5th September,  2004  Volume 11, Issue 8

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    


A brief candle...

By Kapila Punchimannage and Dharisha Bastian 

Tragedy was in the air that Wednesday afternoon on the shores of Ambalangoda. The seas which had been tranquil all season had suddenly grown rough and winds swirled around  menacingly, according to people in the area. In fact, the overly superstitious would say all of nature was in the know and conspiring against one lost youth on August 4 this year. 


More Review Articles

Living tributes to motherhood

Dangers of eating animal protein

A tribute to those who changed lives...

Politics on three wheelers

Fight snatch thieves, rapists and fat with karate

A brief candle...

Chaturanga: Tests of time and Grieving family

By Kapila Punchimannage and Dharisha Bastian 

Tragedy was in the air that Wednesday afternoon on the shores of Ambalangoda. The seas which had been tranquil all season had suddenly grown rough and winds swirled around  menacingly, according to people in the area. In fact, the overly superstitious would say all of nature was in the know and conspiring against one lost youth on August 4 this year. 

A south bound train speeding along the track and a careless teenager playing ghost with his shirt - a recipe for disaster one would rightly assume. In this case, not merely disaster but a life snuffed out too soon, a dream dashed that was about to be realised.

Chaturanga Nilantha De Silva was the only son in a family of six. His family was not well off and had to work hard for survival but Chaturanga's father Kedaris believed in educating his children to ensure a better quality of life for them.

Carefree life

Chaturanga had lived a carefree three months after completing his G.C.E. Advanced Level examination. After a gruelling two years preparing for Sri Lanka's most competitive exam, Chaturanga liked to spend his time around friends he had been recently acquainted with - sea bathing, staying up all night at funeral houses or sitting for hours on a rail track talking of life and the universe. At home, he was an avid music enthusiast, singing and playing his set of local drums. "He even went to sleep listening to music on the radio," said Chaturanga's mother, Padma.

On that fateful afternoon, after a bath in rough seas, Chaturanga was returning home with his friends when the unthinkable happened. Describing the incident, his friends said it seemed like Chaturanga had been in a trance, draping his shirt over his head and lingering on the tracks as the wind howled around him, making him deaf to the approaching train. A few days after his death, Chaturanga's A/L results showed that he had achieved distinction passes in all his subjects - three As.

Chaturanga De Silva's star had just begun to shine. Academically, he was a late-developer, never having shown much aptitude for book-learning during his primary education. His teachers said he had never been a very studious child until under a year ago in Year 13, as he was preparing for his A/Ls. At the Ordinary Level, he had passed four subjects, but when Chaturanga entered the arts stream and took up Buddhist civilisation, political science and Sinhala for subjects, he knew he had discovered his niche. Never had that set of parents known their youngest son to be so focused on his one goal - to enter university.

"I will be getting my A/L results soon," Chaturanga cheerfully told his friends moments before the accident. According to engine driver, Stanley Perera's statement to the police, a boy ran across the railway tracks that afternoon, in an apparent attempt to end his life. The lingering question though is why the boy's last words were so gleeful if he had by then decided to take his own life.

"What happened on the rail tracks that day is a mystery to us," said Chaturanga's A/L class teacher. "We had heard that his group of friends were not the best company, since none of them had done their exams. Could they have influenced and warped my son," wonders his mother.

In a dream world

Had the sudden freedom Chaturanga had come to know since leaving school been too heady for the young boy to handle? The waiting period after completing an examination that is to decide the course of the rest of a student's life can often be overbearing. It is a transitionary state that is none too comfortable, a stage of listlessness and detachment from the familiar.

Was the long and enforced period of transition between ending a 14 year school career and beginning life as an adult more than Chaturanga could cope with? In his dreamy state, did he give vent to a subconscious desire to end his life? Was his faith in being able to get through the exam faltering? All questions to which the answers may just be buried with one of Ambalangoda's brightest stars on its academic horizons.

"My son had apala"

Padma De Silva believes that all was not well astrologically for Chaturanga around the time of his death. She says her son had no enemies and therefore does not suspect foulplay but is at a loss to understand for what reason her son would have taking his own life.

"He was always singing at home and so close to all of us. Even when he was going to the bathroom he would tell me first. I lost my only son that night," Padma said.

