Tag Archives: Personal

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

Standard

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!

The Way I See It

Standard

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.

Dedicated To My Feet!

Standard

I know, I know! I have been a bad girl and neglected my blog for a while! Its not because I had nothing to write, but simply because I didn’t have the words to express how sad I feel and  what I’ve been thinking about the death of  a  student by electrocution  at our university hostels solely due to negligence of authorities. The outrage I feel is such  that if  I start venting my anger, you will surely know how malicious I can be if I choose to be so. So in the end it seems prudent for me to say nothing, for no matter what I say or do now, he is not going to come back.

Now that you know how my life has been during the days I went missing, lets move from being serious to chasing butterflies, shall we?

The above is a picture of our university, Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka (SUSL), renown to be second only to the University of Peradeniya for its beauty and size (note by acres and not by number of students!). And if you have been to our university you would know most of the times your life savior, your only transportation mode is your feet!

In simpler terms at SUSL its all about walking the walk using your feet!

And that’s how we rock, overrating our walk, you see!

In case you’ve not still got it, lets come clean.

I’m not the biggest fan of morning strolls mission! I mean, come on, at SUSL the mornings are misty! So rather than getting up and traveling from our boarding place to the university, I’d rather crawl in and sleep! I wish one of these days I would write some Java programme to make myself sleepwalk! But since I know that’s not going to happen I’m gleefully waiting for someone to invent a car chair like in Wall E!

Remember back in school they taught us walking is exercise cos it burns calories? For chubby people, yes! But if you are skinny like me, how on earth walking is going to help? Enlighten me, please!

But in any case walking is way better than jogging. They say jogging increases your life time. Well, who can argue with that? Cos each time I jog I feel 10 years older, with my legs turned sore and lethargic!

Like there is a silver lining in every dark cloud, there is one good advice they give about walking; before criticizing someone walk a mile in his/ her shoes. When you think about it, its a pretty good idea! Cos when it comes to the time you mock the other, you’d be mile away with their shoes on your feet!

I Feel A Little Ostracized

Standard

Some people fear blood. Some people fear heights. Some even fear the world coming to an end in 2012! Surrounded by all these ‘normal’ people with normal phobias, I find myself rather odd, because my fear is myself!

I’m an overzealous fan of Google. So whenever I’m super bored, I Google myself with the pure intention of finding how I must be appearing to cyber stalkers! (Hello! They say ‘First impression is important!’) But I got to say, the result doesn’t leave me with full of the joys of spring!

I know, now you must be in all at sixes and sevens, wondering what could be SO wrong. Well, let me tell you, all the first few search entry results Google gives me of me are related to a serious game! A game which picks the smart-ass out of two brains! A game which serious minds only play! Thus, a game I no longer want to play!

Specifying a bit further, I have come to the realization that teens were my saint like years. The ones I spend now, the twenties are my adventurous crappy years! So now, as a one who thinks the place for a perfect wedding is Las Vegas, Google search entry results are not the way I clearly want to sell myself! And the mere thought that people might buy the words in those top search entry resluts in Google blows my mind, making me pee a lot until I’ve got nothing inside of me!

That’s why I’m writing this, wearing a diaper and shivering under my blankets, nevertheless trying to fight back and sell myself smartly, just like a Wall Street trader would do!

“I’m going to engage in Archery and what Google tells you is not right”

Luckily for most of you, I’ve postponed my arrow related activities to next month, so I could spare you from details of my-most-likely-to-occur-misadventures which you might find tedious. But if you are also in the small fringe community of hobbyists who sit in the same boat with me, I could promise you that my aim is to be the next Robin Hood.

In the mean time, others, keep in your mind, even your lovey dovey Cupid is an archer! AND ARCHERS ROCK AND ROLL YOUR WORLD!

P. S.: You are entitled to a bonus because you just finished reading my 25th blog post! So have fun checking out these sites, Cake Wrecks, Awkward Family Photos, and my personal favourite This Is Why You Are Fat. Where Dreams Become Heart Attacks!

And The Winners Are…

Standard

Okay, I admit it! I’m the Queen of Vagueness!

But now, in order to mitigate the effect, let me enlighten you of what this is all going to be about!

THE TOP THREE COUNTRIES I’D LIKE TO VISIT ONE DAY!

One day when I grow up, and finally (plus hopefully!) start making MY OWN money!

Because the visited country map I see now is more of a plain one! With so many countries to visit!

create your own visited country map
or write about it on the open travel guide

See what I mean? I’ve only visited 3 countries so far! (Only now it hit me! Singapore is a tiny country! So tiny that it couldn’t be marked in a world map! Yet ‘Wheeeee’! Cos Sri Lanka is ‘mark-able’ in that context!) Anyway 3 countries mean just 1% of the world!

So 99% of the world is (Or is it ‘are’? Fudge my grammar!) still awaiting my visit! (Falling down fainted!)

[Seriously? You thought I fainted? Jeez! I’m the Mighty King! I don’t faint!]

Mmmm… Now… (Hypnotized!) Where was I? Aah! I was working on the opening lines to present you with my winners!

So here you go…

(Drum roll please!)

Second Runner Up – Egypt

Camels – Future Pets I’m Going to Adopt

Pyramids I Built in My Previous Soul

(And YES, You Most Definitely Can HAIL ME!)

Yahooooo! Mummies!

First Runner Up – Italy

Robert Langdon! Angels and Demons! Here I Come to Vatican!

POSH! Boats Instead of Submarines!

Leaning Tower – Work of My Enemy in a Previous Soul!

I Just Want to See it Before Crashes! (Evil Laugh!)

Winner out of Winners – France

WHY?

Because there are…

Lovers,

Lovers AND

LOVERS EVERY WHERE!!!

Okay! I’m just kidding!

The real reasons are…

I Want to Check the Tree House in Paris Disneyland

Paris at Night – Who Could Resist? Who Simply Could?

And Finally, Tra-La-Laa!

Because This is How I Want to Die!

EATING FRENCH FOOD!