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Price hikes are driving us to starvation

Podinona, Tennyson, Lilamani, Indrani, 
Kumara, Nadika and Jennima

 

More Review Articles...

CCC brings relief to cancer patients 

He still sits in his consulting
room, and visits wards

Grandfathers' in love triangle
Saving cows from a gruesome death...

Can a slight cough lead to 
death in 20 days?

 

  Fashion

 

 

 HUMOUR

By Nirmala Kannangara

With the everincreas-ing price hikes all round and the government's failure to give relief to the people the general public have now compared the rising Cost of Living (CoL) to a cricket scoreboard.

"The scoreboard always keeps going up and the CoL too is similar to it. No decrease but only increase," claimed some parents at  S.Thomas' College in Mount Lavinia.

Meanwhile irrespective of party politics and social status, people today find it extremely difficult to survive with the rising CoL and point out to the bribery and corruption within government as one of the main causes.

"Unless the government puts a complete stop to bribery and corruption within its ranks and use the country's wealth sensibly we cannot  survive any longer irrespective of the war," charged some bus commuters.

Although the government claims that the high war expenditure has resulted in the present spate of price hikes the general public query as to why the government cannot reduce the number of ministers and slash their allowances to face the present crisis.

Heaping more burdens on the people

And what is worse, the government last week further increased the prices of fuel putting more burdens on the people. As a result a bus fare revision is on the cards while parents claim the school vans too have raised their charges from next month.

The vegetable sellers meanwhile told The Sunday Leader that they too were compelled to increase the prices of vegetables as the transport cost had risen to dizzy heights.

"The government has failed to increase the public and private sector salaries even by Rs. 500, but it shamelessly increases the prices of commodities every other day," claimed some parents.

Meanwhile the fishing folk at Dehiwela queried as to why the government ministers could not reduce their security and send the rest to fight against terrorism if they are really concerned about the war and the country.

"The cabinet of ministers has more than five thousand security personnel guarding them. That is about the entire cadre strength of the LTTE.  What is the reason to protect them so much when they have failed miserably to address a single issue," queried the fisher folk.    

Old and feeble, Podinona who has lost her humble house due to the 2004 tsunami is now spending her last stages with her neighbours.

From pillar to post

"Although we were promised  houses none of us were given even a shed to live in. With all these burdens the government is sending the innocent people from pillar to post. Earlier if I had no money I used to skip one or two meals and  survive on a cup of milk. But now the  poorest of the poor have been deprived of even a cup of milk tea and we are only depending on plain tea," Podinona told The Sunday Leader in tears.

According to Podinona, since she lost her house she is spending her days with some poor families who have become her friends but they too have found it extremely difficult to survive due to the high prices, especially of rice and coconut.

"Although we are from the fishing community we are not lucky enough to taste a piece of fish, as the daily catch is sold to buy our basic  needs for the day. I have one son and a daughter who are staying in Hambantota but since they too are leading miserable lives due to the high food prices how could I expect any assistance from them?" Podinona asked.

Sick of politicians

A mother of three told The Sunday Leader in anger  that she is  prepared to even kill the politicians for piling on the burdens on the innocent people of the country.

"I certainly can kill the government ministers with my bare hands for passing these burdens on to us. It is these rogues who rob the country's wealth and shamelessly pass the burden on us. How dare they say that all these price hikes are due to the war? Is this the only government that fought this war? All the previous governments fought the Tigers but the prices of rice, bread, coconut, milk powder and kerosene never went up like this," complained Lilani.

According to Lilani she survives on two meals a day instead of three as she has found it extremely difficult to afford three meals.

"For our breakfast we need three loafs of bread. But how can we spend Rs.120 for three loafs? So we skip breakfast and have our lunch a little earlier," claimed Lilani.

Milk - a luxury food

"Now I have to spend a minimum of Rs. 500 per day for rice, coconuts, sugar, curry stuff and kerosene oil. Even a government servant cannot spend such a big amount for a day. Now we have completely stopped drinking milk as milk has become a luxury item. Enough is enough, we are waiting to welcome the politicians this time," added Lilani.

Lakmali who finds it extremely difficult to survive with the high CoL told The Sunday Leader that she sometimes feels like committing suicide with her two kids as she cannot afford  to give milk to her two small children. "Small children depend on milk but what can I do if I cannot afford to buy milk for my children? They refuse to drink tea so I add more sugar to give a sweeter taste but to no avail.

"Earlier they were given a jug of milk before leaving home as it was too early for them to have breakfast but now most of the days they leave home in hunger as they refuse their cup of plain tea," Lakmali said wiping her tears.

