There is desperation and a degree of panic among the populace of the Pearl. Mainly due to a bungled vaccination program by those in charge of it. The blame however is seemingly being transferred to doctors and other members of the medical profession. This exacerbates the “King Kekilla” type of situation that prevails not only among those who govern but among the people as well. After all those bizarre verdicts issued by that demented ruler of legend, were accepted by the people, weren’t they?Recently I was granted access to a WhatsApp thread put up by scientists and doctors based in the Pearl who are contacting peers in all parts of the world and asking for input at their level of knowledge. The questions range from testing methods and their efficacy to treatment and how it can have the best outcomes for individual patients. This conversation is fascinating even to a relatively uneducated layman such as myself and what must be appreciated is the high level of input and above all the extreme level of commitment from these brilliant individuals. Access to this thread is a privilege and was granted to me by a researcher based in the Auckland University who had been contacted by the initiators of the thread. The idea was that I would use my column and the good offices of the editor of this newspaper to propagate this aspect of the battle against the virus and these “unsung heroes” (my choice of words).
Their biggest lament however is that no one in POWER listens to them or takes any notice of what they are saying! A secondary one is the lack of funds required for specialized equipment that will make the testing process quicker and more accurate. Staff training is also a much-needed feature as testing tracing and isolation are among the most influential features reported in Covid-19 control. Surely this is an unacceptable situation? This is what the public should address and rectify using all means available to them. Follow directives only from professionals with credentials and DO NOT listen to anyone else. Unfortunately, even media outlets and newspapers of the Pearl seem to publish articles of pure fiction and in some cases headlines that must have been dreamt up by their editors. Another tragic fact is that these dedicated scientists are being blamed for anything and everything that goes wrong when their advice is disregarded! This sort of thing can only happen in the “land like no other”. There is a great deal of discouragement resulting from this attitude and I fear we are going to lose many members from this the most vital arm of our battle against the virus.
The single most powerful reason why Aotearoa – New Zealand is where it is with regard to controlling the virus to date is the fact that ALL decision-making with regard to controlling the virus was handed over to science. The scientists and their requirements were followed to the letter. Screams from the political opposition about the destruction of the economy that would result from the lockdown we underwent were disregarded by wise and committed leadership. The physical welfare of the people was paramount, and it worked. We had a fiscal budget presented in parliament last week and guess what, the economy is in much better shape than expected. So much better in fact that the welfare payments or “dole” as it used to be known have been increased all round. This will bring relief not only to the poorest of the poor but to a large slice of society that collects some sort of payment from the welfare state that is New Zealand.
Now that the virus is rampant, and I use the word rampant with a view to instilling real caution rather than panic, members of my family have been affected. They have ended up in quarantine centres, hospitals, and even in intensive care units. I have had to dig up my old contacts among the medical profession to inquire as to how the treatment is going and in some cases for a real prognosis on the patient. The medical care is exemplary as is the norm in the government hospitals but a disconcerting bit of news from a young and dedicated doctor in charge of the epidemic is that there are no incentives or motivating factors available for the minor staff. The attendants and the ambulance drivers who work all hours of the day could use things like packets of biscuits to supplement their meals and re-loads on their mobile phones to allow them to communicate with their families. Simple things that the companies in these fields could provide without even feeling it. But have they? If not, WHY? Is it because the relevant management and CEOs are cowering under their beds in fear, and cannot be bothered to find out what they can do within their means to help with this war? Does it take an individual living in a foreign country to find out and inform them?
What about those massive profit-making institutions empowered by the law of the land to rob the population, Banks? What have they done to contribute towards fighting this war against the Virus? Banks do have awards for the best bank, unfortunately, they don’t have one for the worst bank, as I have a nomination in mind. This particular bank operating from a massive tower built no doubt with the profits they made by exploiting their customers, would win hands down if there was a competition for the worst bank, not only in the Pearl but probably in the World! That is another story, for another day but why don’t they contact the scientists and give them the machinery they need to fight this battle? The sums involved would only be a fraction of the billions of rupees they declare as profits, every year. If anyone is interested, it will be my pleasure to give them the contact details of these selfless and dedicated heroes that no one knows about.These are the real heroes and the people who are absolutely vital to help us overcome Covid-19. Why are they being sidelined and even scorned and blamed for situations that have arisen due to bungling by politicians and bureaucrats? There may be a communication problem as their specialized knowledge and inherent modesty sometimes prevents them from marketing themselves as loudly and as “effectively” as required by a nation that is used to being governed by the laws of King Kekilla.
