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Reminiscences of Dangedera village in Galle



Continued from Saturday

There was a colourful Muslim personality in the village known to all and sundry as ‘Cassim Master’. He was very fluent in Sinhala and could read and write the language perfectly.

When the post of the Charity Commissioner in the Galle Municipal Council fell vacant, he applied for it. But on the morning of the interview, Cassim Master was told by someone in the know, that the post was earmarked for a strong supporter of the Mayor.

An angry Cassim Master decided that he would go for the interview anyway. The interview board comprised the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor and the Municipal Commissioner.

In order to test his Sinhala, the Deputy Mayor asked Cassim Master, the Sinhala term for the Galle Municipal Council.

“Galu Naraka Sabhawa?” said Cassim Maser without batting an eye. (Galle Bad Council).

There was an embarrassed silence, with red faces on the interview board.

And what is the Sinhala term for the Mayor of Galle?” asked His Worship the Mayor?

“Galu Narakadhi pathithuma!” replied Cassim Master blandly. (Galle’s Head of Hell!)

S. S. Kulatilake

The retired District Judge S. S. Kulatilake was the first MP and the first Cabinet Minister from this village. He was an appointed MP and the Minister of Cultural Affairs in the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Government in 1970.

In 1977, D.G. (Dangedera Gamage) Albert Silva from this village was elected as the MP for Galle and later nominated as the MP for Kamburupitiya, far removed from Galle.

A. H. E. Fernando and G. Keerthisinghe from this village were Deputy Mayors of Galle.

Sick of the servility of their veteran leaders, the angry young men of Dangedera found in the young lawyer from the village, – Raja Kulatilaka, a charismatic leader who eventually became the Mayor of Galle.

C. Sittampalam, a member of the Cabinet of D. S. Senanayake, chose a Sinhala bride from this village.

The Mahinda College playground is located inside this village on the north-west. It dates back to 1912. For the ordinary villager it was “Pedi Kumbura.”

Some of those who began playing cricket on this field rose to dizzy heights. On the first day of March 1953, W. B. Bennett, keeping wickets for Mahinda College against the Galle Cricket Club, dismissed all the 10 batsmen of the Galle C.C. in one innings. He caught four and stumped six of his victims. It is now a Guinness World Record!

The Amendra brothers of Mahinda College, nine in all, set up a unique record by at least one of them having represented the school cricket team between the years 1951 and 1973. In the year 1957 five of them made up the school first eleven. For six years, the captaincy was held by five of them. Another two of them were vice-captains. No doubt, it is a rare feat. The Guinness Book only pondered.

Captaining the Mahinda College Cricket Team in 1953, Somasiri Ambawatta created history by scoring a century (103 not out) and taking all 10 Richmond College wickets for 34 runs in the first innings, at the big match. It is a record for school cricket big matches.

The Mahinda College playground also produced D. D. Jayasinghe, the first southerner to play for all Ceylon. It was against New Zealand in October 1937.

Veteran Wambeck the Richmondian sportsman and one time all Ceylon Javelin champion lived in “Field View” abutting this playground.

Every Wesak day, Jayan Aiyya organised a Bakthi Geetha Group of younger teenage girls who went from house to house. They were financially rewarded.

Pacha Kira

Kirineris Aiyya was well-known in the village. Behind his back the village pranksters called him “Pacha Kira” (inveterate liar). Sometimes, he boasted of the days of his youth as a local thug. He chanted lay pirith and was also engaged in chanting manthras (incantations) to cure minor ailments with the oil and the thread so charmed.

Once he outwitted the whole village when he structured on the village school grounds, a “Vangagiriya” (a labyrinth) mentioned in the Vessantara Jathika. The villagers lost their way and it was full of fun.

Simon Aiyya was short in stature and knock-kneed. He was always dressed in a pair of shorts. His hobby was collecting used shearing blades.

Upaska Mahattaya was the leader of the lay pirith group.

She was the epitome of the local Sinhala Mrs. Malaprop. Also being wily in nature she was nicknamed “Gundu Jane”.

