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Fifty years of service as a Protestant Minister in Sri Lanka:

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Rev. Charles Jansz, a Minister and a former Head of Sri Lanka’s oldest Protestant Church goes down memory lane and reflects

by Prabhath de Silva

Rev. Jansz with Pope John Paul II (Now Saint.)

Rev. Jansz married Maxine Herft in 1977. He has held key positions in Christian organizations in Sri Lanka and abroad. These include, Chairperson of National Christian Council, Chairperson of Christian Evangelical Alliance, Chairperson of Religious Work Committee Colombo YMCA, Acting pastor in Christian Reform Church Ontario, Canada, Vice-President/Hon. Life Governor of Ceylon Bible Society, Member of Executive Committee of World Alliance of Reformed Churches, Chairperson of Asia Pacific Regional Board of United Bible Societies and Editor of “The Herald” – the official organ of the Christian Reformed Church of Sri Lanka.

 

On the eve of the Golden Jubilee of his ministry, I interviewed Rev. Jansz. These are the excerpts of the interview:

1. What are your childhood memories of Dehiwela and its surroundings in the 1950’s and 1960’s?

 

I grew up in Sri Wanaratana Road, off Quarry Rd in Dehiwela. This area was called “Pattiyamulla” and as far as I remember, that changed to “Galwala” and “Udyana”. These were the days when houses had large gardens, almost all homes were single storey and we children, irrespective or race,, religion or class, had great times, playing, visiting each other’s homes, enjoying meals, climbing trees and walking on the wall surrounding the Zoological Gardens! The memories include going to the Presbyterian Girls’ School with a carer, walking yards ahead of her, while she trudged behind carrying the school bag. Then there was attending Sunday School at the D/CRC Dehiwela almost every Sunday, followed by moving to Arethusa College where I completed my schooling.

It was a time when I was given 25 cents, which covered my bus fare, had 12 cents for a quarter loaf of bread and a ‘vadai’ from the School Canteen (Tuck Shop) and had a few cents left over! It was also a time when the area had loads of Burgher families…Nugara, Ludowyke, Neydorff, Woutersz, Kellart, Harris, De Kretser, Schokman, Van Ryke, Barrow, De Zilwa, Melder, Ferdinands, Heyn, Drieberg, Werksmister, Collom, Young, Van Rooyen, Van Sanden, Van Velzon, were all there and many of us met every spare moment for cricket, a little bit of rugby – with Cowboys and Crooks as a diversion. One other diversion was also catching “guppies” in the canal. Apart from Church, School and Cricket, from my childhood days I was passionate about politics…with a particular party bias. Was at almost every political meeting, was part of the processions, shouting the slogans mouthed by the adults, and even had “mock” elections together with the rest of my friends paying a 25 cent deposit! I vividly recall, on more than one occasion, my friends making a make-shift stage of Sunlight soap boxes and putting me on them, with what was supposed to be a mike and garlands as well, getting me to make political speeches – and in fluent Sinhala! (all of it picked up after listening to speakers at political meetings!).

There is much more of course…Dehiwela where I grew up was unspoiled to a great extent…there was a caring and sharing, much respect and understanding for one another, your ethnicity, religion and status did not matter…we lived in community… clean air and a pristine environment to a great extent….and if there was some discordance, it was someone shouting under the influence of some local brew.

 

What are the changes and strides that you have witnessed in the social, political and religious mileu in Sri Lanka and in the DRC and in the non Catholic Christendom in Sri Lanka and in the world at large?

 

Changes and strides have been many, some certainly for the better, some for the worse. Talking about the religious mileu, one can single out that inter-faith and intra-faith have made comparatively good strides during the last number of years…there has also been a definite attempt to be “church” outside of the confines of a building reaching out to the Community and certainly a concentrated effort to create and sustain spirituality beginning with the home. A greater emphasis on environmental stewardship has also been a pronounced plus. There has been also good attempts to address the needs with the “wholeness” of the Gospel message, and to be faithful to the primary vision, not forgetting the strides made towards worship that is creative and meaningful with more participation. In the social and political sphere changes have not all been for the better. We have witnessed the resurgence and growth of bigotry, racism, fundamentalism, terrorism, violence, division, nepotism, political victimization, intolerance, corruption, lack of law and order, drug abuse, child abuse, destruction of the environment and a receding of the good family values….and certainly some, if not all of this would also be part and parcel of the International milieu as well.