Echoes of NM’s dismissal may have an impact on present crisis
by Tissa Vitarana
Dr. N. M. Perera, one of the greatest politicians and statesmen produced by our country, was born on June 6, 1905.
In recognition of his stature as a freedom fighter, a trade union leader, an authority who consolidated parliamentary democracy in the country, an economist who defended the rights of the developing world and sacrificed political power to defend minority rights, he remains in the heart of the people 43 years after his death. Each year on June 6, it has become customary to celebrate his birth anniversary by paying floral tribute at his statue in Colombo. Leaders of the Left and many other political parties participated, together with some leading supporters of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), which he had helped to form in 1935 with socialist objectives.
Among the chief speakers were the current Leader of the LSSP and the Chairman of the Dr.N.M.Perera Centre or his representative. Similar functions would be held at the statues in Thun Korale, Ruwanwella and Yatiyantota, in turn bi-annually.
As usual on June 6, 2021 the function was held, but only with three persons present as a token event, to conform with the three health regulations required to control the Covid 19 epidemic . As the present General Secretary of the LSSP I gave a short speech, the Chairman of the Dr.N.M.Centre who was unwell was represented by Ranil Vitarana, and the LSSP rank and file by Nuresh Rajapakse, a member of the PB whose ample size filled the space left by the absent LSSPers. We retired home to discuss how NM might solve the present crisis if he was alive.
The crisis that NM faced as the Minister of Finance in the SLFP/LSSP/CP Coalition Government in 1972 was far worse than what confronts us today. In 1972 there was the perennial crisis of over production that dogs the capitalist economic system. But in addition the fossil fuel price went up seven times due to the getting together of the oil producing countries to form a cartel, OPEC. The worst global drought in 30 years led to a severe food crisis, with thousands of deaths worldwide. As a result, due to the traditional import dependent policies of the UNP Governments, our people were in grave danger (e.g. the price of a ton of imported sugar went up from $ 40 to $ 600).
NM explained to the people the magnitude of the crisis and called upon the people to tighten belts, stop the import based luxury lifestyle, and develop an import substitution national economy, producing our food and developing value added industry (his budget allocation for science and technology was increased four times). The bulk of the burden should not be passed on to the people but borne by government and the rich. The direct personal tax on the rich was raised to a maximum of 75% (today it is only14%). He managed to balance the budget and in one year in office earn more than the loss. The strict import restrictions reduced the foreign trade deficit and helped to cut down foreign borrowing. The foreign debt was reduced to the lowest in our history.
Today the biggest problem is the high cost of living, mainly due to huge profits made by rapacious middlemen (big mill owners, local money lenders to farmers such as traders etc.). To end this NM and the coalition developed the producer cooperatives (such as farmers) and the consumer cooperatives as genuine peoples’ organizations. By direct dealings between the two he wiped out the profiteering of the middlemen. The cooperatives were so successful that NM brought down the price of essentials to affordable levels, and even gave a measure of rice free. The result was that no one died of starvation unlike in other parts of the world. Due to the opposition of the traders, outsourcing to them was not possible. The result was long queues at the co-ops. This and the other shortcomings were exploited by the media controlled by the rich to lay the blame on the government. They hid the global nature of the problem, but blamed the government.
Besides food shortages a major problem was the shortage of medicine in government hospitals and the high cost of medicines in private pharmacies. Prof.Senaka Bibile, a member of the LSSP, came up with his Medicinal Drug Policy, which was accepted by WHO. NM strongly supported it and it was implemented. The outcome was that medicines for practically every disease was available in all government hospitals free of charge. The shortages were overcome, unlike the situation that prevails today. The foreign drug companies got their governments to intervene and promise a large sum of money to the government to overcome the crisis, provided the NM and the LSSP was expelled. The finance portfolio was taken away from him, and he was given a minor post which he refused and the LSSP was forced out of the Government.
