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Dr Kandiah Ratnakumar, FRCS Lond 15.04.1951 – 26.01.2021

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Emeritus Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon Alumnus Peradeniya Medical School 1971 – 1975

Kandiah Ratnakumar hailed from the village of Chulipuram in Jaffna. Born one of four siblings on April 15, 1951, he entered the Medical Faculty, Peradeniya from Jaffna Hindu College qualifying as a doctor in 1975. He, unlike many of his contemporaries who scooted off without serving their compulsory period here, left for the UK for postgraduate training with his wife after completing the compulsory period serving many parts of Sri Lanka in the early eighties with loyalty and patriotism. He worked closely with that great son of Sri Lanka, the late Dr Lakdasa Dissanayake, from who he learned the basics in surgical skills.

He assumed the post of Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Oldchurch (later named Queens) Hospital in 1991 where we worked as colleagues. Specializing in knee surgery he not only touched the hearts of patients and staff but also several of his social contacts. He was a very open, approachable individual and friend, mentor & advisor to many within the community including some of the leading orothopaedic consultants serving in Sri Lanka. His schoolmate and a colleague Dr Kumaran recalls him as quiet, studious and helpful individual. Another grief stricken contemporary, Dr Chandrasiri Abrew, retired vascular surgeon, mourning the loss, reminisces of the times spent with the hospitable Ratna as a surgical trainee in the UK.

A man of few words except in close circles, Ratna was always good company with a radiant smile. Although I made his acquaintance at Peradeniya, it was at Oldchurch Hospital we developed closer ties as colleagues and he and Saro became my family friends.

A childhood companion who grew up with him from school days is my good friend Dr Ananthamoorthy, retired senior lecturer in Dentistry at the University of Ceylon Peradeniya, now settled in Chulipuram. Moorthy recalls “Ratna and I were schoolmates, growing up together at Pannagam Meihandan Vidyalayam where we learnt our alphabet of our mother tongue together. Both of us moved to Victoria College, Chulipuram. While I stayed on at Victoria College, Ratna moved to Jaffna Hindu College from where he entered the Faculty of Medicine, Peradeniya, working hard with ambition and forbearance. Ratna would always make it a point to visit me and my wife whenever he visited Jaffna. He never forgot his roots. He would often visit his relatives and old friends in Sri Lanka and was very charitable.”

Although the couple planned to serve the motherland on completion of their postgraduate training in the UK, the events of July 1983 prevented their return home. Having worked in Canada for a few years they moved back to UK.

I vividly recall the several visits to his home in Gants Hill when I would barge in without notice, an idiosyncracy of mine he never disapproved because he just did not bother about formalities. Moreover it was the nature of the man to entertain friends at the drop of a hat perhaps using the opportunity to share a glass of wine! Saro too, in her typical friendly manner, tolerated such an intrusion without any fuss. His usage of Tamil was colloquial and with a distinct accent unique to himself. His sense of humour was a delight.

Ratna married SaroVinasithamby who he courted as a fellow medical student from the same batch and they both took up posts in different parts of Sri Lanka pursuing their chosen careers in surgery and anaesthesia respectively. Saro retired after a long stint as a consultant anaesthetist in South London.

Approaching retirement Ratna developed a passion for golf which he enjoyed thoroughly often hinting that I should seriously consider joining him. One of his plans for retirement was to return to Sri Lanka, the land he loved

He became unwell in the early part of January developing shortness of breath needing hospitalization. After initial improvement his condition deteriorated at Whipps Cross Hospital where he lost his fight against Covid19 on January 26. Saro, his soul mate and companion of long years, relatives and friends awaited his return home from hospital with hope and anticipation but to no avail.

His generous gestures were not confined to close circles but extended beyond. He supported several organizations but never sought positions, pomp or ceremony but opted often to help behind the scenes. In life he was an example of endurance, resilience and humility. Saro gave him strength and purpose; joy & friendship; and stood by him always those last hardest days.

We cannot know what God’s plan is for us. What we can do is to live our lives as best as we can with purpose and with love and with joy. We can use each day to show those who are closest to us how much we care about them and treat others with the kindness and respect that we wish for ourselves. We can strive at all costs to make a better world so that someday if we are blessed with the chance to look back on our time here, we can know that we spent it well so that we made a difference; and that our fleeting presence had a lasting impact on the lives of others. This is how Ratnakumar lived. That is his legacy. 

“The embodied soul is eternal in existence, indestructible and infinite, only the material body is factually perishable.”

 

Bhagavat Gita

 

May his soul rest in peace. Om Shanthy

Capt Dr S Ariyanayagam Retd SLAMC

MBBS Cey FRCOG FFFP MRCGP DCH Lond

Emeritus Consultant Physician



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Strong on vocals

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The group Mirage is very much alive, and kicking, as one would say!

Their lineup did undergo a few changes and now they have decided to present themselves as an all male group – operating without a female vocalist.

