Sri Lanka Sub Aqua Club credited for producing some of country’s top divers, several of them internationally recognized today, turns 35
by Randima Attygalle
Piling the diving gear into their cars and filling the empty seats with fellow divers, the founder members of the Sri Lanka Sub Aqua Club (SLSAC) in its formative years would head south to Hikkaduwa or Galle. They would fill their cylinders with a compressor, cast their own lead weights from lead pipes bought in Panchikawatte and purchase second-hand equipment whenever they appeared in the market. As the Founder Chairman of the Club, veteran diver, Dr. Malik Fernando recollects more than three decades later, “those who were fortunate enough to travel abroad brought back accessories and sold them at cost and we even serviced our own regulators.”
The Sri Lanka Sub-Aqua Club was formed in 1985 by a group of diving enthusiasts led by the marine biologist, Dr. M.W.R.N de Silva (Dr. Ranjith de Silva). What was envisaged by the Club says Dr. Fernando was to train Sri Lankans in SCUBA diving for both recreation and more importantly, for scientific research. He was supported by Arjan Rajasuriya, presently the Coordinator, Coastal and Marine Programme, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Sri Lanka Country Office. The idea of the Club germinated in the mind of the founder, Dr. Ranjith de Silva following his establishment of the Coral Unit at the National Aquatic Resources and Research Agency (NARA). The core group consisted of a few British Sub Aqua (BSAC) qualified divers such as Dr. Fernando, himself and those who have been involved in various diving-related pursuits.
The SLSAC, modelled on the BSAC, had produced several internationally reputed divers along its 35-year journey. The SLSAC-certified divers are today recognized by many local recreational dive stations. “Although we sought to form a branch of the BSAC once we got established, the cost was prohibitive, thus we initiated our independent certification scheme,” notes its founder chairman. The Club’s training courses, Dr. Fernando recollects, were very popular and many divers were trained by senior members. “However, it was eventually recognised that the BSAC curriculum was too comprehensive, too time consuming and too detailed for beginners. With the popularisation of the compact PADI course that a number of us followed, the club curriculum was modified and simplified changing from a BSAC model to a PADI model, with much less theory and drills reduced to basic essentials. The instruction was still by club members, some of whom had BSAC qualification and experience in instructing in their original clubs. We were only able to give a club certification, but after we had established our credentials by producing well trained divers, that certification came to be recognised by some of the recreational dive stations.”
The SLSAC was also one of the chief catalysts in driving the now well-established Maritime Archaelogy Unit (MAU) in Galle, and the contribution made by the Club members towards its expansion is notable. Recovery of several porcelain and glass artefacts by them from the shipwrecks lying in Galle spurred this initiative, says Dr. Fernando. Further, th
e club has also contributed to maritime archaeology and preservation of artefacts by contributing to the establishment of a shipwreck database and actively lobbying against shipwreck salvaging, especially of ancient shipwrecks.
A medical doctor, Fernando attributes his ‘physician gene’ to his illustrious father, Dr. Cyril Fernando and his penchant for nature to his artistic mother. An adventurous family, they would seize every opportunity to travel out of Colombo fuelling the budding physician-cum diver son’s exploring spirits. Taking to water at the age of seven, young Malik’s imagination was fired by the National Geographic Magazine. With a pair of flippers and a second-hand mask he would head towards Mount Lavinia and recollect his earliest experience of Hikkaduwa as “going deep down into an aquarium.” Further inspired by the celebrated diver Rodney Jonklaas, a family acquaintance as well, the freshly graduated doctor would spend more time diving than passing his higher exams in the UK!
“Today the greater accent is on tuition and passing exams with little emphasis on sports and even if children do engage in sports, it is largely for competition. Sadly the value of sports as a leisure activity and a health gain is largely undermined today,” observes Dr. Fernando who urges school authorities to take more interest in water-sports. “Learning to swim and dive is only means to an end. Not only can a person discover new places but he/she can also become a partner is conservation,” says the expert diver who has walked the talk. Encouraging the budding swimmers and divers to become partners of the marine eco-system true to the mandate of the Club, Dr. Fernando urges them to rally around it in a bid to produce ‘responsible’ divers with scientific insights.