Abu Carrim Nana ran a grocery in the village registering brisk business. He carried his money inside his fez.

Leslie de Mel was the propagandist of the Russian Communism in the village. He distributed Russian magazines free.

The “Gasyata Barber” visited the village homes. He performed his ritual under a shady tree. As a sideline he posed as an astrologer.

He was “Jacobite”, who was middle-aged and one who spared no monkeys in the village.

The veda ralahamy served the villagers and was not much concerned with material gains.

Merenchina Aaarchi had her vegetable stall in the dilapidated ambalama building at the Dangedera Junction. Every Wesak she organised with her funds a Dansela (distributing alms) in the village.

Dunthel Mudalali in tweed cloth and white coat was a welcome visitor to the village.

The loud voice “Maalu! Maalu!!” of the fisherman carrying the pingo, still rings in my ears. The vegetable basket woman (some of them were the breadwinners of their families), the women with jam bottles full of curd, the breadman with the huge basket on his head, containing bread and varieties of cake and sweetmeats, the hopper and string hopper vendors who used to hawk their wares from door to door, were there.

During the season, the Maldivian traders roamed the village. They sold Maldive fish and the delicacies like Aros, Bondahaluwa and Diyahakuru (a rice puller, all of which had a ready sale.)

The villagers in turn sold their betel leaves, arecanuts, bamboos and some other items to them.

The villagers called the Maldivians “Kallu” or “Yaalu Minihela”, while their boat was called “Hodiyo”. Sometimes, the pranksters of the village would provoke these traders by asking them “Yalu Minihela! Thamange hodiyata kaluballan dakkanne?” (Friends! Are you taking black dogs to your boat?). This reference to black dogs infuriated them and they ran after the fleeing pranksters. There was a Maldivian princess in a bungalow at a land called Diidiswatta.

World War II

At the time of World War Two, a siren was installed at the Miran Maduwa Junction in the village, to warn people of any impending disasters. There were a number of A. R. P. Wardens (Air Raid Precaution Wardens) who had their designation boards in black letters on a yellow background, to maintain law and order in times of distress and disaster. The pranksters in the village interpreted A.R.P. as Aaappa Roti Pittu or Aaachchige Redde Parippu.

Close to the Siren was an impressive projected cannon installed. (It was only a camouflaged arecanut tree stump).

There was a young coconut plucker. All of a sudden, he went missing from the village. After about six months he surfaced wearing an impressive military uniform and roamed the village.

At this time there were 10 cents, and five cents notes. The five cents note had a perforated edge which could separate three cents and two cents. The one cent coin had the legend “King George the VI Emperor of India”, with his picture.

The village school was closed and bags of rice were stocked there. Rice was in short supply at the time. And to supplement it two varieties of cereals known as Ryesina and Bagiri were made available. Our expert female cooks in the village had a major breakthrough when they produced delicious milk Bagiri which become immensely popular.

Dangedera Bakery

The “Dangedera Bakery” was centrally located in the village. It belonged to the Weerapperuma family. During the war, it catered to the needs to the people who in the mornings, lined up in the Indian file, to buy the bakery products. Mrs. Weerapperuma ably managed it and served the people.

Cruising down the Moragoda river, which abutted the village, in an improvised boat was a most enjoyable pastime. In the process, we were able to eat luscious Kirale fruits from the overhanging branches. Bovitiya, Dan Jambu, Guara and Mango were some other fruits we relished. Sometimes a good-hearted villager living on the bank of the river, would give us “kurumba” (young coconuts) to drink.

Kite flying, archery contests with improvised bows and arrows, catapulting, activating kurum batti machines, marble games, rubber seed and eramudu seed games (the larger ermudu seed was called (bootta), shooting with improvised pistols with seed bullets, spinning tops and chuck gudu, etc., were some of the other enjoyable activities we were engaged in.

Sometimes in the evenings we played softball cricket. Menikpura was a deadly bowler while Hamza was the best bat.

Once in a way, I would drop at my neighbour’s house to listen to gramophone music.

