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2nd April, 2006  Volume 12, Issue 38

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                                    

Review

Ajith Bandara  - From sawdust to confetti...

By Ranee Mohamed

Twenty nine year old Ajith  Bandara from Ahasyanapitiya,  Mawathagama, Kurunegala is comparable with the thousands of young men in worn out shorts, who ride their bicycles in a panic on any....

More......


Review more articles

> Enabling environment for all

> 'I keep asking, why was she taken?'

> The gift of motherhood from ayurveda

> D.S. Senanayake College - unity in diversity

> Sri Lankans are always late (....Balder dash)

> Making my wonderful Easter Eggs ( ....Perth Diary)


Ajith Bandara  - From sawdust to confetti...

By Ranee Mohamed

Twenty nine year old Ajith  Bandara from Ahasyanapitiya,  Mawathagama, Kurunegala is comparable with the thousands of young men in worn out shorts, who ride their bicycles in a panic on any morning.

For the Sirasa Superstar of today has been riding a bicycle frantically every morning in order to get to work by 7 a.m. Clad in his shorts, with his lunch tied to the handle,  Ajith Bandara to whom the whole nation seems to be reaching out today, rode one kilometre and reached his workplace, the furniture shop tired and in a sweat, everyday  of his life, for as long as he can remember.

"Everyday when I wake up, I dread to go to work. On Monday mornings, it was even more difficult to drag myself to the bicycle. My job involved hard work with my hands," said this very down-to-earth superstar.

The hands of this young carpenter bear testimony to the battle he had with wood- carrying them, sawing them, carving them, painting and polishing them to a shine. His eyes speak the unspoken traumas, of  poverty and hardship, his red-rimmed eyes of pain, tears and tiredness.  And despite his newly acquired clothes, young Ajith Bandara seems to be having a hard time settling into the glamourous life of a superstar; for suffering and  hardwork had carved its way into the life of this youngest child in the family many years ago.

"When my father died after a chest pain, my mother, two brothers and three sisters were all left alone. I was 10 years old and I cried the most. I could not bear to live without my father. He was a carpenter and his death meant that we had to starve,"recalled Bandara with tears in his eyes. But soon Ajith Bandara found a foster father in his older brother A. M. Dissanayake ,who was a mason. Today Dissanayake works on contracts, doing masonry work on houses.

Happy as a family

"My brother spent money on me and brought me clothes. We were happy as a family, but we were always in want," said Bandara.

When asked of the happiest times as   a family he said "It was the times when my mother used to serve hot rice and pol sambol." When asked of his favourite food, the superstar spoke of the essentially Sri Lankan pol sambol. "I like to eat mushroom, polos and potatoes. I do not like to eat bread for I have always eaten  rice, somehow, with something that was available," he said.

He spoke with relish of his mother's cooking. "My mother is a good person. She loves me and has given me the best of food and  care and the only time she hit me was`when I refused to go to school one day. I was the youngest and she could not bear to let me out of her sight," said Bandara. "I know that with six children in the family, my mother has had to make many sacrifices often foregoing  her food for our sake. Many a time, the food left was not enough for her   and often I have  seen the pot empty  after we all ate," said Bandara with tears in his eyes.

Hard life

As Ajith Bandara grew he had had to look after himself. He had to find some work to do. "Life was hard for me. I woke up at 5 a.m. every morning and started my day with a glass of water," said Sirasa Superstar Ajith Bandara, the woodcarver and polisher, who today draws greater crowds than a politician or a film star.

His thatched home is half built; with virtually no furniture. Strange, for it is the house of a young man who spent his days and nights making furniture for other people at Bandara Weerakone Furnishers at Mawathagama.

Ajith Bandara's love for music had begun at a very young age.  He told us of the fight he had with his older sister one day when he was 10 years old, because she had returned home one night leaving him alone at a neighbour's house where they had gone to watch TV. "It was so dark and I was  frightened. I kept thinking of the songs and the music and then ran home through the darkness," said the superstar. Soon Bandara with difficulty had acquired  a small black and white television so he could watch TV at home.

I started to sing with a group called 'Flowers' during my spare time. But I had neither a musical background nor any training. The only music I learnt was what I learnt in my school - Pothubowa Vidyalaya in Mawathagama. This is why I felt my mouth and throat go dry when I entered the venue at Habarana when I came to sing my first song for the Sirasa Superstar contest. I woke up that day at 5 a.m. and got there early. There were many people, but I felt some confidence. I never had the slightest vision of me becoming the Sirasa  Superstar," explained Bandara.

'Wife's luck'

"It was my wife who sent in the application. We are married for eight months now and Niluka is from Polpithigama. It was her luck that brought me here," he said with tears in his eyes.

