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When grit prevails over disability

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Wheelchair tennis 

His life didn’t flash before his eyes when the mine exploded under his feet. The only thought that crossed his mind was a sense of regret at his tour of duty coming to an abrupt end while his work was left undone. It was the year 2008 and in another year the war would be over. However, Lasantha Ranaweera didn’t know that. He was in the thick of it, having turned down multiple training opportunities so he could witness the end of the war. But while returning to base in Periyamadu, in the wee hours of May 18, 2008, which happened to be Vesak Poya day, he stepped on the mine. His leg was amputated, but it didn’t snuff out his spirit. Ranaweera went on to become a wheelchair tennis pro. This is his story and that of his comrades.

By Sajitha Prematunge

Pics by Kamal Wanniarachchi

When Jagath Welikala went to the airport on the request of Sri Lanka Tennis Association, presumably to pick up a tennis player, a Brit lugging a wheelchair, instead of a tennis racket, was the last thing the veteran tennis coach expected. Englishman Mark Bullock arrived in Sri Lanka in 2002 to introduce a special kind of sport; wheelchair tennis.

The programme kicked off with 50 all military amputees. The number was later cut down to 20. Welikala was elected to coach the team and Australian coach Kathy Fahim conducted a two-week crash course in wheelchair tennis. “Then I simply followed it up,” said Welikala. By mid-September the same year, a four-member team won the D Division in the Thailand Open 2002. Bullock, then the International Tennis Federation, Wheelchair Tennis Development Officer, facilitated Welikala’s one-month training in the Netherlands with world’s number one coach at the time, Aad Zwan. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) donated three wheelchairs and funded Australian and New Zealand wheelchair tournaments.

Two received ‘wild card’ entries into the Para Olympics 2004 in Athens, Greece. The SLTA team also won the Indian Open 2007, Australian B Division 2004, New Zealand B Division 2004, Belgium Open 2016, Malaysian Open 2017, Thailand Open 2017, Taipei Open 2018 and World Cup qualifiers 2018, held in Malaysia, along the way. Over the years, the Sri Lankan team has beaten US, Spainish, German, Italian, Slovakian Moroccan, Israeli, Swiss, Argentinian, Croatian, Russian, Canadian, Malaysian, Thai and Japanese players during World Cup matches. Their winning streak culminated in Lasantha Ranaweera and Suresh Dharmasena winning the bronze at the 3rd Asian Games, Indonesia in 2018.

War injuries break people, consequently, Welikala often had to double as a counsellor to the soldier-tennis players training under him. “But, all, after they became a part of the programme, wound up married.” This, no doubt, stands testimony to the success of the programme. “There’s a definite improvement in psychology.” Welikala ventured that, in a way it is therapeutic. “It’s something to look forward to in life.” But more importantly, Welikala points out that they are not friendless. “They are rated international and have friends all over the world.”

Welikala’s own achievements include being elected a member of Coaches’ Commission for the term between 2010 and 2012 and placed second best coach of the year. He started coaching regular tennis in 1985. Now he is the only Sri Lankan coach who specializes in wheelchair tennis, having trained 40 players so far. What’s unique about the Sri Lankan wheelchair tennis programme is that the players are all amputees, wounded in action, competing with players, most of who have been disabled by birth or childhood and have been playing wheelchair tennis for many decades, in A-grade wheelchairs.

“Back when we started, we didn’t have proper equipment. All the wheelchairs were locally assembled, until ITF donated the first three wheelchairs,” said Welikala. The team recently received three Malaysian-made wheelchairs at the cost of Rs. 500,000 each, courtesy of SLTA. “A state-of-the-art wheelchair would cost somewhere around three million. With that kind of equipment players can play well into their 50s,” said Lasantha Ranaweera.

The 36 -year-old, originally from Makandura enlisted in August 2003 and was assigned to Gajaba Regiment. After stepping on a landmine, his leg was amputated on May 19, 2008. From Anuradhapura he was brought to Colombo, where he recuperated for three months. Ranaweera spent four more months in Ranaviru Sevana and returned to service at his regiment. He spent two years with the sports team, during which he tried every sport available for an amputee like him, from basketball, badminton, table tennis, archery to the 24 kilometre marathon. Considering the zeal with which he applied himself to sport, it is quite surprising that he has not played any sport prior to his amputation.