 

What motivated you to choose a pastoral ministry as your vocation in life?

 

The Church was very much part of my DNA…my family saw to it and encouraged me from my earliest of days to be part of it, beginning with the Sunday School; so much so that for many years running I carried away the attendance prize for attending every single Sunday of the Year. In addition, those who were part of my life in my childhood and teen years, were also very church oriented. Youth Conferences, Youth programmes were all part of my life – in short anything that happened in Church. It was also a time when the Pastors at that time – especially the foreign “Missionaries” spent much time challenging us to consider full time ministry. There were specific seminars for this purpose. It was one such seminar that made a deep impression on me…and even though I worked for a while (as a typist clerk) in the corporate world, I became restless enough to move out and make application for the Pastoral Ministry. At that time, if one joined the Ministry – it was primarily Pastoral. Today Christian Ministry is very much more diversified when it comes to full time service. Also, I think my gifts of public speaking and being a people person, added to the motivation to heed God’s call in this very specific way.

 

He percentage of Christians in Sri Lanka at the time of independence in 1948 was 9.1% but now it has decreased to 7.1%, and Hindus constituted 19% and now there are 11% Hindus

. What do you think are the factors that contributed to this decline? Only two religious communities namely Sinhalese Buddhists and Muslims have increased since Independence, Buddhists from 60.6 to 70 percent and Muslims from 5% to 9.1% percent.

 

I must say that I was taken aback when you mentioned the statistic re: the decrease and more when you did mention the percentages of the increase. Talking about the decline – specifically thinking about the Christian Reformed Church since Independence, one major factor was emigration. Being at that time and for some years after, as primarily a “Burgher Community” Church, we did lose a large number of adherents through emigration. (Thankfully, the Church did have and does have the vision to reach out to all communities and we have seen much growth in terms of numbers and congregations) Of course “emigration” also has affected the wider Christian community and the country as well. The other main reason for a decline, if not non-growth, is the absence of a sustained missionary efforts, not so much in terms of “preaching” but more in term of “incarnational living” and an absence of addressing “felt needs” would also have perhaps made the Church irrelevant to many. So, if there is not to be further decline, I think we must ask the question – “Will we be genuinely missed in the Community if our Church were to close”?

 

You have completed 50 years in ministry. Looking back what do you think are the things or achievements that make you happy as a Clergyman

?

 

As I look back there are number of things that can make me glad…for one thing and this is primary, that the Lord who called me and kept me and sustained me through these many years…empowering me to avoid the many pitfalls that could be part of a ministry and blessing me with a great measure of good health. Then there is the joy of seeing people walking in faith and obedience…lives changed…becoming spiritually mature and having a place for God in their lives and especially in their families and children. I have always said that if people, respond and live by the first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism, which is very much part of the Reformed Confessions (What is your only comfort in life and death? – And “That I with body and soul both in life and death belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ”) … that would always be my greatest satisfaction. Of course, in a lesser way, I am also glad that I stayed with the Christian Reformed Church in Sri Lanka, when many were led especially to emigrate, so that in some measure I was able to put it further on the map both nationally and internationally and give back in some way what the CRC has given me – even to the extent of financially sustaining me and my family when I was growing up.

 

2. You have served in many positions in the ecumenical bodies here and abroad. You studied at Calvin Seminary in the US, one of the prestigious Protestant theological schools. What do you think are the changes that have taken place in Christendom in the Eastern world and in the western world since the 1960’s.

 

I must say at the outset that it was a great privilege for me to serve in these Ecumenical bodies and study at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Grand Rapids is known as the “Jerusalem” of the Reformed World and it added to my prestige by being there Most of the changes in Christendom in the East and West, I think, have been fairly common…Theologically, it would involve the principles of the Interpretation of the Scriptures, the Ordination of Women to Ecclesiastical Office, the changed stance re issues of homosexuality, gay rights and same sex marriages….more inter-faith and intra-faith action, dialogue and involvement, greater emphasis on caring for the environment and social and ethical issues …more pronounced division between Conservatives and Liberals, and the Church striving to be a truly prophetic voice, for transformation, in spite of pronounced oppression.

 

There is a decline of Christianity in the west since the 1960’s and this has affected the Christian family values. How do you explain this with your international exposure for 50 years since 1960?

