The gifted and versatile actor Gehan Cooray makes Sri Lanka proud with his Hollywood movie “Billionaire” . This movie was awarded at the prestigious Burbank International film recently.
This film was Gehan Cooray’s very own adaptation of George Bernard Show’s play ‘The Millionairess’ Gehan’s milestone in producing, writing the screen play and his portrayal in the title role were great achievements.
Based in Los Angeles, Gehan Cooray is also an actor, independent filmmaker and a classical singer. The film ‘The Billionaire’ was officially submitted to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in late 2020, after becoming eligible for both Oscar and Golden Globe awards nominations.
by Zanita Careem
How did you get involved in the movie The Billionaire”
At the tender age of three , my mother introduced me to Classic Hollywood films like ‘My Fair Lady’, ‘The Sound of Music’ and ‘Mary Poppins’, which left an indelible impression on my mind. Throughout my childhood, I was struck by how movies could offer the viewer a form of audio-visual escapism that was practically unrivalled. However, since there was no English film industry in Sri Lanka, I grew up performing on the stage, and didn’t seriously consider becoming a filmmaker until I attended the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles.
USC of course has the best cinematic arts school in the world, producing such Hollywood luminaries as George Lucas. Although I majored in Theatre and Psychology, I took as many cinema classes as I possibly could, and discovered a knack for filmmaking through class projects and such. It was several years after graduating from university, however, that a chance meeting with the famous director Jon Favreau in Hollywood set me on my current trajectory. Seeing my USC sweatshirt, he asked me if I was a filmmaker. My instinct at the time was to say “I’m an Actor and a Singer, but not really a filmmaker” – and yet, I subsequently said to myself….”If Mr. Favreau thinks I look like I could be making films, on top of being a performer, why not give it a go, since I’ve had such an excellent foundation at USC anyway?”
I started with a few short films, which got into some big film festivals in Los Angeles and Palm Springs. Having received that kind of recognition for my work, my mother felt it was time for me to take the plunge and make a feature length film – which is what led to “THE BILLION AIRE”. I wanted to make a film that hearkened back to the elegance and sophistication of the Old Hollywood films I grew up watching.
How long did you take to make research and make the film?
It took several years. It was definitely a marathon, not a sprint, and it sometimes felt like I would never reach the finish line, honestly, but by the Grace of God, I finally did, overcoming all kinds of obstacles that seemed insurmountable to the point of despair at the time – but my Patience and Perseverance won out.
What were the key challenges in making ‘The Billionaire’
I had a number of people try to take advantage of me and bleed me dry in the most unscrupulous of ways, and so I would say the key challenge was finding the right collaborators whom I could really trust, and who had the film’s best interests in mind, versus their own best interests. This is always a challenge when you are producing a film as an independent filmmaker.
On a more artistic note, editing the film also proved to be a challenge. The first cut of the film was 2 hours 40 minutes. It took me a long time to find an editor who could help me bring the film under two hours, without sacrificing the main essence and thrust of the story. It was someone at Warner Bros. Studios who referred me to such an editor, who understood what I was trying to accomplish with the film, and respected my vision, without merely slicing and dicing the footage.
Working and producing the movie in Hollywood, tell us your first time experience
The difference between making a short film and making a feature film is like the difference between crawling and running a marathon, and so the short films I had so successfully made prior to THE BILLIONAIRE did not prepare me for what was to come. What helped me from beginning to end, however, was the strength of my artistic convictions – I was not just trying to make a movie, as so many do, but create a work of art that had literary, dramatic and musical merit. The whole process might have been somewhat intimidating, had I not had believed so completely in what I was doing.
Is digital technology and opportunity or a threat?
Digital technology is certainly an opportunity for so many young creative people, but it can also be a threat because anyone can make anything and upload it online – regardless of their level of education or their artistic abilities. Hence, there is such an overabundance of content available online digitally, that finding a work of quality these days can be akin to finding a needle in a haystack. I am still adamant about releasing my film in cinemas first, before taking the digital route, because there is a level of quality control and discernment in cinemas that sadly can’t be found in the digital sphere.