False pledges

Accusing President Mahinda Rajapakse of giving a false promise of providing a glass of milk and the mid-day meal to all poor school children, Lakmali further stated that the President has now deprived the children of their daily milk by increasing the price of milk powder which is now out of their reach. 

Jennima who has lost one of her legs due to the tsunami says that she leads a miserable life unable to drink even a cup of plain tea as a result of the price hikes.

"If this government cannot give us food at a lower price they should hand over  power to anyone who can give us relief. When we lost our homes due to the tsunami the government promised to give us houses but now it's three years since the tsunami. Instead of giving us houses they have robbed all the money they received for tsunami rebuilding," charged Jennima.

Tennyson Fernando, a fisherman living on the Dehiwela beach and struggling to survive however told The Sunday Leader that the people should make sacrifices at this moment as the government was fighting terrorism.

In praise

"We should hail President Mahinda Rajapakse's effort to defeat terrorism. Without blaming the government the people should extend their support and we are ready to face any circumstances as the government is waging war against the LTTE," added Fernando.

When asked as to how long he was willing to face the present high expenditure Fernando said that they are ready to battle against hunger in 2008 as the government has assured the people of the country that the war would come to a complete end before the end of this year.

Fernando's mother who did not want to divulge  her name, while also justifying the price hikes told The Sunday Leader that she finds no fault with the government for its failure to give houses to  tsunami victims as the government is engaged in a sincere war effort.

"Who could accuse our President for his failure to provide relief to the poor people? He is trying to save the country from the terrorists. We are ready to sacrifice even our lives to strengthen the hands of the President who is genuinely fighting against terrorism," added Fernando's mother. 

K. Indrani who had been working in Kuwait when the tsunami struck, when informed that her entire house was washed away had requested her employer to assist her to get her house repaired.

"My employer was a generous gentleman who told me that they have sent enough funds to Sri Lanka and that I could get assistance from the Sri Lankan government. Full of hope I returned to the country but not a single cent has been given to any of us who were victims of the tsunami," charged Indrani.

According to Indrani with the latest price hike of kerosene oil she has been compelled to use only one lamp at night. "Earlier I lit more than three lamps but now I use only one lamp. This government has not only darkened our lives but our houses as well," added Indrani.

Protecting the corrupt

Accusing the government of protecting the corrupt, Indrani queried as to why the government punishes those who make a living by selling illicit liquor to feed their families when the bigwigs are allowed to engage in any illegal activity.

"This is the worst government we have had. On one hand they are stealing money that was sent to the innocent tsunami victims and on the other hand, from the top to the bottom they are stealing the country's wealth," alleged Indrani.

Chaminda Kumara, a vendor who supplies vegetables to the shanty dwellers said that the time has now come to skip two meals in order to survive.

"What is this government doing by increasing the prices? I voted for this government but there is no justification for the manner in which they are governing the country. They should know how to wage war and also control the economy. Before the election they did not say that the people will have to starve because of the war. They promised to give relief to the poor but have failed so far," added Kumara.


CCC brings relief to cancer patients

By Kshanika Argent

It is rare to find someone who does not know about, or has not been touched by cancer. Today there are thousands of children and adults who are suffering from cancer and are not able to obtain the required treatment for various reasons. The National Cancer Institute, Maharagama (NCI) currently supports many such cases with limited facilities. The Courage, Compassion and Commitment (CCC) Foundation Inc., was founded five years ago in Australia to support the children at the Cancer Hospital. On January 10, CCC officially launched its Sri Lankan arm of the foundation and commenced raising funds to build the CCC House, a 140 bed transit home for underprivileged cancer outpatients and their carers at the Cancer Hospital.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader, Chairman, CCC Foundation, Jetha Devapura said that on a trip to the NCI long years ago, he was moved by how many patients, children in particular, were affected by the lethal disease, and the fact that the poorer of the group were those worse hit. 

Australian support

Devapura incorporated the CCC Foundation in Australia, and with its partners - the Royal Children's Hospital (RCH) and The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre of Melbourne, has been working with the National Cancer Institute to implement best practice oncology treatment and care for children and adults over a period of time. The CCC has already raised funds towards a paediatric ICU in 2005 and a 14 bed children's ward at the Cancer Hospital which opened in August 2006. They have also organised training visits for medical staff from the RCH to Maharagama.  CCC Foundation - Sri Lanka will ensure the continuity of this project.

Comfort and facilities

Devapura said, "CCC House will not only give a comfortable bed to those patients forced to sleep on corridors of the hospital (floor patients), but will also have facilities for the medical staff to focus on the newly admitted and critically ill patients."