 

It is certainly sad to see the decline you mention – especially in Europe where Churches and Cathedrals have become more or less museum pieces and sometimes converted to restaurants and entertainment centers. I have heard it often said, whilst at one time the West sent missionaries to us, now it is time to send Missionaries to them! I have heard that in many countries in the West, the Church is no longer relevant to people. So children are not baptized. And there are no weddings or funerals in which the Church is involved. Religion and faith are not part of life anymore and it is only the elderly, if at all, who make up a congregation. I believe that the overall reason has to do with a materialistic and very secularistic life style and culture that has become part of the DNA of many. They are, to use a Bible phrase, more interested in building treasures on earth than in Heaven. On the other hand, I must quickly add that the Church must also strive to be relevant to the people of today. We must be, to use the motto of “Youth for Christ.” – “geared to the times and anchored to the Rock” If the Church does not meet the felt needs of people, and be relevant, the Church and Christianity per se will become irrelevant to people. And that would not be only in the West.

 

There is a discussion on “born again” phenomenon in the social media these days particularly after

one particular Pentecostal church published a video on the miraculous healing of a veteran musician. Can you explain the history and origins of “born again” phenomenon in the Western world and in Sri Lanka? Many people in SL think that it is a new cult or a sect.

 

May I say that the “Born again” phenomenon, as you call it, is as old as the St. John Chapter 3. If people in Sri Lanka think that it is another cult or a sect, I think it is because of the way this wonderful Biblical concept has been marketed by certain people in keeping with their own ecclesiastical agendas in addition to the poor understanding of what it biblically entails by the laity. I remember someone asking me a few years ago, whether the Christian Reformed Church at Dehiwela is a “Born Again” Church. I had to make it clear that the Bible emphasizes the truth that all Christians must be “born again” (“born from above”) in the sense that we must be “regenerated” by God’s Spirit and blessed with this “new birth and new life,” if we are to be saved from our sins and live Christianly. In fact the term “regenerated” comes from two Greek words, that can literally translated as “born again.” But not too many people think of regeneration, when they hear the term “born again”. That is made possible, when we are led to make a faith commitment and believe in Jesus as our Saviour. It is very clear that our “old nature” will not pursue the things of God, only our “new nature” would make that possible and that becomes a reality when we are “born again”. It is primarily a reference to our spiritual birth. That is the starting line of the Christian life. If we have not stood at the starting line, running the race, to use another Biblical metaphor, would not be possible.

 

The Peace, tranquility and tolerance in the Sri Lankan society have been disturbed by religious and racist extremism of some groups in recent times. Can you comment?

 

I would agree with you that until recently there was a great degree of tolerance, but that has changed as you mentioned. Of course, this is not a phenomenon only involving particular religion or race. Society generally has become intolerant and this is not only in terms of other faiths, but also In many other or all areas of life. Take a journey on our roads – you will definitely be met by intolerance at its best!! The growth of bigotry and fundamentalism, a false sense of nationalism and patriotism, selfishness, egotism etc, some of it fanned by political and even religious leadership in different ways, to fulfill their own pursuits, would be a primary cause. Whilst not living out the principles of the respective religions would be another. On the other hand, talking of the Church, we must be careful that our actions and strategies do not give room to further intolerance. And we must strive not to give offence.

 

How do you see the future of Christians in Sri Lanka? And what do you think are most important and urgent reforms that are necessary in churches and in society.

 

Certainly, from a human point of view and from the present context there would be many challenges ahead as far as Christians are concerned. And the call would always be to be creatively faithful to our mission, claiming again the Lord’s good promise that “even the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church.” In terms of reforms involving the church, we must move away from worship that is merely a spectacle and a gospel that is being distorted. We have more Pastors who follow the Master! As far as society goes, religious belief must play a more significant role in daily life. In all areas of life we do not need more preachers, but we do urgently need more of those who practice. I must quickly add that in terms of urgent reforms in society there must be some good and meaningful work to reform some of our existing laws to deal more relevantly and specifically with issues that are part and parcel of life today, that it turns would make justice what it really should be. Two areas that come to mind which are being debated more recently are the Election laws and the Law involving contempt of court….not forgetting Constitutional reforms in general, Institutional reforms for the protection of fundamental rights and economic reforms which would result, as someone said, with an economy with a “human face”.