What inspired you to produce and star in ‘The Billionaire’?
I wanted to produce and star in a feature film that portrayed South Asians like myself in an empowered manner, first and foremost. Too often, we see South Asians portrayed in a somewhat subservient manner in Western cinema. My Godmother in Colombo, Nishanthi Perera Pieris, had told me about George Bernard Shaw’s play “The Millionairess”, which was quite progressive in the 1930s, depicting an empowered and thoroughly independent female character. I realized that, by changing the gender and turning the 1930s millionairess into a 21st century billionaire of South Asian descent, I could represent my race in a truly formidable manner. Also, since I grew up watching “My Fair Lady”, which was also adapted from a George Bernard Shaw play, I felt an immense affinity to the kind of language that Shaw utilizes. It was a secondary goal of mine to showcase to the world that a South Asian actor like me could speak the Queen’s English as resplendently and majestically as any Caucasian actor.
What projects do you have coming up?
I am working on adapting an operetta to the big screen, as well as another play which is a more dramatic version of an old fairytale. I wouldn’t be able to produce either project as an independent filmmaker however. I would need to partner with a studio. On a more independent level, I am envisioning a project that might be shot in Sri Lanka, with a big Hollywood actor or actress starring in the film alongside me. Hopefully all of the above comes to fruition.
I have recorded my first album, which will be released in 2021. It was produced by Grammy Award winning musician Hussain Jiffrey, and features Operatic Arias, French and Italian Classical Melodies, as well as Old English Songs from the late 19th century and early 20th century Broadway Musicals. I can’t wait to share this with the world.
Why the movie stresses on Asexuality.
The movie stresses on Asexuality because I myself identify as an Asexual gentleman. This is something which most people are completely unaware of, because so much emphasis is placed on Heterosexuality and Homosexuality. I wanted audiences to become aware of the fact that not everyone likes, needs, or wants sex. I for one, most certainly do not. In THE BILLIONAIRE, for example, the title character whom I portray is attracted to men romantically, but not sexually, which means that none of his relationships are ever consummated – not even after marriage. Since this reflects my own disposition, I felt it was important to showcase to the world at large that two people can fall in love and even get married, but remain essentially pure and chaste. This is a beautiful and sublime thing.
In George Bernard Shaw’s original play ‘The Millionairess’, the title character’s pride and self-worth seemed to derive almost entirely from her wealth and status. I thought this was a rather flimsy characterization, especially in the 21st century, when the Class system is considered somewhat archaic, and so I thought it would be dramatically and psychologically fascinating if my character – THE BILLIONAIRE – drew HIS pride and self-worth as much from his chastity and purity, as he did from his status and wealth. An Asexual person is quasi-angelic, in the sense that such an individual has no desire for a sexual connection with anyone, and I felt this was a much stronger reason for my character to be so proud – above and beyond being rich and upper class.
A lot of people in the LGBTQ community have role models in the media to look up to these days, but Asexual individuals do not have those same role models as yet, unfortunately, and I thought it was high time we changed that.
The Place of the Physician in Sri Lanka’s Society
“The Best Physician is also a Philosopher”
Galen of Pergamon (c.129 – 216 AD )
An institution, a learned society and a body of practitioners, the Ceylon College of Physicians stands at the apex of medical learning and practice in Sri Lanka. For over half a century, the College has fulfilled an integral role in medical education and the maintenance of professional standards. As an institution, it has played a valuable part in the building of our nation. As a scholar, a historian and a Sri Lankan, it is a privilege and an honour to address its 52nd assembly.
