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The Patron Saint of Galle Cricket

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Edwin Mendis Karunaratna, “E.M.K.,” as he was popularly known, resurrected Galle cricket, after a period of inactivity.

He helped many young cricketers, in need, and had their talents developed.

Most of his earnings, as a leading lawyer in Galle, handling criminal cases, were virtually spent on the promotion of cricket. But if not for him, Galle cricket would not have prospered to the extent it did.

For 30 years, he travelled to Colombo, and back, at his own expense (and at what cost?) to attend the meetings of the Ceylon Cricket Association and the Board of Control, representing Galle.

With international teams visiting Galle, it was found that the Galle Cricket Club turf wickets of clay, and domestic lawn grass rolled hard to get a hard surface, were not upto international standard. (Turf wickets, all over the world, were prepared with a special grass).

However, with the assistance of the Colombo Cricket Club (all Englishmen) turf wickets, to international standards came up in Galle on E.M.K.’s initiative.

E. M. K. Organied countrywide sweep and a new pavilion with modern facilities, was opened by J. R. Jayewardena.

The legendary West Indies cricketer, Learie Constantine, was given an assignment by the Ceylon Cricket Board.

E. M. K. arranged a programme, for selected boys, from the Galle schools, for two weeks. This programme inspired our boys to take cricket more seriously.

“A tournament, called the E. M. K. Tournament was also organised to promote cricket in the Southern Province.

As a teenager, attending Richmond College, E.M.K., recounts a cricket match played in 1899.

Those were the times when the masters too used to play in the inter collegiate matches.

A. C. Edwards played for All Saints’ College in his capacity as a member of its staff. He was the safest and the soundest batsman and one could never forget his remarkably broad hat, his leisurely walk to the wicket and his unconcerned return to the pavilion after gathering at least a half century on every occasion.

He was a terror of Richmond College and its supporters, in the great encounter between Richmond and All Saints, which feature used to arouse tremendous enthusiasm among cricket fans in Galle upto about 1905, when the Richmond-Mahinda series commenced and became the most important social event in Galle.

Mainly due to Edward’s efforts, All Saints’ won a series of matches against Richmond, when in the memorable match, in 1899, Richmond scored a glorious victory beating All Saints by an innings!

As usual, Edward went in and to the great relief of the Richmondians (now Richmondites) he failed to come off in both innings!

Alfred G. Nicholas, who was a member of the Richmond Staff, was then the recognised “Poet Laureate” of the South, immortalised this victory by composing a beautiful song, entitled “Winning the Toss” which was set to music by the revered Principal J. H. Darrel. It was melodiously sung by the college eleven at the concert given at the end of the term, thus:

Alack! The day for Edwards’ game,

That cricketer of ancient fame;

He’s in, the field is put about,

Both innings see him shortly out!

 

Chorus:

So here’s to Captain and to crew,

To bowler, batsman, fieldsman, too,

We score away our previous loss,

Thanks to our Captain and the Boss.

In later years, E. M. K. captained the Richmond Cricket eleven and, in the year 1908, he won the high jump and long jump events at the S.S.C. sports meet.

Born in 1886, he was a distinguished pupil of the principal J. H. Darrel. Shortly after leaving school, he joined the Richmond Staff.

In the year 1908, the Richmond College Masters’ Cricket Club was formed at a time when the college staff included at least 12 first-class cricketers. It was led by Rev. W. J. T. Small who had won his colours at his college, Gonville and Caius, Cambridge. The team comprised Rev. Small, E. F. C. Ludowyke, G. R. A. Fernando, H Mant, G.A.F. Senaratne, J. Vincent Mendis, Blum Soerts, A. R. Seneviratne, A. W. Dissanaike, George Amarasinghe, F. A. de S. Adihetty, E. M. Karunaratne C. W. W. Kannangara (latter the father of free education) and Capt. A. A. Dias Abeysinghe.

Before long, this club achieved remarkable success and in its triumphant progress, lowered the colours of all the clubs in the Southern Province.

In 1909, there was keen rivalry in this game with the Galle C.C., who had been beaten before by the Masters’ C. C. but who were determined to do or die in their attempt to retrieve their honour.

The Galle C.C., batting first, scored 155. The Masters commenced their essay with utmost confidence when the glorious uncertainties of cricket intervened and a rot set in and I wickets were down for only 96. E.F.C. Ludowyk was not out on 9 when the last man, George Amarasinghe, the humourist of the team, arrived at the crease. He was not expected to survive a ball but scored a lucky one by an accidental sneak to short leg and Ludowyk crossed over.

