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Sri Lankan Cocoa – a promising inter-crop with coconut

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Sri Lanka’s fame for some of world’s finest cocoa is threatened with the local production volumes declining sharply. Although an ideal inter-crop with coconut, promoting the ecological balance, the disinterest of many local landowners in this wonder crop considered the ‘food of the gods’ is declining at an accelerated pace. We spoke to several Sri Lankan Cocoa enthusiasts who warn that unless urgent interventions are made, Sri Lankan Cocoa is on the path to botanical antiquity.

by Randima Attygalle

Botanically termed Theobroma cacao, the cocoa tree is believed to have originated in the Amazon basin and spread to Central America, largely to Mexico. The natives in this region including Mayans and Olmecs revered it as the ‘food of gods’. Cocoa seeds were used as currency by the Aztecs. By the beginning of the 19th Century, it was introduced to the colonies and was developed in Africa and Asia as a commercial plantation.

Cocoa is mostly processed into chocolate and a wide range of intermediate products such as cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, cocoa cake and raw cocoa powder used in the beverage industry. Cocoa butter is also sought as a base for soap, cosmetics and medicinal products. Its pulp juice is also fermented and used in brandy and wine. The pod husks are used in preparation of animal feed. The husks and shells are also used as a renewable energy source and to produce bio-diesel.

The nutritional value of cocoa is very high. Besides its antioxidant properties, cocoa’s healing properties are many. Research confirms its impact on improving dermal blood flow and the maintenance of skin health. Cocoa butter is used as a home remedy for burns, cough, dry lips and wounds in some leading cocoa producing countries. It is also reported to be antiseptic and diuretic.

Cocoa thrives in deep, well-drained clay loam soils rich in organic matter. The colonial planters found our immature brown loams and reddish brown latosols to be perfect to introduce cocoa to the island. The first cocoa plantation here at home was set up by the British in 1819 in Nalanda, Matale. By 1960 the island claimed 30,000 acres of cocoa. Today, it is reduced to around 5,000 acres, points out the Director General of the Department of Export Agriculture (DEA), Dr. A.P. Heenkenda. “Among the finest plantations we lost was the Pallakelle Esate of Rajawella Plantations, when the Victoria reservoir was built. Today cocoa is largely an intercrop with coconut,” he says. While Matale, Kandy, Badulla, Kurunegala, Kegalle and Monaragala districts are considered the main cocoa growing area, suitable conditions for its growth can be found even in North Western, Sabaragamuwa, Central and Western Provinces.

Cocoa, Dr. Heenkenda explains, is one of the best intercrops that is presently promoted with coconut and rubber. “We have initiated several projects in Kurunegala and Gampaha districts in collaboration with the Coconut Cultivation Board and another in rubber-centric Moneragala.” Despite the ready know-how being available for cocoa cultivation, the attitude of many growers remains very negative, notes Heenkenda. “While cocoa plants can be obtained from the regional plant nurseries affiliated to DEA, technical know-how is available through DEA Extension Officers at Govijana Sewa Centers, Research Stations, District Assistant Directors’ offices and the DEA’s head office in Peradeniya.”

The cocoa market, according to the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) distinguishes three main types of cocoa beans: Forastero or ‘bulk cocoa’ comprising 93.5% of world cocoa production; the specialty beans, often originating from Criollo planting materials which is rare today and Trinitario, a hybrid that originated in Trinidad from crossings between mixed Criollo and mixed Forastero types.

Bernard Minifie in his work Chocolate, Cocoa and Confectionery (Third Edition) documents that Criollo-the original “wild” variety is found in very small proportion of the world supply and is found in Samoa, Java, and Sri Lanka. This ‘small proportion’ the author alludes to is made even smaller today, says Dr. H.M.P.A Subasinghe, Director (Research), Department of Export Agriculture. “Today what we mostly find locally are crosses of Criollo and Forastero types,” he says.

The fine taste in Sri Lankan Cocoa due to its chemical composition and the high butter content, still puts it among the finest cocoa in the world, says Subasinghe. “While the butter content found in many other foreign varieties is between 35 to 45% our cocoa contains more than 50% butter.” Despite the lucrative revenue it promises in the global market, disease control efforts, animals such as monkeys and giant squirrels that feed on cocoa pods, lack of knowledge on canopy management and the insufficient domestic market price per kilo compared to other crops such as cinnamon, pepper etc. drive many cultivators to abandon cocoa and replace them alternatives crops such as pepper or cinnamon, he says.

