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The Tea Planter And His Cook



Two little known but significant contributors to the western ethos that is part of the modern homogenous Sri Lankan culture.

by Hugh Karunanayake

The occidental influence on Sri Lanka could be conjectured as first arising from the visits of famed international travellers like Marco Polo, Van Lin Schoten, and others from the West who first discovered the delights and pleasures of this land known as Serendib. Indeed the word “serendipity’ is now a much used word in the English language meaning ” surprisingly pleasant discoveries” .From the 16 th Century onward however the social dynamics of the country especially along its maritime areas came under the influence of three dominant powers, Portugal, Holland, and Great Britain. The conquest and settlement within the country brought in its wake substantial influences not only on the economic development of the country but very significantly on its social manners and customs.

Thus we have today a Sri lankan culture consisting of many contributing strands including a fairly heavily influenced western ethos confined not only to the use of the English language and the many sporting activities including cricket, rugby, and other sports, but also as presented by the general way of life of its people. Today’s Sri Lankan culture although dominated by the original Sinhala Buddhist, Tamil Hindu, Moor Islam elements also has the occidental elements showing through, and is like the proverbial “scrambled egg ” difficult to unscramble, to expose its constituent elements!

I have chosen the lives of two persons, comparatively unknown but whose remarkable contributions are significant in the evolution of some aspects of present day Sri Lankan identity. John Loudon Shand was a pioneer tea planter who arrived in Ceylon during the dying days of “king coffee” in 1866. Born on October 1, 1845 in Scotland, he arrived in Ceylon in 1866 at the age of 21, seeking his fortune as a coffee planter. He pioneered the clearing and planting of Pendleton Estate in the Kandy District by the time he was 25 years of age. The estate was managed by Keir, Dundas and Co, a big name in the coffee industry of the time.

Loudon Shand was an impressive figure well known for his commanding personality and his manner of public speaking which soon earned him the sobriquet “Silver tongued Shand”. In 1879 at the age of 34 years he was elected Chairman of the powerful and then very influential Planters Association of Ceylon, at a time when the planting industry was going through one of its most difficult times in its history. By 1882 he had progressed in his planting career fast enough to part own Hatton Estate which was then planted in coffee covering 120 acres of land.

It was a successful speculative move following the crash of “king coffee”. He was responsible for the replanting of the estate in tea which was later to expand to nearly 300 acres. His reputation as a planter was on a steep upward trajectory, and he was later to spearhead the promotion and development of Ceylon’s tea industry. With his outstanding personal attributes he was well equipped for the task.

After living in Ceylon for twenty years he returned to England as planting Commissioner for the Colonial and Ceylon Exhibition in 1886. As a well known promoter of the tea industry in Ceylon he lectured at the Royal Colonial Institute, the Society of Arts, and other public organizations extolling the prospects of the tea industry in Ceylon. His wife Lucy who travelled over from England to marry him at the Christ Church in Colombo on November 29, 1873 bore him 10 children of whom five were sons of whom three took to planting in Ceylon. Their second son Stewart Loudon Shand served in the Great War and was awarded the Victoria Cross for extraordinary bravery at the Great War, an outstanding achievement.

John Loudon Shand arrived in London for the 1886 Colonial and Indian Exhibition, accompanied by his butler and five servants. The five servants were to work as waiters in the Ceylon Tea House a major feature of the Ceylon Court at the Exhibition held in London. Loudon Shand as representative of the Ceylon Planters Association was one of the five members of the Commission appointed by the Government of Ceylon to run the Ceylon Court. The others were Sir Arthur Birch, F.R. Saunders Member of the Legislative Council, Henry Trimen, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya, and J.G. Smither Government Architect.

There were scores of other officials and private individuals from Ceylon who participated in the exhibition, their names all well documented in a commemorative book published to mark the occasion. Tea being the principal product that the government wanted to publicise, it fell upon John Loudon Shand to do the needful. Having accomplished his objectives and earning well deserved plaudits from his countrymen Loudon Shand continued to reside in Scotland after his visit in 1886. He did not elect to return to Ceylon and lived out the rest of his life in Scotland and passed away in Dulwich on February 2, 1932 at the age of 87.

Francis Daniel who served as Loudon Shand’s butler in Ceylon also described himself as a fiddler who originated from Trichinopoly in South India. His father and grandfather were tom tom beaters in the Indian Light infantry and shared a common musical heritage. The butler’s son Daniel Santiagoe was born in Ceylon, and since the age of 16 served in various planter’s bungalows in Ceylon as cook assistant, house boy, dressing boy, general servant and approved cook. He was 23 years of age when he arrived as Loudon Shand’s cook to serve also as a waiter in the Ceylon Tea House at the 1886 London Exhibition.

