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Charles Stanley Braine (1874-1944) – the Rajah of Mawatte




The e-mail, with the question “Are you a Ceylon Braine?”, arrived out of the blue when I lived in Hong Kong. The writer – I’ll call her Susan – had found me on the Internet. She went onto detail some family history, and claimed that, because she and I shared great, great grandparents, we were third cousins. Family, history had been an interest since she was 10 years old. She had inherited a collection of family documents and a photo album, and also found family documents from research in the UK. She mentioned that both my great, great grandfather and great grandfather had been planters in Ceylon.

This came as a huge surprise. Not having delved into family history, I was under the impression that my grandfather was the first Braine to arrive in Ceylon. Instead, from Susan’s information, I realized that my English roots went back at least five generations in Ceylon.

From older relatives – my father and his eight siblings – I had never heard of a great grandfather, let alone a great, great grandfather. My English grandfather, Charles Stanley Braine, had passed away six years before I was born, and his photo hung at my grandmother’s house at Boralessa, in the Lunuwila area. My father and his siblings talked fondly about “daddy”, but never about a “grandpa”.

Family photos and documents were scattered among my uncles and aunts. When most of them emigrated to the UK and Australia starting in 1963, these photos and documents were gone with them. But, over the years, with the help of Susan and a friend in London, and my travels during which I visited far flung relatives, I have collected old photos and documents, and pieced together family history. More historical documents are coming online, and ancestry websites are in business, and that, too, has helped.

Charles Stanley Braine

Charles Stanley was born in Ceylon on 25 December 1874. He was the eldest son of Charles Frederick Braine and Adeline Mary Becher, who had married in London earlier that year.

Like his father, uncles, and grandfather, Charles Stanley took to planting, starting at East Holyrood Estate, Talawakelle, in 1898, at the age of 24. After six years at this tea plantation, he moved to Mawatte Estate, a coconut plantation in the hot and humid north western province, in 1904. The reason for his move from the lush and salubrious hill country to the hot and humid NWP is not known.

After switching to nearby Yakwila Estate for brief periods, he finally returned to Mawatte Estate in 1914, and continued there for 30 more years. Though coconut plantations, Mawatte and Yakwila were owned by Ceylon Tea Plantations Co. Ltd. As on tea and rubber plantations, most workers on these coconut estates were Tamils who had been brought from South India. Hence, Tamil was the lingua franca and Charles Stanley spoke Tamil. The workers called him “Rajah”, which meant king.

About 550 acres in extent, Mawatte Estate also had a fiber mill, a copra kiln, an office, a spacious bungalow for the manager, quarters for staff members and line rooms for the workers, and a network of gravel roads. The estate owned two barges (called “padda boats”) to transport copra to Colombo. The barges were moored on the nearby Hamilton Canal, and double-bullock carts transported the copra from the estate to the barges, which took 10 hours to reach Colombo. On the return journey, they brought groceries for the estate workers.

Perhaps around 1907, Charles Stanley, who was unmarried, began a liaison with a Sinhalese worker at the estate’s fiber mill, named Engracia Nonis. She was a resident of Boralessa village, only a couple of miles from Mawatte Estate. They came from very different backgrounds, he from a line of English planters, who as the colonial rulers of Ceylon had immense power and influence, and she from a poor family. She did not speak English, and he did not speak Sinhala. They spoke to each other in Tamil.

Such liaisons were not uncommon, especially on lonely hill country estates. Because they were taboo and frowned upon by other Europeans, they were carried on surreptitiously, and the women and the resulting children were not always acknowledged. Charles Stanley’s liaison was no secret, because he invited Engracia to reside in his bungalow, and when the children began to arrive, accepted paternity. But, his widowed mother was living in Ceylon, at Nuwara-Eliya, and his siblings were also in Ceylon. We do not know how his family reacted to Charles Stanley’s interracial, common law marriage.