Many measures have already been taken by DEA to revive an interest in Sri Lankan Cocoa. Introduction of new varieties, production of quality planting material, support for selection of suitable land, providing soil test reports, issuing of planting material free of charge after registration, subsidies for relevant machinery and processing centers, subsidies with the success of cultivation (80% field establishment), planting material for gap filling, training programmes on planting material production, crop management, pest and disease control and post-harvest technology and other technology transfer activities at field level and providing price and market information are among these.

Cocoa is largely encouraged as an intercrop with coconut where ideal soil and other climatic conditions meet, particularly in the Kurunegala District, says Subasinghe. “The difficulties in finding suitable lands for cocoa as a monocrop in ‘traditional cocoa-grown areas’ (such as Matale, Kandy, Badulla etc.) can be mitigated when it’s intercropped with coconut. Moreover, farmers can generate a higher income from unit land area with a two-crop yield.” With unprecedented climate change, the yield in a main crop can also increase due to modification of micro-climate in the crop environment, he says. Inter-cropping also has more potential for soil and soil moisture conservation and creates a certain amount of ecological balance, points out the researcher.

The domestic requirement for cocoa is around 6,000 MT. Yet only around 600 MTs are presently produced locally according to DEA figures. While a kilo of local cocoa beans is sold around Rs. 450, the world cocoa beans price is around 3 US$. In 2019 according to the DEA, 48,887.8 MT of cocoa beans were imported to the country costing Rs. 3.46 billion. Imports are made largely from Ghana, Ivory Coast, Malaysia and Indonesia. Compared to other cocoa exporters, our export figures are negligible points out the DEA. Ivory Coast, Ghana, Ecuador, Cameroon, Nigeria, Indonesia, Brazil, Peru and the Dominican Republic are the major cocoa exporters according to the ICCO.

Cocoa can do wonders to coconut plantations providing organic fertilizer (with the leaves that are shed) and retaining moisture, points out S.M.M Samarakoon, CEO of Kurunegala Plantations Ltd. “Climate change has taken a huge toll on coconuts resulting in immature falling of the nuts and cocoa as an intercrop can help build a micro-climate within a plantation and thereby increase the yield by about 26%,” says this senior planter. It is also a buffer against soil erosion he adds.

Today 35 acres of coconut in Dodangaslanda estates of Kurunegala Plantations Ltd are complemented by cocoa. A fervent supporter of cocoa, Samarakoon urges the responsible state authorities to kindle more interest in the crop among potential cultivators by introducing a national policy and encourage confectioners to support growers as part of their CSR campaigns.

While it takes five to six years for cocoa to bear, it takes five to six months for fruit to mature. A single tree, according to Samarakoon can produce one kilo of processed beans per season and their plantations produce around three tons per year. The life span of a cocoa tree, if managed well, is 30 to 40 years. The harvest depends on the rainfall pattern. Peak harvesting season is usually from July- August. Once cocoa beans are harvested from the pods, they are allowed to naturally ferment over a period of three to four days before they are dried.

While many cultivators who have been discouraged by pests and diseases to which cocoa is prone, including the black pod disease and swollen shoot disease had abandoned most of their cultivation, Samarakoon is positive that if one is really passionate about this crop, there is always a way out. It is also a means of empowering communities at ground level, he believes. “We get the necessary know-how for fighting diseases and for crop management from the DEA and we have also installed a high frequency device to keep the giant squirrels and monkeys away.”

The cocoa beans supply has been declining over the years and in another ten years times, the volumes will deplete further, lament the cocoa bean suppliers to whom we spoke. “It is tragic that when we have some of world’s finest cocoa, there is no state patronage to revive this dying crop,” remarked one of the old hands who lobbies for a wide scale national intervention to replant cocoa and create a dialogue with potential cultivators and offer more incentives and encourage those who are already in the trade by offering a better buying price.

Ceylon Chocolates Ltd (CCL), is the largest buyer of Sri Lankan cocoa in the local market. The company sources cocoa from Matale, Kandy, Kegalle, Kurunegala, Monaragala and Badulla. “CCL’s factory in Kundasale, housed in one of the prime cocoa-growing regions in the country, is the one and only facility in Sri Lanka equipped with the ‘Beans to Bar’ process,” says Thilan Gunarathne, Plant Manager of CCL in Kundasale. “We are positioned to purchase much larger volumes of local cocoa given the capacity of our processing plant. As a company that prides itself in Sri Lankan empowerment, we urge cultivators to revive their interest in this staple of our chocolates.”