He joined the SLTA wheelchair tennis team in 2011 and by 2013 he was in such fine form that he was able to bring home a medal on his first tour, coming third in Thai Open doubles. He has played seven Thai and nine Malaysian tournaments. Ranaweera placed eighth in the World Cup 2016 held in Japan. He has beaten every other local player in the game, although he is the third highest ranking Sri Lankan in ITF ranking.

Ranaweera admits that he couldn’t have come this far if it weren’t for the support of his family. He was married in 2007. But due to complications resulting from the blast the Ranaweeras could not have kids for 12 years. “It was a huge sacrifice on my wife’s part to stick around. But with treatment, it finally paid off. She always knew I’d make a name for myself in sports, so she was always encouraging.” Today Ranaweera is happy that the others finished the war for him, so his now one-year-old kid could live in peace.

After the war we had to face a more formidable enemy, this time in the form of a pandemic. As in any other field, COVID-19 has been a huge setback for these wheelchair tennis players. The longer they remain idle and the less tournaments they play, the higher the risk that other playing opponents may overtake them in the ITF ranking. “Training is not the issue, we need more tournaments, we need to travel,” pointed out Welikala. “If we don’t do tours, our ranking goes down,” added Ranaweera. “Age is irrelevant when it comes to wheelchair tennis,” said amputee Suresh Dharmasena. Take Stéphane Houdet for example, not only do such players have the best of equipment to their advantage, they also play often as possible to keep their ranking up. “Houdet is 49, yet he’s ranked in the ITF top 10. If we can manage at least 17 or 18 tours a year we can stay in the world top 20. This year we’ve played only three so far.”

Thirty-one-year-old Dharmasena from Kahatagasdigiliya has been playing Wheelchair Tennis since 2011. Unlike Ranaweera, Dharmasena was wounded during the latter part of the war. Dharmasena enlisted in July 2007 and was assigned to the Artillery Regiment. At the height of war, he was stationed in Puthukkudiyiruppu. It was February 21, 2009. Civilians were fleeing the war zone in droves, for two days, by boat across the Chalai lagoon, when the LTTE infiltrated the area and opened fire. Most were killed or injured. Dharmasena and others were pulling the wounded out when they were hit by mortar. Dharmasena was able to jump out of the way, which saved his life, but he fell on an anti-personnel mine.

“When four of your friends are down with various wounds, ranging in degrees of seriousness, and another lying dead a few feet away, your own predicament tends to escape you. Violence becomes mundane in war.” Wise words for a still young soldier. He was patched up at a makeshift hospital, but he knew that his foot was badly damaged all the way to the boot line. It had to be amputated. Dark thoughts of never being able to marry, have kids and make a family did cross his mind but had to be kept at bay for the sake of his family. After recuperating for four months at the Ranaviru Senvana, Dharmasena was fitted with a prosthetic. A month of training later, he was stationed at Panagoda Camp.

“I’ve always liked sports,” said Dharmasena, on the merits of which he got into the army. “After the amputation I used to watch kids in the village play volleyball.” Before his injury volleyball was his forte. Watching them, Dharmasena remembers being dejected at the prospect of never being able to play again. It was Brigadier Shiran Abeysekara who suggested that Dharmasena try his hand at wheelchair tennis. He joined the SLTA wheelchair tennis team in October 2011. “It looks easier than it is, but it uses only the upper body and on the first day your hand starts to blister. Any civilian would have quit. But the Army had my back. The word ‘can’t’ is not in the Army dictionary.” Wheelchair tennis, backed by the discipline that was inculcated in him by the Army, presented him with something he couldn’t refuse – the idea that he was not an invalid, that he could play any sport. He trained well into the night, woke up early and trained some more, till his ITF ranking shot up to Sri Lanka’s highest.

With 30 tours behind him and between 40 to 50 trophies stacked away back at home, Dharmasena readily admits that he couldn’t have done it without his wife. It takes courage for a traditional Sri Lankan woman to accept a disabled person for husband. And Dharmasena’s wife, Samurdika, did it with grace, maintaining that she would marry no other, until the in-laws had to budge. “Now they can’t do without me,” snickers Dharmasena. Like the typical traditional Sri Lankan wife, she makes a vow every time he is to play a tournament. However, she also makes it a point to go over each match, why he lost, the opponent’s weak points and notes it all down with the expertise of a seasoned coach. Whenever he is to face the same opponent again, they pore over this ‘playbook’, just so to know how to defeat his opponent’. And after a win she never fails to welcome him back home with much fanfare.

