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                                    

News

November 11, 2007  Volume 14, Issue 21


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Arts

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Fashion

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Review

           

A child bride speaks of her ordeal


Bharathi posing for a photograph
with her nephew on her wedding day

Too young to wed...

By Jamila Najmuddin in Batticaloa

When I met 14 year old Bharathi, in her sister's home in Batticaloa, she was covered in layers of cloth.

A part of her forehead was bruised and her arm was deeply burnt. She seemed to be crying, yet did not fail to get up and come near us. She had a child crawling behind her, who kept crying to be picked up.

Bharathi has beautiful brown eyes and takes one of my hands in both of hers and greets me warmly. "She is a very friendly child," her sister tells us. But she looks much older than her age and already has wrinkles under her eyes. At a young age of 14, it is difficult to understand that Bharathi has already endured such horrible suffering and is the mother of an eight month old baby.

Bhari as she is fondly called among her family and neighbours, was married late in 2005 at the age of 12 in her mother's house in Batticaloa. Bharathi says that she did not know of her marriage till she woke up one morning and her mother came and laid a red saree on her wooden bed and asked her to get dressed in three hours as her inlaws would arrive later that day to celebrate her marriage. "I had heard of child marriages but I never thought it would happen to me. All my pleadings were in vain as my mother had locked me in the room," she explained.

Committed suicide

Bharathi had left school at the age of 11 as her mother could not afford to bear the expenses. When Bharathi was five years old, her father committed suicide as he was unable to pay his debts.

After her father's death, Bharathi explains, her brother who was nine years old at the time, went out to work with her mother. It is her brother who had been providing for Bharathi and her sister, ever since. However Bharathi's sister was married at the age of 19, two years ago. "She moved away to her husband's home and since then it was just my brother and me with my mother. Everything was perfect till November 2005, when rumour spread that young girls were being abducted and recruited by the LTTE," she said.

Bharathi's mother who lived in fear ever since her husband's death, was quite certain that Bharathi would be abducted if she was not given in marriage. Her aunt's daughter was also married at the age of nine. Bharathi's mother had been continuously advised by her aunts saying that considering the rise in disappearances of young girls, it was only right that Bharathi be wedded off to an older man, in order to be protected.

"My mother had promised to give me in marriage to her relative's son, who lived closeby. He was 27," she said.

Wedded in a small ceremony

Despite her pleadings and tears, Bharathi was wedded in a small ceremony in her home in December 2005. The Hindu priest arrived home and performed the ceremony. There were no elaborate celebrations, and no guests draped in elegant sarees or jewellery. Bharathi herself wore, only one gold chain and two bangles, which her mother had borrowed from her relatives.

Bharathi left for her husband's home and at the age of 12, she was forced to take care of not only her husband, but also her in-laws.

Bharathi further explains that her life turned for the worse after she went to live with her husband. "Since I was very small, my in-laws thought they could make me do all the house-work. My father-in-law asked me to do everything - the laundry, cooking, cleaning, sweeping etc.

The only time I was able to sleep in the house was when everyone else had gone to sleep. I also had to wake up at four, every morning, and prepare breakfast. The others in the house awoke at 6 a.m," she said.

The beatings begin

Three weeks after her marriage, Bharathi says that the beatings began. "No matter how much I worked, they were never satisfied, They always thought I was a dumb kid," she said.

Recollecting one of her worst nightmares, Bharathi says that one night, after her husband and in-laws had gone to bed, Bharathi sneeked into the kitchen to get some food. She says she was kept hungry most of the time. However while she was pouring out some broth, her mother-in-law caught her by the hair and pushed her into the hall. Her husband and father-in-law came rushing out at her screams.

In order to teach young Bharathi a lesson, she says, that while her mother-in-law kept beating her and kicking her in her abdomen, her father-in-law came and poured boiling water on her right arm. "The burn on my right arm is because of that incident. My husband just kept looking while my in-laws kept beating me. The pain was too much and I lost consciousness," she cried.

When Bharathi gained consciousness hours later, she was forced into the kitchen to wash the utensils. Since that day, she was called a thief, as she had tried to eat on the sly the previous night. "The pain was unbearable but I got used to it. The days were very long and I got beaten every day. Right throughout, my husband was silent. He would not talk to me most of the time, except at nights, in bed," she said.

A few weeks pregnant

Five months after her marriage, in May last year, Bharathi told her in-laws and husband, she was a few weeks pregnant. However rather than rejoicing, she was only insulted saying the child would be as lazy as her if she didn't work harder. Her husband reacted the same way.

 A week later, Bharathi's sister came to visit her. Seeing the bruises on her face and arm, Bharathi's sister at once insisted that Bharathi should come and live with her for a few days. "At first my in-laws refused. But there was little they could do when my brother-in-law insisted. They knew my brother-in-law has a lot of connections with the Batticaloa police," she said.

When Bharathi left her in-laws' home in late May last year, she vowed she would never return. Since then she has been living with her sister and brother-in-law who look after Bharathi well.

She filed for divorce a year after her marriage in December last year. Since then, her husband and in-laws have not visited Bharathi. She gave birth to her son Ranjan on February 18, this year. Her husband is yet to give her the divorce or come to see his son. 

