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My family and Royal College

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I must say something about my mother. She was the dearest and sweetest person I have known, as I suppose the humblest and poorest mother would and should be. Instances of the pain and trouble she took to bring up her children are too numerous to mention here. Not only would she supervise the preparation of the food but would insist that the children consumed it. She would take our lessons at the dining table before dinner, teaching us our history, geography, arithmetic, English etc., and explain to us the things we did not understand.

In the evening, if she had time to spare, she would sit at the piano and play old favourites like the “Robin’s Return” or the “Maiden’s Prayer.” At the age of about five, after listening to her playing, I was put under a teacher, Mrs Meier, and from there I went on in my musical education till I had to give up music because of the time I had to devote to my studies at school. I took Theory of Music as a subject for the Cambridge Junior, having been taught by a gracious lady whom I prefer to call ‘Aunt Sybil’. For her dear parents, both now departed, and the entire family of eight daughters I have always had the highest regard and respect. They all treated me as one of their family.

Mother was an expert at knitting, particularly stockings (the heel I am told is not too easy) for the planters up-country, who thought highly of her work and remunerated her well for it. I still treasure a high necked and long-sleeved pullover that she knitted for me and which I always use whenever I go on a holiday to Nuwara Eliya. I learnt tennis from my mother who used to play on the court at ‘Charley Villa’, the residence of Mr and Mrs V. S. A. Dias. It was a sort of private club and the membership was very restricted. Later, she joined the Panadura Sports Club but had to give up tennis owing to her high blood pressure.

On April 8, 1945, we had a friendly cricket match at Panadura, one side captained by my brother G. S. and the other by my uncle D. S. Jayawickrama. The teams were entertained to lunch by my sister Dorothy, and on our way back to Colombo, we called on father and mother who entertained us to drinks. She saw most of her children and her two surviving brothers that evening. She was not ill and joked and laughed with us in the verandah. Early next morning, father telephoned to me to say that mother had passed away peacefully in her sleep. What we owe to her cannot be expressed in words here.

Before I go on to my story proper, I should I like to take this opportunity to refer to my brothers and sisters. We were a musical family except for my brother S. W. who would sometimes sing a bit but could not play any instrument. My sister Olivia played the guitar and, later, passed a high examination in pianoforte and started teaching music. She married Dick Dias, the well-known playwright. My second sister Dorothy played the violin. She married Leslie, the yonger son of Mr M. A. Perera of Panadura. My brother J. Q. played the ukelele and G. S. the drums. In the family, we formed a musical club, and made brother S. W. Treasurer. We once played in public at Panadura and gave a fairly good performance. My youngest sister Matinee who is a pianist and violinist was too young at that time to take part in our activities. She married Somadeva Amarasuriya of Galle.

The Royal College

Schooling began in the St John’s Girls’ School, Panadura, at about the age of seven. There was also a Boys’ School and a College, all under the Principalship of the late Mr Cyril A. Jansz (Snr) of revered and enduring memory. My Principal was Miss Bett whom I came to like, and my teachers were Miss Goonetilleke (later Mrs Attygalle) and Miss May Young, both of whom I respected, although, from the latter, I received the only caning I have had in my school career – six cuts with a cane on the hand for hiding behind a wall in order to “cut” prayers. The two years in the Girls’ School were uneventful. What I learnt in the school I cannot now recall: probably the rudiments of English, addition and subtraction etc. We were not taught any Sinhala.

About the age of nine, father, anxious to get us into his old school, the Royal College, sent me and my brother S. W. to Mr Weerasinghe, the Head Master of the St John’s Boys’ School for private coaching to enable us to pass the entrance test. He taught us a little more arithmetic, multiplication, division and pounds, shillings, pence. He used to give us sums to do and, when we had not the correct answer, had only one remark to make – ‘Stupid’. In spite of our stupidity, with his coaching, my brother and I passed the test and became Royalists.

The Lower School at the Royal College, where I was taken into Form I, was then housed in the building that was later used for the Royal Primary with the entrance at the junction of Thurstan Road and Alfred Place. My brother and I boarded with Mr Jinoris Rodrigo, father of Professor J. L. C., J. G. C. and J. B. C. (later principal of Prince of Wales College, Moratuwa) at his house ‘Connington’ in Thimbirigasyaya Road. Later, we traveled daily by train from Panadura with a servant boy carrying our lunch basket.

