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Kola Kenda to your doorstep



Mobile app that brings

How do you market Kola Kenda to those who are fastidious about buying it from a street vendor? Mohamed Farshan’s latest concept, Kola Kenda Malli hopes to do just that by popularizing Kola Kenda, or herbal porridge among the upper middle class, corporate worker and jogger majority.

On April 22, 2019, entrepreneur and long-time environmental activist, Farshan set off for Nawam Mawatha in a Dimo Batta loaded with a stove and cauldron to sell Kola Kenda, so he could fund his tree planting project which was envisioned in the heat of the 2015 green revolution. But it was bad timing. It was the day after the Easter Sunday bombing and Farshan was forced to face many challenges. But his perseverance paid off when he became the, go to person, for Kola Kenda, that even Cinnamon Gardens could not do without. The slogan was ‘One cup for one plant’ and his Kola Kenda Batta became something of a mascot. By then he had reached his maximum production capacity and hoped to, one day, recruit other Kola Kenda producers to enable the extension of supply to households island-wide, through a mobile app.

With the success of the business, it took on a whole new concept, by opening a delivery service. Farshan aka ‘Gas Fara’, of ‘Green Walk’ and ‘Share the Dreams’ fame was no stranger to social media campaigns and his current project was bolstered by social media promotion. His agenda was to market Kola Kenda to the upper middle class, using T-shirt clad delivery people. But COVID-19 again forced him several steps back. After selling the only piece of land he owned Farshan launched the first ever Kola Kenda delivery app, under the slogan, ‘Kola Kenda ithirena nawa wasarak wewa!’ (A lucky year brimming with Kola Kenda!), in early January 2021.

Farshan no longer makes Kola Kenda, but has recruited an army of Kola Kenda producers, for whom he supplied the necessary capital, including containers that cost around 12,000 rupees each, smart phones, blenders and disposable cups. According to Farshan, each agent cost around Rs 70,000. “The major obstacle for entrepreneurship is always money,” said Farshan. The recovery process is straightforward. When the daily income of agents exceeds Rs 10,000, they are expected to repay Rs 300 a day. “We don’t exactly keep tabs, but the least agents could do is be transparent,” said Farshan.

The Colombo District is currently covered by six agents and Gampaha District by four. Farshan hopes to extend the business to Kandy, Matale, Kalutara, Ratnapura, Galle and Matara by the end of January. “Our ultimate target is 500 agents island-wide.” A cup of Kola Kenda is 10 rupees, which includes all production costs, such as the cost of raw material along with the disposable cup, social media advertising, web and app maintenance costs.

Farshan, who endorses reconciliation in real life as well as on social media, made sure that his business was racially equally represented by bringing into the fold Kola Kenda makers of all races. Long-time friend, Sri Lanka martial arts and Angampora trainer Piyumal Edirisinghe has always been supportive of Farshan’s efforts and was able to provide technical support to administer the agent network of Kola Kenda Malli, through his software company, Ceilanco Tech. Edirisinghe is also tasked with ensuring efficiency of service while maintaining the quality of the product.

The Kola Kenda Malli website boasts of a variety of herbal based porridge, from Karapincha (curry leaves), Heen bovitiya (eight stamen osbeckia), Kuppameniya (Indian Acalypha), Divul (wood apple) leaves, Gonika (Salaparni) leaves, Yaki Narang (Ceylon Atalantia) leaves, Ranawara (Tanner’s cassia) leaves, Gotukola (Pennywort), Welpenela (Welpenela), Monarakudumbiya (Little Ironweed), Iramusu (Indian sarsparilla), Polpala (Balipoovu), Undupiyaliya (creeping tick trefoil), tender Elabatu (Eggplant) leaves to Hathawariya (Wild asparagus). The site also lists the many benefits of regular consumption, such as increased immunity, regeneration, delaying of aging process, detoxing, beside being nutrient rich and enhancing beauty. Their hotline is 077 19 84 424, Facebook: and link to the android app:

As Kola Kanda Malli website points out that colonizers stigmatized consumption of Kenda by introducing the phrase ‘Kenda biwwa wage’ (Like having drunk porridge), roughly meaning fatigued or experiencing a lack of vitality. The ulterior motive was to popularize bed tea. Later multinational dairy companies took the cue to market milk powder. The Farshan-Edirisinghe duo hopes to replace the bed tea concept with a glass of Kola Kenda, providing employment opportunities to multitudes, as agents, in the process.

Farshan still continues his tree planting project without much fanfare and hopes to take up a new challenge once Kola Kenda Malli gets off ground. At an age when Muslims are stigmatized by the majority, for demanding the burial of COVID-infected dead and deforestation, perhaps Kola Kenda Malli is a good enough reason to see the positive in the Muslim.

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Strong on vocals



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

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

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

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

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

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



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Dichotomy of an urban-suburban New Year



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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New Year games: Integral part of New Year Celebrations



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the verse sung while playing the game:

“Olinda thibenne koi koi dese,

Olinda thibenne bangali dese…

Genath hadanne koi koi dese,

Genath hadanne Sinhala dese…”

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