Sunday, December 7, 2008


The cricketer who ran out of life...

By Ranee Mohamed

He told us that he was going to be the next Sanath Jayasuriya," said weeping mother Samantha Malkanthi. "I brought him up in the most grueling circumstances," she cried refusing to move away from the bedside of her 13 year old son Pallage Supun Tharaka Nanayakkara, the cricketing star who fell on the very field he was applauded upon by the whole school.

We have dreams - every one of us - and young Supun Tharaka's dream had not been to become a doctor, lawyer or an engineer. He wanted to be a cricketer. "My son was the happiest when I took his cricket bag after school and handed it over to him," said father Pallage Ranjan Hemantha Nanayakkara who makes his living driving a three wheeler.

Suffered much

This helpless duo have suffered much to bring up their three sons - Supun Tharaka (13), Udan Tasrutha (7) and Chathuka Sankalpa.

About three weeks ago Supun Tharaka, a student of Lumbini Maha Vidyalaya, Colombo 5, left his home at 36/7H, Sujatha Mawatha, Pamankade after eating five stringhoppers. "Amma, I will be back after cricket practice. Have some hot rice for me," he had shouted on his way out of the house.

In the afternoon, his father put aside his hires and set off to Lumbini Maha Vidyalaya in the evening with a fish bun and a roll. "Our son ate the food hungrily and then went to the ground for practice. I was standing on the side and watching. The coach had not turned up that day and a father of one of the children was batting. My son was bowling. All at once I saw the person bat and the ball went high up in the air. My son went running and tried to catch the ball. I was horrified when all at once I saw the ball fall on my son's chest. I saw my son falling down. I ran towards him and several school boys in the field ran towards him too. I grabbed a bottle of water from a nearby student and splashed some water on my son's face. He opened his eyes and said 'Thaththa' (father) and then closed his eyes," said Ranjan crying uncontrollably.

The hard leather ball which was up in the air had fallen straight on the young boy's chest, throwing him to the ground almost instantly.

"It was October 29 and the time was about 2.50 p.m. I was making tea for my two younger boys when a neighbour ran into our house shouting that our older son had been admitted to hospital after being struck by a ball. I thought I was losing my mind and ran along the road all the way to the hospital in the clothes I was wearing at home," recalled the mother in anguish.

Supun Tharaka had been rushed to the Kalubowila Hospital where the staff had battled to bring Supun back to consciousness. Yet it had been days before he even opened his eyes.

And when he did open his eyes, he did not know where he was, did not know who his parents were.

"Today our son cannot move. They feed him with a tube. The machines have been taken off and now our son just stares, his fingers folded and his legs still. This is our cricketer - our man in the family, our young star..." cried his mother.

"We had great hopes for our son. He was so full of energy. He could not be still even when he was studying. Besides, at home he was the cricket coach to my two younger boys," said his innocent mother.

"A doctor told us that when the ball had fallen on our son's chest, his heart had stopped for a few minutes, thereby cutting off the oxygen to his brain. We have never been so frightened in our life. We love our three little boys very much and there are no words to express how much we love our elder son," said Ranjan and Malkanthi Nanayakkara.


The couple stand helpless and alone in the face of this great sports misadventure that happened in school

Co-curricular activities are encouraged today. More and more children are urged, nay forced to go for sports activities, yet when tragedy strikes the schools often back out. And Lumbini Maha Vidyalaya seems to have forgotten this young boy who now remains alone and trapped in a hospital.

What is the responsibility of the school and the school authorities in the face of such a tragedy? Are there rules and regulations or a code of conduct in the face of misfortune laid down in the school curricular? It is the responsibility of the very same authorities who urge children to take part in sports, to look after them when tragedy and injury befalls.

Questions are being asked by several parents as to where the coach was and who authorised another person to take the place of the coach. If the coach was around, then would such a tragedy have taken place, asked some parents.

Frame of mind

But the parents of Supun Tharaka are not in a frame of mind to weigh the injustice of what has happened. "Please help us to get our child back home, the way he left home that evening," they plead.

"We have no money and our greatest wealth are our children," said these parents, burning with heartache and pain.

Supun Tharaka needs fresh fruit juice, special medications and foods that can be tube fed. This poor couple who were finding it difficult to give their three children three meals and an education all at once are now in an agonising quandary wondering how on earth they are going to give the best for their young son. Supun Tharaka not only excelled in cricket, but in his studies, in drama and in the reciting of bhakthi gee too.