From the Bambalapitiya station we walked up St Kilda’s Lane and School Lane until we came to the back garden of the huge Alfred House. From there on the Thurstan Road was all grass fields. The whole area is now a built-up area. Royal College, at that time, was in the present University building, the Lower School being housed in the Training College. My brother and I each received five cents as pocket money each day and had to decide between a lime juice at the tuck shop, the ice cream cart and the gram seller as regards the best buy for the day.

My teacher was Miss Agnes Spittel, a lady whom all the students loved- The Head Master was Roy Vanderwall. The Principal was Charles Hartley, a great gentleman. Always dressed in a simple cannannore suit, he spent his evenings picking the love grass from the college lawns. He knew every student, used to come round each month to the classes to take ‘Positions’ with his fountain pen between his nose and his upper lip. The class had to line up for him and he had a word for every boy. If you had come from second to first -‘Good’; from second to ninth – “Bad”, and if the decline was repeated – “Come to the armoury” where the canes were kept. We all liked him.

Hartley was succeeded by Major H. L. Reed, a very strict disciplinarian. Between Hartley’s departure and Reed’s arrival, L. H. W. Sampson, an Oxford classical scholar with a grumpy voice, was acting Principal. Like Dean Inge, he might well have been nicknamed ‘The Gloomy Dean’. It was while Sampson was acting that my brothers. J. Q., and G. S. sought entry to the College. G. S. passed the test, but J. Q. the older brother who suffered from a cleft in the palate and for that reason was a little backward, failed.

Father pleaded with Sampson to take the boy – reply “Can’t do”. When Reed arrived, father saw him by appointment and explained the circumstances, namely, that he was himself an old Royalist, that he had four sons, three of whom had been taken and the fourth rejected because of a slight backwardness due to a cleft in the palate, and that he did not like to send the boy to any other school. Reed made order in writing “Take the boy without examination”. The Old School Tie!

Alas. The Royal College of old is today a Central School. The old traditions appear to be fast disappearing, and I hear that the language the brats use is unprintable and their manners dreadful. The motto disce aut discede is almost forgotten. I remember Reed teaching me my manners on one occasion. I was walking along the college corridor with my bag in my hand and my hat on my head and Reed was coming towards me from the other end. As we were about to cross, he stopped me: “Young man,” he said, “never wear a hat when you are under a roof.”

From Form I, I had a “double” promotion to Lower III – Master E. C. T. Holsinger. I therefore missed being taught by our respected S. P. Foenander who was taking Form II. Our English in Lower III was taken by Mervyn Fonseka, later to be my Head of Department as Legal Draftsman, but of this later. From there on, I passed through the hands of a gentlemanly and scholarly set of teachers to whom I owe my present position. There was, as I said, Roy Vanderwall. There were L. V. Gooneratne, Victor C. Perera, R. C. Edwards, D. C. R. Gunawardena, H. J. Wijesinghe, T. M. Weerasinghe, T. H. Wijesinghe, F. D. Wijesinghe, Cameron Samarasinghe, P. I. Roberts, T. D. Jayasuriya, and finally Vollenhoven and Paulusz both of whom had taught my father when he was at Royal.

On the Mathematics side there were F. R. V. Gulasekeram and M. M. Kulasekeram, both experts in their line, whom I could not bluff. I had now passed Lower III and come up to Headmaster Vanderwall’s class at the top of the Lower School. During the Geography lesson, his practice was to hang four maps on the blackboard – England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales – and say “Point out Cardiff; point out Lossiemouth etc.”

The class of thirty decided to stage a strike. The next week’s lesson came and we all, on purpose, put our finger on the wrong map and groped about it looking for the town which was not there. “Go back and keep standing” said the teacher. At the end of the first round, twenty-nine out of thirty boys were standing in their places. The one boy who was seated, who today in strike parlance would be called a blackleg, was that brilliant boy George Chitty.