Their eldest child Roselind was born in June 1909, and Charles Stanley’s mother left Ceylon two months later.

Charles Stanley and Engracia had nine children, six girls and three boys. The daughters were Roselind, Lucy, Amy, Alice, Katherine, and Bridget. George, Benjamin, and Theobald (Teddy) were the sons.

Engracia and the children were provided with cars at a time when they were a rarity. The first was a limited edition Galloway, followed by a Morris Isis Six, a 6-cylinder model. They later owned a Hillman Minx, and a smaller Austin 7 (“baby” Austin). Two drivers, Liyander and Marshall, were employed.

Charles Stanley bought a 50-acre property in nearby Dankotuwa, which he named “Greenwood”, for his wife and children. He built a large house, “Stanlodge” at Negombo, the nearest town, so that his children could attend school there. He also bought about 6-acres of land at Boralessa, expanding “The Meet” holding. Most interestingly, he built a pond so that his children and their friends could swim and enjoy themselves. The pond still exists.

By all accounts, Charles Stanley was a loving father, affectionate and generous to his large brood. He built a spacious house at Boralessa, named “The Meet”, where Engracia and the children resided most of the time. Engracia had relatives in the village who helped her to bring up the children and manage the household. During school holidays, she and the children stayed at Mawatte Estate.

For the family, perhaps the most memorable time was Christmas, because it was also Charles Stanley’s birthday. He would order baskets of flowers and fruits from the hill country where his brother, superintendent of Penyland Estate, Dolosbage, lived. M.P. Gomes & Co. of Negombo, the only merchant dealing in foreign groceries in the area, was instructed to give Engracia everything she and the children needed for Christmas. “The Meet” was filled with presents, bon-bons, balloons, and a Christmas tree. After returning from midnight mass, the children would go to Mawatte Estate to wish Charles Stanley a happy birthday.

They also held a Christmas party for the villagers at “The Meet”. Sweets were served, the women played the “rabana” – a large, horizontally placed communal drum – firecrackers were lit, festive games were played, and gifts distributed to the children from a Christmas tree.

My father Teddy, the youngest child, fondly recalled life at Mawatte Estate with “daddy”. The bungalow had a lovely garden with flowers and fruit trees.

Meals were served at a vast dining hall with a long table, the “Appu” (butler) at hand serving. At night, the bungalow was lit by Petromax and kerosene lamps, there being no electricity at the time. There was no radio either, and music was played on the gramophone. On warm days, during meals, the Appu would stand at the end of the dining hall and pull a rope which was connected to a large canvas cloth (“punkah”) hung above the table to cool the diners.

Though an Anglican, Charles Stanley associated with the local Catholic clergy and was a benefactor, mainly because Engracia was a devout Catholic. All the children were baptized Catholics. As the family grew, much pressure was brought upon Charles Stanley by Catholic clergy to formalize their relationship. Perhaps due to the influence of other British planters, and also of his family, he dithered. He eventually relented, and Charles Stanley and Engracia were married at a Catholic church on 24 May 1924. Both attesting witnesses were Catholic nuns, which is telling: Sr. Mary of St. Solange and Sr. Mary of St. Antony. 

Shipping records show that, over the years, Charles Stanley took a number of trips to the UK. He traveled alone.

For his travels around the Mawatte Estate, Charles Stanley used a single-bullock drawn cart called a hackery. These carts were fast on short trips. Going downhill one day, the bull panicked, the carter lost control, and the hackery overturned. Charles Stanley was thrown some distance and suffered serious injury.

After hospitalization, he chose Negombo, a seaside town, for his recuperation. Although he owned a house (“Stanlodge”) close to the beach, he chose to stay with a Mr. Grenier who ran a boardinghouse for the English. “Stanlodge” was already occupied by some of his children. Three of his daughters and a son were married by then.

This was wartime, and British troops were stationed in Negombo, so Charles Stanley had opportunities for interactions with his countrymen. My father Teddy who was schooling at Negombo recalled cycling over to visit his father.