"Our son told us that he is a left hander just like Sanath Jayasuriya. In fact Sanath Jayasuriya was his greatest hero. He had his photos all over, he tried to walk like him and talk like him. and today he cannot talk at all," said Samantha Malkanthi.

Supun Tharaka played for his school. Playing against Moratuwa Vidyalaya, in the Astra Cup tournament, Supun Tharaka had emerged a star - bowling like a star, grabbing a catch and of the 14 overs, eight had been maidens - taking a wicket and allowing only 14 runs.

All this he did for the school. And when he ran everyone cheered, everyone clapped, the school was proud of him. But as he lies bound to bed with tubes at the ICU of the Colombo South Teaching Hospital today, who is clapping? who is proud of him? Only two spectators watch him - day and night, for Supun Tharaka is a poor player now, struggling for life.

Let us join together, to give a fair chance to this fallen young cricketing star.

"We are doing everything possible - Principal

G. Jayaweera Amarajeewa, princi-pal of Lumbini Maha Vidyalaya when contacted by The Sunday Leader said that the school is planning to inform the Tharunyata Hetak programme about Supun Tharaka.

"I have given a letter to the parents to go to the Cricket Board, though it is not within my purview to do so," said the Principal. He also went on to say that some of the students are planning to collect some money for Supun and that the staff had gone and seen him and given the parents some money.


Fighting aids with ayurvedic medicine

By Risidra Mendis

He lived a normal, peaceful life and like most of us had many plans for his future. He went overseas for better prospects and never forgot to send money to support his mother and sister in his native land.

But for Bandula his plans for the future were soon shattered when he discovered that he was HIV positive. His life changed; he lost interest in living and he thought his only option was to commit suicide and end his misery.

But for some reason Bandula decided not to commit suicide but face the future with this deadly disease, that has by now killed thousands of people around the world. His decision finally bore results that he never dreamt of. A friend of Bandula gave him the name and address of Dr. D. D. A. Hettiarachchi, who succeeded in finding a cure for Bandula's deadly disease.

Dr. Hettiarachchi is a Sri Lankan ayurvedic doctor who claims to have found a cure for the deadly HIV positive virus and has succeeded in curing some HIV positive patients and is in the process of treating many more.

Bandula who by now has got a new lease of life and is in the process of rebuilding his shattered life shared his story with The Sunday Leader.

Bandula is a chef by profession. In 1988 he left for Saudi Arabia to earn a living and provide a better life for his family. "I was in Saudi Arabia for five years, six months and 18 days. I had to quit my job and come back to Sri Lanka because my mother was not well. I looked after my mother and worked in Sri Lanka. I then left for Hong Kong in 2000. From Hong Kong I went to Singapore," Bandula said.

In 2001 Bandula had to give up his job as an international chef and return to Sri Lanka once again as his mother was not well. "When I came to Sri Lanka my mother was paralysed. I stayed back to look after her. On May 27, 2001 my mother passed away," Bandula explained. By this time Bandula had decided to settle down in Sri Lanka and had got registered to his fiancee on October 31, 2002. On November 14, 2002 Bandula while on his way back to his hometown after setting a date for his wedding got a bad headache.

Admitted to National Hospital

"I got high fever and started shivering. I went to a doctor close by and got some medicine but the fever didn't go down. I came to Colombo on November 15, 2002 with my nephew and got medicine from a doctor in Battaramulla. There was still no improvement in my condition so I got myself admitted to the Colombo National Hospital. I was at the National Hospital for two weeks with high fever and purging. The doctors said the purging could be due to something I ate and said I should get better and sent me home," Bandula added.

According to Bandula his glandular glands were swollen but the doctor had told him not to worry and sent him home. By this time Bandula's purging problem had settled down but the fever remained. "I used to get fever in the nights. I went back to my doctor in Battaramulla and told him I wanted to take a blood test. I then got myself admitted to the Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital," Bandula said.

Bandula was released from the Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital after two weeks and the doctors told him not to worry as there was nothing seriously wrong with him. "By this time Bandula and his wife had decided to get 'officially' married on December 25, 2002. But when I went back to my doctor in Battaramulla he told me that my VDRL was positive and to go to the STD clinic at De Saram Place. By this time I had already distributed the wedding invitations," Bandula said.

Deadly discovery

By December 20, Bandula discovered that he was HIV positive. It was at this point in his life that Bandula had to take the most difficult decision - canceling the wedding ceremony and letting go of who was most precious to him, his wife. "It was a difficult decision to make but the doctors had told me that I have only about two to three years to live. I had to think of my wife first and decided to cancel the wedding. I didn't tell my wife's relatives that I was HIV positive. I said I was not well and have to cancel the wedding.

