5th December,  2004  Volume 11, Issue 21

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                                    


Lilies for Srimani

By Ranee Mohamed 

It was hard to see those sparkling eyes closed. It was even harder to see the tears around. As Srimani Athulathmudali lay in the hallway of her home at Flower Terrace, I expected her to smile softly as she often does and walk majestically, yet with a common touch. ...... 


Review more articles

> Prices - up, up and away

> The Healing Lama

> Reckless racers...

> Diet against cancer

> Foreign Lotus - a budding problem

> A time to remember

Lilies for Srimani

Srimani: A great strength

By Ranee Mohamed 

It was hard to see those sparkling eyes closed. It was even harder to see the tears around. As Srimani Athulathmudali lay in the hallway of her home at Flower Terrace, I expected her to smile softly as she often does and walk majestically, yet with a common touch.

But there she lay today, in a turquoise blue saree, holding a few white lilies and red roses at her feet. Lilies for her purity and roses for the love she showed us all, her family and friends alike. Today she did not smile.

She did not sit perched on the edge of a chair and listen carefully - she just lay there as the tears flowed.

Srimani de Saram, who married Lalith Athulathmudali hit the headlines in her own special, gentle way - her education, her style and her beauty did not let her remain hidden from the public eye.

As the wife of the late Minister of National Security, Lalith Athulathmudali, Srimani remained the cherished wife and loving mother. She took life's trauma and was both a mother and a father to little Serala after Lalith Athulathmudali was killed on April 23, 1993.

Perfect woman

"I cannot believe that she is dead. She looks like she is sleeping," said a close friend who found it hard to control the tears. "She was an angel, a perfect woman, who cared for everyone. I have never in all my life seen her lose her temper or her cool," she said.

Nilanthi Nonis, a schoolmate of Srimani said that politics never made Srimani 'lose her head.'

"When I was the marketing manager for a foreign company, I went to see Srimani with my foreign lady boss. We were among the public as it was public day. The moment Srimani saw me, she waved at me and said hello and asked me into her husband's study and helped me. We were in school together, but I thought being in that top position she will not recognise me or may ignore me. The way she treated me on that day made me cry," said Nilanthi Nonis, crying today for Srimani Athulathmudali.

It is strange how our past makes us so happy and unhappy too - happy for what it was and unhappy for what we have lost. And that is just the way with Srimani Athulathmudali too.

"She was so full of fun and such a jolly person," recalls her friends from her school, Ladies College, Colombo 7. They recalled the time when she was a school girl, they remembered her songs and her 'always ready for fun' attitude to life as a schoolgirl.

But sometimes, life makes us cry, and for Srimani there were many tears yet despite the tears, she lived on fighting life with the determination to go on.

Director, Technique International, Gwendoline Kuhatheva who was very close to Srimani Athulathmudali from the time they were in school together said that she will always remember Srimani as the friendly, energetic and helpful person that she was.

'I will come'

"If you invited her for a function she would simply say 'I will come,' if she could not come she would always telephone and apologise. She was my first chief guest and she will always be special to me," said Kuhatheva. "She had so much faith and it showed on her face," she said.

"She could sing, be sympathetic and cope with life too. After the death of her husband, she coped," recalls Kuhatheva who went on to say that Srimani Athulathmudali was always helping people. "I remember at a time when she was not in politics too, she sent me three girls from Mount Lavinia to train them in hair dressing. She was giving these poor girls a scholarship. Srimani never stopped helping people," she said.

Srimani Athulathmudali contested the Colombo District at the August 1994 parliamentary elections and was appointed Transport, Environment and Women's Affairs Minister. She contested as the DUNF (Lalith faction) leader and succeeded in polling over 150,000 preferences in the heavily contested Colombo District.

Years later she broke away from the PA over differences with the top SLFP leadership.

Qualities of leadership

Srimani Athulathmudali showed her qualities of leadership early in life. At school she had been the secretary of the Student Christian Movement and a member of the college choir. A keen athlete, Srimani excelled in several events and was also a founder member of the Soroptimists Club.

