Random Thoughts

Remembering the 1995 Jaffna Exodus

On this day, 24 years ago, we left our home in Kondavil after a Sri Lankan Air Force bomber dropped a bomb in our backyard. We were not alone, joined by the hundreds of thousands, adults and children, crossing the Chemmani Bridge.

The one thing I still remember is that it was a very long walk. We started around 7 in the morning, and went on till late in the evening, and I don’t think we had much to eat along the way. Occasionally, we were visited by helicopters, which were shooting in the vicinity. Each time we hit the ground, got up, and continued walking after it had left. There were few dead bodies along the way, but for a 10 year old boy born in a war zone, and lived around the constant occurrence of bombings, it wasn’t much different from any other day.

My sister, 4 at that time, was on my mother’s bicycle. My father’s bicycle was loaded with some household items, with the understanding that we wouldn’t be returning any time soon. We didn’t take much personal effects, except for some clothing and some cooking utensils. As a child, I was really sad to leave some of my toys, especially a remote controlled car that I got as a birthday gift the previous year. (In fact, we didn’t return home for another 7 years, and when we did we were greeted by a looted empty house with partial roofing.)

In the months that followed, we were living in temporary accommodations, moving from place to place, as the battle front creped towards us. But for me personally, it was one of the memorable periods of my life. There was no school (most of them were now displacement camps), and had all the time to play. This is when I developed my interest for electronics, guided by a curious older boy who was always trying to do something with bits and pieces of old radios and amplifiers. We had to wait in long queues to get any food items, and many ingenious families started experimenting with eating various plants, fruits and root vegetables that were not part of the normal cuisine.

When I had a chance to reflect on this experience later in my life, my experience as a child and my reflection on the same experience as an adult were much different. Our perspectives are shaped by our experiences and our experiences are felt through our perspectives.

There’s always a takeaway, some are lessons and some are baggages…

Discussing my experience of the displacement and its impact on my outlook at a talk.
Random Thoughts

The 2013 Recap

It is almost 2014 and for me personally, there is a lot of uncertainty as for taking the next steps, lot of plans from last year still to be realised, and yet a lot more hope for the new year. The year 2013 was an entirely different year for me, with many new beginnings and few endings. So this is me just recapping the past twelve months of my life and contemplating what is onset for the next.

The New Year

It was the third new year for me in Australia and having spent the previous two years in Brisbane, I decided to go to Sydney for this time. The difference began from the very first day of the year with spending the New Year’s Eve with Couchsurfing friends in Sydney. It’s not just the spectacular fireworks that made that day special, but all new ‘friends’ from all over the world whom you have just met hours before and having a great time till dawn. It was just the beginning of the year of making friends.

The Friends

I’ve never been a social animal. I always had few friends around me, but making new friends is not something that comes easily to me. In 2013, I made a conscious decision to make new friends going out from my current circles. A random Couchsurfing meetup at New Farm park turned into a solid group of friends in Brisbane, especially during the first half of the year. These folks were based in Brisbane for a few months at least, not just a transient group of people common with Couchsurfing. I spent the fun part of my year with this group of friends, mostly travelling, exploring, and partying. I also got connected with another social meetup group, through which I made few good friends and met few ‘characters’. Overall, these experiences enabled me to slightly redefine social persona (at least I guess so.).

Couchsurfing Friends 2013
With Couchsurfing Friends at Byron Bay lighthouse (February 2013).

The Thesis

The year 2013 should have been the year for completing my studies, but as with any normal PhD student procrastination took over and extensions followed. However by the end of the year I’ve almost reached the final stage of my candidature. I think I would have spent more days (aka nights) at university than at home this year. I started working more in my alternative hours, where I would come to office at 9pm and leave at 9am. There was a mix of Avicii, Beethoven and Chopin that became my writing playlist during these days. I was able to finish writing my thesis towards the end of the year and managed to do my final defence seminar with no major arrows thrown at. It in no way the end year, but at least I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now.

The Artist

The best way to procrastinating is letting the artist in me to do silly things, and it helps keeping me sane. I didn’t do any personal project this year apart from finishing off couple of short sketches shot last year. The few scripts I started working on are still in drafts, and I’m not planning on proceeding with any of those in near future. The main thing in terms of my creative side was my involvement with a YouTube channel for a health coach in Brisbane. This was a regular project where I shot, edited and directed weekly and later fortnightly videos for YouTube. This in some ways compensated for me not doing any personal videos, and it also helped keeping sharp with my editing skills. Hopefully I’ll be able to do more personal projects next year.