'I hadn't had any sexual relations with my wife so my mind was clear. However my wife's relatives' gave me a tough time. They called the Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital to see what was wrong with me and when the doctors said there was nothing wrong with me they tried to force me to go ahead with the wedding. But I refused," Bandula explained.

Bandula added that he thinks he contracted the deadly virus while in Hong Kong or Singapore and was forced to tell his wife's younger sister's husband the truth. However his wife's relative didn't believe him. But Bandula was determined to save his wife from this deadly disease and in February, 2003 through his lawyers got a divorce without telling his wife that he was HIV positive.

"Only my lawyers knew that I was HIV positive," Bandula explained.

It was in 2007 that Bandula finally met Dr. Hettiarachchi with the help of a friend and from then onwards his life changed for the better. "When I decided to seek treatment from Dr. Hettiarachchi, HIV positive patients at the STD clinic told me not to go for this treatment. The patients said there are many side effects when taking Sinhala medicine and the Western medicine won't agree with the Sinhala medicine.

Decision time

"Dr. Ananda Wijewickrema at the STD clinic told me it was my decision to make. But I took the chance and have never regretted it. I still go to the STD clinic to get my vitamins," Bandula said.

He added that he feels much better since he started the treatment one year and two months ago. "When I first met Dr. Hettiarachchi I couldn't talk properly, I felt very tired and my skin colour was not the usual brown. Even my eyes were protruding inward. But today these symptoms have all gone," Bandula said.

Bandula now has his own catering business and takes orders. However he takes utmost precautions when cooking and most often instructs his assistants to do the cutting and chopping. "I hope to get married again someday. I have the confidence that my blood count will be negative after 10 more months of medication. There are many NGOs who are collecting money in the country with the intention of helping HIV positive patients but none of this money is coming to the genuine HIV positive patients," Bandula said.

HIV has killed 225 people in the country while 4000 have been recorded HIV positive in 2007.

Main ingredients

Dr. Hettiarachchi uses three main ingredients, namely animal, plant and mineral products to cure HIV positive patients. Speaking to The Sunday Leader Dr. Hettiarachchi said the cures of ayurvedic medicine are respected the world over. "It was our ancestors who discovered these wonderful remedies that have cured many people from various ailments. In Sri Lanka HIV positive patients are treated badly because the disease is spread through sexual intercourse. Due to this reason HIV positive patients keep their condition a secret and are not willing to talk about it," Dr. Hettiarachchi explained.

Explaining the stages of HIV Dr. Hettiarachchi said the first stage of HIV is when the virus first enters your body. During the second stage there are no symptoms to be seen in the patient. In the third stage the patient's glands get swollen and in the fourth stage the AIDS related symptoms can be seen. In the fifth or last stage the patient is known to have full blown AIDS," Dr. Hettiarachchi stated.

Dr. Hettiarachchi treats his patients from his home at Suwa Asapuwa, 98/7, Sisira Mawatha, Kanda Liyaddapaluwa, Ganemulla. The doctor administers a two year course that includes kasaya, guli and karka among others to his patients. Dr. Hettiarachchi has a file of confidential documents of all his patients which he showed to The Sunday Leader where HIV positive patients whose blood count was positive, after his treatment showed a negative report.


More information on this deadly disease can be obtained from Dr. Hettiarachchi's website, Dr. Hettiarachchi's sons, Pradeep Abeywardene Hettiarachchi and Prageeth Abeywardene Hettiarachchi help him to treat his patients. Pradeep is now learning the ancient art of ayurvedic treatment for snake bites from his father.

Due to his amazing cures for HIV positive patients Dr. Hettiarachchi has been offered the opportunity of practicing his medical cures in Western countries. "I have turned down these requests because I feel that I have to first cure my people before I cure others," Dr. Hettiarachchi said.

But due to a lack of funds Dr. Hettiarachchi's patients are likely to suffer a great loss and even pay with their lives. "I have treated all these HIV positive patients with my own money. Some patients can afford to pay me for their treatment. I use these patients' money to treat the ones who can't afford to pay. When I requested for financial assistance from the government President Mahinda Rajapakse instructed Minister Tissa Karaliyadde to look into the matter. The Ayurveda Commissioner and Minister Karaliyadde's secretary have given us support and assistance, and instructed the relevant authorities to release the money. However apart from some financial assistance given to us a few years back we have not received any funds to continue with our cure. The Ayurveda Research Centre in Nawinna has agreed to release the money if we are wiling to give them information on how the solution is made. How can we reveal this kind of information to them," Dr. Hettiarachchi said.


