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Didi’s campaign theme song based on Yohani’s ‘Menike Mage Hithe’ Are we patriotic as a nation?



I served as the First Secretary/ Defence Adviser at the Sri Lanka High Commission in New Delhi, India from November 2001 to April 2004. I served under two High Commissioners, namely late Professor Senake Bandaranaike and late Mangala Munasinghe, and two Foreign Ministers, Lakshman Kadirgamar and Tyronne Fernando.

I was occupying a house inside the High Commission complex in Kautilya Marg, Chanakyapuri, in the Diplomatic enclave of New Delhi. Our chief gardener was Perry Ram. He was a very experienced gardener who had served the High Commission for the past 30 years. A very dedicated person, he worked tirelessly to maintain the High Commission premises with beautiful flower beds and flower pots. From February to April, New Delhi looks beautiful with flowers blossoming in mild cold weather. The Sri Lankan High Commission garden looked magnificent during this period, thanks to Ram, who had been to school only up to Fifth Grade, and his two assistants. Our High Commission garden had won the ‘Best Garden in New Delhi’ award three times in the 1990s, thanks to then young Ram. He is old now and the award has been conferred on him for the garden in the residence of the Indian Chief of Air Staff (Indian Air Force Commander).

I had a CD containing Indian patriotic songs presented to me by the then Indian Chief of Naval Staff (Indian Navy Commander). I used to play those songs loud at my residence, because they were beautiful and could be heard even from my garden.

I noticed something unusual when the song ‘Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon’ sung by great Indian singer Lata Mangeshkar was being played. Ram, who was working in the garden, would stop work and stand at attention until the song was over. It is not the Indian National Anthem! Then why did Perry Ram stand at attention? I inquired about this from an Indian Naval officer I was acquainted with. He said, “Ravi, this song was sung by Lataji in honour of the Indian Armed forces personnel who died in the Sino-Indian War in 1962. So, everyone stands at attention when it is sung in honour of those brave service personnel who paid the supreme sacrifice.”

‘Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon’ (available on YouTube, please listen) was written by Kavi Pradeep saddened by the considerable loss of Indian Army personnel in the Sino-Indian War in 1962, accodring to Wikipedia. The bravery and valour of the Indian forces, at stopping the Chinese advance, were heard throughout India. The Indian public was saddened by the supreme sacrifices made by their army.

The inspiration for a new song, which could be dedicated to these gallant men, emerged during lyricist Kavi Pradeep’s morning walks on Mahim beach in Mumbai. He immediately borrowed a pen from a fellow walker and wrote down a few verses of the new song on the back of the foil paper in his cigarette pack.

The initial plan had been to have the song sung, as a duet, by Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle. However, the composer Kavi Pradeep had opposed the idea and it was sung only by Lata Mangeshkar.

The song was first sung, at the National Stadium of New Delhi on January 27, 1963, during the Indian Republic Day celebrations, by Lata Mangeshkar in front of the then Indian President S Radhakrishnan and Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The stadium was filled to capacity and it was only a few months after the end of the Sino-Indian War. The song had become an immediate hit. The story goes that Jawaharlal Nehru’s eyes brimmed with tears. Later, when inquired by a reporter, the PM had said, “Those who don’t feel inspired by ‘Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon’ don’t deserve to be called Hindustani.”

Artistes, technical staff and Mangeshkar agreed to donate the income from the song to the Indian Army welfare fund for the welfare of the families of Indian Army personnel killed in action.

The song received considerable public appreciation and even today, when it is sung, everyone stands at attention. At the end of the song, it says ‘Jaya Hind Ki Sena’ (Long live Indian Army!)

I wish we also had a song dedicated to our war heroes.

At the time of writing, Sri Lankan singing sensation, Yohani Diloka De Silva has set new records with her cover song ‘Manike Mage Hithe’, making a name for Sri Lanka in the world of music.

