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World Affairs








Dharshini reaches the top

Dharshini with her husband and child


More Review Articles...

Homes for children and the aged
feel the pinch

Home in the rain

Vasana needs all the luck she can get

Rain is here to stay

Apollo - a centre of excellence in
medical care





 By Nirmala Kannangara

The greater part of one's happiness or misery depends on one's disposition and not on one's circumstances. Dharshini Nanayakkara of No. 10, Siriwardena Road, Dehiwela who was born to healthy parents has achieved many feats in her life despite her being differently abled, all due to her courage.

"I dedicate all my achievements in life to my beloved father who fought for my rights at a time I was deprived of basic human rights. If not for him I would have been yet another child who has taken a back seat in society," Dharshini told The Sunday Leader.

Association for short people 

Born with a silver spoon in her mouth 39 year old Dharshini wants to form an association  for extremely short people called 'Lesser Height Citizen's Association' in order to support the other achondroplasia (persons with stunted growth) individuals to overcome their difficulties.

"I know for certain that the privileges I received despite my being differently abled would be a mere dream for those who suffer from the same problem. That is the reason why I decided to form an association for those who are like me because I know for certain that I could give them a helping hand to overcome their agony in life," added Dharshini.

Married to Athula Ratnaweera who is healthy and normal, Dharshini is the mother of four-year-old Sachith who too is a healthy baby but short in height.

According to Dharshini his late father Prema Nanayakkara, who was a Civil Servant was the strength behind her.

"My daddy went through many difficulties to put me to a school; but unfortunately none of the leading government schools or private schools wanted to enroll me because of my physique. But thanks to Bishop's College I was given an opportunity upon my daddy's assurance that he would remove me from school if I did not perform to the required level," Dharshini said.

Severest blow

However Dharshini got the severest blow in her life when she lost her father whilst still studying for her O/Ls.

"Ever since my father's death everything in my life changed. My mummy was not strong enough to support me and after leaving school after my A/Ls, I joined an audit firm and later started my own garment factory with the help of my husband," said Dharshini.

Being a shareholder of Alcatras Restaurant, Dehiwela and Hotel Aqua Pearl Villa Bolgoda, Dharshini said that she wants to change the attitude of people who always look at short people as if they have come from another planet.

"We cannot change  people's attitudes easily, but the government's failure to give due recognition to people like us is disheartening. I have been to many European countries and the governments of those countries have put in place the necessary facilities for dwarfs. But what has our own country done for us? What we ask for is not  financial support, but the government's commitment to provide facilities for shorter people," said Dharshini.

According to her Switzerland, USA, UK, Germany and many other countries have provided special facilities including washroom facilities in offices and apartments for short people to enable them to manage their affairs independently.

Depressed mentality

"Even dwarfs are allowed to obtain driving licences in other countries.  But it is sad to note that Sri Lanka has not even thought of providing us, short people, with the same facilities," added Dharshini.

"I do not want my child to go through a depressed mentality that I had to suffer and that is why I want to form an association for short people," she said.

Dharshini's brother who is domiciled  in Switzerland has readily agreed to help her  financially and some Swedish organisations too have promised to help Dharshini in her endeavours to help people in need.

"I wrote to President Mahinda Rajapakse to seek his support to form the Lesser Height Citizen's Association as he has assured in Mahinda Chinthanaya that he would help the differently abled citizens of the country. Since that letter did not evoke the response I  expected, I  contacted the Secretary to the President, Lalith Weeratunga who has promised to get me an appointment with the President soon," Dharshini stated.

However Dharshini requests all the dwarfs in Sri Lanka to contact her to become members of this association as she could help them to be self employed and assist children with stunted growth in their studies etc.

"A fortnight ago I placed an advertisement in a newspaper requesting all dwarfs to contact me, but I am sorry to say that no one has contacted me up to now. It may be because of their backwardness or some other reason. If there is any individual who knows of dwarfs or people with stunted growth, please send this message across and ask them to contact me for I am in a position to help them to better their life," added Dharshini.


Homes for children and the aged feel the pinch

By Ranee Mohamed

Our electricity bill which was Rs.14,000 is now Rs.41,000 and we really do not know how we are going to pay it," said an administrator of an elders' home.