Master chocolatier and internationally renowned patissier Gerard Mendis dreams of manufacturing a ‘100% Sri Lankan Cocoa based chocolate’. “This is my ultimate dream,” says Mendis who has grown up among cocoa and coffee in his ancestral Kandy. A cocoa lover and a farmer in his leisure, Mendis laments that despite the prevalence of ideal growing conditions in the island, cocoa’s decline is fast-tracked with no recognition given to it as a sustainable crop. The connoisseur who had learned the art of gourmet chocolate-making in Switzerland and Belgium, candidly admits that he is yet to taste a type of cocoa superior to ours.

 

(Photo credit: Department of Export Agriculture & Kurunegala Plantations Ltd)



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All communities should be treated equally without distinction

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by Jehan Perera

The government was elected on a platform that stressed national security and unity. The elections took place in the aftermath of the Easter suicide bomb attacks of 2019 that caused the highest numbers of casualties in Christian churches. As the bombers were all Muslim, the Muslim population in the country came under public suspicion which was spontaneous and widespread. There was also equally widespread fear and anxiety about follow on attacks that could target Christians in particular and also the population in general. The cause of the attacks and the master minds behind them were a mystery then as they are now.

Due to the timely intervention of Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, in whose diocese the two most serious attacks took place, there was no retaliation against the Muslim population by those who had lost their kith and kin. However, in the weeks that followed, there were mob attacks against the Muslim community in parts of the country that were distant from the bomb attacks. These attacks were not spontaneous but organised and intended to loot Muslim property and cause fear in them. The government, which was under political siege for having failed to prevent the suicide bomb attacks, failed once again to adequately protect the Muslim community.

It is in this context that Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith’s statement on the occasion of the second anniversary of the Easter bombings takes on significance. About two months ago he gave a deadline by which he asked the government to identify who was behind the Easter attacks and the cause for them. The Cardinal has consistently spoken up on the issue of the Easter bombing, first to ask for restraint on the part of the victims, then to ask the government to identify the perpetrators and prior to the elections to take the position that the people needed a government that could protect them. Now he has said that “Our brethren were attacked not by religious extremism, but by a group that exploited it to use the attackers as pawns in order to strengthen their political power.”

MUSLIM OUTREACH

Two years after the Easter bombings in which they were branded as supporters of religious extremism, the Muslim community seeks in many different ways to overcome the suspicion that once engulfed them and which they fear can do so again. The use of the black Islamic dress that was an increasing trend among Muslim women has been much reduced. Muslim organisations are making energetic efforts to network with other religious organisations, join inter-religious groups and to liaise with civil society. They make available to them the Islamic teachings on peace and coexistence. This weekend I was invited to the opening of a community centre in the Kurunegala District by a Muslim organization.

On the walls of the community centre there were panels put up with sayings from the different religions on a number of important matters, such as how to treat others, and the role of spiritual values in everyday life. The foremost place at the opening ceremony was given to Buddhist monks who had come to attend the ceremony along with government officials and police officers. The monks who spoke said that the Muslim community living in the village had good relations with the Sinhalese living in the neighbouring villages, and this had continued for generations. Another monk said that after the Easter bombings they had heard there were violent gangs heading in the direction of the Muslim village, they had come there to ensure no harm would befall those people.

In this context, the announcement that the government will ban 11 Muslim organisations sends a negative message to the country at large about the Muslim community. It creates an impression that Muslims organisations are under suspicion and possibly even close to performing acts of violence which necessitates them being banned. Of the 11 banned organisations, two are foreign ones, the Islamic State and Al Qaeda which have been reported internationally as engaging in violence. However, the other nine are Sri Lankan organisations which do not have a track record of violence or illegality. Four of them have the name “Thowheed” in them, which in the Arabic language means “faith.”

 

DIFFERENT TREATMENT

The ban on these Thowheed organisations may be due to the fact that the leader of the suicide squad, Zahran, was part of an organisation that had the name “Thowheed” in it. The ban on them may also be due to the fact that the Commission of Inquiry into the Easter bombings recommended such action against them. However, the Commission also recommended that other non-Muslim organisations be banned which has not happened. This suggests that the Muslim organisations are being treated differently. The danger is that when it treats organisations differently, the government may be generating resentment in the Muslim community, especially the youth. If the words of Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith are correct, the problem lies not in Muslim extremism but in partisan power politics.