"Today I have many fans, and get a lot of fan mail. It is Niluka who answers them. I have to only sign them. There are many young girls who write love letters to me; but I consider  Niluka my wife, precious. What attracted me to Niluka was her innocence. Her face is very vividly etched in my mind," said the superstar in a super confession about his love for his wife Niluka. "When I wake up, it is Niluka who brings me a glass of water. It is Niluka who packs my lunch. It is Niluka who is always up before me so that my food and my clothes will be ready for me to go to work on time. We have had hard times and she suffered with me.  She was always with me - and today, too. I will revere her and attribute all this popularity I enjoy to her, for if she had not sent the application I would never have got here," said Bandara.

Superstar Ajith Bandara says that his cheeks are touched, sometimes pinched and his whole head enveloped in embraces when he is flocked by fans. " Some of them cry and I want to cry too. It seems like the whole country is in a frenzy.  We get about  20 to 30 visitors to our house and we cook food and serve them drinks to the best of our ability. But our house is small, it is not enough to house all the people who turn up there,"  explained Bandara.

Ajith Bandara dreams of having a bigger house; he dreams of having a successful and happy life with his wife and his mother.  "I hate people who are crafty, I hate people who cheat. To me leading a honest life is the utmost priority in life,"  said the Superstar.  There are many rumours about me having political affiliations; but the truth is that I  do not belong to any political party. I am a simple person who loves to live freely," said Bandara who added that he had received threats to his life if he becomes a superstar.

"I know about the sufferings of the poor in this country; I know their desperation and their anguish. I know what hunger is. This is because I am poor. I wish I could do something for the poor.  I wish I could do something for the suffering animals," said the superstar.

Superstar Ajith Bandara spoke of the people who worked as labourers clearing the jungle in his village. "They earn a day's wage and try to eat something and live.  I know their pain, I know their suffering because I am a labourer too," pointed out the Superstar.

But today a television station has changed the life of this labourer. His hands are beginning to heal and so is his mind.  There seems to be a song in the heart of this young man as he gets into a car and is driven around. "I have rented a car to get here to Colombo.  My mother is ill and when she has to get around too I use this car," said the superstar who says he knows how to drive a vehicle but never in his wildest dreams imagined that he would ever be able to drive a car.

This is the story of Ajith Bandara who  tried to concentrate on his job at the furnishers;  but his voice came out loud and clear.  It changed his destiny.  It not only gave him popularity and confidence  but one million rupees as prize money in appreciation of a great superstar.

Today, this young woodcarver and polisher is being followed by thousands of  fans wherever he goes.  Today, Ajith Bandara does not carry wood anymore, he does not carve wood either, for Sirasa TV has carved a whole new future for this poor young man, who if not  for the TV station, would be among wood and sawdust instead of fans and confetti.

"I am happy with what has been bestowed upon me" - Malith Perera

Malith Perera, the contestant for Sirasa Superstar title who came close to winning; but ended up in second place said that he will happily accept the position he has been placed in.

Malith Perera who met with an automobile accident during the time of the contest, however entered the show again. The National Hospital too was crowded with fans of  this young man.

"I have become immensely popular after the show. I have to sit for my Advanced Level examination this year but I have not decided whether I will sit the exam or not because both the Superstar contest and my accident put me behind in my schoolwork," said Perera.

Speaking of  getting  second place, Malith Perera said :  "I love Sirasa TV. I was able to achieve this position so soon because of Sirasa. If the fans love Ajith more than they love me, then I too will love him,"  said Perera. 


Enabling environment for all

Dr.  Ajith  C. S.  Perera (6th from left and in the centre) leading the discussion. Others in the resource panel are (from left):  S. Skandakumar,  Viji Jegarasasingam Dr. A. R. L. Wijesekera,  Saliya Wickremasuriya,   K. V. Dharmasiri,  Lal Fonseka, Chandra  Jayaratne,  J. K. Lankathilake,  Renton de Alwis   and  S. Kaleiselvam

By Chinthaka Fernando

He is a  Ph. D. qualified chemical technician, internationally qualified test cricket umpire and a writer, labelled as differently - able but equally able on par with anyone else, though confined to a wheelchair.  Dr. Ajith C. S. Perera has been campaigning for more than a decade to win the yet denied human right of `access by all to man-made environments.'

Slow movers

"Fifty percent of the total population are slow movers. That is made up ofthe elderly,pregnant mothers, mothers with small children, blind wheelchair users and other disabled people. 

Remember: Majority of all these people are still able productive citizens, but denied of opportunities tooptimise their true innate potential, because the public buildings in living environments are designed without taking into accountthe inevitable drop in human ability," he said.

But these people are silently battling to avoid being excluded from society.

Everyone it seems has forgotten that the deterioration of human ability is inevitable.

You and your closest could be the next person to get in to this 'excluded half' of society.

