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Enhancing the Delights of Reading

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by Kumar David

The trouble started with Mr Vinasithamby, our Tamil master in school, always attired in verti and saalvai and in a pair of slippers, while the other Tamil master Mr Shaithananthan – when I last heard he was in Canada – wore white trousers a shirt and closed shoes. I must have been about 14-years old when Vinasi decided to unload a line from John Ruskin’s Sesame and Lilies that got me into a bit of a panic, before he returned his attention to Silapathikram or its antithesis Manimehali or whatever he was trying to drum into our thick skulls. I cannot locate the line but it seems Ruskin spoke of “Books of the moment and books of all time”. I was a decent enough reader for a teenager but mostly ‘instantaneous’ stuff and it struck me that there were hundreds of books I would have to know before pretending to be educated. Later, adding the monumental array in other languages that I had not even heard of as a 14-year old, the task seemed to have multiplied to thousands of volumes to be spread over many lifetimes.

It was only much later, near the end of my allotted span of three score and ten that I came to see that no way did I need to read it all. First, there is a lot stuff that others think great but I dislike. I loathe the Bagavad Geetha, Paradise Lost bores me to tears and when Milton visited the lost-and-found office and Regained his Lost property it put me to sleep every five lines. Some of his sonnets though are beautiful. I also dislike Eliot, who is pretentious; his “ineffable, effable, effanineffable, deep and inscrutable singular” game. I say be open, don’t be intimated by big names; if a big name bores you, say so and avoid him.

The Iliad, the Odyssey, the Divine Comedy, Remembrance of Things Past, the Mahabharata, Ramayana and the Analects; it’s quite enough if you read a greatly abridged version or summary stories. The same goes, except Psalms 23 and 121, some Isiah and juicy bits of Deuteronomy, for the Old Testament. And except the Gospels and bits of Paul, the same applies to the New Testament. And please always the Authorised Version; the modern versions are garbage as literature. (Imagine this: And Jesus said to Mathew “Machang, let’s go to the junction and put a plain tea and a beedi“!). Similarly you only need to be familiar with a few Jataka Stories, to get the hang. I have not tried my hand at the Koran, or full versions of Faust, Hobbes, Locke, Kant, Spinoza or Hegel in translation – I am basically monolingual – but I have taken the trouble to learn the basics from essays and summaries. You see, I am realistic; this is the only way. Don’t be shy, use this approach to the majority of Ruskin’s “books of all time”; you have only one life. The important thing is to commit diligently to this abridged task as per the spare time life’s chores of doing a job and feeding the brood allows. And oh, I am speaking of reading enjoyment, not your religion or what you need to know about this or that faith.

War & Peace

is classic even for teenager but why in pluperfect purgatory did Tolstoy stick a 40-page philosophical critique of then existing (pre-Marxist) theories of history at the end of the book? Old history said great events issue from the actions of great persons. Tolstoy said ‘No’. He said that in a world full of events the interaction between necessity and free-will are decisive. They add up to frame history. A hard Marxist even in my youth this suited me fine but why Tolstoy’s long a rigmarole epilogue? Anyway it’s all better stated in the first part of the German Ideology and in the scintillating prose of the Manifesto. The latter was available to Tolstoy but the former, a collection of writings, was published by David Riazanov only in 1932.

There are dozens of non-English works I have enjoyed in translation – Don Quixote, Karamazov, Crime and Punishment, the Arabian Nights, the Rubaiyat, some Chekov, I loved Gogol’s Dead Souls and Voltaire’s Candide. Readers of this column, obviously English literate are familiar with Wuthering Heights, Jane Austen, Moby Dick, Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, Sons and Lovers, Grapes of Wrath, Heart of Darkness, and so the compulsory list goes on. However, I am ashamed to admit that I have not yet read the acclaimed Chinese challenger to Tolstoy’s great epic, Cao Xueqin’s (1724-1764) Dream of the Red Chamber.