The CP left the next year and the SLFP suffered a major defeat in the 1977 general election. The UNP led by JR Jayewardene came to power in 1977 and opened the door for the commencement of the process of change referred to as neoliberalism. This ideology led by the USA reached its zenith throughout the capitalist world, most of all in America. But it was a failure. It was rejected by the Sri Lankan people at the last presidential and general election.
The anti-UNP political parties helped form the SLPP-led government and are committed to do everything possible to solve the economic, social and health problems facing the country and people.
Like NM, I and the LSSP are very happy that the neoliberal foreign market dependent policies have been rejected, and the commitment is to establish an indigenous economy, where local agriculture and value added industry are to be developed. A major problem is the Covid 19 coronavirus epidemic. In view of my training in virology and experience here and abroad in association with WHO, I could have made some contribution to overcome this problem. In addition where local value added industry is concerned I have already made a significant contribution as the Minister of Science and Technology when Mahinda Rajapaksa was President.
In the four years I established 263 Vidatha Centres, one in each division, and helped 12,300 micro, small and medium entrepreneurs to develop island-wide (17 exporters, 64 suppliers to Cargills and other food chains, and 53 to hotels). To promote large scale industry for the export market I set up a Hi-tech Centre, SLINTEC, with emphasis on nanotechnology near Colombo. But it would appear that I am not fit to be a minister, leave alone a cabinet minister. I wonder whether what happened to NM and Senaka Bibile had any bearing on this.
But why was Prof Sirimali Fernando, Senior Professor in Medical Microbiology at Sri Jayawardenapura University left out. For her post-graduate research in London she not only worked in the field of Virology, but also used the PCR. She could have seen that the PCR test (and the RAT) were properly standardized to give reliable results. Control of the epidemic will be difficult with many false positives and negatives.
You can understand what a person of NM’s stature felt when he was kicked out of the finance ministry, when what has happened to me is related. The only occasion that I could express my views was when the Health Advisory Committee of Parliament met on one occasion, at very short notice, with the Minister in the chair. I proposed that a National Committee of party leaders in Parliament be set up to interact with the minister to exchange views so that we all unite to fight this common enemy. Then truly national Covid committees could cooperate down to village level in the interest of all the people.
The minister turned this down and said that this Health Committee will meet twice a month and any party leader is free to come. Four months have gone and this committee has not met once since then. Secondly I proposed that as community spread had begun a new community based approach was necessary to control the spread and I gave an outline of the necessary measures. She rejected my assessment and approach, stating that it was still in the cluster stage. I said that the cluster approach could continue where indicated, but my proposal too should be implemented. She rejected this proposal.
I might mention that the day Dr. Fernandopulle was appointed as minister she invited me to meet her and I had a fruitful discussion with her for more than an hour. I hope that she will get the necessary support.
Monastic food – vegetarian food (mildly selective)
I was directed to the film series on food on Netflix titled Chef’s Table and enjoyed watching the first of series three. It was on the South Korean Zen Buddhist nun, Jeong Kwan, and her preparations of monastic food.
(born 1957) is a Zen Buddhist and chef of . She lives in the Chunjinam Hermitage at the in , where she cooks for fellow nuns and monks, as well as occasional visitors. She had no formal culinary training but is now directing the preparation of vegetarian food in a café in Korea and has visited China and Japan as ‘food ambassador’. Temple food is literally food consumed by ascetic Buddhist nuns and monks. Since their goal is enlightenment, achieved by both mind and body, ascetic food aims at this great achievement – enlightenment.
The bustling Chef
Jeong Kwan ran away from her home in a northern province of South Korea at age 17, leaving her family of seven siblings. At 19 she joined an order of Zen nuns and took to cooking with joy, food for the nuns and monks in an adjoining monastery. She had learned to turn out noodle dishes when she was just seven years old. She refers to her being chef to monks and nuns as her way of spreading the Dhamma as food is a very important component of ascetic life, the food certainly not to be relished, drooled over, hungered for, but eaten mindfully to sustain the body in health and thus contribute to the development of the mind.