She has worked with Grants Advertising and the Ceylon Hotels Corporation and thereafter joined UNCTAD in Geneva. She married Lalith Athulathmudali in 1982 and was blessed with Serala in 1983.

Srimani Athulathmudali will always be remembered for her softness and strength of character, for her warmth and determination to go on. She will always reign supreme as a woman who achieved much, gave much and left us in sadness - much more sadness that we would ever have imagined.

Prices - up, up and away

'People reluctant to eat',Egg prices unbelievable

By Dhananjani Silva 

Come Christmas and new year there is much activity going on - people are busy buying gifts, clothes and food for celebrations. However, buying food is not a luxury. It is essential.

Regrettably, the prices of food during the season go higher and higher and eating during the season becomes a grave problem for the ordinary man.

Constant searching

From one grocer to another they go, from one item to another they search... they pause to think. 'How can we afford to buy these things?' they ask themselves.

Does this scenario prevail only during the season? Will this tension be gone along with Christmas and new year? Amidst these queries The Sunday Leader features a few vendors in a supermarket.

Ranga, the owner of an egg stall grieves over the plight of egg sellers. We blame the egg sellers for rising prices but Ranga pointed out that they have a story too. "During the season the price of an egg has increased from about Rs. 5.25 to 5.75 where as a brown egg has increased from about Rs.5.50 to Rs.8. Also the price of a bottle of oil, which was Rs. 68 has now increased to Rs.78. Even the prices of coconuts are on the rise," he explained. He said that these price hikes are of great disadvantage not only to the consumer but also for vendors too.

People come, they ask the prices of goods but they are reluctant to buy anything as they cannot afford the prices, says Ranga.

"We hope that the prices will begin to drop after the season, but that seems unlikely. How are we to survive? How will our families live?" he asks.

Dedunu, a grocer does not differ from the rest of the shop owners as she too had a similar story to tell. "Prices began to increase from Ramazan season. During that time we thought the prices will go down when Ramazan is over, but now it has got even worse," she said.

Dedunu went on to say that when compared to last year, there is a drastic increase in the prices of items such as eggs, oil and coconuts this year.

"People come and ask the price but they hardly buy anything. Earlier towards this time of the day we have earned much. But as you see, we now happen to just sit and spend hours and hours earning nothing. Almost all the vendors in general are facing this situation," she lamented.

'No reductions'

"The government says that the prices were reduced with the budget, but we are compelled to buy from the Pettah market which offers no such price reductions. Instead they tell that they are selling the old stocks. So even the consumers question us, they come and ask us for the price reductions." she complained hoping that prices will be "normal" after the season is over.

Severe shortage

Speaking about the prices of vegetables, the vendors were of the view that although the prices of some vegetables are high it has no connection with the festive season. "Usually during this time of the year there is a shortage in some vegetables due to rain. For example; drumsticks, tomatoes and lemon," said Premaratne, a vegetable seller. "Due to the shortage they come from various other parts of the island and this results in prices going up. After January everything will be normal, says Premaratne who too complained that there are instances where he had thrown vegetables due to the decrease in the demand.

The Sunday Leader also spoke to some of the consumers to get their opinion on the food prices during the festive season. In their own words, eating during the season is 'trauma' for them.

"Just think, can we eat anything else everyday instead of rice?" asks Nandani, a shopper "What we have to buy we buy even if it is expensive. We have no other alternative," she said.

Nothing reasonable

Piyasena is another consumer who was of the view that nothing is reasonable. "Tell me what is reasonable?" he queried. "Can we survive without eating just because it is the season?" he complains. "Even during the rest of the year the prices of food are really expensive and the season only worsens the matter," he scoffs.

Meanwhile Milani, a housewife went on to say that since the prices of food are expensive during the season they have to cut down on other expenses. "Eating has become an agony but it is a must. So even with difficulty we somehow manage to buy what is essential like rice, vegetables and coconuts - but lesser quantities. What is the meaning of this life? It is suffering and anguish. We Sri Lankans deserve a better life," she said.

The Healing Lama

By Marianne David 

The Gangchen Lama - also known as the Healing Lama - was here in Sri Lanka last week. A charismatic and energy filled monk, the Gangchen Lama was in his element, healing, at the Medicina Alernativa World Congress.