 

 

Do you have any message to the Christians in Sri Lanka and to the wider society?

 

Basically to the Christians it would be a message to sincerely live out their Christian faith. As someone said, “Name Christian live Christian,” or as the Bible says, to live as the “salt, light and leaven”. To the wider society it would be a message to live out the precepts of their respective religious faiths that call for love, acceptance, compassion, justice and peace, striving for a greater measure of ethnic and religious harmony. Right living divinely empowered can make it happen for ultimately, as the Bible says, “Righteousness (and only Righteousness) will exalt a nation.”



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Features

All communities should be treated equally without distinction

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by Jehan Perera

The government was elected on a platform that stressed national security and unity. The elections took place in the aftermath of the Easter suicide bomb attacks of 2019 that caused the highest numbers of casualties in Christian churches. As the bombers were all Muslim, the Muslim population in the country came under public suspicion which was spontaneous and widespread. There was also equally widespread fear and anxiety about follow on attacks that could target Christians in particular and also the population in general. The cause of the attacks and the master minds behind them were a mystery then as they are now.

Due to the timely intervention of Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, in whose diocese the two most serious attacks took place, there was no retaliation against the Muslim population by those who had lost their kith and kin. However, in the weeks that followed, there were mob attacks against the Muslim community in parts of the country that were distant from the bomb attacks. These attacks were not spontaneous but organised and intended to loot Muslim property and cause fear in them. The government, which was under political siege for having failed to prevent the suicide bomb attacks, failed once again to adequately protect the Muslim community.

It is in this context that Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith’s statement on the occasion of the second anniversary of the Easter bombings takes on significance. About two months ago he gave a deadline by which he asked the government to identify who was behind the Easter attacks and the cause for them. The Cardinal has consistently spoken up on the issue of the Easter bombing, first to ask for restraint on the part of the victims, then to ask the government to identify the perpetrators and prior to the elections to take the position that the people needed a government that could protect them. Now he has said that “Our brethren were attacked not by religious extremism, but by a group that exploited it to use the attackers as pawns in order to strengthen their political power.”

MUSLIM OUTREACH

Two years after the Easter bombings in which they were branded as supporters of religious extremism, the Muslim community seeks in many different ways to overcome the suspicion that once engulfed them and which they fear can do so again. The use of the black Islamic dress that was an increasing trend among Muslim women has been much reduced. Muslim organisations are making energetic efforts to network with other religious organisations, join inter-religious groups and to liaise with civil society. They make available to them the Islamic teachings on peace and coexistence. This weekend I was invited to the opening of a community centre in the Kurunegala District by a Muslim organization.

On the walls of the community centre there were panels put up with sayings from the different religions on a number of important matters, such as how to treat others, and the role of spiritual values in everyday life. The foremost place at the opening ceremony was given to Buddhist monks who had come to attend the ceremony along with government officials and police officers. The monks who spoke said that the Muslim community living in the village had good relations with the Sinhalese living in the neighbouring villages, and this had continued for generations. Another monk said that after the Easter bombings they had heard there were violent gangs heading in the direction of the Muslim village, they had come there to ensure no harm would befall those people.

In this context, the announcement that the government will ban 11 Muslim organisations sends a negative message to the country at large about the Muslim community. It creates an impression that Muslims organisations are under suspicion and possibly even close to performing acts of violence which necessitates them being banned. Of the 11 banned organisations, two are foreign ones, the Islamic State and Al Qaeda which have been reported internationally as engaging in violence. However, the other nine are Sri Lankan organisations which do not have a track record of violence or illegality. Four of them have the name “Thowheed” in them, which in the Arabic language means “faith.”

 

DIFFERENT TREATMENT

The ban on these Thowheed organisations may be due to the fact that the leader of the suicide squad, Zahran, was part of an organisation that had the name “Thowheed” in it. The ban on them may also be due to the fact that the Commission of Inquiry into the Easter bombings recommended such action against them. However, the Commission also recommended that other non-Muslim organisations be banned which has not happened. This suggests that the Muslim organisations are being treated differently. The danger is that when it treats organisations differently, the government may be generating resentment in the Muslim community, especially the youth. If the words of Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith are correct, the problem lies not in Muslim extremism but in partisan power politics.

