Sarosh Syed (Sri Lanka)

Sarosh Syed (Home for Human Rights – HHR – Sri Lanka): Sarosh is from Karachi, Pakistan. He moved to the United States in 1995 to attend Northwestern University where he received a BA in Math and Art History. After graduating from NU, Sarosh went to work for the software industry specializing in language translation and localization software. After a brief stint of traveling in Europe, he turned to the non-profit world. He worked with environmental organizations such as Conservation International, the Public Interest Research Group and social justice organizations such as the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and the American Civil Liberties Union. Most of his Ngo work concerned marketing and communications. At the time of his fellowship, Sarosh was studying for a Master of Science in Foreign Service degree at Georgetown University.

Some Things Never Change

02 Jun

ItТs my fifth day in Colombo, and the first day that my jetlag has been controlled enough for me to venture out, find an internet cafщ, and post my first entry to my blog.

Until next week, when I leave for the tsunami-affected Batticaloa district in Eastern Sri Lanka, IТm staying at Colombo House, an old colonial mansion converted into a four-room guesthouse. ItТs quite interesting being a Pakistani staying here. Everything about it from the enormous rooms to the stark, heavy furniture, to the stately balconies, to the leafy view, feels like colonial India.

The most interesting part of my stay here Ц the only interesting part, really, since the remainder of my free time has been spent in my room, reading, playing my guitar, or passing out at entirely the wrong time of day Ц is breakfast. I walk down to the dining area, exchanging pleasantries on the way with the lovely Danish lady who runs the place. In the empty dining room, I ring a bell to let the wait staff know that I demand breakfast.

As I chat with my host, discussing plans for my day Ц plans that will never come to fruition because I will be asleep by 6:30 pm Ц a middle-aged gentleman in a sarong rushes out with china and silverware for my meal. A younger Sri Lankan lady follows with a newspaper, half a papaya, toast with butter and margarine, and some damn fine tea. For the remainder of my breakfast, they take turns walking by, checking on my tea, and asking, УBring something else, sir?Ф

Having grown up in Pakistan, hearing all about the evils of colonialism and the glorious independence from the British, IТm realizing that things in South Asia really havenТt changed much. I suppose the racial walls are coming down Ц seeing as IТm closer in heritage to my servers than the official European colonizers Ц but the class barriers are alive and kicking. And theyТre really making me quite uncomfortable.

Posted By Sarosh Syed (Sri Lanka)

Posted Jun 2nd, 2005

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