Born in Western Tibet in 1941, the Gangchen Lama was recognised as a reincarnate lama healer at a very early age and enthroned at Gangchen Choepeling monastery at the age of five. When he reached the age of 12, he received the 'Kachen' degree - usually conferred after 20 years of study.

Speaking at the 42nd Medicina Alternativa World Congress, the Lama said, "This is the time we have to deeply reflect on our contributions and how we, as a community, will address the plight of so many people around this planet, both in the developed and developing countries. We must look for new, more effective and lasting solutions so that we improve human and natural environments we live in."

World peace

The Gangchen Lama is deeply committed to world peace and his activities revolve around the achievement of world peace.

A doctor in Buddhist philosophy and holistic medicine, the Healing Lama founded the Lama Gangchen World Peace Foundation (LGWPF) and was also an initiator of the United Nations Spiritual Forum for World Peace.

"We have learned that we cannot rely on material means to find solutions to human problems. Of course, material means are important, and in some cases, indispensable. However, they will never become sufficient to address the deep-rooted issues. We have to look for solutions that will work everywhere, including the poorest and most remote areas in the world," the Lama said.

The holder of an ancient and unbroken lineage of Tantric Masters dating from the time of Shakyamuni Buddha, the Gangchen Lama's 'Ngalso Tantric Selfhealing' is based on the Buddha's teaching.

In 1994, he founded Peace Radio 'La Radio della Pace' and Lama Gangchen Peace Publications, in order to broadcast and spread positive information about inner and world peace education, self-healing, self-responsibility and self-morality; natural therapies, environmental awareness and inter-religious cooperation.

According to the Lama, people are totally interdependent and interconnected in physical and spiritual ways, which poses a challenge when some people enjoy decent health when a majority does not; when we have a few countries at peace while many others suffer from great conflict; when a minority has the means to address their everyday needs while more than half of the people do not even have access to water and sanitation; and when the market economy seems to dictate the fate of humanity on both material and spiritual fronts.

He believes that human interdependence is present everywhere and is a major reason for thinking in holistic and all-embracing ways, and that human wellness in the physical body will be short-lived if it does not include economic and spiritual wellness.

Spiritual diseases

"There are many ways oneself or a given society could become ill. Spiritual diseases are spreading all over the world when we destroy peace, augment suffering, practice negativity, expand our personal and social ego, etc. The diseases of the spirit are known to manifest in illness of our bodies and minds and are clearly essential to the state of being now and in the future, even including future lives. These diseases go beyond our immediate material existence and must be addressed in special ways," he said.

The Gangchen Lama has worked as a reincarnate lama healer among the Tibetan communities in Nepal, India and Sikkim, during which time he saved the lives of many people and was named private physician to the royal family.

In 1981, he established his first European centre, Karuna Choetsok in Lesbos, Greece, where he also planted a Bo tree in the 'Buddha Garden.'

Since 1982 he has travelled extensively, both healing and teaching in many countries around the world such as Italy, Spain, Greece, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, England, Ireland, USA, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Nepal, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Mongolia, China, Tibet, Russia, and Buriyatia.

Lama's pilgrimages

The Gangchen Lama has led many pilgrimages to some of the most important holy places of Buddhist tradition, and has also visited many holy sites in Europe.

"As we should not separate mind and body, we should also not separate mind, body and spirit. Our spiritual reality is at the roots of all we do in our lives, including our professions and daily practices. It is not possible to heal or be healthy if we are disconnected from the laws of nature," he said.

The Lama asserted that every aspect of human destiny cannot be left to governments and that spiritual leaders should also be heard and respected.

Explaining further he said, "Material welfare is only one aspect of our lives. Going only for material welfare will result in societies that might be materially rich but will, in the end, be spiritually poor. Human spirit is the natural transformational factor of material welfare."

Reckless racers...

By Shezna Shums 

Car racing is a sport that keeps the specta-tors on edge with excitement and anxiety -  with the talent of the drivers of these sport cars causing hearts to race in turn.