The Beginnings

One of the most satisfying experiences this year was spending time volunteering with the Australian Red Cross. It was mostly with migration support services for clients who are recent migrants and asylum seekers. The engagement with a range of clients through these programs gave the sense of doing something useful. The insight from this volunteering experience motivated me to be more socially active for many related causes. In no way I’m an activist, but being part of grassroot movements for social change has shaped my views on many social issues. These beginnings are ongoing any I expect to have a greater engagement with these organisations and causes in years to come.

The Endings

With some new beginning, 2013 also marks few endings in my journey. I decided to drop my regular engagement with the community radio program to avoid the internal backlash, and towards the end of the year I said final goodbye to our listeners on air along with my co-host. The leaving was not pleasant, but this experience has taught me to be wary leaders with a false persona and hidden agendas. It seems like I’ve stopped blogging and vlogging all together. There were few random posts from previous drafts, but it’s not what I want and hopefully it’s something I can catch up on next year.

The Next

I rarely have my life figured out and it’s the same this time. I don’t have much as for plans for next year apart from finishing my studies, graduating, and continuing with things I’ve started in 2013.
The one thing I want to do is a bit more travelling. Even though there was a bit of travelling in the first part of this year, I haven’t done much travelling lately. So possibly a motorcycle journey around Australia, or even few interstate trips through country towns is in my list. I managed to dodge the bullet on relationships and marriage this year, and hopefully I can do the same for few more years to come. Apart from that I have no major plans for 2014 and it just about going with the flow as always.

Happy New Year

Random Thoughts

Five years gone, I’m still here: Blogging

It’s almost five years when I started blogging (after few attempts here and there). And surprisingly I’m still doing it.

Five Years
Photo by Michael Ruiz, available under a Creative Commons Attribution License

The main reason it’s a surprise is, I don’t normally do things for so long. However, blogging has always evolved along the time. I don’t no more blog regularly, but this has been a private space for me to vent out boiling thoughts. Twitter is for public, Facebook is for friends, + is still in the making and this blog is just for me.

I have written a whole range of different posts from my personal life to professional life. However, I’m again surprised with the amount of hits I receive for some of my occasional Tech Notes. It’s only because these post fill in the gap and thanks to Google, it helps someone out there. I have also stopped all types of monetizing from this blog from last year. I don’t think I’ll bring back any ads anytime soon.

There is nothing more to say in this blog, so just checkout my latest vlog.

Random Thoughts

Looking Back 2010

Looking Back 2010Looking back into the past has always been something to my interest. I wrote a post on this blog last year looking back into the year 2009. This is the 2010 version of it; a quick/long summary of what has happened in my life and around me in 2010.

Twenty 10 started as normal as before, and I was still a Software Engineer at WaveNET working on some interesting and some not so interesting projects. I had already decided to quit at the end of one year at WaveNET and my last working day was March 31st. I had less than a month for me before grad school.

The responses to my grad school applications started coming in from February. Purdue said only admission, no scholarship, so I said no. MIT said they had better candidates than me, which is understandable. University of Wollongong did not offer a scholarship (or did a partial one, I forgot) and it was not an exciting place to be. University of New South Wales offered a scholarship from Semester 2, 2010, starting in August/September. National University of Singapore processed my application early on a special request and gave the full offer by mid February. Queensland University of Technology sent me the full offer letter for a February 15th start on the January 30th.

I decided to go with QUT, mainly for the interest in the project offered. This also meant I could go to Australia, which is seen as a “back-up plan” for many Sri Lankans. I differed my starting date at QUT to April 30th, which gave me some time to do other, including the travel arrangements. I applied for my student visa in March and got it in about a month or so. Also after March 31st I had a couple of weeks for me to do some shopping, traveling and to spend some time with friends and family. Those weeks were intense and interesting.

I was on the flight to Sydney, Australia on April 23rd. Leaving home was not so emotional as I thought, may be because I’m too old or it just me. I had a 12 hour transit in Singapore, which I spent with my friend Praitheesh, before reaching Sydney on April 24th. I spent another three days in Sydney before flying to Brisbane and starting a new life in the new city. (Read more about my first week in Brisbane and the first month (in தமிழ்).)

Life in a new city can be quite challenging, yet it can be a unique and exciting experience. Initially I was staying for a week with some family friends. Then I moved to a student accommodation close to the city and QUT. It was an interesting house with a Turkish guy, an Australian guy, a Sri Lankan guy (me), a Norwegian girl and two Chinese girls. I also met a friend, Mugunth, who I knew before through blogs and some open-source projects. With in two weeks life became normal and it started feeling like home.

