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Ariesen Ahubudu Accomplished wordsmith of our time



By K. A. I. Kalyanaratne
Consultant – Publications,
Postgraduate Institute of Management,
University of Sri Jayewardenepura.
Vice President, Hela Havula

Who would not be enthralled by the songs ‘Purthugeesi Kaaraya Rataval Allanna Sooraya’, ‘Ko Hathuro Ko Hathuro Ko Apage Hathuro’ and ’Dakuna Nagenahira Batahira Uthura da Eka Kodiye Sevane? Such verbal creations were only possible as he was a Wordsmith par Excellence.

Wordsmiths are men of letters who possess some unique qualities among which are performance of the specialty to the highest standards, with unmatchable skills, and also malleability to use words, to turnout creative and original pieces of work, conforming to the norms of the language. Their writings are eloquent due to the variety and richness of the vocabulary they are able to draw. Such specialists have acquired this skill through a life committed to experimenting with words, particularly their usage in different settings, and continuous researching the meanings of words. Ariesen Ahubudu made use of his wordsmithery through his exhaustive array of roles as writer, playwright, lyricist, poet, lexicographer and journalist.

Ariesen Ahubudu – His initial
guiding influence

Under the tutelage of that master wordsmith Kumaratunga Munidasa, Ariesen Ahubudu tasted the richness of the Sinhala language in all its varied facets. His ‘Kumaratungu Asura’ (Association with Kumaratunga Munidasa) spells out in sufficient detail Kumaratunga’s influence over the shaping of Ahubudu’s character, and how he became an accomplished wordsmith. Of course, his close association with such scholars like Jayantha Weerasekara, Jayamaha Vellala, Abiram Gamhewa and Raphael Tennekoon, had for sure, a marked impact on his future literary works.


Ahubudu – The Lexicographer

One of the main tasks of a wordsmith is to indulge in lexicographic pursuits. Words being the basic component of a language, a key mission of a wordsmith is to explore and inquire into the etymology of words; i.e. how they are formed and the rules followed in their formation. The clarity of a sentence is determined by correct word-usage and syntactic perfection. Ahubudu was on a crusade to zealously discover the etymology of the two major components of the Sinhala language, namely, nouns and verbs.


Two Epic research publications: ‘Lanka Gam Nam Vahara’ and ‘Arutha Nirutha’

Two of his publications that showed his etymological prowess are ‘Lanka Gam Nam Vahara’ and ‘Arutha Nirutha’. ‘Lanka Gam Nam Vahara’, a monograph of the place names of the island is an epic research on the origins of the island’s place names. Aelian de Silva, Chartered Engineer and Linguist, providing an introduction to this lexicon says

“The author has brought to bear his extensive knowledge, not only of the Sinhala language, but also of the long history of the Sinhala people. His knowledge of Sanskrit, Pali and English has placed him in good stead to handle this important task. Such attributes are very essential to intelligently collate the place names, to study the effect on them of linguistic norms, and to analyse them in the light of the historical background…”

Herein Ahubudu’s task had been a painstaking one. In many instances, where the correlation of words and their meanings have got blurred due to subsequent historical developments, he went to the extent of correlating their meanings with the topography and other features. This has been, indeed, a ‘very intelligent approach, and one that has shed much light’ on the origins of place names. The index to this lexicon provides a collection of 1730 place names, and this collection, for sure, would provide a base for any future undertakings of a similar nature. As exposed in this lexicon Bimtenne (Bintenne) is now known as Mahiyangana, which is the Pali translation. From it our Sandesa poets coined Miyungunu. Bimtenne and Miyungunu are now considered as two different places!

Commonalities adopted in the
coining of Place Names

A further step taken in his ‘research’ has been to expose the common grammatical norms/structures that had been followed by our forefathers in coining place names. This exercise itself elevates Ahubudu’s endeavour to much greater heights. This is a task which would have been accomplished by a higher seat of learning. In short it is a monumental task. He has brought these names under nine categories, depending on the rules of grammar followed in their formation, and under each category he cites examples.

For example kirillapane has been formed by the combination of kirilla (cork-tree) and Pane which means ‘a place’. Herein he cites several other place-names that have originated in this manner, namely, Marapane, Tumpane (Tumbapane), Walapane, and Ulapane.

