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Bradman the captain

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by Neville Jayaweera

(Continued from last week)

A great deal has been said about Bradman the batting genius and the records and statistics place his prowess beyond cavil and debate. However, there is Bradman the captain and Bradman the man to consider and here it is not to statistics that we turn to so much, as the opinions of men. In order to sketch out the fairest possible profile of the great man I have conflated the views of W.J. O’Reilly and Jack Fingleton, both of whom played with him, of two outstanding cricketing journalists of his time, John Arlott and Arthur Mailey and of one politician connoisseur, Sir Robert Menzies, Prime Minister of Australia .

As a captain, Bradman emerges with some very distinctive characteristics. In an age when computer statistics and video replays were not even a distant dream, Bradman’s extraordinary brain was more than a substitute. Before he took the field he had already retrieved from his prodigious memory the strengths and weaknesses of every player in the opposing side, data which he had stored away for future use. He worked to a strategy and was never ruffled even when his set plan seemed in disarray. He stayed absolutely cool under fire, and even on the rare occasions when he had to retreat, he regrouped quickly and regained the initiative. As a captain he was always taciturn on the field and rarely interfered with his bowlers preferring to let them get on with it. He was also rarely known to reprimand players for errant fielding, but his very presence on the field was such an overpowering influence that every defection soon corrected itself. On the other hand, he also rarely advised or coached his colleagues, overtly. Neil Harvey recalls that when, at the age of 19 he scored a century on debut in England and returned to the dressing room, let alone receiving a pat on the back from the great man, he did not get even a nod of the head in acknowledgement. He merely expected other members of the team to learn by watching him and there was indeed a lot to learn there.

Three driving motives provide keys to understanding the dynamics of Bradman the captain. One was the passion for excellence in every department of the game. There was nothing called second best in his vocabulary. Next, there was the desire to win. Be it a benefit match or even a festival match, he had to win. Thirdly, at least after the ill-fated Jardine tour, he seemed to be driven relentlessly by a dislike for the “Poms”. It was a dislike which developed mainly out of the bodyline series but also partly from final test at the Oval in 1938, where a mediocre Len Hutton broke his record. The bodyline series set the seal on his dislike for the English. He never fully recovered from the trauma of that series and he never forgave Jardine. Bradman post-bodyline was never the same. He no longer danced down the wicket nor improvise in mid-stroke as he used to. The total effect was to produce in him an incurable dislike for the English.

 

Bradman the man

As a man, by all accounts, Bradman emerges as unfriendly, taciturn and a recluse. He rarely fraternized even with members of his team. Upon returning to the dressing room, even on completing a big score, which was often, he would not exchange banter or hang around to receive accolades but would retire to a corner and be by himself. In the hotel where the team lodged, he would dine privately in his room and would rarely join in the fun and the banter downstairs. He hated signing autographs and often left his hotel stealthily by the back door simply to avoid being mobbed by the hundreds who were waiting outside. O’Reilly would explain Bradman’s taciturn and reclusive manner as an aspect of his desire constantly to keep his mind focused on the game. He did not want to let his concentration flag, even off the field, but kept turning over in his mind the flaws of his opponents, the lessons of the day and the plan for the morrow. Bradman neither smoked nor drank, except to propose a toast and socially, at a cocktail party or at a formal dinner. He disliked the press and rarely gave interviews but he was very sensitive to criticism and went to great lengths to clear himself, even on trivial matters, as one can gather from his autobiographical Farewell to Cricket.

 

Critics and detractors

Bradman had several critiques and detractors as well, and principal amongst them were Fingleton and O’Reilly, both of whom played with him. The former is quite adamant that at the first Test at the Gabba in 1946, Ikin caught Bradman at point and that in standing his ground without walking, Bradman cheated. However, in his Farewell to Cricket Bradman denies this vehemently and insists that the ball had bumped. O’Reilly in particular was very severe on Bradman and while conceding without reservation that he was a batting genius who would perhaps never be equaled, also thought that he was pathologically egocentric and played only for himself. On the other hand, others explain O’Reilly’s ill-concealed personal dislike for Bradman as merely a manifestation of an Irish Roman Catholic’s incurable hatred for an English Puritan!