Jeong Kwan’s recipes use aubergines, tomatoes, plums, oranges, pumpkin, tofu, basil, chilli pepper, and other vegetables and of course rice or noodles. vegan, Jeong Kwan’s recipes omit garlic, green onions and leeks, which are believed to be mildly aphrodisiacal. In the Netflix film I watched, this fairly well set nun with a serene face and charming smile, grows all the vegetables used in her menus. She sows seeds or plants seedlings, tends then lovingly and then harvests what she needs day by day. She says however: “It’s up to nature and the plants themselves to stay alive. Time flows for them and for myself at the same pace.” Her philosophy on cooking monastic food is: “We cook food that can become one with the person eating it; then it functions like medicine inside our bodies.”
Most of what she used in the film were familiar to me. There was nelum ala or the ‘yam’ of the lotus used; and various leaves she gathered. She uses oil fairly freely in her preparation. I don’t know what oil it was. And of course kimchi is an integral part of what she serves each nun in small dishes; the typical Korean dish always present, made from a certain kind of cabbage dipped in sauces. Nun Kwan dipped into large clay pots of sauces, some of which were very old, the sauces I mean.
Vegetarian and Vegan
It is apt to define these two terms here. A vegetarian is one who does not eat meat or fish and sometimes other animal products, especially for moral, religious or health reasons.
A vegan is one who abstains from the use of animal products particularly in diet and believes in the “philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals.” There are degrees of veganism. The term was coined by Dorothy Morgan and Donald Watson in November 1944. (Wikipedia)
Food served at meditation retreats
I wrote a fortnight ago about my experiences of meditation retreats at Parappuduwa Nuns’ Island off Ratgama, Dodanduwa, while Ayya Khema was living there and later; and about 10-day and shorter retreats undertaken at Dhamma Khuta Vipassana Bhavana Centre in Hindagala, Peradeniya. Both places were vegetarian. At Parappuduwa we served ourselves from dishes placed on a trestle table, after the resident nuns and any foreign persons in prolonged retreat, had had their meal. I recollect Ayya Khema would remain in her seat supervising us! I once reached out for a dish to pass on to my neighbour who I thought needed some from that dish. Ayya Khema reprimanded me for reaching out for a dish. I did not explain it was not for me but for another that I did what I did. Extreme respect!
At Dhamma Khuta we went up to the food tables in a two queues – men and women – and held out our plates for rice first and then down the line for the vegetable curries; just four sans red chilly, and a salad or leaf sambal. Everything was served in measured quantities. This was lunch at 11.15 – 11.30. We were served dessert, mostly fruit or a prepared simple pudding. For breakfast we were served boiled seed like green gram, followed by a cup of tea. We were allowed to keep tea and sugar in our dormitories and expected to drink plain tea after noon, which unfortunately some did not follow, copiously adding milk and even snacking, just as they broke the Golden Silence rule. In the evening at around 6.00 we were given the choice of half a glass of fruit juice or a mug of plain tea. Those on medicines were served a couple of biscuits and a banana.
Recollections are many but I will narrate just two. At the first ten-day meditation retreat at the newly constructed and not quite complete Dhamma Khuta picturesque Centre right on top of a hill, with Ven Goenkaji and wife living in the bungalow on the premises, we were rather choc-a-bloc since the organizers wanted to accommodate as many as possible at this unique retreat. We were three in most dormitory rooms with the previous meditators accommodated in the now defunct tea factory below, necessitating an arduous van ride in rain and mud and fog.
One of my roommates was obviously rich and definitely fussy, and oldish. She brought along a huge suitcase which covered half the floor of the room. My small bed was against the opposite wall so I had no jumping across or alongside it. She even brought a winter coat! Before bed there was a ritual she followed: munched crackers and cheese, thala guli and drained a mugful of beverage – cocoa or chocolate made with the hot water given each of us in our flasks after the evening gilanpasa.
The next recollection is me, a novice, standing at the narrow food table with helpers on the opposite side, ready with ladles. On the first day of the retreat, I stood at the rice dish at lunch, waiting for the server to give me another spoonful. I thought the amount served was totally inadequate. A slight wave of her palm to indicate I move on was missed by me. She then moved me to the curries with a big wave of her hand. The point in this story is that by the end of the retreat, say seventh day to tenth, I found the rice served me was too much and waved away the second spoon ready to descend on my plate. Even the measured, restricted quantity was found to be too much as the mind got calmer and body felt rested.