The Dev Siri Sevana Home in Welisara is just one home for the aged that is weighed down by the heavy cost of living.

"It is the poor that are hardest hit. Earlier we had to pay Rs.30 when an inmate visited the doctor, but now we have to pay Rs.70," he said and went on to lament that even social service has become an impossibility.

"This is a service for the poor - it is God's service. But now we are finding it difficult to maintain these people. They are aged people who have no one to care for them and we are expected to look after them - perhaps bury them after they breathe their last," he said. But it is this cost of living that is weighing this home down, just like every home for the aged and for children in this country.

Huge increase

Meanwhile a spokesperson for the Home for Mentally Handicapped Girls in Moratuwa said that their electricity bill which was Rs.1500 has jumped to Rs.4,000.

"These girls are so poor. Their parents cannot afford to pay the Rs.50 or Rs.100 that they are called upon to pay every month and now we are finding it difficult to maintain these children," said the spokesperson.

"We give them chicken once a week, fish, dryfish, eggs and soya once a week, but with this heavy cost of living we are finding it difficult to even give them rice and vegetables. These girls are helpless and depend on this home and on alms for their living. They have no hope outside this home and now we are beginning to lose hope," said the spokesperson who went on to say that there are 38 girls and eight workers in the home.

"We require over 16 loaves of bread in the morning and we buy the bread that is priced at Rs.36. Along with this we require two bottles of jam and two tubs of magarine. These girls also depend on public donations for clothes and other essentials, but alms and donations are very rare these days," said the spokesperson.

The manager of the Dias Home for the Aged when contacted said that times are hard and prices and rates have increased but life must continue.

Barely managing

"On the days we do not get alms, we have to cook meals for the inmates. There is no way that we can say that costs are high and not continue with the smooth running of the home. We have to manage somehow," said the manager.

"These are people who are 'lost'. They have no place to go. Their children do not have much time to spend with them so we have to continue with our duty - to care for them, feed them and look after them," said the manager.

"Of course things cost more than before. But complaining about it will not help," said the manager and went on to say that their home is experiencing some difficulty due to the shortage of labour to clean their surroundings. He lamented about the high cost of labour today.

"Thankfully we have the government hospital at our service and whenever an inmate is ill, it is the government hospital that helps with a ready remedy," he said.

Meanwhile a spokesperson for the Bombuwala Home and the Yatihena Home said that these homes too are experiencing hard times due to the rising cost of living and increased electricity bills.

"The Bobuwala Home is situated on a hillock and there are two water pumps. But today none of these water pumps are working so we have to spend Rs.2,500 a day on water," said the spokesperson.

Difficult task

"We try to maintain good standards for the inmates and this is becoming increasingly difficult due to the high costs," said the spokesperson.

Meanwhile several matrons and managers of children's homes speaking to The Sunday Leader said that the high cost of milk food is taking its toll on children. "The time has come when we now have to cut down on the milk food that we give children due to the high cost of milk powder. There are fewer donors now as people too are finding it hard to make ends meet," said a matron from a prominent children's home.

She went on to say that the amount of milk powder in a packet of milk food is very depressing and that it does not last like it used to.

"The packets are eye catching and colourful but the reality hits you when you open it and find that it is over in a couple of days. Children need to drink milk and to make a proper quantity of milk, the appropriate amount of powder has to be used. When this amount is used, the packet lasts barely three days," she said.

Meanwhile children in homes countrywide are experiencing a harder pinch with a shortage of alms, donations and 'parties.' According to several children's homes the need to save on electricity bills has forced the homes to switch off lights very early and this means that the children have less time with each other and less time for play and preparation for bed time.

Hardship in homes

Thus is the trauma and hardship that the aged and the children have to endure today as they continue their life within the four walls of  institutions called 'homes.'

Ageing people too are now called upon to switch off the lights early. Struggling to sleep due to ailments, sadness and memories does not mean that they can switch on a light.  The time has come for them to wait in darkness till the tears finally  give way to sleep.

The anguish of these bleak  times are reflected on the aged in the evening of their lives both during the day and night - with a high cost of living that has stretched on to a worse nightmare that comes in the form of a 'light bill.'