In a thought provoking conclusion to the 50th Anniversary Commemorative Volume, Dr Panduka Karunanayake, President Elect for 2017, explores new horizons. In an increasingly technological age, he underlines the great need to master the human and social aspects of healing. A profession that truly cares for its patients in every sense of the word, must seek to understand and shape the future. This demands that the physician not only advise patients but that he guide society. If as Dr. Karunanayake suggests, the physician is to shape the future, he must endeavor to understand the human being, his society and his environment.
This was a philosophy which was articulated by one of the fathers of western medicine Aelius Galenus better known as Galen of Pergamon. The most celebrated medical authority of the Roman empire, Galen was one of the greatest physicians and surgeons of the ancient world. He has authored more books still in existence than any other ancient Greek. With the exception of Aristotle and Plato, he ranks as one most influential intellectuals in the classical west.
Born into the intellectual and social elite, Galen was son of a wealthy architect with scholarly interests and he received an excellent education. He travelled and studied widely, spending several years at Alexandria in Egypt, the greatest medical centre of the age. Returning home he spent four years tending a troupe of gladiators, eventually become the personal physician to a succession of Roman emperors.
Described by the Emperor Marcus Aurelius as “First among doctors and unique among philosophers,” Galen strongly believed that science and medicine must be practised in the context of human desires and needs. For him, medicine was an interdisciplinary field where science, ethics and the arts were all interwoven He saw himself as both a physician and a philosopher and believed that the study of philosophy would make for a better scientist, hence his short treatise The Best Physician is also a Philosopher.
In an eerie evocation of a contemporary dilemma Galen attacks the medical culture of his day which
“…encourages people to value wealth over virtue. For, “it is impossible to pursue financial gain at the same time as training oneself in so great an art as medicine; someone who is really enthusiastic about one of these aims, money or medicine, will inevitably despise the other.”
Galen advocated the study of arts and letters as an essential component of scientific study. In another work An Exhortation to Study the Arts, he warns against specialized isolation and lists several arts which he categorizes as divine gifts because they are useful to life. Alongside natural science and medicine, he also lists poetry, music, and philosophy. This underlines his belief that physicians must be specialists who were not only technically competent but also humane and morally responsible. According to Galen, proper, precise scientific inquiry was indeed ‘useful for life’. However, it could not be accomplished by scientists who were not properly trained in the other arts, because they would not then possess the humanity, the sensitivity, to do that science properly.
There does not appear to be a great distance between Galen’s creed and the requirements of contemporary medicine. A modern day physician like a philosopher is trained to think, to inquire and to ask questions. It is perhaps one of the foundations of his long and rigorous education. A good physician, like a good philosopher is always asking questions. It is by asking the best possible questions that he can make conclusions and diagnose.
A real philosopher is always open to question. This is even more the case with medicine. The danger is that answers shut down questions. Therefore the physician must always be open to question. As it is a question of wellbeing, of life and death, these questions are always shifting, changing with the time and the moment. If as a physician one must come to a conclusion, one can only do that by becoming a philosopher. To do that the physician must be able to listen, to observe, to think and to question. He must have time and make time. Time to listen, time to ponder, time to think, to analyze and evaluate.
It is a dilemma which still lies at the core of modern medicine. In an age where the internet and artificial intelligence have made vast inroads into the credibility of the physician, what makes him special is that although modern technology can make diagnoses, it cannot take a judgement call. That judgement call still rests on the human element, the physician’s understanding of the social context- on factors such as belief, culture, environment, sustainability and cost. This will determine the success of the cure. As Dr. Karunanayake foresees, if the physician is to play a role in the future, he must endeavor to understand the human being, his society and his setting.