These were the stunning revelations made at an action oriented education programme organised by Idiriya, a registered non profit group of voluntary professionals working on the mission - 'Enabling Environment For All.'  The vision and the leadership to this mission is given by Dr. Ajith C. S. Perera , a paraplegic and  wheel chair user himself .

Most of the important places in the country cannot be accessed by all. Even the five star hotels and internationally acclaimed venues too it seems have assumed that all people have the same potential.

"Even to the BMICH we had to be carried like babies. That's not what we need. We need to go there freely,"  Perera said.

He had made a request from the Tourist Board to introduce new criteria called 5+ instead of the existing five star. He suggests the 5+ status  be given to the hotels that could be accessed by all. Dr. Ajith Perera is optimistic about the out come and is awaiting a reply.

Basic requirements

"The doors and toilets should be widened, must remove unnecessary steps on the ground, should build ramps in places where stair cases are," said Dr. Perera, explaining the basic building requirements.

He also said that "the quality of living you enjoy would greatly depend upon how accessible, accommodating and user-friendly the living environment around you happens to be."

The emphasis of this programme was 'Result Oriented Decision Making.'

Packed invitees

Hence the target group of  invitees that packed the venue hotel Taj Samudra , was made up of chief executives and senior managers of leading business establishments and professionals from almost all organisations in the building construction industry.

The panel of eight speakers was very insightful. They made certain that every one present was convinced that the needs of all humans are the same.

And when human ability deteriorates it is inevitable  that every one of them needs environments designed and built to include all of them.

Another vital factor that came up there was the crucial need of the country - to stop the waste of human potential and utilise that for corporate success.

"The private sector realised that every customer is a business opportunity and at times this opportunity cannot be missed. They felt that excluding any customer due to poor building design and short sighted attitude towards the people should be halted right now," said the organiser Dr. Perera.

They also realised a rapidly increasing sector of elderly, wheel chair and white cane users give rise to enormous opportunities for businesses such as the care service industry. Enabling Environments offer a world of opportunities and brings a wide range of benefits to everyone in society according to Dr. Perera.

Access for all

Designing environments that are accessible for all would increase opportunities for gainful employment, recreation, shopping, banking, travel and education.

They reduce poverty and minimise unwanted dependencies; as innate human potential and enhance self reliance. They prevent a waste of precious human potential and become a boon to enhance productivity, according to Dr. Perera.

"For everyone present it was most certainly a profitable evening spent as an investment. This programme made everyone  realise how  important it is for all of us to contribute in whatever small or big measure to design an environmen for our society, that would be common and user-friendly for all human beings," he observed.

Social exclusion through man-made construction and lack of proper understanding leads to a series of problems.

Enabling Environment For All offers a realistic and achievable solution and brings added bonuses for all as discussed earlier.

"Therefore it is the duty and responsibility of everyone as their corporate social  responsibility to recognise and provide assistance to dedicated volunteers, like at Idiriya to make their mission a success and thereby for everyone of us to enjoy it's rich profit," Dr. Perera said.

Initiator of the programme

Dr. Ajith C. S. Perera is a product of the University of Colombo. He is a fellow of several internationally recognised bodies. He is academically and professionally qualified in many a field, cricket and analytical chemistry both here and in England.

He is highly experienced in the fields of quality assurance, technical services, training and education with two reputed multinational pharmaceutical companies. That has given him the administrative skills he acquired over 12 years .

He was also a senior test cricket umpire trained and qualified in England as an instructor,  scorer and examiner. His stupendous efforts even as a paraplegic saw him gain wide international recognition in writing and publishing the books - The Golden Era Of SL Cricket (1999) and Thinking Cricket (2002) - a training manual for everyone.

The success Idiriya has enjoyed to date is a distinct achievement by Dr. Perera .


Perth Diary

Making my wonderful Easter Eggs

I guess my folly is in never knowing when to quit. Or perhaps when to just say no to some of the ideas I come up with.

Easter is possibly several weeks away, probably not. I don't even know what exact date Easter Sunday is going tobe  this year. But I am making Easter Eggs.

Most people are looking at me and asking me whether I am painting them. No, I am actually making them. Out of chocolate. That wonderful thing that the Mayans first made out of cocoa beans that everyone drugs themselves on for the endorphin rush.

Why paint?

Why would I bother painting eggs? What would I do with them afterwards? Use them for interior decor? What do people do with the painted hollow egg variety other than have an egg hunt which is more fun when you do it with the chocolate variety. Last year we did have a chocolate egg hunt down at the boyfriend's parents' farm in Mount Barker, south of Perth.

 His mom hid little wrapped up chocolate eggs in the bushes and trees and the idea was that boyfriend, boyfriend's sister and I had to run around trying to find as many as possible though we weren't allowed to eat them till all had been accounted for at the end. Being that the prize was chocolate - I think I did get a bit competitive - in the end,we just shared them all out.