With the advent of the Sinhala New Year, the whole village was in a festive mood. The family members all gathered to celebrate it.

The new year table was laid with milk-rice and sweetmeats like kavum, kokis, asmi, athirasa, mung kavun and the inevitable plantains.

After they partake of the first meal of the new year at the auspicious time dressed in new clothes, followed by the money transactions, the children swing on the rope swings strung up on strong tree branches, reciting rhythmically a variety of swing-songs called (varan). One such was:

Some children indulged in the game called (nonada pollada) – tossing coins head or tail.

A young man in the adjoining village had a maintenance case. To avoid it he went abroad. After many years he came back to his village and got married to a girl from Dangedera. The couple was going for their honeymoon and were coming down the steps to a waiting car, when all of a sudden, a woman with a child and some armed thugs, intercepted them, demanding maintenance for the child, and all hell broke loose!

We were children then, when two of us decided to visit our grandmother. When she saw us, she was aghast, as a rabid dog had run berserk in the area. It was a narrow shave.

One day, the village was all agog with the news that the Nayaka Thera of the village temple Jayawardenarama, – Dangedera Panyasara Thera, was due to deliver a sermon over the radio. The village had only a few families having radio sets. But they made arrangements to accommodate the villagers by laying mats in their gardens.

These are some of the fond memories of the village where I was born.


Lingering world disorder and the UN’s role



The 9/11 Twin Tower horror in New York.

Russia could very well be questioning the legitimacy of the UN system by currently challenging the right of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to arbitrate in the conflicting accusations of genocide brought against each other by it and Ukraine. Russia has countered Ukraine’s charge of genocide, occasioned by its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, by accusing the latter of perpetrating the same crime in the rebel region of Eastern Ukraine, which is seen as being within the Russian sphere of influence.

As is known, when Russia did not participate in a hearing sanctioned by the ICJ on the charge of genocide brought against it in March 2022, the ICJ called on Russia to halt the invasion forthwith. Russia, however, as reported in some sections of the international media, reacted by claiming that the ICJ has ‘no jurisdiction over the case since Ukraine’s request does not come within the scope of the Genocide Convention.’ The main sides to the Ukraine conflict are at present reportedly stating their positions in the ICJ with regard to the correctness of this claim.

Whereas, the law-abiding the world over would have expected the ICJ’s word to prevail in the Ukraine conflict, this does not seem to be the case. More precisely, it is the moral authority of the UN that is being questioned by Russia. Given this situation, the observer cannot be faulted for believing that Russia is ‘sticking to its guns’ of favouring a military solution in the Ukraine.

Considering the foregoing and the continuing lawlessness in other geographical regions, such as South-West Asia, the Middle East and parts of Africa, the commentator is justified in taking the position that little or nothing has been gained by the world community by way of fostering international peace over the decades.

Most distressing is the UN’s seeming helplessness in the face of international disorder, bloodshed and war. The thorny questions from the 9/11 New York twin-tower terror attacks, for instance, are remaining with humanity.

One of the most dreaded questions is whether the UN Charter has been rendered a dead letter by the forces of lawlessness and those wielders of overwhelming military might who couldn’t care less for moral scruples. Those state actors who display these traits risk being seen as destruction-oriented subversives or terrorists who are impervious to civilizational values.

Commentators are right when they point to the need for UN reform. This is, in fact, long overdue. Of the original ‘Big Five’ who went on to constitute the permanent membership of the UN Security Council (UNSC) at the end of World War 11 and who oversaw the establishment of the UN, only the US and China retain major power status in the true sense of the phrase today.

The rest of the original heavyweights cannot be considered ‘spent forces’, but there are other powers of more recent origin who could easily vie for their positions. Some of these are India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and Indonesia. Inducting some of the latter into the UNSC could help constitute a more globally representative UNSC. That is, they will help put together an UNSC which is more faithfully reflective of the current global power distribution.

