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

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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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Is it impossible to have hope?

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So, a woman has lost again to a man. I refer here to Matale District SJB MP Rohini Kaviratne having to concede her bid for Deputy Speaker of Parliament to some bod of the Pohottu Party, who, sad to say makes only a negative impression on Cass. Conversely, Kaviratne looks competent, capable, trustworthy, able to communicate and command, and most importantly speaks and conducts herself well balanced. So different from most of the MPs, particularly of the government side, who lack education, and in appearance and behaviour – decency. Please, take my word for the fact that I am not a party person. What I want in our representatives is education and decorum. And they should at least once in a while use their own heads and make decisions that are good for the country and not follow the leader through sheep like, sycophantic obedience. Of course, even more than this is self interest that prompts the way they act and decisions are taken, especially at voting times.

Rohini Kaviratne made a bold statement when, as Wednesday’s The Island noted, she told Parliament “the government was neither run by the President nor the Prime Minister but by a ‘crow.’” Utterly damning statement but totally believable. Deviousness as well as self-preservation is what motives action among most at the cost of even the entire country. And, of course, we know who the crow is – kaputu kak kak. Cass lacks words to express the contempt she feels for the black human kaputa, now apparently leading the family of kaputas. Why oh why does he not depart to his luxury nest in the US of A? No, he and his kith are the manifestation of Kuveni’s curse on the island. Strong condemnation, but justified.

You know Cass had a bold kaputa – the avian kind – coming to her balcony in front of her bedroom and cawing away this morning. Normally, she takes no notice, having developed sympathetic companionship towards these black birds as fellow creatures, after reading Elmo Jayawardena’s Kakiyan. She felt sorry for the crow who cawed to her because his name has been taken to epithet a politico who landed the entire country in such a mess. And he is bold enough to attend Parliament. Bravado in the face of detestation by the majority of Sri Lankans! Cass did not watch afternoon TV news but was told father and son, and probably elder brother and his son attended Parliamentary sessions today – Wednesday May 18. May their tribe decrease is the common prayer; may curses rain on them. Cass recognises the gravity of what she says, but reiterates it all.

I am sure Nihal Seneviratne, who recently and in 2019, shared with us readers his experiences in Parliament, moaned the fact that our legislature always lacked enough women representation. Now, he must be extra disappointed that political allegiance to a party deprived Sri Lanka of the chance of bringing to the forefront a capable woman. Women usually do better than men, judging by instances worldwide that show they are more honest and committed to country and society. The two examples of Heads of Government in our country were far from totally dedicated and commitment to country. But the first head did show allegiance to Ceylon/Sri Lanka in fair measure.

As my neighbour moaned recently: “They won’t allow an old person like me, after serving the country selflessly for long, to die in peace.” Heard of another woman in her late 80s needing medical treatment, mentally affected as she was with utter consternation at the state of the country. One wonders how long we can be resilient, beset on every side by dire problems. But our new Prime Minister was honest enough to voice his fears that we will have to go through much more hardship before life for all Sri Lankans improves.

Thus, my choice of pessimistic prediction as my title. Will we be able to hope for better times? Time will be taken but is it possible to have even a slight glimmer of hope for improvement?

There is much debate about the appointment of Ranil W as PM. We admire him for his knowledge and presence. But the greatest fear is he will defend wrong doers in the R family. Let him be wise, fair and put country before saving others’ skins. He has to be praised for taking on the responsibility of leading the country to solvency. He said he will see that every Sri Lankan has three meals a day. May all the devas help him! The SJB, though it refuses to serve under a R Prez, has offered itself to assist in rebuilding the nation. Eran, Harsha, and so many others must be given the chance to help turn poor wonderful Sri Lanka around. And the dedicated protestors, more so those in Gotagogama, still continue asking for changes in government. Bless them is all Cass can say at this moment.

Goodbye for another week. hoping things will turn less gloomy, if brightness is impossible as of now.