His second lexicon is ‘Arutha Nirutha’, (Meaning and Etymology) an exposition revealing a new dimension in the art of formation and understanding the meanings of the terms in the Sinhala language. Ahubudu, in producing this lexicon worked on the primary premise that “Language used by the various people also helps us to deduce certain facts about their thoughts and aspirations and their knowledge of arts and crafts. That is because man and his language are always connected with words that reflect the environment in which man lived.” Preface to Arutha Nirutha). Herein he quotes Samual Johnson who said that “Language is the pedigree of the nation.” Thus, while Ahubudu brings to light the nation’s broad cultural environment by unearthing the hidden facets of the people, “examines the repetitive patterns relating to the formation of composite words in the language, and elicits the associated principles.

Given below is one of his etymological analyses:

Karawila (kariwila): (gourd = memordica charantia). This word derives its name taking into account its two main features. ‘kara’ is knot or cone. ‘wili’ is wrinkled or corrugated. Hence, Karawila is a combination of ‘kara’ and ‘wili’. (‘wili’ in the Sinhala Bodhi Wamsaya gives the meaning ‘wrinkled’ or ‘folded’).

A Wordsmith’s armoury of words sans grammar and idiomatic usage

If there is no grammar and idiomatic usage of a language only a jumble of words, utterly incapable of expressing one’s thoughts and feelings will remain. Ahubudu while enriching his diction over the years to ensure that he was rich and fully capable of expressing the nuances as well as the shades of meanings, mastered the grammar and idiomatic usage of the language. It is certain that Kumaratunga Munidasa’s two seminal works on Sinhala grammar, i.e., Vyakarana Vivaranaya and Kriya Vivaranaya, played a decisive role in strengthening Ahubudu’s acumen in the usage of Sinhala grammar. However, he had enriched the findings of these two researches, by creating a style of his own, with a fine blend of both classical and spoken idioms. This creative language, stood him in good stead, in his literary works, which included prose, verse as well as drama. J. E. Metcalfe in his ‘Improve Your English” says “Grammar is the basis of a language, the framework on which ideas are hung, and the loftiest imagery of thought can fall flat if ungrammatically expressed. … In all phases of human life there is a need, indeed a desire, for discipline, …The discipline of language is the thing called grammar.”

However, Ahubudu’s approach in disciplining Sinhala was quite different from that of many other publishers of grammar-books. What he did was to re-express grammatical rules in a simpler manner, targeting the young ones, especially school children. As he had been a successful teacher for long years, he knew the art of expressing even knotty grammatical rules in a manner that appeals to the young ones. ‘Detu Rukula’ is mainly aimed at students sitting the GCE ordinary level examination. Ahubudu had also judiciously decided to have a separate publication on ‘separation of words’ in Sinhala, titled, Sinhalaye Pada Beduma. (jointly authored with Liyanage Jinadasa). His decision had been primarily induced by the confusion the students faced in the separation of words in their writings.


Realization of Unique Characteristics
of the Sinhala Language

Every language has its own unique characteristics. This, in fact, is the personality of a language. It is this realization that helped Ahubudu to create literary works without debasing the grammar, language-structures as well as word-forms, as well as to create new words to express new ideas without making them feel as ‘foreign bodies’ or intrusions. The principle followed is to adopt Sinhala verb-roots in the coining of words; a principle that is being adopted by world languages like Russian, French, German and Japanese.

The following verse appended from the song ‘Dakuna – Nagenahira’ alone would be sufficient to show how clever Ahubudu had been not only in the coining of words but also in elucidating completely new meanings to the traditional meanings.

“Ipaduna apa hata lak polove – Suru viru kam upatin huruwe.

Dakvamu daskam lakkam viskam – Vismavamin mulu lo.”

This verse provides a set of new meanings to the traditional renderings provided by our lexicographers. Viskam = marvels; Lakkam = products of Lanka ; Vismavamin (coined as a single word from the two words vismaya and mavanava. Resultantly, in place of two words to express ‘creating wonders’ the Sinhala language has now been enriched by a new word ‘vismavayi’ to express ‘creating wonders’. This word could either be used as a verb by conjugating it as vismavayi, vismavati,vismavami, vismavamu… or as a noun which could be declined as vismavanna, vismavanno, vismavannee…

Malleability of Language

Malleability of language is the capability of stretching a language into different shapes, as demanded of by the occasion or the literary genre, similar to how William Shakespeare began to adapt the traditional styles to suit his own purposes. Any writer who is rich in his diction when uses a language constantly and consciously the ultimate result would be the development of a writing style of his own. In fact, his style of writing becomes unique to him. It is why the style of Gurulugomi (in the Amavatura) differs considerably from that of Dharmasena thero’s Saddharmarathnavaliya. Raphael Tennekoon’s writing style is a product of his own, which is full of satire and locally spun words, as seen in his ‘Gemi Bana’.