Theoretically, a more widely representative and inclusive UNSC could be a check against the arbitrary exercise of power by the more ambitious, expansionary and authoritarian members of the UNSC but a foremost challenge facing the UN is to induce such new members of the UNSC into representing the vital and legitimate interests of the ordinary publics within these states and internationally. Minus such representation of the world’s powerless UN reform could come to nought. In fact, this could be described as a prime challenge before the UN which could decide its enduring relevance.

Admittedly, the challenge is complex and defies easy resolution. Not all the countries that are seen as prospective UNSC members are democratic in orientation. That is, they would not be people-friendly or egalitarian. Most of them are governed by power elites that are part of what has been described as the ‘Transnational Capitalist Class’ and could be expected to be repressive and parasitic rather than caring or egalitarian. How then could they be expected to be committed to re-distributive justice within their countries, for example?

In the short and medium terms, the UN system could bring into being systems and institutions that could make it comparatively difficult for the power elites of the world to be parasitic, exploitive, self-serving and unconscionable. Strengthening and giving added teeth to systems that could prove effective against money-laundering and allied practices of self-aggrandizement is one way out.

Ironically, it is perhaps the UN that could lay the basis for and provide these mechanisms most effectively and non-obtrusively. It would need to work more with governments and publics on these fronts and lay the foundation for the necessary accountability procedures within states. It should prepare for the long haul.

In the longer term, it’s the coming into existence of democracy-conscious governments and ruling strata that must be sought. Here too the UN could play a significant role. Its numerous agencies could prove more proactive and dynamic in inculcating and teaching the core values of democracy to particularly poor and vulnerable populations that could fall prey to anti-democratic, parochial political forces that thrive on division and discord.

UN aid could be even directly tied to the establishment and strengthening of democratic institutions in particularly impoverished countries and regions. Thus will the basis be laid for younger leaders with a strong democratic vision and programmatic alternative for their countries. Hopefully, such issues would get some airing in the current UN General Assembly sessions.

Accordingly, the broad-basing of the UNSC is integral to UN reform but the progressive world cannot stop there. It would need to ensure the perpetuation of the UN system by helping to bring into being polities that would respect this cardinal international organization which has as its prime aim the fostering of world peace. Democracy-conscious populations are an urgent need and systems of education that advocate the core values of democracy need to be established and strengthened worldwide.

The coming into being of rivals to the current Western-dominated world order, such as the BRICS bloc, needs to be welcomed but unless they are people-friendly and egalitarian little good will be achieved. Besides, undermining the UN and its central institutions would prove utterly counter-productive.

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Country Roads …concert for children



Sponsors and Country Music Foundation officials - from left: Dmitri Cooray (Jetwing), Maljini Jayasekera (Cargills), Feizal Samath (President CMF), Susaan Bandara (LOLC), Deepal Perera (SriLankan Airlines) and Spencer Manualpillai (Dilmah)

I’ve always wondered why those who have hit the big time in their profession, as singers, have not cared to reach out to the needy.

They generally glorify themselves, especially on social media, not only with their achievements, but also with their outfits, etc. – all status symbols.

I’m still to see some of the big names grouping together to help the thousands who are suffering, at this point in time – children, especially.

However, I need to commend the Country Music Foundation of Sri Lanka for tirelessly working to bring some relief, and happiness, to children, in this part of the world.

Country Roads is said to be Sri Lanka’s and South Asia’s longest running charity concert for children, and this year, they say, the show will be even better.

This concert has consistently donated 100% of its proceeds to children’s charities in Sri Lanka. Over the past 35 years, this has resulted in several million rupees worth of aid, all of which has contributed directly to addressing the most pressing issues faced by children in Sri Lanka, a common practice since the concert’s first edition was held in 1988.

In 2014, the concert contributed Rs. 500,000 to Save the Children Sri Lanka, to support its mother-and-child programme for local plantations. During the same year, another Rs. 100,000 was given to the Oxonian Heart Foundation, to help treat impoverished and destitute children suffering from heart disease, while a further Rs. 100,000 was donated to a poor family caring for a special needs child. In commemoration of its landmark 25th anniversary concert in 2013, CMF donated a million rupees to aid in a special UNICEF project.

