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Review

 


Lost and found

A mother's anguish and love at being reunited
with her child and (inset) Wasantha,
SSP, Jayathilleke and OIC Prasanna

 

More Review Articles...

 

 Mother, don't cry

 

 What the stars hold for you in 2008

 

 Check out the night of
 nights in Colombo

 

  Fashion

 

 

 HUMOUR

 

 Scene & Heard

By Ranee Mohamed

Wasantha and Shamalee Fernando found their infant, just a day before Christmas. It was the only answer that they wanted for their fervent prayers and pleas for six days. Baby Gavish Gihan Fernando came home to a house decorated with balloons and coloured crepe. The family was celebrating another great coming - the coming home of their lost baby back into their arms again.

"It was the most traumatic time in my life. I have never been so unhappy since the day I was born," said Wasantha Fernando speaking from his residence in Wijerama, Nugegoda.

"I still remember the day my wife was crying uncontrollably and telling me that our baby had disappeared. For one moment I thought that I was losing my mind," said Fernando, shaking with the memory of the  nightmare on Tuesday, December 18.

"We had promised our three and a half year old daughter Nethmi Dilupa that we will be bringing home a malliya (brother) for her. When my son went missing there was no way I could face her. There were times when I stood outside our house till 11p.m or till midnight till my daughter fell asleep," said the saddened father.

But little Nethmi had felt her father's tears. In her own little way, she had inquired whether her mother was ill. 'What is wrong?' she had asked her father in a whisper. But Wasantha Fernando suffered in silence. He did not tell her anything.

Shamalee Fernando (29) was admitted to Ward 21 of the Colombo South Teaching Hospital, Kalubowila on Monday, December 17 for the delivery of her second baby.

Baby Gavish was born at 1.58 a.m on December 18.   When Wasantha Fernando visited his wife in the morning, he was overjoyed to see his bonny son.

As he could not bring his daughter to the hospital to see the baby, he photographed his newborn with his mobile phone so that the sister could have her first glimpse of her baby brother who would be  home soon. Carrying a specially made lunch for his wife, he had visited her again at 12 noon. "I was counting the hours to take them home," he said.

When he left however, little did he know that the birth of this baby would bring the young couple a sorrow that they have hitherto not experienced in life.

For in the afternoon, when Shamalee had visited the bathroom and returned, her heart had almost stopped beating when she saw that her baby was not in the cot. Neither was there anyone carrying a baby in sight.  Meanwhile hospital authorities and sympathising mothers in the ward recalled the visit of a lady who said that she had given birth prematurely and that her baby was in the premature baby room.

Offer to look after the babies

Mothers and the hospital authorities also recalled that this 'mother' was particularly kind to women who had given birth to boys. Talking to mothers in the ward, the suspect had visited the two mothers who had given birth to boys and had offered to look after the babies, insisting that the mothers needed rest.

The mother who had given birth to the other baby boy had refused help from the suspect, almost snapping at the 'kind' woman that she was not tired and did not need help to look after her baby.

Approaching Shamalee the suspect had asked her whether she remembered meeting her at the prenatal clinic. But Shamalee could not recall meeting this strange woman.

She had gone on to tell Shamalee that she had given birth via caesarean section and was awaiting documentation of the birth. The suspect, mothers recall, had gone to every bed and inquired from the mothers about the well-being of their babies.

In maternity clothes

Hospital authorities meanwhile said that they had no reason to suspect the woman because she was clad in maternity clothes and had been present in the ward since morning.

Thus there was no reason for Shamalee to refuse when the suspect offered to 'keep an eye' on her baby when she went to the bathroom around 2 p.m. When Shamalee returned, the baby was not in the cot. There was no sign of the woman either.

In anguish, she had cried for help, calling out to the hospital staff. The fact that patients are discharged around 2.15 p.m. went well with the plan of the baby snatcher. The security and staff of the Colombo South Teaching Hospital had no reason to suspect her. For she had all the paraphernalia required for a baby.

What Shamalee and Wasantha Fernando did not know was that the woman had brought along her 10 year old daughter as an accomplice. The young girl had helped her mother to carry a pillow and other items. The duo did not look like robbers, thieves or baby snatchers. They were two women with a baby, but when they took the baby out, the baby had not been in their arms.  It is learnt that the baby had been smuggled away in the baby bag which is actually meant for the baby's clothes.

Heartbreaking episode

After this heartbreaking episode, other young mothers hugged their babies close, some even taking their new born babies to the bathroom with them.