Bharathi has not lodged a complaint with the police and wishes to remain silent for the sake of her son. "I do not want my son to grow up and visit his father in jail. I too, do not want to be questioned by the organisations or the police. I am just happy to be alive," she said.

Get married or get abducted

She adds, "In spite of our desire to continue our studies, our parents arrange an early marriage for us. With the current situation in the war zones, we cannot blame them, because either we get married or get abducted. However as a result we become pregnant soon. At a tender age it is quite difficult as well as risky. I should know, because I am 14 and I already have a son."

While Bharathi now lives with her sister, her mother and brother have refused to see her as she is no longer with her husband. However Bharathi says the love she receives from her sister is enough for her to keep living each day. "I have to love my son and take care of him. I do not care about anyone else other than my sister," she said.

While Bharathi decided to speak to us and narrate her story, there are many other young brides in Batticaloa who wish to remain silent. Child organisations in Batticaloa who are aware of the situation of child marriages say they are unable to do anything due to the silence of the children and public.

Marriage the only recourse

 While parents in the war zones do not believe in having their children educated, they believe that marriage is the only recourse if one needs to be protected. "Either we get them married or see them falling into the hands of those fighting this terrible war," is the opinion shared by most mothers in the war zones.

While parents get them married because of the war, the young brides however admit that such a step only robs them of their childhood and normal life experiences other young people take for granted. Many have been forced to drop out of school and their health is at risk because of early sexual activity and child bearing.

They say that friendship with other children of their age is often restricted as they are confined to their homes, in-laws and children. Talking to another man, even if one is yet a child, is taboo. While most of them have not even completed grade six, their young lives now revolve around their children, husbands and home.

"We are aware"

Head of Save the Children in Batticaloa, Robert Oreno told The Sunday Leader that the organisation was on the look out for incidents of child marriages in the east, as the number of cases had increased in the past few months.

"We are aware of child marriages happening in Batticaloa, but there is very little we can do as the people are afraid to talk about it. Sexual issues are taboo in Batticaloa and incidents such as child rape and assault also go unidentified," he said.

He added, "The fear and silence of the people in Batticaloa has led to a lot of problems especially where children are concerned, because if people are willing to seek our help, then a lot of children can be protected."

Continuing, Oreno said, one of the main reasons for child marriages in the east was the prevailing security situation and poverty.


"They are silent"

Officials from the United Nations office in Batticaloa

            confirmed to The Sunday Leader that child marriages were indeed happening in the area. However they said there was very little action they could take, as no one was willing to come forward to talk about it or lodge a complaint.

 "The UN is aware that child marriages are taking place in Batticaloa. We do not know the exact reasons behind it. However we are providing help to the few young brides we have come across. But there are many more who continue to suffer in silence," the official said.

Stressing that the situation in Batticaloa was far from safe due to the prevailing security situation, the official added the organisation was unable to carry out its humanitarian work in a satisfactory manner as its officials/volunteers were always accompanied by the security forces.

"Sometimes we are unable to conduct our relief activities in the manner we want, because we are accompanied by the security forces. Very often we are not granted access into an area without the presence of the security forces. This makes it very difficult for us because we need to reach out to the people and the children," the official said.

Citing the reasons for child marriages in the east, the official added that most of them were due to the volatile security situation, poverty and the fear of being abducted.


Remembering Paul Perera


Paul Perera

By Ranil Wickremesinghe

I met Paul Perera 35 years ago. That was the time I was entering the legal profession as a junior lawyer.

The memory of how I was introduced to him at the chambers of H.W. Jayewardene, QC, remains as if it happened yesterday.

Thereafter I got the opportunity of working together in several cases in the legal profession. We worked under H.W. Jayewardene and M. Thiruchelvam.

 J.R. Jayewardene gave both of us the opportunity to join the working committee of the United National Party in 1973. Since we worked closely in the legal field, we also could work together in the political arena.

The support I received from him during the period I entered active politics both as the organiser for Kelaniya and candidate for Biyagama, is immense.

He had a broader political vision as a result of the experience and maturity that he had inherited as a lawyer and being in the administrative service.

Outstanding ability

His ability and the acumen in finding solutions to problems and the massive capacity to organise was not limited to the legal field but also extended to the political field. This talent was a great support to J.R. Jayewardene, the United National Party and the Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya.

Paul Perera was an outstanding member of the team that was instrumental in the historical victory of J.R. Jayewardene in 1977.

The other members of this team were my father Esmond Wickre- mesinghe, Sirisoma Ranasinghe, N.G.P. Panditharathne, H.W. Jayewardene, J.W. Subasinghe, G.V.P. Samarasinghe and W.P Menikdiwela.

Since Paul Perera was a resident in the immediate neighbourhood of J. R. Jayewardene he was close to Jayewardene.

He, together with J.R. Jayewardene and the party fearlessly dealt with situations such as the attempted arrest of J.R. Jayewardene by the then government, when a Parliamentary Select Committee was appointed against Jayewardene, when emergency law was imposed to prevent Sathayagraha campaigns and when loud speakers were banned at UNP meetings.

