20th August,  2006  Volume 13, Issue 6

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                                    


Prince Charming comes to court

By Kumutu Amarasingham

For the extremely idealistic, and one might say dismally few truly (intellectually and spiritually) developed human beings....


Review more articles

 > Cost of bread is baking the common man

 > Making a song and dance  (....Balder dash)

 > Tourism is our greatest wealth

 > Women are complex creatures

 > Remembering Brightie

 > Cancer preventing activated Liquid Zeolite     

Prince Charming comes to court

By Kumutu Amarasingham

For the extremely idealistic, and one might say dismally few truly (intellectually and spiritually) developed human beings amongst us, there is but one Earth and one homeland for the human race - that one Earth. And more importantly, there is one and only one race with no divisions at all -  the human race.

Unfortunately, most people fall into a very half-baked, partially developed category, where colour, creed, caste, race and most amazing of all - even God and religion - are causes for division and dissension.

And because of these semi barbaric people who are incapable of treating everyone equally and seeing beyond non-existent divisions, war over land and power become inevitable. Thus, articles like this one become necessary.

Of course, there is also something very romantic about the topic of discussion. After all, who can resist a Prince? Especially when he emerges out of the darkness as it were, to reclaim his throne. Royalty is undoubtedly alluring.

And 'His Royal Highness,' Prince Remigius Kanagarajah has all that is necessary to capture anyone's flighty imagination. He claims to be the present head of the Royal House of Jaffna belonging to the Arya Chakravati Dynasty - the king of the homeland of all Tamil speaking people in the days of yore.

According to Kanagarajah, his ancestors established their kingdom in Jaffna in the 13th Century. "The historical evidence of the existence of the Kingdom of Jaffna over four centuries from the 13th to the 16th century, is amply based on local and foreign sources.

"The Kingdom of Jaffna was known thus because the center of its power was the Jaffna peninsula. Though its political boundaries shifted with its changing fortunes, it generally embraced the limits occupied by the Tamil-speaking people. Within a few years of its establishment, cultural dividing lines and political frontiers almost coincided. 

"Hence, interchangeably the Kingdom of Jaffna is also referred to as the Tamil Kingdom. More importantly, it began a separate existence as one of the political entities in the island and entered the struggles with the other Kingdoms for political power. During the height of its power and prosperity during this period, under the Arya Chakravarties it was the dominant and most powerful kingdom in the island" the Prince stated.

The beginning of the so-called dynasty, as recorded by the family, is quite interesting.

"There were many chieftains who were left behind by the Pandyans to rule Jaffna.

But when the Kingdom of Jaffna was without a ruler, a well established chieftain named Pandi Malavan of Jaffna, son of Selvarajah of Ponpatti proceeded to Pandya Court in Madurai. Pandi Malavan was a resident of Ponpatti before his arrival in Jaffna. He prevailed upon Prince Singai Aryan, who had been receiving his training in statecraft at the Royal College in Madurai to take over the throne of Jaffna. He brought Prince Singai Aryan and crowned him King of Jaffna."

Singai Aryan

"The Prince who was known as Vijaya Kalinga Singai Aryan had been variously known as Singai Aryan, Kalinga of Magha and Vijaya Kulangai, because he had a defect in one arm, which is the reason he was called Kulangai. The name Kulangai could have been a misreading in Tamil for 'Kalinga.'

He was later known as Vijaya Kalinga Singai Arya Chakravarti and was also related to the Royal House of Chola and Ramnad. He set out with his Chief Minister Bhuvaneka Bahu, a brahmin priest of the Kasi race Sri Kangathara Iyer, his wife Annapoorani Ammal and a large army raised under his auspices followed the young Prince to Jaffna."

"The new king soon commenced the task of building a capital city for his regime. It was comprehensive with palaces for royalty, mansions for the ministers, dwellings for warriors and stalls for elephants, horses and with flower gardens etc."

Temples were built in the four directions for divine protection. Vaikunda Pillaiyar Temple for the safety of the east, Veerakali Amman Temple for the safety of the west, Kailasa Pillaiyar Temple for the safety of the south, and Saddanatha Temple for the safety of the north. He named his new city 'Nallur' which means 'good place.'

Ceremonial entry

"He made a triumphant ceremonial entry into his city, with his queen Thilakavathiyar at an auspicious hour. Upon coronation, he adopted the royal name of 'Segarajasekaran.' He then made a request for pioneer settlers from the Tamil Nadu. At his request some Vellala chieftains with their families and dependants were sent to Jaffna, by the Tamil kings of South India, and he settled them in different parts of his new kingdom of Jaffna."

"Vijaya Kalinga Singai Aryan was the founder of the royal line of Arya Chakravarti Dynasty of the kings of Jaffna. His ancestors ruled the Tamil kingdom of Jaffna for over four centuries.

 He was a prince and a powerful general who came with a large retinue from the Pandya kingdom. Arya Chakravartis served both as army generals and ministers under the Pandyans. He was a great military leader and was able to restore order and stability in the kingdom of Jaffna."