We military parents are always happy and delighted to see our children do so well in their lives. Her father, Major General Prasanna De Silva (Retired), a much-decorated war hero of our nation, provided leadership to the elite Sri Lanka Army Special Forces during a difficult and most crucial time in history. I can still remember how he came to Trincomalee in a civilian lorry and demanded he be airdropped with his Special Forces troops, when late Colonel Fazly Laphir, the Commanding officer of SF was killed on the battlefield in July 1996. It was a true display of patriotism, valour, bravery and comradeship.

Credit should go to daughter Yohani for inspiring all military children with her achievements.

Her song, dedicated to her father, brings tears to any military father who fought in our conflict against LTTE terrorists. Dear daughter, all our children feared for our safety. I can imagine your fear as a young girl. We wholeheartedly wish you all the success in future endeavours.

Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of Indian State of West Bengal from 2011, of All India Thinamoor Congress, fondly known as ‘Didi’ (elder sister in Bengali) faced a ‘do or die’ battle at the election last week. She defeated the Communist party of India (Marxist) after 34 years. This 66-year-old Iron Lady is from a Bengali Hindu Brahmin family with a basic degree in history, education and law and Masters in Islamic history. She was later honoured with a Doctorate of Literature (D. Litt.) from Calcutta University.

Even though her party won the last State election with a huge majority, she lost her seat Nandigram. Still her party appointed her the Chief Minister. As per Indian Constitution, she should be elected to the State Assembly within six months. Consequently, the Bhabanipur by-election was a ‘must win’ for her to remain Chief Minister. Six days ago, she won the seat with more than 58,300 votes.

What is significant here is that Didi’s campaigners based the election theme song on Yohani’s ‘Manike Mage Hithe’ melody. It was widely broadcast during the by-election campaign and crowds danced to the music and immensely enjoyed it. (Google the YouTube version of the song).

A father-daughter duo had remixed the chartbuster as a tribute for Didi. We are so proud of you Yohani! Do not forget that our ancestors came from West Bengal. Prince Vijaya with his 700 followers in seven ships (circa 543 – 505 BCE) came from Kalingadesha (present day West Bangalore) as per Mahavamsa, historical chronology of our country. In my opinion, your tour of India was to visit our relatives. Do visit West Bengal also in the near future.

Dear Yohani, keep singing and reach greater heights.

Most significant is that all this time you were introduced as ‘General Prasanna De Silva’s daughter’. Now, you have changed it. In the future, your father will be introduced as ‘Yohani’s father’. What a great achievement by a young lady. I wish the same for my own son.

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From a ‘Clash of Civilizations’ to a ‘Dialogue among Civilizations’



A meeting of BRICS leaders

As the world continues to reel from the ‘aftershocks’ as it were of the October 7th Gaza Strip-centred savagery, what it should guard against most is a mood of pessimism and hopelessness. Hopefully, the international community would pull itself together before long and give of its best to further the cause of a political solution in the Middle East.

It is plain to see that what needs to be done most urgently at present is the prolongation of the current ceasefire, besides facilitating a steady exchange of hostages but given the present state of hostilities between the warring sides this would not prove an easy challenge.

Considering that there are no iron-clad guarantees by either side that there would be a longstanding ceasefire followed by a cessation of hostilities, what we have at present in the Middle East is a highly fraught ‘breather’ from the fighting. There are no easy answers to the currently compounded Middle East conflict but the external backers of the warring sides could alleviate the present suffering of the peoples concerned to a degree by bringing steady pressure on the principal antagonists to drastically scale down their hostilities.

If they mean well by the communities concerned, these external backers, such as the US, as regards Israel, and those major Middle Eastern states backing Hamas and other militant groups, would set about creating a conducive climate for a negotiated settlement to the conflict.

De-escalating the supply of lethal military hardware to the warring sides is a vital first step towards this end. External military backing is a key element in the prolongation of the war and a decrease in such support would go some distance in curtailing the agony of the peoples concerned. The onus is on these external parties to prove their good intentions, if they have any.