At the helm is Donald Pieries (drums and vocals), Trevin Joseph (percussion and vocals), Dilipa Deshan (bass and vocals), Toosha Rajarathna (keyboards and vocals), and Sudam Nanayakkara (lead guitar and vocals).

The plus factor, where the new lineup is concerned, is that all five members sing.

However, leader Donald did mention that if it’s a function, where a female vocalist is required, they would then feature a guest performer.

Mirage is a very experience outfit and they now do the Friday night scene at the Irish Pub, in Colombo, as well as private gigs.

 

 

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Dichotomy of an urban-suburban New Year

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Ushered in by the ‘coo-ee’ of the Koel and the swaying of Erabadu bunches, the Sinhala and Tamil New Year will dawn in the wee hours of April 14. With houses to clean, preparation of sweetmeats and last-minute shopping, times are hectic…. and the streets congested.

It is believed that New Year traditions predated the advent of Buddhism in the 3rd century BC. But Buddhism resulted in a re-interpretation of the existing New Year activities in a Buddhist light. Hinduism has co-existed with Buddhism over millennia and no serious contradiction in New Year rituals are observed among Buddhists and Hindus.

The local New Year is a complex mix of Indigenous, Astrological, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions. Hindu literature provides the New Year with its mythological backdrop. The Prince of Peace called Indradeva is said to descend upon the earth to ensure peace and happiness, in a white carriage wearing on his head a white floral crown seven cubits high. He first plunges, into a sea of milk, breaking earth’s gravity.

The timing of the Sinhala New Year coincides with the New Year celebrations of many traditional calendars of South and Southeast Asia. Astrologically, the New Year begins when the sun moves from the House of Pisces (Meena Rashiya) to the House of Aries (Mesha Rashiya) in the celestial sphere.

The New Year marks the end of the harvest season and spring. Consequently, for farming communities, the traditional New Year doubles as a harvest as well. It also coincides with one of two instances when the sun is directly above Sri Lanka. The month of Bak, which coincides with April, according to the Gregorian calendar, represents prosperity. Astrologers decide the modern day rituals based on auspicious times, which coincides with the transit of the Sun between ‘House of Pisces’ and ‘House of Aries’.

Consequently, the ending of the old year, and the beginning of the new year occur several hours apart, during the time of transit. This period is considered Nonegathe, which roughly translates to ‘neutral period’ or a period in which there are no auspicious times. During the Nonegathe, traditionally, people are encouraged to engage themselves in meritorious and religious activities, refraining from material pursuits. This year the Nonegathe begin at 8.09 pm on Tuesday, April 13, and continues till 8.57 am on 14. New Year dawns at the halfway point of the transit, ushered in bythe sound of fire crackers, to the woe of many a dog and cat of the neighbourhood. Cracker related accidents are a common occurrence during new year celebrations. Environmental and safety concerns aside, lighting crackers remain an integral part of the celebrations throughout Sri Lanka.

This year the Sinhala and Tamil New Year dawns on Wednesday, April 14, at 2.33 am. But ‘spring cleaning’ starts days before the dawn of the new year. Before the new year the floor of houses are washed clean, polished, walls are lime-washed or painted, drapes are washed, dried and rehang. The well of the house is drained either manually or using an electric water pump and would not be used until such time the water is drawn for first transaction. Sweetmeats are prepared, often at homes, although commercialization of the new year has encouraged most urbanites to buy such food items. Shopping is a big part of the new year. Crowds throng to clothing retailers by the thousands. Relatives, specially the kids, are bought clothes as presents.

Bathing for the old year takes place before the dawn of the new year. This year this particular auspicious time falls on April 12, to bathe in the essence of wood apple leaves. Abiding by the relevant auspicious times the hearth and an oil lamp are lit and pot of milk is set to boil upon the hearth. Milk rice, the first meal of the year, is prepared separate. Entering into the first business transaction and partaking of the first meal are also observed according to the given auspicious times. This year, the auspicious time for preparing of meals, milk rice and sweets using mung beans, falls on Wednesday, April 14 at 6.17 am, and is to be carried out dressed in light green, while facing east. Commencement of work, transactions and consumption of the first meal falls on Wednesday, April 14 at 7.41 am, to be observed while wearing light green and facing east.

The first transaction was traditionally done with the well. The woman of the house would draw water from the well and in exchange drop a few pieces of charcoal, flowers, coins, salt and dried chillies into the well, in certain regions a handful of paddy or rice is also thrown in for good measure. But this ritual is also dying out as few urban homes have wells within their premises. This is not a mere ritual and was traditionally carried out with the purification properties of charcoal in mind. The first water is preferably collected into an airtight container, and kept till the dawn of the next new year. It is believed that if the water in the container does not go down it would be a prosperous year. The rituals vary slightly based on the region. However, the essence of the celebrations remains the same.