Hoteliers hoping for the best

General Manager, Cinnamon Grand, Rohan Karr,
and General Manager Colombo Continental Hotel
Anil General Manager, Galadari Hotel, Sampath Siriwardena

By Nirmala Kannangara

With the fes-tive season round the corner city hotels are embracing the festive mood and a special place has been given for decorations that herald the Christmas season and the dawn of yet another New Year. Arrangements have been made to celebrate the birth of Lord Jesus Christ and to welcome the New Year in grand style but with the current global and local financial situation, hoteliers are not certain whether their festive plans would be something to sing about.

Almost all the hotels in the country have already decorated their buildings with eye-catching decorations to greet the season but they cannot help but wonder as to whether their regular guests would patronise the special events considering the global financial crisis and the local security situation.

Unsafe places

"With the terrible incidents in Mumbai, South Asian countries have become unsafe places to visit and Sri Lanka too would feel the impact of the Indian situation in the days to come. As a result most probably we would no longer be an ideal holiday destination among the European travelers mainly during the festive season and the global financial crisis, which has impacted the locals indirectly too will have an impact on us. As a result we can only hope for the best this time. But since it is a tradition we will be having the prearranged programmes for Christmas and New Year's Eve," some leading hoteliers told The Sunday Leader.

New Year dances cancelled

However although most of the city hotels have cancelled their New Year dances due to the prevailing financial and security concerns in the country, Cinnamon Grand, Continental Hotel and Galadari Hotel as usual will be in full swing on December 31 and according to General Manager Galadari Hotel, Sampath Siriwardena the band Aquarius will provide music for the hotel's New Year's eve dinner dance.

"December is generally the best month in our calendar and right on top of all priorities is entertainment. To enhance the festive mood we have Aquarius exclusively playing at Margarita Blue on Fridays and Saturdays and they will round up their stay with Galadari with the traditional 31st night celebrations in the Ballroom," Siriwardena added.

According to Siriwardena although the hotel has planned a gala dinner buffet still he was not sure whether the usual guests will 'make it' on December 31 with the present unstable situation.

"We will be laying out a grand dinner buffet and unless we receive the patronage that we are expecting, it will be a total loss. The previous years the hotel received tremendous support from customers and this time considering the cost factor and also the country's situation it is really hard to say what would happen at the last moment but up to now we have received many reservations but still until the tickets are sold we are not in a position to predict," Siriwardena stated.

Siriwardena further said that the Ballroom dance is not only for adults but also for the entire family as parents wish to take their kids with them for the New Year's dawn.

All is set for a sumptuous Christmas lunch and the children could drop a letter to Santa with their wish list and receive a gift from him on Christmas day lunch. Paul Pereira will provide soothing music during Christmas Eve and for the Christmas dinner at California Grill according to GM Siriwardena.

Meanwhile Cinnamon Grand Colombo in association with Soul Sounds will be presenting Many Moods Of Christmas - an enchanting musical evening for the entire family on Christmas Eve. A special Christmas buffet would be served at all of the hotel's outlets according to sources.

At Cinnamon Grand

Cinnamon Grand sources meanwhile told The Sunday Leader that with the curtain coming down on year 2008 and to welcome the New Year a host of activities have been planned to celebrate in style. "Begin the New Year on the right note with Misty and Sohan & the X-periments that will present a musical fiesta to blast through 31st night.

However General Manager, Trans Asia Hotel, Neroy Marso said that the hotel would not hold the traditional 31st night dance this year but will have a gala dinner party by the poolside to welcome the New Year and a special Christmas Eve dinner will be served in the hotel's food outlets.

Also an extensive buffet to fulfill the expectations of a traditional Christmas dinner will be served at Summerfield's Caf‚. The Royal Thai, Saffron and Long Feng restaurants invite their clientele for a specially crafted dinner menu to unfold Christmas.

"We expect a better crowd for Christmas and New Year's Eve this year and guests could join in with the choristers and sing carols. Children could give a big hug to Santa and enjoy the delicacies that are awaiting the guests," according to General Manager Marso.

Marso told The Sunday Leader that a gala dinner buffet will be laid out at the Summerfields Caf‚ on 31st night and the gala poolside party will be packed with entertainment for everybody - rides and games for the young and old alike and music by Ricky Bahar with Legacy and DJ Udi will keep guests rocking the night away.