And then there’s Shakespeare. No one will disagree that the Bard of Stratford-on-Avon is numero uno among English poets, and there’s no point hiding that in my view the finest in all literature, the Greek, Sanskrit and Persian epics which I know about in translation, included. Not everyone is aware that the plays are poetry, not prose; blank verse in iambic pentameter (a line of verse with five metrical steps of one short or unstressed syllable followed by a long stressed syllable, making up ten rhythmic syllables). Intoning in iambic pentameter is key to enjoying the poetic in Shakespeare. Here are a few unsurpassed purple passages. I have highlighted a few of the stressed steps though some of you with a more musical ear may partition it otherwise.

Macbeth, dismayed by his blood stained hand after he murdered Duncan, mummers;

“This my hand will the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red.”

 

Othello, preparing to blow out the candle and then strangle Desdemona who he dearly loves groans;

Put out the light, and then put out the light.

If I quench thee, thou flaming minister,

I can again thy light restore if I repent me.

But once put out thy light,

Thou cunning’st pattern of excelling nature,

I know not where is that Promethean heat

That can thy former light restore.”

 

Cleopatra on the Nile;

“The barge she sat in like a burnished throne,

Burned

on the water; its poop was beaten gold“.

 

Juliet’s bedchamber:

“But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?”

 

Twelfth Night, everyone knows this one.

“If music be the food of love, play on.

Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,

The appetite may sicken and so die“.

 

Hamlet – in the cardinal work in all the English tongue – is sick of life;

“O, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt,

Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew“.

 

Of course not everything Shakespeare wrote is my cup of tea. Of the four great tragedies I am not excited by Lear, for which delinquency I have earned the enduring disdain of Tissa Jayatilaka. To be honest I don’t care for the comedies except As You Like It. (I can even improve on Shakespeare: “Sermons in books; and stones in the running brooks!”). What’s the big deal; Twelfth Night or Midsummer Night’s Dream don’t resonate with modern audiences. I am one of few Lankan fans of the Histories, especially Henry V and Richard III. Suriya Wicks, Dr SA Wicks’ daughter calls my pontification on two-part Henry IV, Henry V, three-part Henry VI and two-part Henry VII, my “Romp with the Henrys”. Blah!

Reading must be pleasure and this brings me to modern writing. There is an explosion in all languages. English readers are lucky to get the largest share of translations. The number of good, bad and indifferent novels is amazing but many novelists make their tomes fat and boring. Twentieth Century English poetry too does not excite me. Maybe I am old-fashioned; in my notepad the last great English poet was Gerald Manley Hopkins, certainly the finest of the Victorians. “Glory be to God for dappled things: For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow: For rose-mole all on stipple upon trout that swim: Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings: Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough: And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim”.

Wit and a photographic memory help in the enjoyment. Churchill’s skit on Scot’s line when Labour left office is memorable; they departed “unwept, unhonoured, unloved” and unhanged! Bernard Soysa was gifted with a remarkable photographic memory and could declaim entire speeches of great historical merit – Frederick Douglas’s ‘What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?’ (1852); Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (1863); Chief Joseph’s ‘Surrender Speech’ (1877); Churchill’s ‘Their finest hour’ (1940); Nehru’s ‘Tryst with Destiny’ (1947), and a fine declamation about Toussaint Louverture that I cannot now trace.

There is such a range of other material apart from snooty stuff – Stephen Jay Gould, Gerald Durrell, Richard Dawkins, Edward O Wilson in one corner, Stephen Hawing, John Gribbin, Fritjof Capra and hundreds more in another corner, and more corners to make science, ecology, cosmology, anthropology and much else interesting to everyman. Maybe I am overdoing it trying to sell the pleasures of reading to you adults, so it’s time to change track to a more difficult challenge. What to do about young people? Should one try to do anything at all? Shouldn’t one leave them to craft their own lives and imagination with their digital screens, amazing graphics and fancy joysticks? You see they’re damn good at it. Microsoft or some such outfit advises that when you have a problem with your iPhone or laptop “Try this, then try that, then try the help menu, then look up the manual, then go online for help, and finally if all else fails, send for a teenager”.