For a more balanced view we may perhaps turn to John Arlott and Arthur Mailey. Arlott’s critique of Bradman might as well have come from the pen of a philosopher. He had this say of the great man,

“Wide-reaching as Bradman’s activities have been, they have all been on one level of consciousness. If I were faced with a task, on a materialistic plane, I would sooner have Don Bradman to work with me than any other man …. I feel he is able to achieve almost anything within his physical compass with utter competence and with an intensity rare in the human race. [However] …. upon what level of mind or soul he argues with himself about his aims I have no means of knowing. I do know however that he is capable of setting himself a semi-tangible target which is not in any record book …. how I wonder would Bradman define happiness.” – (quoted in Fingleton’s Brightly fades the Don).

What Arlott is suggesting here in a somewhat convoluted or mystical language is that Bradman was a one-dimensional man who could excel as no other man could, on a particular plane of his choosing, but that his character lacked complexity and completeness. Which I think is itself somewhat incomplete as a critique, considering that Bradman was also a model family man, a superb after dinner speaker with an ability to speak on almost any subject relevant to the occasion and a very successful administrator and financial manager as well. Admittedly he was a very private person, an introvert, even a recluse, and was clearly out of place among men who measured out their lives, when off the field, with beer mugs and shovels of wearied reminiscences. If anything, that should suggest complexity and a vertical dimension to his character, rather than a lack of it, as Arlott seems to suggest.

Arthur Mailey of the Sydney Telegraph, who had known Bradman from his days in Bowral, had this to say. ” Bradman is an enigma, a paradox; an idol of millions, yet, with a few, the most unpopular cricketer I have ever met. … There are at least two major reason why some dislike him without compromise, forgiveness or tolerance: jealousy and this great cricketer’s independence….Bradman has a very acute brain. But there are some aspects of his mental outlook which lack the benefit of finer thinking. He is dogmatic on subjects or opinions, which even an expert, or a master would treat with great care and discretion….Bradman was brought up

the hard way, the lonely way. That’s why he practised as a boy by hitting a ball up against the a brick wall, and when he felt the cold draught of antagonism within the ranks he kept counsel, remained unperturbed, and knew his greatest weapon was centuries and more centuries” (quoted in Fingleton’s Brightly fades the Don).

Finally let me quote from Robert Menzies, one time Prime Minister of Australia, an ardent admirer but an honest critic. ” Bradman is of course not without critics; he has succeeded too gigantically to escape them. He has his faults, no doubt, but they are merely the defects inherent in those positive qualities which have given him pre-eminence …. He believes in the virtue of concentrating all his mind upon the job in hand. He therefore plays to win. Once or twice I have thought that this ruthless quality might have been tempered with a little mercy; but reflection has almost always brought me back to the recognition that intense concentration IS a cardinal virtue, so rare that for its sake even much might be forgiven” (quoted in Fingleton’s Brightly fades the Don).

 

The complete Bradman

Any true assessment of Don Bradman must go beyond merely harking upon his extraordinary batting statistics and his prowess at the crease, which almost all, admirers as well as critics, consider to be unrivalled yet, and as likely to remain so forever. We may also dispose of, as wanton speculation, the question whether he was as good on wet wickets as he was on hard bouncy wickets, by pointing to his sensational feats on wet summer wickets in England. We may with equal disdain ignore suggestions that he could not cope with fast bowling, by recalling his 50 plus average against the fastest and meanest bowlers of his day. All that we can safely put away as carping, born of envy.

However, there is this other side of Bradman which cricketers, being who they are, tend to miss and which only a discerning few like John Arlott and Robert Menzies seem to have detected. I refer to Bradman the thinker, to Bradman the man with extraordinary powers of concentration, whose inerrancy of eye and co-ordination of limb were only the outworking of a particular level of consciousness. Bradman was more than just a great batsman or a successful captain of cricket. He seems to have had qualities of character, which would have won for him pre-eminence in any walk of life he chose to follow, and by any classical standards of assessing greatness Bradman was also a great man.

I haven’t read many biographies on Bradman but according to Gideon Haigh, whose excellent and well balanced article on Bradman appears in the Picador Book of Cricket, edited by Ramachandra Guha, the best Bradman biography is one written by an Englishman, Irving Rosenwater, titled, “Sir Donald Bradman”. Among other things, Haigh’s article is notable for an exceptional paragraph with which he concludes his article, (with apologies to C. L. R. James, he says) which I would like to quote here, ” What do they know of Bradman who only cricket know? Surely it is possible in writing about someone who has lived for ninety years to do something more than prattle on endlessly about the fifteen or so of them he spent in flannels- recirculating the same stories, the same banal and blinkered visions- and bring some new perspectives and insights?” Haigh goes on, ” Where are the home-grown biographies of Charlie Macartney, Warwick Armstrong, Bill Woodfull, Bill Ponsford, Lindsay Hassett, Keith Miller, Neil Harvey, Alan Davidson, Richie Benaud, Bob Simpson, even Denis Lillee, plus sundry others one could name? Such is the lava flow from the Bradman volcano, they are unlikely to see daylight.”