This year, none of us are going to be able to be down at the farm - at least not yet anyway. Whether the egg hunt would be on or not, I am upto my elbows in chocolate, trying my best to get it to cooperate. It's easy enough to work chocolate - the whole problem lies in whether what you want to end up with could be achieved with what you have. I was going to make eggs that had a lattice or basket weave structure so you could see through all the little eggs inside but it was too fragile to even come out of the mould in one piece.

The next variation was two solid halves but this ended up very patchy - the moulds came together in one package but the halves wouldn't fit neatly together. The only good thing about everything so far is that if you make a mistake you could  remelt the chocolate down and start again. That's an especially good thing if you are running low on supplies because your boyfriend comes and gorges himself silly on everything you need when you aren't looking.

What to do now?

Now what I have are half shelled eggs with little tiny eggs in them and one little rabbit peeking out through the packaging that wraps it all. I also have chocolate on every surface and now I keep getting irritated everytime someone opens the fridge in case the chocolate melts. I don't know why I made them so early before Easter - what am I going to do till then? Gingerly open the little fridge and balance and move everything as fast and as gently as possible so I don't break anything! 

I have made my mind up - after all who is going to complain if Easter and the associated and expected chocolate that goes along with it, happens to come early?  I am definitely not going to keep them till possible easter egg hunt time. Five minutes in a bush outside and we'd have something to close to a Willy Wonka creation but not quite as edible.

The only drawback might be that all the lucky recipients may think this a damn good deal and hence might want their Christmas presents in September.

- Marisa Wikramanayake


D.S. Senanayake College -unity in diversity

 

Founder Principal R. I. T. Alles and Principal Ashoka Senani Hewage

Corridors of learning.

THE school playground is not only where you got your first knee scratch, it's also where you first learnt to interact with other children. Your school informed your adult life, your career and your character.

Your teachers were those beacons of light that showed you the way forward.

The Sunday Leader  continues to feature those great halls of learning that helped shape Sri Lanka's citizens.

FACT  FILE

School colours : Black and Gold.

Flag : Gold/ Black/ Gold.

School motto : Country before self (Thamata pera rata)

Houses : Shantha, Weera, Meththa, Shoora.

Type of school   : Multi ethnic, multi religious school.

Starts at  : 8.00 a.m.

Closes at  : 2.00 p.m.

College uniform : Grade 1 to 9 - Blue shorts, White short  sleeved shirt, Black shoes, Black socks. Grade 10 to 13 - White longs, White short sleeved shirt, Black shoes, Black socks. Tie with school colours is worn at special occasions. All prefects wear the prefect badge.

School prefects : There are three different categories.

            (i) Volunteers are chosen from Grade 12.

            (ii) Guides are chosen from Grade 13

            (iii) Senior prefects are from Grade 14 (which is the time period spent by a student at school after sitting  their Advanced Level exam for the first time).

By Sunalie Ratnayake

As you drive or  walk along Gregory's Road, Colombo 7, there is this  set of buildings that stand proudly  inside an iron fence that you cannot miss. You also cannot miss the statue that is reminiscent of a person  very much honoured and loved by Sri Lankans of all time.

     It is the statue of Sri Lanka's first ever Prime Minister, D.S. Senanayake, standing tall in the midst of a huge square pond, surrounded by flowers of many different colours and varieties. The office building stands a bit taller behind the statue. This is none other than D.S. Senanayake College, which was built in memory of an honest and great man - D.S. Senanayake. Of late, a massive blue structure  has been added to the  premises, which is the  swimming pool.

History

D.S. Senanayake College was inaugurated in a prefabricated building on February 10, 1967 in memory of D.S. Senanayake. The college initially consisted of 167 kindergarten students and five teachers. The first ever building of the school was built on a half  acre piece of land.

Building the  college was a dream of one person, the then Minister of Education, I.M.R.A. Iriyagolla. This was during the regime of Dudley Senanayake. Iriyagolla's dream was realised by the vision and  enthusiasm of R.I.T. Alles, the founder principal. Alles was ably assisted by a much-dedicated team of teachers and a loyal and ever enthusiastic body of parents.

A land that was covered with trees and shrubs and gave the appearence of a jungle in posh Colombo 7, was cleared by parents and teachers. Gradually, Alles, his teachers and parents transformed a school that began as a shed into a massive national educational institution that has produced men of calibre, who have excelled in many a field.

The college was to be an alternative to Royal College and to accommodate the idea, it had to be built up.

The college today

In a short span of thirty-nine years, the college has seen rapid growth which is still sustained by the untiring efforts of successive principals that the school has been blessed with. The college currently has over 150 classrooms. Advanced Level classes in different disciplines - Science, Commerce, Double Mathematics, Arts and Aesthetics. Most number of students study in the Science stream and there are 10 parallel classes for year 12 and a further 10  for year 13 in the Science stream.