During the 1977 election, even people of the calibre of Ananda Tissa de Alwis who were working in the political office had to enter active politics. When all of us were entangled in the field, the person who oversaw the office work was Paul Perera.

He really is a proud member of the 1977 victory.

Revolutionary changes

After the victory, Jayewardene started revolutionary socio-economic changes in this country.

In doing so, Upali Wijewardane was appointed as the Director General of the Greater Colombo Economic Commission and the Deputy Director General was Paul Perera.

While Upali Wijewardane focused on investment promotion and avenues for investment Paul Perera was tasked with the building of Free Trade Zones and the infrastructure development.

The decision to build the first Free Trade Zone next to the Katunayake International Airport was on the basis of convenience of air transport for the produce.

Before completing one year of establishing the GCEC, several acres of coconut land was made into a gigantic industrial zone as a result of his organising capacity which was par excellence.

Stepping stone

After Katunayake, J.R. Jayewardene wanted to build a Free Trade Zone in Biyagama with the intention of serving his electorate. That was the stepping stone to his political career.

At the time, Biyagama was the least developed ward of the Gampaha District. There were no proper roadways. It was not practical to build a Free Trade Zone in such a locality.

As the MP of the electorate I discussed with Paul Perera. The development plan for the area was submitted to him. By this time the election pledge by M. D. H. Jayawardane and me to build a bridge connecting Kaduwela and Biyagama was becoming a reality.

A reality

The development of  Sri Jayewardenepura under  R. Premadasa also included building Raja Mawatha from Colombo up to parliament as the first step. Paul Perera and I forwarded a fresh proposal in this regard - that is to extend Raja Mawatha from parliament to Kaduwela, and up to Balummahara over the newly constructed bridge.

This is how we could overcome the difficulty in developing the road- ways around Biyagama to build the Free Trade Zone.

The Biyagama Free Trade Zone finally became a reality.

Perhaps the reason for Paul Perera to get the opportunity to fill the vacancy of the Kaduwela electorate due to the illness of  M.D.H. Jayawardane MP, was due to his immense contribution to the Kaduwela area in building roadways and the bridge.

With his legal, political and the administrative background he was able to contribute tremendously as a Member of Parliament. He was accustomed with the ethics and traditions of parliament in no time.

He also earned a reputation as a strong personality in politics. He loved this identity. He never missed making use of this identity.

He successfully contested the parliamentary election from the Gampaha District as the organiser of Attanagalle in 1989. He was also made a minister.

He indeed served the people without reservation as a bureaucrat, member of parliament and minister from 1977 to 1994. He contributed to the party with the same vigour even after the UNP became the opposition.

He did not rest when it came to helping the UNP even at a time of sickness. He worked for the party at all times.

Awakening

What began in 1977 was the revolution to make a modern society in this country. The revolution to make a speedy economic growth. The colossal socio-economic development was in place within two years as a result of this revolution. Projects such as the Free Trade Zones, Mahaweli, industries, housing and a massive awakening which extended to the spheres of youth, women, education and health were the hallmarks of his political career.

This it the awakening of a modern society. Today we tread on the path of modern development that was started then.

Paul Perera is in the forefront of  visionary leaders who were responsible for the new beginning. That is the reason why we remember him with reverence with each step we take along this path.


Ladies who long for company


The Lady Fareed Home for Elders in Makola
and (inset) Lady Ameena Fareed

By Nirmala Kannangara

In youth the days are short and the years are long; in old age the years are short and the days long - Panin

For the 'residents' (inmates) at Lady Fareed Home for Elders the days are long. They want company, attention, love and happiness. Like the rest of us they too love to spend their time amongst their kith and kin. But the sad fact is that they do not have anyone  near and dear to dote on them and bring them a little happiness in these their sunset years.

They long to see someone visiting them. Anybody who visits them be it known or unknown they rally round them as if the guest is known to them for long years. When The Sunday Leader visited Lady Fareed Home for Elders in Pamunuwila Road, Makola, Kiribathgoda, the 14 residents were overjoyed. For some we were their friends and for the rest we were some of their kith and kin.

Established in 1957 and  opened by Sir Oliver Gunatilake the then governor general of Ceylon, this was the only elders' home for Muslims in the country then. This was a generous gift by Philanthropist Lady Ameena Fareed who also gifted Muslim Ladies College Bambalapitiya. She was  the wife of Sir Razeek Fareed, father of the Sinhala-Yonaka Ekamuthu Kama and the one who moved the Sinhala Only Bill in the then legislature.

Destitutes and those well to do

Governed by the Moors' Islamic Cultural Home and managed by a  committee, Lady Fareed Home for Elders could accommodate 60 although the number of residents are only 14 at present.

There are two types of residents - the destitutes, and those who can afford to spend on themselves. Those who are destitute are given free food and accommodation while those who could spend on themselves make a  contribution. "We do not demand a particular amount from these residents, but according to their affordability they give us money.

"This is a place where the elderly can spend the evening of their lives in a quiet and tranquil environment. It is tidy and comfortable and those living abroad prefer to keep their parents and loved ones at this home.

"Those who need medical treatment are attended to by our  doctor who visits the home twice a week, and the home provides them the food they really love to taste," said the management committee members on the basis of anonymity, to The Sunday Leader.

