Tag Archives: Opinion

Farewell to Gadafi; the Chess Enthusiast and Best Wishes to Libyan People


I got acquainted with Libya and its people in an unexpected manner. In 2006, I was in the Advanced Level first year class at Visakha Vidyalaya. I had been playing chess for several years and had represented my school at junior and senior levels. Though most of my contemporaries in the school chess team had given up chess to concentrate on studies I had managed to talk my parents into allowing me to play the game I loved till the end of first year in the A/L class. I was determined to play at least once in a foreign country before giving up serious chess and my parents had promised to support me if I were to get a chance within that year.

I decided to try my luck at the National Youth Chess Championship 2006. I knew that if I finished among the top three in my age group I was sure to get a chance to play in either the Commonwealth Chess Championship or the Asian Junior Chess Championship to be held in India later that year. At the Western Province National Youth Chess qualifying tournament I qualified easily for the finals by placing equal first. At the finals which was held at Royal College I began on a winning note and in the 3rd round, I beat Yasoda Methmali, the Women’s National Chess Champion that year and possibly the best player of our generation. Thereafter I was on a song but lost my final round game and ended up on equal points with Methmali who had won all her games after losing to me. After a complex tie breaking system I was adjudged the runner-up.

As the reigning National Chess Champion, Methmali was to be the official nominee for both tournaments to be held in India. But I, as the runner-up in the National Youth under 18 age group, had the chance to play as an additional player in them. I had already played in the Asian Junior Chess Championship once when it was held in Negambo, Sri Lanka in 2003. Therefore I was inclined to play in the Commonwealth Chess Championship. Looking up for details of the Commonwealth tournament on the Web, I found that several Grand Masters and International Masters were scheduled to play in it. I as an unrated player was not going to stand a chance among such strong players and would end up as an also-ran, if I were to play in that tournament, I thought with disappointment. Just then I stumbled upon the official web site of the World Amateur Chess Championship 2006 to be held in Tripoli, Libya. It was for unrated players or payers with ratings less than 2000. I felt that I would have a good chance in such a tournament and thought of playing in it. But when I contacted the Chess Federation of Sri Lanka to get myself registered for the World Amateur Chess Championship, to my absolute disappointment, I was told that the CFSL had never ever sent players for that tournament and it would not be sending anyone that year too. If I was keen to play in it, I would have to do so on my own, I was told.

But Libya was a country we hardly knew and there was no way we could make the necessary arrangements. My father told me that Colonel Gadafi, the leader of Libya was known to be a chess player. “Perhaps the Colonel might help you if you write to him” my father said. I felt that was not a bad idea. “Why not write to him and see what happens” I thought and decided to write a letter to the Colonel Gadafi seeking his assistance. In my letter I explained that I was a 18 year old Sri Lankan chess player keen to play in the World Amateur Chess Championship to be held in Tripoli and that I would much appreciate it if he could assist me. As I didn’t know his official address, I forwarded the letter to the Libyan Embassy in Sri Lanka to be forwarded to the Libyan leader. After about two weeks with no response to my letter, I felt that it would have ended up on some bureaucrat’s table, as usually happens in Sri Lanka and decided to forget about it.

But a few days later there was a message for me from the Libyan Embassy for me to come there with details of my achievements.  I went there with my parents and after my achievements were scrutinized I was invited to play a game of Chess with the Charge de Affaires who was the head of the Embassy. “If you win, we will help you to attend the World Amateur Chess Championship.” I was told. His Excellency Najib Kafou was a very good chess player and after giving him a good fight I lost the game. But I was told that as I had played well, they would forward my application for registration to the organizers of the World Amateur Chess Championship. Soon the organizers contacted me via Email to inform me that I had been registered for the Championship without the registration fee of 100 USD and that I would their guest for the duration of the tournament with free board & lodgings and transport within Libya. They even offered to put up my parents with me at the Olympic Village hostel in Tripoli at a concessionary rate. We were informed that we need not apply for visa. The letter of registration emailed to me would be enough for us to travel to Libya and visa would be issued at Tripoli Airport.