Charles Stanley’s last days were spent in a wheelchair, and he passed away on February 11, 1944. Contemplating his end, he wrote to daughter Alice, saying “I hate the sight of people in black” and asking his family to dress in white at his “simple, no flowers” funeral.

His end was not peaceful (but that’s another story) and he was buried at the Anglican section of Negombo’s general cemetery. Charles Stanley was 70 years old.

Engracia lived on for 32 years. She was sweet and affectionate and often talked about her husband. As a fifth generation Braine, I have a home, “Pondside”, at Boralessa. Grandmother Engracia’s relatives, the Nonises, still live in the village.

Sinnaiah Remembers

A few years ago, I was told about an elderly man who lived at Mawatte Estate, who still remembered Charles Stanley, a full 70 years after the latter had passed away.

Sinnaiah was 90 when we met five years ago. He had grown up on Mawatte Estate, privileged because his father was the head “kangany” (field supervisor). Sinnaiah says Charles Stanley took a liking to him, allowed him to hang around the estate bungalow, and occasionally took him along on short journeys. He has been to “Stanlodge” in Negombo, the “Greenwood” property, and “The Meet” at Boralessa many times. 

Sinnaiah also recalls the morning routine on the estate. The workers would line up outside the office early morning for the roster, when their attendance was recorded and were allocated to various tasks on the estate. The fiber mill had its own workers. Coconuts were husked, split in two before being sun dried and smoked in the copra kiln. The children gorged on “pelapihi”, the snow-white sweet pulp within sprouting coconuts.

Once a week, Charles Stanley took the train to Colombo to bring money to pay the workers. On Saturday, at noon, the workers lined-up at the office. The salaries were paid in gold coins, known as “sovereigns” (worth about Rs. 12/ at that time) and silver coins. The coins were counted and arranged in piles on a table in the office. When their names were called, the workers had to sign a “pay sheet” before collecting their salary. Many workers were illiterate, and placed their thumbmark on the pay sheet instead of a signature.

The bungalow was large, with a wide verandah, and hanging lamps in every room. Charles Stanley loved his bath, so water had to be heated and the bath tub filled manually. He loved dogs, and always had fox terriers. English planters from nearby estates would visit and stay for drinks and dinner, and the sound of laughter could be heard late into the night.

Charles Stanley was a benevolent manager. Sinnaiah says he had a “big heart” and looked into the welfare of his workers. He provided free lunch to all the children on the estate, and when workers were ill, sent them to the Dankotuwa hospital with a note to the doctor.

Sinnaiah remembers the hackery that Charles Stanley rode. It was pulled by a tall white bull, and the carter’s name was Antony. Charles Stanley was badly injured in the accident when the cart overturned, and was carried to the bungalow. When word of the accident spread, the workers rushed to the bungalow and crowded around his bed, wailing “Rajah, Rajah” and beating their breasts.

Charles Stanley was the son and grandson of planters. Planting, and the smooth management of a large work force, ran in his blood. He won the hearts of his workers.

Nearly 80 years after his death, “Stanlodge”, “Greenwood”, and “The Meet” are no more. Mawatte Estate, plundered by employees and politicians, partially divided among the landless, is barely half its original size. The large bungalow has been demolished and replaced by a shabby, smaller one. The fiber mill is gone.

If Charles Stanley Braine was to return today, he would be heartbroken.

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Sat Mag

Notes on a not-so radical class



By Uditha Devapriya

A little over a year ago, Devani Jayathilaka, the Gampaha Division Wildlife Officer now on a crusade against the government, stood up to a State Minister and got away with it. Objecting to Sanath Nishantha’s proposal to build a children’s playground on forest land, she stood her ground even as the Minister and his acolytes attempted to intimidate her.