The history of medicine reveals that physicians have occupied a special role in many parts of the world. Classical scholars have always regarded the ancient Greeks as the fathers of western medicine. However recent research suggests that the ancient Egyptians practised medicine long before the Greeks. The Edwin Smith Papyrus, an Egyptian surgical treatise dating from 1600 BC suggests that medical practice was well established in Egypt 1,000 years before Hippocrates. This documents 48 injuries which were described, diagnosed and treated rationally through observation and examination. It is thought to be a copy of a much earlier work dating from the 3rd millenium BC by the Egyptian polymath Imhotep. Chief Minister to the pharaoh, a priest, a sage and an architect, over the ages Imhotep was gradually glorified and became a god of healing.
His counterpart in the Greek world was Asklepios, the son of Apollo. The legend goes that Asclepius become so skilled that Zeus, the king of the gods, feared that he might render men immortal. To prevent this Zeus slew him with a thunderbolt and over time like Imhotep, he too became a God. His shrine at the sanctuary of Epidaurus became known as the Asklepieion and it grew into the most important centre of healing in the Greek world. The legacy of Asklepios looms large in the Greek tradition of healing. Hippocrates formal name was Hippocrates Asclepiades, “the “descendant of Asclepios.” Galen too, we are told was not destined to become a physician and only took up medicine after the God Asklepios appeared to his father in a dream.
In Ayurveda, the system of medicine and lifestyle developed in Ancient India, the pre- eminent figures are Sushruta and Charuka. Sushruta is thought to have lived near Varanisi during the 6th-7th century BC. Regarded as the father of Indian medicine, he was the main author of the Sushruta Samhita, one of the most important surviving ancient treatises on medicine. The other medical text to have survived from ancient India, the Charaka Samhita, was authored by Charaka, who is thought to have practised throughout the Punjab between the 2nd -3rd century BC.
One of the oldest medical systems in the world is traditional Chinese medicine. This tradition has produced many leading figures. In the 5th century BC Bian Que (Pien Ch’iao) was the first to rely primarily on pulse and physical examination for the diagnosis of disease. He was followed by Hua Tuo (Yuanhua) the greatest surgeon in Chinese history. In 2nd century AD he became the first person in China to use anesthesia during surgery.
Throughout the ancient world the practice of medicine was associated with learning and skill, over time it become a divine gift. The physician was the incarnation of Imhotep, Asklepios, Hippocrates, Galen; he was a god, a seer, a sage, a skilled and deeply learned practitioner, a guide and a philosopher. Only in Sri Lanka however, was the physician a king.
The place of the physician in Sri Lanka’s society is documented in the island’s great historical chronicle, the Mahavamsa. Compiled in Pali by Buddhist monks, the Mahāvaṃsa and its successor, the Cūlavaṃsa, charts the history of Lanka from the 5th century BC to the 18th century AD. It is a remarkably accurate record, of seminal value for the history of India and Sri Lanka.
King Buddhadasa reigned between 341 – 370 AD. The Culavamsa recounts how he diagnosed, treated and cured patients from all walks of life. The chronicle devotes several whole sections to the practice and establishment of medicine and documents at least seven detailed case studies. This suggests that the physician had a very special place in this society and that his story was as important as the great warriors, builders, saints and the monks who shaped the history of Lanka. Each of these case studies tells us different things. Each concerns a different situation and elicits a deeply and carefully thought out remedy, based on reasoned analysis and evaluation.
In one case, it tells of how a man drinking water swallowed the eggs of a watersnake. The egg gradually grew into a snake. As it grew sucked at the man’s intestines, torturing the victim with pain. The man sought out the king, who questioned him. When he described the pain and related what had happened the king realized that a reptile must have formed inside the man. However as the reptile was lodged deep inside the intestines, the king refrained from cutting it out.
Instead he made the man fast for a week, starving the reptile within him. He then had the patient, bathed and rubbed with oil. This calmed and soothed him and he eventually fell asleep. The king knew that when he was asleep that his mouth would open. He tied a piece of meat to a string and dangled it over his mouth. Lured by the smell and driven by hunger, the watersnake reached for the meat. The king however, held the string fast and drew on it, gradually pulling the reptile out.