I enrolled at QUT on April 28th and after two months I got a one week break to fly back to Sri Lanka. It was a short one week trip to attend my graduation. After returning from home, life continued as normal. A friend from Sri Lanka came in July and we moved to a new house in Clayfiled in August, and this is the first time I started paying my utility bills.

Life as a PhD student can be boring and at QUT it a little more, and for me it can be even worse. My Stage 2 Proposal, which is an extended proposal for my research, kept me busy for the next four months till I submitted it on October 30th. There were few things that kept me going, and photography was number one.

I spent quite a lot of time in photography, specially experimenting and learning. I even did few photo-shoots with models, but later though it’s not happening as I wanted. I also bought a lot of gear. Specially those small camera accessories such as remote releases, couple of flashes and two lenses. I also got to the habit of buying cheap stuff on eBay, mainly less than $5 items, at least two or three in a month (may be its time for me to write a bot). Recently I’m playing with a film SLR camera, again from eBay, and I am yet to see the outcomes of my experiments with this new toy.

Australia is a country that offers a lot for a traveler and I did a bit of traveling too. Visited the Gold Coast couple of times, drive to the Glass House Mountains once and few other places around Brisbane. Then I did a road trip with my friend Arunan in November (21st to 30th), which was a 3300km of drive from Brisbane to Sydney to Melbourne. It covered a lot on the east coast and certainly exciting, given that I was driving for the first time after getting a license five years ago.

This year was a mix of some dull days and some bright days; reading and writing till late night and sleeping all day; traveling around for a week and staying at home for another; and that’s how life unfolds and that’s how we step into the unknown.

Random Thoughts

I forgot my birthday

Oops. This happens to me all the time with my friends. Even there were years when I’ve forgotten my birthday. I remember only a handful of my friends’ birthdays, if not for Facebook (and others services). So I thought I’d see if it’s just my problem or a common problem. It would make me feel less guilty if its common to miss wishing a friend on their birthday. (There is this “other-person-in-me” that feels wishing on birthdays in not necessary, but lets keep that loner out of this post.)

How I avoided the Facebook-effect on my birthday (and felt lonely)?

This “go-secret-mission” started when I set my birthday visibility on Facebook to “Only Me”, so that no one would get any notifications. Then a week ago I disabled my wall and commenting to my posts, to help the ‘secret’ live long. The only way left on Facebook was to send a message. I thought everything is set, but it was not the case.

I have some active friends on Orkut, and I had my birthday displayed there and got few scraps out there. Then there is Skype, which pops up when a contact is having their birthday. This brought in couple of more wishes before I removed my birthday from Skype profile. I also had few automated wishes from MediaWiki, Ubuntu, Tolly Torrents and FlySmiLes, which I don’t mind anyway (Note that I use my real birthday all around online). On Saturday the 13th November, 2010 (of course the timezone differences are bit confusing) I was all set to avoid the “Facebook-effect”.

How the “go-secret-mission” end? Who (else) wished me?

It ended that way that would make me comfortable and happy. I have just above 500 friends on Facebook, which I have kept almost constant for the past two years. (Obviously 500 is little too much for a loner like me). Everyone would agree its normal to get around 100 wall posts on your birthday when you have 500 friends on Facebook. I got about 10. Also there were few more on Orkut and via Skype, Google Chat and SMS. All would round-up to about 25.

Offline; I don’t really exist as an acceptable social animal offline, and I never expect anyone to wish me (I would be rather surprised). Got calls from “appa”, “amma” and my sis, and also from some close family and a good friend. So it was as normal as always.


I believe that the era of greeting cards and birthday diaries is long gone. Even the days of phone calls and the phone books are past. The natural change of time has brought us all to the Facebook era (or any name you would like to call it) and we all learn to live along with it. So lets share our birthdays with friends online, otherwise you might feel lonely as I did today (specially if you are a loner like me).

Friends, sorry for doing this stupid “go-secret-mission” to celebrate my birthday. I didn’t mean to be offensive to anyone in any sense. I rather wanted to reflect on how things are with me, and I’m happy that I’m “normal” in some sense or the other. Cheers…!

[Update] How I missed the global effect?

I published this post on November 13th, 2010 at 23:59 Brisbane Time. I also posted updates to Twitter and Facebook. I wanted to post it at the end of the day, but it was still November 13th in half the world, and in some places they were in the early day. This is what the timezone confusions I mentioned above, but forgot that before publishing. We are truly living in a global society.