Meanwhile, major states of the South in increasing numbers are making their voices heard on the principal issues to the conflict. One such grouping is BRICS, which is now featuring among its prospective membership, countries such as Egypt, Ethiopia, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iran. That is, in the foreseeable future BRICS would emerge as a greatly expanded global grouping, which would come to be seen as principally representative of the South.

Since the majority of countries within the BRICS fold are emerging economies, the bloc could be expected to wield tremendous economic and military clout in the present world order. With China and Russia counting among the foremost powers in the grouping, BRICS would be in a position to project itself as an effective counterweight to the West and the G7 bloc.

However, the major challenge before the likes of BRICS is to prove that they will be a boon and not a bane to the poorer countries of the South. They would be challenged to earnestly champion the cause of a just and equitable world political and economic order. Would BRICS, for instance, be equal to such challenges? Hopefully, the commentator would be able to answer this question in the affirmative, going ahead.

The current issues in the Middle East pose a major challenge to BRICS. One of the foremost tasks for BRICS in relation to the Middle East is the formulation of a policy position that is equitable and fair to all the parties to the conflict. The wellbeing of both the Palestinians and the Israelis needs to be staunchly championed.

Thus, BRICS is challenged to be even-handed in its managing of Middle Eastern questions. If the grouping does not do this, it risks turning the Gaza bloodletting, for example, into yet another proxy war front between the East and West.

Nothing constructive would be achieved by BRICS, in that the wellbeing of the peoples concerned would not be served and proxy wars have unerringly been destructive rather constructive in any way. The South could do without any more of these proxy wars and BRICS would need to prove its skeptics wrong on this score.

Accordingly, formations, such as BRICS, that are genuine counterweights to the West are most welcome but their presence in the world system should prove to be of a positive rather than of a negative nature. They need to keep the West in check in the UN system, for example, but they should steer clear of committing the West’s excesses and irregularities.

More specifically, the expanding BRICS should be in a position to curtail the proliferation of identity politics in the present world order. The West has, thus far, failed to achieve this. The seismic convulsions in the Gaza re-establish the pervasive and pernicious presence of identity politics in the world’s war zones, so much so, one could say that US political scientist Samuel Huntingdon is being proved absolutely right in his theorization that world politics over the past 30 years has been essentially a ‘Clash of Civilizations’.

After all, current developments in the Middle East could be construed by the more simple-minded observer as a pitting of Islam against Judaism, although there are many more convoluted strands to the Middle East conflict than a violent clash of these religious identities. More so why the influence of identity politics needs to blunted and eliminated by the right-thinking.

One way in which this could be achieved is the through the steady espousal and practise of former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami’s ‘Dialogue of Civilizations’ theory. While the existence of a ‘Clash of Civilizations’ cannot be denied on account of the pervasive presence of identity politics the world over, the negative effects of this brand of politics could be neutralized through the initiation and speeding-up of a robust dialogue among civilizations or identity groups.

Such an exchange of views or dialogue could prove instrumental in facilitating mutual understanding among cultural and civilizational groups. The consequence could be a reduction in tensions among mutually hostile social groups. Needless to say, the Middle East is rife with destructive politics of this kind.

Accordingly, there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way cultural groups interact with each other. The commonalities among these groups could be enhanced through a constant dialogue process and the Middle East of today opens out these possibilities.

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Their love story in song…



The duo in the company of Dinesh Hemantha and Jananga

It’s certainly encouraging to see Sri Lankan artistes now trying to be creative…where songs are concerned.

Over the past few weeks, we have seen some interesting originals surfacing, with legendary singer/entertainer Sohan Weerasinghe’s ‘Sansare,’ taking the spotlight.

Rubeena Shabnam, Sri Lankan based in Qatar, and Yohan Dole, living in Australia, have teamed up to produce a song about their love life.

‘Adare Sulagin’ is the title of the song and it’s the couple’s very first duet.

Says Rubeena: “This song is all about our love story and is a symbol of our love. It feels like a dream singing with my fiancé.”