Came the second round and the same thing happened. To each boy, except Chitty, the Master said “Rise higher, Sir Percy” and so on, and we stood on the ‘form’. At the end of the third round, when the Master was saying things like “point out London” the newly knighted boys were further elevated and, except for the one, were all standing on the desks. Then the bell rang for the lunch interval and the small Johnnies in the lower forms streamed out and saw a strange sight. Fellows were pointing at us and my brothers J. Q. and G. S. were in the crowd. Vanderwall kept us standing on the desks for five minutes after the bell had rung.

We were then marched to the Principal’s office. Major Reed could not obviously cane twenty-nine pupils. He lined us on three sides of his office and kept silent. One mischievous chap pinched the “behind” of the fellow next to him who giggled. Reed made a military order “You stay behind. The rest of you can go.” The poor devil got six good and proper on the buttocks.

After passing Vanderwall, we came to Vollenhoven and Paulusz, both great gentlemen. Of them, I have two stories to relate. One of our classmates was a boarder at Vollenhoven’s house and he whispered to the boys “Today is Papa’s birthday”. ‘Papa’ was Vollenhoven’s nickname. We had rich boys in the class. A paper was quietly sent round from desk to desk and more than eighty rupees were collected in a few minutes. The money was handed to Alexis Roberts, an irrepressible fellow with a sense of humour and mischief and a love of the piano, who sat in the last row in the seat nearest the door.

While ‘Papa’ was chalking something on the Board with his back to the class, Alexis slipped out, got into one of the boy’s cars, went to the Fort and bought the birthday present for ‘Papa’ – an enamel toilet set, wash basin, toothbrush holder, soap dish, jug, chamber pot etc. He asked that the present (except the chamber pot which should be packed separately with the handle out) should be delivered at Papa’s bungalow at Deal Place. In due course, Alexis slipped back into his seat with the chamber pot, unnoticed by Papa who was working something on the board. Papa had not noticed his absence of about one hour.

Five minutes before the end of the lesson, Alexis stood up in his seat at the back and made a short speech, saying that he had heard that it was Papa’s birthday (Papa now taking out his pince-nez, bowing and saying “Now, now boys, I don’t want you to put yourselves to any trouble over my birthday”) and asking that as a birthday present “You accept this most elegant gift from the class.” “Thank you boys, thank you” said Papa. Alexis walked up and presented the chamber pot. “Get out of the class, Roberts” shouted Papa, and out went Roberts, glad to get out.

Later in the day, a chit was brought from Madam Papa saying that a large present from the class had been delivered at the house. “I will be very happy to see all you boys at my bungalow for refreshments today after school,” said Papa, and we had a good time, Alexis insisting on and getting a spot of alcoholic drink.

Papa was a very kind-hearted man. He wore a stiff collar and a tie which looked like a shoestring. Alexis, the spoilt son of that wealthy, respected and long-remembered father, the late Dr Emmanuel Roberts, came into class on a rainy day with his clothes all wet. He had, on purpose, put his head under a gutter. Papa was horrified. “My dear boy, you will catch pneumonia. Go home at once and change your clothes.” “I haven’t another suit, Sir”, said Alexis. “Here, take this note to my wife and she will give you one of my suits”, the kind man said.

So off Alexis went. In time, he returned, dressed in one of Papa’s suits with coat sleeves and trouser-bottoms rolled up because they were both too long, in one of Papa’s stiff collars, and for a tie, a shoelace. As soon as Papa saw him entering the class in this dress, he shrieked “Get out, Roberts” and, as usual, out went Roberts.

Genial old Mr Paulusz taking the Remove Form was calling the roll one morning and came to the name ‘Roberts’. There were several Silvas, Wijesinghes etc. after ‘R’. “Absent yesterday, Roberts?” asked the master. ‘Yes Sir’ said R. “Your letter of excuse, please”, and he proceeded to call the rest of the names. R, who came to school only about three times a week and that also without books, pen or pencil, quickly borrowed pen and paper from the fellow at the next desk and wrote out his letter of excuse. Whose signature he put on the letter no one knew. As he got to the end of the letter, the master had got to the end of the roll. R. walked boldly up to the table and handed the letter. The master read it and said “Somebody give me a piece of blotting paper, please. Thank you, Roberts.” That was the Royal in the 1920’s.