Home in the rain

The Premaratne family

By Risidra Mendis

Rising water levels due to heavy rains instill fear in most of us who fear for our lives and belongings. The recently experienced heavy rains spelt disaster and destruction to thousands of families' in many places.

However one family that The Sunday Leader came across seems to have become immune to the rising water levels and the floods that sweep through their shanty house whenever there is a heavy shower.

While thousands are displaced and others leave their houses in fear of rising water levels the Premarathne family stay in their house until the water levels recede and the rain ceases.

Situated off the main Maharagama-Piliyandala Road is the tiny shanty house of the Premarathnes - a family that has for the past 10 years learnt to live with the floods.

Nowhere else to go

Life without floods for the Premarathnes would be like life without food for the rest of us. This family doesn't leave their tiny house during the floods as they have nowhere else to go.

Despite the heavy flooding of the area and with over eight inches of water inside their home, the Premarathnes live with the water the best way they could and wait patiently until the water level goes down. Their house at Arawwala, Pannipitiya is built on a lower level from the Main Road.

The Premarathnes are shielded from the rain only by the tiny tin sheet roof and four sides of cardboard that serve as the four walls of the shanty.

During the rainy season the water flows from the main road  into the shanty of the Premarathnes. When The Sunday Leader spoke to them it was clear that the floods had taken its toll on this family who have become immune to the destruction caused to household property and the constant health issues of the children.

Almirah damaged

Speaking to The Sunday Leader M. G. Premarathne  who works as a labourer, said the only major destruction due to the floods was the damage caused to their almirah. "We don't have much furniture but the only problem is that we cannot cook for the children during the rainy season," Premarathne said. The Premarathnes cook their meals on a small firewood cooker built just outside their house.

 "When it starts raining we know the house is going to get flooded. We make a hammock and climb onto that and wait until the rain subsides and the water goes down. Because of the heavy rains experienced recently our house got flooded on May 29 . We had eight inches of water. The water went down only the next day," Premarathne explained.

 Premarathne's wife D. G. A. Anoma Shanthi Kumarihamy said as their house went under water  during the rainy season the children were  always falling sick due to the dampness inside. "The children are constantly coughing and have fever during the rainy weather," she said trying to explain her plight.

Paying house rent

The Premarathnes have four children, Diriyanjali Harshani (9), Dilshan Rasanga (8), Aparana Hasara (4) and Aparana Raksha (3). The eldest daughter and the  son go to the Arawwala school. The Premarathnes pay a rent of Rs. 200 to the owner of the land who stays a few metres away from their home. "What is the point in asking the politicians to help us? Politicians come visiting us only when they need our votes during election time.

"Once they win the elections we don't see them again. Our children can manage with the clothes they have. What we need is food, because during the flooding we cannot cook and have to spend whatever money we have on buying food from the shop for the family," Shanthi said.


Vasana needs all the luck she can get

By Risidra Mendis

Vasana Siriwardene is the mother of a five year old child. Due to a hole in her heart Vasana has for many years not been able to lead a normal life. When she was 13 years old Vasana underwent heart surgery. 

However after the operation Vasana's heartbeat was not stable and the doctors had advised her to undergo a second operation.  She underwent this operation where a pacemaker was fitted to help her heartbeat.

But despite the two operations Vasana is still not fortunate to lead a normal life. One side of Vasana's heart continued to beat at a high rate and doctors have now advised her to consult an electrophysiologist.

Consultant Cardiac Electro-physiologist, Dr. Asunga Dunuwille who is attached to the Institute of Cardiology, National Hospital of Sri Lanka has diagnosed Vasana as suffering from atrial tachycardia causing distressing symptoms. "The patient's condition requires percutaneous electrophysiological surgical ablation under 3D mapping. This medical facility is not available in Sri Lanka. Vasana will have to seek treatment at the St. Stephen's Hospital, New Delhi under the care of Prof. Mohan Nair," Dr. Dunuwille said.