I have four grand-brats, three are very young and not relevant to today’s column. But one, Yasmin, just turned 14. She is a voracious reader and still finding her way around. Perhaps she needs a little guidance but not obnoxious intrusion. Young people need to find their own way around but they also need a bit of steering. It’s a matter of putting all sorts of fodder in front of the horse and letting it pick what suits its palate. This is true of adults like this columnist as well.

 

 



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Features

To recognise and reward Women Entrepreneur

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by Zanita Careem

WCIC “Prathibhabis-heka” national awards will be given to outstanding women entrepreneurs of Sri Lanka and the SAARC said Anoji de Silva, the chairperson of Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce WCIC at a press conference held at the Jetwing hotel Ward PlaceThis year the Women Entrepreneur Awards 2022 is powered by DFCS Aloka.This National Award which is recognised globally will help women to market their products to international buyers

“As a country we have faced many difficulties over the last few years. Now this is the time to reflect and ensure that local women can contribute and progress to be on par with international entrepreneurs She also noted that this award ceremony is a great opportunity for all since it’s an absolutely empowering platform. “You hear success stories of women from different walks of life and it’s very empowering and inspiring. I’m sure that the younger generation of women who will watch the ceremony wii be inspired to be sucessful entrepreneurs in the future S

“Our women entrepreneurs have the potential to help our economy to grow. They have made vast strides to build companies on a set of values and they have created diverse working environments.

The WCIC Prathibhabisheka Women Entrepreneur Awards will be held in January 22. To the question how financial records of small businesses headed by women could deter their ability to apply the chairperson said.

“We have a startup category which is under five years where they can submit documents for consideration. She responded “These women can apply but must submit proper records to back their applications or else they will be rejected wholeheartedly.The Women Entrepreneur Awards 2022

“Prathibha” depicts excellence in Sanskrit and WCIC will showcase the excellence of outstanding women entrepreneurs through WCIC Prathibhabisheka –

“The relaunched property is structured to assess the businesses in a holistic manner. We invite outstanding women entrepreneurs, especially the ones who have braved the challenges in the past years to share their story of resilience and achievements to compete for the coveted – WCIC Prathibhabisheka The Awards will honour women entrepreneurs for their tenacity to scale and grow, and for their contribution and impact on the economy. Whilst the competition is primarily for Sri Lankan Entrepreneurs, we have also included an opportunity for women in the SAARC region to compete in a special category” stated Anoji De Silva, the Chairperson of the WCIC.

The members of WCIC Ramani Ponnambalam and Tusitha Kumarakul-asingam, said”. We will be accepting applications under the categories – Start-up, Micro, Small, Medium and Large. Each category will have a specified revenue for the year under review – 2021/22. Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards will be presented for each category. With the view to identify and promote regional women entrepreneurs, we will encourage applications from all the provinces in the country and select the “Best of the Region” from each province.

The women will also be considered for the coveted special awards – Young Woman Entrepreneur, Outstanding Start- up, Most Positively Abled Woman Entrepreneur, The Most Outstanding Export Oriented Entrepreneur, The Best of the SAARC Region. The ceremony will culminate with the selection of the “Women Entrepreneur of the year -2022”.

“The entry kit can be downloaded from www.wcicsl.lk and completed and submitted to the WCIC along with all the material required to substantiate the applicant’s story. Entries close on the 31st of October.” stated Tusitha Kumarak-ulasingam.

WCIC Prathibabisheka – Woman Entrepreneur Awards 2022 is powered by– DFCC Aloka, as the Platinum Sponsor, with Gold Sponsors – Mclarens Group, LOLL Holdings Plc, Hayleys Leisure Pic, and AIA Insurance Lanka Ltd (Exclusive Insurance Partner), Silver – Finez Capital Ventures Print and Social Media Partners will be the Wijeya Group and Electronic Media Partner–ABC Network with Triad as our Creative Partner and Ernst & Young as Knowledge Partner.