The college which consists of a large playground, a fully equipped cricket ground, science laboratories with all facilities, computer laboratories that are fully networked, a gymnasium and a swimming pool, also has 230 members in its staff and well  over 6000 students.

A special feature that caught my attention as I entered the premises, was the shrines of worship of all the four religions -Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic and Christian for the benefit of the children.   I was deeply moved by the beauty of students of different ethnic and religious groups studying in peace and harmony at this unique place.

Beacons of light

The current leader and guide - in other words - the principal of the college is Ashoka Senani Hewage, an old boy of   Dharmaraja College in the hill capital. Chithra Wickramesinghe is the assistant principal and Hema Perera is the primary School principal.

"D.S. is a different kind of school. In fact, it is unique because here all ethnic and religious groups live under the same roof,   in peace and harmony. This is exactly what the world requires. It is a global need which we practice at the college," D.S. Senanayake College Principal, Ashoka Senani Hewage, who is in his seventh year of service as principal (from 1999) of the college told The Sunday Leader.

During Hewage's period as principal, the college has achieved many  things.  A hostel was built for the scholarship holders (grade six students) for the first time, so that children who attended the school from rural areas could be accommodated. The main school grounds at Vidyala Mawatha was upgraded as well. After having completed the Rs. 26 million rupee swimming pool project in 2003, Hewage together with the Old Boys' Association and School Development Society decided that it was time to consolidate on the essentials - to focus the resources on education. It was this vision that gave birth to Walk of Wisdom, the D.S. Walk of 2004,  the  proceeds of which were spent on enhancing education at the school.

In addition, Hewage explained the 'Twenty-20 Vision' of the college, which happens to be a stream of dreams expected to be realised by the year 2020, which is not too far away.  

 "We concentrate not only on studies, but also on the physical resource aspect of our students as well. As an outstanding result of it, the gymnasium  which consists of squash, badminton, table-tennis, basketball, gymnastics, weight-lifting and much more, was built," Hewage said.

Further explaining the Twenty-20 Vision, Hewage said, " the great vision consists of five major sections-  infrastructure, student development, teacher training and development which is to motivate the teachers and make them productive, networking for old boys and parental responsibility."

Also, the very enthusiastic Hewage said that the first floor of the four storey old boys' building built in Baudhaloka Mawatha will be transformed into a fully equipped teacher training center, wherein in-house teacher training facilities will be available. This will be the first ever fully equipped teacher-training center in the island.

Colombo Deputy Mayor, Azath Salley who is a distinguished old boy of the college told The Sunday Leader, " D.S. Senanayake College is where I spent most of my time as a student and is extremely important to me. It helped me to decide who I wanted to be and prompted me to do wonders in life. I am very proud to be an old boy of D.S. Senanayake College and as a politician, I make it a point to mention my alma mater  in every speech I make wherever I go. We were brought up as a family and the outstanding quality I observe with awe  is the behaviour of a college student,  outside the walls of the school as we have been taught that discipline comes first ."

" I cannot afford to forget mentioning my principal Alles, who was the founder principal of the college. A former teacher at Royal College, Alles always had a close rapport with parents and he is beyond anything and everything. He loved the school, teachers, parents and above all the students whom he always addressed as 'putha,' " Salley said.

" I am very fortunate to be an old boy of DS and during my school career Principal Alles led by example for us to follow and we in fact made it a point to be models of the motto which is 'country before self' without being selfish, when it came to  situations  in day to day life. In fact, the college values have been upheld in building up my future and I am ever so greatful to my alma mater," said former Sri Lankan cricketer Aravinda De Silva speaking to The Sunday Leader.

"I'm proud to be an old boy of DS and I'm even prouder of the fact that the school has seen many developments in such a short span. The most important thing, is that we as students have seen the development of the school while in school, and the values are still protected," President of the College Old Boys' Union, told The Sunday Leader.

Sports

The cricket team of the college has been very successful and has produced many a world-class cricketer such as  Aravinda De Silva and Hashan Tilakeratne who were members of the Sri Lankan cricket team that won the 1996 World Cup. It is currently the sport that commands the highest level of interest at the college.

In the very recent past, the college became champions winning the Astra Trophy for under 15 Division I cricket, and  becoming runners up in the under 17 Division I, tournament.

When it comes to the track and field, the college has always been in the forefront.  In 2004, the athletes of the college proved themselves as one of the best athletic teams in the island.

In 2004, the college badminton team dominated the badminton arena by a great display of skill and talent. They came second at the badminton tournament organised by the School Badminton Association. They also, became runners up at the D.S. Senanayake Challenge Trophy Tournament, the same year.

The cadet platoon has taken part in many competitions and has become champions at the Leadership and Adventure course. The Eastern Cadet Band has established themselves as the best band in Sri Lanka, winning the P.W. Jayathilake Memorial Challenge Trophy for the fourth consecutive year in 2004. The baseball team, since its inception has achieved great victories at national level tournaments.