Gamini Dissanayake, aged 42, is the only remaining player out of the original 50. He took part in the two-week training course conducted by Kathy Fahim at the inception of the programme. Originally from Ampara, Dissanayake commutes daily from home in Awissawella for training. As the other players, Dissanayake could not have devoted such time and energy without the unstinting support of his family. Dissanayake has three kids; a 16 -year-old daughter and two sons, 14 and 11 years old.

He joined the Army in 1996 and was wounded in action in 2000, when he stepped on a mine in Muhamalai.

 

Dissanayake has played wheelchair tennis for 15 years. He said tennis had helped him to overcome his injury, both physically and psychologically.

Dharmasena said that his titles were many including SSC Open 2010, AITA Open Wheelchair Tennis Tournament 2011, Westende Wheelchair Tournament 2016, Malaysia Open 2016, Labuan Open 2018, Sri Lanka Open in the years 2013, 2018 and 2020 in singles and BII Indonesia Open 2011, AITA Open Wheelchair Tennis Tournament 2011, Westende Wheelchair Tournament 2016, Labuan Open 2018, Sri Lankan Open in the years 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, SSC Open in the years 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2017 in doubles and bronze in World Cup 2012. He has some 130 trophies attesting to his formidability.

Ranaweera and Dharmasena look forward to the next Paralympics, slated for August 2021, and the Asian Games in 2022. Dissanayake hopeS to retire after the Paralympics and Asian Games. This is the last generation of wheelchair tennis players that the military might produce. Dharmasena is concerned about what will happen to the sport after they retire. He hopes that someone would come forward to provide food and lodging to children from remote corners of the country, interested in picking the game up. Because unlike them, who were provided for by the ASrmy, children from low income households may not be able to afford the equipment.

In fact, SLTA has already launched a low key programme to track down potential talent. “Until the end of the war, we had a steady influx of players, through the intervention of the Army,” said SLTA Director Administration, Gayanga Weerasekara. Since the war ended, there have been no disabled willing to take up the sport. Now the SLTA is venturing into remote areas and orphanages in search of talent. “If anyone’s interested call up SLTA,” said Weerasekara. “People with any kind of disability could take up the sport.” He explained that internationally the sport is categorized according to the disability and as such, there is a lot of scope for aspiring wheelchair tennis players. Weerasekara said that they were actively looking for funding and that they have been lucky so far, to have received funding from companies such as the Colombo International Container Terminals (CICT). He is also hopeful that the new Sports Minister, Namal Rajapaksa would support the sport.

Weerasekara pointed out that players like Ranaweera, Dharmasena and Dissanayake would have wasted years of youth in some Army camp office and later been dependent on a pension, had they not discovered the sport. “We were able to provide them with a whole new career. Grand slam players are paid in dollars.” Weerasekara explained that wheelchair tennis provides endless opportunities for disabled children. “There is a certain therapeutic aspect to wheelchair tennis, that disabled children can benefit from. For example, it is an outdoor game. It is a very social game, too when it comes to doubles.

Weerasekara said that the local players had not known anything about the sport before their injuries as opposed to most international players who are disabled by birth or at a young age. Moreover, due to funding issues they had not been able to do as many tours as they needed. “Under such circumstances, it is to their credit that they were able to qualify for world events such as the Paralympics. These players have sacrificed their limbs for this country, and the least anyone could do is sponsor them,” said Weerasekara, inviting any interested party to sponsor the players.



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Features

Investigative Journalism?

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I usually end up totally exhausted when I finish reading the local newspapers from the Pearl. There are so many burning questions and so much is written about them but there are no conclusions and definitely no answers. For example, we seem to have three burning issues right now and this is not in order of importance.

We have a lengthy report that has been published on the Easter Sunday carnage. Everybody knows what I am talking about. However, no one, be it an editor, a paid journalist or a single one of the many amateurs who write to the papers, has reached a conclusion or even expressed an opinion as to who was responsible. At least not a believable one! Surely there are energetic and committed young people in the field of journalism today who, if asked, or directed properly will go out and find a source that would give them at least a credible hypothesis? Or do conclusions exist and has no one the courage to publish them?

