Lighting a Bucket Lantern with ‘Uncle’ next door !

GAYA FERNANDO

Today was such a special day when I was a child.

Weeks ahead, the front room of my neighbours,’ the Wijesuriyas’ home, would be gradually filled with Vesak stuff. No last-minute rush or mess was allowed, for Uncle (as we used to call him) did things at a ritualistic pace repeating the activity in precisely the same way down to the last detail, each year in May. I knew the important months when I was a child in which I did something with someone and this was something special joined in by other people in the community as well and so it made that month important like Christmas in December, Palm Sunday, Easter and Avurudu in April, Vesak in May, the temple Perahera in August down the lane and the Church Harvest Festival in October.

Vesak Lantern VI

So in the front room the bucket lanterns and the candles would appear separately in their brown paper packs. As no one slept in this room there was plenty of space on the floor for preparing and lighting the bucket lanterns. [Read more…]

Must-See Photoessay: God in the 21st century is everywhere in every form !

STORY FRIDAY

This is a time when emotions are stirred by an extremist group claiming to defend Buddhism namely the Bodu Bala Sena and others defend em saying the Temples were the guiding light to a society Sri Lankan long ago. It’s time we reminded ourselves that this is 2013.

Achcharu Boys

Eight years ago a  biblical-type disaster wrecked Sri Lanka in Dember 2004. During the Tsunamis shock and awe stunned the land.   In a few seconds a wave carrying a bomb vented carnage, trauma and devastation, tossing in derision human torsos, train tracks, trees, boats, houses and else into lifeless flesh and bone and driftwood.

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Ganga Addara, Augustus and Lanka’s Theme …

GAYA FERNANDO

The day on which I  find no surprises in my motherland, mother tongues and her people, will see me trade in my burgundy-coloured passport with the rather nice Sovereign seal of Sri Lanka, for another.

Malathi makes an observation

Today has been one of those Indian summer days when you wonder if tomorrow will bring in the first cold wind that confirms the summer has finally left us behind. The morning good-reads stapled a sadness on my day as I read the final sentence in Malathi de Alwis’ review of Kalumaali; an excellent observation.  Any depiction of motherhood or womanhood surely cannot leave out the great devastation of war and tsunamis? should include the heartbreak borne by son, child, daughter, friend, neighbour, Aiya, Anna, Acca, Appa, Thaththa and especially Amma ?

Her last sentence read

“As I sat in the darkened theatre the image that kept recurring in my head was the tear-drenched face of a young Tamil mother who had had to abandon her injured daughter in their bombed-out home as she carried her two other children to safety.” [Read more…]

Rolling Back the Years – A Story of Hope

ELIJAH HOOLE

I remember this song. No! In fact I know this song. ‘Annan Ennada? Thambi Ennada?’ A song from the black-and-white days – a song that explores relationships in a materialistic world.  A song Thilahan sang for a school assembly, once upon a time.  Indeed, so much has happened since then. Here I am an old man of sixty, relaxing under the shades of The Mango Tree.  This tree hasn’t changed much – it is the same old mighty tree from forty-years ago, but I have changed; my sight has weakened, hair has grayed and I have become a weary old man.  This tree and this song my Sony radio is currently playing, bring back memories – man’s greatest possession.  Memories of my childhood, memories of my school days, memories of Thilahan – my best friend, memories from those good times.

morning greetings

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Dingiriamma’s Story: A mother’s love in a cruel world of ‘cripple-look-down’

 

CAPT. ELMO JAYAWARDENA

The journey has been long, very very long. It started in a little village called Dandu Bendi Ruppa in Nuwara Kalaviya when Dingiriamma rolled Jayathilaka in a ‘borrowed’ wheel chair for his first day in the village school. “Hondatama Wahinawa Mahaththayo” she told me, the skies were gray and raining and the distant clouds were coughing thunder. She had covered her 10 year old handicapped son with a plastic sheet and pushed him on rickety old wheels which were gifted to them when some old man died in the next village. Such was the beginning….

That was then, twenty five years ago.

The ceremony was solemn, opulent and almost sacred. The National University of Singapore does not spare anything when it comes to their ‘lime light’ events. The Class of 2011 all gathered in their robes of black and flat hats, mostly young, ‘this medal winner’ and ‘that medal winner’ of Singapore’s best brains in youth. The recipients of the prestigious degrees totalled more the 400. Then there were the chosen few representing the elite in education, the ones who had read and completed their PhDs in this world renowned institution. The audience gathered was the ‘who’s who’ of Singapore in their Saville Row suits and Bally feet. Pahalagedara Jayathilaka too was there, sitting among the Doctors of Philosophy, his crutches folded across his knees waiting to be called to end his unbelievable journey.