We left Sri Lanka around 6 a.m. on 23rd November 2006 and arrived in Tripoli in the same evening around 3 p.m. Libya time (the time difference was three and half hours), after a journey of nearly of 12 hours having changed planes in Jordan. The officials of the Chess Federation of Libya which was organizing the event on behalf of FIDE-the World Chess Federation, were there to welcome us and take us to the venue which was about 35 km away from the airport.

I knew that Libya was a member of the OPEC and therefore rich. But the Tripoli Airport was not impressive for a country with a per capita GDP of 11000 USD. We didn’t see many high risers either. I had expected Libya to be more developed than Sri Lanka but it didn’t appear to be so except for the roads, from what I saw on the way to the Olympic Village. Later I realized that byroads in Libya were no better than ours.  The people were very friendly and very fair in complexion and looked like Europeans. But people in the desert and south of the country were not that fair I found out later. The attire of the people generally was Western and only a few wore traditional Islamic dress. Though many resort to European styles, most women covered their heads in scarves. Urban girls of Libya wore bright colored western costumes while boys wore jeans and shirts. There were billboards every where with the photograph of Colonel Gadaffi and the number 37 possibly to mark the number of years of his rule, which reminded me of the election periods in Sri Lanka.

We were allocated a large room with attached toilet in the Olympic Village hostel on our arrival and a loaded phone card with international calling facility was given to us. A liaison officer who was able to communicate fairly well in English was assigned to look into all our needs. We were to have our meals in the cafeteria and the chef reserved a table for us for the duration of our stay. The tournament was to be held in a building close to the hostel where our room was. The weather in Tripoli at that time of the year was similar to that of Nuwara Eliya.

In the evening around 5 p.m. there was a technical meeting and I was warmly welcomed by the local officials and players alike. They already seemed to know a little about me. The tournament got started the next day with players from 17 countries taking part. It was held in open format and though all my opponents were males after the first round, I was leading among female players from second round onwards. I became very popular, with everybody young and old wanting to shake hand and take photographs with me. Some could not speak English, but language was no barrier for them to show their fondness for me. The local kids who had come with their playing brothers and sisters or parents began to dote on me. There was a general feeling that I was going to be the Women’s Champion and the Libyan Radio and TV interviewed me even before I became the Champion. I have never been treated like that before and I felt like I was on cloud nine. In the end I did become the World Amateur Women’s Chess Champion 2006 and for that I owe a big thank you to Colonel Gadafi and the kind people of Libya.

When I became the Champion, everybody was eager to congratulate me, despite the fact that it was Rahal Mawada, the Libyan Women’s Champion that I had beaten into second place. Some officials wanted me to come to stay in Libya and play chess. Others wanted me to emulate Judit Polgar, the strongest female chess player ever.

The Chief Guest at the prize giving was Dr. Maumer Maumer al Gadafi, the eldest son of the Libyan Leader and the Chairman of the Libyan Olympic Committee as well as the Chairman of the Libya Telecom. He came to the Prize giving ceremony with his two kids. There was not much security accompanying him. He was a soft spoken and pleasant person with no airs and seemed popular. His kids too were like normal kids, running all over the place with other kids while the ceremony was going on. I got my World Amateur Champion certificate, the trophy and the prize from him.