At least interview the authors or should I use the word perpetrators of that report. If they refuse to be interviewed ask them why and publish an item every day asking them why! Once you get a hold of them, cross-examine them, trap them into admissions and have no mercy. It is usually geriatrics who write these reports in the Pearl and surely a bright young journalist can catch them out with a smart question or two, or at least show us that they tried? The future of the country depends on it!

We have allegations of contaminated coconut oil been imported. These are very serious allegations and could lead to much harm to the general populace. Do you really believe that no one can find out who the importers are and what brands they sell their products under? In this the Pearl, where everyone has a price, you mean to say that if a keen young journalist was given the correct ammunition (and I don’t mean 45 calibres) and sent out on a specific message, he or she couldn’t get the information required?

We are told that a massive amount of money has been printed over the last few months. There is only speculation as to the sums involved and even more speculation as to what this means to the people of the Pearl. Surely, there are records, probably guarded by extremely lowly paid government servants. I am not condoning bribery but there is nothing left to condone, is there? There are peons in government ministries who will gladly slip you the details if you are committed enough and if you are sent there to get it by a boss who will stand by you and refuse to disclose his sources.

I put it to you, dear readers, that we do not have enough professional, committed and adequately funded news organisations in the country. We can straightaway discount the government-owned joints. We can also largely discount those being run by magnates for personal gain and on personal agendas. As far as the Internet goes, we can forget about those that specialise in speculative and sensationalist untruths, what are we left with O denizens of the Pearl? Are there enough sources of news that you would consider willing to investigate a matter and risk of life and limb and expose the culprits for the greater good of society? Can they be counted even on the fingers of one hand?

In this era when we have useless political leaders, when law and order are non-existent when the police force is a joke, it is time the fourth estate stepped up to the mark! I am sure we have the personnel; it is the commitment from the top and by this, I mean funding and the willingness to risk life and limb, that we lack. Governments over the last few decades have done their best to intimidate the press and systematically destroy any news outlet that tried to buck the usual sycophantic behaviour that is expected from them by those holding absolute power.

Do you think Richard Nixon would ever have been impeached if not for the Watergate reporting? Donald Trump partially owes his defeat to the unrelenting campaign carried out against him by the “fake news” outlets that he tried to denigrate. Trump took on too much. The fourth estate of America is too strong and too powerful to destroy in a head-to-head battle and even the most powerful man in the world, lost. Let’s not go into the merits and demerits of the victor as this is open to debate.

Now, do we have anything like that in the Pearl? Surely, with 20 million-plus “literate” people, we should? We should have over 70 years of independence built up the Fourth Estate to be proud of. One that would, if it stood strong and didn’t waver and collapse under pressure from the rulers, have ensured a better situation for our land. Here is Aotearoa with just five million people, we have journalists who keep holding the government to account. They are well-funded by newspapers and TV networks with audiences that are only a fraction of what is available in the Pearl. Some of the matters they highlight often bring a smirk of derision to my face for such matters wouldn’t even warrant one single line of newsprint, should they happen in the Pearl.

Talking of intimidation from the rulers, most of us are familiar with the nationalisation of the press, the murder and torture of journalists, the burning of presses to insidious laws been passed to curtail the activities of Journalism. These things have happened in other countries, too, but the people and press have been stronger, and they have prevailed. We are at a watershed, an absolutely crucial time. It is now that our last few credible news sources should lift their game. Give us carefully researched and accurate reports with specific conclusions, not generalisations. Refuse to disclose your sources as is your right, especially now that the myopic eye of the UNHCR is turned in our direction.

All other ways and means of saving our beloved motherland, be it government, religion, sources of law and order and even civil society leadership seems to have lapsed into the realm of theory and rhetoric. Our last chance lies with the Fourth Esate and all it stands for. I call for, nay BEG for, a favourable reaction from those decision-makers in that field, who have enough credibility left in society, DON’T LET US DOWN NOW!

 

 

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The world sees ugly side of our beauty pageants

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Yes, it’s still the talk-of-the-town…not only here, but the world over – the fracas that took place at a recently held beauty pageant, in Colombo.

It’s not surprising that the local beauty scene has hit a new low because, in the past, there have been many unpleasant happenings taking place at these so-called beauty pageants.

On several occasions I have, in my articles, mentioned that the state, or some responsible authority, should step in and monitor these events – lay down rules and guidelines, and make sure that everything is above board.

My suggestions, obviously, have fallen on deaf ears, and this is the end result – our beauty pageants have become the laughing stock the world over; talk show hosts are creating scenes, connected with the recent incidents, to amuse their audience.