Videos of Devani retorting to Nishantha and those acolytes gained supporters across social media. Public opinion being very much with her, the government quickly began feting her: Bandula Gunawardena said that the Cabinet took her side, and S. M. Chandrasena regretted the incident while half-heartedly exonerating the Minister.

Devani Jayathilaka’s courage was seen at the time as a symptom of the President’s resolve to make the bureaucracy more independent and efficient, free of bias and politicisation. As such, supporters of the government jumped on the bandwagon. The Daily News dedicated an entire editorial to her, calling her “the toast of all environmentalists, nature lovers and generally all those who cherish our country’s legal and constitutional integrity.” Hopefully, the laudatory piece concluded, “this signal act… will be a beacon to others in the public service to do their bit in fulfilling their public duty while resisting the pressures of politicians.” The subtext was unmistakably clear: the President’s reformism had empowered the officer’s activism.

A year later, and here we are: the premature love affair aborted, the feeling of celebration dampened. Yet could one have expected otherwise? At no point here in living memory have environmental concerns permeated every layer of society, from Colombo’s civil society to Sinhala nationalist outfits, as they are now. A broad conjuncture of oppositional forces, some drawn from organisations that fuelled the ideology which brought the government to power (such as the Sinhale movement), has pitted itself against that government’s apathy over the environment, while social media continues to enthrone activists: environmentalists and state officials. The President’s men, meanwhile, seem to be resorting to a policy of either ignoring or retorting to these voices. In both cases, it’s the government that has lost out.

It is hard not to side with the activists. They have a point: no regime has engaged properly with the environment. Between 2017 and 2019, forest cover reduced from 29.7% to 16.5%. It was the yahapalana government, remnants of which are tweeting against the present regime’s environmental record now, that held

the reins of power then. Yet the administration before it was no different: in 2012, to give just one example, roughly 1,585 hectares of primary forest land were lost, the biggest annual loss in a decade. The numbers for 2020 and 2021 have not been released yet, but there’s no doubting they are as big as, if not bigger than, these figures; according to the Rain Forest Protectors of Sri Lanka, forest cover stands at 17%, above what it was in 2019, but well below the 30% promised by the president.

The politics of the campaigns against the government, however, goes well beyond a simple dichotomy between political representatives and wildlife activists. Frustratingly enough, it’s not easy to put a finger on the dynamics of these protests, to draw a line between protagonists and antagonists within them, not least of all because a simple twofold division – government versus us – has been replaced by a threefold one in them: the government (high level officials included) on one side, activists and officials on another, and us on yet another.

Led by a mostly Sinhala and Buddhist lower middle-class, including the clergy (no less than the Sinhala Ravaya), these campaigns, which have mobilised activists and officials, appear to have unearthed a rather interesting contradiction from within that middle-class: a distrust of political representatives, and an ambivalent attitude towards lower level officials. To identify this contradiction for what it is, and explore it, is not easy: that requires research, the mettle of an anthropologist or ethnographer, and I am neither. Yet from what little I have been able to gather, it appears that this recent spurt of activism has facilitated a shift in the character of anti-state activism, particularly in its class composition. How so?

Devani’s message resonates profoundly with a section of the country’s upward aspiring middle-class, educated mostly in Sinhala but idealising a better life: one to which they feel both government representatives and private interests are obstacles.

They hold contrasting views regarding the state. As far as the government proper – Ministers plus high level officials – is concerned, they are against it. It’s a different story with officials, not least because of the latter a great many hail from the milieu they do: Sinhala educated and upward aspiring. This is the demographic Patali Champika Ranawaka is targeting through his “43 Senankaya”, a demographic parties have not tried to court until fairly recently.

What explains their relationship with the state? Regarding government representatives, their opposition is easy to rationalise: most of these representatives are seen to have risen to where they are now by foul means, not fair. That irks an educated middle-class bereft of political or economic power; simply put, they feel hard done by, left out, unrepresented.