Arya Chakravartis

"Although the early kings of Jaffna did not style themselves as Arya Chakravartis, by the 12th century this name came into use. There have been many surmises as to how the kings came to style themselves as Arya Chakravartis. The origins of the Arya Chakravarti kings in Jaffna can be traced back to Rameswaram, the southernmost Indian city, which in the old days belonged to Ganga Dyansty or Ganga Vamsa.

Through their matrimonial alliances with the Cholas of Thanjavur it appears the Chakravartis settled down in Rameswaram. Cevvirkkai Nadu is the name of a place in South India, close to Rameswaram, and it is the ancestral home of Arya Chakravartis. They then entered into matrimonial alliances with brahmins and assumed the title 'Arya' as a distinctive honorific. The Arya Chakravartis claimed divine origin from the sun and the moon.

'Lords of the universe'

They claimed to be 'Lords of the universe.' The Arya title is to be based on the claim of this line of kings that they descended from two brahmins appointed by Sri Rama on his sojourn in Rameswaram after his encounter in Ceylon and the establishment of the Rameswaram Temple. The two brahmins, tradition has it, exercised supreme authority over a colony of 512  'Panchagrama Vethiyar' of brahmins brought over from Benaras and settled at Rameswaram Temple, at the instance of Sri Rama.

Prince Remigius Kanagarajah claims to be descended from this race - the Arya Chakravarti Dynasty.

The Arya Chakravartis always had a good education to befit their royal status, according to Kanagarajah. They learned the three kinds of Tamil languages (classic, lyric and dramatic). Princes were sent to South India for their education and there seems to have been a school for princes near Madurai, where it was customary for royal princes to learn during their period.

Prince Pararajasekaran and Prince Segarajasekaran were taken care of by the royal family at Thirukkovil in India and they were taught arts and military sciences. The princesses were also educated and had a retinue of women attendants. These attendants were skilful artistes who amused the king and courtiers with music and dancing. During the reign of the Arya Chakravartis, the royal families wore an attire of pure silk, gold and precious stones.

The princesses were profusely covered with jewellery. They were adorned with heavily decorated crowns of gold and precious stones, armlets and bracelets made of gold.  They wore rings with precious stones. Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, members of the royal family, instead of orders, decorations and medals, were awarded with swords, gold necklaces and gold chains.

The Jaffna princesses were so lovely and cultured that King Senarat of Kandy had two of his sons married to two of the Jaffna princesses. It must be noted at this point that in G. P. Thomas' The History Of Trincomalee, it is said a race called Pandyans around 1200 BC were amongst the first invaders of Trincomalee.

Architecture of Pallavas

Thomas further said the Cholas were also known to have settled there, and archaeologists have found a similarity between the remains of the main temple in Trincomalee and architecture of the Pallavas who are known to have settled in Anuradhapura in the 7th century. They were a South Indian race and carried out trade as far as Java and Sumatra and with the Chinese and Malays.

Whether there is a link with the Arya Chakravarti dynasty or not is for the historians to decide. The fact remains, many historical accounts exist, that point to a kingdom and homeland of the Tamil people in the north and east.

Does this mean they ought to divide the country at this juncture in its history? If, with all its intellectual and scientific advancement, the world has not yet come to a point where it can live in peace, comprehending that the fight for land and material goods is fruitless and cannot yield happiness to anyone in the end - are any of us any better than cavemen?

Cost of bread is baking the common man

By Nirmala Kannangara

With the recent price hike of diesel, petrol and kerosene by three rupees and in some fuel stations by five rupees a litre, the shocking news of the price increase of wheat flour by three rupees last week is expected to trigger a further increase in the cost of living (CoL).

At a time when consumers have been trying to come to terms with the  escalating price hikes of essential commodities, the wheat flour price increase has  badly affected the middle and lower classes.

Price increase

Prices of bread, buns, hoppers, string hoppers and almost all the bakery items have gone up during the last few days and the bakery owners in Colombo and suburbs as well as in places like Kandy,  Galle, Anuradhapura and Nuwara Eliya told The Sunday Leader that they had no option but to increase the prices because they too cannot cope  with the routine price hikes of fuel and other essential commodities.

Bandu Perera - the owner of  Royal Bakery in Wellawatte told The Sunday Leader that his bakery would increase the price of a loaf of bread by two rupees from tomorrow (21) to avert any further losses.

 "As bakery owners we cannot bear the escalating prices. The government is in the habit of increasing fuel prices regularly.

"We are not allowed to increase the price of bakery products - mainly bread even though we have to pay much more for transportation due to the increase of fuel prices.

But with the price hike of wheat flour we are compelled to increase the prices" claimed Perera.

When asked whether their sales would drop with the price hike, Perera said that it is very unlikely as the people have few other option even though prices keep increasing.

At the receiving end

"At the moment we have a sale of more than 8000 loafs of bread in the area per day. Our customers are mainly from the middle and the lower classes.

I think the middle class is at the receiving end almost all the time as it is they who do not get any extra income. Let's take a labourer for instance. Definitely he would ask for a higher wage, but those who receive a monthly remuneration will not get any pay hikes to offset the escalating  prices" added Perera.

A spokesman for the chain of Sumanadisi Bakers told The Sunday Leader that they would not increase the price of bread as at present they are selling bread at Rs. 20.