Racing has been a sport in Sri Lanka for a very long time and has been held in various parts of the country such as Anuradhapura, Nuwara Eliya, Katukurunda, Pannala etc.

Being a sport, the order of the day would be to compete and enjoy the game. The fun and happiness is both for the competitors and spectators and racing does become fun when the rules and regulations of the sport are adhered to.

Fair play

However, when competitors drive recklessly, with no consideration for the safety of other drivers, nor respecting the rules and regulations of the sport, it simply loses its value in terms of entertainment and becomes a dangerous 'playing around' with life. In sports , fairplay is fundamental, this is true of racing as it is for any other sport.

Spectators say that this is what happened at last Sunday's Talduwa Rally Cross, where the alleged reckless driving of one competitor compelled other competitors to even write to the sports and youth affairs minister, that a full inquiry be carried out into this case. The Sri Lanka Association of Racing Drivers is carrying out an investigation into the matter.

Last Sunday at the Talduwa Rally Cross second event of the Mazda/Lazer Class 1500 CC, reckless driving resulted in a competitor's car being knocked in the rear and being airborne for a while before it came crashing down.

The driver is yet under medical observation. He had a cut in his arm, suffered an injury to one eye and has bruises, while his car has been condemned and his helmet squashed so much, that now only his fist can fit into it.

In a letter written to the Sports and Youth Affairs Minister, Jeewan Kumaratunga a Racing Car Driver, Dilshard Hamdoon explains that when his vehicle was negotiating the third corner of competition, another competitor who was behind him, suddenly knocked the rear of his vehicle. Hamdoon's car still has paint marks of this competitor's car, he alleges.

"Owing to the sudden impact, I lost total control of my car and both the vehicle and I were thrown out of track and having hit an embankment, the car toppled," said Hamdoon.

Car a wreck

The car is wreck and the driver's seat is disjoined; however the driver was saved because of the safety belts and protective gear.

He had also brought this incident to the prompt notice of the Chairman, Organising Committee, Richard De Zoysa and the clerk of the course, Anthony Tranchell.

Furthermore, Hamdoon notes that even after being involved in the racing scene for such a long time, he fails to understand how a corner martial could turn a blind eye to specifics, especially when the very life of a competitor is under threat due to reckless driving.

Doctors have also informed Hamdoon that his life was in danger due to the impact.

What Hamdoon insists on is that a panel of professionals  carry out an impartial inquiry into this incident. He said that the incident may have cost him his life or serious injuries. He says that his car is a wreck and pointed out that such incidents not only endangers the competitors but also the spectators.

Intentional act

Hamdoon also accuses a competitor of intentionally banging on his car.

In Hamdoon's letter to the Sports and Youth Affairs Minister it is noted that this particular competitor was involved in four similar disruptive incidents on the same day in question with other competitors - H. A. U. Perera, D. Jayasinghe and I. Dias.

Emphasising further, he said that if such reckless drivers are allowed to continue in this manner on the racing tracks, it will have a devastating impact on the sport, which will eventually discourage many professional competitors from participating in future meets.

Stressing that this matter should not be swept under the carpet he warns that another incident of this nature in the future may result in more tragic results.

Hamdoon stresses that if reckless drivers are allowed to participate in races in the future, this would certainly be a positive threat to the image and good name of the sport and the spectators.

Diet against cancer

Cancer is currently one of the leading causes of death in Sri  Lanka. In USA, cancer is the second leading cause of death and more than 1500 people die of cancer every day in that country. The top four cancers in USA are lung, colorectal, breast and prostrate cancer.

Cancer actually consists of many diseases and these differ in the types of cells affected and different factors contribute to cancer development depending on the cancer itself. For example; factors leading to skin cancer differ from those leading to breast cancer. Similarly treatment of different types of cancer often differ.

Cancer essentially represents abnormal and uncontrollable division of cells. If untreated or if not treatable, cancer leads to death. Most cancers take the form of tumours (spontaneous new tissue growth that serves no physiological purpose).

A tumour can be benign (innocent) such as a wart and malignant like most of lung cancers. The term malignant tumour and malignant neoplasm are synonymous with cancer.