It was a day when mothers cried more than the  babies. The news reached every corner of Sri Lanka, with the media taking on this touching story. It became a social commitment and news giants as Sirasa not only telecast the story, but also offered half the reward which amounted to Rs.1 million. It was a story that touched the hearts of every mother and father. As the news reached every home and office, mothers hugged their children close. Everyone kept an ear for an infant's cry in the neighbourhood.

Ever since that day, Fernando and his friends roamed Colombo and its suburbs in an agonised frenzy. "I went to Horana, Negombo, Kalutara, and Katunayake. I went everywhere while my wife cried for days without food asking for her baby," recalled Fernando. Meanwhile, Kohuwala police, under the guidance of  Divisional Officer - DIG, C.D. Wickremaratne and SSP, S.M. Jayathilleke sprung into action.

Very understanding

"I could call them at 2 a.m or 5 a.m and they would answer the phone and tell me the situation. The police officers were very understanding and handled this very sensitive case in a delicate manner. I did not have to ask them 'What are you doing?' or 'Have you done anything about my son?' I felt that the police officers were  acting as if they were looking for their own child. I know for a fact that they did not expect anything from me," said Wasantha Fernando.

It was on Monday, December 24 on a tip off that Wasantha Fernando was asked to accompany the police team to a location in Kanatte Road,  Thalapathpitiya. Inspector of Police (Crimes) U.D. Alawatte and the team, guided by DIG, C.D. Wickremaratne, SSP, S.M. Jayathilleke and OIC Prasanna Brahmanage worked day and night to find Wasantha and Shamalee Fernando's baby.

But the crucial information came via a telephone call.  And it was immediately after that that a police team together with an impatient Wasantha Fernando approached Kanatte Road, in Thalapathpitiya. At first they had gone to another lane. But gradually found their way to the particular lane. They were looking for a house of a particular description.

"As we walked down the narrow lane, we saw a young girl walking towards our way from the house. The moment she saw us, she stalled for a second and then calmly turned back and walked into the house," recalled Fernando.

Fernando had then run into the house, overtaking the girl and had opened the door.

There in the small hall was the alleged suspect named Ramya Kumari (29).  When Fernando had rushed into a partition and peered inside, there lay his son.

The happiest day

"It was the happiest day in my life. But I had to be sure that it was my baby. The  jutting umbilical cord of this baby was not there. I know that it takes about seven days for the naval to heal.  I had to be sure especially because this woman was insisting that she had given birth to this child at the Jayewardenepura Hospital. Thereafter she told us that she had given birth at the Kalubowila hospital," recalled Fernando.

When his wife Shamalee and her mother had arrived at the scene, the baby had snuggled into the warmth of his mother. Having given him only two feeds of breast milk, not only was her breasts heavy with milk but was choking with an indescribable love for her lost son.

Losing confidence in her own story, the suspect had then confessed that she had stolen their baby. She had gone on to tell them that she wanted to prove to her second husband that she was able to have his baby. That she wanted to show off to his relatives that she was the mother of his child.

But Wasantha Fernando says that he does not believe her story. "Just as much as she has looked after the baby, I know that she could not have taken our baby for her to adopt. She has two children. There is no way that she could have brought up this baby in this place and in her financial situation.

"Besides, she was looking for a male child. There ought to be another story here, especially since her husband is involved in tourism and is not home for weeks," observed Fernando, shuddering at the thought of his baby being sold to someone, somewhere. Meanwhile, the husband of the alleged baby snatcher could not be found even on Thursday.

Reward for the informer

Wasantha Fernando will soon reward the informer with one million rupees of which Rs.500,000 will be given by Sirasa, as promised. "I will give this money very soon" said  building contractor Wasantha Fernando. He says that he is not a rich man, but finding his baby has erased a miserable future from his life. "I would have suffered everyday of  my life with thoughts as who was looking after my son; is he being fed; who is taking him to school; where is he? etc." said Fernando, agonised at the mere thought of such an eventuality.

Some times one conscious action on our part can touch another human being for life. And this  is what happened with one telephone call made (source kept confidential) to the Kohuwala police station. This telephone call has brought happiness into the lives of this young couple. It has brought laughter back to their home. It has brought happiness to the whole country in this season of goodwill.

Today little Nethmi Dilupa does not let anyone touch her little brother. "I heard that he got lost. I will not let anyone take him away again," she says with a childish determination.