"With fireworks and many more entertainment items on the cards TransAsia will make the 31st a day to remember. We are mostly expecting our regular clientele and the expatriates to patronise us this time too to make New Year's Eve a success," added Marso.

Colombo Continental Hotel sources meanwhile told The Sunday Leader that they are expecting a good response for the gala dinner dance at the Sapphire Ballroom with the ever-famous Sunil Perera and the Gypsies in attendance.

"We have already received many reservation inquiries and we are hopeful that we would be able to sell out our tickets for the dinner dance," the sources added.

According to the sources a special Christmas Eve dinner will be served at Caf‚ Emerald from 7pm onwards and the Christmas brunch and the traditional Christmas dinner too will be served at the same venue.

"We are expecting a good crowd for the dinner dance and a scrumptious dinner by our master chef will be awaiting our guests. Even at the Heist Bar a DJ will keep guests spellbound throughout the last night of 2008," sources said.

At Mt.Lavinia Hotel

Meanwhile Mt. Lavinia Hotel which is yet another hotspot for entertainment during the festive season will have its traditional Christmas Eve dinner with Lazer at the Governor's Restaurant by the pool side and the Hut discotheque will come alive with DJ Rajeeva to keep the guests entertained.

"A Christmas Around The World' lunch will be served at the Empire Ballroom with Lazer in attendance and the Christmas day dinner will be served at Governor's Restaurant with Chandimal and the Second Connection and guests could go Mediterranean for dinner at the Governor's Restaurant on Boxing Day," hotel sources told The Sunday Leader.

According to the sources a gala dinner dance to welcome the New Year under the canopy of glittering stars with Phase Three and DJ Pier with fabulous fireworks, a kothu station and traditional breakfast has been organised. The Hut and Sea Food Cove too are ready to welcome year 2009 with DJ Rajeeva and a scrumptious sea food dinner to blast through to the New Year.


Justice P. Ramanathan - a man of principled conduct

Late Justice P. Ramanathan

"Justum et tenacem propositi Virum"
(A man upright and tenacious of purpose.)
Orate Odes III

Justice P. Ramanathan passed away peacefully at his home on December 7, 2006. Two close friends and his dutiful wife Mano, who always looked after him with great care, were by his side. It was in the fitness of things that his death was as peaceful as was the way he lived all his life - in quiet dignity. Sunt lacrimae rerum (Virgil) - Mortal things are suffused with tears" - and so it had to be with Rama.

He belonged to a well-known family. His great grandfather was Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, Solicitor-General, King's Counsel and a distinguished member of the Legislative Council. His great grand uncle was Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam, the first Ceylonese to enter the Ceylon Civil Service and was Registrar General for several years. Sir Muthu Coomaraswamy was also a relative from an earlier generation. The family was renowned for its philanthrophy, munificence and service to the people.

Much has already been said and written about his career as a prosecutor in the Department of the Attorney-General and the various judicial positions he held with honour; first, as a Judge of the High Court, thereafter as a Judge and President of the Court of Appeal and finally as a judge of the Supreme Court. It is therefore unnecessary for me to advert to his career, except to say that he possessed in ample measure the essential attributes of a good judge, namely, impartiality, integrity, and a strong sense of justice and fairness.

On this occasion, I would like to refer briefly to his personal qualities which permeated and vitalised his entire being. These were the mainspring of his life. It is precisely these qualities which endeared him, in a special way, to a very wide circle of friends.

It is a little known fact that he had an impish sense of humour, and a very rare capacity to laugh at himself! Many years ago, we went on a holiday to Anuradhapura. Rama was then the judge of the High Court at Anuradhapura. We dropped in at the court-house and our younger daughter, Swanthri, asked him, "Uncle, where does the 'rogue' sit?" He unhesitatingly pointed to the Bench and said "As far as I know, the 'rogue' sits there!"

The spontaneous reply to a question asked by a child revealed a heart and mind as big as his physique. High office sat lightly on him.

His personal qualities and attributes were unique. He was blessed with a nature devoid of meanness, pettiness, malice, envy, ill-will and arrogance. On the contrary, he was richly endowed with positive qualities such as generosity, hospitality, magnanimity, moral integrity, compassion and an abundance of good-will to all, including the few who disliked him!

He was never self-righteous nor 'moralistic.' He was unassuming to a fault. It is but rarely that one meets with a person so loyal in friendship, and so resolute and unswerving in principled conduct. He certainly measured up to the Roman ideal, "Honeste vivere neminem laedere" (I have lived honourably, I have never harmed anyone).