Daniel Santiagoe could well be one of the waiters in the foreground. Note. The imge of the Ceylon Tea House shows its design derived from the Audience hall in Kandy. The wall in front adapted from the design of the wall surrounding the Kandy Lake. The Tea House designed by Govt Architect JG Smither. well known author of “The Architectural Remains of Ceylon”published in 1884.

A pioneer in his own right, Daniel Santiagoe’s own life story as professional cook is not only remarkable, but serves as a trail blazer in the development of Western oriented cuisine in Ceylon. The man obviously would have settled down in England after the exhibition and his line of descent would probably be today at least five generations after him, most likely carrying his name if not some aspects of his origins. He is remembered for posterity however as the first ever author of a cookery book based on Ceylonese cookery. titled “The Curry Cook’s Assistant” first published in London in 1886,

Daniel Santiagoe, the author, describes himself very modestly as “General Servant”. In his preface Santiagoe acknowledges with gratitude “my two masters Shand, and Haldane and Co. of London who brought me over to England and Scotland with four other servants and allowed me to publish a little book to make my desired little fortune”! The first edition of 500 copies sold out, at 4 pence each which surely must have helped the author to lay the foundation for the fortune he hoped to make. A first edition of this remarkable book cannot be found anywhere today, but a second edition and its reproduction can still be found.

There are many aspects to this narrative which provide links to the evolution of Sri Lankan cuisine as it is known today. Western originated aspects of modern Sri Lankan cuisine like steaks, grills, soups. desserts, breads, as indeed are the customs and manners and etiquette at the table; all belong to influences from our former colonial overlords. This culinary heritage is not only here to stay but have amalgamated with indigenous culinary practices as well as influences from other countries of the orient to produce what can be described as modern Sri Lankan cuisine.

Santiagoe’s story also throws some light on the manner in which labour that crossed the Palk Strait to serve in the plantation industries of Ceylon, also helped in the development of subsidiary professions such as those which provided service in the house, the garden, the kitchen, and at the table. Their little appreciated but significant role in the social development of Ceylon has gone unnoticed and deserves attention., To quote the poet John Milton “they also serve who only stand and wait” !!

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Is it impossible to have hope?



So, a woman has lost again to a man. I refer here to Matale District SJB MP Rohini Kaviratne having to concede her bid for Deputy Speaker of Parliament to some bod of the Pohottu Party, who, sad to say makes only a negative impression on Cass. Conversely, Kaviratne looks competent, capable, trustworthy, able to communicate and command, and most importantly speaks and conducts herself well balanced. So different from most of the MPs, particularly of the government side, who lack education, and in appearance and behaviour – decency. Please, take my word for the fact that I am not a party person. What I want in our representatives is education and decorum. And they should at least once in a while use their own heads and make decisions that are good for the country and not follow the leader through sheep like, sycophantic obedience. Of course, even more than this is self interest that prompts the way they act and decisions are taken, especially at voting times.

Rohini Kaviratne made a bold statement when, as Wednesday’s The Island noted, she told Parliament “the government was neither run by the President nor the Prime Minister but by a ‘crow.’” Utterly damning statement but totally believable. Deviousness as well as self-preservation is what motives action among most at the cost of even the entire country. And, of course, we know who the crow is – kaputu kak kak. Cass lacks words to express the contempt she feels for the black human kaputa, now apparently leading the family of kaputas. Why oh why does he not depart to his luxury nest in the US of A? No, he and his kith are the manifestation of Kuveni’s curse on the island. Strong condemnation, but justified.

You know Cass had a bold kaputa – the avian kind – coming to her balcony in front of her bedroom and cawing away this morning. Normally, she takes no notice, having developed sympathetic companionship towards these black birds as fellow creatures, after reading Elmo Jayawardena’s Kakiyan. She felt sorry for the crow who cawed to her because his name has been taken to epithet a politico who landed the entire country in such a mess. And he is bold enough to attend Parliament. Bravado in the face of detestation by the majority of Sri Lankans! Cass did not watch afternoon TV news but was told father and son, and probably elder brother and his son attended Parliamentary sessions today – Wednesday May 18. May their tribe decrease is the common prayer; may curses rain on them. Cass recognises the gravity of what she says, but reiterates it all.

I am sure Nihal Seneviratne, who recently and in 2019, shared with us readers his experiences in Parliament, moaned the fact that our legislature always lacked enough women representation. Now, he must be extra disappointed that political allegiance to a party deprived Sri Lanka of the chance of bringing to the forefront a capable woman. Women usually do better than men, judging by instances worldwide that show they are more honest and committed to country and society. The two examples of Heads of Government in our country were far from totally dedicated and commitment to country. But the first head did show allegiance to Ceylon/Sri Lanka in fair measure.