Meanwhile two leading bakers in the town who wished to remain anonymous told The Sunday Leader that they would increase the price of bread and buns with immediate effect as they cannot bear a loss due  'mismanagement by the government.'

 "From the time the present government came into power they increased the prices of essential goods every other week. The people cannot even recount how many times the government has increased the prices of fuel over the last few months.

It has become a regular occurrence now. The government would ask the bakery owners not to increase the prices of bakery products but would they give us a subsidy?

Imported flour

"Earlier we imported wheat flour for two years, but due to the cancellation of the subsidy given to us we had to stop importing wheat flour.

When we appealed to Consumer Affairs Minister, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle to reconsider the matter he said that it is the work of Minister Rohitha Bogollagama and that he had nothing to do with the issue," claimed one bakery owner. 

With the price increase of fuel, the prices of vegetables and commodities had gone up leaving the people to face with untold hardships.

President, Old Moor Street Trade Association, K. Palaniandy told The Sunday Leader that as a result of frequent fuel price hikes every food item from onion to rice had gone up.

A cross section of traders and consumers also told The Sunday Leader that they never expected the government to raise prices this way. "All the politicians in the country are the same. They promise us everything other than the sun and moon. But after coming to power they forget their promises.

False promises

"Now there are thousands of explanations for them to give. The government promised to bring down the CoL and wipe out bribery and corruption but have they done so, be it this government or previous governments," claimed an angry private sector employee from Nagoda, Kalutara.

Nayana Wickremasinghe who travels to Kollupitiya in a private office van said that people like her have been pushed from pillar to post.

 "School and office vans,  increase their charges when ever the government increases fuel prices. Apart from this, electricity and gas prices were also increased.

"Now the prices of foodstuffs are sky-rocketing. The mostly affected are the middle class people. Out of this the private sector employees are going through a bad period. The government sector employees do get a CoL allowance and regular salary hikes and beyond that if they want any wage hikes, they take union action putting us into further trouble.

 The poor private  sector employees do not get all these benefits but have to face the burdens," added Wickramasinghe.

Gunasiri Silva of Embuldeniya, Nugegoda who runs a tea kiosk in the vicinity saidthat although he has not yet increased the prices of string hoppers and hoppers due to his existing stock of wheat flour,  once the new stock comes he has to increase the prices of these two items.

Losing customers

 "Sometimes I would lose my regular customers with the price hike, but there is no other option. I have to increase the prices if I am to survive.

"I have four children to look after. Their school van fees are increased  whenever there is a fuel hike. We have to pay more for the transportation of goods," said Silva.

When The Sunday Leader visited the Manning Market in Pettah last week, shoppers who had come to buy their day-to-day provisions expressed concern about the wave of price hikes of essential food items in the market.

"We see a daily price hike in almost all the food stuffs. Even if we bring 1000 rupees it is not sufficient to take things  home for a family of four members. It is hardly enough to buy foodstuffs for three days. We come here to buy the vegetables and other things at a lower price," added Raja - a three-wheel driver from Kotahena.

Salary insufficient

Neranjan Jayasinghe - an executive attached to a private firm in Bambalapitiya said that since his salary is insufficient to maintain a family he has always purchased household needs from his credit card but since recently he has had to think twice whether to continue the credit card as for every 1000 rupees he spends he has to pay 10 rupees as tax to the bank.

 "Usually my monthly credit card bill exceeds Rs. 15,000. That means I have to pay an additional Rs.150 to the bank at the end of the month which is a waste of money. 

"Because of the government's bad economic mismanagement we are being taxed for each and everything," said Jayasinghe.

Tourism is our greatest wealth

Chairman, Hotel and Catering International Management Association, Sri Lanka chapter, Anura Lokuhetty

By Ranee Mohamed

"Tourism has taken wing de spite natural and man made calamities. An isolated bomb here or there,

cannot significantly affect a country's tourism." said Anura Lokuhetty, chairman, Hotel and Catering International Management Association (HCIMA) Sri Lanka chapter. 

Lokuhetty however went on to express fears about a continuing crisis that can affect tourism permanently. "Bombs have gone off in Indonesia, Bombay, London etc, but tourism has bounced back. In Sri Lanka however, it is not likely to bounce back easily.

This has not only got something to do with terrorism but also with the lack of unity between the industry and the public sector," cautioned Lokuhetty.

He went on to say, as at present, the tourist arrivals have not decreased due to the situation, although for the first time in the history of Sri Lanka, the number of Indian tourists surpassed those from all other countries.

Anura Lokuhetty has been in hoteliering for over two decades, starting off as a managment trainee.        

"There is nothing that I have not learnt in the industry, be it in the restaurant, the kitchen or anywhere else in a hotel," said a confident CEO  of the Confifi Group  who has not merely worked in hotels but has been involed in the construction, operation and refurbishment of leading hotels in the country. It is this same wealth of knowledge that makes him express concern about the happenings of today.

No direction

"Sadly though Sri Lanka is the best place to develop tourism, there seems to be no direction or guidance towards it. With the problem of terrorism and the drop in occupancy, the trained people are leaving the country.  There are only a few books available on tourism for managment of hotels. The HCIMA is trying to create forums for different categories of employees in the industry as food and beverage, housekeeping, and accountancy," said Lokuhetty.