According to Padma, problems indicated in Chaturanga's horoscope had led the family to conduct several thovils for him. "It was just last week that we took him to Kataragama devale to make an offering for him. They told me to keep him away from the house. Now I feel like he has been stolen from me," Padma grieved. 

Living tributes to motherhood

Podihami with two generations of love

By Mark Indika Samarasekara and Risidra Mendis 

Going through nine months of pregnancy and giving birth to a baby is not an easy task. But the birth of a healthy baby girl or boy is always a day of joy for the happy parents. However, it is not very often that we hear the news of a mother giving birth to 17 children during her life time.

Two Weera Mathas

From Wellassana Wellawaya come the stories of two mothers who gave birth to 17 and 18 children each. This news, while cause for celebration, has resulted in these two mothers being awarded 'Weera Matha' (Brave Mothers) awards.

Sudu Menika's house in Nugayaya Wellawaya is busy in the preparation of the noon day meal. A large pot of rice together with two pots of curry were seen cooking while Sudu Menika was in the process of skinning a large jackfruit.

In a room nearby little ones sit patiently on a rug eagerly awaiting their noon meal.

In the adjoining room are two infants fast asleep. Sudu Menika's daughter acts as the infants' foster mother until the cooking is done. Also the father and some other sons working in the chena were seen taking rice from the same large pot on the fire.

Sudu Menika is the proud mother of 18 children out of which 10 girls and five boys are her own children while three boys are adopted. Out of the three boys one is a Tamil. Apart from three of the 18 children the rest live with Sudu Menika now 89 years old and takes care of her.

Salakasuriya Kulathunge Mudiyanselage Sudu Menika was born in 1915 at Welimada. At the age of 13 or 14 as she fondly recalls Sudu Menika got married in 1928. "Soon after marriage we lived in Welimada and then in Bandarawela," said Sudu Menika.

Mini market

Sudu Menika recalls her days in Bandarawela when the family had their own vegetable plot. "My daughters pluck and bring home the fresh vegetables. When the vegetables are laid out in the kitchen it looked like a mini market," she explained.

According to Sudu Menika, her husband was a contract worker. "After work he used to bring home the necessary food items for daily cooking," said Sudu Menika.

Her daughters were never sent to school. "They were given away in marriage as soon as they reached the correct age. This was the custom at that time," explained Sudu Menika who never taught her sons how to write. "If boys learned to write they would send love letters to girls. So I didn't teach them," says Sudu Menika who herself was not taught to write by her parents.

Meanwhile we came across Podihamy, 58 years old. She lives in Uva Kuda Oya, Wellawaya and she works in the paddy fields. Podihamy has 17 children - one child had died at a young age.

Her husband lives in Balasmulla. However, Podihamy with her nine sons left Balsmulla to engage in paddy cultivation in Wellawaya. Podihamy's eldest son got married at 18 and together with his wife helps Podihamy with her cultivation.


"In those days life was not difficult as the prices of essential items were not expensive. But today the cost of living is very high. Even the soil at Kuda Oya had the nutrition for cultivation 20 years ago," said Podihamy.

According to Podihamy, during that time, in July and August there was no drought in this area. "Even the jungles had papaw trees with fruits," explained Podihamy.

According to her, not only the earth but the mannerisms of people too have changed in the country. "Women do not like to have children these days," said Podihamy.

Sudu Menika and Podihamy both received the Wera Matha Award for their contribution in looking after a large number of children. Meanwhile mothers who lost their children in the armed forces were also presented with bravery awards.

Despite these women being presented with awards, there still remain a large number of mothers who suffer in silence unknown to the outside world. Encouraging and uplifting the lives of these women is the responsibility of society. Hence presenting a 'Weera Matha Award' in appreciation of their contribution towards society is not sufficient.

Dangers of eating animal protein

Since protein is such a good  thing you may be wondering  whether you can eat too much and if  you do so what will happen.

Unlike certain nutrients such as water soluble vitamins (vitamin B-complex and vitamin C) which can be consumed in fairly large quantities with no adverse effects, over consumption of protein can be hazardous to your health.

When you eat too much of protein, a by-product of protein metabolism called urea - Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) is formed in your liver and excreted via the kidneys. The kidneys have to work overtime to eliminate the excess urea that has accumulated in your blood. This can lead to kidney damage, especially in older people whose kidneys function less efficiently or in people with pre-existing kidney damage.