Elaborating further, especially as to how they fell in love, Rubeena went on to say that they met via social media, through a common friend of theirs.

The song and video was done in Sri Lanka.

Rubeena and Yohan with lyricist Jananga Vishawajith

“We both travelled to Sri Lanka, in August this year, where we recorded the song and did the video, as well.

‘Adare Sulagin’ was composed by Dinesh Hemantha (DH Wave Studio, in Galle), while the lyrics were penned by Jananga Vishwajith, and the video was handled by Pathmila Ravishan.

It is Dinesh Hemantha’s second composition for Rubeena – the first being ‘Surali.’

“It was an amazing project and it was done beautifully. Talking about the music video, we decided to keep it more simple, and natural, so we decided to capture it at the studio. It was a lot of fun working with them.”

‘Adare Sulagin,’ says Rubeena, is for social media only. “We have not given it for release to any radio or TV station in Sri Lanka.”

However, you could check it out on YouTube: Adare Sulagin – Rubeena Shabnam, ft. Yohan Dole.

Rubeena lives and works in Qatar and she has been in the music industry for almost five years. She has done a few originals but this one, with Yohan, is very special to her, she says.

Yohan Dole resides in Australia and is a guitarist and vocalist.

He has a band called Rhythmix, in Australia, where they play at various events.

He has been doing music for quite a while now but doing an original song was one of his dreams, he says

Rubeena and Yohan plan to get married, in December, and do more music together, in different genres.

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Mathematics examinations or mathematics curriculum?



Some people say that it is not necessary for a Grade 10 student to buy an ordinary scientific calculator because they have smartphones with built-in calculators. If not, it is easy to install a calculator app on mobile phones. A smartphone should not be used as a calculator during a mathematics test or a mathematics exam because it can be used for cheating. In the UK and other developed countries students have to keep their smartphones in their school bags or in their lockers outside the classroom during mathematics tests and exams. 

by Anton Peiris

R. N.A. De Silva has, in a recent article, provided some useful tips to students as regards preparation for mathematics examinations. Trained teachers and graduates with professional qualifications are familiar with this topic.  All mathematics teachers have a duty to help the students with revision.

The more important task is to salvage the Sri Lankan O/Level mathematics students from the abyss that they have fallen into, viz. the implications and the retarding effect of the use of obsolete Log Tables. The Minister of Education, Senior Ministry Officials and the NIA are oblivious to the important and interesting things that have happened in Grades 10 and 11 mathematics in the UK, other parts of Europe, Japan, Canada, China and elsewhere. They have been like frogs in a well for almost half a century. Here are two important facts:

1. O/Level mathematics students in Sri Lanka are 46 years behind their counterparts in the UK and in other developed countries. Ordinary Scientific calculators were introduced to the O/Level mathematics classrooms in the UK way back in 1977. Prior to that those students used Slide Rules to facilitate their mathematical calculations. Ordinary scientific calculators give the values of Sine, Cos, Tan and their Inverses, Log, LN, exponential powers, square roots, squares, reciprocals, factorials, etc., at the press of a button, in addition to performing arithmetic functions. There is no memory to store mathematical formulae, etc. It is an invaluable tool for solving sophisticated and interesting mathematical problems and also problems in ordinary statistics. It has paved the way for achieving high standards in O/Level Mathematics in those countries.

Just compare the maths questions in the Cambridge IGCSE or the London O/Level Maths Exam with the questions in the Sri Lankan O/Level maths exam and you will see how far our students have fallen behind.

The Cambridge O/Level examination was replaced by the GCSE and the IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) a few decades ago.

I am not referring to Programmable Calculators and Graphic Display Calculators (GDC), meaning devices with a small screen that can display graphs, perform statistical calculations like the Z- Score for large samples, show Matrix calculations, provide solutions to algebraic equations, etc., at the press of a few buttons. GDC is a compulsory item for A/Level mathematics students in the UK and in all developed countries.