I sat with Dingiriamma, Jayathilaka’s mother along with his brother and sister-in-law whom he had brought down from Sri Lanka to witness the final walk. This sure was a different planet to these rural people and they sat in their village innocence, making feeble attempts to come to terms with the grandeur of it all. If anybody had a right to be there, it sure was Dingiriamma. The name was announced, “Pahalagedara Jayathilaka” and I glanced at the 70 year old mother and saw her staring ‘blink-less’ as her beloved son walked on to the stage. Eyes glued and tears pouring down a mottled skinned cheek she celebrated with absolute awe each step Jayathilaka was taking, crawling the final crawl in crutches to receive his PhD.

What enormous battles she had fought along with him? What roads they had walked together, poor pilgrims in an unknown odyssey? Hand in hand and crutches clinched, they trudged the unimaginable tortuous steps of a very long journey that had impossible mountains to climb. What wringing they would have done to squeeze out the drops of courage from their dented and battered lives to see the far distant light and to be where they are today?

“How many roads must a man walk down, before you can call him a man?” the immortal words of Dylan come to my mind. The answer is not in the wind, but in the unbelievable achievement of Jayathilaka who had surmounted all obstacles to stand tall today with his ‘Fluid Dynamics’ doctorate. The other side of the coin of course is Dingiriamma, the simple uneducated mother who cultivated vegetables and raised him with 8 other siblings as a single parent in an obscure village. What visions would she know of education? What ambitions would she have hoarded as all other mothers do for their sons? What hopes? What ways to even think of him attending school let alone entering a university? She had only the purest of love, in a cruel world of ‘cripple-look-down.’ “Mata dukai Mahaththayo, abbagathayekne,” she just wanted to make the little disabled boy play some little part in life other than to be an intrinsic failure with lame legs.

That was her call, to give her son some normalcy. Dingiriamma, when she pushed the wheel chair to school on the first day, in the pouring rain, would never have thought in her wildest dreams how far this magnificent young man would travel in his long and gruelling trail.

Yes, the old unheralded mother sat among the elite of Singapore, a poor vegetable seller from a village near Dambulla, dressed in a pale brownish white sari, a long necklace of metal and some coloured beads around her neck and a hanky to constantly wipe her eyes, watching a very rare impossible dream take form and shape in reality.

“The bravest battle that ever was fought
Shall I tell you where and when?
In the maps of the world you would find it not
It was fought by the mothers of men.”

I am sure all you mothers who read me in this article would silently cheer Dingiriamma, applaud her in your hearts and sing her praises to those you meet. She certainly deserves that and more, the unknown and unsung optimum of motherhood which she in her own simple way had displayed in almost unparalleled achievements of emotion filled courage and has unknowingly laid bare for others to emulate.

It was Jayathilaka who told me how he heard on his first day in school one teacher telling the other “Why is this cripple allowed here? He is going to be a problem’, and the other teacher saying ‘May be he can at least learn to write his name.” That he remembers well along with the other almost ‘fairy tales’ he told me of his childhood and the way he scrabbled to where he is today.

Jayathilaka received repeated double-promotions and he went from the village school to Kurunegala to do his ‘A’ levels where he scored the highest marks in the district and entered Katubedde University to study Mechanical Engineering.

That part had been extremely difficult, Dingiriamma’s meagre earnings from selling vegetables was hardly adequate to support young Jayathilaka. His best eating had been a ‘banis or a malu paan’ at Mallika Bakery and the ‘food-festivals’ they laid out on campus to those who survived on subsidised meals.

I had very close interactions with him at this time. By then he had joined CandleAid Lanka as a sponsored student. I do remember asking him in his last year how he was faring in his Uni work and how he answered in a humble tone “Captain, I am sure of a First Class.” That bowled me completely. Here was a handicapped student crawling in crutches and broke as the ‘ten commandments’ and yet ‘dead-certain’ of his unamplified ability to obtain a First Class Honours degree in the subject he was reading.

Jayathilaka did not get a First Class, what he received was a Super First Class. I did not even know what that meant, but my basic English told me it was better than a First Class.