CCC House will have capacity for 140 outpatients and 30 carers - a facility that will help reduce by this number, the outpatients who are currently in the hospital wards.

CCC House will therefore improve the overall wellbeing and care given to in-patients as well as outpatients. Additionally, the carers of 30 outpatient children will also have a comfortable bed and a place to rest.

Transit home care is defined as an integrated service with a dual function of hospital care and home care. This is essentially reserved for patients who require outpatient treatment. They do not need intensive supervision. However, patients should have quick access to medical care when required.

The Director of the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Kanishka Karunaratne said: "This type of accommodation is ideal for patients undergoing radiotherapy and day chemotherapy. CCC House will also improve the psycho-social environment for the outpatients as well as the carers making recovery more ideal in a homely environment."

An appeal

CCC House will be established within the premises of the NCI, on a 20 perch block of state land. The transit home will be funded and maintained by the CCC Foundation Inc. through private donations and sponsorships from both Australia and Sri Lanka. Devapura said "We appeal to companies, clubs and individuals in the community to support our endeavour to make a difference to those afflicted with cancer," adding that so far the response from the corporate sector was great.

He also explained that should a corporate company sponsor a room, they could have their company name on the door. Fund-raising is still underway to commence the first stage of the project. Devapura said that many cancer patients travel great distances just to get treatment for a day and can't afford anything better. Sometimes its too late for them to travel back home, so they end up sleeping on the floor. The CCC House is just one initiative in making their already bleak lives just a bit easier.


As Dr. P.R. Anthonis celebrates his 97th birthday tomorrow

He still sits in his consulting room, and visits wards


Dr. P.R. Anthonis - a medical 
man for all seasons

In every profession during an era, there rises an individual who in his lifetime is justifiably accorded a historic dimension and a legendary status for his achievements and the impact he makes on society. Dr. Anthonis, a healer, teacher  and mentor is an accomplished, distinguished man, warm hearted and clear in his thinking. He is a remarkable person, a professional of repute whose mind, heart and talents come together to create a masterpiece of a human being.

His achievements are many, his collection of gold medals and honours conferred upon him are unbelievable. He is one of those rare people who live an exemplary life, practicing his skills to heal human suffering. He is the only surgeon who goes to his patients day or night thus achieving greatness through his own humane efforts.

The clarity of his purpose exposes the foundation of the inner heart. He has not followed where the path may lead but instead where there is no path, he has left a trail. He is a true Buddhist, following the teachings of the Awakened One, with a desire to be awakened and not merely as one who labels himself as belonging to a particular religion.

"Even though one goes about adorned, if one is calm, controlled, restrained, is chaste and has laid aside the rod towards all beings, such a one is a Brahmin, such a one is a ascetic, such a one is a bikkhu." - The Dhammapada

He is a family man, who praises his beloved wife Ruby as his perfect partner of 58 years.

Always the skilled surgeon, Dr. Anthonis performed his last operation on December 30, 2007, on the threshold of completing 97 years. But this may not be his final operation.

He accepts almost every invitation and has a busy schedule everyday visiting patients, hospitals, meetings and functions. He still sits impeccably dressed in his consulting room at his residence, wrapped in golden memories, ever ready to heal the mind, heart and body of any human being who seeks him out.

He is a true son of Sri Lanka, a colossus in the medical arena - God's special gift to mankind. As he celebrates his 97th birthday on January 21, he receives wishes in abundance. For he is truly a legend in our time.

"Tentative efforts lead to tentative outcomes. Therefore give yourself fully to your endeavours. Decide to construct your character through excellent actions and determine to pay the price of a worthy goal. The trials you encounter will introduce you to your strengths. Remain steadfast.and one day you will build something that endures, something worthy of your potential."- Epicetus, Roman Teacher, Philosopher 55-135 A.D.

- Indira Kulatilake


Grandfathers' in love triangle

By Ranee Mohamed

A love triangle was torn asunder when two grandfathers aged 70 and 75 were taken into custody by the Women and Children's Bureau last week after a complaint was received from the guardians of a 13 year old girl alleging that she was raped by the two men.

The girl in question lived with her father and stepmother in Panadura, while her mother lived in  Koralawella, Moratuwa.

Neighbours had observed that the girl had been in and out of the houses in which the two senior citizens lived and the men had been outside to wave at her, before she left for school and when she returned.

For a period of six months the 70 year old and the 75 year old had befriended the girl, talking to her, telling her stories. "The 70 year old grandpa gave me sweets and the 75 year old grandpa gave me money," the girl told police. The friendship between the girl and the two men had developed. As the girl was keen to get out of home, she had always been among friends in the neighbourhood.

