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31st August,  2003  Volume 10, Issue 7

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Equality in the hills - the beginnings

Although they have enjoyed franchise since 1935,  women in Sri Lanka were, until well after independence, a downtrodden sex. It was largely Sirimavo Bandaranaike's election as prime minister in 1960, the first woman internationally to hold such an office, that brought Sri Lankan women into the limelight. Since then, and thanks to free education, women have in every sense gained equality with men in the field of education. While the complete emancipation of women in Sri Lanka remains yet a dream, formidable strides have been made: for example, women university entrants are close to outnumbering men in professions such as law and medicine. Nevertheless, women continue to be scarce in the boards of blue-chip companies and for that matter, at the top of the administrative service- for example, at the rank of permanent secretaries to ministries.

It is refreshing then, to read the history of a school that can well lay claim to having fought bravely to put women's education on the map. More so during a time of colonial domination, when quality education was still entirely in the hands of the church, whether Anglican or Catholic. That this should have happened in Kandy, the seat of the great Chapters of the Siam Nikaya, makes the story even more poignant.

Indrani Meegama's With A Fistful Of Rice, published by Kandy Mahamaya Girls' College OGA Colombo Branch, is an informative and well-written review of the history of this pioneering girls' school, which, from small beginnings in 1932, came to produce some of the finest female intellects in the country. The history of Mahamaya Girls' College, Kandy, as recounted in this book will be of interest to past students as well as to those interested in the history of education in Sri Lanka.

It is a story of the courage and foresight of the founders, who without state or non-state financial and institutional support, overcame formidable obstacles to establish the only Buddhist Girls' College in the hill capital. These founders came from two geographical locations-the hill capital with its traditional lifestyle and the southwest littoral, which had been in the vanguard of changes in economic and social structures in colonial Sri Lanka. It is fascinating to read how these women and their families came together and were united in achieving their initial objective of establishing the school in a country rife with divisive forces. It is also a tribute to the commitment, ability and management skills of the women principals who brought the school to its present eminence in the school system.

In addition to placing on record the great sacrifices that a few enlightened and dedicated women led by Sarah Soysa made to found, nurture and develop a school second to none for Buddhist girls in Kandy and surrounding areas, Indrani Meegama has been able to capture the socio-cultural and political landscape of the time, which gave rise to the need for such an institution, remarkably well. While her efforts would gladden the hearts of Mahamayans, past and present, With A Fistful Of Rice is compulsory reading for those who would like to know how heavily weighted the colonial education system was against the vast majority of people in this country, and what trials and tribulations they had to undergo to get even with the privileged minority.

-  Indrani Meegama


 Going gets tough in drama

Competition is tight for the final round of the Na-tional Drama Festival 2003. Nine length dramas, seven short dramas and five alternative dramas have been selected. These include Nambukara Wilasinee, Hayna, Sellam Gedara from Arts Faculty of the University of Kelaniya, aesthetic dramas such as  Rashomon and Katuyahana Hewath Sada Ginnen Dawena Siriyahana, creative comedy as Sookarayek Samaga and other creative experimental drama as Oba Amathai (Waiting for Godot - Part II). The speciality of this drama festival lies in its including an alternative drama festival in it. The 

National Drama Festival final round will commence on September 2 at 6.00 p.m. at the John De Silva Memorial Theatre with the new experimental drama Oba Amathai. The festival continues till September 15.

Length Dramas

Oba Amathai (Waiting for Godot- Part-II)      -            Don Anthony Royston Jude

Katuyahana                                               -            Visakesa Chandrasekaram

Nambukara Vilasini                                    -             Ruwini Manamperi

Police                                                        -            Lal Premaratne

Master Harold                                             -            Buddhika Damayantha

Rashomon                                                  -            K. A. Hemantha Prasad

Sellam Gedara                                            -            Chaturani Tilakaratne

Suukarayek Samaga                                   -            Sarath Kotalawala

Hayna                                                         -            Chamika Hatlalwala

Short Dramas

Kadadasi Bottu                                           -            W. D. Lakruwan

Kochciya Enakan                                        -            Lasantha Francis Silva

Nadunanno                                                 -            Anil K. Wijesingha

Niwan Yanakan                                           -            Gamini Jayakodi

Massage                                                    -            Tilak Nandana Hettiarachchi

Romantic Minihek                                       -            Berti Lokuliyana

Rosa Mala                                                  -            Sanjeewa Upendra

Alternative Dramas

Karunaven Sawan Denna                             -            M. Safeer

Rukadayoo                                                 -            Sanath Chandrasekara

Sanvegayen Danumdimai                             -            Hemachandra Piyadasa

Sihala Wansala                                           -            Douglas Siriwardana

Samaye Arunalu                                          -            Anton Mihidukula


Indu at the Wendt with Tommiya

The second in Indu Dharmasena's ever popular Tommiya series, Madai Tommiya Colamba Giya is scheduled to go on the boards at the Lionel Wendt on September 6 and 7. This play, first staged in the early '90s, was the most popular of the series and it ran to packed houses. It was also staged out of Colombo.

The "Dubai returned" Lucy has invested her earnings in a small garment factory in partnership with Galaboda Ralahamy's family and Andana Silva, the hair dresser, is the designer. They want to appoint Ralahamy's only son, Tommy, as the factory manager.

But the simple Tommy has never left the village and is rather backward. So he is told to go to Colombo with Andana to learn English and get a bit 'hip'.

Tommy who has fallen hopelessly in love with Lucy's niece, Geetha, refuses to go at first, but when Geetha laughs at him and refuses his marriage proposal, he 

agrees to go. Once in Colombo Tommy tries very hard to understand and learn to be part of the so-called fashionable world.

There are times when the kind and patient Andana wishes he had never undertaken this Herculean task and even considers sending Tommy back to the village. After being away for two months finally Tommy returns to the village for the opening of the garment factory. Did Andana succeed in transforming the simple  bumpkin into a fashionable young man?

From the original cast, veteran theatre personality Jith Pieris will be back on stage again playing Tommy's father, Galaboda Ralahamy. Indu plays Tommy while Michael Holsinger plays Andana Silva and Priyanka Holsinger plays one of the society ladies Tommy encounters in Colombo.

In this production the colourful role of 'Dubai returned' Lucy is played by Natalie Soysa. Angie Seneviratne will play Caroline, Tommy's mother, while Keshanee Gunawardena plays the pretty Geetha. The versatile Krys Sosa plays a hypocritical society lady while Catriona Nicholas plays a snobbish businesswoman.

Don't miss this hilarious comedy that will provide entertainment for the whole family.


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