Ariesen Ahubudu, in his long years of engagement as a writer, had developed that quality of language-malleability, the end-product of which has been his unique style of writing. The base of his language is the richness of his diction which suits different occasions and different literary genres. A writer’s most prized possession is his or her own unique writing style, which is the single most valuable investment a writer can make. The rules are about what a writer does; style is about how the writer does it. 


Vocabulary and Style to suit
All Literary Genres

Unlike prose which is the most common form of writing, Ahubudu, armed with his rich vocabulary and styles discovered through long years of indulgence in versification, showed his prowess by producing works belonging to a host of literary genres: mainly poetry, lyrics and drama. Poetry is accepted as the most intense form of writing among a nation’s literary works.


Ahubudu’s Usage of Words
in Song-lyrics

His poetic and lyrical creations are so exhaustive, that it would not be possible in the space provided to comment on every one of them. The ‘Sakvithi Kith Resa’ (The Collective Fame of the Universal Monarch) compiled and edited by Shrinath Ganewatta, President, Hela Hawula, contains a near total collection of Ahubudu’s song-lyrics. Appended below are two stanzas from the song lyrics of ‘Ko Hathuro’, a song coming in the film ‘Sandesaya’. Ahubudu being blessed with an unboundedly rich vocabulary did not come across any impediment in expressing his sentiments. How wonderful are the new word-clusters he had created to express new meanings as well as to teach a lesson to budding lyricists as to how words could be selectively used to generate new tastes and experiences. Aren’t Kaduwata kaduwai heeyata heeyayi Papuwata papuwai new expressions to accentuate sentiments? A further secret is the choice of words, and that too, to fall in line with the tune.

“Ekakuth apa gen nesuwath hathuran
Un gen seeyak helapiyav
Kaduwata kaduwai heeyata heeyayi
Papuwata papuwai dee palayawu.”


The word combination ‘maruwatath maru wune” in this song expresses several meanings. It’s a literary device normally referred to as ‘pun’. The literary meaning of the combination of these words is that they surpassed even Mara in the act of killing. However, the hidden and subtle meaning Ahubudu wishes to convey is that ‘they brought death even to Mara (demon causing death and destruction to others.)

Ahubudu’s Poetic Compositions

Even if taken as a separate entity, his poetic compositions could be considered as an ‘industry’ of its own. His poetic compositions by way of its volume is incomparable. Two of his compositions that stand tall among the rest of his works are ‘Rasadahara’, an epic poem, and ‘Pareviya – Sama Asna’ a poem that is akin to our Sandesa poems of the Kotte period and the period immediately thereafter, as it contains all the ingredients of the compositions of that genre; the only deviation being that while all our Sandesa poems are happenings confined to the country, Pareviya is devoted to the loadable act of getting a pigeon to carry a message of peace to the three leading countries of China, Russia and the United States of America.

Here again Ahubudu performs miracles with his rich diction and creative-clustering of appropriate words. This is, indeed, a miracle that could only be performed by a high caliber wordsmith. Through his rich verbiage and masterly use of words he draws an enthralling imagery. The messenger ‘pareviya’ (pigeon) is made to realize the rejoicing atmosphere borne of the spring-time by painting a colourful picture, through such words as,

“Mal gomu gumu gumu ganvannee
Mee vadavale peni puravanne
Kurulu sarin kan pinavannee
Mulu lova uyanak karavannee”

Through this verse Ahubudu makes the spring-environment dance in ecstasy. These words also manifest how supple the Sinhala language is. In the same poem the pigeon while flying over Africa he hears the agitation of the Africans against their European rulers, as the African natives now remain a downtrodden community. See how ferociously the poet expresses their feelings:

“Sudda udda padd lav
Bellen alla holla lav
Atten yutten beri nam ovu
Ketten pollen sun kerelavu

Negita varo negita varo
Rotta ma negita varo”

This is a combination of short words and a unique metric composition.