Such feelings of distrust cut through parties; indeed, a defining characteristic of the middle-class is the absence of a unifying political ideology. Any Opposition which believes that by coming to power on the strength of their convictions it can expect support from them forever is therefore walking on water, for this lower middle-class happens to be adamantly protean. It is their protean character, incidentally, that explains their response to state officials.

Their view of the latter is borne out by two main considerations: that they hail from the same class background, and that, since of late, these officials have taken up arms against political authorities, a group whose actions are seen as burdening the lower middle-class.

Indeed, far from berating officials like they berate political authorities, the lower middle-class rebelling against the regime share a desire to enter the bureaucracy as either professionals or administrators, though through education attainment, and not political backing. This desire is essentially a retread of the demand made by unemployed graduates: they want to fill a post in a state institution as soon as they leave university. Under Gotabaya Rajapaka their integration into the bureaucracy has been remarkably rapid: by September last year, for instance, around 60,000 graduates had been absorbed into the Public Service, as part of his “Rata Wenuwen Weda” programme. Yet even this rather modest realisation of lower middle-class aspirations has failed to dampen, or stunt, lower middle-class opposition to his government.

To sum up, what we are seeing here is a division between state officials, assumed to have entered the government through merit, and political representatives, assumed to have entered it through influence. That Devani Jayathilaka continues to be idealised by this class therefore points at the consolidation of a uniquely petty bourgeois consciousness, which at once aspires upward in the bureaucracy, and pits itself against the government overseeing the bureaucracy. Gravitating to meritocratic ideals, they have become a huge floating electorate.

This raises another point: their disavowal of party politics. Let’s not mistake karawala for mallum here, however; the line this milieu touts, that they lack party ideology, should not mislead one into thinking that they can’t be co-opted into any party ideology. For those who believe that a non-political middle-class rebelling against an elected government, even one infringing every other norm in the book, is incapable of political manoeuvring, the case of Anna Hazare offers a counterargument: opposed to political groups, what Hazare achieved in the end was an electoral landslide for just such a group, Narendra Modi’s BJP.

By no means am I saying that Anna Hazare was/is to India what officials crusading against political representatives are/will be to Sri Lanka. Yet not unlike Hazare, these officials have given what little of an Opposition that’s there in the country some much needed ammunition (with which to topple the government). Far from welcoming such a state of affairs, I see two problems with this: the lack of a proper policy on the environment from the Opposition (apart from a few perfunctory protests), and the risk of letting what environmentalists are combating continue under a future administration led by that Opposition. As environmentalists and Left activists have pointed out only too clearly, much of what is being protested against, including the Sinharaja debacle, can be traced back to the yahapalana period. How wise would it be to trust the party that held the cards then so much as to return them to power now?

To these two problems one can add a third: the contradiction between the social conditioning and the activism of the middle-class. That contradiction translates itself into another: between political ideals that pit this middle-class against political authority, and social aspirations that orient them towards personal achievement in education and employment.

One can ask why this is a problem, why it’s so problematic. In matters of political concern, so the idealists say, personal matters are of no relevance.

But that’s precisely the issue. How pertinent are one’s personal aspirations to one’s political inclinations? Not pertinent, some would say; pretty pertinent, in my book.

That leads us to a crucial issue, the most important to crop up from what we’re seeing today: the extent to which those leading the protests are willing to own up to how class aspirations, and not just state complicity, have contributed to environmental degradation.

Let me reduce this to a simple query: how much do you attribute everything wrong with the environment to the government’s doing and non-doing, and how much do you attribute it to, say, our propensity to import, a major factor in environmental degradation?

To be fair, of course, it’s not only imports. The truth is that degradation of the environment is linked inextricably to an economic model rooted in consumerism and urbanisation.

But that merely reinforces my point: consumerism is promoted by the private sector, and urbanisation by the public, because both have an audience: the same middle-class blaming the government for what’s happening to our forests, our rivers, our way of life.