To wind up my own tribute to the great man, I would like to draw attention to the standards of behaviour and conduct that Bradman set for himself and his team, on and off the field. The latter day culture of sledging, which is perhaps, after Bradman, the single most noteworthy Aussie contribution to the world’s cricketing culture, would have been unthinkable under Bradman. Some of his successors, notably Ian Chappel, Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh, have sought with extraordinary disingenuousness, to justify rowdy, coarse and boorish behaviour on the field by calling it sledging and claiming it as a legitimate strategy for unsettling the opposition. By whatever name they may seek to varnish it, rowdy, coarse and boorish behaviour would never have been countenanced by Bradman, on or off the field. There was no need to have recourse to such weapons to unsettle the opposition. In Bradman’s cricket culture the only way to unsettle the opposition was through recourse to batting and bowling prowess and through intelligent field placing and skill in catching and throwing. Sledging was the invention of mediocre men. It was their way of confessing that true cricketing greatness was beyond them.



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All communities should be treated equally without distinction

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by Jehan Perera

The government was elected on a platform that stressed national security and unity. The elections took place in the aftermath of the Easter suicide bomb attacks of 2019 that caused the highest numbers of casualties in Christian churches. As the bombers were all Muslim, the Muslim population in the country came under public suspicion which was spontaneous and widespread. There was also equally widespread fear and anxiety about follow on attacks that could target Christians in particular and also the population in general. The cause of the attacks and the master minds behind them were a mystery then as they are now.

Due to the timely intervention of Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, in whose diocese the two most serious attacks took place, there was no retaliation against the Muslim population by those who had lost their kith and kin. However, in the weeks that followed, there were mob attacks against the Muslim community in parts of the country that were distant from the bomb attacks. These attacks were not spontaneous but organised and intended to loot Muslim property and cause fear in them. The government, which was under political siege for having failed to prevent the suicide bomb attacks, failed once again to adequately protect the Muslim community.

It is in this context that Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith’s statement on the occasion of the second anniversary of the Easter bombings takes on significance. About two months ago he gave a deadline by which he asked the government to identify who was behind the Easter attacks and the cause for them. The Cardinal has consistently spoken up on the issue of the Easter bombing, first to ask for restraint on the part of the victims, then to ask the government to identify the perpetrators and prior to the elections to take the position that the people needed a government that could protect them. Now he has said that “Our brethren were attacked not by religious extremism, but by a group that exploited it to use the attackers as pawns in order to strengthen their political power.”

MUSLIM OUTREACH

Two years after the Easter bombings in which they were branded as supporters of religious extremism, the Muslim community seeks in many different ways to overcome the suspicion that once engulfed them and which they fear can do so again. The use of the black Islamic dress that was an increasing trend among Muslim women has been much reduced. Muslim organisations are making energetic efforts to network with other religious organisations, join inter-religious groups and to liaise with civil society. They make available to them the Islamic teachings on peace and coexistence. This weekend I was invited to the opening of a community centre in the Kurunegala District by a Muslim organization.

On the walls of the community centre there were panels put up with sayings from the different religions on a number of important matters, such as how to treat others, and the role of spiritual values in everyday life. The foremost place at the opening ceremony was given to Buddhist monks who had come to attend the ceremony along with government officials and police officers. The monks who spoke said that the Muslim community living in the village had good relations with the Sinhalese living in the neighbouring villages, and this had continued for generations. Another monk said that after the Easter bombings they had heard there were violent gangs heading in the direction of the Muslim village, they had come there to ensure no harm would befall those people.

In this context, the announcement that the government will ban 11 Muslim organisations sends a negative message to the country at large about the Muslim community. It creates an impression that Muslims organisations are under suspicion and possibly even close to performing acts of violence which necessitates them being banned. Of the 11 banned organisations, two are foreign ones, the Islamic State and Al Qaeda which have been reported internationally as engaging in violence. However, the other nine are Sri Lankan organisations which do not have a track record of violence or illegality. Four of them have the name “Thowheed” in them, which in the Arabic language means “faith.”