Thereafter, it was a wonderful exhibition by Ludowyk with a single off the last ball of every over. Thereafter, the score was increasing. But, the winning hit was given and 160 runs reached and with only one more ball to complete that over, Ludowyk was caught on the boundary line off that last ball.

Ludowyk was beaming with smiles, while Amarasinghe who faced only one ball, was long-faced and threw away the bat and in a thunderous tone said, “I was getting into form when that rascal got out!”

In 1910, the Colombo Cricket Club (C.C.C.) were easily the champions of the Metropolis, mainly through the wonderful bowling of Greswell who arrived in Ceylon with a reputation as one of the very best of England’s bowlers.

Having lowered the colours in the Southern Province, the Masters’ C.C. was desirous of playing a match with the C.C.C.

The C.C.C. accepted the challenge and fixed the first match to be played in Colombo with a return match at Galle.

Eventually, the Masters’ C.C. went to Colombo. The toss of the coin was in their favour and they scored 295 runs. Greswell was changed for the first time since his arrival in Ceylon!.

The C.C.C. score was 265 when the last man arrived with 31 runs to make to win, or five minutes to play out time and make the game a draw. When the total reached 270, there were two minutes to go and the Galle Champions secured the wicket and thereby a glorious victory!

The newspapers acclaimed the Masters’ Eleven as a great all-round side and as brave men who did not suffer from “Gresswellitis”.

In their return match at Galle, the Masters’ C.C. won by an innings while in 1912, the Masters’ Eleven suffered a defeat at the C.C.C. ground.

After about six or seven years, the Masters’ C.C. ceased to exist, as most of the members left for fresh fields and pastures new.

During his Law College days, E.M.K. pioneered the Law-Medical cricket match and was the Law’s first captain at the match which was played on 24th and 25th March 1911, which the lawyers won.

The law team comprised E. M. Karunaratna (Richmond), E. Wanduragala and A. Ebert (S. Thomas’), P. B. Bulankulame, E.S. Fonseka, C. Perera and A. H. de Silva (Royal), F. W. Dias, C.S. Fonseka and E.A. Gunasekera (Wesley) and George A. Perera (St. Joseph’s)

Sam Somasunderam’s Medical Team included R. A. Wickremasuriya, J. Money, M. A. Sourjah, Clement Barrows, V. H. L. Anthonisz and S. Thiagrajah.

In later years, he also pioneered the Galle Law-Medical encounter.

With his advent from the Law College, the Galle Cricket Club developed considerably. In the process, he had to face many formidable challenges in the selection of strong teams, arranging fixtures with other teams, looking after the day-to-day administration of the club, finding funds to play cricket and the maintenance of the club. He met these challenges with courage and fortitude and was its main stay.

Apart from these chores, he also captained the Club Cricket Team from 1922 to 1945 and in 1948.

By now (1920) the Galle C.C. was among the first-class clubs in the island and there was a general desire among all lovers of the game that a ‘test’ match be arranged to be played at Galle between the Ceylon Team and a Southern Province Team.

At the time the genial and sporting Dr. John Rockwood’s name was a household word in the world of cricket in Ceylon. And, he was cordially invited to bring down the Ceylon Team for a battle royal with a Southern Province team.

 

The invitation was accepted and the match was fixed for 23-10-1920. Weeks before this great match, it was widely advertised by means of posters and hand-bills, both in English and in the Vernacular.

The playground was enclosed for the first time in the history of Galle cricket and hundreds cheerfully paid the entrance fee. Some took advantage of the ramparts overlooking the Esplanade.

Richmond, Mahinda, St. Alioysius and All Saints’ had each a tent with their college colours prominently displayed.

Dr. Rockwood’s Team comprised.

Douglas de Saram (Capt.), Dr. C. H. Gunaskera, M. K. Albert, C. Horan, S. R. Titus, E. Kelaart, V. T. Dickman, Jack Anderson, G. Wignarajah, H. A. Sappideen and Alfred Aluvihara.

The Southern Province Team comprised: E. M. Karunaratna (Capt.), M. S. Gooneratne, G. R. A. Feranndo, D. Gurusinghe, A. L. de Silva, A Hettiartchchi, Cecil Senaratne, S. B. L. Perera, E. Wijetilleke, Freddie Wickramaratne and K. H. M. de Silva.

