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Opinion

Library of our first University Memories of “Villa Venezia”

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I wonder how many are yet around to share my memories of the wonderful library of Villa Venezia that brightened our undergraduate years in the University before it fled Thurstan Road to Peradeniya. It was, probably, Jennings’ predecessor Marrs, who picked on the exotic Villa Venezia to house the University Library. I have not yet come across any photograph, or drawing, of this miniature Venetian palazzo built for an imaginative, but long forgotten, Colonial grandee amidst the lush greenery of Cinnamon Gardens.

The Villa was a baroque two-storied pink building flanked by elegantly twisted columns, and overhung by an ornate balcony that would have enthralled Romeo. A large ground floor room charmed its readers by walls frescoed by scenes from Greek and Roman mythology, closely copied from Venetian originals. The top floor housed the library proper and the spacious reading room. This was an era long before the invasion of electronic gadgetry. Reference books were ranged subject-wise on wooden shelves to be withdrawn, on request, by helpful, and surprisingly literate, Library Assistants.

The spacious and airy reading room held long desks and chairs for readers silently poring over reference books. Generally this silence was interrupted only by the scraping of chairs pushed back by departing readers. But there was one time-honoured exception. This was when readers noticed a lovely fresher creeping stealthily along the corridor or a courting couple oblivious to the readers. These diversions gave rise to ‘The Stamp’. This was the spontaneous scraping of shoes by the whole community of readers who, meanwhile kept their heads buried in their books with enthusiasm. Much stamping took place during the Vacation, inspired/provoked by the holiday wear of female undergrads. These young ladies were very properly dressed in sarees during lectures. But when Vacation dawned on me and no lectures threatened, they embraced casual wear to visit the library at Villa Venezia. Bird watching male undergrads now enjoyed admiring the elegant calves of fair batch mates in short dresses – a welcome change from ankle length sarees.

The disappearance of Villa Venezia took place after I left University. Unimaginative University authorities seem to have missed the opportunity of acquiring this unrecorded architectural gem. It fell to the wreckers’ sledge hammers of the philistine who bought the property.

So ended the life and death of Villa Venezia, as the first library of our first University, Its ornate splendor and marble floors now echo only in the memories of those ancients who loved its ambience many decades ago. May this essay be its requiem!

TISSA DEVENDRA

( 1948- 1952)

 

 



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Opinion

Regulate sports in popular schools ahead of big matches

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The Big Matches between popular schools in Colombo and main outstation cities are round the corner. In the past school sports was in the hands of former sportsmen and sportswomen who loved the game as well as their school. They devoted their time and money to coach the budding youth without any monetary gain for themselves.

But, see what has happened today. Sports coaches selected by the schools demand millions of rupees to coach the students. And this is readily agreed and paid by the school authorities. In the good old days the members of School teams were provided free meals during match days and also Sports equipment. But it is not so now. The school earn millions of rupees from big matches played for a duration of two, or three days in some cases, and this money could be utilised to buy the required cricket gear such as bats, pads gloves, boots, etc,. I understand a pair of cricket boots is in the region of Rs.18,000 to 25,000. Can a poor village lad who is enrolled to an affluent schools in Colombo, based on his performance in Education and Cricket afford this? These lads should be given all the support to continue in their respective sports rather than drop out due to financial constraints

Coaches in some schools are in the payroll of big-time businessmen whose children are, in the so called pools. Parents of children engaged in a particular sport should not be permitted to come in as sponsors as this would be rather unethical.

The Big Matches between popular boys schools are around the corner and I suggest that the Sports Ministry ensures performance based selections rather than on other criteria.

 

D.C.Atukorala

Colombo

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Opinion

‘Post turtle’ revisited

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I have written about this amusingly thought-provoking creature, the ‘post turtle’ to ‘The Island’ around three years ago (appeared in the opinion column of The Island newspaper on the 19th of June 2018, titled ‘The post turtle era’). The story, which I am sure most of you have heard/read already, is obviously not a creation of mine and I happened to come across it somewhere, sometime ago. 

And for the benefit of those, who haven’t heard the story, it goes like this:

“While surturing a cut on the hand of an old Texas rancher, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man. Eventually, the topic got around to politics and then they discussed some new guy, who was far too big for his shoes, as a politician.

The old rancher said, ‘Well, ya know he is a post turtle’. Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a ‘post turtle was’.

The old rancher said, ‘When you are driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, well, that’s your ‘post turtle’.

The rancher saw a puzzled look on the doctor’s face, so he went on to explain. ‘You know, he didn’t get up there by himself, he doesn’t belong up there, he doesn’t know what to do while he is up there, and you just wonder what kind of a dumb ass put him up there in the first place’.”

Now I was having this nice, little siesta, the other day and suddenly there appeared ‘the turtle’ in front of me, sitting on a fence post, seemingly doing a precarious balancing act as the post itself was too high for it to give it a try to jump down to the ground. Not that it probably wanted to do it anyway for it looked quite contended and happy sitting there doing absolutely nothing. And no doubt some loyal and dumb all rolled into one, must have put him up there and been feeding it well too, for it looked quite contended and fat showing a thick head that kept turning to the left and then to the right, while its tongue kept on lolling out as if it was saying something, which must have been absolute gibberish and rubbish anyway.

What a fitting and symbolic representation, 

I mean this ‘post turtle’, of the lot, or the majority of it sitting across ‘the oya’, I mused on after I woke up from my snooze.

Many of them get there thanks to the gullible voter, who while ticking the boxes, thinks: he/she will surely deliver the goods this time as promised! 

And those two-legged post turtles inside the edifice, bordering the Diyawanna, like the one in the story, keep uttering sheer rubbish and spitting out incomprehensible mumbo jumbo, all in return with thanks to those, who tick the boxes in their favour.

Their statements such as ‘what is oxygen for, to eat?’, is just one among many such stupendously stupid utterances of theirs and I don’t want to tire you with the rest, for they are well known and far too many.

Now I have only one question for you before I end this:

When are we going stop being ‘those dumb asses’, once and for all?

Laksiri  Warnakula  

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Opinion

Abuse of use of title Professor

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I read with much interest the letter by Mr. Nissanka Warakaulle, regarding the above matter, in the issue of the Sunday Island of 18th April 2021. I agree fully with the contents of his letter. He should be very familiar with the regulations as he is a former Registrar of the University of Colombo. I wish to highlight another instance where it is abused. In the 1970s, the title of Associate Professor was created. Until then there were only three categories of Professors. Firstly the holder of the Chair, secondly a co-Professor and thirdly, an Emeritus Professor. There were also, Lecturers, Senior Lecturers and Readers. The title of Reader was replaced with the title Associate Professor, which is meant to be a designation, to be used after the name. However, this category of academics started using it as a pre-fix, dropping the word Associate!

Profesor Sanath P. Lamabadusuriya MBE
Emeritus Professor of Paediatrics,
University of Colombo

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