 

DIFFERENT TREATMENT

The ban on these Thowheed organisations may be due to the fact that the leader of the suicide squad, Zahran, was part of an organisation that had the name “Thowheed” in it. The ban on them may also be due to the fact that the Commission of Inquiry into the Easter bombings recommended such action against them. However, the Commission also recommended that other non-Muslim organisations be banned which has not happened. This suggests that the Muslim organisations are being treated differently. The danger is that when it treats organisations differently, the government may be generating resentment in the Muslim community, especially the youth. If the words of Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith are correct, the problem lies not in Muslim extremism but in partisan power politics.

Sri Lanka has experienced Sinhalese youth insurrections twice and even the Tamil militant movement was started by youth, who were once called “the boys.” Perhaps in anticipation of such a radicalisation phenomenon, the government has recently passed an add-on called the “De-radicalisation from holding violent extremist religious ideology” to the Prevention of Terrorism Act. This will permit people who fall into its ambit to be send to rehabilitation centres for up to two years without trial. This may provide the government with an opportunity to release up to 250 Muslim citizens currently under detention on suspicion of being involved in the Easter bombings and send them for rehabilitation. On the other hand, this regulation may be used in the future in regard to other persons and other groups. The better way to prevent radicalization is to make people feel that the law is even-handed to all, and also to encourage engagement between communities.

During the discussion that took place at the opening of the community centre in Kurunegala, it was noted that the younger generation had fewer inter-community linkages than those of older generations. This may be due to the changing nature of society and the economy where people spend less time with other people and more time with machines or doing narrow and specialised jobs. In multi-ethnic and multi-religious societies in which there is conflictual relations, the tendency on the part of those from different communities will be to live in their own silos rather than interact with those of other communities. Living in peace in plural societies requires purposeful and energetic interaction which is organised. Where there has been ethnic and religious strife the world over, the better answer has been to provide people with encouragement and incentives to mix together, which is what the Muslim organization in Kurunegala was trying to do.

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TNGlive…a boon to artistes affected by the pandemic

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No doubt, Covid-19 has ruined the entertainment industry, throughout the world.

Entertainment venues have been shut down, concerts cancelled…and musicians are finding the going pretty tough.

However, it’s heartening to know that there are performers who find solace in keeping the public entertained, via online performances.

In this instance, those responsible for TNGlive must be congratulated for creating this platform, on social media, in order to give lots of folks, from around the globe, the opportunity to showcase their talent, on a regular basis.

Quite a few Sri Lankans have been featured on TNGlive, including Melantha Perera, Suzi Croner (Fluckiger), Sureshni Wanigasuriya, Yasmin de Silva, and Kay Jay Gunesekere,

Suzi did this scene twice, and on both occasions her performance was highly rated, with bouquets galore coming her way…on social media.

On Saturday, April 10th, she was featured (8.00 pm Sri Lankan time) doing songs from the country and western catalogue.

It was a very entertaining programme, which also contained some dance scenes (line dancing) from the audience present, in her living room – her friends.

Her repertoire included ‘Joline, ‘Me And Bobby McGee, “Johnny B. Goode,’ ‘Blue By You,’ ‘Okie From Muskogee,’ ‘Tennessee Waltz,’ ‘Rose Garden,’ ‘Mississippi’ and ‘Cotton Eyed Joe.’

Suzi is to make her third appearance, on TNGlive, shortly, but this time it won’t be a solo effort, she says.

“For variety, I would be having a guy from the Philippines, and he sings the hit songs of Tom Jones and Engelbert.”

So get ready for another special from Suzi, who now resides in Switzerland.

Suzi was the frontline vocalist for the group Friends who were, at that point in time, top of the pops!

Another artiste who impressed viewers, performing on TNGlive, with his daughter, was Nigel Gerrard John Galway.

Nigel is from India, and has been a Chef for the last 23 years, with 12 years spent at the Oberoi hotels. He was also an executive Sous Chef at Taj, in Coimbatore.

In fact, Allwyn Stephen, TNGlive chief, referred to Nigel as…probably the first Singing/Dancing Chef in the world!

He, and his 18-year-old daughter, Lean Pamela Mary, did get the attention of many, with their unique style of presentation; while Nigel handled the vocals, Lean, using only gestures, expression, and movements, brought out the meaning of the lyrics in most of the songs her dad did. And, she did it beautifully.

Yes, she also did exercise her vocal cords, on this particular programme

Says Nigel: “We come from a family of musicians, but we attempted singing, only during the pandemic, on various social media groups, and we did so only because we were all stuck at home.

“We joined TNGlive, through a friend, and have been performing ever since. The love and support we received from people around only encouraged us to keep growing and now we have a page of our own called THE SINGING CHEF.”