Mutual help

Enjoying the facilities provided for a comfortable life, the inmates gather at meal times in the well kept dining room and watch movies in the lobby. They are happy. They share jokes. They also help one another. The residents give a helping hand to those who cannot walk without  help. They also help out those who cannot do things on their own like combing hair etc. 

Although this home was housed in a grand old building earlier it later became dilapidated with time.  It is now housed in a new building  put up by Hajee Eliyas Abdul Kareem in memory of his departed  parents Abdul Kareem and Zubeida Mohamed.  The home shifted to the new building from September 2 this year.

Friendship and warmth

The childlike faces of these inmates speak volumes and they seek friendship and warmth. They need our love and care very badly and  sharing a few hours with them would bring them happiness and  satisfaction. Charity does not mean  just giving money.  It means providing  happiness - a ray of hope and light to those who are in the evening years of life.

"Although some are from affluent families they still love to get a present - no matter how small -  for it brings them happiness.

"There was a rich lady from Kandy - a teacher at Girls' High School, Kandy who passed away a little over two years ago. Though her kith and kin bought her what- ever she needed  she still loved to receive gifts from  visitors. Once I asked her what she would wish to have and she innocently came up to me and whispered 'a bottle of spray perfume.' The very next day I gave her the bottle of spray perfume," added the management committee member.

The Sunday Leader spoke to some of the residents and this is what they had to say about their  lives and how they spend their time at the home.

Ranee Cuttilan from Kandy, although old and feeble told The Sunday Leader that she was 16 years old.

Not given in marriage

Cuttilan  is forgetful, and according to her friends she was not given in marriage and she still feels sad about it. She is from a well to do family and her relations visit her sometimes. "I am 16 years old and I will be going home tomorrow. My father got a big house built for me and I'll be getting married tomorrow. Please do attend my wedding reception," she invited me to her imaginary wedding. She  held a doll in her hands and when asked as to who that was,  started stroking the doll's head. "This is my baby. I love her so much and I want to cuddle her," she said with an aching heart  and innocent smile.

Marian from Kannantota  is another inmate who spoke to The Sunday Leader.

"I am not married but have relations in Avissawella. They are not in a position to visit me due to financial difficulties. I have been in this home for the last 11 years and a few years ago I got TB and I was hospitalised in Ragama and Welisara. All my expenses were borne by the management. Although I am really happy here, I would like to stay with my relations.

Suffered immensely

"But this is life, what's to be done. From my small days I was working for a Muslim family in Avissawella but they ill treated me. I had to suffer immensely. Fortunately a kind hearted lady brought me here," claimed Marian.

"I am the only child and come from a well to do family. After the demise of my Mummy and Daddy my relations brought me here. I am really happy here. I do not want to go home again,"  said  Razul Jessima from Balangoda .

"I was adopted from my childhood and they brought me here. I have never seen my parents," said Abusa from Kandy.

H.M. Hijudeen, 76 years old,  looks after the home in the absence of the warden. He claims that he has a son who is a DJ and is longing to go back home once the construction of his son's house is finished.

Met with accident

"My wife is not living and I was a salesman in a mercantile firm and once the government sent my Indian employers back to India I worked at a security firm as a supervisor/control officer. I met with two accidents and now  one  leg is two and a half inches  shorter than the other. I am here for the past 10 years," claimed Hijudeen.

"I studied in a leading girl's school in Colombo but cannot remember the name of the school. Although I am staying here I am very rich. I like to go home but nobody  wants to take me," said Bin from Mt. Lavinia, innocently.

For those who would like to share a lighter moment with these innocents, the management is ready to arrange the setting for such a meeting. The management would welcome those generous enough to provide a meal or two to the inmates, and those who wish to have the meals cooked at the home could make use of the well kept kitchen - there are two helpers to give a helping hand  in the cooking - and share the meals with the inmates to bring a smile onto the faces of these helpless people.


A facelift for a fort

By Shezna Shums

Strolling within the Galle Fort, the charming and quaintly beautiful houses will jolt your imagination as to what life would have been like during the colonial times.

Old houses belonging to the Portuguese and Dutch era stand strong even today and would make any visitor curious.

What is heartening is that moves are now afoot to restore these houses to what they were whilst conforming to the regulations stipulated by the  Archeological Department.

Renovations to some of these old houses started this year with the help of the Galle Heritage Foundation  under the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and National Heritage.

Netherlands assistance

The Chairman, Galle Heritage Foundation, Parakrama Dahanayake told The Sunday Leader that this project has been mooted by the 'Netherlands Sri Lanka Cultural Cooperation Programme which is funded by the Netherlands government.

An allocation of Rs. 51 million has been made to carry out renovations to the houses within the Galle Fort.

"The deadline to finish renovations is December 31, 2008 by which time we hope to complete renovations on 60 houses," said the Chairman.

Dahanayake who took office in August this year from the previous chairman Ajith Kumara said that the amount of money that would be spent on each house would depend on the state of the house. "Most of the roofs are in poor condition. Therefore many roofs are being repaired."

Facades altered

Furthermore the facades of many Dutch houses have been altered by the present residents and the Galle Heritage Foundation has had to renovate these houses to bring back the original look.