With Ven Goenkaji, samples of the cooked curries were taken to him to be tasted and passed as OK. At latter retreats, maybe Brindley Ratwatte or Damayanthi performed that task to see that not too much spices were added. But bland though the food was, it was so very well cooked by the village women who came to help. We ate with gratitude in our hearts to them, the organizers of the retreats and even the farmers.
A very significant point was that with the glass of juice or tea and the fresh cool water off the clay pots placed at strategic positions, I slept more soundly than at home. I found the cup of tea made before going to bed totally unnecessary and even impeded sound sleep until woken at predawn 3.30.
Conclusion: we normally eat far too much, especially at dinner!
UNDERSTANDING PERSONALITIES – Part 10
CONFESSIONS OF A GLOBAL GYPSY
by Dr. Chandana (Chandi) Jayawardena DPhil
President – Chandi J. Associates Inc. Consulting, Canada
Founder & Administrator – Global Hospitality Forum
The Round Trip
We made substantial profits from our first-ever Ceylon Hotel School (CHS) Graduation Ball and decided to spend all that money to go on a seven-day “all-inclusive” round trip for all students in the two senior batches that organised the dance. Three members of the teaching staff joined, perhaps to keep an eye on us. It was nice to have ‘fun’ activities outside the formal environment we usefully operated at CHS. With plenty of singing, dancing, joking, river bathing, games, drinking and eating, this trip was lot of fun, but was not without some mischief in between. During this trip, for the first time in my life, I realised the importance of analysing different personalities and how people behave differently and more freely in more relaxing situations. In later years, throughout my careers in management, academia and consulting, I used those two concepts – ‘Personality Analysis’ and ‘Combining Work and Fun.’
When we returned to Colombo at the end of the week our relationships with the participating staff had certainly improved. This trip became an annual event at CHS. A decade later when I became a Senior Lecturer of CHS, I always joined the student round trips. It provided me with opportunities of better understanding my students from a different generation.
One of our most popular subjects was Basic German, but it was not due to the subject matter. The main attraction was the gorgeous looks of the young lady who was our part-time German Lecturer. Frau Sommersaul had blond hair, a very nice figure, and often wore short skirts. Basic German was one class that inspired my punctuality.
My aim was to get a front row seat, but I was not the only student with that idea. One of my playful batchmates, Priyajith would regularly sit in the front row and purposely dropped his assignments on the floor. He was hoping that our short-skirted teacher would bend down to pick up the assignments. One day he was warned by the Principal not to stare at the German teacher’s shapely legs. The next day, Priyajith appeared in the class wearing sunglasses. When Frau Sommersaul asked for the reason for wearing sunglasses, he replied in broken German, “Frau Sommersaul, die Blendung stört meine Augen”. (“Mrs. Sommersaul, the glare is bothering my eyes.”)
In every German class, there was a question written on the board. Frau Sommersaul directed each student to take a turn answering in German. English was not allowed in her class. By the second month, she had realised that I never studied and therefore could not answer correctly in German. After that, each time it was my turn to answer the day’s question, she simply skipped me and went to the next student.
Mrs. Carmen Gomes
By observing three Chef Instructors, I learnt lessons beyond cooking. When addressing the whole class, Mrs. Gomes, only lady Chef Instructor at that time, called all of us, “Boys”. When she addressed any of us individually, she used only our family names. Every time she called me, “Jayawardena”, I did not like it, and said tactfully as possible, “Madam, my name is Chandana”.
Whenever I had to present to her a dish prepared by me for grading, she reacted in the same manner. She made a face of disgust and disapproval, before giving me a low mark. One day, as a prank, I sent the same dish that received a low mark, to her for the second time, with the best student of my batch, W. D. T. Anton. Mrs. Gomes tasted my dish and told Anton, “Perfect! Well done, Anton!”, and gave him 100%. In later years while managing the largest Chef School in Canada as the Academic Chair, I realised that kitchen practical marking at times can be subjective, based on the first impressions created by the students. Unfortunately, I had created a very poor first impression for my cooking at CHS.
Chef Helmut Belling
We liked the Expert Lecturer in Kitchen Operations from West Germany, Chef Helmut Belling. He was a fun-loving person and did some practical jok
es in the kitchen. His favourite joke was replacing cubed cheese (which we liked to steal) kept in the refrigerator with similar sized cubes of yellow Sunlight cleaning soap to trick us. He was tall and large and looked like a giant among some of my batchmates who were short.