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Heard at the club

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Part II

A member reminisced an incident that happened long years ago, during those peaceful times when terrorism was unheard of. He had been driving his car, on the Deniyaya Road, when about six miles from Galle, he saw a village in a state of panic. So he stopped his car near the village boutique and asked the mudalali what was happening? The mudalali had said that the self-opinionated ‘mudliyar’ of the village (a court interpreter) had organised a ‘dane’ (an alms giving) and was awaiting the procession of monks, complete with drummers, from the temple. And, seeing it coming over the paddy fields which was a short cut, instead of the village road as show off, put him in a paddy, and he had chased the monks away. So the monks had gone back to the temple. As the meal time deadline for monks was fast approaching, the villagers brought the meals they had cooked in their homes, to serve the monks! That was the panic.

He was an unpopular villager who rose to a high position in the public service with political influence. Cussed by nature, he used his official position to harass villagers. When he met with an untimely death and, right at the moment the coffin was taken to the hearse, the whole village reverberated with the sound of fire crackers, organised by the irate villagers.

****

Once a terrible post office blunder very nearly wrecked a marriage. A certain sales rep sometimes sold his wares on credit. One such creditor was the owner of a shop named ‘Chandra Cafe’ who was slack in his payments. So the sales rep sent him a telegram that he would be coming to collect his dues, next Monday. On receipt, the owner of Chandra Cafe telegraphed the rep asking him not to come on Monday and the telegram received by him read, ‘Do not come on Monday – Chandra K.P.’ And when the rep’s wife read the telegram there was some misunderstanding at home which nearly rocked his marriage.

****

This reminded us of another telegram. An army officer was to go back to camp by the night mail. When he arrived at the railway station, he found a lady in an advanced state of pregnancy, almost in tears, because no berths were available. Gallantly the officer offered her his berth and, at the nearest post office, sent a telegram to his commanding officer saying ‘Unable to return tomorrow as ordered. Gave berth to lady. Arriving tomorrow evening.’

Obviously, the vital word ‘berth’ had been misspelt as ‘birth’, for the gallant officer received this reply from his commanding officer, ‘Your next confinement will be to barracks’.

****

A philanthropist donated a building to his old school. An opening ceremony was held with a VVIP as the chief guest. A group photograph was also taken. As the donor was keen to get this photograph published in the newspapers without delay, he sent the local correspondent in his limousine to Colombo. He met the editor who happened to be an old boy of the same school. After a look at the photograph, he folded it in such away to eliminate the principal and sent it for publication. The editor seemed to have an axe to grind with the principal!

****

It was in the early 60s and I was on my way to the club in the evening, when I met a friend near the club. With him was another, I invited them both to the club and after a few drinks we were headed out of the club, when near the gate, my friend pulled me aside and said that his friend was going for some trade union work to Hambantota and was short of funds. I told him that he should have told me that before I paid the club bill and also told him I had only Rs.18.00 which I gave. This trade union leader was non other than Rohana Wijeweera, who was to become JVP leader.

****

It was towards the end of the 1980s and a club member, a tea factory owner was on his way home all alone in his car, at the break of down, after finishing his factory work. He had to travel 12 miles. After about five miles, he saw a youth profusely bleeding with injuries, coming down a hill. The good Samaritan that he was, he took him in his car to the hospital. On the way, the police took him and the injured youth into custody for terrorist activities. Fortunately for him, Major-General Lucky Wijeratna, who was a classmate of his at school, was there to save him.

 

****

This happened several decades ago. There was a certain popular elderly club member, who was a wealthy businessman and drank nothing but whisky. That day when he came to the club, he seemed to have lost his bearings. He told his friends that he was going to donate all his wealth to the Home for Disabled Children which was close to his house, because his only child, a daughter, had eloped. His friends prevailed on him to defer his decision for a few months. About a year or so later, he came to the club one evening carrying a big flask in his hand. He said that it was for his errant daughter who has now reconciled, adding that he was a grandfather now!

****

A busy garage was located in a residential area and it was open day and night. To highlight their services, they put up an impressive signboard, ‘We never sleep’. The following day a prankster had written below it ‘and neither do the neighbours’.

During the day of insanity – 29th July 1987, the Open University at Matara was burnt down and the Ruhunu University remained closed. A wall poster came up. It read: ‘Close the Open University’ and ‘Open the closed University’.