Astrid Brook from the UK

The 2023 musical extravaganza will feature the bright lights and panoramic cityscape of Colombo, as its backdrop, as it will be held at the picturesque Virticle by Jetwing, which is situated high above the city, on the 30th floor of the Access Towers building, in Union Place, Colombo 2.

The 35th anniversary Country Roads concert for children will take place on Saturday, 7th October, 2023.

Feizal Samath, President of the Country Music Foundation (CMF), the concert organisers, commented: “We are very much looking forward to this event as it’s being held after a lapse of five years, due to unavoidable circumstances.”

Fan favourites the Mavericks from Germany and Astrid Brook from the UK will once again return to headline the 2023 concert, and joining them on stage will be local outfit Cosmic Rays, as well as the Country Revival Band, with Feizal and Jury.

Dirk (from the Mavericks) has this to say to his Sri Lankan fans: “2018 was the last time we were in your beautiful country with the Mavericks band. Then Corona came and with it a long break. I missed you very much during this time.

“It has now been five years since my last visit to Sri Lanka. A lot has changed. The sponsorship that has always made this trip possible for us is gone. But we didn’t just want to end this tradition, which we have learned to love so much since 1992. That’s why we’re travelling to Sri Lanka this year entirely at our own expense, because it’s an affair of the heart for us.

Mavericks from Germany

“We very much hope that it won’t be the last Maverick performance in Sri Lanka. We hope that this unique journey will continue, that there will also be a Country Roads concert in the years to come.”

The 35th anniversary edition of the Country Roads concert for children will be supported by Official Venue Virticle by Jetwing, and Official Airline SriLankan Airlines, as well as its other partners, Jetwing Colombo Seven, Cargills, LOLC, and Firefly.

Tickets are currently available, for a charitable donation of Rs 2,000 each, at Cargills Food City outlets at Kirulapone, Kohuwela (Bernards), Majestic City, Mount Lavinia (junction) and Staples Street.

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Healthy, Glowing Skin



Give your skin a boost by including the following into your diet:

* Avocados:

Avocados contain healthy fats which can help your skin stay moisturised and firm.

They also contain vitamin C and E – two important nutrients that your body need to support healthy skin and fight free radical formation.

Avocados are also rich in biotin, a B vitamin that some nutritionists believe can help promote healthy skin and hair. A deficiency of biotin can lead to skin problems, such as rashes, ache, psoriasis, dermatitis and overall itchiness.

* Carrots:

Carrots are rich in vitamin A, which fights against sunburns, cell death, and wrinkles. Vitamin A also adds a healthy, warm glow to your skin.

You can get vitamin A by consuming provitamin A through fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based products. Your body then converts beta-carotene into vitamin A to protect your skin from the sun.

Provitamin A can also be found in oranges, spinach, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, bell peppers, broccoli and more.

* Dark Chocolate:

Dark chocolate is beneficial for your skin because cocoa powder boasts a bunch of antioxidants. These antioxidants hydrate and smoothen your skin, making your skin less sensitive to sunburn and improves the blood flow of your skin. Make a healthy choice by opting for a bar of dark chocolate with 70% cocoa for more antioxidants and lesser added sugar.

* Green Tea:

Green tea has been said to protect the skin against external stressors and ageing. This is because it is antioxidant-rich and contains catechins that protect your skin, reduce redness, increase hydration, and improve elasticity.

A diet rich in antioxidants along with adequate hydration may even out your skin texture, strengthen your skin barrier and improve your overall skin health.

Avoid adding milk to green tea as the combination can reduce the effects of the antioxidants present in green tea.

Additional tips for healthy skin…

Don’t forget to stay hydrated because water plays a big part in the appearance of your skin. Water ensures your skin has enough moisture, which reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps with nutrient absorption, removal of toxins and blood circulation.

Besides food and water, it is important to observe proper hygiene. This means no touching your face until you’ve washed your hands. Your hands carry more bacteria than you think and the occasional touch here and there can add up. After a long day out, cleanse your face thoroughly.

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