Protein not stored

If you take in more protein than is needed, it is excreted because protein is not stored. The way it is excreted through the body is though the liver. The liver has to increase its activity because of that increased work load and it changes that protein into urea (BUN) - BUN goes to the kidneys which filter out this urea and kidneys also filter out protein that is unprocessed. As a result of the filtering of the urea and the protein, kidneys enlarge under this high protein load that we eat (John McDaug-all MD, Natural Living WBAI, New York, 26 March 1987).

In addition to enlarging the kidneys the excess protein accumulated inside the kidneys caused damage to the tubercles (the filtering apparatus in the kidneys).

For many people, this presents no real threat since we have much more kidney tissue than we actually need. But if you have suffered kidney damage due to diabetes or high blood pressure or if you have only one functioning kidney as in patients who have accidental trauma to one kidney; extra stress placed in the remaining kidney can severely overtax it and eventually can lead to destruction of the remaining kidney tissue. That is why doctors recommend a low protein diet for patients with high BUN (blood urea) or high serum creatinine.

In order to flush excess urea from our bodies we need to drink plenty of water for the kidneys to filter the urea out of the blood stream. Infants are especially at risk when they are fed high protein diets. A large number of babies in Sri Lanka are receiving cow milk, which has twice the protein content in human milk. An unrestricted amounts of protein can be excessive, leading to hypernatraemic dehydration which can lead to brain damage, shut down of the kidneys and death within hours. (Hara Marano, The Problem With Proteins, New York, March 1979)

For athletes

Dehydration from excess protein or protein loading can be dangerous to athletes. Not only are these athletes losing large amounts of fluid from perspiration, they also require water to filter the urea from blood. For a marathon runner this can lead to serious heat stroke.

Another nitrogen by-product of protein metabolism is ammonia which builds up in our instestinal tract and can cause cancer. Dr. Willard Visek of University of illinuous Medical School says ammonia behaves like chemicals that cause cancer or promotes its growth. It kills cells, increase virus infections and increases the rate at which cells divide and the incidence of cancer parallels the concentration of ammonia (Hara Marano).

Ironic as it may seem another major problem associated with excess animal protein is calcium deficiency. Another thing that happens when kidneys begin to work overtime to rid the body of excess ureas is that they also excrete large amounts of minerals, the most important of which is calcium. The high concentration of calcium mixed with uric acid in the kidneys form kidney stones and the body becomes depleted of calcium and draws it out of the bones rendering them weak - the end result can be osteoporosis. Today, osteoporosis among the middle aged and elderly, especially in women is very common and people are terrified by the thought of getting shortened in stature, stooped and crippled, and osteoporosis in many cases is due to excessive consumption of animal protein. Fortunately for women milk is not the only source of calcium. Natural vegetable sources that are very good suppliers of calcium include leafy vegetables, cauliflower, sesame seeds, soy beans, fresh and dried fruit and sea vegetables.

If you eat a vegetarian diet it is unlikely that you will be taking an excessive amount of protein unless you eat a large amount of legumes. Even if you do take a vegetarian diet which is high in protein you will be taking a diet high in fibre which will cleanse your intestines from ammonia buildup. Vegetable proteins are easily digested and will provide you with calcium that you actually use.

Animal protein on the other hand is where the problems of excess protein begin. A typical American diet includes eggs and bacon in the morning, hamburger or meat sandwich with a glass of milk at lunch and meat dishes for dinner, can add up to over 200 grams of protein. This means massive amounts of urea and ammonia, fat, drugs and pesticides residue and very little fibre (as most wheat products are refined while meat, dairy products and eggs have little or no fibre).

The result of above type of diet can result in major diseases such as coronary heart disease, colon and prostatic cancer, obesity osteoporosis, kidney and liver damage.

Dangers of animal protein

This so-called complete protein found in meat, poultry, fish eggs and milk can be associated with saturated fat, cholesterol, nitrates, hormones, pesticides herbicides residues, antibiotics, preservatives and countless additives. So animal protein can be worse for you than vegetable protein.