Fernando says that despite making this payment, he owes a huge debt to the media, to the police and to the whole country. For they cried with him when he cried for his baby. "I will always tell my son that the whole of Sri Lanka are his mothers and fathers - for everyone cried with me when I cried for my baby son. and today they smile with us as we smile ..Shamalee, me and our baby.." he said, wiping his teardrop from  his baby's face.

 


Mother, don't cry


Lahiru, Dananjani and Roshan by their mother's bedside and (inset) Malini Priyanka, Thilekeratne

Ranee Mohamed in Poobowe

The road leading to Rathmalla off Kurunegala is strewn with poverty. And the jungles make way for the road that leads from Katupotha and winds its way finally to Poobowe.

At first sight, Poobowe appears as an oasis. With coloured flowers swaying in the clear waters and  large birds hopping in the greenery, studding green spaces with neon colours. Poobowe seems like paradise at first sight. But driving along one sees poverty everywhere. Emaciated men and women with helplessness and innocence written all over their faces volunteer to show us the way.

It is the people around who direct us to the house of L.D. Thilekeratne. It is the address we are looking for, but sadly Thilekeratne has no address, only a little hut in the middle of the jungle that is about to stretch out to its vastness. They call his house 'ledage gedera.' (The home of the patient.)

Thilekeratne walks towards us, he lowers his upper body with deep respect and guides us to this hut that he calls home. "I have been lighting an oil lamp to the Buddha and wished for help," he confides. "I know that this is the result of my veneration to the Buddha every morning and evening," he adds.

There is barely space to get into the hut. Inside, on a broken down bed lay 27 year old Malini Priyanka, his wife. She wants to welcome us, but she is unable to get up. The tears roll down her cheeks and she asks us to come in. Malini Priyanka is conscious of everything that is happening around her.

Beside her sit her three children. Dananjani (10),  Lahiru Lakshan (7), and Roshan (4). The children refuse to move from their mother's bedside. In fact they have their measly meals by their mother's bed.

Time and again they make a mouthful and feed their mother. It is lunchtime and the rice and the green leaves picked from the jungle is their only meal for the day. The three children finish feeding their mother and they run inside and bring a wet cloth. They wipe her mouth.

Then daughter Dananjani brings a comb, sits by her mother and combs her mother's hair and arranges the tattered pillowcase and bedsheet.

Role reversed

There are thousands of mothers all over the world who look after their children - feed them, shower them and clothe them. But here in Poobowe the role is reversed. There are three little children who have to care for their mother - feed her, cloth her and sing a lullaby to make her sleep.

"My wife must live for the sake of my children. I do not want her to die," pleads Thilekeratne. This young father leads a life of suffering. He is unable to go to work as the helper of a mason. Thus he is unable to earn an income.

"In the nights I have to wash my wife's clothes and my children's clothes. I wake up early and cook for them. Sometimes my mother helps me. During the day I clean coconut leaves and take out the ekels. I sell them to make ekel brooms," said Thilekeratne.

Thilekeratne gets Rs.10 per kilo of ekels and this is how he buys some food for his suffering wife and children.  The priest at the church had built them their little abode, for it was not very long ago that Thilekeratne and his family had no place to live in. A sympathiser, understanding the problems that Thilekeratne had to face when cleaning his wive's sheets in the night had got them an electricity connection. A catheter now winds its way from this suffering young woman, but there have been times when the children in their enthusiasm in caring for her have accidentally pulled it away. "Then I have to find a way to take her to the Kurunegala hospital for the catheter to be inserted again," said Thilekeratne.

Tough times

Malini has been in the intensive care unit of the National Hospital for several days and thereafter at a ward. "During those days I used to go to Colombo everyday leaving my children with my mother. I had no place to stay in Colombo, so I used to wait on the road till the next visiting hour," said Thilekeratne in tears.

Till August 2004 Malini had been an active housewife, cooking for her children, getting them ready for school, washing clothes and even helping Thilekeratne to clean the coconut leaves and get the ekels ready to be sold.

How it began

The problems had begun when Malini had complained of a numbness in her left hand. "As the complaints became frequent I thought of taking her for treatment. Initially we tried ayurveda treatment from a veda mahathaya in Kurunegala. But there had been no improvement in her condition. In fact her condition had got worse because she had been unable to pass urine. This was when the frightened Thilekeratne had taken her to the Kurunegala hospital.

"From there she was sent to the National Hospital," said Thilekeratne recalling the most traumatic time in his life. "I was alone with my children, I had no money and no knowledge about what was happening to my wife. I wanted so badly to go and see her but there were days when I could not go because I did not have the money for the bus fare," he cried.