“Diving enables connectivity with the entire eco-system from which we are sadly very detached right now. It provides one of the best windows to the polluted environment, for which man is responsible,” reflects Wishwamithra Kadurugamuwa, present President of the Club. The monthly ‘sharing of knowledge’ exercise initiated by the Club facilitates this process, he adds. The experience and stories of the experienced divers shared on this platform inspire the younger members, he says. “For us, diving is much more than sight-seeing, it is about moulding divers who would perceive things scientifically,” says Kadurugamuwa who is a corporate lawyer .
The ‘Citizen Science Project’ which was launched by the Club early this year in collaboration with the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) is a progressive move which provides the divers a portal to document their dives. The exercise is envisaged to be a vehicle of future research and a facilitator in conservation. “The end purpose of this endeavour is to have a record after each dive as to where the reefs are dying, the extent of the damage, how can they be salvaged etc. To record all this, divers need to perceive through a scientific lens for which training is provided by experts,” said Kadurugamuwa.
The opportunities within the marine eco-system which lay before an island nation such as ours are enormous, yet hardly tapped, he noted. He cites water sports and newer tourism products such as shipwreck tourism in this regard. “Sadly there is not much attention paid to the marine environment in the magnitude it ought to happen,” adding that entangled fishing nets, empty plastic bottles and yoghurt cups floating besides the coral reefs do not support the idyllic picture any underwater explorer would want to see. The Club’s intervention to clean fishing nets entangled on coral reefs and lobbying for legislation against unethical fishing practices are moves towards realizing a sustainable marine environment.
Dynamite fishing and spear-fishing are very destructive forms of fishing and whilst there is active legislation prohibiting dynamite fishing, it is practiced widely and the club has played a very active role in reporting infractions to authorities leading to curtail of such activity. In addition the club was instrumental in bringing about legislation to prohibit spear-fishing in Sri Lanka – again a very destructive practice as spear fishermen in SCUBA gear have caused localized extinction of key species.
For modern day power woman
The traditional soft and sensual label Anaya aesthetic was transformed into a sophisticated, strong, bold and powerful fashion reflecting the modern day power women.
Paying homage to the postwar era of the 1950’s glamour and drawing inspiration from the fashion muses by the likes of Dovima, Audrey Hepburn and the works of Richard Avedon with his strong black and white contrast of austere sophistication. Our mood is not only visual yet musical with retro music inspired by Frankie Valli and the flamingos taking us all back to romanticism and pure pleasure of the times when everything was slow and dreamy.
The brand broke boundaries of its traditional soft pastel aesthetic to a monochromatic palette with all blacks, shades of off-white ,nudes, botanical greens, and clashing reds. The Fall wardrobe was revitalised with uniquely constructed silhouettes, handmade three-dimensional botanical motifs, beading, figure hugging corsets and delicate embroidered laces and sparkling sequins. The collection with its uniquely deconstructed fabric manipulations with micro velvet, shiny satin, silk taffeta, mecado, and laces with a modern twist of liquid organza, sequins and double-sided silk satins made a fashion statement.
Chathuri, the creative director’s vision for this collection was the transformation of the modern-day women to a powerhouse of strength and independence, fusing the signature Anaya silhouettes with strong elements of high pressure corsets, over exaggerated sleeves and elongated capes and 3D draping.
“This collection was was inspired by the 1950s, the time when the darkest nights were passed with a touch of hope for a beautiful future of women transitioning from a more submissive role to powerful role being able to express themselves through Fashion”.
Create unforgettable moments…
The much-anticipated Wedding Show 2024 at the Courtyard by Marriott Colombo unfolded on recently, leaving an unforgettable mark on the landscape of the Sri Lankan wedding industry. Courtyard by Marriott Colombo, in collaboration with Asia Exhibitions & Conventions (Pvt) Ltd, successfully orchestrated a two-day celebration that transcended the traditional boundaries of a bridal expo.
The festivities commenced with an inaugural ceremony graced by key figures in the local wedding industry, vendors, and potential clients. The hotel, adorned in wedding-themed splendour, served as the perfect backdrop for the occasion. Elton Hurtis, General Manager at Courtyard by Marriott Colombo, expressed his delight at the turnout, stating, “The Wedding Show is not just an event; it’s a celebration of unity within the wedding industry. We’re thrilled to witness the coming together of vendors and clients in this vibrant community.”
The exhibition hall buzzed with activity as visitors explored a diverse array of offerings from the finest wedding vendors in Colombo. From exquisite bridal wear to innovative event decor, the show showcased the rich tapestry of talent within the local wedding industry. Attendees had the opportunity to engage directly with vendors, fostering connections that extend beyond the event itself.