As my neighbour moaned recently: “They won’t allow an old person like me, after serving the country selflessly for long, to die in peace.” Heard of another woman in her late 80s needing medical treatment, mentally affected as she was with utter consternation at the state of the country. One wonders how long we can be resilient, beset on every side by dire problems. But our new Prime Minister was honest enough to voice his fears that we will have to go through much more hardship before life for all Sri Lankans improves.

Thus, my choice of pessimistic prediction as my title. Will we be able to hope for better times? Time will be taken but is it possible to have even a slight glimmer of hope for improvement?

There is much debate about the appointment of Ranil W as PM. We admire him for his knowledge and presence. But the greatest fear is he will defend wrong doers in the R family. Let him be wise, fair and put country before saving others’ skins. He has to be praised for taking on the responsibility of leading the country to solvency. He said he will see that every Sri Lankan has three meals a day. May all the devas help him! The SJB, though it refuses to serve under a R Prez, has offered itself to assist in rebuilding the nation. Eran, Harsha, and so many others must be given the chance to help turn poor wonderful Sri Lanka around. And the dedicated protestors, more so those in Gotagogama, still continue asking for changes in government. Bless them is all Cass can say at this moment.

Goodbye for another week. hoping things will turn less gloomy, if brightness is impossible as of now.

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Lives of journalists increasingly on the firing line



Since the year 2000 some 45 journalists have been killed in the conflict-ridden regions of Palestine and senior Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was the latest such victim. She was killed recently in a hail of bullets during an Israeli military raid in the contested West Bank. She was killed in cold blood even as she donned her jacket with the word ‘PRESS’ emblazoned on it.

While claims and counter-claims are being made on the Akleh killing among some of the main parties to the Middle East conflict, the Israeli police did not do their state any good by brutally assaulting scores of funeral mourners who were carrying the body of Akleh from the hospital where she was being treated to the location where her last rites were to be conducted in East Jerusalem.

The impartial observer could agree with the assessment that ‘disproportionate force’ was used on the mourning civilians. If the Israeli government’s position is that strong-arm tactics are not usually favoured by it in the resolution conflictual situations, the attack on the mourners tended to strongly belie such claims. TV footage of the incident made it plain that brazen, unprovoked force was used on the mourners. Such use of force is decried by the impartial commentator.

As for the killing of Akleh, the position taken by the UN Security Council could be accepted that “an immediate, thorough, transparent and impartial investigation” must be conducted on it. Hopefully, an international body acceptable to the Palestinian side and other relevant stakeholders would be entrusted this responsibility and the wrong-doers swiftly brought to justice.

Among other things, the relevant institution, may be the International Criminal Court, should aim at taking urgent steps to end the culture of impunity that has grown around the unleashing of state terror over the years. Journalists around the world are chief among those who have been killed in cold blood by state terrorists and other criminal elements who fear the truth.

The more a journalist is committed to revealing the truth on matters of crucial importance to publics, the more is she or he feared by those sections that have a vested interest in concealing such vital disclosures. This accounts for the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, for instance.

Such killings are of course not unfamiliar to us in Sri Lanka. Over the decades quite a few local journalists have been killed or been caused to disappear by criminal elements usually acting in league with governments. The whole truth behind these killings is yet to be brought to light while the killers have been allowed to go scot-free and roam at large. These killings are further proof that Sri Lanka is at best a façade democracy.

It is doubtful whether the true value of a committed journalist has been fully realized by states and publics the world over. It cannot be stressed enough that the journalist on the spot, and she alone, writes ‘the first draft of history’. Commentaries that follow from other quarters on a crisis situation, for example, are usually elaborations that build on the foundational factual information revealed by the journalist. Minus the principal facts reported by the journalist no formal history-writing is ever possible.

Over the decades the journalists’ death toll has been increasingly staggering. Over the last 30 years, 2150 journalists and media workers have been killed in the world’s conflict and war zones. International media reports indicate that this figure includes the killing of 23 journalists in Ukraine, since the Russian invasion began, and the slaying of 11 journalists, reporting on the doings of drug cartels in Mexico.

Unfortunately, there has been no notable international public outcry against these killings of journalists. It is little realized that the world is the poorer for the killing of these truth-seekers who are putting their lives on the firing line for the greater good of peoples everywhere. It is inadequately realized that the public-spirited journalist too helps in saving lives; inasmuch as a duty-conscious physician does.

For example, when a journalist blows the lid off corrupt deals in public institutions, she contributes immeasurably towards the general good by helping to rid the public sector of irregularities, since the latter sector, when effectively operational, has a huge bearing on the wellbeing of the people. Accordingly, a public would be disempowering itself by turning a blind eye on the killing of journalists. Essentially, journalists everywhere need to be increasingly empowered and the world community is conscience-bound to consider ways of achieving this. Bringing offending states to justice is a pressing need that could no longer be neglected.