Women’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce (WCIC) is the premier organization supporting entrepreneurs and professional business-women. The membership is open to women who believe they can contribute to society as well as benefit from the many facilities the organization creates. WCIC Prathibhasheka is relaunched this year as a flagship property, to recognize and reward outstanding women enterpreneurs who make a contribution to the SL economy.

For further information Contact- Janitha Stephens – 0766848080

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Features

Marmalade sandwich in Queen’s handbag!

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In this period of national mourning, it may seem frivolous to comment on the late Queen’s handbag. After seven decades of selfless service to the nation, fashion is but a footnote to Her Majesty’s glorious reign.And yet her style is something that helped to create the powerful majestic image of Queen Elizabeth II, and which made her instantly recognisable worldwide. A key part of that image, and a constant presence in her working life, was her black Launer handbag.

Launer London was Her Majesty’s handbag maker for more than 50 years and has held the Royal Warrant since 1968. Launer bags are formal and structured, and proved to be the ideal regal accessory for public engagements. Its first royal patronage came from HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in the 1950s. Where others might have bought the latest ‘It’ bag, Queen Elizabeth exercised characteristic restraint with her handbags throughout her life, focusing on quality over quantity in her loyalty to Launer.

Her Majesty was known for her love of colour in her working wardrobe, wearing rainbow brights in order to be better seen by the public, but her accessories were always muted. Black mostly, sometimes beige or white in summer, gold or silver in the evening: neutrals that matched with every colour, allowing her to dress with ease. The timeless style of her trusty Traviata top-handle bag suited the Queen’s no-nonsense nature and symbolised her steadfast reign. The late Baroness Thatcher shared the Queen’s love of a strong top handle from classic British labels such as Launer and Asprey. These bags helped promote a look of someone in control. Like Queen Elizabeth, Thatcher’s handbags were such a part of her identity that they have earned their own special place in history and have been described as the former PM’s ‘secret weapon’. One such bag has been exhibited at the V&A alongside Sir Winston Churchill’s red despatch box. Both are artefacts of cultural and historic importance.

It has been said that there was another purpose to the Queen’s handbag on public engagements, namely that she used it as a secret signalling device. According to royal historian Hugo Vickers, Her Majesty would switch the bag from her left arm to her right to signal for an aide to come to her rescue if she tired of the conversation in which she was engaged. If she placed the bag on the table, this was a sign that she wanted to leave. Ever-practical, HM needed a bag that focused on functionality over fashion, choosing styles with slightly longer top handles that comfortably looped over the monarch’s arm, freeing her hands to accept bouquets and greet the public. Even in her final photograph, meeting her 15th prime minister in her sitting room at Balmoral Castle, just two days before her death last week, the Queen’s handbag can be seen on her left arm. Perhaps at this stage it was part armour, part comfort blanket.Even at the age of 96, Queen Elizabeth II did not lose her ability to surprise. She delighted the public by taking tea with Paddington Bear at her Platinum Jubilee celebrations and finally revealed what she keeps in her handbag: a marmalade sandwich, ‘for later’.

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Cinnamon Grand, Colombo welcomes You to the SEQUEL

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The next best thing in Colombo!

What would you get if you took the decadence of yesterday and paired it with the flavours of right now? Something bold and jazzy or rich and snazzy. Something we’d like to call the next best thing. All this and more at Cinnamon City Hotels to the SEQUEL at Cinnamon Grand, Colombo said a press release.

The release said the SEQUEL is where the old meets new, where charm meets sophistication and having a good time gets a new meaning. Colombo’s latest speakeasy cocktail bar is ready to welcome the discerning guest that is looking for that perfectly curated night.

“The SEQUEL will be a novel addition to Colombo’s nightlife catered to enthralling guests with our performances and showmanship,” said Kamal Munasinghe, Area Vice-President, Cinnamon City Hotels.

What do we mean when we say performance? It means that every little detail is tailored to those who appreciate elegance, and a bespoke experience like no other. Think walking into a vintage space accompanied by the sounds of Sinatra and Fitzgerald inviting you to do it your way or for once in your life. Think of the soul-searching and eclectic mix of Winehouse classics that you can drown your sorrows in.

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