The reader sees through the word-drama the native Africans getting their men to rally round to defeat their oppressors! Herein Ahubudu has become a verbal artist. It is said that an artist dreams a picture and then pictures his dream.

Kalanaruwan Sumandas, a critique, providing an introduction to Ahubudu’s ‘Rasadahara’ says that the services rendered by Ahubudu to amplify and broad-base Sinhala poetry could only be compared to what Ravindranath Tagore did for Vanga poetry. Every line of every verse in the ‘Rasa Dahara’ manifests the poet’s cleverly coined word-clusters and imagery.

Ahubudu’s Contribution to the Sinhala Language and Literature

A recent publication titled ‘Viritha ha Arutha’ jointly authored by Prof. Wimal Disanayake and Shrinath Ganewatta, President, Hela Havula, attempts at establishing the harmony between meter and meaning. Meaning is based on lyrical composition. A poem is a piece of writing in which the words are chosen for their beauty and sound to produce an intensely imaginative interpretation of the subject. Based on this definition Ahubudu as a wordsmith, through his wondrous lyrical compositions has, for certain, stolen the hearts of the reader.

Cited below is an instance Ahubudu became a word-artist through his pen-brush to command a river to flow for the service of humanity. The poet while challenging the river to empty its waters to the sea, without helping the mankind, also indirectly challenges anyone to make a lyrical composition expressing the same sentiments, within the same or similar metric composition, to this effect!


“Emba ganga
Navatinu navatinu navatinu navatinu gangave.

Kanda kapav
Gal peralavu
Veli bandiv
Gamana bindiv


Conclusion – A Cursory Treatment

Ariesen Ahubudu’s life-long commitment delving deep into the origins of Sinhala words, unearthing the grammatical bases of our place names, rendering a yeoman service by reproducing rules of grammar to the younger generation, setting examples by way of showing how the language could be used malleably to express innate, inner and deep thoughts and sentiments, and making Sinhala both a lovable and lively medium that could be moulded to suit all occasions, demand a deeper analysis and research. Ariesen Ahubudu is a living embodiment of executing what he had found and preached, for the furtherance of the Sinhala language and literature. In this committed attempt he hailed through example that the Sinhala verse as a medium of expression is equal to such attempts that have been made by any other world language. Herein, his indirect message is “a nation which is incapable of poetry is incapable of any kind of literature except the cleverness of a decadence”. It is, therefore, apt to conclude this short essay with a quotation of Goethe (considered as the greatest German literary figure of the modern era), as it fits in well with the tasks and the mission Ariesen Ahubudu fulfilled during the tenure of his life.

“Knowing is not enough;
We must apply.
Willing is not enough;
We must do.”

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Sat Mag

Teach students animal rights for a better world



Five years ago, I requested the Head of the Bar Council of India to get animal welfare introduced as a subject in the law colleges. He did it immediately. The result has been much more sensitive and informed lawyers, an annual moot court that is hosted by NLU Bangalore, PhDs in animal welfare (the first one was in NLU Cuttack), more people aware of animal welfare activism and far more sensitive judges. A big thank you to Shri Manan Kumar Mishra!

22 years ago, at the instance of Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee, who supported all new ideas, we built the National Institute for Animal Welfare in Ballabgarh. Unfortunately, the government fell when it was ready. The Congress shut it down, and now the BJP is in its seventh year without restarting it. The Minister for Environment gave it to JNU. They fooled around for 2 years and then returned it to the Ministry, who slept on it for two years and then handed it to Lala Lajpat Rai University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, who have ignored it for three years and only now have appointed a retired vet to make a course. I have lost all hope. In 2002, I wrote out all the courses, made some textbooks, contacted Oxford, Cambridge and the University of Edinburgh, for teachers, got a grant from UNEP for the library. But nothing has happened and nothing ever will. The magnificent seven-acre centre now houses ten people of the Animal Welfare Board of India and runs “awareness” courses of three days each for the student vets of The Lala Lajpat Rai University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (LUVAS).

But there are huge job opportunities for trained animal welfare people: shelter managers, gaushala managers, laboratory managers, forest and wildlife officers, city management of animals, elephant rescue centres, city snake rescuers, poultries, slaughterhouses, to begin with and hundreds of others. I simply cannot understand why it has taken so long for even one course to begin.