"This is the first time that funding is being provided to private houses since previously funding was provided to only public institutions such as churches and libraries.

The renovations to around 40 private homes in the Galle Fort area started mid this year and repairs seem to be going on apace, ahead of schedule added the Chairman.

"Under the current speed in which work is being carried out we are confident that we can even exceed the targeted number of houses to be renovated and we may even be able to go up to 80 houses if  the required funding is available," explained Dahanayake.

The Galle Heritage Foundation  established in 1994 seeks to promote the preservation, conservation and development of the Galle Fort together with its surrounding area as a historic city centre and as an area of archeological interest.

Architectural input

The Chairman also said that the renovations are being supervised by students of architecture from the University of Moratuwa under the guidance of the Head of Architecture at the university, Professor Samitha Manawadu.

The houses that require renovations have to apply to the Galle Foundation Institute seeking assistance. Thereafter the foundation will provide the necessary funds needed to carry out renovations. Techinical staff could be sourced by the owners or through the foundation.

 Project officer, Tharanga Liyanaarachchi told The Sunday Leader that technical staff, trained masons and carpenters are also provided by the foundation to renovate the houses.

Speedy renovations

Renovation plans have to be authorised by the Department of Archeology after which the renovations can be done, supervised by the students of the Department of Architecture, University of Moratuwa.

Residents living in an old Dutch house at 75, Peddlers Street, Galle Fort said that the work is being carried out speedily and commended the workers as well as the students involved in this project.

The residents said that if the foundation did not carry out the repairs most of the houses would go into ruin.

Past glory

"So many changes and alterations have been made to these Portuguese and Dutch houses but gradually we hope to bring them as close as we can to their original architectural character," the Chairman said.

The Sunday Leader team  that visited the Galle Fort last week found the area being restored to its pristine glory and it was a pleasure to walk around and see the houses with their newly regained original charm and character.

The old world houses possess much charm and if only the houses could tell their story it would surely be a long, interesting and thrilling tale of yore.

The Galle Fort

The Galle Fort with its historic and romantic walled streets occupies a total land area of 36 hectares.

Built by the Portuguese in the 16th century in order to protect the residents it was taken over by the Dutch in 1640.

Many of the buildings one sees in the Galle Fort today are reminiscent of buildings that stood there during the Dutch era with pillared verandas and homes resembling  old mansions that belonged to sea merchants.

At present the Galle Fort remains the only fort built by European invaders in South and Southeast Asia which effectively combined the influences of Dutch architecture with South Asian traditions.


Let not a drop of rain water go waste

By Risidra Mendis

Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink! We have often heard of this quote but how many of us take it seriously? Water is available today, for tomorrow and for many more years. But there will come a day when our water resources may run out if we do not use it sparingly.

We can survive without food for a day but we cannot survive without water for more than an hour which is why conserving water has become so important in today's context.

Reuse

The best way to conserve water is to reuse it and the only way you can reuse water is to recycle it. As a way of conserving water and reducing the costs on high water bills professional landscapists are now advising people to adopt a rain water harvesting system in their own gardens.

Rain water harvesting is the collection and storage of rain from roofs or from a surface catchment for future use. The water is generally stored in rainwater tanks or directed into mechanisms which recharge groundwater.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader landscapist Upul Amerasinghe said you can reduce 50% of your water bill if you adopt a rain water harvesting system in your home garden.

Many possibilities

"Rain water that is collected can be used for day to day needs such as washing vehicles, watering plants, cultivating crops, increasing soil moisture for urban greenery and reducing erosion," Amerasinghe said. 

Harvested rain water can also be used to flush toilets, wash laundry and even to bathe. "Rain water is not suitable for drinking purposes unless treated with a chemical. However in some Western countries rain water is used for drinking purposes as well," he said.

Traditionally, rain water harvesting has been practised in arid and semi-arid areas, and has been used for  drinking, domestic needs, for livestock, for small irrigation and as a way to replenish ground water levels. This method may have been used extensively by the Indus Valley civilisation.

"When landscaping a garden I advise my clients to invest in a 1000 litre tank for Rs. 3500 to collect rain water. Instead of letting the rain water go waste it can be reused in the garden. An underground sump and a pump can also be used instead of a tank to collect rain water. The excess rain water can be used on the turf in the garden," Upul said.  

He added that the tank has to be covered from the top to prevent bird faeces, moss and windblown dust particles collecting in the tank.

A study conducted on how harvested rain water in low cost surface run-off tanks could be used to improve the income level of households in the dry zone area of Sri Lanka has proved fruitful.

Conserve

During the study it was revealed that from the total rainfall around 25% of rain water is lost in the form of surface run-off.

The study showed that in the dry zones in the months of February, March, July and August farmers are unable to cultivate their crops due to the lack of water.

However during the rainy period ( Maha) these areas receive approximately 710 mm of rainfall. More than 40% of this rainfall is lost as run-off water. This amounts to 1150 mm from an acre of land. If a proportion of this water can be collected and retained in the home garden it can be used to irrigate crops during the dry season.