Australians had the opportunity of enjoying this scenario, so did folks in Canada – via talk show hosts, discussing our issue, and bringing a lot of fun, and laughter, into their discussions!

Many believe that some of these pageants are put together, by individuals…solely to project their image, or to make money, or to have fun with the participants.

And, there are also pageants, I’m told, where the winner is picked in advance…for various reasons, and the finals are just a camouflage. Yes, and rigging, too, takes place.

I was witnessed to one such incident where I was invited to be a judge for the Talent section of a beauty contest.

There were three judges, including me, and while we were engrossed in what we were assigned to do, I suddenly realised that one of the contestants was known to me…as a good dancer.

But, here’s the catch! Her number didn’t tally with the name on the scoresheet, given to the judges.

When I brought this to the notice of the organiser, her sheepish reply was that these contestants would have switched numbers in the dressing room.

Come on, they are no babes!

On another occasion, an organiser collected money from the mother of a contestant, promising to send her daughter for the finals, in the Philippines.

It never happened and she had lots of excuses not to return the money, until a police entry was made.

Still another episode occurred, at one of these so-called pageants, where the organiser promised to make a certain contestant the winner…for obvious reasons.

The judges smelt something fishy and made certain that their scoresheets were not tampered with, and their choice was crowned the winner.

The contestant, who was promised the crown, went onto a frenzy, with the organiser being manhandled.

I’m also told there are organisers who promise contestants the crown if they could part with a very high fee (Rs.500,000 and above!), and also pay for their air ticket.

Some even ask would-be contestants to check out sponsors, on behalf of the organisers. One wonders what that would entail!

Right now, in spite of the pandemic, that is crippling the whole world, we are going ahead with beauty pageants…for whose benefit!

Are the organisers adhering to the Covid-19 health guidelines? No way. Every rule is disregarded.

The recently-held contest saw the contestants, on the move, for workshops, etc., with no face masks, and no social distancing.

They were even seen in an open double-decker bus, checking out the city of Colombo…with NO FACE MASKS.

Perhaps, the instructions given by Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana, and Army Commander, General Shavendra Silva, mean nothing to the organisers of these beauty pageants…in this pandemic setting.

My sincere advice to those who are keen to participate in such events is to check, and double check. Or else, you will end up being deceived…wasting your money, time, and energy.

For the record, when it comes to international beauty pageants for women, Miss World, Miss Universe, Miss Earth and Miss International are the four titles which reign supreme.

In pageantry, these competitions are referred to as the ‘Big Four.’

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Better use of vanity projects; Cass apologises, and New Year graciousness

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A wise one, with the interests of the country at heart, calling himself ‘A Member of the Silent Majority’, wrote in The Island of Friday, April 9, offering an excellent solution for the better and genuine use of the Mattala Mahinda Rajapaksa International Airport which was built at a stupendous cost to both the Treasury, and wildlife abundant in the area, to satisfy an ego and sycophants’ cries of Hail to the King. Even sans Covid and lockdowns and shut downs of airports, the Mattala Airport was a white elephant, endangering and displacing the black elephants, roaming along their familiar corridors; receiving such few airplanes. Thus, as the writer Cass mentions says, convert the airport to a super hotel with excellent and sure-fire access to wildlife watching, like referred to hotels in Kenya and elsewhere. Yes, it will definitely be a bigger money earner than an airport waiting for a plane to land. Expensive equipment going rusty could be transferred to smaller airports being developed all over the island. There was such a hue and cry when storerooms, within the deserted airport, were used for paddy storage, but not even a whimper of concerted protest when the vanity projects were being built. We also heard that on the rare occasions a plane was to land/take off, peacocks in the area were shot at to prevent them flying into the planes. Aney, what a sin, just to have a name on a nameboard! Use the Suriyawewa Cricket Stadium too for a better purpose and less costly to water and maintain green in near desert climate conditions. What about a residential training institute for youth, perhaps in small industries? If the king-sized ego demands the name be present, OK, leave it. What’s in a name?

Any matter, financial or economic, with benefit to country buttressing it – refer to Dr Harsha de Silva and Eran Wickremaratne. Likewise, anything pertaining to fauna, flora and preservation of natural habitats ask Devani Jayathilake. Cassandra would give two years of her life (she does not have 10 left, she suspects) to know what the answers of the three wise and sincere ones mentioned would be to the proposal to convert the Mattala Airport, oops sorry – Mattala Mahinda Rajapaksa International Airport – to a 7 star hotel for wildlife watching and then tourists proceeding to Yala and other places that were touted to be reached easier if planes brimful of tourists, landed in Mattala. Pipe dream even sans Covid-19.