Douglas de Saram having won the toss elected to bat and they were all out for 114 runs. In reply the Southern Province collapsed for 54 runs.

In the second innings the visitors made 101 for 2 wickets and declared, leaving he home team 161 runs to make in one and a half hours for victory. The home team replied with 75 for 7 wicket s when rain interrupted play.

In 1922 E. M. K. represented Galle at the inaugural meeting of the Ceylon Cricket Association. In 1928 he wrote the historical document “Cricket Down South” giving a vivid description of cricket at Galle from 1875 to 1928.

In 1933 and 1934 he was elected President of the Ceylon Cricket Association. In 1933 he was eleted to the Galle Municipal Council.

Again in 1934 he captained the Galle Combined xi against D. R. Jardine’s team at Galle.

In 1935 he captained the Galle Combined xi against Indian University Occasionals (Captained by S. Wazir).

In 1944 he inaugurated the Richmond-Mahinda old boys encounter. In 1945 he captained the Galle Combined xi against All India (captained by Vijay Merchant). E. M. K’s son Christie who was then the cricket captain of Richmond also played in this match. It was a rare event of a father and son playing representative cricket together.

E. M. K. was 59 years old at the time and physically strong and mentally alert. He stuck to the rules of the game rigidly as a cricketer, observing the highest traditions.

In 1948 he attended the inaugural meeting of the Board of Control in Colombo.

In 1949 he represented the Board of Control at the inaugural meeting of the Asian Cricket Conference in Calcutta.

At one time he was the most senior Vice-President of the Sinhalese Sports Club, a life member of the Tamil Union Cricket Club and a distinguished member of the Galle Gymkhana Club. Some of the well – known cricketers of his day were his friends. Prince Ranjith Singh of India was a particular friend. Cricketers of countries so far apart as England and West Indies came all the way to Galle to see him. In 1934, president E. M. K. of the Ceylon Cricket Association hosted half the Australian Test Team (including W. M. Woodful) a whole day at Galle. The team was on their way back to Australia.

He used his influence to presuade the C.C.A. to allocate a match to Galle, when visiting teams came to the Island.

His portrait was unveiled at the Galle Cricket Club pavilion by the Governor General Sir O.E. Goonetilleke, who paid a glowing tribute to him.

 

Another portrait of his in full dress with bands and gown, was unveiled at the Galle Law Library by the then Chief Justice Hema Basnayake.

In recognition of the laudable services rendered by him, he was made an O B E (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) by the Queen.

In later years he became one of the few leaders who formed a Branch of the “Sinhala Maha Sabha” at Galle.

During the matches with foreign teams at Galle, it was observed that the spectators cheered only the local side. So with an unfurled multi-coloured umbrella in hand, EMK walked the boundary line appealing to the crowd to cheer both sides!

When he passed away on 19-12-1976 at the age of 90, he was not the affluent man that he was in his great days.

The last time Ruhunu Puthra met him was at a weeding, where he made a speech in Sinhala, ending it with a Sinhala verse which he recited rhythmically, blessing the newly wed.

He once declared “This game we love so much has been truly described as” the finest game the wit of man has devised”. May the true spirit of Cricket prevail in all our encounters, both in and off the field.

We do not often realise the important bearing cricket, played in the proper spirit, has on the formation of character. A certain English writer said once t hat cricket has become an Imperial asset. I should go further and say that it is a National asset and even a family asset. Its code of ethics and of honour is so high that the expression. “It is not cricket” is commonly used with regard to any line of action or human conduct that is no t perfectly straight upright and above board”.

With the completion of the Galle International Cricket Stadium, it as the fervent wish of the people of Galle that it be named after him as it will be as appropriate as having named the stadia after P. Saravanamuttu, V. A. Sugathadasa and R. Premadasa, for their dedication and invaluable services to sports. But it was not to be.

Edwin Mend’s Karunaratna is an unsure hero.



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PLANES OF EXISTENCE

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(from THE BUDDHA AND HIS TEACHINGS by Venerable Narada Mahathera)

“Not to be reached by going is world’s end.” ANGUTTARA NIKAYA

According to Buddhism the earth, an almost insignificant speck in the universe, is not the only habitable world, and humans are not the only living beings. Indefinite are world systems and so are living beings. Nor is “the impregnated ovum the only route to rebirth.” By traversing one cannot reach the end of the world, says the Buddha.

Births may take place in different spheres of existence. There are altogether thirty-one places in which beings manifest themselves according to their moral or immoral Kamma.

