Interview with Tanuja Turairajah on the making of Project Belonging

Living as a migrant for the first time in Zürich, Tanuja Thurairajah found herself thinking about the narratives that people were exposed to in their daily life.

“When I came here I met other Tamils, but somehow I felt that they reached out to a different narrative and I reached out to a different narrative…”

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Soap Opera – Brahmanawatte

I wouldn’t dare introduce Renu. She is a poet who doesn’t give a damn whether you read her poetry or not, a creator of food fusion that follows mood and emotion as one who is in a continuous sensual dance of life, which you may only sense by her writings, not imitate or follow. That is, until she decided to host a blog: Fenugreek from which, if I am good, posts could be shared on iSrilankan, which will touch a chord with many Sri Lankans living on this planet; most of all, with those who live away from where it all began.
“My father is dead. For a few years now his body parts have been educating someone in some medical faculty somewhere.

From time to time when I go to the Tamil shop I buy a certain soap. Not that I make a list and go looking for it. I just see it and my hand reaches out and it follows me home…Read more

Rani soap

Sri Lankan–Africans from Puttalam: visiting my “long-lost relatives”!



Along a narrow trail that wound a short distance from the Puttalam /Anuradhapura road, lay the quiet village we were searching for.  We reach Sirambiandiya after a four hour trip by bus from Colombo.  We are unsure of what type of reception we will get, as the research we had done on them, told of a people who were fed up of being treated like a circus freak show!

The knowledge of their existence has since been publicised by musical performances at the Barefoot Café,  so the novelty had worn off. Yet we were still interested in meeting them, despite the possibility that they may be wary of visitors. We took the chance and were delighted to find them open and friendly.

Puttalam1I have wanted to visit them for a long time, but till a restlessness born of inchoate melancholy drove me into taking the trip, I had been postponing it.  I am curious to find out how much they have integrated into the Sri Lankan culture, perhaps due to my own feelings of displacement; I am grasping at straws, in desperate search for a source of attachment to Sri Lanka. I am hoping that they might have it, and I could learn from them. [Read more…]

Dev Wijewardane: An awesome photoessay on the Pantanal, Brazil



Go directly to the Gallery for an exhibition of Dev Wijewardane’s incredible Pantanal photoessay. Scroll down for the iSrilankan interview with Dev.

If the Pantanal is the Mecca of wildlife tourism in Brazil, there are a few prophecies and wise practices we could learn from in protecting our own wildlife-tourism and habitat sustainability experience in Sri Lanka. Dev Wijewardane the disciple who took off on a pilgrimage comes from a family tradition of wildlife enthusiasts who actually learn about the ways of nature and wildlife and have been taught at the toddling stages of wildlife-spotting how man and nature should treat each other.
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“It truly is a life-changing experience” Natasha Yatawara


Where is she now? Natasha Yatawara is in Gambia in Africa of all places.

That’s the ‘placement’ she chose as part of her Master of Development Practice (MDP) at Peradeniya University. iSrilankan is featuring Natasha in a student testimonial series on the MDP at Pera but her story stands on its own with insights into a culture where gender-divisions in labour are surprising and the smiles shine through despite the survival challenge faced by the Gambians.

1.Why did you wish to get in on the MDP? What are the factors that attracted you?

Well it was my mother who introduced me to it first (she is also in the same class :)) but when we found out about the new approach focusing more on field training and the inter-disciplinary course content itself, covering geography, biology, statistics and economics (which should be essentially included if the development practitioner is to design and implement projects that would benefit different aspects of life of the beneficiaries) it made more sense and we thought this is it !!

It fit our requirements as my mother has been in the development field for over 2 decades and the course allowed her to revisit her practical knowledge through different models and structures and I have wanted to be involved in grassroots development of communities ever since my first trip to one of my mother’s project locations when I was a kid and it also allowed me to expand my understanding of concepts studies during my under-grad in Sociology.

On a personal level, the MDP also caught my attention as it was offered in Peradeniya – a place I’ve always wanted to be at – purely because of the beautiful landscaping of the campus 🙂

2. How would you recommend it to someone who was interested in further study in dev ? What is your special worded message ?

This is a course that draws people from all disciplines be it engineering, law, education, healthcare or main-stream development workers and the course has something to offer for all of these backgrounds as well as to draw from them too. (which is how most of our classes were conducted-an introduction of a new model or a concept leading to lengthy discussions between lecturer-student and students themselves which created an enriching environment to be engaged in).

So if you wish to be involved in development and not just expand your knowledge but also to be more broad-minded and inclusive (which in my opinion are essential ingredients for an effective development practitioner), this is definitely a programme for you! You will contribute to it as well as gain from it.