Sri Lanka has experienced Sinhalese youth insurrections twice and even the Tamil militant movement was started by youth, who were once called “the boys.” Perhaps in anticipation of such a radicalisation phenomenon, the government has recently passed an add-on called the “De-radicalisation from holding violent extremist religious ideology” to the Prevention of Terrorism Act. This will permit people who fall into its ambit to be send to rehabilitation centres for up to two years without trial. This may provide the government with an opportunity to release up to 250 Muslim citizens currently under detention on suspicion of being involved in the Easter bombings and send them for rehabilitation. On the other hand, this regulation may be used in the future in regard to other persons and other groups. The better way to prevent radicalization is to make people feel that the law is even-handed to all, and also to encourage engagement between communities.

During the discussion that took place at the opening of the community centre in Kurunegala, it was noted that the younger generation had fewer inter-community linkages than those of older generations. This may be due to the changing nature of society and the economy where people spend less time with other people and more time with machines or doing narrow and specialised jobs. In multi-ethnic and multi-religious societies in which there is conflictual relations, the tendency on the part of those from different communities will be to live in their own silos rather than interact with those of other communities. Living in peace in plural societies requires purposeful and energetic interaction which is organised. Where there has been ethnic and religious strife the world over, the better answer has been to provide people with encouragement and incentives to mix together, which is what the Muslim organization in Kurunegala was trying to do.

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TNGlive…a boon to artistes affected by the pandemic

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No doubt, Covid-19 has ruined the entertainment industry, throughout the world.

Entertainment venues have been shut down, concerts cancelled…and musicians are finding the going pretty tough.

However, it’s heartening to know that there are performers who find solace in keeping the public entertained, via online performances.

In this instance, those responsible for TNGlive must be congratulated for creating this platform, on social media, in order to give lots of folks, from around the globe, the opportunity to showcase their talent, on a regular basis.

Quite a few Sri Lankans have been featured on TNGlive, including Melantha Perera, Suzi Croner (Fluckiger), Sureshni Wanigasuriya, Yasmin de Silva, and Kay Jay Gunesekere,

Suzi did this scene twice, and on both occasions her performance was highly rated, with bouquets galore coming her way…on social media.

On Saturday, April 10th, she was featured (8.00 pm Sri Lankan time) doing songs from the country and western catalogue.

It was a very entertaining programme, which also contained some dance scenes (line dancing) from the audience present, in her living room – her friends.

Her repertoire included ‘Joline, ‘Me And Bobby McGee, “Johnny B. Goode,’ ‘Blue By You,’ ‘Okie From Muskogee,’ ‘Tennessee Waltz,’ ‘Rose Garden,’ ‘Mississippi’ and ‘Cotton Eyed Joe.’

Suzi is to make her third appearance, on TNGlive, shortly, but this time it won’t be a solo effort, she says.

“For variety, I would be having a guy from the Philippines, and he sings the hit songs of Tom Jones and Engelbert.”

So get ready for another special from Suzi, who now resides in Switzerland.

Suzi was the frontline vocalist for the group Friends who were, at that point in time, top of the pops!

Another artiste who impressed viewers, performing on TNGlive, with his daughter, was Nigel Gerrard John Galway.

Nigel is from India, and has been a Chef for the last 23 years, with 12 years spent at the Oberoi hotels. He was also an executive Sous Chef at Taj, in Coimbatore.

In fact, Allwyn Stephen, TNGlive chief, referred to Nigel as…probably the first Singing/Dancing Chef in the world!

He, and his 18-year-old daughter, Lean Pamela Mary, did get the attention of many, with their unique style of presentation; while Nigel handled the vocals, Lean, using only gestures, expression, and movements, brought out the meaning of the lyrics in most of the songs her dad did. And, she did it beautifully.

Yes, she also did exercise her vocal cords, on this particular programme

Says Nigel: “We come from a family of musicians, but we attempted singing, only during the pandemic, on various social media groups, and we did so only because we were all stuck at home.

“We joined TNGlive, through a friend, and have been performing ever since. The love and support we received from people around only encouraged us to keep growing and now we have a page of our own called THE SINGING CHEF.”