"We are battling with the problem of terrorism in addition to trying to lift up the industry. We ought to start considering this as a proper profession. When there is any problem, the tourist industry is the first to be affected," said Lokuhetty.

Speaking of the importance of tourism to Sri Lanka, Lokuhetty said that it is imperative that tourism be introduced as a subject in the school curriculum. "If this is done, and also a university programme is introduced, then we will be able to move forward at an unprecedented pace, and we will not have to export housemaids and houseboys," said Lokuhetty who went on to point out that last year  revenue from tourism in the world was US $808 billion.

He also went on to say that approximately 300 million people the world over are involved in the business of tourism.

Amazing destination

"Sri Lanka is a amazing destination.  We have an abundance of natural beauty, but the industry lacks vision and direction.  China has been identified as a major tourist destination and China has Buddhism; India too is close to us in terms of culture, food and Buddhism. 

What we ought to do is to try to establish a scholarship programme for people from our tourist industry to go to China and learn the language, learn their authentic Chinese cuisine,. There is hardly a corner in Sri Lanka today without a Chinese restaurant.   With this training, there will be more and more authentic Chinese cuisine,"  pointed out Lokuhetty.

"There ought to be more community participation. We ought to have community centres in every resort, be in it Negombo, Beruwala or Bentota.  Community centres ought to be developed and we ought to have more cultural shows - tourism should not be treated as a seperate entity and kept away from  the community.  The ideal would be for all fences in hotels to come down...." said Lokuhetty but went on to point out the tourist today is unable to walk alone without being disturbed by at least 10-15 people.

Community participation

"This is why a community centre is needed.... so that the tourist will be able to enjoy the local food, buy the local handicraft and enjoy traditional cultural shows," pointed out the veteran hotelier.

"Building hotels does not develop tourism in a country. It is the people who make the difference. Today we have cultural shows of poor quality.  Spice gardens too ought to have good quality spices.  It is difficult to attract and retain capable people. Professional and skilled staff are either securing employment overseas or migrating, and the training institutions have failed to attract talented youth as the industry lacked lustre in the last two decades mainly due to the unrest in the country," he said.

Speaking about another infuriating problem;  the road traffic in Sri Lanka, Anura Lokuhetty said that at most times it takes longer for the tourist to get to his hotel from the airport than what it took for the flight to bring him to Sri Lanka.

"Yet very little is done to improve our transport system. The railway needs to be developed. Tourists love to travel by train. Besides, there is less environmental pollution too. This is why Sri Lanka must concentrate on developing its railway network so that people will not waste much time on the road. Today, people spend eight hours at work and three to four hours on the road. There is so much pollution and the absence of any definite smog test has only caused more and more pollution in the city," said Lokuhetty.

Totally Sri Lankan

  Speaking on the importance of being totally Sri Lankan in tourism, Lokuhetty said that we ought to use only local fruits, fresh vegetables and fish in the hotels. "This will ensure that there is only a minimal leakage of foreign exchange," he said. Lokuhetty regretted that he is sad to observe many Sri Lankans in the hotel industry doing their job 'for the mere sake of doing it.'  

"In the hotel industry, much more is required. There ought to be commitment, dedication and devotion," he pointed out and went on to say that we ought to be thankful to the government for the beautiful airport, but pointed out the disadvantage of having just one airport so that in case of an emergency, everything has to come to a standstill. "This is why we ought to think of an additional airport," he pointed out.

Provide tranquility

"Political stability in the country is imperative for tourism to succeed," he stressed.

The most important component of all these is the human factor especially the hotel and catering professionals, said the chairman.  "All hotels invest heavily on buildings and refurbishment. Human resource ought to be considerered a major area. The balance sheet, along with its capital assets, nett assets and fixed assets  ought to add on the value of human capital," said a very humane Lokuhetty.

"What the tourist of today wants is tranquility and we ought to be able to give it," pointed out this veteran hotelier.

 Making a song and dance

I must be a Philistine, since I simply cannot understand modern art.

            I tend to stare at these stark paintings and wonder what on earth they are trying to convey. Your guess is as good as mine! Most of them look as if they are daubs by kindergarten kids or else rather simple-minded people. Some of them look as if the person has just flung paint at it randomly. But they all have such intellectual titles, is it just me that doesn't get it?

     Granted, some of them are very attractively coloured and they look rather striking. As for me, I always look at the price on it and think to myself, " Yeah, right ! I can do something much better." But then again, I've never tried, so who am I to judge?

If you have to look at something regularly, it must be something soothing as well as beautiful. I'm all for scenery, figures of animals, humans or birds. A pleasing design too I can abide by, but these strange shapes throw me. I suppose that's the point of it all, it keeps you guessing what the artist was trying to convey. I'm still convinced though, that they chose some bright eye-catching colours and daubed them on! My daughter paints very well; maybe I'll ask her what she thinks.

Boring topics

Every year in school we got the most boring topics to work on as a painting. I remember once a friend of mine asked me if her picture of a flower in a vase placed before us for one of our art exams passed muster. Next, she asked if she should paint in a background and what sort it should be. I answered, "Just land some shaded yellow streaks men," not knowing the teacher was standing just behind me. "My dear!"