3. How are you finding your placement in Africa ? what are the surprises, the delights and how does this change the way dev studies are taught in a classroom? What is the additional insights this placement/internship brings

Well, I’ll start with exhilarating!! I couldn’t have wished for a better place for the internship. I don’t mean to say its easy but the challenges in terms of adapting to a new culture, environment, work ethics have all been a test of my abilities to adjust and I’m impressed with the personal progress so far 🙂 and of course the people in this place (The Gambia-West Africa) are the most accommodating and warmest community you will ever find. its incredible how much at home I feel among them.

In terms of surprises, the most striking was the gender division of labor. The roles of men and women are evidently different from the Sri Lankan communities though interesting in terms of physical energy required for each task and the particular individual assigned in performing them.

I wouldn’t say it changes (or it should change) the way development studies are taught in the classroom as you need to have a grounding in the concepts and understanding of how they can be applied in the real world, but field training in a challenging environment definitely makes you if it doesn’t break you.  I think this is the true test for someone aspiring to be an effective development practitioner.

When you are out here (as opposed to in the classroom) all your antennas are constantly attuned to the environment around, body language, verbal responses, cues on how well or bad the shared ideas/information is received and might be put into action and so on. In class you’d learn about importance of making a mother understand why washing hands before every meal, after meals, during the day with disinfectant, etc., is crucial for better health of her children, but how do you make it work in a place where water is one of the scarcest resources and therefore you keep reusing the same bowl of water to wash five different things?

“I think one of the most important things I’ve realised is that what is right for you is not necessarily right for another community. You cannot help them develop if the picture of “developed society” you have in your head is one brought from home.  It has to come from the community itself and what they want, not what you think they want.”

It truly is a life changing experience 🙂

best from Gambia,

Message from Dileni Gunewardena, MDP Programme Coordinator, University of Peradeniya says: If you are interested in this Masters in Development Practice (MDP) at the Peradeniya University which is for those who work full-time as well as not, those who are local and foreign and those who may not have the formal graduate degree from a University but experience, please read more on the Masters Worth its Salt here, please check our MDP website for details and keep in touch by liking us on Facebook.

Applications for the following academic year 2013/15 are NOW OPEN Dec-Feb. Please see the MDP website for details and for your easy reference here is the Application page.


iSrilankan-Londoners: 13 Nov St.Martin-in-the-Fields with Tanya Ekanayaka

Tanya is back and will be performing at St-Martin-in-the-Fields the world renowned recital venue on 13 Nov in a few days.

Back in 2010, Tanya Ekanayake  was the first Sri Lankan pianist to be invited to give a solo piano recital in the ‘Pianists of the World’ series at London’s St Martin-in-the-Fields. This was in 2010.

One of the oldest recital series of St Martin-in-the-Fields having been founded by the legendary Dame Myra Hess, Tanya’s programme concluded with the world première of her composition ‘Adahas: of Wings of Roots’ which was the first composition by a Sri Lankan to be performed at this venue.

Click play, listen to Adahas: Of Wings of Roots and be enchanted !!

For more on Tanya, our very own Peradeniya graduate read the related stories below.

Just-published book on Sri Lanka : Nayomi Munaweera’s ‘Island of a Thousand Mirrors’

It’s a rare blend of war, love and migration. Am looking for the author to do an Artists&Life podcast with her on her book, her take on life and else. It’s the right time however to introduce her cos this lady is gonna read at the Samadhana 2012 Benefit Reading Series which is an SLWB event organised by Kumaran Nadesan in Toronto. SLWB is involved in bringing the North American Sinhalese and Tamil Diaspora together in events that will build bridges between two communities that do not ordinarily meet in the same space though there are many like-minded. Great stuff ! [Read more…]

Do we recognise freedom when it is presented to us ?

SHANAKA FERNANDO, Lentil as Anything, Melbourne
Gaya’s Intro: Just listen to every word for every word is true and no one has said it better with explicit humour which will make you smirk, whince and cry ! Note: Tedx :  independently organised Ted-like experience under license from [Read more…]

I fell in love the moment I got off the plane. I wrapped my soul around it and tied a knot…


I remember I was four getting off the plane and having the warm air brush against my face. Young men that looked like me called out to each other in the foreign language my mother spoke as well. A foreign language I had heard too sparsely in the land I was born – Oh, Canada.

I fell in love the moment I got off the plane. I wrapped my soul around it and tied a knot. I was bounded and I would love it forever. It was perfect in so many ways – A home away from home.
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A Decade Later …


The new freedom tower is standing tall almost completed, halfway up at ground zero, the building 3WFC facing the Towers where I worked on that tragic day. In some ways, the now infamous “9/11” seems like yesterday.

It was around 7.30 am. I, still jet-lagged from my trip to Spain remember walking to work through the WTC plaza. I had a habit of looking up at the sky between the towers. It was a beautiful clear Tuesday morning like today.
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