An individual in the US eats about 200 pounds of red meat, 50 pounds of chicken or turkey, 10 pounds of assorted fish, 300 eggs and 250 pounds of various dairy products a year. That is some feast!

Biochemical nutritionist, Dr. David Kritchevsky says the best correlation with heart disease is animal protein. He found that animal sources contributed to more cases of arthritis than vegetables sources (Mara Marano The Problem With Protein, New York, March 5, 1979, 52). Cross cultural studies have also shown that there is a greater incidence of cardiovascular disease and colon cancer among people consuming diets high in animal protein and fat (Osmo Turpeinen MD, Circulation 59, NO. 1 January 1979; Margaret A Howell, Journai Of Choronic Disease 28, 1976, 67-80).

Research also indicates a strong positive correlation between dietary protein and other cancers - breast, prostrate pancreases, uterus, bowel and kidney says Collin Campbell, a Professor of Cornel University's Science Department (Susan Lang Diet And Disease, Food Monitor, May/June 1983, 24).


Digestion too suffers when bombarded with lots of protein. The high saturated fat content of animal products makes them hard to digest and these food items settle in the stomach for about seven hours.

It is possible that food colour antibiotics and the hormones in animal products could contribute to causation of cancer. These ingredients are introduced into livestock at breeding phase. There are over 500 chemicals allowed by the US government as additives.

For starters, the livestock and dairy cows consume large amounts of chemically treated feed and one of these is DDT which is an insecticide. The crops absorb small amounts of DDT; livestock eat the crops and concentrate the chemical and we eat livestock, DDT and all. A pound of beef may contain significant DDT residues and DDT may also be passed on in cow milk. The DDT we ingest in our burgers and shakes are in turn stored in our body fat where it sits until we come under stress. DDT can be passed on to babies through mothers milk.

The two antioxidants BHT are added to livestock feed to keep the fat in the feed from going rancid, to make feed handling and shipping easier and ultimately to improve the taste in the meal once animals are slaughtered.

The food additive sodium nitrate used as colour fixative in most processed meats, hot dogs, cured meats, bacon meat spreads, sausages and ham is another ingredient detrimental to health. When eaten, nitrates form substances in the stomach called nitrosamines which are potential cancer causing. Although bacon producers add vitamin C to bacon to lessen the cancer threat, two-thirds of vitamin C is destroyed during cooking.

Antibiotics are used to keep animals disease free and promote rapid weight gain in some livestock and the animals pass these drugs on to humans who eat their flesh. Humans who are allergic to these antibiotics like Penicillin may be aggravating their allergies by knowingly eating meat treated with such drugs.


Vegetarian Handbook by Gary Null
- Dr. D.P. Athukorale

A tribute to those who changed lives...

By Shezna Shums

Sita De Saram is a music teacher by profession. Having taught  music at Royal College, she still maintains a royal touch. When The Sunday Leader visited her home we walked in listening to her playing the piano and two young boys practicing their flutes.

Apart from being involved in music, she is also very much involved in arts, painting and sculpting. Her home is adorned with many of her paintings, sculptures and sketches. Sketching she says is something she has been doing all her life.

Bringing out the best

She is a lady who wants to give something to society and her desire is to bring to light the people and their stories that have made a difference in the country. Therefore she wants to begin with the people in the arts field. She strongly believes that both known and unknown people, especially what they did for the country deserve to be brought to light and appreciated by the older and specially the younger generation.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader she explained that there are innumerable people who have in their own way introduced something into this country that have caused a positive difference. "The younger generation is not aware about them," she said. So her aspiration is to find out about them, to have a sketch of them and write a little about their work and how they made a difference.

"I want to find out about people in the 20th Century because we know about the great kings in history but very little of the recent achievements by people of our time," she said.

Sita De Saram noted that she is interested in people who have made a difference in the country through dedication, blood, toil and sweat. She considers that people who have money can afford to do a lot for society but there are people who want to do or did something merely to uplift the lives of the others and this is remarkable she said. "They are not interested in publicity or money," she added.

Mentioning a few people she has in mind the names of George Keyt, Lionel Wendt and Lester James Peries were revealed. "I am in the arts field and I know of many people who are involved in this field. So I can find out about them as well," she noted.