Benign tumours are made up of cells similar to the surrounding normal cells and are usually enclosed in a membrane that prevents them from penetrating other tissues. A common example is fibroadenoma of the breast. Benign tumours are dangerous if their physical presence interfres with normal function. Thus benign brain tumours sometimes can cause illnesses and death if it blocks blood flow to the brain.

A few cancers such as Leukaemia, a form of cancer found in white blood cells do not produce a mass but are still malignant in view of rapid and inappropriate growth and are classified as a form of cancer.

Both genetic and lifestyles are potent forces that influence the risk of development of cancer. Certain cancers such as breast and colon cancer tend to occur in some families more than others. Thus persons in high risk families are said to be genetically predisposed to certain types of cancers. Only five to 10 percent of all cancers can be explained by inheriting a cancer gene.

Thus, lifestyle is also a critical factor in most forms of cancer as evidenced by the variation in cancer rates from country to country. In fact diet is likely to account for more than 40% of all cancers. Vegetarians are less prone to bowel, prostrate and breast cancer compared to meat eaters.

Cancer initiation

This is the stage in the process of cancer development that begins with alterations in DNA, the genetic material of the cell. This may cause the cell to no longer respond to normal physiological control surrounding the cells. Alteration of DNA can occur within a few minutes to days. Among the factors that initiate cancer development are radiant energy, certain chemical agents and biological agents. In addition some metabolites that occur in the body can contribute to harmful substances. For example certain products of liver metabolism can cause cancer.

There are certain tumour genes called tumour suppressors which may step in to prevent the abnormal growth, slowing cell tumour. However, if mutations cause the tumour suppressors to fail, the block against cancer development fails.

During this stage in the cancer process, cell division increases, decreasing the time available for repair enzymes to act on altered DNA to develop and grow. Anything that increases the rate of cell division decreases the chances that repair enzymes and can no longer delete the changes in the DNA.

Compounds that increase cell division are oestrogens, alcohol and probably high intake of dietary fat. Bacterial infections in the stomach are also suspected agents such as Helicobacter pylori.

Studies in experimental animals have revealed that some substances can inhibit this promotion stage. Compounds present in cruciferous vegetables, onions, garlic and citrus fruits as well as vitamins A, vitamin D and calcium are thought to do so. Cancer experts agree that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is a key cancer preventive measure.

Diet and cancer

Cancer quackery aside a nutritious diet as well as other factors related to lifestyle can reduce the risk of cancer initiation and promotion. Some food constituents may contribute to cancer development whereas others have a protective effect.

Obesity promotes cancer. In one study, people with the highest calorie intake had a 70% risk of getting colon cancer than the control group. When animals are fed diets high in fat or total energy they tend to experience more cancers especially in the colon and breast.

In USA, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) believes that there is a sufficient link between dietary fat and cancer to encourage to reduce the fat intake. It recommends initially decreasing the dietary fat to about 30% or less of total calories if the person is at a high risk of cancer.

Many nutrients may have cancer inhibitory properties. Those anticarcinogens include antioxidants, certain phytochemicals and dietary fibre.

The antioxidant activity of vitamin C and vitamin E prevent formation of nitrosamines in the gastrointestinal tract thus preventing formation of potent carcinogens. Vitamin E also protects unsaturated fatty acids from damage by free radicals. Overall carotenoids vitamin E, vitamin C and Selenium function as or contribute to antioxidant system in the body. These antioxidant systems help to prevent the alteration of DNA by electron seeking compounds.

In addition, phytochemicals from fruits and even tea block cancer development in some cases. Numerous studies suggest fruits and vegetable foods are normally rich in carotenoids and vitamin plus dietary fibre and vitamin E. Adequate vitamin D intake is suspected of reducing breast, colon and prostrate cancer.

A diet that follows the Food Guide Pyramid, so that the fruits, vegetables, whole grain, low-fat and non fat dairy products and some plant oils are eaten daily is a rich source of anticarinogens.

It is likely that all of these foods have a 'cocktail' effect in that no one food is likely to prevent cancer alone.

Insoluble fibre decreases transit time so that the stool is in contact with the colon wall for a shorter period of time thus reducing contact with carcinogens.

