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Appreciation – Sarojini Jayawickrama

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It is now six years since Sudu Amma passed away, but her memory lives on in my heart and I am sure in many more. Sudu Amma was a second mother to me from childhood, with us living downstairs and she, Nihal bappa and my two cousins upstairs. I had to only go upstairs when I was bored or simply needed company, being an only child. Though she was part and parcel of my childhood and growing years, my most vivid memories of her are in later years. I believe this is because they had to leave Sri Lanka and make their home away, across the shores, when I was 12-years old. This seemed to be a heartbreaking tragedy at the time as they were a part of my day to day life, as we almost lived in the same house, with the connecting doors between the two houses being open most of the day. Nishana, or Nangi and I used to be at each other’s places for at least a part of each day.

I once visited them in Hong Kong, on my way back home on a break from university abroad, holidayed with them in Germany with Ammi on another occasion, and then in the latter years spent time with her in England at different times. Each of these visits with her hold special memories for me, together with the times we shared when they returned to Sri Lanka on holiday.

I remember the time in Hong Kong where I was extremely well looked after by her. This was my first holiday away without immediate family and I was initially wondering whether it may not be better to just head back home without stopping for a visit. However, I didn’t and it proved to be a very memorable holiday with time spent with her. Strangely, my strongest memories of that holiday are of her, and not my cousins, who I was always very close to. True, I did have a lovely time with them, but memories I have of them during this holiday are somewhat hazy, whereas my memories of Sudu Amma, on this holiday are very vivid.

The only time in my life I really enjoyed Thai green curry and red curry was when I went out to lunch with her to a Thai restaurant in Hong Kong. It seemed to be a really tasty and enjoyable meal, but looking back now, I see that it was merely being in her company which made the meal so good, as I now find Thai red and green curries almost unpalatable! On that day, it was one of the best meals I ever had! I even tried to find this restaurant, when I visited Sharanya two years ago in Hong Kong, when we were sharing and exchanging memories of Sudu Amma.

Another memory with her in Hong Kong is going to see the giant Buddha statue which was a glorious experience. It was all the more enchanting and mystic as it was a misty day (or appeared to be misty due to heavy smog in the area!). I believe this was a rare occasion when Sudu Amma ventured quite far from her lovely apartment to go sightseeing, as she really had not done much sightseeing there. She and Nihal bappa were always homing pigeons, not keen to venture far from the safety and comfort of home! Home was such a lovely place with an unimaginably fantastic view of the Hong Kong harbour, that it is no surprise that they were completely content to just stay at home!

I also remember going to Ocean Park, the big amusement park in Hong Kong with her and Nishana and climbing up to the park in a cable car. This was my first experience of a cable car, so it was a very exciting day, with much entertainment packed in with my cousins. On the same holiday, we went on a shopping spree where she most generously bought me many lovely sweatshirts. This was a shopping expedition I enjoyed, though I don’t usually enjoy shopping, at least not beyond a certain point! But she was always such delightful and interesting company that time spent with her, especially chatting together, was high quality time. I don’t recall the length of my stay in Hong Kong, and it couldn’t have been more than four days …. but how packed with memories, love and laughter those few days were!

Sudu Amma made the most of her time in Hong Kong, teaching at the university there in continuation of her academic career, obtaining her PhD and even engaging in recreational activities such as aerobics. She always seemed to have the ability to live fully and make the best of whatever life offered, making lemonade out of lemons that came her way. She enjoyed literature and reading very much and read very widely. Her continuous love of reading probably contributed to making her the broad minded and free-thinking person she was, together with her being a member of the Ladies’ College family! Reflecting back on our childhood days, Sudu Amma did not “take lessons” or even do syllabus revision with Nangi in preparation for end of term tests, to the best of my knowledge. I remember Nangi working hard and determinedly, reading aloud from her notes and textbooks while studying and doing very well, with self-driven ambition and goals. Sudu Amma did no spoon feeding, but instead encouraged independence in her kids and had faith that they would set their own pace, paths and goals in life. The ability to give not only roots, but also wings to one’s fond nestlings to fly away strong is indeed a great gift.

I have lovely memories of her in England too. One of the nicest days I remember is one spent with her at Regent’s Park, together with my elder daughter who was just a baby of two at the time. All three of us thoroughly enjoyed the day, which we started off with a snack at Lemoni’s, one of Sudu Amma’s favourite restaurants. It was one of those truly fantastic English Summer days, with bright blue sky above and nature at its best, plump squirrels running around, robins and sparrows in flight, pigeons hopping around and ducks and swans swimming majestically in the pond, with flowers in full bloom. The roses at Queen Mary’s Garden were spectacularly beautiful and we basked in the warmth of the sun’s rays, fully enjoying the moment.

