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‘A critique of the present with one foot in the past’



The Kandy Man, an autobiography by Sarath Amunugama


The candy man in The Kandy Man, Volume One, is the first of three designed to constitute the autobiography of Sarath Amunugama, scholar, distinguished public servant, aesthete, politician and minister of government. As expected, he brings us not only double boiled sweets that his ‘beloved nanny Roslin’ bought him on way home from Kandy Girls’ High School but also whole truckloads of current history, enormously helpful insights into the working of institutions with which he was associated and the roles he played often on the main stage and sometimes in the sidelines, both literally and metaphorically.

In this review I shall highlight the nature of institutions with which he was associated. Those who wish to trace his meteoric rise from Cadet in the Ceylon Civil Service to Permanent Secretary at age 38 can do so with enjoyment in the volume under review. I strongly recommend that they do so, because there is much to learn and instruction to follow. Not only did Amunugama make history himself, but he also was a witness to history in the making for most of the life of this young republic and his long eventful life.

Many in similar vantage points have tried to write to the same effect but few have succeeded in abstracting their experience into the context of the society they lived in so that in writing their biography they were also writing contemporary history, which purists might argue is a contradiction in terms. To annul their contention, one only has to read good history which has sumptuously fed on autobiographies and study the art of writing biography that Lytton Strachey introduced when he wrote Queen Victoria.

Roy Jenkins is an admirable successor, but I am running ahead of myself. Let us hurry slowly- festina lente. The first institution that Amunugama introduced us was his family. The Amunugama clan had had an illustrious history and some males were executed for their participation in the rebellion in Matale in 1818. Family properties were confiscated and families were thrown into poverty. ‘Poverty may have been one of the reasons why the Amunugama family had been strongly represented in monkhood of the Malwatte faction of the Siyam Nikaya,’ says the author.

Young men of the clan were much sought after for binna marriages and the families gradually re- built themselves. Sarath’s father was brought up by a relative in Panadure (as to why read the volume) and he attended St. John’s College there, which brought a new tinge to the life of his children. His father was unusually keen that his children should gain from education and Trinity College in Kandy was his choice for young Sarath.

Sarath’s father took a great interest and he derived much pleasure from the growth and development of his son. The account of the family is full of insights into the organization of Kandyan radala society and would be most helpful to scholars studying that aspect of life in Kandy in late 19th and first half of the 20th century . The second institution we are introduced to is Trinity College, Kandy. Trinity together with S.Thomas’, Mount Lavinia, and Richmond, Galle had been, established on the model of English Public Schools. In England they come from a long time back and have strong traditions.

The system of ‘courts’ in Public Schools were carried onto colleges in Oxford and Cambridge and Whewell Court in Trinity, the second court in St John’s and the Front Court in St. Catharine’s are much admired. Trinity, Kandy had only two of these ‘Houses’: one for the Upper School and the other for the Middle School. A marked feature of Public Schools was the effort of the Headmaster to lead his charges in religious life. Each College had a chapel where students prayed and were addressed usually by the Headmaster. Dr. Thomas Arnold, the most celebrated headmaster of Rugby spent n hours preparing addresses to the boys in chapel. The tradition of regular chapel was carried into Colleges in universities and the magnificent King’s chapel is one of them. We hear little about it from Sarath, a Buddhist. But he took part in every other activity in school: Cadeting, games and the lot. He was also a Prefect of the school. Again, the role of Prefects in Public Schools in England is very special. They almost ran the school, except for teaching. The Headmaster had great trust in them. This was a major part of training these young men had for leadership and it paid off well.

Sarath was really preparing to go to university. We meet him in Peradeniya in 1957. Together with the university park so lovingly cared for by Shirley d’Alwis and his workers, and ‘the small good university’ nurtured by Jennings, the Kandy Man blossomed brightly and fragrantly. The young man was all on his own and soon was elected President of the Students Union, a position that foretold leadership in adult life. He plunged himself into all activities at the university. He even wasted time in those classes in Marxism, taught outside the university by dons who took to Trotskyism. There were two passions to which he yielded himself without reserve: the new discipline of sociology and the newly vibrant creative activities of mostly young teachers in the Sinhala and related activities.