Sri Lanka has experienced Sinhalese youth insurrections twice and even the Tamil militant movement was started by youth, who were once called “the boys.” Perhaps in anticipation of such a radicalisation phenomenon, the government has recently passed an add-on called the “De-radicalisation from holding violent extremist religious ideology” to the Prevention of Terrorism Act. This will permit people who fall into its ambit to be send to rehabilitation centres for up to two years without trial. This may provide the government with an opportunity to release up to 250 Muslim citizens currently under detention on suspicion of being involved in the Easter bombings and send them for rehabilitation. On the other hand, this regulation may be used in the future in regard to other persons and other groups. The better way to prevent radicalization is to make people feel that the law is even-handed to all, and also to encourage engagement between communities.

During the discussion that took place at the opening of the community centre in Kurunegala, it was noted that the younger generation had fewer inter-community linkages than those of older generations. This may be due to the changing nature of society and the economy where people spend less time with other people and more time with machines or doing narrow and specialised jobs. In multi-ethnic and multi-religious societies in which there is conflictual relations, the tendency on the part of those from different communities will be to live in their own silos rather than interact with those of other communities. Living in peace in plural societies requires purposeful and energetic interaction which is organised. Where there has been ethnic and religious strife the world over, the better answer has been to provide people with encouragement and incentives to mix together, which is what the Muslim organization in Kurunegala was trying to do.

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TNGlive…a boon to artistes affected by the pandemic

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No doubt, Covid-19 has ruined the entertainment industry, throughout the world.

Entertainment venues have been shut down, concerts cancelled…and musicians are finding the going pretty tough.

However, it’s heartening to know that there are performers who find solace in keeping the public entertained, via online performances.

In this instance, those responsible for TNGlive must be congratulated for creating this platform, on social media, in order to give lots of folks, from around the globe, the opportunity to showcase their talent, on a regular basis.

Quite a few Sri Lankans have been featured on TNGlive, including Melantha Perera, Suzi Croner (Fluckiger), Sureshni Wanigasuriya, Yasmin de Silva, and Kay Jay Gunesekere,

Suzi did this scene twice, and on both occasions her performance was highly rated, with bouquets galore coming her way…on social media.

On Saturday, April 10th, she was featured (8.00 pm Sri Lankan time) doing songs from the country and western catalogue.

It was a very entertaining programme, which also contained some dance scenes (line dancing) from the audience present, in her living room – her friends.

Her repertoire included ‘Joline, ‘Me And Bobby McGee, “Johnny B. Goode,’ ‘Blue By You,’ ‘Okie From Muskogee,’ ‘Tennessee Waltz,’ ‘Rose Garden,’ ‘Mississippi’ and ‘Cotton Eyed Joe.’

Suzi is to make her third appearance, on TNGlive, shortly, but this time it won’t be a solo effort, she says.

“For variety, I would be having a guy from the Philippines, and he sings the hit songs of Tom Jones and Engelbert.”

So get ready for another special from Suzi, who now resides in Switzerland.

Suzi was the frontline vocalist for the group Friends who were, at that point in time, top of the pops!

Another artiste who impressed viewers, performing on TNGlive, with his daughter, was Nigel Gerrard John Galway.

Nigel is from India, and has been a Chef for the last 23 years, with 12 years spent at the Oberoi hotels. He was also an executive Sous Chef at Taj, in Coimbatore.

In fact, Allwyn Stephen, TNGlive chief, referred to Nigel as…probably the first Singing/Dancing Chef in the world!

He, and his 18-year-old daughter, Lean Pamela Mary, did get the attention of many, with their unique style of presentation; while Nigel handled the vocals, Lean, using only gestures, expression, and movements, brought out the meaning of the lyrics in most of the songs her dad did. And, she did it beautifully.

Yes, she also did exercise her vocal cords, on this particular programme

Says Nigel: “We come from a family of musicians, but we attempted singing, only during the pandemic, on various social media groups, and we did so only because we were all stuck at home.

“We joined TNGlive, through a friend, and have been performing ever since. The love and support we received from people around only encouraged us to keep growing and now we have a page of our own called THE SINGING CHEF.”