Another case concerned a Bhikku or Buddhist priest, the most venerated member of society. The bhikku had gone begging for alms and was given milk which had worms in it. The worms grew and fed on his bowels, causing agonizing pain. The king then asked leading questions. At what meal did the pain arise? What kind of meal was it and what was the nature of the pain? When the bhikku told him that it was a meal that he took with milk, the king recognized the symptoms.
Taking the blood from a horse, he gave it to the monk to drink. He then waited until he had drunk it all. Then he told him that was horse’s blood. The reaction was what he had anticipated. On hearing that he had drunk the blood of a horse, the monk vomited, spitting out the blood. The worms which had caused him such pain, came up with the blood.
Compassion and feeling made up an essential part of the King’s healing skills. There is a deep feeling for life in all its forms. This applied even to the most dangerous animals. Galen had concluded that even dumb animals are not entirely devoid of reason. In Buddhadasa’s most wellknown case, the king cobra, one of Sri Lanka’s most venomous reptiles, becomes a willing patient. As the king passed by, the cobra turned over onto his back to expose his underbelly so that the king could see the tumour growing on it. After observing the growth, the king reasoned with the reptile. Although he understood its pain, he dared not touch it. Understanding the king’s dilemma, the snake stuck his whole neck into anthill so that he could not hurt the king. Whilst the cobra was immobilized, the king slit open his belly, removed the diseased growth and applied a healing remedy.
This episode suggest a high level of surgical skill. It is underlined by another. A young man had drunk water which was full of frog’s eggs. Through his nostrils an egg had penetrated into his skull and evolved into a frog. As the monsoon approached the frog became more and more agitated, causing unbearable headaches. In this case the king appears to have resorted to immediate surgery. Performing a complicated and dangerous operation, he split the skull and removed the frog and then put the parts of the skull back together.
Ancient Indic society was dominated by caste and social taboos. Despite this and ignoring own his royal status, Buddhadasa cut across every social barrier and boundary to serve the suffering. In Indian society the lowest and most menial of tasks were performed by the Caṇḍālas, outcastes who worked as sweepers and scavengers. A Candala woman who had already had seven children, became pregnant for the eighth time. This time however, her unborn child was facing the wrong way in the womb. When Buddhadasa learned that this, he intervened to save the woman’s life. In the ancient world, birth and reproduction were the preserve of women and midwives. Socially this is a unique case. It is also a complex gynecological procedure.
The understanding of the human mind is an integral part of the physician’s craft. More often than not it holds the key to the patient’s condition and his recovery. In ancient times leprosy was a common condition. Lepers were shunned and regarded with horror and leprosy deemed a curse of the Gods.
The king noticed a leper, who upon seeing him, became enraged, striking the ground with his staff. In a previous birth the king had been the leper’s slave, it maddened him to see him riding his elephant and all he wanted to do was to kill him. Learning of this, Buddhadasa set his mind to winning him over. He sent one of his men to befriend the leper and share his anger. Pretending that he too was against the king, he invited the leper to stay at his house and help him destroy his enemy. The leper was bathed, fed and given beautiful clothes and a comfortable bed to sleep. One day, when he had become happy, contented and calm, Buddhadasa’s man served him food and drink, saying, “This is the gift from the king.” At first the leper refused and then refused again. Finally he accepted. Reaching out to the most diseased and most deeply troubled member of his community, the king was able to heal his mind. It is a clear demonstration of the power of empathy, feeling for and feeling with. It is from empathy that re assurance comes. So much of healing is in the mind. If the physician can take the time and make the effort, he has the power to do great good.
All these cases make one point. The physician truly cares and feels for all his patients, no matter who they are or where they are from. In his posthumous work Galen and Galenism (2002) the Spanish historian and Physician, Luis García Ballester (1936-2000) quotes Galen as saying: “In order to diagnose, one must observe and reason.” This is the dictum which King Buddhadasa embodies. He observes closely, listens carefully and questions keenly, making every attempt to form a picture of the condition. It is then he makes his diagnosis and decides on course of action. A demonstration of the power of the mind, sustained thought and inquiry, it is characterized by understanding and feeling.