Senior Consultant and Head, Department of Cardiology, St. Stephen's Hospital, Delhi, Professor Nair says Vasana has been referred to their hospital by Dr. Dunuwille.  According to Prof. Nair, Vasana is suffering from complex atrial tachycardia and has been advised radiofrequency catheter ablation under 3D mapping. The approximate cost of this procedure at St. Stephen's hospital, New Delhi  including stay for three days is Indian Rupees 110,000.

Vasana seeks financial assistance from kind donors who are willing to help her undergo this operation in India and lead a normal life.


Rain is here to stay

People wading knee deep through the
murky flood waters

By Shezna Shums

Heavy rains throughout most parts of the island in the past weeks have displaced over 400,000 people with around 20 people dying due to the floods.

The Meteorological Department says that there will be showers at several places in the Western and Sabaragamuwa Provinces and in the Galle and Matara Districts in the coming days while isolated thundershowers will also develop in the Eastern, Uva and Central Provinces during the afternoon or evening.

Following the heavy rains many persons had to seek shelter in temporary camps as their homes were inundated by flood waters.

Chief Epidemiologist, Epidemiological Unit, Dr. Nihal Abeysinghe told The Sunday Leader that at the time of heavy floods the threat of rat fever was minimal.

However this situation may differ when the flood waters subside and the rodents are able to contaminate the stagnant waters.

Continuous monitoring

The Epidemiological Unit is constantly keeping in touch with the Medical Officers of Health in the affected districts who are continuously monitoring the situation regarding any health problems and issues at the temporary IDP camps for flood victims.

"Our main concerns at the moment are with regard to sanitation, water and food for the people living in temporary IDP camps," said Dr. Abeysinghe.

He added that for people who may have to be in camps for  a longer period of time the Epidemiological Unit may have to focus on more suitable long term strategies according to their needs.

"If people will have to be in IDP camps for a while longer we will have to look into supplying dry rations, milk foods and also have an immunisation campaign, in addition to seeing to the other needs," he said.

Some of the districts most affected during last weeks floods were Colombo, Gampaha, Kalutara, Ratnapura, Kegalle, Galle and Matara.

Landslides had also occurred in the areas of Ambagamuwa Korale, Bulathsinhala, Eheliyagoda, Warakapola and Ratnapura.


Some of the latest statistics indicate that there are about 78,300 families consisting of 333,248 people who have been affected by the floods.

Many of them  have even lost their livelihoods because their homes have been inundated with water. They are now in temporary shelters in their respective areas - in schools, camps, temples and community centres.

All District and Divisional Secretaries have been instructed by the National Disaster Management Relief Services Centre (NDMRSC) to provide whatever is needed by the people in addition to providing them with food and water.

Donations welcome

The authorities urge the public to donate emergency items to the hundreds of thousands who are affected. Canned food such as fish, bottled water, dry rations and clothes are in urgent need says the National Disaster Management Relief Services Centre.

Sri Lanka's two main monsoons are from May to September and November to February. Sri Lanka depends on the monsoons for irrigation and power generation.

More rains are predicted in the coming days with the southwest monsoon expected to continue till September.

The situation has also affected thousands who are daily income earners, leaving their families in a state of despair.

'The government is unable to fulfill all the needs of the victims due to financial constraints. It would therefore be deeply appreciated if the general public could provide the essential items needed by these unfortunate victims,"  said a source from NDMRSC.

"At this juncture it would be deeply appreciated if those who can afford to do so, would provide the essential items to the Ministry of Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services to help meet the immediate requirements of the flood victims," stated the National Disaster Management Centre.


Apollo - a centre of excellence in medical care

One of the babies, post heart surgery
watched by the nursing staff and
(Inset) CEO, Lakith Peiris

By Fathima Razik

Yesterday (7) marked six years since Apollo Hospital started operations in Sri Lanka, and from October 2006 it became a fully Sri Lankan owned entity - renamed The Lanka Hospitals Corporation (TLHC). And in the past six years over one million people have sought medical treatment and care, where renowned Indian and Sri Lankan doctors have given of their knowledge and expertise.

Paradigm shift

Under local management in the past nearly two years, TLHC has made a paradigm shift in healthcare and related services, opening its doors and having facilities affordable and readily available to Sri Lankans from any strata of society. This is through low-priced wards and rooms and going up to the upper end to luxurious and state-of-the-art suites while not in any way compromising on the care extended to patients.