Occasionally, the Chef lost his cool when we made a serious mistake in the kitchen. One day, a short batch mate of mine burnt the Chicken Maryland, just before lunch service. The Chef was very upset and lost his cool. He carried my batchmate by his trousers at the waist with one hand and threw him out of the kitchen. This batch mate in later years became a top Chef in the largest airline kitchens in Australia.
Chef Robert Napper
Towards the end of our first year at CHS, an ILO Expert in Kitchen Operations, Chef Robert Napper arrived from the UK. He was a skilled Chef but had a superiority complex. As a result, he appeared to be sarcastic and not very respectful of the local culture. His relationship with his German colleagues at CHS were not the best, to say the least.
As a developing nation, it was normal at that time in Sri Lanka to experience occasional power interruptions and water cuts during the dry mo
nths. One day towards the end of the kitchen practical, the water supply stopped. We were happy thinking that we did not have to wash the kitchen that day. Chef Napper ordered each of us to pick a large pot or an empty garbage can, and march behind him across the Galle Face Green to the Indian Ocean. That day we washed the kitchen with salt water! That provoked the German Principal.
Due to his racist comments, most of us disliked Chef Napper. Another day, the Chef was not satisfied with the freshness of the fish delivered to the kitchen. One of my batchmates, Kotte, disagreed and said that the local fish was fresh. That angered the Chef, who said that, “This rotten fish is as old as your bloody culture.” We were shocked. One key lesson I learnt from Chef Napper was what I should not do when I lived and worked in different countries and among people from diverse cultures. In later years I often teach what I call ABC (Attitudes and Aspirations, Beliefs and Behavior, Customs and Culture) in my management seminars. ABC of host communities must be recognised and respected by expatriate managers.
We had excellent team spirit among all three batches of CHS students. Usually when the third-year batch did the cooking, the second-year batch served the lunch. As the training restaurant had 36 seats, a few of the first-year students were invited to dine at the restaurant. If and when one of the servers dropped a spoon on the floor or had a noisy service accident, students of all three batches dining or servicing looked up to the ceiling, in unison. This was done to distract any attention from the teaching staff, from the already embarrassed server who had made a mess.
Our Lecturers in Restaurant Service did a great job in humorously teaching us the basics and menu explanations. Their memorable stories based on their experiences in West Germany, enhanced the lectures. Usually, during lunch, each table had one teaching staff member and three students. I always rushed to sit at the table hosted by Mr. Rohan De Silva, as he offered us free cigarettes. At the end of the lunch, Herr Sterner made his Principal’s comments on the lunch and service. As the Principal was more of a Front Office specialist, every time he made a comment about dishes and cooking, Chef Napper made a face of disapproval and whispered a sarcastic or a racist comment to the students at his table.
Last Minute Studies
Considering the second chance given me at CHS after my poor academic performance during my first year, I was keen to improve in my second year. That was my only chance of survival at CHS. However, given my busy schedule full of Judo fighting, Rugby Football practices, Tournament Secretary work, part-time work, movies, girlfriends, parties and pranks, I did not get down to studying until the end of the fall semester in 1972. I knew that I had to pull up my socks to do better at this exam, because I was virtually on my last warning and last chance.
Finally, I commenced studying the day before examination. We had a full week of examinations, and I got into a last-minute study mode. I opened the textbook for the next day’s exam subject for the first time around 11:00 pm and studied the textbook and my class notes all night without any sleep. Overnight, I made a one-page summary per subject of everything I revised. After breakfast and before going to the examination hall in the morning, I looked at that one-page summary once and then wrote the test. Soon after the examination, when I returned to the hostel in the mid afternoon, I went to sleep. I woke up again around 11:00 pm to go through my newly developed examination-preparation strategy.
I continued this unorthodox studying method for the whole week. As most of my hostel mates were sleeping at the time I was studying, it was quiet and ideal for my concentration. Although many experts disagree with this type of last-minute studying, it worked well for me. My grades improved significantly. I used this technique for all my further studies at undergraduate, professional, graduate, doctoral and post-doc levels in later years.
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