Today his wife is very much with him and the children but sadly, she cannot leave her bed.

"Don't run. Don't fight," she cautions the children from her bed. At most times Malini has to watch her children running around the house with her mother-in-law in command. She tries to do her best to make the situation at home tolerable. But there is nothing much she can do while lying down in bed.

Family camaraderie

"What we enjoy most is the time when we give our mother a bath. We help her to sit up and father carries her near the well. We make her sit on a chair and father holds her neck and upper body up while we pour water on her and then rub the scented soap on her," said the children.

The bath is a weekly ritual. "We try to buy some talcum powder for her body, but we have not been able to do that for a long time. Father says that there is no money for us to buy the food." confide the children.

"I don't care about the suffering and the hardship. All I want is for my wife to be with us. I pray and wish that we had the money to give her a better life. I wish that I had the money to give my family proper food. I want to get medical treatment for my wife, but I do not have the means. I really do not know what to do. But I am thankful for small mercies that my wife is with us. My children need the warmth of their mother," he said in tears.

Irreplaceable

And quite rightly so, for a mother is irreplaceable. And few of us realise the worth of a mother for as along as she is with us. For these little children about to lose their mother, she is worth her weight in gold, or even more. There are a few things in life that we all yearn for, but none of these compares to the longing of these little children - to have a mouthful of food from their mother, to be able to go out with her on a holiday, but more importantly, to be hugged by her on a rainy day.

"Our friends ask us why our mother does not come to our school and our mother asks us whether the mothers of our friends come to school with them," said Malini's children who find that they are unable to answer any of these questions.

Questions that cannot be answered will always cause heartache. Just like longings that are never realised, and wishes that do not come true.

 


What the stars hold for you in 2008

What goals do you have for 2008? You might think that it's a bit early to start making new year resolutions, but if there is ever a time to jump the gun with this tradition, it's now.

All signs are that 2008 is going to be a year of transformation and will be a hectic and tumultuous year.

Those who are prepared for economic and political shake-ups should be able to continue with their lifestyles, though even they may hit a few bumps in the road.

Global economic upheaval might cause larger personal expenses, and investments might not be as profitable as you had planned.

Political tension worldwide could create a troubling atmosphere, and you might find yourself unusually irritable.

Yet clever, insightful people who can sense the needs of a changing society will grow stronger by adapting and staying flexible.

They might even find themselves suddenly wealthy. This year will not be a year to rationalise or to ignore the admonishments of economists, were some of the predictions for 2008 by astrologers.

Very often we go through life wearing blinders, but those who take off those blinders and prepare for a rocky road can thrive in 2008.

To help start  a better year you should try to get your own life in order now. Whatever is uncertain, firm it up. Pay off as many debts as you can, and avoid running up any new ones.

Start setting aside a little nest egg for yourself, and clear up any tension there may be between you and friends or family members to improve the mood. Secondly you shouldn't depend on anyone but yourself to solve your problems.

By taking matters into your own hands, you will be able to enact change in your life and in the lives of those close to you. If you want something done right, do it yourself!

If you're dissatisfied with your life, work to change it, perhaps by joining one of the grassroots movements that have been popping up like mushrooms all over the world.

Finally you should start getting involved.

What cause appeals to you the most? Is it world peace, health and fitness for all, sustainable energy, or perhaps the rights of the weak, such as children and animals? Doing good for others will give you inspiration in other areas of your life, and overcoming obstacles will give you a sense of pride and accomplishment.  Now is not the time to back down from a challenge; you could surprise yourself with how successfully you deal with a difficult situation.

Astrologers have also made some predictions based on the star signs:

Aries:  You should slow down! Decide how you want your life to be, and then work enthusiastically but diligently towards it. You've got vision and enthusiasm. Make the most of it.

For Taurus: A hackneyed but nonetheless wise old adage says, "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today."

Don't be tempted to fall into your old habit of procrastination. The world needs you now. 

With regard to Gemini: Your way with words and your gift for persuasion could play an important role in world transformation.

Even if you only serve as spokesperson for your own community, you're still making a difference. Remember that.

If you are a Cancer: Your kind heart and nurturing nature makes you a shoo-in for boosting the morale of your own community.  If you're the crusading type, don't be afraid to speak up for the rights of the weak.

Your passions will speak for themselves.

And Leos: The charisma and gift for self-expression render them as born leaders, and thus could prove invaluable for getting the message they are promoting out to those in authority.