By some misfortune, I found myself in the top mathematics set with my brother S. W., my cousin C. O. Cooray, who passed into the Indian Civil Service, and P. H. Wickramasinghe who did likewise. I knew no higher maths and bluffed around until, one day, M. M. Kulasekeram taking the class, asked me to walk up to the blackboard and work out a problem on the “E” theorem which he had been explaining for two weeks. I could not put the chalk to the board because I had not the slightest notion what the “E” theorem was about. The teacher rubbed the board out and put a new problem on the “E” theorem which was simpler. I failed again. He asked me to clear out of the class and never come in again. I was happy.

I did not take much interest in games or athletics, but gave my time to our weekly meetings of the Debating Society of which later I became Vice-President, the Principal being president ex-officio. The “live” members at that time were J. R. Jayewardene and his brother Corbett, Shirley Corea, George Chitty and Panditha Gunawardena, to mention just a few.

In due course, I found myself in the top form on the classics side. English was taken by Reed, Latin by Sampson, Vice-Principal, and Greek by T. D. Jayasuriya. P. I. Roberts was Form Master. I had earlier passed the Cambridge Junior with honours. In 1925,1 had passed the Cambridge Senior with honours in English, Latin, Greek and, of all subjects, Mathematics and Drawing. In 1927, I obtained a First Division in the London Matriculation Examination with English, Latin, Greek, Mathematics and Logic and was made a Prefect.

I won the George Wille Prize for Greek prose and came second in Latin prose. I waited in school for a few more months because there was nothing for me to do till I entered the University College. Reed and Sampson exempted me from the English and Latin classes and I used to pass the time in the Prefects’ Room reading Hazlitt, Emerson and other general literature, and with the little pocket money available to me, buying a book now and then. The pocket money had, at this time, been increased beyond the original five cents.

I left the Royal College in May 1927. Cricket bored me and I am ashamed to confess that in my ten years at the Royal I never saw a Royal-Thomian match. The furthest I got in cricket was the 2nd XI in Boake House. On leaving, Reed gave me he following certificate:

“B. P. Peiris has done a full course at the Royal College finishing up on the Arts side by gaining a place in the First Division at the last London Matriculation Examination. He has always been a pupil of intelligence above the average who had displayed a taste for literature. He has plenty of force of character, which he has put to good use in the Literary Association and the Social Service league, an organization largely occupied in social service. I consider that he would do well at an English University, and that any College accepting him as a student would be unlikely to regret such a step.”



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Breathtaking new paintings found at ancient city of Pompeii

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The frescoes depict Greek mythology: Paris kidnaps Helen which triggers the Trojan War (BBC)

Stunning artworks have been uncovered in a new excavation at Pompeii, the ancient Roman city buried in an eruption from Mount Vesuvius in AD79.

Archaeologists say the frescoes are among the finest to be found in the ruins of the ancient site.

Mythical Greek figures such as Helen of Troy are depicted on the high black walls of a large banqueting hall.

The room’s near-complete mosaic floor incorporates more than a million individual white tiles.

BBC/Tony Jolliffe The Black Room

The black room has only emerged in the last few weeks. Its white mosaic floor is almost complete (BBC)

A third of the lost city has still to be cleared of volcanic debris. The current dig, the biggest in a generation, is underlining Pompeii’s position as the world’s premier window on the people and culture of the Roman empire.

Park director Dr Gabriel Zuchtriegel presented the “black room” exclusively to the BBC on Thursday.

It was likely the walls’ stark colour was chosen to hide the smoke deposits from lamps used during entertaining after sunset. “In the shimmering light, the paintings would have almost come to life,” he said.

Two set-piece frescoes dominate. In one, the god Apollo is seen trying to seduce the priestess Cassandra. Her rejection of him, according to legend, resulted in her prophecies being ignored.The tragic consequence is told in the second painting, in which Prince Paris meets the beautiful Helen – a union Cassandra knows will doom them all in the resulting Trojan War.

BBC/Tony Jolliffe One of the "black room" frescos discovered in Pompeii, showing Apollo trying to seduce the priestess Cassandra

The god Apollo is depicted on one of the frescos trying to seduce the Trojan priestess Cassandra (BBC)

The black room is the latest treasure to emerge from the excavation, which started 12 months ago – an investigation that will feature in a documentary series from the BBC and Lion TV to be broadcast later in April.