There are four states of unhappiness (Apaya) which are viewed both as mental states and as places.

They are:

1. Niraya (ni + aya = devoid of happiness) woeful states where beings atone for their evil Kamma. They are not eternal hells where beings are subject to endless suffering. Upon the exhaustion of the evil Kamma there is a possibility for beings born in such states to be reborn in blissful states as the result of their past good actions.

2. Tiracchana-yoni (tiro = across; acchana = going), the animal kingdom. Buddhist belief is that beings are born as animals on account of evil Kamma. There is, however, the possibility for animals to be born as human beings as a result of the good Kamma accumulated in the past. Strictly speaking, it should be more correct to state that Kamma which manifested itself in the form of a human being, may manifest itself in the form of an animal or vice versa, just as an electric current can be manifested in the forms of light, heat and motion successively — one not necessarily being evolved from the other.

It may be remarked that at times certain animals particularly dogs and cats, live a more comfortable life than even some human beings due to their past good Kamma.

It is one’s Kamma that determines the nature or one’s material form which varies according to the skilfulness or unskilfulness of one’s actions.

3. Peta-yoni (pa + ita) lit., departed beings, or those absolutely devoid of happiness. They are not disembodied spirits of ghosts. They possess deformed physical forms of varying magnitude, generally invisible to the naked eye. They have no planes of their own, but live in forests, dirty surroundings, etc. There is a special book, called Petavatthu, which exclusively deals with the stories of these unfortunate beings. Samyutta Nikaya also relates some interesting accounts of these Petas.

Describing the pathetic state of a Peta, the Venerable Moggallana says:

“Just now as I was descending Vultures’ Peak Hill, I saw a skeleton going through the air, and vultures, crows, and falcons kept flying after it, pecking at its ribs, pulling apart while it uttered cries of pain. To me, friend, came this thought: O but this is wonderful! O but this is marvellous that a person will come to have such a shape, that the individuality acquired will come to have such a shape.”

“This being,” the Buddha remarked, “was a cattle-butcher in his previous birth, and as the result of his past Kamma he was born in such a state. “

According to the Questions of Milinda there are four kinds of Petas — namely, the Vantasikas who feed on vomit, the Khuppipāsino who hunger and thirst, the Nijjhamatanhikaā, who are consumed by thirst, and the Paradattapajavino who live on the gifts of others.

As stated in the Tirokudda Sutta these last mentioned Petas share the merit performed by their living relatives in their names, and could thereby pass on to better states of happiness.

4. Asura-yoni — the place of the Asura-demons. Asura, literally, means those who do not shine or those who do not sport. They are also another class of unhappy beings similar to the Petas. They should be distinguished from the Asuras who are opposed to the Devas.

Next to these four unhappy states (Duggati) are the seven happy states (Sugati). They are:

1. Manussa The Realm of human beings.

The human realm is a mixture of both pain and happiness. Bodhisattas prefer the human realm as it is the best field to serve the world and perfect the requisites of Buddhahood. Buddhas are always born as human beings.

2. Catummaharajika — the lowest of the heavenly realms where the Guardian Deities of the four quarters of the firmament reside with their followers.

3. Tavatimsa — lit., thirty-three — the Celestial Realm of the thirty-three Devas where Deva Sakka is the King. The origin of the name is attributed to a story which states that thirty-three selfless volunteers led by Magha (another name for Sakka), having performed charitable deeds, were born in this heavenly realm. It was in this heaven that the Buddha taught the Abhidhamma to the Devas for three months.

4. Yama — “The Realm of the Yama Devas.” That which destroys pain is Yāma.

5. Tusita — lit., happy dwellers, is “The Realm of Delight.”

The Bodhisattas who have perfected the requisites of Buddhahood reside in this Plane until the opportune moment comes for them to appear in the human realm to attain Buddhahood. The Bodhisatta Metteyya, the future Buddha, is at present residing in this realm awaiting the right opportunity to be born as a human being and become a Buddha. The Bodhisatta’s mother, after death, was born in this realm as a Deva (god). From here he repaired to Tavatimsa Heaven to listen to the Abhidhamma taught by the Buddha.

6. Nimmanarati — “The Realm of the Devas who delight in the created mansions.”

7. Paranimmitavasavatti — “The Realm of the Devas who make others’ creation serve their own ends.”

The last six are the realms of the Devas whose physical forms are more subtle and refined than those of human beings and are imperceptible to the naked eye. These celestial beings too are subject to death as all mortals are. In some respects, such as their constitution, habitat, and food they excel humans, but do not as a rule transcend them in wisdom. They have spontaneous births, appearing like youths and maidens of fifteen or sixteen years of age.