Respect, humility, equality and service are the key values of D.S. Senanayake College. Discipline is the attribute that weaves all these values indestructibly around the sons of DS.  DS was also the first school in the entire island, where teachers were bonded to students with the appellation "Putha," the teachers thus naturally gaining a parental respect and affection from students.

"Aiya-Malli relationship was formed here, where students themselves mutually bonded in fraternity and respect. DS exemplifies equality in a manner not yet paralleled. In this unique place, all classes, creeds, races and  religions co-exist in absolute harmony. It stands out from the rest as the only national school with shrines of all four main religions. It is no exaggeration to say that DS celebrates diversity.


Sri Lankans are always late

Last week was too good to be true. It was like a fairy tale. I called up three repairmen on the same day and they  actually turned up within a few hours. I was so shocked that I was dumbfounded for a minute. So the telephone guys were gambolling in and out of rooms, up and downstairs; the cable TV guy was checking the cable; and the television repairman was fitting a cable to the kids television, all at once ! Wow ! Incidentally, the cable guy needn't have come, it was just a loose connection, so I sheepishly apologised. He gave me a pitying grin, much as to say, 'Darn stupid woman !'  Talking fast and nervously giggling, I escorted him to the front door.

On the downside, with this spate of rain, my roof is still leaking in certain places, even after being repaired for over a month. That chap has been mysteriously on a visit to his village for the past month. This state of affairs might produce another fracture in the family. So, at the slightest hint of rain, everyone is galvanised into action, or else I start yelling like a fisherwoman. Mops are produced, towels are spread and special receptacles are placed around. The next thing would be that the roof guy has to go home for the New Year. Then he will disappear for another month. So I will have to cunningly ensnare him unawares. Or else!

Grin and bear

The thing is, people here never definitely say when they'll turn up. They come, smiling widely, days late. Since we are so desperate to get our jobs done, we have to grit our teeth, bite our tongues and smile back. Recently, we were having guests over, and I totally forgot that foreigners are very punctual. Sharp on the dot, they were at our doorstep. I hadn't even gone in for a shower. Raced in and out and downstairs. Luckily the rest of the family was ready and had been looking after them. I apologised for not being ready for them. They laughed back and said they knew that Sri Lankans are never on time, and apologised to me for being on time !

True to form, no-one else turned up for at least another hour. That too was my brother-in-law, who is abnormal, wants to eat and bolt. ( He eventually got fed up of socialising, helped himself in the kitchen, went upstairs and ate in front of the TV and did his bolting thing.)

Other extreme

At the other extreme are the people who come in at the tail end of the party, when some of the guests are on the verge of leaving. They breeze in all refreshed and raring to go, and then expect to be entertained. By this time the hostess is exhausted, but has to politely rally around. The food by now is cold, so it has to be re-heated, in other words, the party has to be started again. Typical !

At this farewell dinner party to a friend, just 20 minutes before he was to leave for the airport, one of his friends turned up. It was almost midnight ! Of course, the hostess had cleared the dinner, but she was nice enough to get her maids to bring the food back in. One had to be woken up to serve a drink to the gentleman. My friend kept glancing at his watch, thinking he was going to miss his flight. I thought I'd wait five minutes and say,  "Shouldn't you be getting ready to leave?"  Then the hostess took matters into hand and asked him the same question. That hurried the late guest just a teeny little bit !

I have this friend who is always busy. She's never on time for anything, we simply assume she'll turn up much later. At least she turns up ! She's definitely one of those who turn up when the others are leaving, or turns up at a dance after midnight. Anyway, I must say, I always seem to be late, however hard I try. Not too late, though, definitely within the hour. Its better than being too early, I think. My father-in-law always likes to be only a couple of hours early for everything, be it a dinner party or a flight overseas. He's ready about two hours before the given time, and then he starts ringing us at regular intervals until we get tired of explaining why we aren't still there. We just get ready and go!

- Honky Tonk Woman


Emotional tribute at workplace to woman killed by bomb

'I keep asking, why was she taken?'

The plaque in memory of Shyanuja Parathasangary

Colleagues of a woman murdered in last July's terrorist at-tacks in London recently paid tribute to their friend and former workmate.

In a moving ceremony at the Royal Mail headquarters in Rugby, Warwickshire, a small crowd gathered to unveil a plaque in memory of Shyanuja Parathasangary.

The 30-year-old former Royal Mail assistant buyer was killed in one of the four central London explosions while on her way to work from her home in Whitmore Gardens, Kensal Rise, on July 7.

Parathasangary's mother, Ruth, who was at the service, said: "Everyone was so kind.

"It was such an honour for them to do that for her. But it was sad as well. I keep asking, why?

"Why did it have to happen? Why did she have to be taken. I cannot understand."