And the louder Leos speak, the more likely to be heard.

For Virgo:  You're a natural server, and you tend to take a hands-on approach to resolving difficulties.

Whether they're your own problems or those of your entire community, you're out there setting things right. You're already making a difference.

Libra is an instinctive diplomat: You may spend much of 2008 working out differences with your family, your love partner, creditors, and anyone else.

Once that's done, you can turn your attention to bettering yourself and, if you choose, the world.

Scorpios will find their business interests expanding far beyond anything they expected. While many around them are struggling, they are going for the gold.

And if  Scorpios choose to get involved, they could become one of the leaders.

With regard to Sagittarius: Your altruistic side will definitely show itself continually throughout the year - though you'll undoubtedly take occasional time off to have a little fun.

Whatever you do, you'll do what you enjoy the most; being with other people.

For Capricorn: This is definitely your year.

Your self confidence will be at an all-time high, opportunities for advancement will fall into your lap, and success should be just over the horizon.

Just be careful how you manage your resources.

Aquarius is known for altruism, and in 2008 that will be near the top of your list of priorities.

Whatever your cause, you'll give it more than ever before. Nonetheless, you should remember the old adage: "Charity begins at home."

For Pisces: Mysticism is a keyword for Pisces, and your abilities to see beyond the veil will expand greatly.

Your knowledge and wisdom will also grow, and you could find yourself constantly giving invaluable advice. Tip: Heed it yourself!

 


Check out the night of nights in Colombo

By Kshanika Argent

If there's one question on everyone's mind these days, it's what they're going to do come December 31. The final day of the Gregorian year and the day before New Year's Day, New Year's Eve is more than just an observance of New Year's Day.

In 21st-century Western practice, New Year's Eve is celebrated with parties and social gatherings spanning the transition of the year at midnight but the practice has now spread across the world, even to little Sri Lanka - yes it's true that you don't need to be in New York or Las Vegas to have a wild night, 'cause this year Colombo will be a melting pot of parties continuing well after the crack of dawn.

Exciting line up

The line up of parties this year seems as exciting as any happening around the world, and offer a lot more than just noise and fireworks. Many youngsters claim that Colombo could put Melbourne, Tokyo, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, New York City and Las Vegas to shame!

An overstatement perhaps? Well there's only one way to find out and that's by hitting any one of the happening parties in town.

Plans have been in the pipeline for months, and organisers are gearing up for some stiff competition. The music, the food, the entertainment and the lights, not to mention all those fabulously dressed up people, and if you are one for socialising and partying the night away, then this New Years Eve is not to be missed.

Themes

From the Fantasia theme at the Galle Face Hotel to a Vegas theme at Water's Edge, and the ETV party at Taj Samudra and let's not forget the Hilton going all out to make this night spectacular, party organisers are throwing a night to remember everywhere you turn, but with a price tag.

Tickets, which are on the pricey side this time around happen to have deals that include dinner, breakfast, spirits and some even offer a room and shuttle service to and from home to the party venue. Coupled with this, there's heaps of entertainment with both local and international DJs.

Quieter moments

But if a wild night is not on the cards for you this year, then you may want to check out the very same venues for a laid back dinner. The Hilton offers an array of restaurants with deals to suit almost any pocket. The Grand Ballroom, Il Ponte, Spices, Spoons and Curry Leaf all have exciting dinner menus just for the night.˙Holiday Inn, Mount Lavinia Hotel and Galle Face Hotel too have dinner buffets.

However, if you're through with staying at home or if you're wondering if there'll be anything different happening this New Year's Eve, worry not. There are plenty of places to go and if all else fails, there's always Hikka.

 


New year wishes, resolutions and parties!

And so another year has whizzed past us. When I was younger, a year seemed such a long time, but now, before you realise it, another one has ended. Are we doing too much too fast?  They say you should take time off to smell the roses, but really, even if you do decide to take it easy, someone calls and there goes your peaceful day.

So next year, maybe I'll hide! The thing is, people assume that I've got a lot of time on my hands since the girls are generally away at university. Actually, I always have some project going on all the time and I have plenty to do - in fact sometimes - I find I don't have enough time to finish up. Or then maybe age is catching up with me!

This year has been rather a horrid one altogether. Lots of awful things happened that I hope will never be repeated again. I think as a whole, we are a very optimistic nation. Every year, we live in eternal hope that things couldn't get any worse. They simply have to get better. It stands to reason, doesn't it? I suppose this trait is better than just giving up altogether and sinking into a gloomy depression. One just goes with the flow and drifts on.. to where? Enough of this rambling! Let's have a party!