And to provide medical services to the underprivileged TLHC has its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme supported by Lanka Bell - the telecommunications provider, where free paediatric heart surgery is conducted on poor and needy children.   

Quelling past misconceptions that may have been a deterrent to many patients who may have opted to seek medical care in other private hospitals, TLHC focuses on being a people friendly hospital, providing the best in medical care through its centres of excellence.     

No barrier

Chief Executive Officer, Lakith Peiris said that TLHC is committed to being people friendly from the moment a patient or any visitor comes through its gates. For a start, parking charges have been done away with although a record is kept of every vehicle that drives in and drives out.

"We have lost much revenue by withdrawing parking charges. We had around 2500 vehicles coming in everyday but we think that it is a good move and people seem to appreciate this waiver. So, there is no barrier, literally. And we provide valet parking for our doctors which they appreciate very much," he said.

Health checks are a sine qua non, more so with the stresses that most people undergo and TLHC provides a range of packages to suit any budget. In addition, anyone who comes to the Out Patients Department (OPD) can also get free tests done to check their blood pressure, blood sugar, weight and height while they wait to see the doctor.

Any person accompanying a patient could also get these tests done free of charge. "This is a first time that a private hospital provides such a service. This counter is open from 10 am to 5 pm and some days for even longer as many people make use of this free facility," said Peiris.

Dial 1566

The emergency service provided by TLHC is yet another 'first' to its credit. A direct number - 1566 that can be dialled from any phone will ensure that prompt attention is given to the caller. This number will be answered by a doctor or a paramedic and is open 24 hours of the day and an ambulance service is readily available to meet any emergency. "A doctor will be in attendance in the ambulance so as to provide the best care in such emergencies," added Peiris.

Many other services are also available - diagnostic services, the blood bank, emergency service, amongst others, throughout the day and night. "A patient who comes in to any hospital is in distress. We recognise that and ensure that he or she is comforted and assisted in every possible way through our Customer Care Service. It's an individualised service and we have trained staff to see to every need of the patient on arrival, so much so that we have recorded 150-175 new registrations every day in the last two and a half months," said the CEO.

Humanitarian service

TLHC has an eminent panel of doctors - both local and foreign, and a well-trained and experienced team of medical staff in all its centres of excellence. Fully functional is its cardio thoracic centre with Dr. Richard Firmin at the helm. The cardiac centre provides free life saving heart surgery for poor children whose parents and families cannot afford private medical care and as a result are on waiting lists in government hospitals for long periods of time.

Such children, through a selection process are taken in for free surgery or in some cases with the monies provided for them through the President's Fund that covers only one third of the cost of such surgery.

At least one surgery is performed every month. "In May the team at the Centre of Excellence for Cardiology performed two such surgeries - one on five-month-old baby Nilpun Dilanka of Nochchiyagama, Anuradhapura and the other on nine-month-old baby Pabasiri Ratnayake of Veyangoda. Baby Pabasiri was as small as a three-month-old baby due to her condition. Both babies are doing well and their mothers especially are so happy," said Peiris.

Dr. Richard Firmin, cardio thoracic surgeon from the UK and Dr. Hemantha Perera, consultant anesthetist provided their services free of charge. The other doctors in the team are cardiologists Dr. Mahesh Krishnakumar and Dr. Rajakanthan, and Dr. Rajeeve Peiris and Dr. Sujith Kumar - cardio thoracic surgeons.

With a staff of 897 excluding outside staff, TLHC is committed to striving for and reaching excellence in all aspects of medical care and treatment. "The best of local doctors have now registered with us, and complemented by renowned, foreign specialist doctors we are geared to treat any medical ailment. With continuous new referrals we believe that we have achieved much in the short space of nearly two years and we are committed to giving all our patients the best," said Lakith Peiris.

More centres of excellence

With the dawn of its sixth anniversary, Apollo Hospital will have its Department of Renal Science and the Fertility Centre fully functional.

