Sunday, October 28, 2007

Ratnayake family. Story. Leonard Woolf’s 'Village in the jungle'

We met them on Diyabeduma Road (Giritale). A family of four. Nimal Ratnayake (47) wanted me to publicise his grievance if possible. I am doing it. He is a squatter and came to the plot of land where he lives with his family  on May 31st of 1987. He was a landless peasant. His piece of land borders Giritale forest reservation. There are several families like theirs occupying and eking out a living in the adjacent lands. Nimal got married to Piyaseeli Menika (48) in 1990. Then came Sumith (16) and Muditha (6), two sons to their lives. Both are schooling. Nimal was a watcher at the Divisional Secretariat and had been working there for seven years. He was about to be made permanent. There came Divisional Secretariat elections. Just after the elections he was sacked from the job for failing to support the winning candidate. That was a disastrous blow. Their dream of completing the construction of a little house stopped and the evidence is there to be seen in the half completed house. The bricks bought were sold to make ends meet. A mound of sand still lies idling. Their dream of supporting the elder son in his ordinary level examination could not be realised and the only extra class he attends now is the Dhamma school on Sunday. He faces the O/Ls in December this year. “There are times we have had to skip meals. When I see kids go hungry I could do anything in taking revenge for what was done to me….” said Nimal. He admits that a reaction like that would only be an extremely self defeating act. Yet in such instances, emotions, he says can be difficult to rope in. He tries to find some work on a daily basis, which also is no easy task. They cultivate the land during rains.

Nimal’s vacancy was immediately filled by the Divisional Secretariat by a man who was already holding another post in a government institution itself. Nimal has successfully challenged that appointment and the Public Service Commission has rescinded the appointment. However, Nimal has not been reinstated saying that there are no vacancies. The level of corruption in such institutions, which never comes to light and therefore flourishes with still more vigour, occurs at a level where it involves not only money but also the day to day lives of the people of the area.

Nimal has approached human rights organisations and legal aid groups in seeking redress. Some help has been offered. However, it has not been all rosy in this respect as well. One legal aid group had asked him “if you loose in courts, do you have money to pay compensation”. He was dumb founded. None of the avenues available holds out certain promise. However, he still has hope. He and his wife hope that Nimal will be reinstated and a permit issued to them to live in the land they have tilled for almost two decades. Theirs are not dreams in the usual sense we perceive. Their dreams are born of sheer necessity.

Nimal’s story is just one. One of many thousands probably. Rural poverty. Landlessness. All take their toll on our people. Is it different from Leonard Woolf’s “Village in the jungle”?.

Bye bye quarters

Said bye bye to quarters at the Polonnaruwa Hospital. Nice cozy place for us with very very basic facilities. I am sure that they are not sufficient to attract professional and keep them there. Not much of difference from 1995. If at all they were deteriorated and poor maintenance was quite apparent. We have lived in the Ragama Hospital quarters as well. More or less the same.

A few years ago, a UNDP report has commended country’s free education and free health service as a key enabler of the society. Today, apart from 30-year long ethnic war, country is facing severe problems such as unplanned urbanisation, brain drain from village to city (and later on to other countries), rural poverty etc etc. There were no plans for successive governments to harness the full potential of free education and free health care (both are equally being deteriorated at a phenomenal rate). There were no plans to attract professionals to live and work in the peripheral areas. For that the state has to provide decent places to live by way of housing schemes or quarters and schools with good English education. On the other hand, the state could provide those stay and work in the peripheries (beyond mandatory time durations) with extra incentives such as property loans, duty free vehicle permits, salary increments tied to number of years working and living there with their families etc. at a different basis. Currently they are given to everybody with no priority given to those who continue to work and live with their families in the peripheries.

Gal Viharaya. Polonnaruwa

Galviharaya, a magnificent group of staues was built by king Parakramabahu (1153-1186) and was a part of the Uthararama.
The first statue you will come across is a seated Buddha in meditation. He is seated on a lotus. The rock behind the statue is decorated with carvings of "vimana". Four smaller Buddha statues can be seen on these decorations. Next is a smaller statue of Buddha (about 15 feet high) carved in to the rock. On the sides of the statue are two deities. It is believed this carving represent the Buddhas visit to heaven called “Thusitha” to preach to his mother. It is said that this statue was painted with pure gold and treasure hunters have burnt logs on the statue and melted the gold. Third is a standing statue of Buddha. This has been disputed by some and think this is the statue of Ananda thero at the site of lord Buddha’s passing away. This 23 feet tall statue is thought to be done by a later king as the chronicles talk about only two statues in the seating position and one statue on the lying position which was done by King Parakramabahu (1153-1186).

Next and the last is a massive statue of Buddha passing way. This is 80 feet long. The ear lid falling along the body, One foot slightly behind the other (The toes are not positioned equally on the feet) are sighs that this is not Lord Buddha resting but at his death.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Buddhist flag. May it be a symbol of tolerance

I like the Buddhist flag not only because it is one of the most colourful flags but it conveys a great message. May it be a symbol of tolerance. May it remind us of compassion.


The Buddhist flag is a modern creation and it was jointly designed by Mr J.R. de Silva and Colonel Henry S. Olcott to mark the revival of Buddhism in Ceylon in 1880. It was accepted as the International Buddhist Flag by the 1952 World Buddhist Congress.
The flag was from the six colours of the aura that he believed shone around the head of the Buddha after His Enlightenment.
The first five stripes of the flag are of five colours.