According to the complaint, both men had sex with the girl after they lured her into one house.

The case is being investigated by the officers of the Women and Children's Bureau and the suspects are to be produced in court. The girl is to be handed over to the Salvation Army.


Saving cows from a gruesome death...

By Ranee Mohamed


Dr. Sicille P.C. Kotelawala explaining a point

It was an occasion for joy and tears when the Ceylinco Sarana Cattle Protection Centre was declared open by Deshamanya Dr. Lalith Kotelawala and his wife, Deputy Chairperson of Ceylinco Consolidated, Dr. Sicille P.C. Kotelawala.

A very personal project of Ceylinco's First Lady, the Ceylinco Sarana Cattle Protection Centre which was launched on October 28, has been the reason why several hundreds of cows have been saved from anguish and a gruesome death.

"Dearest friends, I thank you all for the support. This is a very special day for the Chairman and for me. We have made  great progress, and doctors and professors from overseas too have been touched by this project," said Lady, Dr. Sicille P.C. Kotelawala. She was referring to the many doctors and professors who visited Sri Lanka recently when she received a doctorate.

Compassionate project

These doctors and professors, some of  them from Asian cultures and yet others from Australia and USA who were touched by this compassionate project have themselves bought cows condemned to death. Many of these cows were heavy with pregnancy.

The purchase of a cow through this centre means that the cow is sponsored by the person who saved its life. The cow is also given a name and the sponsor can visit the cow that he saved from death.

At a gathering at Raja Bojun recently, poor farmers were brought from far off places as Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura and educated about the project.

"In this lovely Buddhist country, farmers will now have a way of repaying these milch cows who have been mothers to us - giving milk to our children," observed Dr. Sicille P.C. Kotelawala.

Dr. Sicille P.C. Kotelawala who had visited an abattoir in Welisara recalled on Thursday, January 10 at the opening of Ceylinco Sarana Cattle Protection Centre at 31/1 De Fonseka Place, Colombo 4 that she was horrified at the goings-on therein.

Heavy resistance

"On top of the road was the 'mus kade' (meat shop) and next to it was the restaurant where devilled beef and beef curry were being served. Further down the road was the abattoir. In a muddy shed were about 40-50 cows. Each time the iron gate was opened they all huddled in a corner. There was this brown and white cow that was looking fixedly at me," remembered Dr. Sicille P.C. Kotelawala.

It was observed that the moment an 'urgent' requirement of beef arose, a cow was pulled out in a hurry and killed amidst heavy resistance from the starving animal.

"The owner was not very pleased that we were there. The cattle were not fed for days. We were told that when the stomachs of these animals were empty there were less problems for the butchers as they did not have to clean their intestines. Thus the animals waiting to die were not given water or food," said Dr. Sicille P.C. Kotelawala in tears.

A friend who accompanied Dr. Sicille P.C. Kotelawala said that Dr. Sicille P.C. Kotelawala was in tears and had got down a truckload of grass for the cows to eat. She had ordered that they be given water and had left the abattoir after purchasing four pregnant cows, and promising to come back for the rest of the animals.

Within a week and after these cows were brought under her care many of them had given birth.


Can a slight cough lead to death in 20 days?


Elizabeth Hettiarachchi

By Nirmala Kannangara

For want of good medical care for his wife who brought him much happiness, a husband has had to pay dearly. Husbands do the utmost for their wives, especially when they are sick. No matter what the financial status is, they want to give the best medical care to their better half.

Mahinda Hettiarachchi is one such husband who had wanted the best medical care for his wife but it was not to be. He lost the love of his life due to alleged medical negligence.

Fifty nine year old Elizabeth May Swarna Hettiarachchi of Sri Medhankara Road, Dehiwela, an active housewife despite her illnesses, had died allegedly due to medical negligence according to her husband who is yet to recover from the nightmare he had to undergo at a time when it was least expected.

Elizabeth Hettiarachchi died at a leading private hospital on June 5, 2007, 20 days after being admitted to the hospital. According to Hettiarachchi although she was admitted for a slight cough the cause of death at the post mortem had stated  'Cardio pulmonary arrest due to bilateral pneumonia.'

Admitted with a cough

"I noticed my mother suffering from a slight cough the day after she celebrated her 59th birthday and I immediately rushed her to Apollo Hospital where she had been taking treatment for the last four years. As she was a kidney transplant patient and on immune compromised status since the transplant operation, we were asked by her Nephrologist, Dr. Srujith Somiah to give her the best medical care even for the slightest illness. As a result I rushed my mother to the hospital on May 17 morning," said Elizabeth Hettiarachchi's son.

