16th October, 2005  Volume 12, Issue 14

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                                    


Heading down south...


To access PDF files you need Adobe Acrobat Reader installed. If you do not have Adobe Acrobat Reader on your compute, click here to download it.

By Shezna Shums

This week's Take a Trip takes you to the south of Colombo. Closer to Colombo is Moratuwa and Panadura, both of which are quite popular for carpentry and although they are outside the City of Colombo, they are both just as busy and noisy.

The drive down south is very scenic. However, up to Panadura very little of the sea is seen; it is only beyond Panadura that one can see the clear blue sea minus the buildings.

The first stop down south will be Kalutara. Kalutara is a very large coastal settlement, nevertheless the beach in this area is very good for beach lovers and the hotels in the area have reasonable prices and are comfortable.

The Kalu Ganga or black river runs through Kalutara and during the Portuguese, Dutch and British times, Kalutara was used and controlled as a spice-trading centre. However today Kalutara is famous for its mangosteens!

One major appeal of Kalutara is the Gangatillaka Viharaya immediately south of the bridge across the Kalu Ganga. This is a famous attraction for locals and foreigners as well.

For tourists witnessing the rites at the temple can be very fascinating from the images of the Buddha being fed, devotees placing flowers and food as offerings, lighting oil lamps, tying prayers to the bo tree and even devotees pouring water into the conduits which run down to water the bo tree. 

The next stop from Kalutara is Wadduwa, which is also a very popular tourist area, because of the beaches and large number of resorts and restaurants in the area.

Here too the beaches are relatively unspoilt and it boasts very posh hotels. Closer to the bridges in the areas the beaches may be dirty owing to fish anchoring there.

Access to Kalutara or Wadduwa can be by vehicle, bus or train and the trip is relatively short and relaxing.

Staying in Kalutara and Wadduwa, is it best to book beforehand as the resorts may be highly occupied during the weekend, and finding guesthouses isn't as easy as it is up country.

The next stops past Wadduwa, is Beruwala and beyond that is Bentota.

Bentota is extremely popular among the tourists seeking total relaxation, sun and sand and especially boat safaris to view the exotic marine life and coral reefs as well as colourful bird life. Bentota could however be very tourist oriented and one may not find a total Sri Lankan way of life here.

Between Beruwala and Bentota is Aluthgama, which is also a relaxing place to stay and enjoy the beach.

For locals as well as foreigners, there are many attractions in the south. It is not only a case of lazing on the beach! Visitors can take advantage of the many water sports in the area such as diving, snorkeling, boat trips, and even water skiing.

Another tourist attraction in the south are the various ayurvedic treatments and spas available. Tourists here take advantage of herbal massages, steam baths and beauty treatments, but one should keep in mind to seek treatment from a reputed spa or a hotel spa rather than in an unknown place.

For more insights into the southern village life, one should travel further south to Induruwa and Kosgoda, where there are hotels as well as turtle hatcheries.

Beruwala too has its share of hotels and guesthouses for visitors who want to enjoy the sea and sand. It is believed that Beruwala town is where the first recorded Muslims were established during the 18th Century.

North of Beruwala is Kachimalai Mosque and this is believed to be the oldest mosque in the island. All along the south are several small caf‚s, restaurants and bars for visitors who do not want to eat hotel food all the time.

Most of the southern towns depend on industries such as fishing, coir, pottery, and antiques and mainly tourism.

Many locals have set up souvenir shops, caf‚s, bars, restaurants and even small guesthouses to meet the tourist demands.

Some of the attractions include the Galapata temple which dates back to the 12th Centary and boasts beautiful paintings and verses.

Do what you love!

Lead guitarist of Jada, Gayan is all set to make a change in the country's local music industry. With a lifelong dream of performing on stage in front of thousands of fans someday, Gayan's talent is revealed on stage when he performs with his guitar, making the crowds beg for more.

Gayan says that in order to make a mark in the music world, bands have to produce their own songs instead of copying international albums and someday he hopes to achieve international repute through the band's performance.

Here, Gayan reveals his dream, his first crush and his happiest memory.

By  Jamila Najmuddin

Q: What is your biggest dream?

A: I don't have many dreams but since I watch a lot of band concerts, I have a dream to perform in front of tens and thousands of fans someday - just like popular bands such as the Beetles, Aerosmith, etc. If I can achieve that, then I feel I have achieved everything and can die without any regrets.

Q: If you could do one thing to the person you most envy, what would it be?

A: I really don't have anyone I envy but if I were to come across a person like that in the future, I will maintain a smiling face when I'm in front of him but will think of ways to get him out of my sight.

Since I am a very calm and friendly person, I can never do anything harmful to take revenge because then I would have to live with guilt for the rest of my life.

Q: If you could kiss anyone under the mistletoe, who would it be?

A: It would be my girlfriend.