Soluble fibre may bind bile acids and may thus block some recycling of these by the body. Bile acids are believed to contribute to cancer risk by irritating the colon wall, in turn increasing cell divisions. In addition dietary fibre especially the insoluble fibre may increase binding and excretion of sex hormones testosterone and the oestrogen from within the intestiness.

Some studies show that calcium decreases the growth of cells in the colon; therefore it probably decreases the risk of genetically altered cells developing into cancer. Calcium may also bind free fatty acids and bile in the colon; so they are less apt to interact with cells localised there and induce cancer.

So start by making sure that your diet is moderate in energy and fat and that you consume many fruits and vegetables, whole grain, beans, some fish and low fat or non fat milk products. In addition, remain physically active, avoid obesity, stop smoking completely, limit intake of animal fat and saturated, smoked and nitrate-cured foods.

Contemporary Nutrition by Gordon M. Wardlaw.
- Dr. D. P. Athukorale

Foreign Lotus - a budding problem

Nil manel plant growing from leaves, Bangkok Lotus and Lotus

By Risidra Mendis 

Will the introduction of a foreign Lotus to the market result in the local Lotus losing its value and place in the country? This is the question asked by environmentalists and nature lovers who have noticed a steady growth and demand for foreign Lotus and water lilies in the country.

Bangkok Lotus and Water Lilies are sold from Rs. 500 upwards by plant sellers. However, the question as to how these plants were brought into the country still remains a mystery.

According to the Plant Protection Act (PPA) and the Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance (FFPO), an import permit is needed to bring in any aquatic plant (including Water Lilies and Lotus) to the country.

According to the National Plant Quarantine Service (NPQS) leaflet No. 1, it is illegal to bring any aquatic plant into the country

Speaking to The Sunday Leader, a high ranking official from the Seed Certification and Plant Protection (SCPP) section, Agriculture Department (AD), said import permits for aquatic plants have not been issued by the NPQS or the SCPP. "Therefore it is illegal for foreign Lotus and Water Lilies to be sold in the market," says the AD official.

According to the official, plant research stations are allowed to import these plants for research purposes only. Prior to November 1 it was the NPQS that issued import permits for plants. At present it is the SCPP that issues the import permits.

Strict laws

"We implement these strict laws to safeguard our valuable local plants. There have been cases in the past where due to the introduction of aquatic plants to the country many of our natural plants have been destroyed.

"A good example is the water hyacinth brought from India over 50 years ago and the salvinia. Due to its rapid growth the water hyacinth destroyed valuable vegetation in many parts of the country and continues to be a menace," the official said.

According to this official, if aquatic plants are illegally brought into the country, it is up to the Customs Department to detect them at Katunayake. The official added that if their officers detect plant sellers selling foreign aquatic plants without an import permit, they could confiscate the plants, according to the PPA.

There are three types of local Water Lilies in Sri Lanka. In Sinhala they are referred to as olu (white) the manel (magenta with yellow in the middle) and the nelum (pink and white colours).

"The manel is undoubtedly the most popular among the local variety for its colour and because it blooms from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. - almost the whole day. It is also the national flower of Sri Lanka," says a water plant expert.

The foreign Water Lilies belong to the Nymphaea family while the foreign Lotus belongs to the Nelumbo family.

According to the expert, around 20 to 30 varieties of foreign Water Lilies are sold in Sri Lanka - colours include pink, white, dark pink, purple, red, light blue, dark blue, yellow and magenta among others.

Varieties of foreign Lotuses with colours such as white pink, and the white multi petals are also available in the country. These Lotuses include day bloomers and night bloomers. The night bloomers are the pink, white and magenta and start blooming at 10 p.m. and close at 11 a.m. The day bloomers include white, purple and white combination, white and pink combination and the nil manel. They bloom from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"In comparison, the local manel is in demand as opposed to the Bangkok Lilies. However, there are people who buy the foreign lilies for their dark and attractive colours. People who want to grow Water Lilies in pots have to buy the Bangkok Lilies as most of the local plants cannot be grown in pots, except for the manel. Local Lilies have more petals than the foreign Lilies and are hardier than the Bangkok flowers," says the water plant expert.