These six Celestial Planes are temporary blissful abodes where beings are supposed to live enjoying fleeting pleasures of sense.

The four unhappy states (Duggati) and the seven happy states (Sugati) are collectively termed Kamaloka — Sentient Sphere.

Superior to these Sensuous Planes are the Brahma Realms or Rupaloka (Realms of Form) where beings delight in jhanic bliss, achieved by renouncing sense-desires.

Rupaloka

consists of sixteen realms according to the jhānas or ecstasies cultivated. They are as follows:

(a) T’he Plane of the First Jhana;

1. Brahma Parisajja –– The Realm of the Brahma‘s Retinue.

2. Brahma Purohita — The Realm of the Brahma’s Ministers.

3. Mahaā Brahma — The Realm of the Great Brahmas.

The highest of the first three is Mahaā Brahma. It is so called because the dwellers in this Realm excel others in happiness, beauty, and age-limit owing to the intrinsic merit of their mental development.

(b) The Plane of the Second Jhāna:

4. Parittābhā — The Realm of Minor Lustre,

5. Appamānābhā — The Realm of Infinite Lustre,

6. Ābhassarā —

The Realm of the Radiant Brahmas.

(c) The Plane of the Third Jhāna:

7. Parittasubha — The Realm of the Brahmas of Minor Aura.

8. Appamānasubha — The Realm of the Brahmas of Infinite Aura.

9. Subhakinhaā — The Realm of the Brahmas of Steady Aura.

(d) The Plane of the Fourth Jhana:

10. Vehapphala — The Realm of the Brahmas of Great Reward.

11. Asaatta — The Realm of Mindless Beings,

12. Suddhavasa — The Pure Abodes which are further subdivided into five, viz:

i. Aviha — The Durable Realm,
ii. Atappa — The Serene Realm,
iii. Sudassa — The Beautiful Realm,
iv. Sudassi — The Clear-Sighted Realm.
v. Akanittha — the Highest Realm.

Only those who have cultivated the Jhanas or Ecstasies are born on these higher planes. Those who have developed the First Jhana are born in the first Plane; those who have developed the Second and Third Jhanas are born in the second Plane; those who have developed the Fourth and Fifth Jhanas are born in the third and fourth Planes respectively.

The first grade of each plane is assigned to those who have developed the Jhanas to an ordinary degree, the second to those who have developed the Jhanas to a greater extent, and the third to those who have gained a complete mastery over the Jhanas.

In the eleventh plane, called the Asaatta, beings are born without a consciousness.

Here only a material flux exists. Mind is temporarily suspended while the force of the Jhāna lasts. Normally both mind and matter are inseparable. By the power of meditation, it is possible, at times, to separate matter from mind as in this particular case. When an Arahant attains the Nirodha Samāpatti, too, his consciousness ceases to exist temporarily. Such a state is almost inconceivable to us. But there may be inconceivable things which are actual facts.

The Suddhavasas or Pure Abodes are the exclusive Planes of Anagamis or Never-Returners. Ordinary beings are not born in these states. Those who attain Anāgāmi in other planes are reborn in these Pure Abodes. Later, they attain Arahantship and live in those planes until their life-term ends.

There are four other planes called Arupaloka which are totally devoid of matter or bodies. Buddhists maintain that there are realms where mind alone exists without matter. “Just as it is possible for an iron bar to be suspended in the air because it has been flung there, and it remains as long as it retains any unexpended momentum, even so the Formless being appears through being flung into that state by powerful mind-force, there it remains till that momentum is expended. This is a temporary separation of mind and matter, which normally co-exist. “

It should be mentioned that there is no sex distinction in the Rupaloka and the Arupaloka.

The Arupaloka is divided into four planes according to the four Arupa Jhanas.

They are:

1. The Sphere of the Conception of Infinite Space.

2. The Sphere of the Conception of Infinite Consciousness.

3. The Sphere of the Conception of Nothingness.

4. The Sphere of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception.

It should be remarked that the Buddha did not attempt to expound any cosmological theory.

The essence of the Buddha’s teaching is not affected by the existence or non-existence of these planes. No one is bound to believe anything if it does not appeal to his reason. Nor is it proper to reject anything because it cannot be conceived by one’s limited knowledge.