Q: Describe your first crush

A: I had my first crush a long time ago, when I was only 14 years old. I was schooling at St. Peter's College and at that time there was a girl who liked me a lot.

I was so excited because I liked the fact that a girl was interested in me. So I decided to give the whole affair thing a try and although I liked her as well, unfortunately it didn't work out.

Q: Describe the perfect date?

A: For me a perfect date is when at the end of it, you realise that you are happy and wished that the date would never end. Money does not matter as long as you have fun on the date.

Q: Three things that turn you on

A: Music, because I love it, my girlfriend and thirdly, well-done steaks from the German Restaurant.

Q: When was the last time you cried?

A: I don't cry much but the last time I cried was in August last year when my brother met with an accident. We though he was seriously hurt and before I found out that he was ok, I cried thinking that I had lost my brother. I'll never forget that day.

Q: Describe your happiest memory

A: I have plenty of happy memories but my happiest is when we won Talent Search in 2003 because that is what gave us the opportunity to become what we are today. I was so dumbfounded when I realised we had won Talent Search.

Q: If you were stranded on a desert island all alone, what three things would you want with you?

A: Someone's company and here I would prefer a boy's company because I feel that in situations like these, boys share a closer bond. I would also prefer to have lots of food and water and of course I would also choose to have transportation because I wouldn't want to be stuck there for the rest of my life.

Q: If there were one thing you would want to tell your best friend, what would it be?

A: Do what you love and love what you do!

Q: What do you hate most about the world?

A: What I hate most about the world is that sometimes life can be unfair but we've got to get used to it.

Q: What is your scariest memory?

A: I watch a lot of scary movies which scare the hell out of me but my scariest memory is when I was travelling in a three wheeler one day and the three wheeler met with an accident.

It suddenly started going only on two wheels instead of three. The driver could not stop it but luckily since he was experienced, he put his foot out and stopped it. I thought I was going to die.

Q: If you found a genie in a bottle who would grant you three wishes, what three things would you wish for?

A: My first wish would be to wish for unlimited wishes, my second wish would be to wish for unlimited money and my third would be to wish for a nice and expensive car like the Ferrari.

Q: If you had 24 hours to live, how would you live it?

A: I would spend the first 12 hours with my friends doing all the things I love doing the most and I would spend the remaining time with my family.

Q: If you could visit one place in this world, which place would you choose?

A: I would choose Venice because that's my dream destination.

Soul Sounds!

"The secret of the choir's success seems to be the fact that the girls love what they are doing"

 The Soul Sounds choir launched its website,, on October 5. Indian High Commissioner Nirupama Rao was present at the official opening of the website, which was held at The Autodrome Ltd.

Since 1996, when the choristers were part of the Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya (HFC) senior choir, the choir has been directed by the current Music Director, Soundarie David.

Over the years the choir of HFC Bambalapitiya had several well received performances, starting with the 'Carol Competition,' which they won in 1996.

Some of the other milestones include being chosen to sing for the 1997 Hollywood movie Mother Theresa - In The Name Of God's Poor starring Geraldine Chaplin. Each experience has been a unique experience to them and the choir has grown from strength to strength over the years.

The choir decided to enter the competition in Wales on the advice of Gregory Rose, a prominent conductor in England, who having heard them in Colombo thought it timely that international exposure would help them immensely in their future progress.

The choir was rewarded for its hard work when it was selected in the 'Youth Choir' category for the International Eistedfodd Festival in Llangollen, Wales. One of its choristers, Dinushka Jayawickrema, was also selected to compete in the solo vocal category.

The choir performed phenomenally, achieving first runners-up in the 'Youth Choir' category as well as the solo category at the festival. They truly did themselves and the country proud, competing against choirs from the USA, Australia, UK, Israel, Canada, Wales and others.

Wales was a defining moment for the choir, especially since most of the choristers were in the process of finalising their secondary education and leaving HFC. The members wanted to keep singing as an ensemble, instead of disbanding and going their separate ways.

They decided to come together under the name Soul Sounds with Soundarie David as music director and Jerome De Silva as artistic director. While some members of the group were unable to continue, new members from HFC have since joined the group.

The new identity as Soul Sounds was launched at its first performance at the Colombo Plaza, entitled 'Moods of Christmas' on December 18, 2004. Subsequently, they had many performances to their credit over the festive season of 2004.

In January this year the choir came together to work towards a project to raise funds for tsunami victims. They were asked to sing for a single produced by Mike Read.

They set about their task with Soundarie at the helm, a team of expatriates and friends from England as the interface with the producer, Jerome De Silva as the choir's manager / producer and Neranjan De Silva as their sound engineer / advisor.