A wide residential and commercial block, known as “Region 9”, is being cleared of several metres of overlying pumice and ash thrown out by Vesuvius almost 2,000 years ago.

Staff are having to move quickly to protect new finds, removing what they can to a storeroom.

For the frescoes that must stay in position, a plaster glue is injected to their rear to prevent them coming away from the walls. Masonry is being shored up with scaffolding and temporary roofing is going over the top.

BBC/Tony Jolliffe Fresco protection

A plaster glue must be injected behind a fresco or it is likely to come away from the wall (BBC)

Chief restorer Dr Roberta Prisco spent Tuesday this week trying to stop an arch from collapsing. “The responsibility is enormous; look at me,” she said, as if to suggest the stress was taking a visible toll on her. “We have a passion and a deep love for what we’re doing, because what we’re uncovering and protecting is for the joy also of the generations that come after us.”

BBC Map showing excavations in Pompeii

Region 9 has thrown up a detective story for archaeologists.

Excavations in the late 19th Century uncovered a laundry in one corner. The latest work has now revealed a wholesale bakery next door, as well as the grand residence with its black room.

BBC/Tony Jolliffe Reception Hall

In the reception hall, rubble in the far right corner is from renovation at the time of the eruption (BBC)

The team is confident the three areas can be connected, physically via the plumbing and by particular passageways, but also in terms of their ownership.

The identity of this individual is hinted at in numerous inscriptions with the initials “ARV”. The letters appear on walls and even on the bakery’s millstones.

Dr Sophie Hay explained how a rich politician left his mark on the buildings

“We know who ARV is: he’s Aulus Rustius Verus,” explained park archaeologist Dr Sophie Hay. “We know him from other political propaganda in Pompeii. He’s a politician. He’s super-rich. We think he may be the one who owns the posh house behind the bakery and the laundry.” What’s clear, however, is that all the properties were undergoing renovation at the time of the eruption. Escaping workers left roof tiles neatly stacked; their pots of lime mortar are still filled, waiting to be used; their trowels and pickaxes remain, although the wooden handles have long since rotted away.

Dr Lia Trapani catalogues everything from the dig. She reaches for one of the thousand or more boxes of artefacts in her storeroom and pulls out a squat, turquoise cone. “It’s the lead weight from a plumb line.” Just like today’s builders, the Roman workers would have used it to align vertical surfaces.

She holds the cone between her fingers: “If you look closely you can see a little piece of Roman string is still attached.”

BBC/Tony Jolliffe Plumb line

It’s possible to see a remnant piece of string around the neck of the plumb line (BBC)

Dr Alessandro Russo has been the other co-lead archaeologist on the dig. He wants to show us a ceiling fresco recovered from one room. Smashed during the eruption, its recovered pieces have been laid out, jigsaw-style, on a large table.

He’s sprayed the chunks of plaster with a mist of water, which makes the detail and vivid colours jump out.

You can see landscapes with Egyptian characters; foods and flowers; and some imposing theatrical masks.

“This is my favourite discovery in this excavation because it is complex and rare. It is high-quality for a high-status individual,” he explained.

BBC/Jonathan Amos Ceiling fresco

The archaeologists have had to piece together a ceiling fresco that was shattered during the volcanic eruption (BBC)

But if the grand property’s ceiling fresco can be described as exquisite, some of what’s being learned about the bakery speaks to an altogether more brutal aspect of Roman life – slavery.

It’s obvious the people who worked in the business were kept locked away in appalling conditions, living side by side with the donkeys that turned the millstones. It seems there was one window and it had iron bars to prevent escape.

It’s in the bakery also that the only skeletons from the dig have been discovered. Two adults and a child were crushed by falling stones. The suggestion is they may have been slaves who were trapped and could not flee the eruption. But it’s guesswork.

“When we excavate, we wonder what we’re looking at,” explained co-lead archaeologist Dr Gennaro Iovino.

“Much like a theatre stage, you have the scenery, the backdrop, and the culprit, which is Mount Vesuvius. The archaeologist has to be good at filling in the gaps – telling the story of the missing cast, the families and children, the people who are not there anymore.”