We had such a wonderful time, just enjoying nature in its full glory, engaging in lively, warm conversation and of course being entertained by baby and her antics. We had not noticed time passing, so much so that we ultimately had a grand finale of a burst pamper, courtesy baby! We laughed till we cried, and then collected ourselves sufficiently to do the needful! Such was time spent with Sudu Amma – engaging, lighthearted, thought-provoking and of course sometimes downright hilarious!

There were similar such times, with another day being spent in Cambridge with Sudu Amma, Sharanya and baby. Sharanya kindly took us around the universities and we then had a picnic lunch overlooking a river, with time spent in lighthearted cheer. That too was another beautiful and memorable day. It would then have been unimaginable to think that in the not too distant future, both Sudu Amma and Sharanya would be taken away from us, so cruelly by cancer. Sudu Amma, I know that you thought that you had overcome your battle with cancer and had much hope and positive thoughts for life, even hours before you left this world. Such positive thinking and hope for the best possible, with a strong will to get the maximum and best from life is truly admirable and a trademark quality of yours.

You had much to offer life and life did give you a myriad of good times and happiness with a loving family, travel to explore places across the world and make different spaces of the globe your home, the challenge of which you took on well and made into wonderful opportunities for personal growth and broadening of horizons. Of course, there were bad moments interspersed, as is common to all worldlings, which you took on gracefully. May your samsaric journey be short and sweet and may you have less trials and obstacles and more happiness and inner joy on your road to Nibbana. You are fondly remembered and sadly missed, though you certainly do live on in our hearts, with memories of many shared good times, joy and laughter. Till we meet again …..

Amanthi



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Features

Mindset changes and the dangerous ‘Religious War’ rhetoric

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Israeli border police on patrol at the Damascus Gate in occupied East Jerusalem (Pic courtesy Al Jazeera)

Nothing could be more vital at present in the conflict and war zones of the world than positive mindset changes and the wish of the humanist is likely to be that such momentous developments would quickly come to pass in particularly the Middle East. Because in the latter theatre almost every passing hour surfaces problems that call for more than average peace-making capabilities for their resolution.

For instance, the Islamic Supreme Fatwa Council in Palestine has reportedly warned of a ‘Religious War’ in the wake of recent allegations that Israel is planning to prevent the Muslim community from having access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem in the month of Ramadan. If true, this development is likely to further compound the Gaza violence and take it along an even more treacherous track. This is on account of the fact that religious passions, if not managed effectively, could prove most volatile and destructive.

As pointed out in this column previously, peace movements on both sides of the main divide in the region would need to quickly activate themselves, link-up and work as one towards the de-escalation of the conflict. What the Middle East and the world’s other war zones urgently need are persons and groups who are endowed with a pro-peace mind set who could work towards an elimination of the destructive attitudes that are instrumental in keeping the conflicts concerned raging.

This could prove an uphill task in the Middle East in particular. For, every passing minute in the region is seeing a hardening of attitudes on both sides in the wake of issues growing out of the violence. Accordingly, if peace-making is to be contemplated by the more moderate sections in the conflict, first, we need to see a lull in the violence. Achieving such a de-escalation in the violence has emerged as a foremost need for the region.

Right now, the Israeli state is showing no signs of climbing down from its position of seeing a decisive end to the Hamas militants and their support bases and going forward this policy stance could get in the way of de-escalating the violence even to a degree.

On the other hand, it would not be realistic on the part of the world community to expect a mindset change among Israeli government quarters and their supporters unless and until the security of the Israeli state is ensured on a permanent basis. Ideally, the world should be united on the position that Israel’s security is non-negotiable; this could be considered a veritable cornerstone of Middle East peace.

Interestingly, the Sri Lankan state seems to have come round to the above view on a Middle East peace settlement. Prior to the Ranil Wickremesinghe regime taking this stance, this columnist called repeatedly over the past few months in this commentary, in fact since October 7th last year, for the adoption of such a policy. That is, a peace settlement that accords priority to also the security needs of the Israelis. It was indicated that ensuring the security and stability of the Palestinians only would fall short of a comprehensive settlement of the Middle East imbroglio.

However, in the case of the Ranil Wickremesinghe regime, the above change in policy seems to be dictated almost wholly by economic survival considerations rather than by any well thought out principle or a sense of fairness to all relevant stakeholders.

For example, close on the heels of the regime playing host to the Israeli Transport Minister recently, it accorded a reverential welcome to the Iranian Foreign Minister as well. From the viewpoint of a small country struggling to survive, this is the way to go, since it needs every morsel of economic assistance and succour.

However, if permanent peace is to have a chance in the Middle East it would need to be based on the principle of justice to all the main parties to the conflict. Seen from this point of view, justice and fairness should be accorded to the Palestinians as well as the Israelis. Both parties, that is, should live within stable states.

The immediate need, though, is to at least bring a lull to the fighting. This will enable the Palestinian population in the Gaza to access humanitarian assistance and other essential needs. Besides, it could have the all-important effect of tempering hostile attitudes on both sides of the divide.

