“When in Rome, do as the Romans do” is a well-known saying which is often quoted by people from all walks of life. It’s popular meaning is that when visiting a foreign land, follow the customs and way of life of those who are living there. It can also mean that when you are in an unfamiliar situation, you should follow the lead of those who know the ropes.
But my query is has anyone heard a saying as to how a person should behave or act when visiting China?
The necessity to find ways and means to know what one should do and not do in China came up recently as I got an opportunity to travel in China with a group of journalists.
At the outset, I must confess that, now several months after visiting China, I am writing this piece only because Deepthi Kumara Gunaratne insisted me to do so. He wanted to me to write down as to how I see him and his visit in China.
At the outset, I must state that when I write on Deepthi, it naturally exposes myself too to a larger extent ( As quoted by Deepthi on many occasions as to why he does not write on others)
Deepthi was a member of a journalist delegation that visited China on a 10-day visit which included visits to three main cities including the capital Beijing.
As I want to make this a very short piece of writing, I will start with this – When in China, all journalists including me and Deepthi had plans to buy so many things for their family, friends and to so many others. I became friendly with Deepthi just after landing in China.
From the day one in China, all members of the team were eager to go on shopping, except one – that was Deepthi. Our colleagues were eager to purchase things ranging from small sweet items, chocolate, high tech-equipment such mobile phones, smart watches – many other things.
I had wanted to buy a traveling bag and few other things. We were taken to a shopping mall. Then the unexpected came. SHOPPING was not so EASY. One must do bargaining. Not simple bargaining _ You have to give your whole strength to the bargaining.
So I started bargaining for a bag after going to several shops. Then Deepthi interrupted and said “Don’t do this, it’s not good for your reputation.”
We had an argument. Agreement reached – that was to make some light bargaining – not hard, which means you bargain but only to a certain extent.
Then the FUNNY thing happened. Deepthi suggested that I should do his bargaining too, which meant when he wants to buy something, I should bargain for him. GREAT. At that moment, I remembered that he is a politician too, although he described himself to me as “ONLY PHILOSOPHER” in Sri Lanka.
I still wonder whether philosophers also do bargaining when go to buy something. But my contention is that anyone who goes to China will have to do their bargaining, it makes no difference to anyone. This applies to Deepthi too.
I think if one is in politics, he should better practice the art of bargaining, otherwise it will not be easy to retain his crown. Also, when only doing bargaining, you can separate the good persons from the crooks. (This is arguable)
Now when we come to Deepthi, he often criticizes the capitalist society, the way the human relations deteriorates in such a society, but I admit that he is also a part and parcel of this society. So he also has to live in this society as we all do. But when he asks me to do his bargaining, his role as a politician emerges more than the philosopher. Because, I have often heard how politicians use others to bargain for themselves, but not heard any of the philosopher who has done so.
There, I saw – some deviation from his philosophy because he does not want to bargain but I should do it on his behalf.
But I must commend Deepthi for one thing. Because, he knows what he wants to buy. Unlike all others including me, did not know what to buy and what not. Many bought many things that have been cheaper and amply available in Sri Lanka. Similarly, some bought high tech things which were not properly working ( this was found out later).
Deepthi wanted to buy a blue-tooth speaker and some garments and ornaments for his wife and daughter. And he bought for them and pushed me also to buy same things for my family. It demonstrated to me that Deepthi is a family man who loves his family. To me that Deepthi was QUITE CONTRAST to the general opinion about Deepthi whom sometimes is labeled as a fanatic or irresponsible person.
“Don’t try to get into speeding trains” one of my close my friend Abeyratne in Gampaha always tells me. This means you might get injured if you miss the train and also you might get to into the wrong train. This happened to Deepthi too in China when he ran to buy a hair-dryer for a friend. Because Deepthi found out that it was not working only after he came back to Sri Lanka.Those small things happens all the time. But I should commend Deepthi because he prevented me buying the same.
That’s a question and may be a puzzle to be solved by Deepthi through his theoretical knowledge. I leave it to him.
“I want to buy books, can we go to a book shop” Deepthi said several times to me and some others. But nobody heard it. Even I did not. So Deepthi could not buy any books from China.
It’s up to Deepthi to explain why when a team of journalists visit another country, none of them were eager to go to a bookshop. On the other hand, we did not find any bookstore near our hotels and our guides too did not pay much attention when asked about how to buy some books.
Deepthi takes a very small meal _ whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner. Whereas I am used to it a lot if food is delicious and also if they serve my favorite dishes. I felt Deepthi disliked others eating a lot, in somewhat similar manner to the traditional leftist politicians who admonish people to eat less. But here the difference is he eat less and his desires are also very less (don’t know he pretends)
Concerns of Deepthi
But the main issue for Deepthi was something else. Except for another person (Duminda) all others were either did not know who Deepthi is or they pretended that they have no-knowledge of Deepthi. Only they know what the truth is. But I felt for Deepthi it mattered very much. Because he spoke about that several times. Being leader of X-group and politician, leader of a party, how come other journalists were so ignorant about Deepthi or his presence with them in China.
Did they pretend? I don’t know. But if they were really unaware of Deepthi. I think Deepthi should seriously think of his political “BRANDING”. A new wave of campaign is necessary to spread Deepthi’s political ideology which I admire very much.
But how to do that is not going to be so easy.
Journalist, philosopher or politician Who is he really ?
Deepthi is now an EDTIOR of a newspaper. I think being a journalist in order to make money for living and playing the role of philosopher who aims to guide the society and having an ambition to become a political leader are very conflicting and each role contradicts the other.
Therefore, sooner or later, Deepthi needs to decide what’s best for him.
A role of writer and philosopher is the ideal – I believe. But it’s up to him….
But I very much admire Deepthi’s philosophy, how he sees the life, his criticism of the society and about me.