Parathasangary's family and staff from their daughter's former office in Old Street, Islington, on Friday were invited to attend the ceremony by Post Office Chief Executive, David Mills.

After a short sermon from the Gospel of St. Matthew, Mills unveiled a simple brass plaque inscribed with the words: "In memory  of Shyanuja Parathasangary who lost her life so tragically during the incidents that took place in London on 7th July 2005."

In a poignant gesture, the staff dedicated an oak sapling from The Prince of Wales's Highgrove Estate, in Gloucestershire to, Shyanuja - a living memorial to a life cut cruelly short.

At Christmas the tree brought back cherished memories.

Mrs.Parathasangary said: "Shyanuja loved decorating the Christmas tree.

"My husband put it up and she put all the lights and tinsel on it.

"She took real pride in that Christmas tree but she would never be able to do it again."

Post Office head of retail Harley Bernard said: "I worked with Shyanuja in our Old Street office and knew her very well.

"Shyanuja was genuinely a warm and loveable individual. The service was very, very emotional for the staff but we had to remain strong for the sake of her parents.

"They were very brave and very grateful for what the Post Office has done in recognition of their daughter."

-  Alex Stephens 

'She should not have been on that bus'

A FATEFUL series of events ended in the tragic death of Shyanuja Parathasangary on July 7 last  year.

The 30-year-old felt ill that morning and considered not travelling to her office job in Old Street, Islington.

But keen to get to work, the Royal  Mail assistant  buyer decided to make the trip from the family home in Whitmore Gardens, Kensal Rise.

Her mother, Ruth Parathasangary said: "Shyanuja got the Silverlink train from Kensal Green Station to Euston at  8.55 a.m.

"But when she got there, the entire Tube network had been closed, because of the first three bombs.

"She called her manager to say she would be getting a bus instead, something she has never done before."

Stranded and confused, Parathasangary then boarded the doomed number 30 bus, despite the fact it was going in the wrong direction.

A bomb exploded on the double decker at 9.47 a.m as it travelled through Tavistock Square, killing more than 13 people.

Parathasangary watched news reports of the explosions with her husband Sangary throughout  the day while a family friend visited five hospitals across London looking for  Parathasangary.

All hope was lost the following week after a  police identification confirmed the business studies graduate had died in the attack.Mrs. Parathasangary said: "I loved my daughter and she will always be in my heart.

"I will see her everywhere I go and during everything I do."

The 63-year-old described her daughter, who attended John Kelly Girls' College in Crest Road, Neasden, as somebody who loved watching films and spending time with her older sister Sindu.The siblings were planning to move in together later this year in a house located only doors away from their parents.

Many months on, the pain of the family's loss is as raw as ever.

Mrs. Parathasangary said: "It doesn't get better. In fact, it's getting worse. We've received no compensation from the Government.  But it makes no difference. They could give us millions and millions -  but nothing can replace her."


The gift of motherhood from ayurveda

Dr. Dayani Siriwardane: Ayurveda is the answer

There are more than 100 cases of mothers having their first child at 49 years of age. To me having a child at 50 is normal and the regimens of the system of ayurveda has in no way allowed any of these children to be mongoloid or deformed...

By Ranee Mohamed

Dr. Dayani Siriwardane has a  PhD in ayurveda. Today she specialises in helping women   who are subfertile.  She shows me case records of hundreds of women who have been unsuccessful with IVF;  unsuccessful with surgery and has had unsuccessful foreign trips in order to have a baby.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader from the  Department of Indigenous Medicine on the Sri Jayewardenepura Road, Dr. Siriwardane disclosed facts about a system that goes back in time, yet holds true even today.

"The system of ayurveda which is over 4000 years old  has  down-to-earth cures for every ailment. Today I am able not only to merely give ayurvedic cures orally but also to do invasive surgery in completely aseptic conditions because of the system of ayurveda and modern day conveniences," said Dr.  Siriwardene.

"When a women who is over 40 years comes to me, I look at her positively. The view of ayurveda is that a woman, as long as she is menstruating, is capable of having a child.  Thus, from menarche to menopause,  maybe from 14 years of age to 50 years, a woman is capable of having a child," explained Dr.  Siriwardane. 

She showed me a woman who has had her first child at the age of 51. "Of course at this age merely taking folic acid is not enough. There is a regimen to follow in keeping with the rules of ayurveda.  There is a regimen in the first second and third trimester...." said the doctor.

Dr.  Dayani Siriwardene is also a lecturer in gynaecology, not only has she lectured at the University of Colombo but also has been to Benares University.  It was in Gujarat that she obtained her Ph.D.

Intrauterine therapy

Dr.  Siriwardane practises intrauterine therapy. "There is no harm done to the body. The medicine is sent to the ovaries in a  natural manner. Hormonal imbalances are the main problem in almost all gynaecological complications. Thus treatment involves an internal course of action as well as oral treatment....  and gradually things become normal, naturally," she said.