Once the book based on the arts people is completed, she hopes to look into the people in other fields such as medicine, science and so forth. Sita said that a person does not have to be popular just as long as they have really made a positive change for their relevant subject or to society.

When asked how she does her research she said that it is mainly by talking to people and finding out what they know about others and what they have done. She also pointed out that she has to be careful and have an open mind because people may have their own preferences.

"The list I have already is wide - there are so many names and this is only from one field," she said.

A sketch of R. L. Brohier was on her table and Sita said that many of the younger people do not know about him. "He was a surveyor and he was able to find many places and write books about them. In his own way he has given something to society and what he did should be made known to the people today," added de Saram.

Her interests

As much as she is interested in finding out about such people, she is also interested in finding out about people who have been involved in "Tamil and Sinhala literature, poetry and music," she said adding that Martin Wickremasinghe is on her list.

"Finding out about Tamil writers at the moment is a bit difficult," she said because she does not know anybody who can help but still she has an open mind and welcomes any help.

Speaking more about her idea of creating such a book she said that she was inspired to make this after seeing a book in the United States. "A photographer had made the book about people who have made a difference to the country and he took a photograph of each person. But I want to have a sketch of them and some details about their work," said Sita. "There are many people involved in archaeology here and their work deserves to be known to the others," she explained.

"It is a discovery for me, because apart from finding out about the people, I have come across others who have done a lot of work which deserves to be appreciated by us and especially made known to the younger generation," she said.

Politics on three wheelers

By Jamila Najmuddin

Politics in this country is viewed in a different light by a small section of people in Fort.

Unable to earn their daily hires due to the high cost of petrol, three wheeler drivers in Maliban Street, Fort now spend their afternoons discussing politics amongst themselves as a daily ritual.

Although many three wheeler drivers in the country today criticise the government due to the high cost of living and the high cost of fuel, these people however, discuss politics with a difference.

"Although we are suffering due to the high cost of living, we pass our afternoons discussing politics with a 'positive' attitude. We hardly get any hires as people prefer travelling in buses nowadays. We voted for this government, having many high hopes but we are sad to say that they are no better. Instead of bringing down prices, they broke a record by increasing the prices of items within a period of five months," said three wheeler driver M. H. Susil.

Comic politics

"Since nobody listens to our plight anymore, we came up with a new plan - to discuss politics in this country in a comical way," Susil said.

As the audience, we take our seats inside their trishaws, to gear up for the 'comic show,' which we are going to witness.

"As soon as the government came into power, they came with a Rata Perata manifesto. Although we are glad that they had such extraordinary thinking powers to come up with such a brilliant idea, we are sad to say that the country is not moving ahead, no matter how hard they try. The country's accelerators seem to have stopped working and the foot seems to have got stuck on the brakes. But we hope that these extraordinary men governing this country fix the country's accelerators soon as the country is otherwise going to go in the dumps," Susil said.

According to W. K. A. Wipulasena, the hires that they get are like meters. Prices of their hires seem to be 'going up' and then 'going down.' "This is good as this way we do not have to spend to have meters fixed in our three wheelers. We are glad to say we have invisible and automatic meters," Wipulasena said.

Powerful politicians

When questioned about the fights amongst politicians in parliament, to this Susil reacts immediately saying that this proved how powerful our politicians really are.

"We should be proud that we have such muscular men in parliament who show their talents in boxing in a very good way. It also shows how concerned our politicians are, to lose their temper and have arguments - because this is all done for the betterment of the country. Internationally our politicians become named as world class wrestlers, which is all good and we hope that by displaying their talents, the foreigners will be impressed and release the aid money as soon as possible," Susil said adding that it would also do us good if one of these politicians could take part in boxing at the Olympics as this way, the country is sure of winning a medal.

When questioned about the meals available for politicians in parliament at only Rs. 16, Susil responds saying that this was good as at least there was one place in the country that five star hotel meals were available at Rs. 16. "We have to pay at least Rs. 150 for our meals but we are glad that the politicians are getting it so cheap. They work hard and after all we have voted for them to have cheaper meals than the public and besides they need all the nourishment they can get to engage in those fights," Susil said.

He added that today, the concept of voting in this country was that the public casts their votes for a group of men who can show their talents in lying, forget the people who voted for them, travel in luxury cars although before the elections they were travelling in three wheelers, to have massive houses and to have meals at a much cheaper rate while the voters have their cost of living increased - from three wheelers they have to take a turn towards bus depots and paying Rs. 100 to Rs.150 for meals.