New year's eve dance

Each year, the price of  New Year's Eve dance tickets are even steeper than the last.  Imagine paying so much just for one night! I think a dinner at home would be nice, but one year, even though I called people very early, they couldn't make it.

The very religious ones were all going to Midnight Mass with their kids. They were horrified that I even suggested going for mass the next morning. "We do this every year!"

The with-it party animals had to go to a hotel dance. There was no atmosphere in a house, they informed me. After about 20 telephone calls, I accepted defeat.

We went out to dinner with the kids who were in a sulky mood since all their friends were going to hotel dances. Unfortunately they were saddled with us as parents! Nowadays it's taken for granted that they will be out on New Year's Eve and so, to our surprise, we also decide to go out. If you can't lick 'em, join 'em! How can we possibly spend New Year's Eve just by ourselves? Of course, we definitely don't go to an expensive place. One has to keep one's standards!    

People make New Year resolutions that they often break within a few days. I'm one of the resolution-breakers. Who knows, maybe this year it'll be different, and by the end of the year, I'll have a silhouette to die for! Just you wait and see. This is because the new year is associated with new beginnings and new life, like plants and animals in spring. So people strive for a fresh and better start, hoping that the new year would be better than the last. I'd like to think it means they want to be better human beings.

Party atmosphere

The most popular song played all over the world is Auld Lang Syne. The Scottish poet, Robert Burns, wrote the words to this song. It means "The Good Old Days," where one reminisces about past good times. Maybe we should sing it regularly!

 People gather in public, in places like America and Britain to countdown and listen to the chiming of midnight, to see the new year in. Whistles, horns, foghorns of ships all sound at midnight, heralding in the new year. In general, there is a giant party atmosphere all over the world. Over here, we light crackers and other fireworks by the dozen.

In certain European countries, it is believed that the first visitor after midnight on new year's eve will determine how the next year will be. It has to be a dark haired, pleasant faced man. So they make sure that no women, redheads or blondes appear first on their doorstep.

This person brings coal, bread, money and salt, all supposed to bring good fortune to the household. The coal signifies it will always be warm, the bread that they never go hungry, and money of course signifies prosperity. Here we boil milk and make milk rice, a traditional dish for a new beginning. Here's wishing this coming year will be a wonderful, peaceful and happy one!

- Honky Tonk Woman

 


Christmas in the southern hemisphere

The supermarket has run out of prawns. Out of shrimp, out of prawns, out of lamb and pork.

It's six days to Christmas and this is what it seems to mean in Australia. Get the family together for Christmas lunch and pull out the barbecue for grilled prawns and beer.

In changing rooms, in clothes shops across the city you overhear the kind of gossip about who has been invited to whose Christmas party and who hasn't and why.

"She says I can't come because me and Jason aren't together yet."

"But you're going out?"

"She said we can't come because we aren't married?"

All of Fremantle has been decked out in Christmas gear. They have unearthed glittering silver stars from some storage room in the town hall and strung them up along High Street - one star per lamp post.

No experience

Next door in the Navy Club both WA Samba - the Brazilian samba band - and an unnamed opera singer are practicing loud enough for everyone within a five block radius to hear. Ostensibly this is for a Christmas pageant or festival of sorts. I have never been in Fremantle during Christmas to find out exactly how they celebrate.

Brisbane celebrates by locking doors and having everyone head off southwards to the Gold Coast to the theme parks. Hobart celebrates by having the usual Christmas dinner and going out to see Abba tribute concerts in the casino. The rest of Australia by all stereotypical and advertising notions seem to have an Aussie barbecue lunch. But I have no idea what Freo does.

There must be a service in the many churches. The Italians and Irish must congregate in St. Patrick's for a service. Bather's Beach must be the centre of some part of the festivities. South Beach's green park bit behind the sand dunes must be packed to standing room only as families jostle for space and their turn at the barbecue before hitting the waves for a swim.

Sweltering heat

And it is sweltering hot. The desert heat wafts in - dry and dusty. The electricity bill goes up as people switch on air conditioning and fans and fridges for the huge amount of beer and soft drinks that will be consumed. In most areas brown outs will become common but not during Christmas at least.

Grass is no longer green in the southwest, it takes on the dusty brown colour of the soil except in the Pinjarra region where the red brown soil of the iron ore rich layers, cake all the things that pass by. Trees, shrubs, animals, birds, humans, vehicles - all these will take on this hue going from one Christmas colour extreme to another.