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Heard at the club

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Part II

A member reminisced an incident that happened long years ago, during those peaceful times when terrorism was unheard of. He had been driving his car, on the Deniyaya Road, when about six miles from Galle, he saw a village in a state of panic. So he stopped his car near the village boutique and asked the mudalali what was happening? The mudalali had said that the self-opinionated ‘mudliyar’ of the village (a court interpreter) had organised a ‘dane’ (an alms giving) and was awaiting the procession of monks, complete with drummers, from the temple. And, seeing it coming over the paddy fields which was a short cut, instead of the village road as show off, put him in a paddy, and he had chased the monks away. So the monks had gone back to the temple. As the meal time deadline for monks was fast approaching, the villagers brought the meals they had cooked in their homes, to serve the monks! That was the panic.

He was an unpopular villager who rose to a high position in the public service with political influence. Cussed by nature, he used his official position to harass villagers. When he met with an untimely death and, right at the moment the coffin was taken to the hearse, the whole village reverberated with the sound of fire crackers, organised by the irate villagers.

****

Once a terrible post office blunder very nearly wrecked a marriage. A certain sales rep sometimes sold his wares on credit. One such creditor was the owner of a shop named ‘Chandra Cafe’ who was slack in his payments. So the sales rep sent him a telegram that he would be coming to collect his dues, next Monday. On receipt, the owner of Chandra Cafe telegraphed the rep asking him not to come on Monday and the telegram received by him read, ‘Do not come on Monday – Chandra K.P.’ And when the rep’s wife read the telegram there was some misunderstanding at home which nearly rocked his marriage.

****

This reminded us of another telegram. An army officer was to go back to camp by the night mail. When he arrived at the railway station, he found a lady in an advanced state of pregnancy, almost in tears, because no berths were available. Gallantly the officer offered her his berth and, at the nearest post office, sent a telegram to his commanding officer saying ‘Unable to return tomorrow as ordered. Gave berth to lady. Arriving tomorrow evening.’

Obviously, the vital word ‘berth’ had been misspelt as ‘birth’, for the gallant officer received this reply from his commanding officer, ‘Your next confinement will be to barracks’.

****

A philanthropist donated a building to his old school. An opening ceremony was held with a VVIP as the chief guest. A group photograph was also taken. As the donor was keen to get this photograph published in the newspapers without delay, he sent the local correspondent in his limousine to Colombo. He met the editor who happened to be an old boy of the same school. After a look at the photograph, he folded it in such away to eliminate the principal and sent it for publication. The editor seemed to have an axe to grind with the principal!

****

It was in the early 60s and I was on my way to the club in the evening, when I met a friend near the club. With him was another, I invited them both to the club and after a few drinks we were headed out of the club, when near the gate, my friend pulled me aside and said that his friend was going for some trade union work to Hambantota and was short of funds. I told him that he should have told me that before I paid the club bill and also told him I had only Rs.18.00 which I gave. This trade union leader was non other than Rohana Wijeweera, who was to become JVP leader.

****

It was towards the end of the 1980s and a club member, a tea factory owner was on his way home all alone in his car, at the break of down, after finishing his factory work. He had to travel 12 miles. After about five miles, he saw a youth profusely bleeding with injuries, coming down a hill. The good Samaritan that he was, he took him in his car to the hospital. On the way, the police took him and the injured youth into custody for terrorist activities. Fortunately for him, Major-General Lucky Wijeratna, who was a classmate of his at school, was there to save him.

 

****

This happened several decades ago. There was a certain popular elderly club member, who was a wealthy businessman and drank nothing but whisky. That day when he came to the club, he seemed to have lost his bearings. He told his friends that he was going to donate all his wealth to the Home for Disabled Children which was close to his house, because his only child, a daughter, had eloped. His friends prevailed on him to defer his decision for a few months. About a year or so later, he came to the club one evening carrying a big flask in his hand. He said that it was for his errant daughter who has now reconciled, adding that he was a grandfather now!

****

A busy garage was located in a residential area and it was open day and night. To highlight their services, they put up an impressive signboard, ‘We never sleep’. The following day a prankster had written below it ‘and neither do the neighbours’.

During the day of insanity – 29th July 1987, the Open University at Matara was burnt down and the Ruhunu University remained closed. A wall poster came up. It read: ‘Close the Open University’ and ‘Open the closed University’.