The Department of Renal Science has successfully completed 60 kidney transplants. These include both living donor and cadaver transplants. The department has three teams of eminent local and foreign surgeons and medical staff to provide complete renal care. TLHC has a strict donor policy where apart from the technical aspects it ensures that all donors are genuine.


Squealing arrival of the Dancing Doll

The countdown has ended! Dancing Doll has come prancing back into our lives. I was told to look out for a `goday' looking Sri Lankan girl at the airport since her hair was too bleached! So there we were, literally falling off our seats with eagerness, when she sailed in with an extra-large suitcase. Apparently, it was full of absolute necessities for her three-month vacation here.

Talking 19 to the dozen and squealing at short intervals to the astonishment of people nearby, she launched into a somewhat poetical explanation as to why she was so glad to be back.

In between every few sentences, she kept on exclaiming how fat she had got! "My arms are elephantine, my butt has gotten ample, and my boobs are rather sizeable! My hair is horrid! I'm too ghastly white!" In my totally prejudiced eyes, she looked absolutely gorgeous.

I tried to calm down her hysterical observations by saying she could now lose weight and she immediately pounced on Caveman and demanded to know if he had renewed her membership at the gym. I also reminded her in next to no time she would be dancing and would quickly burn off all her extra weight.

Somewhat mollified, she squealed in delight at the sight of the vehicle and the driver. "Wow! I can be driven wherever I want to! No walking miles for the next few months!" Every few minutes, we would squeal and I would squeeze whatever part of her I could lay my hands on.

Pretended not to enjoy

 She pretended not to enjoy this. Every time she caught sight of a particular building, she would give a commentary, most of it went like; "I don't want to even see another burger for these three months, gosh, I'm so utterly fed up of pizza I don't want to even think about it, the KFC there tastes totally gross." These sentiments pleased me immensely!

On the other side, she said" Hmm! Nice kurtas! A new shoe shop? Aaah! Summer dresses!" and things in like vein, all the while telling me how ridiculously expensive things were over there.

On arrival at home, the doggies jumped on her, barking excitedly. The staff emerged all grinning broadly at her. Every change in the house was immediately noticed and totally approved of. She had specified what she wanted for lunch, a typical Sri Lankan-style rice and curry! A year ago, she detested the stuff.

Afterwards, she visited the salon, and without even asking for my opinion, shortened her hair by about a foot, and coloured it black. I must say the result was an improvement! More squeals and squeezes!

When I inquired about Beautiful Dreamer, who has yet to start her exams, she related some hilarious episodes of what she had been up to recently. These activities had not been mentioned to me. Apparently she was frying four sausages, one at a time. Why they were being done separately, I couldn't fathom. Suddenly one of them caught fire, and she yells frantically for Dancing Doll, who starts giggling hysterically. "Do something!" she yells at her.

Hysterical fit

 When Dancing Doll continues having a hysterical fit, she starts blowing on it to put the fire off. Then she rushes to the sink to open the tap and pour some water on it. Obviously she has totally forgotten the theory about oil and water!

Their flat mates hearing a commotion come out of their rooms one by one to see what the Terrible Sisters are up to now! "Are you trying to burn down the kitchen?" they ask in a resigned tone.

An uninvited guest invaded their apartment recently. A cockroach! Apparently they are all scared of cockroaches except The Dreamer. Everybody screams and shouts for her. So she grabs a broom and chases it all over the flat trying to kill it. It has escaped capture and massacre so far.

 At the last sighting, she was asleep and thus without her contact lenses on. So arming herself with her weapon, she blindly rushed around whilst the others were hysterically shouting. One girl was asleep and her door was ajar, and in it scuttled!

So the others stood outside and shone torches inside the room, whilst the half blind Dreamer searched in vain for the intruder. I called her immediately and told her for goodness sake to buy some spray before it multiplied! I want the next two weeks to whizz by, so I can have another squealer in the house!

- Honky Tonk Woman  


What it means to be a geography student at uni

There are only three Geography students at Notre Dame Uni, the rest are all Environmental Science students but most of the classes each group takes are the same. Out of the three I am the oldest but the second in line, started a group online a couple of days ago. He had an idea about disseminating information about sustainability and the issues surrounding through a popular medium that university students would use.