Overboard

The shops have as usual gone overboard. December sales are on, catalogues are out - buy this at such a percent off the usual price. Have a Myer's Christmas, an on Target Christmas, Christmas is at Kmart or David Jones knows what Christmas should be like. And of course since everything is the other way around in the southern hemisphere, they will play carols about snow and ice in the stores, while everything on offer will be swimsuits and sundresses for the December summer weather outside. This Christmas get the perfect tan!

Some people have tried to tailor Christmas to fit Australia with banksias instead of pine cones, Santas in board shorts on a surfboard instead of a sleigh, or kangaroos or dingos instead of reindeer. Instead of Rudolph, Skippy the redback kangaroo, anyone?

Home for X'mas

I am leaving all this behind. I have yet to experience what Perth or Fremantle do on Christmas Day or Eve. I have always been ... elsewhere. This Christmas isn't any different. I am going home. Away from one madness to another.

I am going to the tropics for Christmas. To eat turkey and put up a Christmas tree, to swap presents, go to church and listen to carols about snow when it's 37 degrees celsius outside. I am going home for Christmas for the first time in three and a half years.

I think I am going to spend most of it asleep.

- Marisa Wikramanayaka

 


HUMOUR

New Year resolutions we can keep...

Are you sick of making the same resolutions year after year that you never keep? Why not promise to do something you can actually accomplish? Here are some resolutions that you can use as a starting point:

1. I want to gain weight. Put on at least 30 pounds

2. Stop exercising. Waste of time

3. Read less

4. Watch more TV.  I've been missing some good stuff

5. Procrastinate more

6. Drink. Drink some more

7. Take up a new habit: smoking

8. Spend at least Rs.10,000 a month on Ladies of the Night

9. Spend more time at work

10. Take a vacation to someplace important: like to see the largest ball of twine

11. Stop bringing lunch from home: I should eat out more

12. Quit giving money and time to charity

14. Start being superstitious

15. Have my car lowered and invest in a really loud stereo system. Get the windows tinted. Buy some fur for the dash

16. Speak in a monotone voice and only use monosyllabic words.

17. Only wear jeans that are two sizes too small and use a chain or rope for a belt. Only wear white T-shirts with those fashionable yellow stains under the arms

18. Personal goal: bring back disco 

Cricket in Heaven

A very keen cricketer asked a divine entity, allegedly with good connections on high, whether there was any cricket in heaven.

The priest replied: "I can't tell you now, but if you come back on Sunday, I might have an answer."

On Sunday the priest told the cricketer: "I've had good news and bad news. The good news is: Yes, there is cricket in heaven. And now for the bad news: You are in to bat on Friday!" 

Aliens and cricket

Two aliens were visiting Earth to research local customs. They split up so that they could learn more in the time allowed.

When they met to share their knowledge, the first alien told of a religious ceremony it had seen.

"I went to a large green field shaped like a meteorite crater. Around the edges, several thousand worshippers gathered. Then two priests walk to the centre of the field to a rectangular area and hammer six spears into the ground, three at each end. Then eleven more priests walk out, clad in white robes. Then two high priests wielding clubs walk to the centre and one of the other priests starts throwing a red orb at the ones with the clubs."

"Gee," replied the other alien, "what happens next?"

"Then it begins to rain."  

Meals on wheels

One day a cat dies of natural causes and goes to heaven. There he meets the Lord Himself. The Lord says to the cat: "You lived a good life and if there is any way I can make your stay in Heaven more comfortable, please let Me know." The cat thinks for a moment and says: "Lord, all my life I have lived with a poor family and had to sleep on a hard wooden floor." The Lord stops the cat and says: "Say no more," and a wonderful fluffy pillow appears.

A few days later, six mice are killed in a tragic farming accident and go to heaven. Again, there is the Lord there to great them with the same offer. The mice answer, "All of our lives we have been chased. We have had to run from cats, dogs and even women with brooms. Running, running, running. We're tired of running. Do you think we could have roller skates so we don't have to run anymore?" The Lord says, "Say no more," and fits each mouse with beautiful new roller skates.

About a week later the Lord stops by to see the cat and finds him snoozing on the pillow. The Lord gently wakes the cat and asks him, "How are things since you got here?"

The cat stretches and yawns and replies, "It is wonderful here. Better than I could have ever expected. And those 'Meals On Wheels' you've been sending by are the best!" 