One of the highlights of The Wedding Show was the inclusive atmosphere that permeated the venue. Vendors, irrespective of their scale or specialization, collaborated to create an environment where diversity and creativity flourished. This collaborative spirit echoed the sentiments of Courtyard by Marriott Colombo’s commitment to building a more supportive community within the wedding industry.
In addition to the vendor stalls, The Wedding Show featured insightful panel discussions and workshops led by industry experts. Topics ranged from the latest trends in wedding planning to sustainable practices within the industry. The interactive sessions provided attendees with valuable insights and inspired meaningful conversations about the future of weddings in Colombo.
Imran Noordeen, Director of Sales & Marketing , reflected on the success of the event, saying, “The positive response from both vendors and attendees affirms the need for platforms like The Wedding Show. It’s clear that our community values the opportunity to come together, share ideas, and contribute to the growth of the wedding industry.”
As The Wedding Show 2024 drew to a close, the echoes of joyous conversations, newfound connections, and shared enthusiasm lingered in the air. Courtyard by Marriott Colombo and Asia Exhibitions & Conventions (Pvt) Ltd succeeded in not just hosting an exhibition but creating an experience that celebrated the spirit of unity and collaboration within Colombo’s wedding industry. As the event concluded, it left participants eagerly anticipating the continued growth and success of the local wedding community, inspired by the bonds forged at The Wedding Show 2024.
latest cancer treatments give families hope
In an interview Dr Tanujaa revealed the latest developments in cancer treatments. She explained how Cancer slowly becomes less of a catastropic moment in families as new research and clinical trials reduce its physiological effects to something more chronic, While some get cancer from the toll of thier risky lifestyles,while others have it in thier genes.
Some families are more genetically pre-disposed to develop cancer. Cancer treatment doesn’t mean eliminating the cancer. It also means helping the patient adjust to thier new lifestyle, especially when they take on these treatments reveals Dr Tanujaa.She also said when you are diagnosed with cancer, it is not immediately a death sentence, there is always hope for patients now with advanced technology. New clinical trials and studies are revealing ones that are more targeted and less debilitating.
She also spoke about cutting edge cancer treatments now available for . patients
A pretty and petite medical oncologist, of Indian origin based in Singapore. In most caes of cancer usually we treat with chemotherapy
The side -effects people often report when they recieve chemotherapy is because the treatment is designed to target cells that have a protein that causes them to constantly multipy, We have other good cells in our hair,stomach etc which is why they report vomitting,hair loss,nausea and others.
Receiving news about cancer has always devastated families. It usually spells certain and slow death; it also foreshadows the heavy financial burden that comes along with it. These are what uproot families from their usual lives, requiring them to make thier lives around among those afflicted with the disease.
Because of the latest advancements,families no longer need to fear the grim future of the long C fight against cancer.
She said cancer has always devastated families. In addition, the heavy financial burden upset families, thier lifestyles are changed. There are multiple tests and treatments to give hope for patients Dr Tanjuaa adds She also said “During palliative care, we want families and people to maintain their quality of life, this is why we have different kinds of therapies to treat. Car T-Cell therapy, Immunotherapy, Targeted therapy, hormone therapy are some treatments depending on the hope of cancers and thier structure,some of these therapies can be more optimal than othes she pointed out
The Car T-Cell Therapy will help fight the cancer but with less obvious signs of the battle,” shares Dr. Tanujaa. “We now have the technology that can enhance the patient’s T-Cells with antigen receptors that can immediately recognize these cancer cells to eliminate them. There will be a low dose chemotherapy to help the body adjust to these new cells. But, once the body adjusts, the therapy will take over the fight.”
Immunotherapy for cancer is also becoming more popular because of its less macabre side effects. “This kind of therapy customizes the cell to make sure that the cancer cells don’t stop our body from fighting against the cancer. Cancer cells are smart. They release a protein that stops our body from fighting against it,” explains the oncologist. “Immuno- therapy fights against that mechanism.”
But when the cancers are more hormone-related like breast or prostate cancer, there are tests that can discover which hormone is causing the cancer. “Once we discover the hormone that is causing these cells to grow, we often give patients medicine that reduces the production of this hormone to prevent these cells from growing.”
Cancer is a terrifying, time consuming ,expensive disease With these new advancements cancer may eventally become chronic instead of something catastrophic.. But Dr Tanujaa Rajasekeran and her team at parkway Centre in Singapore are offering hope. And hope for the critically ill could result in miracles too.
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