To restate this as simply as I can, then, the problems of environmental degradation today are the result of a decades-long experiment with capitalism and neoliberalism that has failed. The crisis is thus a crisis of a consumerist and exploitative model based on a capitalist framework. Now no critique of what is happening to our forests can evolve without taking this model into consideration. As perhaps its biggest beneficiaries, the middle-class must hence recognise the need to formulate an alternative model to it, in line with their activist inclinations.

However, in continuing to ignore if not marginalise this need, those taking the government to task over the environment are offering an inadequate response, radical enough to question the regime for its failings, yet not radical enough to question our embracement of an acquisitive, consumption-led economic model that has contributed to the quagmire we are in. Now I hate gazing into crystal balls, but if this is what will continue in the future, then these protests, no matter how laudable, will someday, somehow, fizzle out. That would be a pity.

The writer can be reached at

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Sat Mag




Our world needs transformational change, and it is time for us, those of the present generation to hold ourselves accountable for our role in the environmental crisis while also calling for bold, creative, and innovative solutions. This year marks the 51st anniversary of Earth Day and this Webinar is designed to commemorate the occasion and to support the worldwide efforts to conserve and revitalize the environment of the blue planet that is our home. If we are to succeed, we must listen to the children who will link hands from around the world during this webinar and voice their concerns and ideas to preserve a pristine environment for their generation.

This is the 17th of a series of virtual zoom panel discussions hosted by the America-Sri Lanka Photographic Art Society in Los Angeles California, USA (ASPAS); Member of Photographic Society of America (PSA) and The International Federation of Photography of Art in France (FIAP). The objective of the series is to showcase the beauty of world fauna and flora and promote environmental conservation in the context of nature photography and tourism, with a special focus on the grandeur of Sri Lanka’s natural habitat. The upcoming programme will commemorate World Earth Day 2021.

At a previous ASPAS Webinar, Dr. Peter H. Sand, former Secretary-General of ICUN, stated, “Pandemics, such as coronavirus, are the result of humanity’s destruction of nature, the illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade, as well as the devastation of forests and other wild places, are the driving force behind the increasing number of diseases leaping from wildlife to humans.” The ASPAS Webinars are intended to offer a platform to discuss a more balanced relationship with these ecosystems and the tools that can help us reach this objective, so that future generations can continue to enjoy and benefit from them sustainably and responsibly.

Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970 which gave voice to an emerging public consciousness about the state of our planet. Our planet is an amazing place, but it needs our help to thrive! That is why each year on April 22, more than a billion people celebrate Earth Day to protect the planet from pollution and deforestation and environment related issues. By taking part in activities like picking up litter and planting trees, we are making our world a happier, healthier place to live.

In the decades leading up to the first Earth Day, the world was consuming vast amounts of leaded gas through massive and inefficient automobiles. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of the consequences from either the law or the press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. Until this point, the world remained largely oblivious to environmental concerns and how a polluted environment threatens human health. Since, the great challenge for the environmental community is to combat the cynicism of climate change deniers, well-funded oil lobbyists, reticent policy makers, and a disinterested public. In the face of these challenges, Earth Day prevailed and established itself as a major movement for global action for the environment.

Over the decades, it has brought hundreds of millions of people into the environmental movement, creating opportunities for civic engagement and volunteers in 193 countries. Earth Day engages more than 1 billion people every year and has become a major steppingstone along the pathway of engagement around the protection of the planet.

Now, the fight for a clean environment continues with increasing urgency, as the ravages of climate change become more and more apparent every day. As the awareness of our climate crisis grows, so does civil society mobilization, which is reaching a fever pitch across the globe today. Digital and social media are bringing these conversations, protests, strikes and mobilizations to a global audience, uniting a concerned citizenry as never before and mobilizing generations to join together to take on the greatest challenge that humankind has faced.

It is quite apparent that the youth of our world should also be engaged in this vital conversation as an absolutely indispensable partner.