"This is good as this shows how unique and different politics is in this country. No wonder we have excessive politicians in this country today," Susil said.

A reward

Regarding the law enforcement authorities in this country, Wipulasena shares with us one of his 'memorable' encounters with the cops.

"One day I was driving my three wheeler looking for hires when I saw a man lying on the road with a broken leg. I rushed him to the hospital and later took him to the Maradana police station to have the matter reported as this accident was a 'hit and run' case. Instead of writing his statement the police looked at me and remanded me immediately. I was in such a state of shock that I was dazed. This incident just proves how fast the law acts in this country - only at that time they had arrested the wrong guy. I have never helped any other man in my life ever again because if I do, I know I am sure to get a free stay inside the police cell," Wipulasena said.

With regard to the skyrocketing prices, G. R. Gnanadass responds, "this is good because even before other countries can increase the prices of goods we have already increased our prices. It just shows how fast and ahead we are from the other countries," Gnanadass said.

As the discussions come to an end, Susil adds that they did not blame any government in particular as all governments are the same. "When we look at politics in this country in a positive manner, we know that the future in this country is fantastic," they all chorus.

Fight snatch thieves, rapists and fat with karate

Lekha Siriwardene

By Ranee Mohamed 

"It is the sure way. It is the short cut and it has all the perks, for you do not have to starve yourself to stay slim," says Lekha Siriwardene, acclaimed karateka and mother of two. "I have been a karateka for 10 years and only stopped during the time I was pregnant. It has not only kept me in good shape but given me a tremendous sense of well being," pointed out Siriwardene.

Lekha Siriwardene and her spouse, the branch chief of Kyokushin karate in Sri Lanka, Shehan Nanda Siriwardene have devoted their days and nights to training men and women in karate. They vouch for the benefits that karate brings to a man or woman.

"Consider this, karate will not only fight off the fat, it will instill in you the will to go on and never give up," said Siriwardene.

We hear of women being raped and abused today and Lekha Siriwardene says that there is no way that a karateka can be harmed in any way. "I read about men snatching necklaces off women and I think to myself, if these women knew some of the good kicks of karate and experience the mental strength and confidence that karate instills in them, then there is no way that snatch thieves and rapists can have the confidence they have today when they approach women," said Siriwardene.

Kick off fat

"There are many kicks in karate and I think karate is the ideal way to kick off the excess fat especially below the waist because one has to keep on lifting the legs for those powerful kicks. Every kick in karate exercises the region below the waist. The waist twists with every kick and the fat in the stomach and the back begin to melt away," said Siriwardene.

Speaking about the rounders kick, Lekha Siriwardene said that this is an overall kick that will kick off fat from the entire downward region. "You will not believe how much this kick affects the fat that is set in the back and the thighs. This kick is poisonous to the 'tyres' in one's waist," analysed Lekha.

This woman in karate moved on to speak about the back rounders kick and the front role it plays in fighting fat. "The karate I practice is Kyokushin karate and it is not easy. But with continuous practice and training life gets better. The training makes you feel much better after a session," she said.

Lekha said that karate and dieting do not go hand in hand. "Karate calls for strenuous practice and to be active and strong one must take a balanced diet. In aerobics one can be on a slimming diet and go on with the aerobics. But in karate there can be no starvation. It is simple - eat and burn it off and I have a terrible weakness for chocolates," she revealed.

Punching bag

She went on to speak of the benefits of the punching bag. "Once the initial training is over, the aspiring karateka must move on to her punching bag. Besides it is an amazing way of losing fat especially from the back and the arms. A karateka does not concentrate on losing weight. All she will want is to improve her training and unknown to her, the fat will shed off," she said.

"A karate training will instill self confidence. It will help build up the strength of character and give a thorough training to the mind. Karate is not about fighting. It is about the training, about the self confidence and about the strength. There will be no karateka who will take the back seat, no karateka who will be nervous and no karateka who will run back. This is the strength that karate will bring. It will make you a perfect and complete human being - physically and mentally," said Lekha Siriwardene from her home in Dutugamunu Street, Kohuwala.

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