The thought of the millions, nay billions, our country was indebted to China to construct these vanity projects aka white elephants of the Rajapaksa fiefdom sends Cass’s blood racing in her contracting veins. And now another hair-brained scheme is being exposed, not new but re-exposed: that of the stupendous amount sent direct from the Central Bank with no nod, as reported, from the then Cabinet or Parliament, to an American-resident con-man to improve our appearance on the world stage or at least American stage. My word!! Cosmetics of creams and colours and such like can improve the face of an already beautiful woman. But a country that was once beautiful, glorified, accepted internationally and then politician-spoilt, cannot be redeemed by PR work, however expensively. Nivard Cabraal was the then Govenor of the CB. Of course, as every Banda, Singho and their women say, nothing will come of this. Powerful political sweeping under the carpet in the presence of cardboard administrators and sycophantic hosanna singers, makes the matter disappear and not merely hides it. Unless of course there are enough intrepid outers-of-truths and persistent protestors, brave and national minded enough to continuously tease the matter like a cat its caught rat. Ranjan is locked away in hard labour for four solid years, losing his Parliamentary seat for misusing the gift of his gab, while convicted murderers of the right colour attend Parliament, escorted and all.

Cass apologises

To the reigning Mrs World, Mrs Caroline Jurie, for crowning, uncrowning and recrowning of the winner of the recent Mrs Sri Lanka contest. Caroline Jurie took this stride because the winning contestant was four years on the way to being a divorcee, which status forbids a woman from attempting to wear the crown of Mrs…. (country) with a view to becoming Mrs World. This title and honour is bestowed on a woman who promotes, holds sacred the institution of marriage and is a married woman. Cass castigated Caroline Jurie without knowing then the fact that Jurie had protested about this candidate being considered due to her impending divorce; and allowed to contest. She said she withdrew from the panel of judges since her point was not taken by the others. WHY is the Q. Easy to answer. The new beauty queen of shaky married status was a loud speaker in favour of Presidential Candidate Gotabaya R in Polonnaruwa (captured on social media) and probably spoke on stages for SLPP Parliamentary candidates. So of course she was slated to win; vision impaired over rules and future probabilities, She has her height – one advantage. Beauty can always be dexterously rubbed and painted in. But honesty is important and cannot be cloned or grafted in.

Cass now definitely faults the new Mrs Sri Lanka. She should not have contested, having her papers sent in for divorce and not retracted. What happens when she wins the divorce (or her husband wins it, however the divorce was first mooted). Another local contest? And if the divorce was still pending and she went overseas at great expense and won THE crown or a lesser one. To be returned forthwith when she has to remove the present gold band from her third finger, which probably she has already removed but hastily wore for the contest and when preparing for it? This is why Cass avows that many young women particularly, are so very selfish and forward and uppity and even dishonest now. In Cass’ time and even a decade or two later, a girl would never do what this new beauty has done, flipped aside a core rule and necessity of the contest, just to win by honest means or foul. Way the country’s going, my friend.

Post – Aluth Avurudhu

Cassandra is stuffed gill-high with kavun, aluwa and crunchy kokis, preceded by kiributh and lunumiris. She is fending for herself because a dip in Covid numbers and having had the jab, her domestic wished to enjoy a family new year having missed the last one, locked down as we were. Cass made her own kiributh – tasting somewhat like it should, but the sweets were all gifted her. So, also the offers of help, sleep-ins at others’ homes and solicitous frequent inquiries of ‘how are you?’ Kind and gracious relatives and friends, acquaintances too are thanked; and the most appreciated being neighbouring kitchen helps and care givers. Three-wheeler drivers who spin Cass around on errands too make enquiries. And thus her thoughts when resuming work at the nekath time and word processing this article. Sri Lankans are such good people: kind, caring, willing to share and genuine. And then specters themselves on this very sunny landscape: the dishonest, selfish, revengeful and disgraceful. Shrug them off, clear the mental picture and pronounce thank goodness for goodness around.

May all of us (decent people) have a very good year to follow today –Subha Aluth Avuruddhak!

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