The feminist

A radical feminist is getting on a bus when, just in front of her, a man gets up from his seat. She thinks to herself, "Here's another man trying to keep up the customs of a patriarchal society by offering a poor, defenceless woman his seat," and she pushes him back onto the seat.

A few minutes later, the man tries to get up again. She is insulted again and refuses to let him up. Finally, the man says, "Look, lady, you've got to let me get up. I'm two miles past my stop already." 

Gifts for the teacher

On the last day of kindergarten, all the children brought presents for their teacher. The florist's son handed the teacher a gift. She shook it, held it up and said, "I bet I know what it is - it's some flowers!"

"That's right!" shouted the little boy.

Then the candy store owner's daughter handed the teacher a gift.

She held it up, shook it and said. "I bet I know what it is - it's a box of candy!"

"That's right!" shouted the little girl.

The next gift was from the liquor store owner's son. The teacher held it up and saw that it was leaking. She touched a drop with her finger and tasted it. "Is it wine?" she asked.

"No," the boy answered.

The teacher touched another drop to her tongue. "Is it champagne?" she asked.

"No," the boy answered.

Finally, the teacher said, "I give up. What is it?"

The boy replied, "A puppy!"

 


Scene & Heard

Schengen area expands

A meeting of the Council of the European Union, Justice and Home Affairs in Brussels on December 6 adopted a resolution by which nine new EU Member States - Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia and Malta joined the Schengen area.

This decision provides for the abolition, from December 21, 2007 of border control on land and maritime borders of Latvia with Lithuania and Estonia, and thus this border has become the internal border of the Schengen space. The abolition of border control at the internal air borders is planned for March 30, 2008.

With the accession of Latvia to the Schengen Area on December 21 this year, applications for visas for entry to Latvia have to be submitted at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Colombo, in which the Republic of Latvia will be represented in the issuing of the Schengen visas effective December 21, 2007, or at the nearest diplomatic of Consular Representation of the Republic of Latvia.

The borders of Latvia with neighbouring countries Russia and Belarus, which are not members of the Schengen Treaty, have become the external border of the Schengen Area. Border controls on the external border of the Schengen Area are maintained.

Havies' new year party

Havelocks Sports Club where much has been happening lately on the social front is to usher in 2008 in style with a grand celebration on new year's eve.

This year the focus is on the family with many activities and loads of fun planned for the kids. DJ music, a sumptuous barbecue dinner and all the traditional trimmings, organisers say, will ensure a night to remember.

Dinner dance tickets are moderately priced at Rs. 900.

LBC hosts regional consultation at Hotel Topaz

Lanka Bible College Centre for Graduate Studies recently hosted a regional consultation on Leadership Development where over 50 participants from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Indonesia met at Hotel Topaz, Kandy.˜ LBC offers university validated degrees in Leadership and Education at Bachelors and Masters levels through its main campus and the Colombo based Centre for Graduate Studies (CGS).

Picture shows the participants at the consultation.

'Whispering Palms'

Palm Beach Hotel, Mount Lavinia will celebrate New Year's Eve with a gala dinner dance. The grand event called `Whispering Palms' is the talk of the town with the band Faith backed by DJ Manju belting out the sounds. Music from the '70s, '80s and '90s will herald in 2008. There will also be prizes for the Palm Beach Queen, the best dancing couple, the best dressed lady and gentleman, table draw and ticket draw says General Manager of the hotel, Lanil Jayawardene.

CNAPT office bearers

The 59th Annual General Meeting of CNAPT was held recently.

The following office bearers were elected:

President  - Dr. B. Kaluarachchi

Vice Presidents - Dr. Sicille P.C. Kotelawala, Dr. P.R. Anthonis, Prof. Emil A. Wijewantha, Muni Kundanmal, Siva Obeysekera

Council Chairman - W.D. Ailapperuma

Vice Chairman - Dr. V.I. Jayasuriya

Deputy Chairman - C.P.P. Senaratne

Members of the Council - G.C. Wickremasinghe, Dr. S.R.Paranavithana, Dr. J.G.Wijetunga, D.Weerapana, Dr. K. Sooriyarachchi, Dr. H. W. Perera, Dr. S. Kodikara,  Dr. Anil Goonethilake, Harold Peiris, N. Wannakukorale, Susiri de Silva, Asanga Weerasinghe, Navin Marapana, Henry Peiris, T.M.T.D. Herath, M. Mahindraratne, P. Kalupathirana, H.L. Perera, P. T. Senaratne, Dr. J.N. Jayakuru..

 


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