A  five mm rain water run-off tank constructed at the bottom of the garden at Kurundamkulama, Mihintale collected an average volume of 5426 litres from the Maha season rainfall of 537 mm. Farmers were able to cultivate crops such as chilies, brinjal, maize, cowpea and capsicum and thereby increase their income by 200% from last year's Maha season.

Rainfall of 460 mm in the Yala season collected on an average 5055 litres of water in the tanks and the farmers were able to cultivate gourds, thibbatu, papaya and also keep the yearly crops from drying.

"It doesn't cost much to invest in a 1000 litre water tank and adopt a rain water harvesting system. For around Rs. 20,000 you can set up a simple rain water system in your home garden and enjoy the benefits by using rain water," Amerasinghe added.


The law of the garbage truck

How often do you let other people change your mood? Do you let a bad driver, a rude waiter, a curt boss, or an insensitive colleague ruin your day? Unless you're a robot you are bound to blow your top off. However, the mark of a successful person is how quickly he or she can get back his or her focus on what's important.  

A lesson

Sixteen years ago, I learned this lesson. I learned it in the back of a New York City taxi cab. Here's what happened.

I hopped in a taxi and we took off to the Grand Central Station. We were driving in the right lane when all of a sudden a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded and missed the other car's rear by just inches! The driver of the other car - the guy who almost caused a big  accident turned around and started yelling bad words at us.  

My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean he was really friendly. So, I said, 'Why did you do that?  This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!' And this is when my taxi driver told me what I now called, "The Law of the Garbage Truck." Many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment.

Don't be the dump

As their garbage piles up, they need a place  to dump it. If they happen to dump it on you, don't take it personally. You just smile,wave,wish them well, and move on. You'll be happier if you did that rather than fight them.  So this was it: The Law of the Garbage Truck. 

I started thinking how often do I let garbage trucks run right over me? And how often do I take their garbage and spread it to other people: at work, at home, on the street?   It was that day I said, 'I'm not going to do it anymore.' I  see garbage trucks everywhere and everyday.

I see the load they're carrying. I see them coming to drop it off. And like my taxi driver, I don't make it a personal thing; I just smile, wave, wish them well, and I move on.   The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day.

What about you? What would happen in your life, starting today, if you let more garbage  trucks pass you by?

 - Capt. Rohith Fernando


scence & heard

It was a way of getting together again

Many schools are in need of a name board. This is why the 2005 - 2006 committee of the Past Pupils Association of Presbyterian Girls' School, Regent Street, Colombo 10, under the guidance of President Sumana  Sakalasooriya was able to gift a new name board to the school. It was one of the items in the planned project for the year 2006.   The project was  carried on by Vice President, Chandranie  Kothalawela  Samayadasa.

The out-going committee requests all past pupils to keep the school flag flying and be of service to their alma mater keeping in mind it's motto "on stepping stones to levels higher."

Latvian musical treat in Colombo

A musical group from Latvia will in Colombo this month featuring Raimonds Tiguls, gifted keyboard artist and composer who has written and produced several CDs of beautiful ambient music; Intars Busulis, upcoming internationally renowned jazz singer and trombonist with whom he recently collaborated on the CD Fashion Mood with acid jazz and dance music, and double bassist, Janis Mednis who has played with Kremerata Baltica - the celebrated Latvian classical chamber music group led by violinist Gidon Kremer.

Janis Mednis is also a gifted photographer and recently published an exquisite album of photographs of the other-worldly coastal region of Livonia where about 200 people still speak the original ancient language of their people. There will be a 30 minute presentation from this work with original live music (specially composed for and sold with the award winning book) by members of the band at the Latvian National Day celebrations at the Trans Asia Hotel on Friday November 16.

The band will play jazz standards and some unique music for invitees the following Saturday and Sunday at Trans Asia. The public will have the opportunity to enjoy this brilliant and lively band at Barefoot on Wednesday November 21 where they will play the coolest acid jazz and dance music from Fashion Mood and other favourites.

Latvia is a country of about two million music-crazy people and now the pressure is about to make Colombo explode.

Maris Jansons, the renowned Chef from La Boheme Restaurant Riga will be in Colombo offering Latvian specialties.


Playing it safe is also fun

Horrors! The kids have just informed me that they went bungee jumping. After a minor eruption, they hastily informed me of all the safety precautions taken in this stomach flipping exercise. I can just picture Dancing Doll hissing to Beautiful Dreamer, (who let the cat out of the bag)   "Why did you tell her?" I gave them a long lecture about taking stupid, unnecessary risks, especially when being away from home. "Okay, okay! Chill, ma, be cool!" was the general response. Chill, indeed! I was quite heated up.

What person in their right mind wants to be thrown down from a great height? Crazy coots!Now I'm really freaking out! They say they are going parasailing. When I ask them fairly politely what the hell that was, they calmly say, "It's very safe, a boat pulls you and you go behind harnessed to a glider." I sent a furious text back, and they said they were only joking, that I should, one guess, yes, chill!

I'm wondering whether to call Caveman in the midst of his golf tournament to ask him his thoughts. But then on the other hand, he said the last time I tried to contact him, they had sent a motorcyclist roaring up to him, and he was asked to call home immediately. Apparently, his heart missed a beat!