During the tournament, on some days with no games in the morning, we walked out of the Olympic Village to the near by town to drink Nescafe and surf the web. There were numerous internet cafes out there, certainly more than in Sri Lanka. And there was even a road called Pepsi Cola road. Several times we traveled to down town Tripoli by cab to buy souvenirs and for shopping and on our way we passed the Bab al Azizia compound where the Libyan leader was residing on several occasions. But what we saw was only the high guard wall and the watch towers. No buildings could be seen. The first time when the driver of the vehicle pointed it out to us, my father aimed his camera to take a photograph. “Don’t, the guards will shoot us”, the driver prevented my father with fear in his eyes. That day we were going shopping, my mother wanted to buy a hand bag, and the driver had promised to take us to a particular shop but when we got there it was still closed and there was about an hour to its opening, so he offered to take us around Tripoli. He took us to the famous Roman Arch, showed us the Mediterranean Sea, the Tripoli harbour, the Red fort, the now famous Green Square, the El Emad Towers etc and dropped us back at the opened shop. When my father offered him 20 dinars for the trip considering the distance and the time we traveled, he took only the initially agreed fare of 5 dinars to Tripoli.

On another occasion we asked from a shop keeper whether there was a money changer around. He said there was one in the neighborhood and began to tell us where it was with his little knowledge of English and changed his mind. “Come” he said walking out and we followed him. He continued to walk ahead leaving his shop opened. We tried to stop him saying we would find it somehow but he continued. We felt that there was no threat of theft.  After walking about 200 meters he pointed out a jewelry shop on the other side of the road and asked us to go there. There is no possibility of a shop keeper in Sri Lanka doing such a thing. The Libyan people were so courteous and affable.

After the tournament ended on 02nd December 2006 we had to wait till 05th to catch the plane for the return journey. The tournament organizers arranged for us a trip to Sabratha, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and 70 Km to the West of Tripoli on the 04th. I had learned about Sabratha as one of the oldest organized cities in the world at school under Social Studies and it gave immense pleasure to see it with my own eyes. Its famous open air theater with a seating capacity of 5000, built in 2nd -3rd century A.D. still stands in a fairly good condition. We left Tripoli in the evening of 5th December 2006 for Jordan.

Since February this year after the uprising against the rule of Colonel Gadafi began, my memory kept going back to the two weeks I had spent in Libya and the people I met there. It was sad to see people both pro and anti Gadafi getting killed in thousands. I prayed in my heart for a quick and peaceful ending to the death and destruction going on. Sadly it was not to be. But even amidst such chaos the Libyans on both sides never lost their fondness for chess. Once I saw on TV the rebel youths on their way to Misrata from Bengazi on a ship, playing chess in all seriousness. And so did the Colonel even in June this year with the visiting head of the World Chess Federation.

I still cannot understand why Colonel Gadafi, being a chess player, didn’t have a better strategy to deal with the situation. At least when Tripoli fell why didn’t he give up the fight and look for a safe haven like Dr. Maumer and his other family members? Well, he certainly was a complex man and I sincerely wish that he had a more dignified end. And all I can say now is, Farewell, Sir!

The Libyan people too deserved better. My heart goes out to thousands, mostly youths who gave their lives in the uprising. If only the change they wanted could have been achieved at a lesser price! Anyway I am glad that the carnage is over now and I wish the Libyan people a peaceful and prosperous future!


Book Vs Movie: The Girl Who Played With Fire


“Power is a flame that burns from within…”

I finished reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in February (you can check my review in here), and all of those who have read the book would know that the book leaves us at a bit of a cliffhanger at the end to ensure you’ll pick up The Girl Who Played With Fire to find out what happens to the heroine, Lisebeth Salander next. And by now, it wouldn’t be news to most of you all that the Millennium Trilogy is a series which dwells around strong social critique and conspiracy, which exposes the state of the morally bankrupt world of business in the first book, and misogyny and damage done to women by corrupted philanderers in here.

(This post doesn’t contain spoilers, so you can keep on reading, yet, I’d recommend you all to read the book or watch the movie first!)

Jumping straight into the book, I must say in this book also the opening was not much into my preference. Yes, the whole escapade of Salander in Grenada did enhance the character building of her’s to a whole new level, from a tattooed, pierced, bisexual computer hacker to a mathematical genius, who would try tackling Fermat’s Last Theorem while having her morning coffee. Yet, conversely, this methodical background detailing would go overboard at times and hinder the story, making it dull to be read. Anyhow, after that the story lives up to its predecessor, unraveling the real masterminds behind the three murders, for which the incompetent caricatures of the police make Salander the prime suspect, and also portraying the depths eminent public figures who are rapists and sexual criminals, would go to cover their tracks. So, overall, although the book disappointed me at first, I’d give it 5 stars (to the book).