"We never just land colours, we consider what effect it would have on the whole picture, contemplate about it and then make a choice," she informed me with a lofty sniff. I almost jumped right out of my skin!  Simply not done, creeping up unawares and eavesdropping on private conversations.

It's the same at some dance shows, I wonder why sometimes they have to look so grim and serious. I know it's supposed to be a way of expressing yourself, like any other art form, but shouldn't it be joyous? Or else it looks like graceful gymnastics, don't you think? 

Mournful sounding music is not my favourite choice for dancing to. Nor is ultra-modern 'techno' stuff that sounds like crashing gears and banging doors. Like I explained before, I am rather a Philistine! Nothing like some cheerful music that makes you want to get up and dance. After all, the logical thing to do if you're happy is skip and dance, right? But maybe some people feel like releasing pent up emotions like anger or sorrow by dancing, who knows?

Eventful dancing 'career'

My earliest memories of my debut as a dancer was at about six years of age, I was very appropriately cast as a clown. This was from the ballet class I attended, and I remember quite liking the colourful costume and hat. The makeup too was quite extraordinary. I had a whale of a time, jumping all over and rolling around the stage. The accompanying song was, "I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts!"

The next dancing part I remember was in a fifties number, where we had to wear a low waisted red and white satin dress with an enormous red bow. We had to wear frilly, frothy can-cans under our skirts. Of course, the nuns had us wearing bloomers with elastic at the end of the legs. Our Irish principal closely inspected all these uncomfortable undergarments before we wore them! This was a cancan type of dance, one of the tunes I remember played was In The Mood. 

When we were older, we took part in a song and dance festival. We sang modern gospel songs with a couple of dance moves thrown in. We had a live band accompanying us. It was called Up With People and when we meet, we still hum some of the songs. The crowning glory in our dancing career in school was when whilst in the Advanced Level class, we performed the minuet. All my friends remember this performance; recently one of them was trying to remember the steps whilst we fell over laughing. 

I still love to dance  (most people will eye me in shocked disbelief!) though my feet ache sooner!

- Honky Tonk Woman

Perth Diary

Women are complex creatures

How hard can it be to be thought of as a woman? Just as a woman?

No stereotypes related to ethnicity or to looks or to personality - just a woman? I grant you,  what I am going to talk about is probably very applicable to men too (albeit in a different way) but I'm not a man and so I am not wandering down that road.

But apparently it isn't an easy thing for men (or sometimes even other women) to do. It is really really frustrating to know that when you walk out of your house in the morning, that you will run into men and that they will have one of four different reactions to you. And only one of them will be the one you want, and the chances of that occurring are so low, there might as well not be a fourth option.

Of course there are mitigating circumstances. Where you are, what situation it is and all that sort of thing coming into account. So let's run an experiment - of sorts. Let's pick four different women all dressed in exactly the same outfit. The first one could be said to be gorgeous no matter if you dressed her in a sack. Let's say she has every possible feature most men in a given culture could pick as being attractive - the right kind of eyes, the right kind of hair, right kind of figure (not everyone loves the hourglass).

The second one doesn't have to worry about her features that much though - she has oodles of confidence spilling out of her and talks openly about anything and everything.

The third one probably has a hell of a lot of insecurity because she is very very smart - not because she was born more intelligent but because that's what is important to her in her life. She has an itch to learn and she scratches it faithfully.

And then we have the fourth person - who is a mix of all the above.  She is pretty, confident and smart and that makes her average. You do the math. And let's just add in here that they are all very well adjusted - except perhaps the third one but then they probably are all insecure.

So they are sitting in a bar - just sitting - not doing anything except jabbering to each other about the price of fish perhaps. Then a group of guys walk in. Which one of the girls gets the most attention? Which one gets hit on first? Who is the one the men go for? The answer is none of them.

The reason is this: listen carefully to what the girls are talking about. "Plenty of fish" - wasn't that what they said in a rather incredulous tone?

"Plenty of fish in the sea? Plenty of fish that think I am 'dinner!'" says the first one. "They hit on me, they try to pick me up and when I refuse they call me names. Why do I refuse? I don't want to be a sex object - I buy clothes for myself not for them. I have a brain and a personality but they see only my looks and have no respect for me." 

 Yeah well, they see me as the killer whale or the shark!" second one pipes. "How can they respect anyone? I say what's on mind and I do what I want and they are so intimidated they run away they start throwing insults. I am a monster to them. I can't wait for human women to evolve like some snakes and parthogenic - give birth to females without a biological need for males."

The third one finally bursts out. The others giggle and she smiles and shrugs. "It is one direction human evolution could go in. This is my downfall - I say things like this all the time, and then they find out I am smart and then try to flatter me so that I will do their work for them while they try to hit on you."

She points to the first woman. "I am like those cleaner fish that eat all the dirt off the bigger ones - though even those fish get a better deal than I. The fourth one thinks hard and takes a long sip of her drink. "Sometimes get no reaction at all. Sometimes they don't notice I am pretty so they run, insult or try to use me. Sometimes they try to pick me up from the start. Sometimes they just run or stay away completely."