Scared witless

I really can't understand why people have to pay to be scared witless. I can just barely manage to approve a visit to a House of Horrors, a scary movie or virtual reality where, unless you have a heart condition and run the risk of dropping down dead, it would be a bad move.

But some people just can't get enough. Beats me! I went on the kiddies roller coaster once and swore I'd never board another. Just look at the queues at all these theme parks overseas! You begin to wonder. I know, like one of my friends said, no risk, no gain.

Sometimes I thank heavens for small mercies like not being as advanced as more developed countries! We merely have to avoid gunfire and bombs! Seriously, how does one consider something like rock-climbing as  a hobby? One slip and you will be dashed against a very hard surface swinging in space. Imagine the state of your knuckles, knees and other very tender spots?

Bury you alive

If you want to get to the top of a mountain, take a helicopter! Of course, check that it is in good working condition and the weather is conducive for take off. No harm in being cautious, is there? And skiing, what on earth, how do people think they can avoid going over hidden stones and tree stumps?

 If you are Superman and have x-ray vision, then you can see through the snow and dodge these obstacles. Or else, break a leg! What about a sudden avalanche that might descend on you and bury you alive? The cable car ride alone gives me the creeps!

I saw to my horror that under the guise of adventure sports, shark diving was listed. So, does one deliberately dive into shark-infested waters? I wonder what you are supposed to do if attacked, engage in combat and kill it with your bare hands? That is, if you have any limbs left.

The same goes for crocodile wrestling in places like Thailand. Of course they might use very old crocs and remove their teeth, but imagine if you get whip lashed by a croc's tail!

White water rafting

Surely we know already we are superior beings by being able to talk? I wonder about intelligence, though.I was invited to go white water rafting but I politely declined. I said I'd love to come and watch.

My friend said she needed two days to recover, since it had been raining and she had slipped down the sloping river bank even before she climbed on board. Then because of the rain, she slithered all over the raft and fell, as she described it,  "like a kos atey, darling!"

As a result, she was covered with cuts and bruises and was glad she was going home to her husband when they had all healed. She said he would give her a good telling off so she thought it wise not to mention that part of it!No, I shan't go up in a hot air balloon (it might catch fire or deflate and we'd plunge down) or sky dive from a plane (what? And break a bone?). I'm so boring and unadventurous!

- Honky Tonk Woman


Road trip rush

I had a bit of a shock today - a pleasant one because it left me laughing in the library but nevertheless a shock.

First I have to explain something. The Earth is a three dimensional globe. Maps being flat are two dimensional. Therefore when you represent the earth on a map, you have to distort things so that you can fit three dimensions on to a two dimensional surface. So people look at maps and get the wrong idea sometimes. And it's because of that people think Australia is smaller than North America. It isn't - it's actually bigger. The Mercator maps were created to show relative position and location but to do so it had to distort size.

 I live on the West Coast of Australia in Western Australia which is 16 times the area of France and it's just one state of seven states and two territories on the continent. One of my friends lives on the East Coast in Melbourne - possibly the furthest away from where I am that she could be.

Proposition

She called me today with a proposition - she remembered that I travelled twice to Brisbane recently to meet someone else and thought I would therefore be an ideal candidate. "Um, ideal candidate for what?" "A road trip!"

A road trip? This refers to the practice of piling various assorted friends into a car and setting off to drive across long distances supposedly to either get to an extremely interesting destination with some diverting detours along the way or to go sightseeing. Something borne out of beat generation American writers - I blame Jack Kerouac myself for starting this trend. I knew there was a reason I wasn't so happy with him.

In the United States you go from New York to LA, Seattle to LA, or down to Florida for spring break while you are in college. The only exception is if you live in New Jersey in which case the sooner you leave the better and anywhere other than New Jersey is a plus - or so I am led to believe.

Criss-cross

In Australia you usually do a round the country trip -  you follow the coast and go clockwise or anti clockwise or you go straight across between Perth and East Coast or from Darwin to Adelaide. But my friend wants go from Melbourne to the Gold Coast and to hug the coast going northwards up to Queensland.

And in case you haven't been following all this geography carefully: she wants me to join her. From Perth. From the other side of the country. She wants me to travel a distance equal to going from Nepal to Denmark to join in order to travel a distance with her that equates to about say, Amsterdam to Spain.

Timeline

And she wants to start this Sunday. The very day you will be reading this article is the very day that she wants to start which is less than a week away. By which time I have to have bought my ticket, flown over there, and met up with her with all the necessary cash and baggage. I gather she came up with the idea last night.

 But here is the thing. It can be done. In Australia despite the size, it is a lot easier to travel around than it is in other places. In the United States for instance, you need a car because the trains and buses run on routes that are frankly just big detours in themselves, that haven't been altered since the 1930's. In Europe, it costs a huge amount to travel between the countries and within the countries on public transport even though they have organised the system so that you can buy a day pass and visit three to five countries in one go - in fact it's a lot cheaper to fly within Europe which is a pity because you miss what you can see via train or bus then.