BBC/Tony Jolliffe Mosaic floor
There are certainly more than a million tiles in the mosaic floor, possibly up to three million (BBC)
BBC/Tony Jolliffe Roman lamp
Boxes full of artefacts: One of the many oil lamps recovered during the excavation (BBC)
BBC/Tony Jolliffe Fresco showing Leda and the Swan
Another fresco depicts Leda and Zeus in the form of a swan, whose union would lead to Helen’s birth (BBC)
BBC/Tony Jolliffe A piece of moulded cornicing painted in bright colours
Brilliant colours: Ornate cornicing was also preserved under the volcanic debris (BBC)
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Democracy continuing to be derailed in South Asia

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A scene from Sri Lanka’s ‘Aragalaya’ of 2022.

Sections of progressive opinion in Sri Lanka are currently commemorating the second anniversary of the country’s epochal ‘Aragalaya’, which brought down the dictatorial and racist Gotabhaya Rajapaksa regime. April 9th 2022 needs to be remembered especially as the date on which Sri Lankans in their tens of thousands, irrespective of ethnic, religious and language differences rose as one to impress on the country’s political class and rulers that their fundamental rights cannot be compromised or tampered with for whatever reason and that these rights should be realized henceforth.

During the ‘Aragalaya’, Sri Lanka attained nationhood, since the totality of the country’s social groups, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, spoke out for equity and equality among them, from the same platform. Thus was Sri Lankan nationhood born, which is quite different from statehood. It is left to progressives to ensure that Sri Lankan nationhood, thus born out of the ‘Aragalaya’, does not prove to be stillborn.

To express it briefly, political ‘Independence’ or statehood is believed by most Sri Lankans to have been attained in 1948 but this is not tantamount to achieving nationhood. The latter is realized when equity and equality are established among a country’s communities.

Of course, we are a long way from achieving these aims but the historic significance of the ‘Aragalaya’ consists in the fact that the ideals central to nationhood were articulated assertively and collectively in Sri Lanka as never before. The opinion climate conducive to nation-building, it could be said, was created by the ‘Aragalaya’.

It is left to the progressives of Sri Lanka to forge ahead with the process of realizing the ideals and central aims of the ‘Aragalaya’, without resorting to violence and allied undemocratic approaches, which are really not necessary to bring about genuine democratic development.

The ‘Aragalaya’ was a historic ‘wake-up’ call to the country’s political elite in particular, which, over the years could be said to have been engaged more in power aggrandizement, rather than nation-building, which is integral to democratic development. Given this bleak backdrop, it amounts to a huge joke for any prominent member of the country’s ruling class to make out that he has been ‘presiding over the only country in Asia where democracy is completely safeguarded.’

To begin with, a huge question mark looms over Sri Lanka’s true constitutional identity. It is not a fully-fledged parliamentary democracy in view of the substantive and sweeping powers wielded by the Executive Presidency and this issue has been discussed exhaustively in this country.

On the other hand, Sri Lanka is not free of strong theocratic tendencies either because there is no clear ‘separation wall’, so to speak, between religion and politics. The fact is that Sri Lanka’s rulers are constitutionally obliged to defer to the opinion of religious leaders. Therefore, Sri Lanka lacks a secular foundation to its political system. This columnist is inclined to the view that in terms of constitutional identity, Sri Lanka is ‘neither fish, flesh nor fowl.’

Moreover, the postponement of local and Provincial Council polls in Sri Lanka by governments alone proves that what one has in Sri Lanka is at best a ‘façade democracy’.

derailing democracy in Sri Lanka goes Religious and ethnic identities in particular continue to be exploited and manipulated by power aspirants and political entrepreneurs to the huge detriment of the countries concerned.

Needless to say, such factors are coming into play in the lead-up to India’s Lok Sabha polls. They are prominent in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh as well. Statesmanship is a crying need in these societies but nurturing such leaders into existence will prove a prolonged, long term project, which also requires the interplay of a number of vital factors, many of which are not present to the desired degree in the countries concerned.

However, of the ‘South Asian Eight’, India is by far the most advanced democracy. It has a Constitution that explicitly enshrines the cardinal rights of the people, for example, including the very vital Right to Life. Such a right is non-existent in the Sri Lankan Constitution, for instance, and this is a huge drawback from the viewpoint of democratic development. Among other things, what this means is that the Sri Lankan state exercises substantive coercive power over its citizens.