Next, turning to the movie, I’d say this time the movie was not much of a disappointment when compared with its predecessor. True it had abandoned the whole Grenada hurricane catastrophe scene, nevertheless, it stays faithful to the book in most scenarios, reminding us the books of law don’t mean anything unless they could be translated into lived experience, while bringing the events of Salander’s childhood and traumas to live. Yet, I must also admit that I found the absurd scene where Salander asks for the help of Mikael to be unbelievably hilarious!!!

And now its time to pick the winner.

To me,  the winner is the The Girl Who Played With Fire book, which very much delineates the quote “Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less” by Susan B. Anthony.

Do share your thoughts, in line with me or not?

The Way I See It


All of those who have been reading this blog for a while would have sensed that this is the space I use for my salvation, the space I use to present even the ‘thorny’ issues in life (like homosexuality and abbreviating words!) in a light-hearted way. Although I was worried  at the beginning I would fizzle after blogging for a while, today I’m happy that I have been able to yield some rewards out of this. Some bloggers found what I write to be entertaining and My Business Addiction once awarded me the ‘prestigious stylish blogger award’ in her blog saying ‘She’s just rambling when she says she’s demented. Very cool blogger and book-lover. Young and funny with the whole world in front of her for the taking!’ And I also made new friends in blog-sphere, who by their insightful and interesting comments on what I write have encouraged me to go on rambling!

Even though now you might be thinking “Ah, she is going to write a ‘thank you’ note today”, well, apparently, I’m not. All those lines were to help me with an opening warning, that I’m going to take my serious mask out of my safe, wear it and try to come up with this post in a different tone today. I’m sure that many people would have a discernment on the subject I’m going to write. Even if you don’t, you could still refer to this article which appeared in Daily News of today, a premier news paper in Sri Lanka, and then start reading mine. And since I’ve not written a single ‘serious essay’ after I was 15, before reading this please send all your luck on my way!

AND get ready to be choked up! 😉 😀


This post, I will use to address the issues that have forced me to the front-lines of student activism.

I’m not a student union hater and in fact the credit for bringing the Applied Sciences faculty of Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka to the main university premises at Belihul Oya, from far away Buttala goes to the student union.

I had to become a student activist accidentally because I believe in justice, because I reckon the imposing-mob-rule status quo of the student union to be unjust, and because I feel that protecting it will do more harm than good to the student community as a whole.

In many instances I have come off as an anti-ragging crusader, but I’m not. I just don’t believe in preserving ragging as practiced in Sri Lankan universities at present, if it is a university sub culture that is used to oppress the first year students, if that is a sub culture used as a cover to physically abuse them, to disempower them, to subjugate them and to silence them, because then that is unacceptable to me.

In some cases I come off as an anti-university sub culture campaigner, but I’m not. I just don’t believe the students should suffer just so a sub culture can go on. If certain elements of a sub culture create stress among students, I say we need to get rid of those elements; the elements that promote physical and verbal abuse and require the victims to accept, endure and excuse such behaviour.

Often I have been labeled as a rabid student union demolisher, and I say it’s just a matter of opinion. I’m devoted to the cause of our education, empowerment of students and emancipation from the student union hegemony by the  simple means at my disposal such as rejection of what is not acceptable and disobedience to what  is not  fair. Having recognized the student union as an institution that underpins and legitimizes the status quo in which majority of the students are oppressed and subdued, I believe it’s time to question, confront and reject some ideologies of the student union.