"My mother was admitted to Room No. 4023 for treatment and tests to diagnose her condition were done immediately. The doctors who attended on her decided to consult Chest Specialist, Dr. Channa Ranasinghe," he further said.

However according to Elizabeth Hettiarachchi's husband, the doctor in question who had been channelled, had failed to turn up and had arrived only 24 hours later. "Dr. Ranasinghe first attended on my wife on May 21 and going through the test reports he was satisfied with the condition of her lungs. He suggested to Dr. Somiah  that the patient could be discharged. Though I was happy to hear that my wife's lungs were in good condition Dr. Somiah did not agree with Dr. Ranasinghe's suggestion, since he felt that my wife was not in a proper state of health to be discharged," explained Hettiarachchi.

According to Hettiarachchi despite the assurance given by the Chest Specialist that the patient's lungs were in good condition she had to be transferred to the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) on  May 24 due to a difficulty in breathing.

Difference of opinion

"Although Dr. Ranasinghe assured us that my wife's lung's were functioning well  he still continued to treat her. If there was nothing to be worried about then he would have simply stopped treating my wife, leaving Dr. Somiah to care for her. As to why the Chest Specialist continued to treat my wife is one of the many questions that is constantly troubling my mind," said Hettiarachchi.

Hettiarachchi claimed that although his wife was put on the ventilator and various tests were done to find out the exact reason for the illness he was shocked to hear that still the hospital could not diagnose the cause of the illness. "This hospital, which claims to be the only hospital in the country with ultra modern equipment with diagnostic facilities was unable to identify the cause of the illness. Since they failed to diagnose my wife's illness on time she had to die," alleged Hettiarachchi.

Hettiarachchi told The Sunday Leader that it is impossible for him to understand  what had happened to his wife who had walked into the hospital with a slight cough and had to leave the hospital in a coffin. "My wife underwent a kidney transplant at Apollo, New Delhi in 2003. After she was discharged I still did not want to fly back home immediately and instead stayed in a nearby lodge with her. The very next day she had a breathing problem and I immediately rushed her to the hospital. I was later informed that she had pneumonia. After four days she was completely cured and discharged.

"The situation here is completely different. The doctors in India are concerned about their patient's well-being while here it is not so. If the necessary tests were done at the correct time and if the doctors who had attended on her had done so on time she would still be among us," said Hettiarachchi dejectedly. 

'Fired' drugs

According to Hettiarachchi since the hospital could not diagnose his wife's illness the hospital authorities had treated  her for all possible illnesses such as TB, cancer, pneumonia and for many other illnesses. "This was personally confirmed to me by the doctors who were attending on her.  In their own language they were 'firing' drugs for all possible lung diseases. Since my wife was a kidney patient I was really worried about her kidneys. According to Dr. Somiah her kidneys were functioning perfectly but as she was given all sorts of drugs her kidneys started to pack up," added Hettiarachchi.

As a result, according to Hettiarachchi his wife had begun to bloat and had to undergo dialysis on three consecutive days - June 2, 3 and 4, which is not done on kidney patients. "She was in severe pain and this was evident by the look on her face," Hettiarachchi said.

"In July I wrote to the Director, Medical Services requesting an investigation into my wife's death. He responded to me on July 21 and gave an assurance that an investigation will be held. He also took my contact number to inform me of the outcome but sadly, to date, he has failed to call me or write to let me know the results of the investigation," claimed Hettiarachchi.

Hospital disclaims knowledge of incident

Although Mahinda Hettiarachchi alleges that death was due to medical negligence, Chief Executive Officer, Apollo Hospital, Lakith Peiris told The Sunday Leader that he cannot see any medical negligence with regard to the death of Elizabeth Hettiarachchi as the records clearly show that the hospital and the doctors have done their best for her.

"If the patient died a few hours after  admittance and if  the doctor concerned had failed to  give proper medication then we could say that death was due to medical negligence. But in this case the patient had died 20 days after being admitted and we cannot jump to conclusions that death was due to medical negligence," Peiris insisted.

However when asked as to why the hospital failed to investigate the matter and inform the outcome to the bereaved family, Peiris, referring to the letter sent by Hettiarachchi to Director, Medical Services, Apollo Hospital said that the bereaved family had not requested an investigation but had only alleged negligence by the chest specialist.

However when The Sunday Leader informed Peiris that the Director, Medical Services, on July 21 had assured Hettiarachchi that an impartial inquiry would be held and that the family would be informed of the outcome, Peiris said that he was unaware of such an assurance.