A huge thank you to the Vice Chancellor of IGNOU, Prof. Nageshwar Rao, and to Professor P. V. K. Sasidhar, for starting the first-degree related course in India for animal welfare. Prof. Sasidhar has been labouring at the modules for over three years now. The first session itself has over 800 students!

It is a PG Diploma in Animal Welfare (PGDAW) and the admissions are open for the January 2021 Session. The Online Admissions ink:

The PGDAW programme is meant for animal welfare volunteers and professionals across India, and for graduates / post-graduates interested in studying animal welfare. I have seen the learning module and I like it. I wish I had been able to compile the 3000+ articles I have written on every aspect of animal welfare. They could have been part of the course. But my editor has been fooling around with the 7 volume compilations for 5 years now, and I have no idea when she will be done. National Book Trust had offered to print them all, but not even the first volume is ready.

The IGNOU course has four core components: Animal welfare science and ethics, Animal welfare issues, Animal welfare laws and policies, and Animal welfare practices and standards.

Animal welfare is concerned about the welfare of all animals that are managed in some way by humans. Farm animal welfare means the care of animals grown for milk and meat, and that is where animals suffer the most. Welfare issues, pertaining to working, performing, companion, zoo, lab and street animals, need a great deal of attention as well. The PGDAW programme, in 85 modules, has covered welfare, science, ethics, issues, laws and standards, of all farm and draught animals – cattle, buffaloes, sheep, goats, pigs, poultry, working animals like donkeys and horses, performing animals, pets, zoo and lab animals. These modules have been developed in collaboration with The Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education, University of Edinburgh, UK.

It’s a one-year course, and graduates from any discipline can take it. It has two objectives: To impart science-based animal welfare education through open and distance learning. To build the capacities of stakeholders to take socially responsible decisions concerning animal welfare. The total fee of the course is Rs. 5400/-.

Who should take this course : Obviously all young people interested in animals, Employees Working in Animal Welfare Organizations/NGOs/Gaushalas, Faculty, Researchers, Technical Staff & PG/PhD Students in Universities, Research Organizations and Veterinary Colleges, Veterinarians / Para-veterinarians in State Central Government/RVC & Para-Military Forces, Members of State Animal Welfare Boards/SPCAs, Members of CPCSEA/ Institutional Animal Ethics Committees /Animal House Facilities, Civil Servants, Officials and Researchers Working in Forest Departments, Zoos and Wild Life Institutes, Faculty and Research Scholars under Zoological Survey of India and Zoology Departments, Law Professionals and Police Personnel dealing with Animal Welfare Laws and their Enforcement, Graduates Seeking Career as Animal Welfare Professionals.

Ideally, I would make it compulsory for all schools – if we want a better India.

The Programme Coordinator, Prof. P.V.K. Sasidhar, School of Extension and Development Studies, IGNOU, New Delhi (e-mail:, has great credentials himself. He has been in the Agricultural Research Service of ICAR (2003-09), a Norman Borlaug Fellow of USDA, Tuskegee University, USA (2008), USAID Fellow, Michigan State University, USA (2015), and an OIE Performance of Veterinary Services Evaluator, OIE (2018).

 If you want to join this, now is the time. Also, if you have suggestions to make it better, write to the Professor. I would recommend it for activists in Sri Lanka and Nepal as well, as the issues are the same.

( To join the animal welfare movement contact,

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Sat Mag




A tale of a boy’s courage

By Uditha Devapriya

Situated at Stanley Wijesundera Mawatha, the Planetarium continues to captivate and fascinate, yet unless you strain your eyes, you can easily miss it. It’s one of those places you go to, through a prior appointment, and emerge from wishing you could go back in again. I must have been in Grade Five when I visited it on a class trip in 2004. Supun Jayasinghe was in Grade Five, too, when he went there with the rest of his class seven years later. The only exception, apart from the year of the visit, was where he came from: a 100 miles away, in Dambulla. It was the first time he had been to the city.

Intriguing and exhilarating as such a trip may have been, he had other things in his head. A few months later, he wouldbe sitting the Grade Five Scholarship Exam. How would he study for it? What marks would he score? Where would he go, if those marks turned out to be high? These questions nagged him, yet for the moment he let them off.