****

A young teacher, met a young man at the Dehiwala Zoological Gardens. Although their native villages were far apart, they

became close friends and planned to get married in the near future. He posed as a private bus owner. One day on a visit to his fiancée, he stayed the night over and muttered in his sleep, “Borella – Battaramulla! Borella – Battaramulla!” This aroused serious suspicions about his identity. So a few days later, her parents came to the Borella junction, to see him in a sarong loading passengers to private buses as a ‘bus crier’. And the love story ended right there.

****

A long time ago a wealthy industrialist, a popular member of the club, was having his drink in a secluded corner of the club, most unlike him. He appeared to be quite agitated. Some concerned friends asked him what happened. He said that his only daughter (he also had a son) had married a man of her choice adding that his wife was in favour of the marriage. The daughter he said, was 22 years old. His friends told him that at that age, she was entitled to choose her partner in life and appealed to him to take things easy as his wife too approved of the marriage. After about a year or so, a friend visited him. Proudly pointing out a large multiple storey house in his sprawling garden, he had said that it was built by his son-in-law.

****

A certain member served abroad for many years. One morning he come back to his native Galle in a hired helicopter. That evening he came to the club and ordered a case of beer for his friends!

****

Several years ago, a member had gone to the Galle Post Office to send a telegram to a close relative. He was informed by the postal authorities that there was a breakdown in the telegraphic services and that it was unlikely that his message, about a bereavement in the friend’s family, would reach his relative in time. They advised our friend to telephone someone in the area where his relative lived and to get the message delivered orally. Those were the days when only a few had telephones. As the member did not know anyone in that area with a telephone, he thought of S. Jayasinghe, known as Mr. S, who was not know to him personally and who was a Junior Minister residing in the area where our friend’s relative lived.

When our friend telephoned him from the post office, he had just got into his car to go somewhere. Soon after he was speaking to our friend over the phone as if he was talking to an old friend. He also told our friend that he was about to go to the site where he was building a new house. Our friend then gave him the message and appealed to him to get it delivered. The rest of the story was told to our friend by his relative who had said that during a heavy shower of rain, he found a car near his gate and that when he went up to the car he recognized him to be the Junior Minister. Like my friend, he did not personally know the Junior Minister. Instead of giving the message then and there, he had got off the car and had gone to our friend’s house and not only given the message but also consoled him by talking to him for a few minutes.

****

It was in the late 1980s, at the height of the insurrection, that this member was travelling all alone to Galle in his jeep. He was going through the Kottawa Forest which was famous at the time for tyre pyres. The Navy had stopped his vehicle and asked him to take a young man who was injured in a motorcycle accident, to the Galle Hospital, about eight miles away. The young man was bleeding profusely. He got him admitted to the hospital but our friend was forced to stay there for a long length of time, culminating in his having to give his consent for a surgical operation on the injured, whom he had never seen before. Alas! The purpose of his visit to Galle was lost.

****

A member had two sons, twins aged three years. As they fell ill, he channelled a specialist doctor who examined one twin and refused to examine the other, as an appointment was not made for him. So our friend had the other twin channelled as well. Certainly, it was no personification of Hippocrates!

****

A popular elderly member used to come to the club only on his pay day to keep himself warm. He worked at ‘Sathosa’ (C.W.E). The younger members would then tell him that he is very fortunate to work in a historic establishment like ‘Sathosa’ which is also referred to in Guttila Kavya (an epic) thus:

‘Sara Salelu Jana Sathose.’

Highly elated he would order a round of drinks, adding ‘Surapana karathi mese’.

****

This happened many decades ago. A member who was an inveterate gambler once lost heavily at the card table and mortgaged his expensive wrist watch. A member who was not well disposed towards him had sent a post card to his wife informing her that her husband sold his watch to gamble. He also had a 15-acre well-maintained tea estate which he had to sell when his gambles failed.

****

This story was related by a member and is about the ‘kings’ in the planting circles. A planter in the coconut belt of the North Western Province who owned acres of coconut, once named himself ‘King Coconut’. He argued that if a planter in the Kalutara District who owned vast acres of rubber could be referred to as a ‘Rubber King’ why shouldn’t he be called ‘King Coconut’.

****

One day a member related a story, which is hard to believe. A teacher who served in an uncongenial station, in his quest for higher knowledge, had studied for an external degree at a university. And he passed the examination with flying colours, obtaining first class honours and was highly commended by the university authorities for his brilliance, while serving in a different area. He had confided to his friends that his success at the exam was due to the gift of seeing all the question papers in a dream, before the examination!

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