****

A young teacher, met a young man at the Dehiwala Zoological Gardens. Although their native villages were far apart, they

became close friends and planned to get married in the near future. He posed as a private bus owner. One day on a visit to his fiancée, he stayed the night over and muttered in his sleep, “Borella – Battaramulla! Borella – Battaramulla!” This aroused serious suspicions about his identity. So a few days later, her parents came to the Borella junction, to see him in a sarong loading passengers to private buses as a ‘bus crier’. And the love story ended right there.

****

A long time ago a wealthy industrialist, a popular member of the club, was having his drink in a secluded corner of the club, most unlike him. He appeared to be quite agitated. Some concerned friends asked him what happened. He said that his only daughter (he also had a son) had married a man of her choice adding that his wife was in favour of the marriage. The daughter he said, was 22 years old. His friends told him that at that age, she was entitled to choose her partner in life and appealed to him to take things easy as his wife too approved of the marriage. After about a year or so, a friend visited him. Proudly pointing out a large multiple storey house in his sprawling garden, he had said that it was built by his son-in-law.

****

A certain member served abroad for many years. One morning he come back to his native Galle in a hired helicopter. That evening he came to the club and ordered a case of beer for his friends!

****

Several years ago, a member had gone to the Galle Post Office to send a telegram to a close relative. He was informed by the postal authorities that there was a breakdown in the telegraphic services and that it was unlikely that his message, about a bereavement in the friend’s family, would reach his relative in time. They advised our friend to telephone someone in the area where his relative lived and to get the message delivered orally. Those were the days when only a few had telephones. As the member did not know anyone in that area with a telephone, he thought of S. Jayasinghe, known as Mr. S, who was not know to him personally and who was a Junior Minister residing in the area where our friend’s relative lived.

When our friend telephoned him from the post office, he had just got into his car to go somewhere. Soon after he was speaking to our friend over the phone as if he was talking to an old friend. He also told our friend that he was about to go to the site where he was building a new house. Our friend then gave him the message and appealed to him to get it delivered. The rest of the story was told to our friend by his relative who had said that during a heavy shower of rain, he found a car near his gate and that when he went up to the car he recognized him to be the Junior Minister. Like my friend, he did not personally know the Junior Minister. Instead of giving the message then and there, he had got off the car and had gone to our friend’s house and not only given the message but also consoled him by talking to him for a few minutes.

****

It was in the late 1980s, at the height of the insurrection, that this member was travelling all alone to Galle in his jeep. He was going through the Kottawa Forest which was famous at the time for tyre pyres. The Navy had stopped his vehicle and asked him to take a young man who was injured in a motorcycle accident, to the Galle Hospital, about eight miles away. The young man was bleeding profusely. He got him admitted to the hospital but our friend was forced to stay there for a long length of time, culminating in his having to give his consent for a surgical operation on the injured, whom he had never seen before. Alas! The purpose of his visit to Galle was lost.

****

A member had two sons, twins aged three years. As they fell ill, he channelled a specialist doctor who examined one twin and refused to examine the other, as an appointment was not made for him. So our friend had the other twin channelled as well. Certainly, it was no personification of Hippocrates!

****

A popular elderly member used to come to the club only on his pay day to keep himself warm. He worked at ‘Sathosa’ (C.W.E). The younger members would then tell him that he is very fortunate to work in a historic establishment like ‘Sathosa’ which is also referred to in Guttila Kavya (an epic) thus:

‘Sara Salelu Jana Sathose.’

Highly elated he would order a round of drinks, adding ‘Surapana karathi mese’.

****

This happened many decades ago. A member who was an inveterate gambler once lost heavily at the card table and mortgaged his expensive wrist watch. A member who was not well disposed towards him had sent a post card to his wife informing her that her husband sold his watch to gamble. He also had a 15-acre well-maintained tea estate which he had to sell when his gambles failed.

****

This story was related by a member and is about the ‘kings’ in the planting circles. A planter in the coconut belt of the North Western Province who owned acres of coconut, once named himself ‘King Coconut’. He argued that if a planter in the Kalutara District who owned vast acres of rubber could be referred to as a ‘Rubber King’ why shouldn’t he be called ‘King Coconut’.

****

One day a member related a story, which is hard to believe. A teacher who served in an uncongenial station, in his quest for higher knowledge, had studied for an external degree at a university. And he passed the examination with flying colours, obtaining first class honours and was highly commended by the university authorities for his brilliance, while serving in a different area. He had confided to his friends that his success at the exam was due to the gift of seeing all the question papers in a dream, before the examination!

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