"A woman ought to have regular menstruation. It is the dream of almost every woman to become a mother and  for these women, be they young or old, I use many methods to help them achieve their dreams.  Not only do I help women to conceive, but also help them to determine the sex of their baby. This is called Punsavanakarma. If one wants a boy there is a time to copulate, there are various theories in ayurveda which tells you what to eat, which side of the bed to get in from..." elaborated the doctor.

She spoke of the wonders of babila, hathawariya, amukkara..... Herbal treatment would not harm your body, but herbal compounds do have side effects, and pregnancy is a time one ought to take care. The main problem that brings about subfertility among women is obesity. 

Obeysity

Thus, the treatment is geared towards getting rid of these fatty deposits which are in the womb.  Obesity,  hormonal imbalances and irregular menstruation leads to conditions as fibroids, cysts and endometriosis," pointed out Dr. Siriwardane. "Hence the way of life must change. We must get rid of the fat.  Massages are also used to get rid of the abdominal fat. When the ovaries are covered with fat the ovum released is of no use. Even the fibrial ends have poor grasping power due to fatty deposits. Thus ayurveda treatment concentrates on cleaning the whole sysrtem, insertion of specific drugs to the ovaries to dissolve internal fat and thereafter the passage becomes clear," she pointed out.

Dr. Siriwardane said that it is not only the woman who is subject to examination and treatment, but the man too. "We advise him to eat foods that would increase the sperm count as green gram, oorid dhal and green leaves.

"In the first trimester we advise mothers not to sit in squatting positions, not to stand for a long time, not to get violently angry.  We advise mothers in the first trimester of pregnancy to drink milk, kola kenda, especially kenda made from hathawariya, bebila and iramusu. If the mother could not eat or drink anything then she should atleast drink two glasses of milk," said the doctor and in this instance the doctor is not referring to milk powder but fresh milk.

"Ghee is very good after the fourth month of pregnancy, the fifth and sixth month means that the mother could take soup made of mutton or chicken. Fish is very good too, but fish as tuna (bala and kelawalla) ought to be avoided and red meat too is not good at this period. Seer fish (thora) and paraw and small varieties of fish are also good. Green leaves ought to be taken everyday.  It must be mentioned that milk is the best form of nutrition during pregnancy," said the doctor.

Natural course

Dr. Siriwardane said that ayurveda suggests some form of enema during the eighth and ninth month of prenancy in order to clean the bowels.  "Ayurveda not only cures, it treats as well as helps the body to go on its natural course. Ayurveda not only rejuvenates but also increases immunity.  It is the ideal system of prevention, cure and maintenance of good health. It dates back to 4000 years and my practice especially in treating sub fertile couples have resulted in women giving birth after waiting for as long as 16, 17, or 18 years without a child," said Dr. Siriwardane with confidence.

On a general note, Dr. Dayani Siriwardene pointed out that every herb, fruit or vegetable could have side effects. "Some fruits, vegetables and  herbs may be good for certain people, but not  for others.  But in general, there are foods to avoid. For example, women must avoid eating pineapple and mangosteen. Durian is good for men who wish to increase their sperm count.

"Plantain, papaya, grape, apple and mango are good for the health, but women must avoid eating  what is commonly called Yapane amba.  The karuththa kolomban variety is very good," pointed out this doctor with a Ph.D .in this healing system.

Dr. Siriwardane pointed out that the daily curry powder that we use in cooking is loaded with goodness.

Spices and condiments

She said that the cummin seed (suduru)  is known to increase appetite aid digestion and strengthen the intestinies; the fennel seed (mahaduru) too has the same power of action, but in a more subtle way; fenugreek or uluhall increases appetite, coriander or koththamalli used in a comparatively large amount in our curries, Dr. Siriwardane said not only increases appetite but also reduces phlegm in the system.

"It is of significance in gynaecology because it causes  uterine contractions.  Consumption of unusually large amounts could lead to abortions in pregnant women,"pointed out the doctor.

Goraka that we use in our cooking especially in our fish curries, Dr. Siriwardane said increases the appetite, reduces cholesterol and also increases body metabolism; she said that cinnamon too reduces cholesterol and increases the appetite, cloves and cardamoms, she said not only gives an aroma to food but cardamom increases the appetite, arrests nausea and  morning sickness, while clove is found to be very intense in its action.

Dr. Siriwardane said that tamarind which we use in our curries ought to be appreciated because it not only aids digestion but also kills germs and stops organisms from growing.

"The wonder of karapincha  or the curry leaf must also be mentioned.  It is the ideal way to control weight as it cuts off the cholesterol and fat from the body," said the doctor.

  Dr.  Dayani Siriwardene pointed out that in ayurveda, digestion is of great significance because it is the belief in ayurveda that for the body, with all its organs to function well, ought to first have good digestion.


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