In his autobiography, his admiration of Siri Gunasinghe, a Samskrtic who later turned art historian, is almost sky high. Gunasinghe was that idol of smart young undergraduates: highly intelligent, friendly, creative and at points iconoclastic. He was more adventurous than Sarachchandra in innovation: costumes for plays, free verse and novels on subjects hitherto untouched by the literati. A number of younger scholars followed him with enthusiasm, among them Gunadasa Amarasekera (an undergraduate in the Dental School), Wimal Dissanayake (who from a poet grew to a film critic of international fame) and Amunugama himself who breathed the fine air that Gunasinghe caused to blow over the undergraduate population.

Gunasinghe cultivated the best traditions of university teachers for which Jennings had designed Perademiya and students were in and out of his home. At university one learnt not only in lecture theatres and libraries but also from incessant jabber with fellow students and informal and casual conversations with teachers. The other major figure, the one who loomed large in the public eye was Sarachchandra. He was short, simple and casual in appearance but deadly serious in his intention to invent a tradition of the theatre that would appeal to both the literati and the woman in the marketplace. He was successful even beyond his expectations when he presented a series of plays that began with Maname. (My own reactions to the first staging of the play I wrote up in the novel Alut Matanga.)

Sarachchandra exploited the fondness for Jataka Stories that rested in the minds of the average Sinhala and used them as plot for his plays. One favourite story was that of the bodhisatva who was named Kachchaputa, an honest trader of fancy bangles and Sarachchandra staged it as Kada Valalu and Amunugama was cast as Kachchaputa. Many of the actors and singers in Sarachchandra plays had been from schools other than from Colombo but Amunugama played the part to perfection. He breached the large gap even without a leap.

Sarath’s other passion was sociology. A department for the study of sociology was set up with the hard work of Ralph Peiris who had studied the discipline in London University. He had two brilliant, young and enthusiastic teachers in S.J.Tambiah and Gananath Obeysekera, both of whom rose to world leadership for their work in anthropology. There were others including D.L. Jaysuriya. Peiris sought the help of the Departments of Economics, History and Sinhala to fill in gaps in teaching. The students who chose to study Sociology had a commitment to the discipline and they had young and ambitious teachers committed to teaching. The results were inevitable. Several outstanding students emerged, Amunugama first among them. Scholarship never left him and there has been a constant output of high quality work.

Tissa Balasuriya wrote a brilliant study of the life and work of Sarananakara. H.L. Seneviratne was Professor of Anthropology at the University of Virginia teaching and researching with substantial publications to his credit. Namel Weeramuni became a creative artist and directed a new play, that was popular. Both Tambiyah and Obeyesekere took to the new techniques of field studies to formulate hypotheses and test them. I together with some others took part in the Pata Dumbra Survey, the results of which were partly published in The Disintegrating Village. The full report of the Survey could not be published. But the Disintegrating Village had its effect on the discipline as Amunugama records in this volume.

Sarath collaborated closely with Obeysekere in the latter’s field work that went into the Pattini Cult, which brought much credit to Obeysekere. In an assessment of scholarship in social anthropology in South Asia, P.T. Madan observed ‘the work of two distinguished Sri Lankan anthropologist Gananath Obeysekere and Stanley Tambiah….’. Sarath Amunugama was part of all this. He had an enormously successful university life and walked into the Ceylon Civil Service . So began the introduction to the fourth institution which comes in Volume One.

He liked provincial administration very much, that was mostly land administration. He traveled to villages, talked to villagers, solved problems that could be solved on the spot and took down notes in continuation of studies in the university. The outcome was a collection of essays that was published a few years back. After serving in Ratnapura and Galle, Sarath moved as AGA to Kandy, partly to be near his father who had fallen ill and had received excellent medical attention, on the intervention of the son.