Their effort beat all odds. The record was a major project in England. It raised millions for charity with the Sri Lankan choir Soul Sounds sharing the stage with stars like Cliff Richard, Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones, Russell Watson the illustrious contemporary tenor, Robin Gibb and Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees, Steve Winwood, Boy George, Chicago and others. The record was released throughout Europe on January 24.

Their next concert performance was staged at the Bishop's College Auditorium on August 20-21. The show aptly titled 'Celebrating Wales' was a huge success.

The choir has been listed on the website British Choirs on the Net, under 'International Choirs,' where they are listed with numerous other award-winning choirs from around the world.

Neranjan de Silva, the choir's keyboardist and audio engineer probably sums it up best: "The secret of the choir's success seems to be the fact that the girls love what they are doing. They enjoy singing and are willing to toil hard to achieve greater heights. They exhibit enormous enthusiasm, motivation, and self confidence. The girls are all characters in themselves with a lot of variety and individuality."

Glorious Pettah!

By Risidra Mendis

The desperate cries of street vendors as they compete with each other to sell their goods and the tooting of vehicle  horns makes one wonder if it is really worth one's while to shop in an area that has for many years been the hub of activity in Colombo.

But for those of us who prefer to brave the hot sun and fill our lungs with dirt and dust the famous Pettah area is the ideal place to pick up some of the best bargains in town!

Shopping in Pettah has never being an easy task as every nook and corner has something of interest for everybody. But for us shopping maniacs the time spent in this chaotic and claustrophobic area is fully worth our while.

However, Pettah is not just a shopping area; it is a so much more than that! 

The Pettah

The crush and energy of the gridlocked streets, with merchandise piled high in tiny shops and on the pavements, holds an undeniable and chaotic fascination.

However shopping in the Pettah area can become a slow and rather exhausting process, made perilous by the barrow boys and porters who charge through the crowds pulling or carrying enormous loads of goods while risking the heads and limbs of unwary tourists.

Shops in Pettah are still arranged in the traditional bazaar layout, with each street devoted to a different trade. The Front Street is full of bags, suitcases, shoes, knick knacks, ornaments and plastic flowers. 

The streets

The First Cross Street is devoted to a variety of wrist watches, wall clocks, hardware and electrical goods. The Second Cross Street, Third Cross Street and Keyzer Street are stuffed with a wide variety colourful fabric making it hard for shoppers to make their choice.

However the wares on display are fairly mundane, unless you are a big fan of spare car parts, Korean household appliances or fake Barbie dolls. But amidst the fake and imitation goods traces of older and more colourful trades survive in places, particularly on the quieter eastern side of the district.

On Sea Street shoppers will come across goldsmiths with their sparkling jewellery. On Gabo's Lane the ayurveda merchants and on Fourth Cross Street the unmistakable site of the spice merchants can be seen.

The Fourth Cross Street is usually full of colourful lorries loading and unloading great sacks of chillies that clutter the pavements, while merchants sit behind huge ledgers and piles of spices inside the picturesque little office ware houses that line the street. 

Tamil and Muslim flavour

Unlike the rest of Colombo, the district retains a strongly Tamil (the name Pettah derives from the Tamil word pettai, meaning village) and Muslim flavour.

The pure vegetarian and Muslim restaurants, quaint mosques, Hindu temples and colonial churches (many Sri Lankan Tamils are Christian rather than Hindu) are a good example.

Even the people look different in the Pettah area, with Tamil women in gorgeous saris, Muslim children dressed entirely in white and older men in brocaded skull caps, that are a refreshing change from the boring skirts and shirts which pass muster in the rest of the city. 

Colourful Sea Street

Sea Street's eye-catching selection of fluorescent Sinhala signs advertise a long line of tiny jewellers shops, usually full of local women haggling over ornate gold rings, earrings and necklaces.

Sea Street's middle section is dominated by the colourful New Kathiresan and Old Kathiresan kovils, dedicated to the war god Skanda and the starting point for the annual Vel Festival.

The temple's three gateways fill one side of the street with a great clumpy mass of Hindu statuary. The middle gateway is the most interesting, supported by six green dragons which look more like stunned frogs.

Maliban Street for weddings!

A walk down Maliban Street and you will find a wide variety of shops catering to everything you need for your wedding day from wedding cake boxes in all shapes, colours and sizes to wedding invitations in embossed, plain or printed designs in a range of colours wedding cards and wedding cake wrappers in a range of colours.

The pavements opposite the Fort Railway Station are an unmistakable site as they have a variety of goods that are ideal for shoppers of all ages. Clothes, shoes, perfumes,, electrical items, bags and even toys can be picked at bargain prices. 

The Fort Railway Station

On the south side of the Pettah stands Colombo's principal train terminus the Fort Railway Station, a rambling Victorian barn of a building. In front of the station stands a statue of Henry Steel Olcott.