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Lives of journalists increasingly on the firing line

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Since the year 2000 some 45 journalists have been killed in the conflict-ridden regions of Palestine and senior Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was the latest such victim. She was killed recently in a hail of bullets during an Israeli military raid in the contested West Bank. She was killed in cold blood even as she donned her jacket with the word ‘PRESS’ emblazoned on it.

While claims and counter-claims are being made on the Akleh killing among some of the main parties to the Middle East conflict, the Israeli police did not do their state any good by brutally assaulting scores of funeral mourners who were carrying the body of Akleh from the hospital where she was being treated to the location where her last rites were to be conducted in East Jerusalem.

The impartial observer could agree with the assessment that ‘disproportionate force’ was used on the mourning civilians. If the Israeli government’s position is that strong-arm tactics are not usually favoured by it in the resolution conflictual situations, the attack on the mourners tended to strongly belie such claims. TV footage of the incident made it plain that brazen, unprovoked force was used on the mourners. Such use of force is decried by the impartial commentator.

As for the killing of Akleh, the position taken by the UN Security Council could be accepted that “an immediate, thorough, transparent and impartial investigation” must be conducted on it. Hopefully, an international body acceptable to the Palestinian side and other relevant stakeholders would be entrusted this responsibility and the wrong-doers swiftly brought to justice.

Among other things, the relevant institution, may be the International Criminal Court, should aim at taking urgent steps to end the culture of impunity that has grown around the unleashing of state terror over the years. Journalists around the world are chief among those who have been killed in cold blood by state terrorists and other criminal elements who fear the truth.

The more a journalist is committed to revealing the truth on matters of crucial importance to publics, the more is she or he feared by those sections that have a vested interest in concealing such vital disclosures. This accounts for the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, for instance.

Such killings are of course not unfamiliar to us in Sri Lanka. Over the decades quite a few local journalists have been killed or been caused to disappear by criminal elements usually acting in league with governments. The whole truth behind these killings is yet to be brought to light while the killers have been allowed to go scot-free and roam at large. These killings are further proof that Sri Lanka is at best a façade democracy.

It is doubtful whether the true value of a committed journalist has been fully realized by states and publics the world over. It cannot be stressed enough that the journalist on the spot, and she alone, writes ‘the first draft of history’. Commentaries that follow from other quarters on a crisis situation, for example, are usually elaborations that build on the foundational factual information revealed by the journalist. Minus the principal facts reported by the journalist no formal history-writing is ever possible.

Over the decades the journalists’ death toll has been increasingly staggering. Over the last 30 years, 2150 journalists and media workers have been killed in the world’s conflict and war zones. International media reports indicate that this figure includes the killing of 23 journalists in Ukraine, since the Russian invasion began, and the slaying of 11 journalists, reporting on the doings of drug cartels in Mexico.

Unfortunately, there has been no notable international public outcry against these killings of journalists. It is little realized that the world is the poorer for the killing of these truth-seekers who are putting their lives on the firing line for the greater good of peoples everywhere. It is inadequately realized that the public-spirited journalist too helps in saving lives; inasmuch as a duty-conscious physician does.

For example, when a journalist blows the lid off corrupt deals in public institutions, she contributes immeasurably towards the general good by helping to rid the public sector of irregularities, since the latter sector, when effectively operational, has a huge bearing on the wellbeing of the people. Accordingly, a public would be disempowering itself by turning a blind eye on the killing of journalists. Essentially, journalists everywhere need to be increasingly empowered and the world community is conscience-bound to consider ways of achieving this. Bringing offending states to justice is a pressing need that could no longer be neglected.

The Akleh killing cannot be focused on in isolation from the wasting Middle East conflict. The latter has grown in brutality and inhumanity over the years and the cold-blooded slaying of the journalist needs to be seen as a disquieting by-product of this larger conflict. The need to turn Spears into Ploughshares in the Middle East is long overdue and unless and until ways are worked out by the principal antagonists to the conflict and the international community to better manage the conflict, the bloodletting in the region is unlikely to abate any time soon.

The perspective to be placed on the conflict is to view the principal parties to the problem, the Palestinians and the Israelis, as both having been wronged in the course of history. The Palestinians are a dispossessed and displaced community and so are the Israelis. The need is considerable to fine-hone the two-state solution. There is need for a new round of serious negotiations and the UN is duty-bound to initiate this process.