The Cūlavaṃsa praises King Buddhadasa as a “Mine of Virtue and a Sea of jewels.” This perception is based on the king’s understanding of the human and social aspects of healing, his ability to care and feel. It is probably this tradition which lies at the roots of the well known Sri Lankan saying “If you cannot be a king, become a healer.”
This is the challenge which western science and learning faces in one of the world’s oldest living cultures. This context demands that the physician be conscious of the rhythms of a society, whose needs, values and way of life are often quite distinct from western norms and practices, often very much older. If as an invited guest, I can make one suggestion, it is that Sri Lanka’s physicians begin to study their past. For it is through comparative traditions that we learn deeply about ourselves.
If he is to truly guide as well as “Cure, Relieve And Comfort,” the Physician must also strive be a Philosopher.
He must not only ask the best possible questions, most of all like King Buddhadasa, he must care, be concerned and compassionate. For that he must have time.
TITLE; SINHARAJA/ APRIL 4
Amunugama’s book on Anagarika captures international review interest
SARATH AMUNUGAMA: The Lion’s Roar: Anagarika Dharmapala and the Making of Modern Buddhism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019; pp. ix + 556.
Sarath Amunugama’s The Lion’s Roar: Anagarika Dharmapala and the Making of Modern Buddhism offers a comprehensive yet very readable account of the life and influence of Anagarika Dharmapala (1864–1933). In Sri Lanka, Dharmapala is revered for reviving Sinhalese Buddhism and for restoring Sri Lankan pride during a period of colonial domination. He is also admired for his lifelong struggle to establish Buddhist management of Buddhist sacred sites in India. Scholars of religion have tended to identify Dharmapala as the founder of “Protestant Buddhism,” that is to say, of a form of Buddhism heavily influenced by “Protestant” thinking in its doctrines and forms and thus rendered acceptable to the modern mentality.
Dharmapala has also been branded as an early proponent of the kind of chauvinistic and nationalistic Buddhism evident in Sri Lanka in the recent conflict between Sinhalese Buddhists and Tamil Hindus. A great merit of Amunugama’s book is that it provides a sound basis to arrive at a more complete picture of Dharmapala than has been heretofore possible. The author first locates Dharmapala (born Don David Hewavitarne) in the context of social and economic changes in Sri Lanka during the colonial period, particularly as these relate to the revival of Buddhism in the late nineteenth century. Dharmapala’s family belonged to the new merchant class who had prospered through the opening of commercial plantations by the British. Elements of this new nativist elite, with Dharmapala’s father at the forefront, formed strong bonds with the Buddhist sangha and laid the foundations for the early Sinhala-Buddhist revival and resistance to missionary influence and colonial paternalism.
Although educated in missionary schools (which gave him deep knowledge of Christian scripture and Western thought), Dharmapala was given special instruction in Buddhism and Sinhala language at home. When the Theosophical delegation headed by Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott arrived in Colombo in 1880, the young Dharmapala was present along with his father and uncle to welcome them. (Olcott and Blavatsky publicly adopted the Buddhist faith soon after their arrival in Sri Lanka.) Dharmapala’s relationship with the Theosophists and the influence they had on him is an important and very interesting aspect of Amunugama’s book. It was Madame Blavatsky who encouraged Dharmapala to master Pali. (He was later instrumental in establishing a department of Pali at Calcutta University.) Blavatsky also encouraged him to make a pilgrimage to Bodhgaya, the site of the Buddha’s Great Awakening (mahabodhi) in northern India.