Olcott spent many of his later years touring the island, organizing Buddhist schools and petitioning the British colonial authorities to respect Sri Lanka's religious traditions, though his most visible legacy is the multicolored Buddhist flag (composed of the five colours of the Buddha's halo) which he helped design, and which now decorates temples across the island.

Prince Street

A couple of blocks north of the station oil Prince Street, amongst some of the most densely packed of the Pettah's bazaars, the Dutch Period Museum occupies the old Dutch town hall, a fine colonnaded building of 1780.

It is filled with interesting displays of the Dutch colonial era such as the usual old coins, Kandyan and Dutch artifacts, military junk and dusty European furniture, plus a couple of miserable-looking waxworks of colonists dressed in full velvet and lace despite the sweltering heat.

Look out too for the picture of the devilishly good-looking Gerard Hulft, commander of the Dutch forces at the siege of Colombo in 1056, during which he was killed - his consolation was to have the nearby suburb of Hulftsdorp named after him.

The main attraction, however, is the wonderfully atmospheric mansion itself, whose groaning wooden floors and staircases, great pitched roof the idyllic garden offer a beguiling glimpse into the lifestyle in the eighteenth century.

The Jami ul-Aftar mosque

Main Street, the district's principal thoroughfare is usually a solidly heaving bedlam of vehicles, pedestrians and porters. On the far side of the road is Colombo's most eye-catching mosque, the Jami ul-Aftar, a glorious red-and-white construction of 1909 that rises above the cluttered shops of Main Street like a heavily iced cake.

Continue east from the Jami ul-Aftar past a malodorous fish market before reaching the intersection known as Kayman's Gate. The name probably refers to the crocodiles, which were once kept in the canals surrounding Slave Island and in the fort moat to deter slaves from attempting to escape. 

Kayman's Gate

Kayman's Gate is dominated by the fancifully Moorish-style Old Town Hall of 1873. Following an incarnation as a public market, the building was restored and reopened in 1984, as a defunct municipal museum.

The wrought iron market building to one side still houses various marooned pieces of industrial and municipal hardware including a steamroller, old street signs and a former van of the Colombo Public Library, which you can peak at through the railings.

Town Hall Building

The fruit and veg sellers who line the western side of the town hall building make this one of the most photogenic sections of the Pettah.

Just behind lies another half-submerged remnant of colonial times in the form of an elaborate wrought iron market building, now occupied by a miscellany of shops.

North of the Town Hall, the crowds begin to thin.

The south side of Gabo's Lane is home to a few easily missed shops selling ayurvedic ingredients and outlandish looking sacks.

Elections hoopla!

With elections coming up, I can see that all the usual hoopla has started. On the way to work, school or whatever, you'll notice huge blown up pictures of political figures, all with various slogans and so on, many of them defaced by people who disagree with this person's particular views.

It puzzles me why these people feel the need to plaster their images all over the walls of Colombo. To me, it seems an eyesore and a terrible waste of money! Perhaps they think that these posters will remind certain people to vote for them, but with the news all over the papers, the radio, the T.V., who could miss it? And besides, seeing huge blown up pictures alone isn't enough to make someone vote for a certain politician.

Of course, many people think an honest politician doesn't exist. Indeed, they're well known for appearing everywhere and making overblown promises, like spend more on education, bring down prices, improve roads and other such things, which are mysteriously forgotten once the party comes into power.

I'm sure everyone remembers the time when for some reason or other all the politicians got riled up and the supposed order of parliament descended into chaos, with people punching each other, throwing chairs, and generally behaving as though they belong in a Pettah fish market.

Is it any wonder that some people have lost faith? And when you think about it, how many teenagers bother to vote come election time? Not very many, at least not those I know! The general consensus is that "none of these people seem to do any good anyway!"

I once attended a session of parliament, where groups of people yelled and shook their fists at the opposite side. No wonder the idea of everyone working together and living in harmony after the tsunami didn't go down well! It seems to me a matter of 'the blind leading the blind!'

Whenever you turn on the TV, there's always a programme with various political figures arguing about some vital point for what seems like hours on end, and never coming to any definite conclusion. Don't they ever get tired of it all? Well, perhaps the perks of the job, money and power, is what keeps them going.

Personally I think it must be a very dull and boring job (but someone's got to do it!). The million-dollar question is, who IS right for this job?

At the moment a politician needs to have pots of money, be confrontational, able to lie at the drop of a hat, talk for hours on end about nothing in particular while still sounding knowledgeable. Many of them CLAIM to be thinking about the people. But how many of them actually are thinking about something other than themselves?

No wonder us teens have washed our hands of the whole messy business. Just ignore these nutty adults and keep living our lives! Despite high prices, poverty and so on. Well, we Lankans are a spirited bunch, that's one thing in our favour!  

©Leader Publications (Pvt) Ltd.
98, Ward Place, Colombo 7
Tel : +94-75-365891,2 Fax : +94-75-365891
email :