In any case, the ride had been exhausting: having started at four in the morning, it was about nine when the bus entered the city. It made its way to Independence Avenue, and from there towards the University of Colombo.

Between Independence Avenue and Stanley Wijesundera Mawatha, the Race Course faces Royal College. Intrigued by the Arcade, then the College, Supun and his classmates turned to their teacher. Standing up, he looked at them and described what they were, laying emphasis on the school more than the complex. Having described it in detail – the oldest public school, the most popular such institution, and so on – he brought the discussion back to his audience. “You have your scholarship exams this year,” he reminded them. “Try scoring as high as you can, because if you do, you’ll get a chance to come and study there.”

The memory of those words remained in Supun for a long time. The moment he heard them, he vowed to get as high a mark as he could, to get that chance, to come here.

Whatever the shortcomings of the Scholarship Exam may be, there’s no denying that it has opened up a world of opportunity for an aspiring lower middle-class. Supun’s father, a businessman, and mother, a teacher, hailed from this middle-class. Having attended a local Montessori and a Model School, he spent the whole of 2011 studying for the exam, forfeiting what little free time he had poring over books under a tree in his front yard. Yet, while he hit the books as hard and as much as he could, he did not push himself to compete with his peers. He’d told everyone he would ace the paper, but that owed less to a desire to be the best in the class than to a yearning to enter the best school he thought there was.

In any case, he got what he wanted. The marks came home somewhere in December 2011: having aimed at 180, he had scored 186. An even better piece of news came soon afterwards: the cut-off mark for Royal in 2012 happened to be 182. This meant only one thing: he would be boarded at the College Hostel, the following month, the following year.

The decision to go to Colombo did not come easy. Supun’s mother had opposed it at first, claiming it was too far. The marks were what convinced her. Even so, going to a city he’d only heard about and seen just once, and choosing to stay there for the better part of the next seven or so years, was a challenge. How would he fit in? What would he have to adjust to? Did people act there the way they did here? Did they differ in how they studied, read books, wrote answers? How they ate, drank, walked, and talked? He had much to think about, and as the weeks drew the year to a close, not much time to think them over.

Before everything, of course, there was the question of visiting the Hostel. On January 8 a letter arrived at his home, notifying them that the new term would commence a few weeks later, and that an orientation would be held before it did, on January 20.

Excited as he was, Supun nevertheless felt uneasy. On January 19, he and his father made their way to a rented house at Mount Lavinia, where a not-so distant relative lived. The next day came slowly, excruciatingly slowly. “I couldn’t sleep, I did not want to,” he remembers it today. Somehow, the night passed, and the following morning, having consulted and checked out at an auspicious time, the two of them made their way to Colombo.

Sri Lanka’s public schools, in particular those whose origins go back to the 19th century, are distinctly British in their architecture. The historian K. M. de Silva not unjustifiably calls it bland, unremarkable, and passé, when compared with Portuguese and Dutch architecture. For all their blandness, though, the British invested these buildings with an aura of expansiveness, with corridors giving way to gardens, quadrangles, and still other corridors.

Finding their way through an endless maze of entrances and exits, Supun and his father could not locate the Hostel. When they finally did, they were ushered into an orientation. Supun remembers two things from that day: his new class (6N), and the school song. The latter awed him: he hadn’t listened to many English songs, let alone school anthems, until then.

Having returned home after the orientation, father and son were told that the new term would begin five days later, on January 25. The second time around they came to Colombo in a car. Starting the journey of more than a hundred miles at four in the morning, they arrived at their destination at one or two in the afternoon.

At the Hostel the usual procedure was followed. The seniors directed him to his room. Each room had bunker beds. Not used to sleeping on them, he chose the first compartment, sharing the bunker with three others. When the last of the parents left, he predictably felt his nerves on the edge. The old fears returned: would he be able to fit in?

As with all public schools located in the city, the history of Royal College has woven itself into the history of its surroundings. Confusing at first, its topography extends from one end to another, covering a great many sites. To socialise into and familiarise himself with such an environment physically was not, however, tough for Supun. The real challenge lay elsewhere: the all too ubiquitous presence of English, and the melange of race and religion within the classroom. In other words, language proficiency plus cultural assimilation.