Of course naturally, I end up being an enthusiastic supporter of this endeavour. But how easy is it to live a sustainable lifestyle while being an university student? When I first started studying here, I was a bit nervous about this. I was studying Geography, therefore it seemed expected that I would fully endorse environmental principles I was learning about in my personal life as well. It didn't seem like I was living a very sustainable life. It didn't seem that I could afford to live a sustainable life. Most things organic or sustainably produced or marketed as such were (and still are to some extent) very expensive.

The principles

The principles themselves are not that hard for me to accept and endorse. I don't like the way we view our world in such an anthropocentric fashion. I don't regard people as being more valuable than animals. Far as I am concerned all species are equal and if cats can eat mice and sheep eat grass then I can eat beef. Because it's the natural way things work - things eat other things.

But I also understand that that's my personal  preference. I have vegetarian friends - I cook for them and we get on fine. I care about things though - about people,  plants, animals. On the one hand I accept that as a human I can eat meat and choose to do so and am therefore killing something but on the other hand I want that to be managed to minimise unnecessary harm to anything else if that makes any sense. I don't like the idea of using pesticides and fertiliser to grow grain to make flour to make bread to feed me because that harms humans - the soil, the micro fauna and flora and fish. So organic seems to be the way to go.

But what does sustainability mean? It's not just one's diet is it, and the potential ramifications of that? It's about consumerism - ethical consumerism. Being informed about what you buy, what you use, what you eat, what you do and how you do it. It means minimal harm to anything else around you. And despite all the stereotypes to the contrary, you don't  have to live like a hippie to achieve it.

It does however mean you have to learn a lot about how the world works around you. If you live in a city you can't be ignorant as to what goes on in the countryside or the rest of the world for that matter. It's not a lifestyle for the intellectually lazy.

One of the first and easiest things to do was to switch all my light bulbs to energy efficient ones. One of the reasons for doing this was simply because I have very tall ceilings and I prefer not to have to lug a ladder up and down the staircase once a month just so I can change light bulbs. Changing them means I use less power which means I am contributing less to fossil fuel consumption and the problems associated with that.

This coupled with the fact that I am now turning every light off whenever possible means I have a lower power bill. I have also started switching my appliances off at the power points when they are not used which is frankly about 95% of the day. The flatmate gets annoyed by this whenever there is a TV show on but I am very good at ignoring protests.

Less hazardous

Another thing I started to do was to dump all my cleaning products in favour of white vinegar and bicarbonate soda which frankly cleans anything and everything more efficiently and is less hazardous than any bleach. Bleach fumes used to make me want to pass out which meant that I kept having to take a break every so often when cleaning. Now I have more time on my hands as well. And vinegar and bicarb soda are really cheap.

I have also started watching what goes down the drain. Once you pick a brand of environmentally friendly soap or bath gel or laundry detergent or dishwashing liquid - you only need to look for it again on the supermarket shelves when you run out. It isn't that hard.

As a university student, I don't have a car. My flatmate does but we end up walking everywhere, catching buses or riding on the train. It  saves on fuel costs and I feel a little bit validated for refusing to give in to my family's requests of getting a licence. Not until they design and build an environmentally friendly Jeep Wrangler with a hydrogen engine or something similar. Which will probably be in about 20 years time.

When you are renting however there is only so much you can do to be sustainable. I cannot for instance, install new glass in the windows or change the plumbing. I did attempt to have my own vegetable garden but that does not work when the only spot you have is on top of some aluminium roofing that slopes at a dangerous angle. I donate to Greenpeace but frankly I have my doubts about that.

Why do we want to save certain species? They always say that I'd want my children to be able to see them. That's a selfish reason for wanting to save species. Species are species - some die out, some don't, some evolve and become something else. If you told me you wanted to save a species in order to maintain the equilibrium in an environment I'd like donating to such a cause better. Species don't need to be saved - they need to be maintained - the pressure we put on them needs to be minimised. You might not want to decimate a species but you can't elevate it above others either because then you'd find another species disappearing pretty fast. Things eat other things. People - you need some sort of balance.