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Heard at the club

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Part II

A member reminisced an incident that happened long years ago, during those peaceful times when terrorism was unheard of. He had been driving his car, on the Deniyaya Road, when about six miles from Galle, he saw a village in a state of panic. So he stopped his car near the village boutique and asked the mudalali what was happening? The mudalali had said that the self-opinionated ‘mudliyar’ of the village (a court interpreter) had organised a ‘dane’ (an alms giving) and was awaiting the procession of monks, complete with drummers, from the temple. And, seeing it coming over the paddy fields which was a short cut, instead of the village road as show off, put him in a paddy, and he had chased the monks away. So the monks had gone back to the temple. As the meal time deadline for monks was fast approaching, the villagers brought the meals they had cooked in their homes, to serve the monks! That was the panic.

He was an unpopular villager who rose to a high position in the public service with political influence. Cussed by nature, he used his official position to harass villagers. When he met with an untimely death and, right at the moment the coffin was taken to the hearse, the whole village reverberated with the sound of fire crackers, organised by the irate villagers.

****

Once a terrible post office blunder very nearly wrecked a marriage. A certain sales rep sometimes sold his wares on credit. One such creditor was the owner of a shop named ‘Chandra Cafe’ who was slack in his payments. So the sales rep sent him a telegram that he would be coming to collect his dues, next Monday. On receipt, the owner of Chandra Cafe telegraphed the rep asking him not to come on Monday and the telegram received by him read, ‘Do not come on Monday – Chandra K.P.’ And when the rep’s wife read the telegram there was some misunderstanding at home which nearly rocked his marriage.

****

This reminded us of another telegram. An army officer was to go back to camp by the night mail. When he arrived at the railway station, he found a lady in an advanced state of pregnancy, almost in tears, because no berths were available. Gallantly the officer offered her his berth and, at the nearest post office, sent a telegram to his commanding officer saying ‘Unable to return tomorrow as ordered. Gave berth to lady. Arriving tomorrow evening.’

Obviously, the vital word ‘berth’ had been misspelt as ‘birth’, for the gallant officer received this reply from his commanding officer, ‘Your next confinement will be to barracks’.

****

A philanthropist donated a building to his old school. An opening ceremony was held with a VVIP as the chief guest. A group photograph was also taken. As the donor was keen to get this photograph published in the newspapers without delay, he sent the local correspondent in his limousine to Colombo. He met the editor who happened to be an old boy of the same school. After a look at the photograph, he folded it in such away to eliminate the principal and sent it for publication. The editor seemed to have an axe to grind with the principal!

****

It was in the early 60s and I was on my way to the club in the evening, when I met a friend near the club. With him was another, I invited them both to the club and after a few drinks we were headed out of the club, when near the gate, my friend pulled me aside and said that his friend was going for some trade union work to Hambantota and was short of funds. I told him that he should have told me that before I paid the club bill and also told him I had only Rs.18.00 which I gave. This trade union leader was non other than Rohana Wijeweera, who was to become JVP leader.

****

It was towards the end of the 1980s and a club member, a tea factory owner was on his way home all alone in his car, at the break of down, after finishing his factory work. He had to travel 12 miles. After about five miles, he saw a youth profusely bleeding with injuries, coming down a hill. The good Samaritan that he was, he took him in his car to the hospital. On the way, the police took him and the injured youth into custody for terrorist activities. Fortunately for him, Major-General Lucky Wijeratna, who was a classmate of his at school, was there to save him.

 

****

This happened several decades ago. There was a certain popular elderly club member, who was a wealthy businessman and drank nothing but whisky. That day when he came to the club, he seemed to have lost his bearings. He told his friends that he was going to donate all his wealth to the Home for Disabled Children which was close to his house, because his only child, a daughter, had eloped. His friends prevailed on him to defer his decision for a few months. About a year or so later, he came to the club one evening carrying a big flask in his hand. He said that it was for his errant daughter who has now reconciled, adding that he was a grandfather now!

****

A busy garage was located in a residential area and it was open day and night. To highlight their services, they put up an impressive signboard, ‘We never sleep’. The following day a prankster had written below it ‘and neither do the neighbours’.

During the day of insanity – 29th July 1987, the Open University at Matara was burnt down and the Ruhunu University remained closed. A wall poster came up. It read: ‘Close the Open University’ and ‘Open the closed University’.