Blue : Universal Compassion
Yellow : The Middle Path
Red : Blessings
White : Purity and Liberation
Orange : Wisdom
The sixth colour is a conglomeration of the five, but for the design, it has been separated into its constituent colours.

 (on a day Nilvala and I went to Gal Viharaya, Polonnaruwa)


Nilavala received a farewell from the ICU and Theatre staff at the Polonnaruwa Hospital. That was their gratitude for improvements she tried to do in her small way and some teaching. She too will miss them as they were wonderful people.

Nilavala received a farewell from the ICU and Theatre staff at the Polonnaruwa Hospital. That was their gratitude for improvements she tried to do in her small way and some teaching. She too will miss them as they were wonderful people.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The best time is time together

Tank is a gigantic living organ. Not only does it take-in and throw-out but it hosts unimaginable number of living beings. The great tank, Parakrama Samudra has been built connecting five tanks and chiefly fed by Amban Ganga.

In the early morning, time is frozen there. Don't have to do anything. Just being there is enough. However, the best time is time together, I thought.

the best time

time flies with leaves in the wind
mind traverses the space at lightening pace
time and space freeze when souls nurture one another
life finds refuge in arms wide open
heart beats to the tune … the best time is time together …

(for Nilvala)

Monday, October 22, 2007

41st wedding anniversary

Ms Helen Perera and Mr Alex Perera who were born in 1931 and 1939 respectively came to celebrate their 41st wedding anniversary at Rosarian Convent, Ragama on Saturday 20 October 2007. I met them there. They have got married on 20.10.1966 at the St Lucia’s Cathedral, Kotahena. Ms Perera said “for last 41 years we never had a chance of having a photo of an anniversary”. They will have their anniversay photo very soon.

When I was in my teens I saw my parents celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary (October 25). It was over night chanting of pirith and dhana on the following day. I did not feel much about it then. It was just fun having good time with friends and having a lot of young girls at home. Now I feel it very very much. Wonderful marriage. Ever faithful to each other. I know for a fact and my mother who is ever kind and generous told me later on that my father had never stayed over night elsewhere in the country for whatever the reason when he was able to travel and drive. He had been travelling a lot all over the island for business. Most of the time he drove himself. Once the job is done he would drive back home irrespective of the time of day. My mother has said to me that he would come home at 2 am, 3 am or 4 am driving from Ampara, Polonnaruwa etc. Was a good father. A good man. Of course temperamental. Listened to none but only to mother. Terrific partner in life for my mother. Taught me the lesson of “ your value is your honour”. He could not tolerate my non-conventional attitudes and behaviour. Wish I had him around now so that he would understand me better. He was ever worried about my future even at his last stage of life, my mother has told me. I had his own reasons to do so.

Wedding cake

Sister Primrose and her friends are making a wedding cake for a young couple who are hundred per cent impaired in speech. I congratulate them. Tribute to Sister and friends.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Auboweva Amma

Amma’s birthday (Nilvala’s). 72 years of struggle. Courageous soul. Wish you a long and healthy life. Thank you forever for the gift.

The metta sutra

This is what should be done by one who is skilled in goodness, and the one who knows the paths of peace:
Let them be able and upright, straightforward and gentle in speech.
Humble and not conceited.
May they be content and easily satisfied, unburdened with frugal and duties on their ways.
Peaceful and calm, and wise and skillful.
Not proud and demanding in nature.
May they be wise, with their senses calmed, not arrogant and without desire.
May they do nothing that the wise would later reprove.
May all beings be happy.
May they live in safety and joy.
All living beings, whether weak or strong, the great or the mighty, medium, short or small, seen or unseen, near or distant, born or to he born, may they all be happy.
Let no one deceive another or despise any being in any state, let none by anger or hatred wish harm to another.
As a mother watches over her child, willing to risk her own life to protect her only child, so with a boundless heart should one cherish all living beings, radiating kindness over the entire world.
Standing or walking, sitting or lying down, during all one's waking hours, may one remain mindful of this heart and this way of living that is said to be the sublime abiding.
Unattached to speculations, views and sense desires, the purehearted one, with clear vision, being freed from all sense desires, will never be reborn in the cycles of suffering.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Stephen's room


Youth is joyful. Courageous. Carefree. Daring. Vulnerable. The decade between 13 and 23 is a formative spell. A teen metamorphoses to a young adult who would face many challenges. Greatly influenced by socioeconomic conditions, experience of life and exposure to different social phenomena a young would develop his or her character and individuality. In Sri Lanka, fragmentations of the society on socioeconomic lines is loud and clear. Sometimes it may have taken off the common denominators from the youth, which probably were specific to a time of a particular land. The Sri Lanka’s 30 year ethnic war in which the Tamil people in particular have been severely affected would have spread the fragments among the youth along ethnic lines also. 13/23 essay is an attempt to document youth’s individuality which is reflected in their places of living in Sri Lanka.

This image is from my "13/23" series and it is Stephen Phillip's room. Stephen is a musician, guitarist in particular. What a lovely personality to associate. I got the permission to photograph his room through Smriti.