Some teachers say that by using ordinary scientific calculators in Grades 10 and 11, students will not acquire the ability to carry out mental arithmetic calculations. This is not true because

(i). Calculators are introduced in Grade 10. Maths teachers have five years of Primary School and three years of Middle school (Grades 7, 8 and 9) i.e. a total of eight years to inculcate sufficient mental arithmetic skills in their students before the calculators are introduced in Grade 10!

(ii). In the IGCSE and in the London O/Level Mathematics Exams calculators are not allowed for Paper 1. Preparation for Paper 1 requires the acquisition of mental arithmetic skills, e.g., one lesson per week in class in Grades 10 and 11 in which calculators are not allowed. Sri Lanka could follow suit.

Some people say that it is not necessary for a Grade 10 student to buy an ordinary scientific calculator because they have smartphones with built-in calculators. If not, it is easy to install a calculator app on mobile phones. A smartphone should not be used as a calculator during a mathematics test or a mathematics exam because it can be used for cheating. In the UK and other developed countries students have to keep their smartphones in their school bags or in their lockers outside the classroom during mathematics tests and exams.

An ordinary scientific calculator costs less than 10 % of the price of a smartphone.

Sri Lankan students in International Schools sit the IGCSE or the London O/Level mathematics exams where ordinary scientific calculators are allowed. These students have made big strides in learning mathematics by using the calculators. Only the rich can send their children to International Schools in Sri Lanka. Millions of poor Sri Lankan students do not have calculators.

Our Minister of Education has announced that the government was planning to transform the country’s education system by introducing ‘’STEAM’ (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics). Maintaining high standards in O/Level Mathematics is the key to a successful implementation of STEAM programme. Unfortunately, the Education Minister and top education official are not aware of the fact that the only way to improve the standard of O/Level Mathematics is to do what the developed countries have done, i. e., revamping the O/Level mathematics syllabus and to introducing the ordinary scientific calculator in Grades 10 & 11. If they do it, it will be an important piece of curriculum development.

Bear in mind that the UK and other developed countries have taken another important step during the last 20 years; they have introduced the Graphic Display Calculator (GDC) to the O/Level Mathematics class and by providing a Core Exam and an Extended Exam. In the Cambridge IGCSE Mathematics Exams, Papers 1, 3, and 5 constitute the Core Exam. Papers 2 ,4 and 6 constitute the Extended Exam. Calculators are not allowed in Papers 1 and 2.

The Core Exam is a boon to students who have very little or no mathematical ability. More on this in my next article.

By using Log Tables, our Sri Lankan O/Level students have to spend a lot of time to solve an IGCSE (Extended Syllabus) exam problem or a London O/Level mathematics exam problem because the use of Log Tables takes a long time  to work out the Squares, Square Roots, exponential powers, reciprocals , LN , factorials, etc., and that is tedious work while their counterparts in developed countries do that in a few seconds by pressing a couple of buttons in an ordinary scientific calculator.

The Calculator has given them more motivation to learn mathematics.

O/Level students in the UK have graduated from the ordinary scientific calculator to the Graphic Display Calculator (GDC) thereby improving their ability to solve more sophisticated, more important and more interesting problems in mathematics, statistics and physics. Sri Lankan O/Level students are compelled to use obsolete Log Tables.

Hats off to that Minister of Education who introduced the ordinary scientific calculator to the Sri Lankan A/ Level Mathematics classroom and to the A/Level Mathematics Exam a few years ago. That was a small step in the right direction. Minister Susil Premjayantha, please revamp the O/Level mathematics syllabus and introduce the ordinary scientific calculator to Grades 10 and 11 now. That will ensure a big boost for your STEAM programme and yield benefits for the Sri Lankan economy.

(To be continued. Topic 2:  The necessity for introducing an O/Level Mathematics Core Exam and an Extended Exam. The writer has taught O/Level and A/Level Mathematics and Physics for 45 years in Asia, Africa and Europe and is an Emeritus Coordinator for International Baccalaureate, Geneva.)

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