Anointing of oil is another major ritual of the New Year celebrations. It falls on Saturday, April 17 at 7.16 am, and is done wearing blue, facing south, with nuga leaves placed on the head and Karada leaves at the feet. Oil is to be applied mixed with extracts of Nuga leaves. The auspicious time for setting out for professional occupations falls on Monday, April 19 at 6.39 am, while dressed in white, by consuming a meal of milk rice mixed with ghee, while facing South.

Traditionally, women played Raban during this time, but such practices are slowly being weaned out by urbanization and commercialisation of the New Year. Neighbours are visited with platters of sweetmeats, bananas, Kevum (oil cake) and Kokis (a crispy sweetmeat) usually delivered by children. The dichotomy of the urban and village life is obvious here too, where in the suburbs and the village outdoor celebrations are preferred and the city opts for more private parties.

 

 

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New Year games: Integral part of New Year Celebrations

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Food, games and rituals make a better part of New Year celebrations. One major perk of Avurudu is the festivals that are organised in each neighbourhood in its celebration. Observing all the rituals, like boiling milk, partaking of the first meal, anointing of oil, setting off to work, are, no doubt exciting, but much looked-forward-to is the local Avurudu Uthsawaya.

Avurudu Krida or New Year games are categorised as indoor and outdoor games. All indoor games are played on the floor and outdoor games played during the Avurudu Uthsava or New Year festival, with the whole neighbourhood taking part. Some of the indoor games are Pancha Dameema, Olinda Keliya and Cadju Dameema. Outdoor games include Kotta pora, Onchili pedeema, Raban geseema, Kana mutti bindeema, Placing the eye on the elephant, Coconut grating competition, Bun-eating competition, Lime-on-spoon race, Kamba adeema (Tug-o-War) and Lissana gaha nageema (climbing the greased pole). And what’s an Avurudhu Uthsava sans an Avurudu Kumari pageant, minus the usual drama that high profile beauty pageants of the day entail, of course.

A salient point of New Year games is that there are no age categories. Although there are games reserved for children such as blowing of balloons, races and soft drinks drinking contests, most other games are not age based.

Kotta pora aka pillow fights are not the kind the average teenagers fight out with their siblings, on plush beds. This is a serious game, wherein players have to balance themselves on a horizontal log in a seated position. With one hand tied behind their back and wielding the pillow with the other, players have to knock the opponent off balance. Whoever knocks the opponent off the log first, wins. The game is usually played over a muddy pit, so the loser goes home with a mud bath.

Climbing the greased pole is fun to watch, but cannot be fun to take part in. A flag is tied to the end of a timber pole-fixed to the ground and greased along the whole length. The objective of the players is to climb the pole, referred to as the ‘tree’, and bring down the flag. Retrieving the flag is never achieved on the first climb. It takes multiple climbers removing some of the grease at a time, so someone could finally retrieve the flag.

Who knew that scraping coconut could be made into an interesting game? During the Avurudu coconut scraping competition, women sit on coconut scraper stools and try to scrape a coconut as fast as possible. The one who finishes first wins. These maybe Avurudu games, but they are taken quite seriously. The grated coconut is inspected for clumps and those with ungrated clumps are disqualified.

Coconut palm weaving is another interesting contest that is exclusive to women. However men are by no means discouraged from entering such contests and, in fact, few men do. Participants are given equally measured coconut fronds and the one who finishes first wins.

Kana Mutti Bindima involves breaking one of many water filled clay pots hung overhead, using a long wooden beam. Placing the eye on the elephant is another game played while blindfolded. An elephant is drawn on a black or white board and the blindfolded person has to spot the eye of the elephant. Another competition involves feeding the partner yoghurt or curd while blindfolded.

The Banis-eating contest involves eating tea buns tied to a string. Contestants run to the buns with their hands tied behind their backs and have to eat buns hanging from a string, on their knees. The one who finishes his or her bun first, wins. Kamba adeema or Tug-o-War pits two teams against each other in a test of strength. Teams pull on opposite ends of a rope, with the goal being to bring the rope a certain distance in one direction against the force of the opposing team’s pull.

Participants of the lime-on-spoon race have to run a certain distance while balancing a lime on a spoon, with the handle in their mouths. The first person to cross the finish line without dropping the lime wins. The sack race and the three-legged race are equally fun to watch and to take part in. In the sack race, participants get into jute sacks and hop for the finish line. The first one over, wins. In the three-legged race one leg of each pair of participants are tied together and the duo must reach the finish line by synchronising their running, else they would trip over their own feet.

Pancha Dameema is an indoor game played in two groups, using five small shells, a coconut shell and a game board. Olinda is another indoor board game, normally played by two players. The board has nine holes, four beads each. The player who collects the most number of seeds win.

This is the verse sung while playing the game:

“Olinda thibenne koi koi dese,

Olinda thibenne bangali dese…

Genath hadanne koi koi dese,

Genath hadanne Sinhala dese…”

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