"Is it us?" the first one ventures. "Am I too pretty with no brain?" "Have I got nothing else? Am I just bubbly and nothing else?" "What about me? I know what I know and I like that but am I not pretty enough or outgoing enough?" "It can't be us.  We are all pretty, smart and we have different personalities but...."

"So why can't men respect women?" It's a good question.  Why can't the idiotic majority of men respect women not smart - whether they are varying.  A part of it is just that they have never been taught how to respect others (both genders).

Wait a moment. Didn't I say, there was a fourth reaction? Matter whether they look good, whether they are outgoing or whether they are all three? Or whether degrees between all four? It is the history of perception of women. A part of it go through them again. If you are pretty, people can only see the sex object side you. If you are smart, they get intimidated or start using you if they find out you are also insecure enough. They pass over you. If you are outgoing then they find you intimidating and think of you as a monster. Yes, we have missed one.

Respect means getting to know a person completely and accepting them as a whole person. No one wants to be subdivided into their parts and told verbally or otherwise that one part of them is more favourable than others. So if you cannot do this, remember it is really your loss.

That woman you just repulsed because you came onto her in a sleazy manner, that woman you ran away from, that woman you passed over before or tried to use, that woman you might have tried to do all three things to - she is now walking down the street with another man on her arm.

You wanted to know how he reacted? One part of her alone wasn't good enough- she had to be whole - she wasn't just a sex object, a monster or a reject. She was a woman who caught his eye, entrapped his mind and made him laugh. And he was lucky enough to be someone who could do the same for her. You missed out on a good thing.

Chin up girls - there is a very small minority of sane men out there. But if you are going to put your scuba diving gear and plunge in, don't get distracted. Plenty of fish, but not many worth catching.

- Marisa Wikramanayake

Remembering Brightie

By Rohan Pethiyagoda

Next Wednesday,  August 23, we will commemorate the first anniversary of the death of Dr. Brightie de Mel. This day last year marked the end not just of a beautiful life and mind, but of an era quite different from our own. 

Although she never said so, and possibly didn't even think it, Brightie came from a family that believed in a long-forgotten ethic: that when you are born to middle-class privilege, you serve. 

Her father, Lloyd (L.O.) Abeyaratne was a celebrated paediatrician and for many years medical superintendent of the Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children. Her mother, Augusta nee Pinto, was of Goanese descent and among the first women to qualify as a physician in Sri Lanka.

Lloyd counted among his patients the children of S.W.R.D. and Sirimavo Bandaranaike, including Chandrika. For this reason and also because of his socialist inclinations, he leaned strongly towards the SLFP, serving briefly as an MP in the early 1960s.

In 1965 he was in effect responsible for bringing down the government of Sirimavo Bandaranaike and precipitating a general election after absenting himself from a crucial no-confidence vote that afternoon. Rumour had it that Augusta, whose political preferences lay with Dudley Senanayake's UNP, had slipped a sleeping draught into her husband's after-lunch coffee, thereby causing him to siesta peacefully through the fateful vote and the fall of the government.

High achievers

Born on July  5, 1921, Beatrice Vivienne de Mel was the second of four children, and the only girl among her siblings. All of them were what today would be called high achievers. Her older brother Dr. Ernest Abeyaratne went on to become a celebrated director of agriculture, while her younger brother Hilary, became vice-principal of Trinity College, Kandy, unable to land the top job in that most ecclesiastic of schools because he refused to profess even nominally the Christian faith.

Michael, the youngest of the four, who was every bit the maverick the public expected of this family of individualists, became a distinguished paediatric surgeon. Although he served for many years in the Lady Ridgeway Hospital, he could not have followed his father into heading that institution - times had changed and he was nowhere near mediocre enough.

More athlete than scholar

From the outset it became clear to the family that neither 'Beatrice' nor 'Vivienne' could encapsulate adequately the bubbling personality that was emerging in Lloyd and Augusta's only daughter: she would forever more be known to her family and fans as Brightie.

Schooled at Ladies' College, Brightie was by her own admission much more an athlete than a scholar. Her announcement one day at the family dinner table that she intended to study medicine was met, she once told me, with a "Now Brightie, please be serious" by her father, who without missing a beat went on to discuss the latest test scores with her brothers.

But in between playing national tennis and going on to become the national ladies junior champion, study medicine she did, graduating as a doctor in 1948.

She chose child nutrition as her speciality, but in between her work at the Medical Research Institute and her growing commitments as a wife and a mother, never got down to finishing her PhD, which remained one of her few unfulfilled ambitions.

Nevertheless, Brightie was remarkably influential in getting her point of view across, never being afraid to confront bureaucracy head on.

From the outset, Brightie worked on addressing the issue of malnutrition, which she saw as the combined result of poverty and ignorance. She mercilessly lobbied anyone in the government who would listen, and succeeded, through a mass awareness campaign and the dispensing of supplements to remedy vitamin deficiencies, especially among children and women of childbearing age.

Generations of rural Sri Lankans owe their health to her single-minded and sustained championing of the case for Triposha, a nutritional supplement distributed free of charge to mothers and children from poorer backgrounds.