The 19-year-old Dharmapala travelled through southern Sri Lanka as Olcott’s translator and learnt the art of public speaking and the importance of education and role of the printing press in spreading the message. The importance these aspects assumed in Dharmapala’s “mission” is covered in detail in the book. It was also under the influence of the Theosophists that Dharmapala envisioned a new role for himself as a celibate “homeless one” (anagarika): neither a layperson pursuing worldly goals nor a monk enmeshed in rituals and cultural prescriptions, limited by the caste and other restrictions on the Sri Lankan clergy of his day. Fortunately, his wealthy parents supported his new vocation.
The book provides insight into Dharmapala’s thinking and motivation through detailed attention to his diaries and hitherto unpublished letters. Surprisingly, Dharmapala spent the greater part of his life in India. His first visit came about because of his involvement in the Theosophical Society, which had established its headquarters in Madras (Chennai). A substantial portion of the book considers Dharmapala’s establishment of the Mahabodhi Society and his efforts to return the sacred site in Bodhgaya and the site of the Buddha’s first teaching in Sarnath to Buddhist hands. It also details his relationship with the Bengali intelligentsia (the bhadralok) and discusses the impact of nascent Hindu nationalism on his thinking and his links with Hindu revivalists. (Swami Vivekananda and Dharmapala were both prominent figures at the world Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893.)
Dharmapala’s international connections with Japan, Britain, and the United States are explored in some detail. Readers interested in the broader influence of Dharmapala and his ideas on political and social movements beyond his lifetime will also find much of value in this book. Amunugama suggests that Dharmapala was more of an internationalist than a nationalist. He argues that Dharmapala’s Sri Lankan nationalism needs to be seen in the context of colonial oppression and British condescension to Sri Lankan cultural and spiritual values. One of Dharmapala’s goals was the restoration of Sinhalese selfrespect. More broadly, he believed that Buddhism had a message for all humanity.
After his first visit to Bodhgaya in 1891, Dharmapala committed himself to work towards the re-establishment of Buddhism in aryavarta (northern India) and the propagation of the word of the Buddha in Asia and the West. It is evident that Dharmapala’s mastery of Pali and his study of original Buddhist texts were as much responsible for the direction of his moral and religious thinking, as was Protestant influence. Amunugama makes clear that Dharmapala’s position did not involve a repudiation of traditional Buddhism. It was also the reading of original Buddhist texts that led Dharmapala to reject Theosophy. Certainly, he was critical of the laxity of monks and encouraged lay religiosity, but he aspired to be a bodhisattva working for the good of humanity in all his future lives.
Dharmapala died in Sarnath a fully ordained monk. There is value in the detailed analysis provided by Amunugama, but the book is longer than it needs to be. Considerable repetition could have been avoided by some reorganisation. Some sections of the book would perhaps have been better left to journal articles, for example, the chapter on John de Silva and the Sinhala Nationalist Theatre and the chapter on the role of the printing press in the Buddhist revival.
DR DANNY JAYAKODY: FROM APPRENTICE TO A COMMISSION IN THE ROYAL AIR FORCE
Extract of article published under the title ‘The Lambent Lad from Ganemulla’ in the FB blog of Menaka Ashi Fernando https://aviadoradeceilan.medium.com/the-lambent-lad-from-ganemulla-407e06a1e3b6
The year was 2008, and the majority of the 94th entry at RAF College Cranwell were contemplating retirement, except for one dynamic individual — Dhanapala Jayakody Arachchige. At 61, Dhanapala or Danny as he is popularly known had plans that were 180 degrees opposite to that of his cohort. He had won an international PhD scholarship to study Air Cargo Safety at the Air Transport Department at Cranfield University, and that shelved his retirement plans forever and a day. Danny was sponsored by the engineering and physical sciences research council, UK CAA and The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) to research airworthiness risk assessment for large old cargo and passenger aircraft. His PhD thesis was titled “Bayesian Model for strategic level risk assessment in continuing airworthiness of air transport’.