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Sins of Fathers and Comrades

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“The sins of the father will be laid upon the children.”

Exodus 20:5 (5th of Ten Commandments)

The Merchant of Venice (Act 3, Scene 5)

by Kumar David

It is a terrible, a terrifying curse that the sins of one generation will be visited upon successors. Some Christian sects, to this day, hold the Jews responsible for the murder of Jesus Christ though a learned Christian scholar, Lay-Preacher and friend assures me that this is perverse – Pontius Pilate must carry full responsibility he declares. But another with lesser ecclesiastical credentials (he never would have made it to Lay-Preacher though lay was not the obstacle) assures me that unlike JR in 1983, Pilate had good reason to fear that he had no choice and that the mob threatened governance. Actually, JR never made that lame-duck excuse – I think he rather enjoyed watching it. (Aside: Ranil was JR’s nephew in whose Cabinet he loyally served throughout the treachery and slaughter – Bahu please note).

Two organisations are paying a high price for their past, the blame for which is laid on their heads. The example in the headlines this month is the Taliban. The curses of centuries of faith-based relics have submerged it, though internal conflicts may still reverse the worst of the dark age. The other, always in the rear-view mirror of Lankan politics are the 1971 and 1989 events. I promised in a previous piece that I would stop bugging the JVP for long ago follies for which present leaders bear no responsibility. I intend to keep that promise. The misfortune is that that we the NPP still face “Didn’t your people do that?”, “Can we trust them again?” and such flak. A giant blunder by one generation of comrades hangs over the heads of their successors. This piece however is about the Taliban, a theme to which I seem to be getting addicted.

That Chairman fellow said “Women hold up half the sky”, but the Taliban by imposing cruel dress codes and obsolete conduct on unwilling women who have tasted personal freedom for two decades have created an implacable foe. (If some prefer to adhere of their own volition, that’s fine). Opposition to gender oppression and the Pashtun power grab will ignite conflict. There were sporadic protests by small groups of women earlier, but on September 7 a large one, thousands strong marched for miles through the streets of Kabul and was finally dispersed by shots in the air. There are videos of beating and detention of well-disciplined women protesters by bloody fool machismo in the lower ranks of the Taliban who will have to be crushed. It remains to be seen if the leadership has the guts to do this or whether it will go the way of all Lankan regimes on inter-racial and religious injustice. I am not holding my breath. On September 8 the regime impose a ban on demonstrations; this will be defied. If the Taliban mows down Afghan women with grapeshot what is left of its Islamic credentials?

So far, I have written in support of the expulsion of NATO. This has been done and now Act 2 of the drama has commenced. It is time to hold the Taliban to acceptable standards of human and democratic rights but instead it has formed an all-male mainly Pashtun government of aged hard-line dotards and given the lie to promises of ethnic inclusivity and recognition of women. It has slipped back to primeval faiths and primitive customs. The Taliban Education Minister who has never been to school, when challenged about his fitness for the job responded: “Education is irrelevant so long as you are pious.” There will be a push back by younger Taliban cadres as the economy goes into free fall and conflict with women and non-Pashtun ethnic-minorities swells. I am of the view that we are passing through a period in which nothing is settled and foresee changes within the Taliban and in the nature of the state.

Foreign occupation has had contradictory effects. On the one hand liberal values and a liber-democratic state were the proclaimed objectives. On the other hand, drones and artillery killed thousands of civilians, the Afghan army murdered and plundered, and billions of dollars unloaded on foreign contactors spread a plague of corruption from the President down. In sum the occupation was a disaster and a failure.

Confessional slavery

Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Iran, the Taliban regime and some others impose dress codes, curtail commonplace democratic rights, deny education and horse whip or stone to death women who defy primitive religious injunctions imposed on all whether these practices are egregious to other genders, faiths or ethnic collectives. (I avoid the term Islamic as I am not schooled in whether Islam actually sanctions such incongruity and cruelty). In the best-case, the Taliban will see the writing on the wall and retreat, give or take a few tactical adjustments. If it is deaf to half its population it will engender a women’s uprising; these women have nothing to lose but their chains and a world to gain. It will take time for a clandestine but identifiable leadership to mature and resistance organise itself. The Taliban does not want to give any rights to women and it will concede only what it is compelled to by domestic and international pressure.