 And when it came to the efficient distribution of Triposha, she had no qualms about co-opting the services of the Ceylon Tobacco Company, as set against smoking as she was. Colleagues who viewed with horror any link between the medical profession and the tobacco industry were swept aside: in one fell swoop Brightie wiped out corruption from the Triposha procurement process and cemented a corporate social responsibility programme that endures, albeit clandestinely, to this day.

Culture shock

In 1948 Brightie married Lakshman de Mel. Given her work ethic and socialist leanings, she must have come as something of a culture shock to the de Mels, who were a staid family of landed proprietors, and very well landed, too.

Having stared superciliously at Brightie through their lorgnettes for a while, however, they quickly warmed to her and soon found themselves in love with their new daughter-in-law despite this strange yearning on her part to work. Having been born to privilege, the de Mels had never really had to work (not, at any rate, for other people): they merely kept a paternal eye on their properties and the market rate for coconuts, and then sat back and plucked it off trees. In Brightie, however, they found not just a useful infusion of brain into the bloodline, but also the capture of arguably the most beautiful woman in Colombo.

 They didn't come more glamorous than my Auntie Brightie: she was a corker and she knew it.

Soft spoken gent

Lakshman was a soft-spoken man blessed with a subtle and sardonic sense of humour. He wrote beautifully, and even penned some plays which, however, his innate modesty prevented him from allowing ever to be produced. "Meet my friend Kate," I remember a line ran in one of them, "And her twin sister, um, Duplicate."

It was Lakshman who anchored the growing family, lending it stability, while Brightie rushed about in an often chaotic whirlwind, furthering her research and doing good deeds. Indeed, even in childhood it did not escape me that all her brothers too, were similarly fortunate in having spouses who, despite being remarkable women in their own right, were content to keep the home and family happy and intact even as their husbands dedicated their own lives to higher causes, whether agriculture, education or medicine.

The death in 1966 of Lakshman and Brightie's oldest son, Amal, was a terrible blow to them both. While the ever gregarious Brightie had her career and good works to fall back on, Lakshman turned inwards, becoming reclusive and introverted.

As a boy I used to love to spend hours in his company, listing to him read Wilde, Maugham and Shaw plays out aloud, explaining the wit and adding humour of his own. As much as he could make others laugh, he rarely laughed himself. One sensed all along that nothing could fill the void Amal had left.

Kiddy paradise

It was into this house that I was in 1966 welcomed as a stripling boy of 11, the family de Mel serving in loco parentis to me while at school in Colombo, while my own parents were tea planting up-country. If Brightie knew something about parenting someone else's brat, she kept it a closely-guarded secret.

Life in the de Mel household was laisez faire in extremis: no discipline, no fixed mealtimes, no homework and education derived largely in absentia. It was kiddy heaven. On weekends we would be bundled into her Ford Anglia, 4 Sri 1975, and driven off somewhere to improve our minds, Brightie steering with intense and studied recklessness whilst keeping us entertained with a detailed if eclectic commentary on the dreadful state of the nation.

I have no recollection of doing any homework whatsoever while living with them, and enjoyed the love Brightie extended to me, every bit as warm as that she had for her own sons.

Having herself grown up in a family of boys, the coy and bashful ways of Sri Lankan womanhood were entirely alien to Brightie. I still recall her explaining to11year old me matter-of-factly and in more than adequate detail the facts of life when once she found me gazing upon a pair of frogs in amplexus in her garden pond. Likewise, she turned out to be the only adult I ever met who actually knew (and was willing to tell me) why it was that, owing to the vagaries of the canine reproductive apparatus, mating dogs remain in copulo for so long afterwards, an event that my biographers might well finger as the genesis of my own fascination with natural history.

Scatter brain

Everyone who knew Brightie has their favourite anecdote about her, almost always revolving around how scatterbrained she was. He car keys, handbag, glasses and watch were eternally misplaced, and she would often be all of a dither having accepted three overlapping dinners on a single evening.

She had an engaging habit of addressing people she liked as "Dear," and asking the weightiest of questions on the strangest of occasions.

Seeing me at a mutual friend's birthday party once, she headed straight for me, took my hand in hers and asked intently, "Dear, do you think there is hope for this country?" And when I explained that yes there was, or no there wasn't (I forget which it was), she'd sigh with relief and say, "Ah, that's good, then." And she meant it.

Altruistic pursuit

Doctors nowadays tend as a class to be exceptionally stale, flat and uninteresting (though rarely unprofitable). There are remarkably few of them who seem to have the slightest interest outside of their trade, be it playing a sport or a musical instrument, or engaging in a hobby or some sort of altruistic pursuit.

They aren't the sort of person you'd want to be stuck in a lift with. Brightie, on the other hand, would have made delightful company in a stranded elevator, and a cramped one at that. Her fellow sufferers will have emerged from their ordeal brimming with new ideas. She had something interesting, useful and often provocative or even subversive to say on every occasion, for she was someone who did her thinking very much 'out of the box.' She was not afraid to say what she thought and quick to offer a mea culpa when found short.

Helper of the helpless

Well before her retirement from the MRI, Brightie had begun regularly conducting voluntary clinics for the underprivileged, in Wanathamulla, a practice she kept going until age prevented it. Throughout the 1980s, she, with her brother Michael, her sister-in-law Kamalika and a few other medical colleagues, continued to conduct regular clinics in remote villages in Rajarata and the Wanni, helping people for whom no one else seemed to care.