RAF HALTON 102 ENTRY | RAF CRANWELL 94 ENTRY
In 1962, Danny joined the 102 entry at RAF Halton as a trainee engine fitter, on a commonwealth scholarship from Ceylon. At Halton, it quickly became apparent that Danny was academically gifted. Many of his cohort buddies benefitted from his help in maths, science and English homework. This scenario, coupled with his infectious smile gradually broke down the social barriers in the entry. During this time, Danny won the national prize for the lecturette competition organized by the Royal Aeronautical Society. He topped the batch and went on to win the English prize too, despite it not being his first language!
“My arrival at Halton, a small UK rural community was a great cultural shock for me. The military environment of the sixties was far from ‘politically correct’. I was the only non-white face in the entry, and had far greater cultural differences to assimilate” — Danny
Rolls Royce was so impressed with Danny’s paper on rocket propulsion that they invited him to visit Spadeadam and witness a static firing of a Blue Streak missile. “Workshop sessions, particularly the basic Fitting exercises, showed a different characteristic; a dogged determination. Blood was repeatedly drawn as the hammer hit hand more than the chisel! That perseverance, and the patient coaching of George Edwards, our civilian instructor and father figure, hel
ped me through the final lap” — Danny Danny’s academic and engineering ability were soon recognised by the RAF, and he was commissioned to be an Engineering Officer at RAF College Cranwell (1968), where he gained his BSc, after which the RAF also funded his MSc in aircraft design at Cranfield. All this was put to good use in a succession of RAF engineering and Ministry of Defence and Industrial management posts.
THE BRILLIANT LAD FROM GANEMULLA
Danny was born in a village near Ganemulla, Ceylon, in December 1945. The youngest boy in a family of 4 boys and 3 girls, Danny studied at the Galahitiyawa Primary School (1949–54), and then at Galahitiyawa Central (1955–62). Danny’s entire life can be characterised by his continued learning and the application of knowledge. He gained his teaching talents and experience from the Sunday schools that he attended. Being a bright student, he was initially entrusted to teach at the Sunday school. He later progressed to teaching higher level classes. He had no formal teacher training; but simply observed adult teachers and followed suit. Danny was just 16, and studying for his GCE Advanced Level, when he embarked on his first serious job — a most creative and satisfying task. He started a tuition school, initially with only 2 students and went on to develop it to accommodate up to 80 students! The school taught English, Maths and Science to GCE Ordinary Level students and had teaching facilities for pre-school kids. The school had 7 teachers (all Danny’s friends), the oldest being just 20. Danny was the principal, accountant, publicist, purchaser, teacher and paymaster all rolled into one!
There are not many who can combine the practical with high academic ability in engineering proud of his exceptional achievements — Peter Allen In mid-2012 Dr Jayakody worked as a Senior Systems Engineer initially for Cyber Security related work. He then moved on to Airworthiness and Certification, mainly in the Chinook MK 6 delivery programme, and subsequently in strategic and policy work, setting up long term A&C infrastructure and internal processes — Boeing Defence UK “The application of Dr Jayakody’s work to the air cargo industry is most relevant. The hull loss rate of cargo aircraft is several times higher than for passenger aircraft. The most obvious reason is that the cargo fleet is considerably older than its passenger counterpart. The aircraft are very maintenance intensive and are thus more exposed to maintenance error. This makes all the more reason to concentrate on aligning cargo fleets with the new European Aviation Safety Agency-type processes.” – John Snow, senior lecturer, Cranfield “Our largest annual scholarship award attracted a number of excellent submissions. However, air safety is the most compelling issue for our industry and the outcome of Dhanapala’s study will help identify further ways to enhance the global reputation of our industry.” – Dora Kay, chair of TIACA’s education committee.
Despite his 56-years of work Dr Danny still feels restless and yearn for work. Yes, he is no longer driven by the clock and recurring deadlines. Yet he aspires to plough back his knowledge for the benefit of the younger generation.
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