"I took over this post in November and I did not know of the incident until your paper called me. I was told by the Director, Medical Services that the hospital will hold an inquiry. We as laymen cannot come to a conclusion and say that the doctor in question is at fault. It is the Sri Lanka Medical Council that has to  decide on that. Anyhow, if there is any doubt by the management of the hospital then we would certainly hold an inquiry," Peiris added.

"We always ensure the wellbeing of the patients as we are the only hospital in the country that maintains records of each in-house and outdoor patient from the very inception. Apollo will not for any reason cover up anybody's lapses if there was a lapse. That is why patients  come to us. In this instance, where a doctor is concerned, I, being a layman cannot evaluate the doctor's skills and there are authorities that could take up the matter when there is a complaint," Peiris reiterated.


Director, Med. Services cites court action, refuses to comment

Director, Medical Services, Apollo Hospital, Colombo, Dr. S.Ratnapriya when contacted by The Sunday Leader did not wish to comment on the matter citing that the party concerned is planning to go to court.

"Since the deceased patient's family is planning to file a case I cannot comment on it," Dr. Ratnapriya said.

But when the newspaper told him that the matter has still not been referred to court and as the Director, Medical Services at Apollo Hospital he could comment on the issue Dr. Ratnapriya still did not want to give their side of the story.

When asked on the latest situation with regard to the investigations that he  had promised to hold, Dr. Ratnapriya failed to give a reason as to why an investigation was not conducted. "I don't see any medical negligence," was his only comment.


 The beauty of nature

It's Saturday and I'm home alone. Not really, but my family has deserted me. Outside my window I can clearly see the dwellers by the stream have their bath in the communal shower. I'm jolly well not going to move my computer table just because they are in full view.

The children have their baths first, some of them protesting loudly. Their mothers or minders shout back. In between their cock bird is crowing, even though it is 1.55 p.m. This time I can excuse it, because it has suddenly got gloomy and so it looks like daybreak.

But seriously, one of these days, I will wring its neck, it keeps crowing at the most ungodly hours in the middle of the night or at the absolute crack of dawn. It crows on and on and on... I wonder if it wants something?

Bathing sarongs

The women glance up at me, but I carry on. They are in their bathing sarongs and shriek out all kinds of information I can well do without knowing to each other. I'm not eavesdropping, but I can hear it very clearly.

Lastly come the men, all coughing and spitting noisily. Yuck! No, I'm still not moving my table! I think the birds have got a bit confused, it looks like twilight and they are all twittering away like they do in the evening. Three of the Seven Sisters preen on the roof in front of me and groom themselves meticulously.

Oh dear! The ice-cream van with the annoying tune played over and over is coming around, but since it's not hot, I doubt people will want to buy ice-creams in this weather, even though it's the weekend.

Ah! Now the musical sound has stopped, so someone must be indulging, regardless of the weather. Distant thunder is better than explosions of gunpowder, I think. Some people cower indoors, but for how long? I am really sleepy since I stayed up very late watching movies and reading.

Open toilets

Everyone kept calling to see if I was all right. By the time I assured everyone I was fine and was looking forward to some alone time, I had been sitting here for about two hours. The bathing is still going on. Some of my friends were saying they weren't quite comfortable in the new-style open toilets, built so you could enjoy the wonders of nature. One said she kept looking up at the trees, expecting to see someone perched up there, watching her bathe and doing whatever!

Another friend told this guy to please build a nice toilet in his beach house. He asked her what she meant by "nice" and she said with tiles and a proper shower, instead of a natural water spout. He snorted with disgust and said what utter rubbish, this is the natural charm of the place, it being close to nature, etc.

He also told her if she wanted an alternative, he would provide her with a bucket and spade to go behind the bushes and do whatever! We all protested loudly and reminded him we were eating, thank you very much, and to change the conversation immediately. He responded by saying the open beach was also there for the using. Disgusting!

Not too comfortable

But I must say that when I was in some of these eco friendly hotels, I was not too comfortable with this concept as well. One had the shower and toilet seat in two separate cubicles, but without doors! Why would one want to stroll in for a shower if someone else was perched on the loo? Some have glass walls and open skies, but I too, was wondering if monkeys, bats or birds would suddenly decide to fly in. You also have this feeling that someone is lurking in the luxuriant foliage outside, having a jolly good peep show.

A family toilet story is how Beautiful Dreamer, on her first day at school, decided that the toilet provided for her was too yucky. So, she marched into the principal's room and used her toilet. The principal was out of her room and was astonished to see a small creature emerge from the toilet when she returned.