According to the plant expert, many of the local varieties are not sold at plant sales.

Also speaking to The Sunday Leader, former President, Dehiwala Mount Lavinia Horticultural Society, Sunila Rajawasan said no foreign Lotus can be compared to the local varieties. "I personally feel that the local varieties are much prettier than the foreign ones. Our local Water Lilies are known as siyapath, meaning that they have a100 petals. If you look at a pink or white local Lotus and a Bangkok Lotus you will notice the difference," says Rajawasan.

According to Rajawasan, local Lotuses grow in colours of blue, pink, white and yellow and cannot be compared to the foreign Lotus.

Think local

"Through personal experience I can say that the foreign Lotus does not last as long as the local ones. Just because a Lotus is foreign it does not mean that you should embrace it. We must always think local," Rajawasan said.

Meanwhile, Landscape artist, Gayan Abeysinghe said the need for foreign or local Lotus depends on the client's requirement. "However, when doing garden layouts and landscaping, I always recommend the local Lotus to my clients," says Abeysinghe.

According to Abeysinghe, as far as he knows, most of the landscapers do not use foreign Lotus when designing a garden. "I do not know what kind of adverse effects the foreign Lotus has on the environment, but I feel we should promote the local varieties. Why go for foreign varieties when we have so many beautiful local varieties?" asks Abeysinghe.

"She cries when she laughs because it hurts." 

A time to remember

By Ranee Mohamed 

This is the festive season - a time of glitter and gifts. But as we make merry, among us, there are thousands of people in tears. Some are in want, some in heartbreak.

"Help me to save my daughter," pleads the singer who has a doctorate in music, Shiran Ratnayake.


 His five year old daughter, Tharushi Geethika Divyangani Ratnayake has been afflicted with a tumour in the brain and after surgery, her eyelid dropped as a nerve had been damaged during the surgery. Today, this little girl cannot see. "She cries when she laughs because she says the cuts hurt. I wish there was something we can do for our eldest girl," says Shiran and Lakmali Ratnayake hugging their two little daughters.

There are many things that this couple want to give their children but they do not have the means to do so. Shiran Ratnayake has no job. He sings in hotels during the evenings and brings the money home to give his children a square meal. They live in house no. 38 Mallikarama Road, Ratmalana, down the road by the side of the Maliban biscuit factory in Ratmalana. It is an abode given to them by a sympathiser in England.

Help the helpless

As we shop around for toys and goodies, our thoughts ought to go out to children in want, children who cry out for milk and food and children who cry out in pain, like little Tharushi and Yoshita. As human beings we ought to be able to feel the pain and the heartbreak of parents like Shiran and Lakmali who are helpless yet continue to scramble in their search for medical treatment, food and comfort for their innocent offspring.

Medication for little Tharushi costs over Rs. 800. Given half a teaspoon to prevent convulsions, this medication along with eye drops are very important to the Ratnayakes. But however important it may be - they need to have the money to buy them. 

Mother of nine on the streets...

It is night time in December - beside the Arpico supermall in Dehiwala sits a woman with her young ones. She is young Shanthi with her nine children. They are here at night because they are frightened of the authorities who may take the children away.

"I cannot let that happen because I love them so much. My husband tries to sell balloons and bring money home to feed them, but as you know with today's cost of living how can one live by selling balloons alone," asks Shanthi.

No gifts, no goodies

The children cling on to their mother and she hugs them close in turn. The cold December winds and the lights in the city streets all tell them that it is a time for gifts and goodies, but not for them. They are just for them to see.

"I try to collect money to- buy some food for the night. Sometimes we buy one packet of rice and sometimes two," said Shanthi.

Then this young mother and her children take a bus to their home at 41/12 Francisco Lane, Moratuwella, Moratuwa. Their hut is situated down a little pathway between Enex Board and Anura Cushions in Moratuwella.

The innocent children continued to look on as we crossed the road on that glittering night.

As the days go by there will be more glitter and more laughter. But laughter and happiness has a greater meaning when it is shared - with the poor and the helpless, with those in heartbreak and tears.

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