Governments have recognized this for decades and many have introduced some level of climate and environmental education into their education systems. But the truth is that impact of climate and environmental education is in some cases week, cursory, and still in many countries non-existent. In the decades since the launch of the global environmental movement, it is estimated that more than 3 billion young people have graduated from high school having learned little or nothing about one of the greatest issues that will shape their lives and their livelihoods for decades to come.

The time is now, indeed it is long overdue, for a massive environmental literacy campaign that can create a generation of citizens, workers and leaders who really understand why and how to stop climate change and environmental degradation, ensuring that every student around the world completes their formal education as an environmental and climate literate citizen. A citizen who is ready to take action and speak up for change and build knowledge and skills for the growing green sector of clean energy, efficient transportation, sustainable business and making themselves competitive for new jobs.

The youth must also equip themselves with the knowledge and skills needed to build a better future and be stewards of this planet. They must learn that to sustain a functional society and economy, natural resources must be used wisely and efficiently while protecting the ecological systems to ensure clean air, clean water, and food security for all.

But just as vitally, we need to equip future generations with the knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm to survive and indeed thrive in the decades to come. And that begins in school. Even world leaders recognized that pivotal role as far back as 30 years, when the countries that forged the original United Nations climate change treaty in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit enshrined climate education as an essential part of a national response to a global emergency.

Educationists believe every school in the world must have compulsory, assessed climate and environmental education with a strong civic engagement component. They have also pointed out that the onus for developing environmental consciousness in youth could not be the sole responsibility of schools as the young people need the help of adult allies. There is a role for everyone, parents, relatives, and society to support youth voices and stand alongside them.

It is in that spirit that the America-Sri Lanka Photohtaphic Art Society Los Angeles, led by its President, Suriya Jayalath Perera, has organized this Webinar to bring together 10 young people from the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and Sri Lanka to voice their concerns and present their ideas on the occasion of Earth Day 2021. Youth from ages six to 18, will address the entire gamut of environmental issues from climate change to plastic pollution. It would be a truly ground-breaking event, and you can be a part of it by virtually joining them on Sunday April 18th, 2021. The webinar will be moderated by Medini Ratnayake.

More Information:

Join us live on Sunday April 18th, at 8.30 P.M. 2021 Nandasiri (Nandi) Jasentuliyana, Former Deputy Director-General, United Nations



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Sat Mag

How to flush cholesterol out of your body



Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in all the cells in your body. Your body needs cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D, and substances that help you digest foods. Your liver makes all the cholesterol you need. The cholesterol in your body that you do not need comes from animal bodies.

If you have more cholesterol in your body than you need, then you are heading for heart disease and heart attacks. A build-up of cholesterol narrows arteries, causing a restriction of blood flow to the heart. Very often a person with high cholesterol levels has no symptoms until he has his first heart attack.

This is even more problematic if you are overweight – which you will be, because the food that causes an increase in cholesterol also increases your weight. Though some cholesterol components are stored in the liver and gallbladder, the main storage area is in fat cells called adipocytes. When you have too much cholesterol, these cells swell up and you gain weight. Too much cholesterol can be caused by eating too much fat or carbohydrates.


There are two types of cholesterol: HDL and LDL

High density lipoprotein (HDL) is good cholesterol which protects you from hearts attacks, and strokes, by mopping up excess bad cholesterol. It takes the cholesterol that you don’t need back to the liver. The liver breaks it down so it can be passed out of your body. LDL is bad cholesterol. This blocks the blood supply and causes strokes and heart attacks. Non-HDL take cholesterol from the liver to the cells around your body. Too much bad cholesterol (non-HDL) can be harmful because it sticks to the inside walls of your arteries. This can lead to fatty material (atheroma) building up – this process is known as atherosclerosis.

Cholesterol is found in animal foods, meat, milk, butter and cheese.