Glancing through his achievements from then, it struck me how his resolve stood out in them all. Back in Dambulla he had neither let the achievements of his peers ruffle him nor allowed himself to be overtaken by a desire to do better than them. He always, for instance, came first at his first school, but not because he wanted to beat everyone else to it; he just wanted to do something, and when he put his mind to it, he tried to do it somehow, on his own.

In Colombo this remained his philosophy. Whether it was winning creative composition and literary criticism prizes, becoming Junior Prefect (2015) and Junior Steward (2018), right before winding up as Steward (2019) and Chairman or Secretary of a great many clubs and societies (to list just some: Philatelic, Science, Library Readers), he let himself into whatever he took a fancy to. He did not, however, abandon his academics; studying for his O Levels, he ended up with nine As. Needless to say, on the field and in the class, at studies and sports, he confronted, and got over, those two challenges of proficiency and assimilation.

Supun’s story, I realise when I read through it, at once reflects and deviates from the norm. Reflects, because it conforms to the general pattern (initial difficulties at getting used to life in the city being followed by assimilation into the cultural and social patterns of that city), and deviates from, because his willpower is hard to find among his peers, or at least most of them. There is a reason for that: born with congenital anomalies on his right hand and leg, he has refused to let them get in his way, having won medals at the Para Games (2018) as well as for volleyball, boxing, table tennis, hockey, baseball, scouting (with a President’s Badge in 2019 to boot). By all accounts, this is to be admired, as it should be even now.

Steven Kemper dedicates the last chapter of his book on advertising in Sri Lanka (Buying and Believing) to a Sinhala lower middle-class family, residing in the outskirts of Colombo, who manage to realise their aspirations through their second son gaining entry to Supun’s school. Kemper, ever sensitive to the vagaries of class, points out how two-pronged entering a better school can be: a “singular opportunity”, yet one that comes with the price of accommodation “in a hostel.” Boarding their son, the family later relocates to Colombo. They make that move because they have to: the son is their link to the city, and to all it represents.

This country is home to a great many families who aspire for a better life, and one way through which they seek that life is education: not merely what you study, but where you study. Supun’s case is therefore illustrative: it’s the story of every other middle-class child. What’s interesting is how their integration to the city has brought about a transformation in the country’s elite schools. In that sense Supun’s story, as with that of the family in Kemper’s book, is not only illustrative, but also instructive. A Senior Prefect today, waiting for his A Level results, he finishes the conversation with a simple personal credo: “I’ve always aimed high and big, and I think I’ve always got there.” I am inclined to agree.

The writer can be reached at

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Sat Mag

Cleaner production – an urgent need



By Dr. Debapriya Mukherjee
Former Senior Scientist
Central Pollution Control Board, India

If we look into the areas close to the industrial sector, production of pollutants particularly from Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) has damaged the natural environment by excess emission of wastewater, gas or other solid waste. Environmental agencies are failing miserably in controlling pollution from most of the SMEs across the country. SME contributes asignificant fraction of total environmental burden in developing countries like India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh. Despite enforcement of environmental acts and regulations, the consumption of huge quantities of resources and energy, within a remarkably short period through industrial production had a far-reaching influence on natural environment. Reducing this burden needs environmental improvement at the micro level, a goal which has been stubbornly elusive in India. 

According to my observations, the major problems in SMEs, are old technologies, poor management practices, limited availability of funds, inadequately trained officials, lack of appropriate inspection and monitoring and overall sustainable gap between enforcement agencies, industries and communities because impassivity of top management in environmental sector and political will have impeded sustainable environment management.  Regulatory pressure on the SMEs could not implicate positive effect on environment to maintain sound ecosystem as observed in many areas close to SMEs such as foundry, sponge iron, electroplating industry, food processing, tannery and others. 

Environment Sustainability (ES) to maintain wholesomeness of the environment by controlling production of pollutants has been practically jeopardized. The possible reason is that several industrial complexes have been established without considering environmental and social impacts and thereby sustainability of industrial development is not gaining momentum. This dismal ES remains well hidden because social aspects (such as human rights, corruption, poverty, child mortality, land degradation, illiteracy and health problems) and their interrelation with economic and environment aspects are not considered with due emphasis by the regulatory agencies. The traditional approach of enforcing environmental acts and regulations is unable to explain and address the complex dynamic inter-relation among economics, environmental and social aspects with time. Though environmental impact assessment and environmental management system as per the Environment (Protection) Ac are mandatory to establish and to operate any project but, ES, and social benefits are always questionable. Industrial growth without ES under prevailing socio-economic condition is definitely neglected and delayed.