 They didn't need to be told where the Kent and Dollar farms were: they had known all along. And Brightie was touched when honoured first by Zonta, and then by President Premadasa with a Vidya Jothi, tributes she cherished but never publicised.

Childlike innocence

Brightie was far more interested in discussing issues than people, and when she did discuss people, she had only kind words to say of them (barring, that is, politicians, whom she despised as a class). There was about her a naive, child-like innocence, and she viewed the world through rose-tinted glasses.

To her mind, she was born to serve, and serve she did. It can't have been easy for her husband and sons to forgive her obsession with serving others, arguably at the cost of their own neglect, but they did, for they knew Brightie was driven by a higher cause.

In her final weeks, Nissanka, Lochana and Prasanna never left her bedside: they lavished upon her the love and care that only an exceptional mother could earn. Brightie knew who she was and what God expected her to do - and she lost no time in doing it.

She was great fun to know, and a wonderful person by whom to be loved. They don't make them like my Aunty Brightie any more: they lost the formula.

Health on Sunday

Cancer preventing activated Liquid Zeolite    

I believe that to a very great extent we hold our health in our own hands. Good health is our birthright but wrong eating habits and wrong living habits can prevent the inbuilt healing powers of our bodies which are truly amazing, from maintaining good health.

It is revolutionary that people the world over are now being extremely health conscious. Scientific research and tried and proven theories have contributed much to this way of thinking and the tendency to resort to everything natural, from food to medication of every sort is widely evident.

Natural remedy

It has been researched and proved that a substance called Activated Liquid Zeolite is a simple yet powerful and totally natural remedy, which has proved to be a tried and tested antidote for toxicity in the body. It is claimed that zeolite has been used for more than 800 years in Asia as a remedy for sustained well-being, yet in our part of the world we have not yet been familiarised with the advent of zeolite.

Zeolite is a mineral naturally formed by the elements of volcanic lava and thick ash, used with ocean water. It has no equal as its crystalline structure makes up the active ingredient of Activated Liquid Zeolite, which binds free radicals, toxins, viral particles and carcinogens removing them from the body through the normal elimination process.

Activated Liquid Zeolite by which name it is now known is purified zeolite, which removes toxins from the body quickly, safely, effectively and naturally. It is greatly beneficial for cancer, viruses, heavy metal removal, bacterial and fungal infections. It is so simple that it seems almost unbelievable but testimonials from those who have used it confirm its unfailing potency. Activated Liquid Zeolite appears to prevent and may become an important treatment for serious illness.

However, this research has not yet been publicised although it suggests purified and activated zeolite may be effective for all forms of cancer.

Targets cancer cells

Theoretically the zeolite in Active Cellular Zeolite, which is a certain structure that is negatively charged, takes in a tremendous amount of positively charged heavy metal, pesticides and herbicides and has an indirect effect of neutralising their effect in causing cancer. Because of this zeolite becomes slightly positively charged and is attracted to the negatively charged membrane of the cancer cells and is pulled right into the cancer cells. When the zeolite moves inside the cell, the P21 gene is activated. P21 acts as a tumour suppressor through its ability to control all cycle progression and specifically targets cancer cells. No claim can be made that this is a cure for cancer but we can look at it as a cancer preventive remedy.

Upto now the remarkable results of Activated Liquid Zeolite have been so promising that further on-going investigation is imperative. A nutritional and research chemist purified zeolite and acquired a patent for it in 2005. The process of bringing it to the market was prohibitive - about $800,000,000 and would take 8-10 years. The founder realised the product was safe, natural and non-toxic and found that he could make it available to people much quicker and at much less expense. Activated Liquid Zeolite is made from 100% natural ingredients available in a purified activated form, which is almost tasteless and odourless.

Cancer causing agents

With so much toxic chemicals in the environment, our food, water and air are polluted with cancer causing agents. After a period of time these accumulate in our bodies and accelerate chronic diseases.

Activated Liquid Zeolite is listed in the FDAs 'generally recognised as safe list.'  It has undergone 13 years of pharmaceutical research in the US. According to several reports the outer coat of zeolite seems to absorb glucose and blood sugar levels have dropped so much as 50 points in one hour in patients suffering from serious diabetes. The only contradiction is that zeolite absorbs water and can cause dehydration, which can easily be remedied simply by drinking plenty of water.

The general treatment for everyone is 10 drops, three times a day with or without meals. To support cancer prevention or to supplement a cancer treatment programme, 15 drops - three, times a day is advocated or this can be taken three drops every hour and 15 drops at bedtime.  Zeolite remains in the body for 5-7 hours and then needs to be replenished. After 4-6 weeks, 3-5 drops three times a day are recommended for maintenance with the amount increased in case of viral, chemical and other exposure.

Activated Liquid Zeolite is not considered a short-term supplement but instead it is a long-term remedy for good health. Active Cellular Zeolite is an unparalleled option for ensuring the greatest health benefits in a world where the pollution of toxins never ceases.

- Sheilagh Gunaratna

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