Ever the keen student, Sarath cultivated his interest in local artist including dancers and drummers. Back in Colombo in the Ministry of Finance together with another brilliant Civil Servant he produced the Establishments Code, that to date guides public servants. Later he became a head of a department as Director of Information and brought him in touch with artists including singers. This was an opportunity to exercise his creative talents and he did so to the fullest. The Government Film Unit found a new and better home. He traveled widely.

I am running short of words and must stop, as Wittgenstein might have said. As you can see there is much to talk about, to think about and argue about in this volume and what would you do except read it. There are numerous niggles that must be removed in a future print, Besides, there is one annoying confusion about Polgasduva, in the shadow of which I grew up. It is not an island on Madu Ganga that flows to the sea at Ahungalle but on the small Ratgama Lagoon, connected to the sea at Morakola. The lagoon fills up a sudden depression in the land as it slopes down East West to the Indian Ocean, into which drain the runoff from villages Ratgama, Karudampe, Pinkande, Sudumetiya, Beratuduva, Hennatota and Patuvata.

Polgasduva was the hard rock with a thin topsoil that did not drop down with the rest of the basin. Consequently, there are only a few stunted coconut trees and brush land in which grow occasionally, a himbutu, bovitiya or dan plant. The isolation of the small island made it ideal for bhikkhus who wanted to live quietly to develop their minds, as most samana had done several centuries back. It is far removed from the romance of Madu Ganga.

But why am I agitated about it? Because I lived my first 12 years of life in Katudampe, which then I left more than physically. This book, although about kings, princes and aristocrats, the author himself one, wears unusually simple though elegant garb. It is written in language that you and I use every day, so that the book is an easy read. The easy read deceives the reader into a feeling that he glides over easy problems. Maynard Keynes’ General Theory is a pleasant read, in fact, a great polemic. Almost a hundred years after it was first read, we still ague about its import.

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Hair Growth and Thickness



LOOK GOOD – with Disna


* Oil:

Oiling is an old home remedy for hair growth and thickness. Oiling is also used for the strength, shine, and length of hair, from ancient times. The use of coconut oil, especially, is very effective when it comes to the amplification of hair health. Additionally, there are many essential oils for faster hair growth which you can use, too.

* How to Use: Generally, hair oiling works best when applied overnight. You could use this therapy every night, or after each night, then wash your hair, in the morning, before heading for studies, or work.


* Aloe Vera:

Aloe vera has long been used as a home remedy for hair growth, thickness, and treating hair loss problems It contains vitamins A, C, and E. All three of these vitamins are known to contribute to cell turnover, supporting healthy cell growth and shiny hair. Plus, vitamin B-12 and folic acid are also included in aloe vera gel. Both of these elements can keep your hair from falling out. Aloe vera plants can be easily grown indoors. A leaf can be plucked, occasionally, and cut open to reveal its gel. This gel needs to be applied on the scalp, basically, to provide nourishment to the roots.

*  How to Use:

Rub this gel on your head properly, leaving no area dry; wash after half an hour or so. Keeping this massage as a part of your weekly routine will eventually make your hair thick and long.


*  Green Tea:

Green tea is often consumed as a home remedy for weight loss. Surprisingly, it has many other benefits, including hair-related benefits.

* How to Use:

Consuming green tea once every day can add to the strength and length of your hair. If your body is extremely comfortable with green tea, then you may even consume it twice every day.


* Onion Juice:

A bi-weekly application of onion juice can relieve you of your tension, regarding hair health. The smell can really torture you, but divert your attention in doing something else for a while, like making a puzzle or washing the dishes. From an early age, onion juice has been used as a home remedy to control hair fall. Research has shown that onion juice has been successful in treating patchy alopecia areata (non-scarring hair loss condition) by promoting hair growth .

* How to Use:

Take half onion and blend it. Apply the mixture on every nook and corner of your scalp and let it sit for some 60 minutes, or so. Shampoo it off when it’s time for the hair-wash.