The best Sri Lankans of all faiths, ages, communities and genders can do is to extend moral and if possible practical support to women enslaved by confessional states. Did you know that Afghans were making creative and aesthetically sensitive films from well before Taliban-I? Muslim women in open societies have shone in the professions, academia and public service. Their fathers, brothers and husbands now have a duty to help this process everywhere. It is a shame that Islamic clerics and Muslim laymen and scholars across the world have failed to denounce the Taliban’s behaviour. Many, not only in the thuggish lower ranks, who obstruct progress gun in one hand and whiplashing women on the streets, are alarmed by their own limited educational and intellectual horizons and nativist ignorance. That’s the long and the short of it.

The New Taliban Government: a formula for strife

The Taliban proclaimed an Islamic Emirate, but a Republic is emerging on the streets of Kabul and Herat. Two weeks ago I wrote about the internal dynamics in political movements in watershed periods. It is necessary now to admit that in Afghanistan and in the Taliban the first round has been won by the reactionaries. Nevertheless, professed pieties and hermetic decision making notwithstanding, the conflict within Taliban driven by anger on the streets and dissent in the countryside, is only beginning. Yes true, the Taliban did not fight for 20 years in the mountains to win power and then create a liberal state. Nor do the hardliners care a whit about the hardships people suffer without medical services and food. What will forces change within the movement is if these deficits provoke challenges to its power in the country at large, and if internal cracks within the Taliban widen under stress. The real world will in the end win over the imagined world of faith, ideology and ignorance.

You would be justified to reckon that the government was formed in a home-for-the-aged. Aging Mohammad Hassan Akhund, an aide of the Taliban founder Omar, is PM and Abdul Ghani Baradar his deputy. Omar’s son Yaqoob is defence minister. Two senior Haqqani network members, leader Sirajuddin Haqqani and his aging uncle Khalil Haqqani are interior minister and minister for refugees respectively. Akund, Siarjuddin and Khalil are on UN sanctions lists for terrorism. It’s as if after victory in the Panjshir Valley they cocked their thumb at the world, especially the West and said “Bugger off! We won the war. We will do as we please”. That in broad terms is the government though described as “Interim”. Unsurprisingly, Beijing welcomed the new government. It is playing at global foreign policy and currying favour with the Taliban not to interfere with its repression of Uighur Muslims. China will be of no help in the democratisation of Afghanistan (or Sri Lanka or Burma or anywhere).

The leaders professed that women will play a prominent role and have access to education, but they were excluded from talks when forming a government and there is no longer any mention of a ministry of women’s affairs. About 40% of school children are girls and 30% sitting the university entrance exams are women; unrepentant religious aboriginals in the leadership will attempt to roll all this back. I keep returning to the women’s issue because my sense is that repressing women who have tasted education and employment and then oppressing them socially is not sustainable and will engender conflict. Attempts to impose a Pashtun state on other ethnicities by an aged ideologically primitive leadership in the context of an economic meltdown will aggravate conflict and create splits and realignments within the movement. This may bring younger leaders to the helm and then modify the state itself. The signals as yet are mixed. If the leaders refuse to budge, conflict between the people and the Taliban will break into the open. This is not a desirable scenario; a compromise is better.

This essay has continuity in views and content with my column of September 5, “A perspective on conflicts in the Taliban” which readers may wish to consult.

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My personal experience and perspective of Astrology and Palmistry

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by Dr Nihal D Amerasekera

I was simply fascinated by the stories about his experience with palmistry revealed by my erstwhile colleague Prof Sanath Lamabadusuriya in a recent article to the Sunday Island Newspaper.

Palmistry or Cheiromancy originated in ancient India more than 5,000 years ago and spread to China, Greece and Rome. Now palmistry as an art is practiced worldwide. At present there are three types of palmistry, Indian, Western and Chinese. The Western and Chinese palmistry now show a significant divergence from the original Indian palmistry. The Indian Vedic astrology is closely linked to the notions of karma. Palmists believe Palmistry is both a science and an art. Astrology originated in Babylon far back in antiquity around 2,400 years ago.

I spent much of my childhood with my grandparents both of whom were measured and well-mannered health care professionals. Bringing up their children in the aftermath of the first World War they endured the nomadic life of government transfers every four years serving in some of the most inhospitable places. Those were troubled times of malaria, dysentery and typhoid epidemics. In those days without TV and radio they developed a hobby which was all consuming. They were excellent and adept palmists and astrologers.