On the other hand, the Indian Supreme Court has time and again creatively interpreted the Right to Life, so much so life-threatening conditions faced by Indian citizens, for instance, have been eliminated through the caring and timely intervention of the country’s judiciary. Sri Lanka needs to think on these things if it intends to entrench democratic development in the country. Thus far, the country’s track record on this score leaves much to be desired.

A predominant challenge facing progressives of South Asia, such as the ‘Aragalaists’ of Sri Lanka, is how to forge ahead with the task of keeping democratization of the state on track. A negative lesson in this connection could be taken from Bangladesh where the ideals of the 1971 liberation war under Shiekh Mujibhur Rahman were eroded by subsequent regimes which exploited divisive religious sentiments to come to power. In the process, religious minorities came to be harassed, persecuted and savaged by extremists in the centre.

Whereas, the founding fathers of Bangladesh had aimed to create a secular socialist state, this was not allowed to come to pass by some governments which came to power after the Sheikh, which sought to convert Bangladesh into a theocracy. A harrowing account of how the ideals of 1971 came to be betrayed is graphically provided in the international best seller, ‘Lajja’ by Taslima Nasrin, the exiled human and women’s right activist of Bangladesh.

At page 60 of the 20th anniversary edition of ‘Lajja’, published by Penguin Books, Nasrin quotes some persons in authority in Bangladesh as telling the country’s Hindus during the religious riots of 1979; ‘The government has declared that Islam is the state religion. If you want to stay in an Islamic country all of you must become Muslims. If you don’t become Muslims you will have to run away from this country.’

Not all the post-liberation governments of Bangladesh have turned against the ideals of 1971 and the present government is certainly not to be counted as one such administration. But the lesson to be derived from Bangladesh is that unless progressive opinion in a secular democracy is eternally vigilant and proactively involved in advancing democratic development, a country aiming to tread the path of secularism and democracy could easily be preyed upon by the forces of religious extremism.

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Homemade…to beat the heat

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With lots of holidays cropping up, we are going to be on the move. Ok, that’s fine, but what about the scorching heat! With temperatures soaring sky high, skin issues are bound to surface.

Well, here are some beauty tips that will give your skin some relief:

Aloe Vera: Apply fresh aloe vera gel to the skin. It helps to soothe and heal sunburn. Aloe vera contains zinc, which is actually anti-inflammatory.

Papaya: Papaya pulp can be applied on the skin like a mask, washing it off after 20 minutes. Papaya contains enzymes and helps to remove dead skin cells. Add curd or lemon juice to the pulp to remove tan. Fruits like banana, apple, papaya and orange can be mixed together and applied on the face. Keep it on for 20 to 30 minutes. Papaya helps to cleanse dead skin cells. Banana tightens the skin. Apple contains pectin and also tones the skin. Orange is rich in Vitamin C. It restores the normal acid-alkaline balance.

 Lemon Juice: Lemon is a wonderful home remedy for sun tan because of its bleaching properties. You can apply lemon juice by mixing it with honey on the tanned skin and leave it for 10 to 15 minutes before washing it off .

Coconut Water and Sandalwood Pack: Sandalwood has great cleansing properties, whereas, coconut water is widely known for a glowing skin. Mix coconut water with one tablespoon of sandalwood powder to make a thick mixture and apply it all over the face. Wash it off after 20 minutes. This is a perfect cure for tanned skin.

Cucumber, Rose Water and Lemon Juice:The cucumber juice and rose water work as a cooling means for soothing the brown and red-spotted skin. To use these effectively, take one tablespoon of cucumber juice, lemon juice, and rose water and stir it well in a bowl. Use this solution on all over the face and wash it off with cold water after 10 minutes. This helps to turn your skin hale and healthy.

Milk Masks: Yes, milk masks do give glowing effect to tired skin. Just apply milk mixed with glycerin all over the face. Relax for 15 minutes and rinse with water. The treatment softens, rejuvenates and restores a natural PH balance, thus protecting the skin from the negative effects of the sun. You can also take half cup of milk and add a pinch of turmeric in it. Apply the mixture on your face and wait till it gets dry. Use this solution on a daily basis for exceptional results.

(Yes, time to take care of your skin and beat the heat!)

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