Survey of these industries reveals that SMEs are mainly dependent on end-of pipe(EOP) technology and their functionality are not consistent. Regulatory pressure compelled these industries to install a pollution control system for compliance with standards. But non-compliance is a common feature due to non-availability/ non-operation/ failure of pollution control system. Though regulatory agencies inspect the industries once or twice a year they are unable to ensure consistent control of pollution. Also, the regulatory authority cannot evaluate the different compliance level and thereby violation of standard to any extent is subject to the same penalties as it is marginal violation. Environmental managers can easily control the pollution level within a permissible limit during inspection by manipulating raw materials feeding and/or by operating the pollution control devices. It is not always feasible with limited trained/experienced personnel to conduct in-depth study on material and water balance in order to justify the quantity of pollutants emitted to environment based on the monitoring data. Enforcement agencies put emphasis on performance evaluation of EOP technology as per the stipulated standard without considering ecological crisis and social problems in the area closed to the industries.  As a result, owners of the industries are not serious to initiate CP despite economic benefits associated with its implementation.  On the contrary, owners of the industries are well versed on how to tackle an adverse situation temporarily and make their units in operation. Regulatory agencies  issue time to time   closure notices or directives to improve the performance of pollution control system to the non-compliant industries.  In response to these notices, owners of the industries with the help of outside experts, find out temporary solution with little financial investment just to fulfill the legal requirement and not “real” requirement. As a result, actual compliance status over time remains well hidden and thereby environmental and social problems remain unattended. One ofthe reasons may be vested interests of the concerned officers entrusted for verification of the report. Otherwise why water, air and soil are still so much polluted?

In this context it may be  mentioned that the majority of residents are poor and do not have access to higher authorities for solving their problems as well as they are not well educated to explain their sufferings to the media/press highlighting ecological crisis created by these industries. Government has already launched various projects to remove poverty, to educate the people, to provide health facility and to create environmental awareness among the people to highlight the  pollution problem,  but implementation status of these projects is not always satisfactory. This has resulted environmental and social problems reaching alarming proportion in many industrial clusters in India and simply visual inspections supplement these findings. Limitations in government’s actions to solve the problems are not disseminated via media for public awareness for various reasons. Moreover accountability of government employees for implementing the projects in terms of success and failure is not properly evaluated because knowledge and hardship required for evaluating degree of success are practically lacking. 

This problem in regulatory organization, may be attributed to top management persons because they often recruit either new scientists/engineers or retired government engineers/scientists on the basis of political connections or bribes or nepotism to look after activities related to environment management but their style of management clearly exhibit impassivity towards CP implementation because of their poor technical capability. Whereas huge potential offered by the country’s young population is far from being leveraged. Also many highly qualified young scientists/engineers refuse to take up the challenging works related to environment management in these organizations because of the lack of knowledgeable and skilled experts to guide the newly recruited personnel, hostile environment and bureaucracy. 

This is really a disturbing situation. Thereby, India needs innovative minds to meet its formidable challenges. For this, both the state and central governments should take urgent action and must appoint highly qualified, broad-minded top most officers, who will recruit qualified competent engineers/scientists and give them state-of-the-art technology based on sound scientific evidence with no external interference. Fixing our organization system will require a complete overhaul of the recruitment system, changes in environment policy and implementation of CP concept in these SMEs. According to UN Environmental Progrmme (UNEP) CP is the continuous application of an integrated, preventive environmental strategy towards processes, products and services in order to increase overall efficiency and reduce damage and risks for humans and the environment. However this will be difficult with the present disconnect between science and policy in these organizations.

My experience clearly established the economic efficiency of CP through incremental innovation based on  production process optimization and thereby the payback period of investment towards CP technology was short.   Unfortunately, in India actual level of implementation of CP in industries in particular all SMEs as found in other countries  to deliver environmental advantage is not determined. Therefore, evaluation of actual environmental and economic performance improvement is an emergent need to maintain sustainable industrial development, social welfare, social equity and sound ecosystem. In India, the manufacturing industries and the government can play a major role in this sustainable development.  However, community pressure followed by enforcement of environmental acts and regulation has slowly changed the attitude of these industries but overall success towards consistent compliance is still a distant dream. 

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