The US is currently calling for a ‘temporary ceasefire’ to the conflict, but the challenge before Washington is to get the Israeli side to agree to it. If the Israeli Prime Minister’s recent pronouncements are anything to go by, the US proposal is unlikely to make any impression on Tel Aviv. In other words, the Israeli Right is remaining an obstacle to a ceasefire or even some form of temporary relief for the affected populations, leave alone a political solution. However, changing their government is entirely a matter for the Israeli people.

Accordingly, if a stable peace is to be arrived at, hostile, dogmatic attitudes on both sides may need to be eased out permanently. Ideally, both sides should see themselves as having a common future in a peacefully shared territory.

Peace groups and moderate opinion should be at centre stage on both sides of the divide in the region for the facilitation of such envisaged positive changes. The UN and democratic opinion worldwide should take it upon themselves to raise awareness among both communities on the need for a political solution. They should consider it incumbent upon themselves to work proactively with peace groups in the region.

The world is a vast distance from the stage when both parties to the conflict could even toy with the idea of reconciliation. Because reconciliation anywhere requires the relevant antagonists to begin by saying, ‘I am sorry for harming you.’ This is unthinkable currently, considering the enmity and acrimony that have built up over the years among the volatile sections of both communities.

However, relevant UN agencies and global democratic opinion could begin by convincing the warring sections that unless they cooperate and coexist, mutual annihilation could be their lot. Mindset changes of this kind are the only guarantors of lasting peace and mindset changes need to be worked on untiringly.

As this is being written, the ICJ is hearing representations from numerous countries on the Middle East situation. The opinions aired thus far are lopsided in that they do not present the Israeli viewpoint on the conflict. If a fair solution is to be arrived at to the conflict Israel’s concerns too would need to be taken into account expeditiously.

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Dubai scene brightening up for SL fashion designers

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Sri Lankans are lighting up the scene in Dubai, not only as musicians, but in other fields, as well.

At the recently held Ceylon Food Festival, in Dubai, a fashion show was held, with Sri Lankan designers doing the needful.

The fashion show highlighted the creations of Pubudu Jayasinghe, Tehani Rukshika and Peshala Rasanganee Wickramasuriya, in three different segments, with each designer assigned 10 models.

The fashion show was choreographed by Shashi Kaluarachchi, who won the Miss Supermodel Globe International 2020, held in India, and was 1st runner-up at the Mr., Miss and Mrs. Sri Lanka, in Dubai.

Shashi says she was trained by Brian Karkoven and his know-how gave her a good start to her modelling career.

She has done many fashions shows in Sri Lanka, as well as in Dubai, and has worked with many pioneers in the fashion designing field.

The designers involved in the fashion show, in Dubai, were:

Pubudu Jayasinghe,

a 22-year-old creative and skilled makeup artist and nail technician. With a wealth of experience gained from working in various salons and participating in makeup and fashion projects in both Dubai and Sri Lanka, he has honed his talents in the beauty industry. Passionate about fashion, Pubudu has also acquired knowledge and experience in fashion designing, modelling, and choreography, showcasing his multifaceted expertise in the dynamic world of fashion.

Tehani Rukshika,

who studied at St Joseph’s Girls School, Nugegoda, says she went to Dubai, where her mom works, and joined the Westford University in fashion designing faculty for her Masters. Her very first fashion show was a Sri Lankan cultural event, called ‘Batik’. “This was my first event, and a special one, too, as my mom was modelling an Arabic Batik dress.”

Shashi Kaluarachchi

Peshala Rasanganee Wickramasuriya

has been living in Dubai for the past 21 years and has a batik shop in Dubai, called 20Step.

According to Shashi, who is on vacation in Sri Lanka, at the moment, there will be more Sri Lankan fashion shows in Dubai, highlighting the creations of Sri Lankan designers.

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Features

A mask of DATES…

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Yes, another one of my favourites…dates, and they are freely available here, so you don’t need to go searching for this item. And they are reasonably priced, too.

Okay, readers, let’s do it…with dates, of course – making a mask that will leave your skin feeling refreshed, and glowing

To make this mask, you will need 03-04 dates, and 02 tablespoons of milk.

Remove the seeds and soak the dates, in warm milk, for about 20 minutes. This method will soften the dates and make them easier to blend.

After the 20 minutes is up, put the dates in a blender and blend until you have a smooth paste. Check to make sure there are no lumps, or chunks, left.

Add the 02 tablespoons of milk to the blended date paste and mix well.

Okay, now gently apply this mixture to your face, avoiding the eye area. Use your fingertips, or a clean brush, to evenly distribute the mask all over your face.

Once the mask is applied, find a comfortable place to sit, or lie down. Relax for about 15-20 minutes, allowing the mask to work its magic on your skin.

After the mentioned time has passed, rinse off the mask with lukewarm water. Gently massage your face while rinsing to exfoliate any dead skin cells.

After rinsing off the mask, pat dry your face with a soft towel, and then follow up with your favourite moisturizer to lock in the hydration and keep your skin moisturized.

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