can I say Jai Bangla now?” he asked seated on a wall smoking a cigar with Bangladeshis .

David Burnett has a smoke in Dhaka. Bangladesh 16 December, 2011. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Out on the streets people recognized him as the VIP and wanted to be photographed with him or photograph him. Often it was even difficult to get close enough to focus.  I clicked away as I saw him borrowing a lighter from an astounded rickshaw walla.  He not only lit his long cigar but also quite naturally leaned forward and lit the cigarette of the rickshaw walla quite oblivious to the amusement of the others watching him.

David Burnett lights a cigarette for a rickshaw driver. Dhaka, Bangladesh. 16 Dec. 2011. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

So what will 2012 bring – will I still be riding rickshaws? Sit in the same office and dream of my avocado tree and squirrels in the garden? Still wrestle with the same problems?  Be up against the same challenges?  Hard to say but I’ll certainly be wishing for Goddess Laxmi to be around with all her special charms and superior spiritual feminine energy.   And I need to see the baby Laxmi that has entered our family.

Happy New Year — Live your dream, love what you do.

The Sound of Silence

 

Portrait of Nilanka. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Stories have a way of arriving at my doorstep quite unexpectedly like my Gotukola kids.  This is another one —  Nilanka’s story –  one of the many unsung heroes amidst us. 

It was an ordinary Friday, but my do list was long.  On top of “My to Do List” for the day was getting the roller garage door serviced. The first telephone call said the servicemen were lost.  I had given directions to Chapel Road, but the board at the Nugegoda junction says “Chapel Lane” said the guy.  The confusion I later discovered was the board at the Nugegoda town end that had always said “Chapel Road” had now been suddenly changed to “Chapel Lane.” Finally, we managed to sort it out thanks to the presence of the ubiquitous mobile phones and three men arrived all crunched in the front seat of a little half-a-loaf truck.   

Ladders and pumps, buckets and mops came out, plug points were found, high pressure water pump got activated and the work started.  Jeevaka led the team work and worked on the door cleaning from outside while Nilanka perky cap on head, was up on the ladder busy scrubbing the door from the inside. 

The door had remained dormant for 5 months during my Dhaka sojourn and now groaned and grumbled when I opened it. I spoke to Nilanka wanting to know what the status of the door was and whether they required extra detergent.  Completely engrossed in his work, there was no response.

Nilanka at work. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

There was me yapping away while Nilanka remained totally absorbed in his self contained activity. It seemed to me getting the door checked was his one objective. Watching him suddenly the penny dropped.  Nilanka was hearing impaired.  I had to get Jeevaka to tap him on the shoulder and ask in mime whether it was OK for me to photograph him.

Jeevaka was surprised I had noticed and he filled me in.  Nilanka is a qualified technician and he is not the only hearing impaired technician employed by the firm.  “First there was one, and he got the others in” said Jeevaka with a grin.  “He works with me and is learning all the skills well,” he added.  It was really good to see how one firm had made room to absorb Nilanka and his friends.  More importantly it was good to see how his co-workers treated him as a buddy  and how Nilanka himself  had overcome life’s limitations by learning complex skills.

This was Flow in action – I could endorse — the way to happiness lies in a mindful challenge.

Note: “Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. Proposed by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the positive psychology concept has been widely referenced across a variety of fields.

According to Csíkszentmihályi, flow is completely focused motivation. It is a single-minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning. In flow, the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand” ( from the Wikipedia).

Outside the garage door the sunlight was too bright and hard for photography at mid-day, but the story won’t be complete without one of the three friends.  Take one  in front of the vehicle said Janaka, the driver — one for the road so to speak.

The trio of friends: Janaka, Nilanka and Jeevaka. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

 

Though the silence never ends
I can hear
I can hear:
A dove in flight
The sound of sunlight . … Read the full Poem: The sound of Sunlight by Anna M. Stott.

Street Clicks on a Misty Morning

When we left Dhaka at 5 am the city was fast asleep like a child that had collapsed exhausted after a restive day.  Gone was the hyperactivity the tooting of horns, the traffic cops, the cycle bells of the  million rickshaws, so synonymous with Dhaka.  The sleeping incorrigible child lay swathed in an inky mist.  Not much different from the Pettah or Fort in Sri Lanka before dawn.