After an investigation, she burst out laughing since B.D. had told her she just couldn't use a toilet without tiles, bathmats and nice matching towels! Thankfully, the school toilets were renovated soon afterwards, or I don't know what the consequences might have been. She's reminded of this episode regularly, much to her annoyance!

- Honky Tonk Woman

 


Input signal not received... Shutting down now

Four years ago, I was sitting in the next to the last row in a  classroom in an old converted warehouse building. It was my first  class but my second time around at doing the college thing. I wasn't  nervous but I was apprehensive. I didn't want to be taught a lot of  things that I already knew because that would have been a waste of  time and money.  

The girl on my left ... well she couldn't stop talking. She was  bubbly, cheerful and very much larger than life and a little bit ditzy  to boot. Her name was Hannah. She had brains and was intelligent but I  think that they (her brain cells) had refused to cooperate with the  rest of the world as it was a long time ago. So you'd never think it  to look at her.  

I liked her. She sat on one side of me having rushed in late. On  the other side of me was someone who was going to be another friend  and she confessed to me that she was a bit nervous too. The class was  World Literature Two - World Literature One having been scheduled for  the next semester for some reason.  

The same - every time

The professor walked in and started on what I thought then to be a  wonderful lecture/introduction till I found out in the years  afterwards that she pretty much gave it in every class she taught. But  she tossed out questions to the class.  

I love answering questions. It's a compulsive habit as long as the  question is one worth answering. So she asked us what our definition of words would be. And as if I wasn't conspicuous enough already, with  being the only visibly obvious ethnic minority in the room, I raised  my hand and answered from the back and of course everyone had to turn  to look at me.  

Answers

This was my answer: 'Words are pieces of jigsaw puzzles. Sentences  are like the overall picture except that once you know how you can  move the words around anyway you like to form several different  pictures because the pieces in this puzzle can fit together in a  number of different ways. And everyone who looks at the picture that's made gets a different idea of what is represented and that's where we  get stories from.'  

I wasn't allowed to shut up after that. Every time a certain kind  of philosophical question was asked in class, everyone would turn to  look at me.  

"What is truth?" would be the question and I would answer: 'Truth  is relative because it is based inherently on your perception and perception is biased because it can only be based on a limited amount of information at any given time. For instance, I know from my  perception and scant knowledge of theories of quantum physics and the like that anything placed on the floor is actually not touching the  floor though it appears to be. That is my truth based on my perception  but it isn't the truth for someone else who only knows that he or she  can touch the object in question, see it and therefore think and  believe that it is touching the floor. Neither person is right or  wrong.'  

On the clarification of Ode On A Grecian Urn - 'Is it actually an ode that he can see engraved or carved on the urn or is it an ode  about what's on the urn?' I can't believe no one else thought about  that one before I brought it up because trust me, when you read that  poem, it really doesn't clarify that point for you. "Are the images in  the poem, the ones he's imagining or the ones he is actually seeing on  the urn itself?" and more importantly, "Why didn't anyone give Keats  a more competent editor, poor boy?"  

Bored

Halfway through the third year, there were suddenly no more  questions. I mean, there were questions, but they were the same ones. There were ideas, theories, concepts but they were the same ones. And so I grew disenchanted. I am a little bit soft in the head and I am different from most people my age: I wanted to go to college to learn  something new not to just end up with a piece of paper stating that I  had a degree.

The degree has never been the important part of it for  me. That's probably why I am still here studying, now about to start a  new year for my Honours thesis when most of my former school friends  have graduated, started working and even married.  

I grew frustrated. Here I was with two majors in my degree and it  felt like the classes were starting to drag because they were getting  repetitive with the material. There had always been times when there  was information imparted like it was gold dust or manna from heaven  and I'd be bored.

I know about continental shifts, about Beowulf, that  Hopkins bores me to tears, about soil profiles and evapotranspiration and the Asian Economic Crisis in 1998 that started the world  rethinking their predictions for "Tiger Economies."  

And so I found myself sitting in class and doing Punnett Squares  in my head for features in my fellow classmates. That's how bored I  was. That's how horrendously bored I am now. Even my Honours thesis is  failing to excite me.  

The truth is that I am now a little bit absentminded. I take longer to respond to things and to make decisions because I fear part of my brain has shut itself down to due to severe lack of new external  stimuli and information. Like a computer, if I am not being used, my  brain goes into hibernation mode and it scares the living daylights  out of me because I don't realise it till someone says: 'You seem a  little dazed' or 'Why are you so tired?' or 'What's taking you so  long?' or 'Didn't you realise someone was talking to you?'  

It even comes out when I am trying to write an article like this one. I started out intending to tell you an anecdote about the  definitions of words and stories and then talk to you about the second  Annual Galle Literary Festival which started on January 16 and will continue  for a few days. And you should  be reading this while you are there. But I ended up rambling instead.  