Science and logic

It's not nice for Geography students to make Greenpeace volunteers' heads explode in the street when they start accosting you and talking about the future generations. I am not anthropocentric - I'd cheer if you said the entire human species was to die tomorrow. Children might interest me but I'd rather save a species because it meant we all have air to breathe rather than because it's pretty and sits there and everyone loves to look at it. Greenpeace volunteers are lucky I am a nice person. I do donate but I always have grave doubts about how efficiently the money is spent and how good the science and logic is behind the principles.

And money is not easy to come by when you are a university student. So you have to spend it wisely. But there are ways. You need to organise yourself sufficiently so that you have a regular shopping trip once a week when you can carry canvas bags and hit the Asian stores and the town markets. It's even easier when you live close by. Grabbing cherry tomatoes from Fremantle markets is one of my favorite things to do snack-wise. 

Kakulas Sisters is a specialty food store around the corner from me and is where I buy my rice and dhal. There is a Kakulas Brothers store in the city, fresh provisions in Claremont and South Fremantle and then the Subiaco Markets. There are bakeries and one of the best places to buy fish is at Sealanes in South Freo, just a free bus ride away. Most of these are local and are therefore more sustainable. A lot of produce sold at Kakulas is imported but sustainable and cheap. And you can always venture down to Wray Avenue which is well known for the cheapest local produce around.

But there are a lot more things that I'd like to do. I'd like the city council to make it easier for me to recycle. I'd like to switch to a cleaner energy source for electricity but I can't afford it. I'd like all my appliances to be more energy efficient. And most of all I'd like a lot of people to start coming up with ways that university students and people who rent their accommodation can live more sustainably.

Which is why I applaud what my fellow student is attempting to do. By enabling the topic to reach a wider audience and allowing university students to discuss it, maybe we can come up with more ways to make our lives more efficient and the whole of the human species a little bit less of the disaster it seems to be turning out to be.

And now I am thinking of cherry tomatoes. Damn.

- Marisa Wikramanayake



No interruptions

I haven't spoken to my Mother-In-Law for 18 months....I don't like to interrupt her 

Few words

John: "I'm a man of few words." Bill: "I'm married, too." 

The body

Three weeks after her wedding day, Joanna called her minister. "Reverend," she wailed, "John and I had a DREADFUL fight!"

"Calm down, my child," said the minister, "it's not half as bad as you think it is. Every marriage has to have its first fight!"

"I know, I know!" said Joanna, "but what am I going to do with the BODY?" 

Nice and white

A fresh-faced lad on the eve of his wedding night asks his mother, "Mom, why are wedding dresses white?"

The mother looks at her son and replies, "Son, this shows the town that your bride is pure."

The son thanks his mom, and then seeks his father opinion, "Dad, why are wedding dresses white?"

The father looks at his son in surprise and says, "Son, all household appliances come in white." 

Why cats are better than men

A CAT always hits the litter box. Better chance of training a CAT. No matter what your CAT drags into your house, you don't have to pretend you like it. You never have to spend time with your CAT's mother. If you ask enough times, a CAT may actually listen to you. A CAT purrs when you serve him dinner. You can de-claw a CAT... try to get a guy to clip his toe nails. It's okay if a CAT rubs up against your best friend. You don't have to worry about your CAT turning into a pig when you host a party. A CAT knows you're the key to his happiness... a man thinks he is. If a CAT jumps into your lap, a little light petting will satisfy him. 

Sliced off

The board of directors for a large company, believing it was time for a shake-up, hires a new CEO.

     This new boss is determined to rid the company of all slackers, so on a tour of the facilities during his first day, the CEO notices a guy leaning casually against the wall. The room is full of workers and he wants to let them all know he means business, and wasting time on the clock is not acceptable. The CEO walks up to the guy and asks, "And how much money do you make a week?"

   A little surprised, the young fellow looks at him and replies, "I make $300.00 a week. Why?" The CEO reaches into his wallet, hands the guy $1,200 in cash, and screams, "Here's four weeks pay, now GET OUT and don't come back!"

   Feeling pretty good about his first firing, the CEO looks around the room and asks, "Does anyone want to tell me what that goof-off did here aside from standing around?"

    With a sheepish grin, one of the other workers muttered, "That guy delivered our pizza."


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