 
 
 

Reflections on a misty morning. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

 

As we moved out of Dhaka over the Buriganga bridge, the city was slowly coming back to life.  The wayside stalls were lighting their hearths and rolling out the paratha dough and the vegetable sellers were struggling with bags piled high on their bicycle carts. We were stopped at the bridge.  My first thought was that it was a security check.  This wasn’t, it was to pay a toll.  

Buri in Bangla means old and Ganga is river and I wondered if it was an old man river or an old woman river as my mind wandered to Paul Robeson and the famous Ol’ Man River— the song of the African Americans toiling away amidst the uncaring flow of the Mississippi river. Many a song has been sung by boatmen toiling away here too.  Rivers have flown entwined in the lives of the Bangladeshies – at times the giver, at times the destroyer – but that’s another story.

We drive along a newly resurfaced, neatly marked road, and the view changes.  Flickering lights glow in the dark on the right side of the road but there are no visible houses and I cannot figure out the lights.  “Those are brick kilns,” explain my friends.

The little village we turn into is fast asleep too.  Sitting on the verandah of our hosts house the conversation turns to when the first Black and White TV was installed in this house.  Villagers had flocked from miles to see this new fangled box with moving pictures. 

Just before sunrise we walk across the courtyard of fruit trees. The starfruit tree had unpicked fruits on the ground.  “Those are for the parrots,”explains our host.  As the mist starts to lift slowly, we walk across the field.

 
 
 

The sun rises across the fields. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

 

The sun when it makes an appearance is majestic — a fiery ball across the fields.  I remember a similar sunrise I saw on the A 9 driving towards Killinochchi earlier this year, but one never tires of these magnificent displays of nature.

A little boy, starts following me –obviously drawn to the camera. A little sign language and he is very happy to be photographed.

 
 
 

Portrait of Robi. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

 

On the small lane in front of our hosts house, people stop – a little curious, looking at me and the  camera.  First they speak to me in Bangla, as yet again I’m mistaken for a Bangladeshi.  “Here’s a stange one, she looks Bangla but can speak only ektu, ektu ( a little).” 

 
 
 

Portrait of Rizia. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

 

 I ask whether I could photograph a woman first in my broken Bangla – Ji, ji ( yes) and after her the men too lined up in front.  

 
 
 

Portrait of Md. Shah Alam. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

 

Then it was time to check out the photo and assess it on the view finder.  The photos  might not please my tutors but I had loud approvals of “baloh, baloh”–  good in Bangla.  I try to remember my photography lessons, side lights, framing properly but then decided the decisive moment was what I wanted to capture – photographing to remember the smiles and laughter of a friendly encounter with a bunch of happy villagers.

 
 
 

Rolu with his speckled pet. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

 

Robin is setting up a net to play badminton with his friends.  Looking down at them from the road higher up,  I focus my camera on them. They quickly gather and hold a pose for me. Peering into my lens, I remember how similar this is to the boys I photographed in Jaffna.  In a jiffy the boys  are all up on the road with us, wanting to be photographed more -the pair of sunglasses a must for the Bollywood look. …

 
 
 

Emon and Robi. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

 

The men and women hang around, having forgotten where they were going when they met me and we have a conversation liberally sprinkled with sign language.  I tell them I am from Sri Lanka and Shah Alam says knowingly “Ah, Sri Lanka, Baloh, baloh” and nods his head.   Language they say shape our thoughts and interaction – so do we communicate even in monosyllables because Bangla and Sinhala have so many common root words?  Anyway, it is an amazing feeling of being welcomed and accepted in a strange village.  The camera no doubt was the catalyst, the ice breaker,  but  with my few words of Bangla and their quick grasp of what I was saying  we were communicating.  A much warmer engagement than the empty rhetoric of so many of our daily “Hello, How are you?” greetings.

Alam gestures with his hand up towards the sky and asks whether I will go back to Sri Lanka after this visit or will I come again to see them. I wish I could have said in Bangla “I’ll come back.”

 
 
 

Lingering memories. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

 

 See also:  

HOW DOES OUR LANGUAGE SHAPE THE WAY WE THINK? [6.12.09]
By Lera Boroditsky