And every now and then some people come up with the revelation that my problem is that I’m a born metropolitan(!), and therefore incapable of relating myself to the prevailing ‘university sub-culture’. The way I have been brought up and educated, there is nothing sub-cultural in accepting all the silly dictates passed by one batch to the next without subjecting them to any scrutiny. My sensibilities tell me that even a sub-culture should be dynamic enough to serve the students and not to enslave them.

The way I see it, the Sri Lankan university student has nothing but him/herself. Most of our identities have been destroyed by the inferior state dictates the student unions have imposed on us. And because of it, I say at some point the student has to decide whether to stand up for his/her rights as an individual or merely become a member of an aimless herd and settle to keep the student union running according to their personal (most of the times) agendas.

And I know that the student unions rarely encourage the students a pursuit of an individual expression. Instead they teach that the interests of the collective supersede the desires of the individual. But let us not forget that these individuals could be having  limitations, needs and desires of their own which often get overlooked in the broad picture, and sometimes if those individuals are given the opportunity to voice their ideas, that they might even outnumber the said ‘greater number’. The way I see it, that so-called ‘greater good’ which often make the students cede all their needs and desires to student union, just because anything else is considered to be ‘unsub-cultural’, is highly damaging and nocent.

Yet, in any case, the emancipation of the students can only begin in their minds. It’s up to them to reverse the deeply embedded beliefs of their inferiority and fathom the shallowness in abiding to ‘university sub-culture’ in every vital decision they make which could affect their future.

To conclude this I’ll add that some people believe its impossible for the deep-rooted student union status quo and certain aspects of university sub-culture to change. Nevertheless, I think its impossible for it to remain the same as the world is changing and we are changing with barricades and limitations being broken everywhere.

Book Vs Movie: Confessions of a Shopaholic


Everyone deserves a break now and then.

Everyone who is on study leave trying to learn the ropes of their respective subjects and instructing themselves to breathe, everyone who has been drowned in a 650 page bulky book like ‘Wolf Hall’ and trying to convince oneself to ignore the loud screaming: “You are bored with that book, pick me, pick me”, coming from one’s wardrobe to-be-read book collection, even more deserve it.

And that’s when the let-me-take-all-your-tense-away magic predominantly created by chick lit writers like Sophie Kinsella, Meg Cabot and Lauren Weisberger and, their ‘for fellas only’ notion of writing style wrapped by entertaining rock’n’roll scenes come into play.

Shopping is one exercise all of us women embrace with much enthusiasm and glee. Well, glee may be a little bit overstating because there could always be a ‘guilty pleasure’ linked into it, but it leaves the element of enthusiasm involved untenable, even when all you do is stumbling upon a blog which swirls around fashion like SIXTHIRTYTHREE. Moving into compulsive shopping itself, it is the step higher of ‘normal’ shopping, whose superficial fashion victims are invariably females, which is the theme reinforced in Sophie Kinsella’s book; Confessions of a Shopaholic.

This book unravels around one such victim, Rebecca Bloomwood, a distinctive financial journalist who works for ‘Successful Saving’ magazine and who can not simply resist a bargain because she justifies all her purchases as investments! This book also sheds light to an acute problem; the non-existence of the distinction between creative choice (choice which reflects your inner soul) and consumer choice (choice you make out of the choices offered). Over the years the progression of the advertising field has been such that now they have imbued the creative choice and the consumer choice are pretty much the same to our systems. They convince us what we need and deceive us fabricating our desire for something which we would not have bought otherwise. When doing this whether these goods are affordable to their customer is the last thing they have in their mind. Sometimes they even add a flair into their course in the form of discounts, and allure women like fireflies who get attracted to light to make frivolous purchases. Hence this book is a good testimony of the female physic on consumerism in the modern-day.

Having pointed out the plus side of the book I must also admit that I found the scenario where Luke Brandon, a high prolific business tycoon whose company is employed by Flagstaff Life, another major investment company to maintain their public profile, states he doesn’t agree with some of the activities Flagstaff Life has undertaken or has been acknowledged of them in public to be uncanny. I’m confused if the lack of awareness is a justifiable argument a person at his level could bring up and if his actions abide to professional behavior. Apart from that the book is an enjoyable light read which meets the chick lit standards and it gets two stars from me.