I still recall the many books on the subject that filled the bookshelves of our house in Nugegoda. Friends and family got my grandparents to cast horoscopes and got their palms read. For them it was a hobby for which no money changed hands. According to family folklore, when I was born at the Kandy hospital my grandma, was there with her watch recording the time of birth with accuracy. The local time in Ceylon was changed during World War II to what was called ‘War Time’. This caused enormous upheaval in the astrology community in getting the time correct for casting horoscopes.

I grew up in a milieu with great belief in the ability to predict the future. We all had our astrological charts on rolled up ola leaves. My grandparents were well aware of its difficulties and shortcomings and also how, when and what information to divulge. My grandfather was a fine palmist. He never lost his sense of playfulness or the ability to find humour in his predictions. When I was a young kid I was told that I will be a doctor and my future lies in another country. In retrospect I am amazed how accurately he summed up my future.

He was always discreet in his predictions and did so with great sensitivity. In the fullness of years, I can acknowledge now, the predictions were remarkably accurate. I had a cousin who was my age and attended the local school with me. When I asked my grandpa about her future he was reluctant to discuss it. It brought us great sadness when she died tragically age 35. There were times he did get things wrong. His clientele was family and friends. These errors came to light many years later and no one came to any serious harm.

My grandfather did tell me that I had the perfect chart to be a good palmist. I did learn the basics from him and loved it. He often said “practice makes perfect” and that I should read palms regularly. The idea did appeal to me. It is wonderful to be able to predict the future. As a teenager there were too many other interests and distractions. Although my interest receded it never died. I took it up again briefly after retirement, just as a hobby. On a Mediterranean cruise I discovered palmistry was a good ‘party trick’. The mere mention at the dinner table that I could read the palm generated great interest. Despite my disclaimer of being a novice the ladies lined up for their futures to be revealed.

When I was a first year medical student we visited a family friend in Kollupitiya. There was a large gathering. Amongst the crowd was a professional palm reader. They asked me if I want my palm read. Without much thought I agreed and realised later that was a huge mistake. As there was an audience the palmist played to the gallery. Some very personal events of my future life were bared for all to hear causing me great embarrassment and distress. Much of the past was incorrect and in retrospect the future predictions were a load of rubbish. In those days I wasn’t vocal enough and suffered in silence. I still blush when I think about it. This is an excellent example of how NOT to read the palm. There are many such unscrupulous quacks and rogues that hoodwink the people to earn a living.

All palmists should learn the trade as an apprentice to a true professional who should pass on their wisdom, teach the obligations and the refinements we call “bedside manner”. Like in the Hippocratic oath they should be taught “primum non nocere” ( first, do no harm). In my childhood I recall the village astrologers and palmists who frightened the people with impending doom and gloom and extracted money to counteract the forces of evil. Perhaps with increased literacy and learning these practices have now largely disappeared. It is my belief that like in every profession, for astrology and palmistry too, well beyond the aptitude, some have the special gift of instinct or intuition that set them apart from the rest. I have met a few such brilliant professional astrologers and palmists who have made a name for themselves and make an honourable living.

The art of predicting the future has always fascinated people all over the world. For a young person with all his/her life before them there is that inevitable desire to know what is in store. Even In the 21st century that desire still exist. There are some who would say “why know the future, just get on with life”. As a septuagenarian, knowing the fragility of life, I agree with that sentiment completely. Que sera sera – whatever will be will be.

On a personal level, my future has been predicted with great accuracy and I have good reason to believe in both palmistry and astrology. The accurate time of birth and proper casting of the horoscope is the key to its reliability. Even with all that the predictions are neither fool-proof nor flawless. Finding a genuine bona-fide palmist or astrologer is like searching for a needle in a haystack.

There is a conflict between my scientific background and those imprecise and unregulated business of astrology and palmistry. As a medical professional I am trained only to trust evidence-based information and have some scepticism and even some cynicism about matters I cannot deduce logically.

I never allowed my decisions to be guided by astrology or palmistry. Those predictions have no guarantee of accuracy although it gave me a fairly clear picture of what the future held for me. I have lived my life as I wanted making much of the decisions on the hoof. In the main I have no regrets. I have always believed that although my future lay in my own hands much what happens to us in life is governed and influenced by the awesome forces of destiny.

As old age came to my grandparents, they had the respect and love of the extended family. I will always remember grandma’s diligence, energy and enthusiasm, and grandpa’s calm reflective kindness. Their demise to me was an end of an era. The memory of my grandparents still remains with me as a dear and precious possession.

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