Meanwhile, Israel is doing well to normalize relations with some states of the Arab world and this is the way to go. Ostracization of Israel by Arab states and their backers has clearly failed to produce any positive results on the ground and the players concerned will be helping to ease the conflict by placing their relations on a pragmatic footing.

The US is duty-bound to enter into a closer rapport with Israel on the need for the latter to act with greater restraint in its treatment of the Palestinian community. A tough law and order approach by Israel, for instance, to issues in the Palestinian territories is clearly proving counter-productive. The central problem in the Middle East is political in nature and it calls for a negotiated political solution. This, Israel and the US would need to bear in mind.

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Doing it differently, as a dancer

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Dancing is an art, they say, and this could be developed further, only by an artist with a real artistic mind-set. He must be of an innovative mind – find new ways of doing things, and doing it differently

According to Stephanie Kothalawala – an extremely talented dancer herself – Haski Iddagoda, who has won the hearts of dance enthusiasts, could be introduced as a dancer right on top of this field.

Stephanie

had a chat with Haski, last week, and sent us the following interview:

* How did you start your dancing career?

Believe me, it was a girl, working with me, at office, who persuaded me to take to dancing, in a big way, and got me involved in events, connected with dancing. At the beginning, I never had an idea of what dancing, on stage, is all about. I was a bit shy, but I decided to take up the challenge, and I made my debut at an event, held at Bishop’s College.

* Did you attend dancing classes in order to fine-tune your movements?

Yes, of course, and the start was in 2010 – at dancing classes held at the Colombo Aesthetic Resort.

* What made you chose dancing as a career?

It all came to mind when I checked out the dancing programmes, on TV. After my first dancing programme, on a TV reality show, dancing became my passion. It gave me happiness, and freedom. Also, I got to know so many important people, around the country, via dancing.

* How is your dancing schedule progressing these days?

Due to the current situation, in the country, everything has been curtailed. However, we do a few programmes, and when the scene is back to normal, I’m sure there will be lots of dance happenings.

* What are your achievements, in the dancing scene, so far?

I have won a Sarasavi Award. I believe my top achievement is the repertoire of movements I have as a dancer. To be a top class dancer is not easy…it’s hard work. Let’s say my best achievement is that I’ve have made a name, for myself, as a dancer.

* What is your opinion about reality programmes?

Well, reality programmes give you the opportunity to showcase your talents – as a dancer, singer, etc. It’s an opportunity for you to hit the big time, but you’ve got to be talented, to be recognised. I danced with actress Chatu Rajapaksa at the Hiru Mega Star Season 3, on TV.

* Do you have your own dancing team?

Not yet, but I have performed with many dance troupes.

* What is your favourite dancing style?

I like the style of my first trainer, Sanjeewa Sampath, who was seen in Derana City of Dance. His style is called lyrical hip-hop. You need body flexibility for that type of dance.

* Why do you like this type of dancing?

I like to present a nice dancing act, something different, after studying it.

* How would you describe dancing?

To me, dancing is a valuable exercise for the body, and for giving happiness to your mind. I’m not referring to the kind of dance one does at a wedding, or party, but if you properly learn the art of dancing, it will certainly bring you lots of fun and excitement, and happiness, as well. I love dancing.

* Have you taught your dancing skills to others?

Yes, I have given my expertise to others and they have benefited a great deal. However, some of them seem to have forgotten my contribution towards their success.

* As a dancer, what has been your biggest weakness?

Let’s say, trusting people too much. In the end, I’m faced with obstacles and I cannot fulfill the end product.

* Are you a professional dancer?

Yes, I work as a professional dancer, but due to the current situation in the country, I want to now concentrate on my own fashion design and costume business.

* If you had not taken to dancing, what would have been your career now?

I followed a hotel management course, so, probably, I would have been involved in the hotel trade.

* What are your future plans where dancing is concerned?

To be Sri Lanka’s No.1 dancer, and to share my experience with the young generation.

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