The Akleh killing cannot be focused on in isolation from the wasting Middle East conflict. The latter has grown in brutality and inhumanity over the years and the cold-blooded slaying of the journalist needs to be seen as a disquieting by-product of this larger conflict. The need to turn Spears into Ploughshares in the Middle East is long overdue and unless and until ways are worked out by the principal antagonists to the conflict and the international community to better manage the conflict, the bloodletting in the region is unlikely to abate any time soon.

The perspective to be placed on the conflict is to view the principal parties to the problem, the Palestinians and the Israelis, as both having been wronged in the course of history. The Palestinians are a dispossessed and displaced community and so are the Israelis. The need is considerable to fine-hone the two-state solution. There is need for a new round of serious negotiations and the UN is duty-bound to initiate this process.

Meanwhile, Israel is doing well to normalize relations with some states of the Arab world and this is the way to go. Ostracization of Israel by Arab states and their backers has clearly failed to produce any positive results on the ground and the players concerned will be helping to ease the conflict by placing their relations on a pragmatic footing.

The US is duty-bound to enter into a closer rapport with Israel on the need for the latter to act with greater restraint in its treatment of the Palestinian community. A tough law and order approach by Israel, for instance, to issues in the Palestinian territories is clearly proving counter-productive. The central problem in the Middle East is political in nature and it calls for a negotiated political solution. This, Israel and the US would need to bear in mind.

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Doing it differently, as a dancer



Dancing is an art, they say, and this could be developed further, only by an artist with a real artistic mind-set. He must be of an innovative mind – find new ways of doing things, and doing it differently

According to Stephanie Kothalawala – an extremely talented dancer herself – Haski Iddagoda, who has won the hearts of dance enthusiasts, could be introduced as a dancer right on top of this field.


had a chat with Haski, last week, and sent us the following interview:

* How did you start your dancing career?

Believe me, it was a girl, working with me, at office, who persuaded me to take to dancing, in a big way, and got me involved in events, connected with dancing. At the beginning, I never had an idea of what dancing, on stage, is all about. I was a bit shy, but I decided to take up the challenge, and I made my debut at an event, held at Bishop’s College.

* Did you attend dancing classes in order to fine-tune your movements?

Yes, of course, and the start was in 2010 – at dancing classes held at the Colombo Aesthetic Resort.

* What made you chose dancing as a career?

It all came to mind when I checked out the dancing programmes, on TV. After my first dancing programme, on a TV reality show, dancing became my passion. It gave me happiness, and freedom. Also, I got to know so many important people, around the country, via dancing.

* How is your dancing schedule progressing these days?

Due to the current situation, in the country, everything has been curtailed. However, we do a few programmes, and when the scene is back to normal, I’m sure there will be lots of dance happenings.

* What are your achievements, in the dancing scene, so far?

I have won a Sarasavi Award. I believe my top achievement is the repertoire of movements I have as a dancer. To be a top class dancer is not easy…it’s hard work. Let’s say my best achievement is that I’ve have made a name, for myself, as a dancer.

* What is your opinion about reality programmes?

Well, reality programmes give you the opportunity to showcase your talents – as a dancer, singer, etc. It’s an opportunity for you to hit the big time, but you’ve got to be talented, to be recognised. I danced with actress Chatu Rajapaksa at the Hiru Mega Star Season 3, on TV.

* Do you have your own dancing team?

Not yet, but I have performed with many dance troupes.

* What is your favourite dancing style?

I like the style of my first trainer, Sanjeewa Sampath, who was seen in Derana City of Dance. His style is called lyrical hip-hop. You need body flexibility for that type of dance.

* Why do you like this type of dancing?

I like to present a nice dancing act, something different, after studying it.

* How would you describe dancing?

To me, dancing is a valuable exercise for the body, and for giving happiness to your mind. I’m not referring to the kind of dance one does at a wedding, or party, but if you properly learn the art of dancing, it will certainly bring you lots of fun and excitement, and happiness, as well. I love dancing.

* Have you taught your dancing skills to others?

Yes, I have given my expertise to others and they have benefited a great deal. However, some of them seem to have forgotten my contribution towards their success.

* As a dancer, what has been your biggest weakness?

Let’s say, trusting people too much. In the end, I’m faced with obstacles and I cannot fulfill the end product.

* Are you a professional dancer?

Yes, I work as a professional dancer, but due to the current situation in the country, I want to now concentrate on my own fashion design and costume business.

* If you had not taken to dancing, what would have been your career now?

I followed a hotel management course, so, probably, I would have been involved in the hotel trade.

* What are your future plans where dancing is concerned?

To be Sri Lanka’s No.1 dancer, and to share my experience with the young generation.

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