Facilities

Maybe it is because of the large expanse of land that they pay a lot of attention to the ease of travel. If we really wanted to this road trip for instance, it is possible for me to walk in and buy my airline ticket today, to buy bus tickets and train tickets once we get there or to walk up and hire a car. And as for accommodation, it's easy enough to find the nearest backpackers in any town along a highway, complete with bar and free internet for $10-20 a night. There are no toll roads, there are enough ways to get where we want to go, with enough stops along the way.

In fact, in my mind, I have already packed my bag. It would be easy and cheap to do save for the cost of the flight there and back for me. It's just that ..... do I have to go this coming Sunday? Why can't it be the next one? Because I would love to go and it would be fun and then you could read about all the antics along the way but something is holding me back.

Willing and flexible

You have to be willing to be really flexible to do something like this but there are certain things that still need to be pinned down firmly. You cannot be vague about certain things. So far, the people who want to go on this road trip want to go via car and take different routes and hence don't want to go by bus or train. They need to figure out between themselves as to whether they have a car, have decided on routes and a level of comfort.

My fear is that the whole thing might be canned simply because there was no car available and they don't want to go by train or bus or someone has pulled out and they decide they can't go without them. Which would be a shame because whether I end up joining them or not, it sounds like something awesome to do. In the meantime, I'll check flights and wait for them to get back to me and confirm everything.

You never know. This time next week I might have taken advantage of my independence and waltzed off to the East Coast. And you might just get another article complaining about the concrete in Brisbane again.

- Marisa Wikramanayake 


HUMOUR

One track mind

A  hunter from the countryside  was tramping through the woods one day when he found a ravishing young woman, totally naked, lying on a blanket. After staring at her breathlessly for some moments he asked:

"Are you game?"

"I sure am," she replied.

So he shot her.

Two words every five years

A middle-class man decides to go off and join a monastery which requires an oath of silence. No speech is allowed except for two words every five years to sum up one's experiences to the head monk.

After the first five years, the monk asked him what two words described his experiences and all he said was "HARD BEDS."

When the next five year period came the monk asked how things were and he replied "BAD FOOD."

After five more years he walked up to the monk and said, "I QUIT!"

The monk nodded and muttered "Yes, this doesn't surprise me. You've been doing nothing but complaining for the past 15 years!"

Who else is there?'

A man is running along and falls off a cliff - I don't know why he falls off a cliff, he just does, OK?

As he's falling he manages to grab onto a tree about 15 feet down, growing out from the side of the cliff. Now he's hanging there and he looks down and sees this 200 feet drop below him, but he knows he's only 15 feet from the top of the cliff. Looking up he cries out for help, "Is there anybody up there?"

Much to his surprise he is heard. A voice replies which can only be that of the Lord (the reverb has been turned up and there's too much bass), "Let... go..."

The man looks down at the 200 feet drop, and then looking up once more, cries out, "Is there anybody else up there?"

Rhymes and no reason

A small town farmer had three daughters. Being a single father he tended to be a little over-protective of his daughters. When gentlemen came to take his daughters out on a date he would greet them with a shotgun to make sure they knew who was boss.

One evening, all of his daughters were going out on dates.

The doorbell rang, the farmer got his shotgun, and answered the door. A gentleman said,

Hi, I'm Joe,

I'm here for Flo,

We're goin' to the show,

is she ready to go?

The farmer frowned but decided to let them go.

The doorbell rang again, the farmer got his shotgun, and answered the door. A gentlemen said,

Hi, I'm Eddie,

I'm here for Jenny,

We gettin' spaghetti,

is she ready?

The farmer frowned but decided to let them go.

The doorbell rang again, the farmer got his shotgun, and answered the door. A gentlement said,

Hi, I'm Chuck,

And the farmer shot him.

Occupation and pre-occupation

man goes to a psychiatrist. To start things off, the psychiatrist suggests they start with a Rorschach Test. He holds up the first picture and asks the man what he sees.

"A man and a woman making love in a park," the man replies.

The psychiatrist holds up the second picture and asks the man what he sees.

"A man and a woman making love in a boat."

He holds up the third picture.

"A man and a woman making love at the beach."

This goes on for the rest of the set of pictures; the man says he sees a man and a woman making love in every one of the pictures. At the end of the test, the psychiatrist looks over his notes and says, "It looks like you have a preoccupation with sex."

And the man replies, "Well, you're the one with the dirty pictures."

Why God never received tenure

1. He had only one major publication.

2. It was in Hebrew.

3. It had no references.

4. It wasn't published in a refereed journal.

5. Some even doubt He wrote it Himself.

6. It may be true that He created the world, but what has He done since then?

7. His cooperative efforts have been quite limited.

8. The scientific community has had a hard time replicating His results.

9.  He never applied to the Ethics Board for permission to use human subjects.

10. When one experiment went awry He tried to cover it up by drowning the                 subjects.

11.  When subjects didn't behave as predicted, He deleted them from the sample.

12. He rarely came to class, just told students to read the Book.

13. Some say He had His son teach the class.

14. He expelled His first two students for learning.

15. Although there were only ten requirements, most students failed His tests.

16. His office hours were infrequent and usually held on a mountaintop.


HUMOUR


Remembering Paul Perera


Ladies who long for company


A facelift for a fort


Let not a drop of rain
water go waste


The law of the garbage truck




scence & heard



 


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