Illustrates

It helps however to illustrate my point about stories. Any sentence  you write provided it is grammatically correct is a story. Even the  sentence: "Nothing happened." Because immediately you start asking  yourself the questions: "Where did nothing happen?", "Why did nothing  happen and to whom and when?", "Was anything expected to happen at  all?", and "There has to be a story because something was expected  to happen and it didn't and someone was there to observe the fact that  nothing happened and to report it as such..." and there you go - you  have a story or the start of one at least.

And I really wish it was  that easy because perhaps then I'd be there at the Literary Festival  too brandishing a book and maybe I'd be telling you these stories of  my college learning experiences for you to laugh at in person.  

For now, because I am so woollyheaded, the question of when that will happen, unlike the other questions, I can't really answer. I don't know if it will happen at all. Perhaps that part of my brain  shut down a long time ago. Perhaps it's just another dream for another  life - there are other things that need to happen now.  

But you can live part of it for me. You can waltz on down, take  part in the workshops, talk to the authors, go to lectures and  readings, get books signed and do all those wonderful things on my  behalf. And you'd better because while you could be down there having all  that fun, I will be over here, panicking about the year ahead of me.  

- Marisa Wikramanayake

 


HUMOUR  

AIDS is better

The patient says, "Give me the bad news first!"

Doctor replies, "You've got AIDS."

"Oh, no! What could be worse than that?" asks the patient.

"You've also got Alzheimer's Disease."

Looking relieved the patient says, "Oh...Well, that's not so bad. At least I don't have AIDS." 

Stumped

In a courtroom, a purse snatcher is on trial and the victim is stating what happened. She says, "Yes, that is him. I saw him clear as day. I'd remember his face anywhere," at which point, the defendant bursts out, "You couldn't see my face, lady. I was wearing a mask!"

'It has started'

A man comes home from an exhausting day at work, plops down on the couch in front of the television, and tells his wife, "Get me a beer before it starts." The wife sighs and gets him a beer. Fifteen minutes later, he says, "Get me another beer before it starts." She looks cross, but fetches another beer and slams it down next to him. He finishes that beer and a few minutes later says, "Quick, get me another beer, it's going to start any minute." The wife is furious. She yells at him "Is that all you're going to do tonight? Drink beer and sit in front of that TV? You're nothing but a lazy, drunken, fat slob, and furthermore..." The man sighs and says, "It's started ..." 

No use working too hard, no one notices

Bosses of a publishing firm are trying to work out why no one noticed that one of their employees had been sitting dead at his desk for FIVE DAYS before anyone asked if he was feeling okay. George Turklebaum, 51, who had been employed as a proof-reader at a New York firm for 30 years, had a heart attack in the open-plan office he shared with 23 other workers.

He quietly passed away on Monday, but nobody noticed until Saturday morning when an office cleaner asked why he was still working during the weekend. His boss Elliot Wachiaski said: "George was always the first guy in each morning and the last to leave at night, so no one found it unusual that he was in the same position all that time and didn't say anything.

"He was always absorbed in his work and kept much to himself." A post mortem examination revealed that he had been dead for five days after suffering a coronary. Ironically, George was proofreading manuscripts of medical textbooks when he died. You may want to give your co-workers a nudge occasionally.

Moral of the story: Don't work too hard. Nobody notices anyway. 

More on drinking.

Don't drink and drive, get all of your drinking done before you get behind the wheel. Don't waste beer, there are sober people in India.

The only time I refused a drink I didn't understand the question.

Alcoholism is not a disease, it's a goal.

You're not an alcoholic unless you go to the meetings.

I may not be able to walk, but I drive from the sitting position.

Don't talk to the driver while he's drinking. 

The fire

One morning, farmer Brodt woke up, looked out of his bedroom window  and saw that his barn was on fire. He quick got on the phone and called the local fire department. When a fireman answered his call farmer Brodt said, "This here is farmer Brodt. My barn is on fire and I wondered if you could help."

The fireman said, "Yes sir, Mr. Brodt, how do we get there?" and farmer Brodt said, "Don't you have those little red fire trucks no more?"

Daddy, the sissy

One summer evening, during a violent thunderstorm, a mother was tucking her small boy into bed. She was about to turn off the light when he asked with a tremor in his voice, "Mommy, will you sleep with me tonight?"

The mother smiled and gave him a reassuring hug. "I can't dear," she said, "I have to sleep with Daddy."

A long silence was broken at last by a shaken little voice saying, "The big sissy."

 


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