There are only two things that raise cholesterol in the blood: saturated and trans fats.

Saturated fats are found in meats, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods like biscuits and popcorn, margarine, deep-fried, and processed foods, basically junk food.

Trans fats occur in some fried and processed foods, also in junk food.

In adults, total cholesterol levels less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) are considered healthy. 200 – 239 mg/dL is borderline high. 240 mg/dL and above is high. LDL cholesterol levels should be less than 100 mg/dL.

How do you know that your cholesterol levels are high? You usually don’t. There are no typical signs if you have high cholesterol, which is why it is so important to get it checked. It is a hidden risk factor, which means it happens without us knowing until it is too late. Some people get soft, yellowish, growths or lesions on the skin, especially round the eyes, called xanthomas. If you are lucky you develop left-sided chest pain, pressure, or fullness; dizziness; unsteady gait; slurred speech; or pain in the lower legs. Any of these conditions may be associated with high cholesterol.

How do you flush cholesterol out of your body?

Stop eating meat or drinking milk. Avoid ghee, butter and paneer, and seafood like crabs, shrimps and lobsters. Don’t smoke. Exercise. Eat fewer refined grains such as maida. Foods to avoid if you have high cholesterol levels include white bread, white potatoes, and white rice, highly processed sugars. Fried foods should be avoided, as well as foods high in saturated fats.

Eat fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains, every day.

A report from Harvard Health has identified foods that actively decrease cholesterol levels: Oats, barley and whole grains, beans, eggplant and okra, nuts, vegetable oil (canola, sunflower), fruits (mainly apples, grapes, strawberries, and citrus), soy and soy-based foods. Eating just one and one-half cups of cooked oatmeal a day can lower your cholesterol by 5 to 8%. Oatmeal contains soluble and insoluble fibre – two types that your body needs.

In June 2020 a report, led by Imperial College London Majid Ezzati, et al.​ and involving dozens of universities, “Repositioning of the global epicentre of non-optimal cholesterol” ​was published in Nature. It said that while cholesterol levels have declined in high income countries, particularly Europe, since 1980 , they have increased vastly in lower and middle income countries, with Asia, specially Southeast Asia, now being the centre.

The reason for this is the consumption of animal-based foods, refined carbohydrates (maida) and palm oil. In short, the heart attack and stroke risks have been globally repositioned with the shifting of a high cholesterol diet.

A group of nearly 1,000 researchers, from around the world, analysed data from 1,127 studies comprising 102.6 million adults, to assess global trends in cholesterol levels from 1980 to 2018. This is the largest ever study of global cholesterol levels.

Previously cholesterol was considered a problem in high income Western countries.

The report said that Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland (the centre of the milk/meat diet) and Iceland (meat) had shown the steepest declines in cholesterol, going from the highest to the lowest. There has been a sharp drop in LDL cholesterol in the UK, according to the British Heart Foundation.

China, which had the lowest levels of cholesterol in 1980, was among the highest in 2018. India, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand have not covered themselves in glory either.

In 1980 Australian women ranked 32nd highest in the world in cholesterol levels. Today they are 146th . Australian men have fallen from 31st highest to 116th. 

Dr Avula Laxmaiah, National Institute of Nutrition, one of the authors of the research paper, said LDL cholesterol among Indian men ranked 128th in 1980 and remained the same in 2018.  Women are 139th in the global line-up.

Other conditions, that can lead to high cholesterol levels, include diabetes drugs that increase LDL cholesterol and decrease HDL cholesterol, such as progestins, anabolic steroids, and corticosteroids. India is one of the highest users of steroids – not directly, but through these being fed to chicken.

The authors have suggested that each country in Asia set into place prices, and regulatory policies, that shift diets to non-saturated fats. But, at the end of the day it is not prices that will decide – meat/chicken and milk are already expensive but it doesn’t stop you from eating them. You will have to take a personal decision, depending on how much you value your life or the lives of your family.

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