The journey is now over; Dingiriamma has done her part as a mother to bring her little handicapped boy to where he is today. He too has done more than his share, where much more able people would have given up even before they began, Pahalagedara Jayathilaka plodded on to a golden finish line.
Dr. Jayathilaka has been offered employment at the National University of Singapore as a postdoctoral researcher. He will continue there for two more years.

“I want to go back, I like to teach in Sri Lanka, I owe that to my homeland that gave me a free education,” such were his words after the ceremony, spoken in true patriotic vein, sincere and laced with gratitude.

That night we gathered and shared a simple meal to celebrate. They had brought ‘kalu dodol’ from home, just the right Nuwara Kalaviya touch. There was no one to interview them nor flashing lights and TV cameras to record their fable. Dingiriamma recalled some of the stories of Jayathilaka’s childhood, how he used to crawl around the table when the others were studying and how his brother taught him to write. And how he went to school pushed in his ramshackle wheel-chair and how he painfully walked small distances bending and lifting his bad leg with his hand to take a few steps. The conversation was all about the road they travelled, and the stories sounded unbelievable, almost mythological. I wish I had space to write, but then my words would be superfluous and colourless, totally incapable of capturing the full essence of their journey, let alone the accompanying emotions of the mother and son.

I wonder how Mother Lanka would recognise and praise someone like Dingiriamma. It matters not to her and it certainly matters not to Jayathilaka, they have already won their race in super splendid fashion. These are stories that should not be forgotten. They are rare, of how a mother and son walked an extremely demanding trail from the village of Dandu Bendi Ruppa to the National University of Singapore and a PhD in Fluid Dynamics.

The shine is on them, it is for others like you and me to see and recognise the simplicity and the greatness. Pale brownish white sari, long chain with beads and hanky in hand to wipe her tears, Dingiriamma stood the tallest at the Class of 2011 celebration. As for Dr. Pahalagedara Jayathilaka in his black and green gown, clutching his crutches, he walked the proudest, yet the humblest at the ceremony, to the loudest possible ovation.

I was so privileged to be there to share that rare moment.

elmojay@sltnet.lk

What’s On : Lights, Rugby, Action!

 

STC-NYC Kick off a great event in Manhattan !

 

Check out the kick-ass images, The Making of SLS Tag Rugby 7sVid and the Official Vid Clip below giving you the spirit and action of turning an idea into a sporting event, a good cause, a party and a celebration of old school friendships that last a lifetime ! [Read more…]

Home is where the war is!

 

MARYANNE KOODA

Vinny’s son just reached his 10th birthday last week, but she didn’t live to see him. She died of a gunshot to the head, caught in the crossfire between armed terrorists and security forces in a northern Nigerian city of Kaduna. I didn’t know her really well, but there are so few Sri Lankans in Nigeria that most of them know each other, and as a Nigerian girl married to a Sri Lankan, I got to meet and sometimes just hear about many of them.

Vinny was a Tamil lady, who moved to Nigeria over a decade ago to begin a life there with her Lankan hubby after an arranged marriage. I, on the other hand had moved to Sri Lanka four years ago, and have experienced the joy of an end to the tragedies that plagued this beautiful Island. [Read more…]

Dear People of Thambapanni

 

ARVINTH, North London :

Hello Lankan Fellas! If there’s a day that makes us all Lankans celebrate together, well that would be the great ‘Sinhala-Tamil New Year’.

And I never understood the meaning and I never understood why this was called Sinhala-Tamil new year rather Tamil New Year. May be it’s just cos I was born in the late 80s and was brought up in one of the beautiful districts of the Island called ‘Jaffna’. [Read more…]

An Avurudu Wish for Savi !

 

There are many Avurudu Kumaris and Avurudu Kumarayas-in-waiting ! They need your SUPPORT, your GOOD SENSE and your BELIEF in HIS or HER RESILIENCE.

This is a time for engagement and realism; a time to cast aside emotion and plunge into action.

 

An Avurudu Wish for Savi ! from iSrilankan on Vimeo.

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My First Visit

 

by Gary Paramanathan

 

I was born in Jaffna, raised in Colombo, and reached adolescence in Sydney. In 2010 I returned to Jaffna after being away for 20 years. These are thoughts I put into words as I was waiting the hours and days to return to more familiar ground, i.e Colombo and Sydney.

 

 

My First Visit by Gary Paramanathan from iSrilankan on Vimeo.
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