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Fun-loving, but… sensitive



This week, my chat is with Nilu Vithanage. She is quite active, as a teledrama actress – having done four, already; her first was ‘Pavela Will Come In The Cloud, Mom’ (playing the role of a nurse). Then Came ‘Heavenly Palaces’ (student), ‘Black Town’ (a village character Kenkaiya), and ‘Wings Of Fire,’ currently being shown, with Nilu as a policewoman. You could checkout ‘Wings Of Fire,’ weekdays, on Swarnavahini, at 7.30 pm. Nilu is also active as a stage drama artiste, dancer…and has also been featured in musical videos.

And, this is how our chit-chat went…

1. How would you describe yourself?

Let’s say, I’m a bit on the playful side, and I like to have a lot of fun. But, I do find the time to relax, and, at home, it’s dancing to music! Yeah, I love dancing. Oh, I need to add that I’m a bit sensitive.

2. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I get angry quickly. Fortunately, that anger doesn’t last long – just five to 10 minutes. But I wish I could get rid of anger, totally from my system!

3. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

Nope, can’t think of anything, in particular. Everything is fine with us, and I’m proud of my only brother, and I feel safe when he is around. Or, come to think of it, if I did have another brother, I would feel doubly safe…when going out, in particular!

4. School?

I did my studies at two schools – C.W.W. Kannangara Central College, and Panadura Sumangala Girls’ School for my higher studies. Representing my school, I won first place in a speech competition and dance competition, as well.

5. Happiest moment?

When my husband comes home, or talks to me on the phone. He is stationed in Hatton and those calls and home visits are my happiest moments

6. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I really find a lot of happiness feeding the fish, in ponds. I love to see them rush to pick up the tidbits I throw into the pond. That’s my kind of happiness – being close to nature.

7. Are you religious?

I would say ‘yes’ to that question. I like to go to the temple, listen to sermons, participate in meditation programmes, and I do not miss out on observing sil, whenever possible. I also find solace in visiting churches.

8. Are you superstitious?

A big ‘no.’ Not bothered about all those superstitious things that generally affect a lot of people.

9. Your ideal guy?

My husband, of course, and that’s the reason I’m married to him! He has been a great support to me, in my acting career, as well in all other activities. He understands me and he loves me. And, I love him, too.

10. Which living person do you most admire?

I would say my Dad. I truly appreciate the mentorship he gave me, from a young age, and the things we received from him

11. Which is your most treasured possession?

My family.

12. If you were marooned on a desert island, who would you like as your companion?

A camel would be ideal as that would make it easier for me to find a way out from a desert island!

13. Your most embarrassing moment?

One day, recently, with the greatest of difficulty, I managed to join a one meter distance queue, to withdraw money from an ATM. And, then I realised I didn’t bring the card along!

14. Done anything daring?

I would say…yes, when I ventured out to get involved in teledramas. It was a kind of a daring decision and I’m glad it’s now working out for me – beautifully.

15. Your ideal vacation?

I would say Thailand, after reading your articles, and talking to you about Amazing Thailand – the shopping, things to see and do, etc. When the scene improves, it will be…Thailand here I come!

16. What kind of music are you into?

The fast, rhythmic stuff because I have a kind of rhythm in my body, and I love to dance…to music.

17. Favourite radio station:

I don’t fancy any particular station. It all depends on the music they play. If it’s my kind of music, then I’m locked-on to that particular station.

18. Favourtie TV station:

Whenever I have some free time, I search the TV channels for a good programme. So it’s the programme that attracts me.

19. What would you like to be born as in your next life?

Maybe a bird so that I would be free to fly anywhere I want to.

20. Any major plans for the future?

I’m currently giving lessons to schoolchildren, in dancing, and I plan to have my own dancing institute in the future.

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Snail-napping sets the stage for CGI road trip



The SpongeBob Movie:Sponge on the Run

By Tharishi hewaviThanagamage

Based on the famous and one of the longest-running American animated series that made its debut on Nickelodeon in 1999, created by marine science educator and animator Stephen Hillenburg, ‘The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run’ is the latest addition to the SpongeBob movie franchise, coming in as the third installment after ‘The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie’ (2004) and ‘The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water’ (2015).

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