Now turning into the movie, this adoption is different from the original story, but that is in an appealing way similar to the adoption of ‘The Devil Wears Prada’. Certain scenes have been removed, certain characters have been dismissed, and some have been portrayed differently, but the movie is about the same savvy yet naive and amiable Rebecca who ultimately ends up bankrupt due to the ramification of her excessive consumption patterns. Highlight of the movie is the article Rebecca writes using the by-line ‘The Girl in the Green Scarf’ after realizing the scarf she purchased spending a huge sum of money is not 100% cashmere, which exposes us to think of the rigor of brand name consumerism. After it, it is the typical boy-meets-girl-and-then-happy-ending story.

Now the winner? Hmm, this time I’m going to claim there’s no winner. But if you are ready for some fluffy, silly series of escapade, I can promise you that both will serve the purpose!

Book Vs Movie: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo









When I bought The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I was equipped with the knowledge that the book is massively hyped, even though it is not what caught me under its spell. In fact it’s the dragon TATTOO of the girl what made me cave in and pick the book. At that time I had no clue this girl is Stieg Larsson’s agent to remind us that there are certain things in life to which we turn a blind eye. One more casualty of sexual assault,  one more victim of social cannibalism, one more person in pain because of unfair jurisdiction, we sure do catch a glimpse from our peripheral vision. May be it’s because we are overloaded that we have become numb enough to hear but not listen and to look but not see the most of it. Anyway, it is only one of the reasons which makes the book/ movie commendable! So digging further in to the story…

(Sorry, but from here onwards this post contains spoilers. If you haven’t read the book or watched the movie, PLEASE, stop right here, go read the book or watch the movie and come back again!)

… I can tell you that I thought it’s one explosive, monster of a thriller imbued with incredibly fascinating and unique characterization. Since you all may have read the novel or watched the movie, and already know how the combination of Mikael Blomkvist’s insistent journalism skills and Lisbeth Salander’s quite unconventional information gathering methods lead them towards discovering the gruesome history behind Vanger family, I’ll focus on the comparison of the book and the movie and try to come up with a winner!

First of all, I won’t deny that most of the readers would have found the first few chapters of the book to be extremely dull the way Stieg Larsson chose to describe Mikael’s libel trial. Given my accounting background, I thought it helps to encompass the characters, the situations they face and the way they are related, deeply. But most could have grown bored thinking it’s going to be a story about financial corruption. So according to my thinking, that start was definitely not the best way to make the readers stay excited! Anyway, after uncovering the novel’s strength –  Harriet’s mystery, in such an interesting and a shocking way, the book gets back in track from where it started, and devotes the last few chapters to describe how Mikael takes revenge from Wennerstrom, an industrial giant who falsely accuses Mikael of producing a slanderous article, again with the help of  indomitable Lisbeth. So, overall, despite poor choice Larsson had made at the beginning, I’d give five stars to this piece of writing.

And now moving to the movie, Lisbeth Salander’s characterization which makes the novel interesting, was pretty much lost in here. The sullen, anti-social and people skills lacking Salander is not much portrayed. And the reckless way Salander sends information to Mikael, making it obvious that she is a hacker when he has no idea who she is, is an insult done to her character, I dare say, specially when later in the movie Mikael suggests that Salander could be having a photographic memory in possession. Apart from the several plots which stretch credulity to a certain extend, the way it exposes to viewers how Salander becomes an enactor of justice, taking the matters into her hand, and resolving them in a way perhaps disturbing and disgusting, but undeniably fair and fitting compels viewers to confront their own ideas about the treatment meted out to the women in the society.

The winner? Although I like the movie, to me, ultimately the winning “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” is the book, which pares the story down to its core. Now give me your thoughts. Which do you prefer the best?