****

A young teacher, met a young man at the Dehiwala Zoological Gardens. Although their native villages were far apart, they

became close friends and planned to get married in the near future. He posed as a private bus owner. One day on a visit to his fiancée, he stayed the night over and muttered in his sleep, “Borella – Battaramulla! Borella – Battaramulla!” This aroused serious suspicions about his identity. So a few days later, her parents came to the Borella junction, to see him in a sarong loading passengers to private buses as a ‘bus crier’. And the love story ended right there.

****

A long time ago a wealthy industrialist, a popular member of the club, was having his drink in a secluded corner of the club, most unlike him. He appeared to be quite agitated. Some concerned friends asked him what happened. He said that his only daughter (he also had a son) had married a man of her choice adding that his wife was in favour of the marriage. The daughter he said, was 22 years old. His friends told him that at that age, she was entitled to choose her partner in life and appealed to him to take things easy as his wife too approved of the marriage. After about a year or so, a friend visited him. Proudly pointing out a large multiple storey house in his sprawling garden, he had said that it was built by his son-in-law.

****

A certain member served abroad for many years. One morning he come back to his native Galle in a hired helicopter. That evening he came to the club and ordered a case of beer for his friends!

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Several years ago, a member had gone to the Galle Post Office to send a telegram to a close relative. He was informed by the postal authorities that there was a breakdown in the telegraphic services and that it was unlikely that his message, about a bereavement in the friend’s family, would reach his relative in time. They advised our friend to telephone someone in the area where his relative lived and to get the message delivered orally. Those were the days when only a few had telephones. As the member did not know anyone in that area with a telephone, he thought of S. Jayasinghe, known as Mr. S, who was not know to him personally and who was a Junior Minister residing in the area where our friend’s relative lived.

When our friend telephoned him from the post office, he had just got into his car to go somewhere. Soon after he was speaking to our friend over the phone as if he was talking to an old friend. He also told our friend that he was about to go to the site where he was building a new house. Our friend then gave him the message and appealed to him to get it delivered. The rest of the story was told to our friend by his relative who had said that during a heavy shower of rain, he found a car near his gate and that when he went up to the car he recognized him to be the Junior Minister. Like my friend, he did not personally know the Junior Minister. Instead of giving the message then and there, he had got off the car and had gone to our friend’s house and not only given the message but also consoled him by talking to him for a few minutes.

****

It was in the late 1980s, at the height of the insurrection, that this member was travelling all alone to Galle in his jeep. He was going through the Kottawa Forest which was famous at the time for tyre pyres. The Navy had stopped his vehicle and asked him to take a young man who was injured in a motorcycle accident, to the Galle Hospital, about eight miles away. The young man was bleeding profusely. He got him admitted to the hospital but our friend was forced to stay there for a long length of time, culminating in his having to give his consent for a surgical operation on the injured, whom he had never seen before. Alas! The purpose of his visit to Galle was lost.

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A member had two sons, twins aged three years. As they fell ill, he channelled a specialist doctor who examined one twin and refused to examine the other, as an appointment was not made for him. So our friend had the other twin channelled as well. Certainly, it was no personification of Hippocrates!

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A popular elderly member used to come to the club only on his pay day to keep himself warm. He worked at ‘Sathosa’ (C.W.E). The younger members would then tell him that he is very fortunate to work in a historic establishment like ‘Sathosa’ which is also referred to in Guttila Kavya (an epic) thus:

‘Sara Salelu Jana Sathose.’

Highly elated he would order a round of drinks, adding ‘Surapana karathi mese’.

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This happened many decades ago. A member who was an inveterate gambler once lost heavily at the card table and mortgaged his expensive wrist watch. A member who was not well disposed towards him had sent a post card to his wife informing her that her husband sold his watch to gamble. He also had a 15-acre well-maintained tea estate which he had to sell when his gambles failed.

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This story was related by a member and is about the ‘kings’ in the planting circles. A planter in the coconut belt of the North Western Province who owned acres of coconut, once named himself ‘King Coconut’. He argued that if a planter in the Kalutara District who owned vast acres of rubber could be referred to as a ‘Rubber King’ why shouldn’t he be called ‘King Coconut’.

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One day a member related a story, which is hard to believe. A teacher who served in an uncongenial station, in his quest for higher knowledge, had studied for an external degree at a university. And he passed the examination with flying colours, obtaining first class honours and was highly commended by the university authorities for his brilliance, while serving in a different area. He had confided to his friends that his success at the exam was due to the gift of seeing all the question papers in a dream, before the examination!

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