His journey came to an end two years ago. Ours may continue for a short while longer, but the fragrance of his memory will remain undimmed and undiminished in the hearts and minds of all those who had the good fortune to have known him. I consider it a privilege to have associated with him closely and to have worked with him. The oft quoted lines from Hamlet epitomise his life and work.

"He was a man, take him for all in all. [We] shall not look upon his like again."

- G.P.S. de Silva


Living in Wellawatte

By Thilaka Vivekanandan Wijeratnam

Come evening all along the byroads of Wellawatte are groups of housewives, many of them in housecoats and yet others in 'maxies,' lamenting about the high cost of living and how to cope with the house rents and the herculean task of feeding several mouths with three meals a day.

Invariably the topic is the high cost of living. It is a sound reason for the landlords to raise the rents. The poor tenants are at their wits end trying to find the money for the advance payments and the monthly rent thereafter.

The seemingly inhuman house-owners are like heartless predators hunting for money all the time. The worst fact is that some of them are so wealthy that they have enough money for the next two generations of theirs to live in comfort.

Killer rents

Yet they continue to eye prospective tenants especially the lone widows who get foreign currency, or parents with children overseas.

In fact one landlord told the writer, "You have children living abroad, you can easily give two years advance." He recoiled and made a hasty retreat when he got the answer: "My children are walking in the snow to work and I will never fatten the purse of a greedy third person with their hard earned money, whatever physical discomforts I have to suffer."

He was probably thinking of the two years interest he would lose.

Fine for living in Wellawatte

This is in addition to the cost of fish, meat and vegetables which have 'special' prices in the city of Wellawatte. The residents of Wellawatte pay the highest prices for vegetables, fruits and fish in the city of Colombo. Never are vegetables and fruits sold at reasonable prices, be they in season or not. To the vendors too the people of Wellawatte have to 'pay up' whether they like it or not.

It is more like paying a fine for living in Wellawatte. But who are we going to complain to?

In addition to the high cost of fruits and vegetables comes the monthly bills - water, electricity and telephone bills.

People of Wellawatte have always been generous to beggars on the wayside. But now they hardly notice the hungry, the old and the infirm, the figures in rags crouching on the pavement, because the residents themselves are fast getting there.

The clusters of women chatting in the evening talk only about the cost of living and the house rent. "Won't the government put a ceiling on these exorbitant rents?" they lament.

"Our people are so crafty they will give a receipt for a much lesser amount to hoodwink the authorities and exhort the money somehow or other. "You can't beat them," said one housewife dejectedly.

"Well, the house-owners also have to cope with the cost of living," said one philosophically.

"You can afford to give high rent because you get the money from abroad," retorts another.

"People like you spoil the greedy dogs," said another while the others nodded their heads in approval.

"Leave that alone, do you know the price of 250 grams of leeks, carrots or any other vegetables?" asked another housewife.

Chicken essence

"What vegetables! What about fish and chicken? We will soon have to use some essence for the taste of chicken. If we cannot cook at home, we will have to eat a packet of rice sold outside - that is also double the price now," they lamented.

"What about bread?" queried another. "Whoever thought about paying Rs.40 for a loaf of bread," was the pathetic question.

"What can we do, we have to live no. Tighten our belts to feed the brutes," sighed the women.

"Well, we have to be sensible now and forget about other things like clothing, shoes and accessories," they all agreed.

"We have to stop going for films, picnics, buying jewellery, fashionable slippers, hand bags etc. and spend whatever money we have only on food items," they rationalised.

Curry leaves

"Quite right. We cannot do all that now, we will have to merely exist. Now only we are beginning to understand the difference between living and existing," they agreed.

"We cannot stop this discussion without our curry leaves. Now carrying a bunch of curry leaves has become as expensive as carrying a bouquet - Rs.20 for a bunch of curry leaves.

"Look at us in our old, faded housecoats discussing curry leaves when we actually should be discussing clothes. We are drinking plain tea or black tea or whatever you call it. How to buy milk powder? I keep one box in case we have visitors. My children grumble when they see black tea. They tell me do not be a miser amma," said one lady sadly.

"Oh, I serve plain tea to visitors too. Now even at our committee meeting, we have no bites or shorts eats. Just plain tea. I don't want to be a member. You can't blame them, even a vadai is Rs.20. How can they spend over Rs.1000 for shorts eats," lamented an active lady in our midst.

"Well, let us learn to look at the brighter side. We will now lessen our sugar and cholesterol levels. No milk powder, no coconut milk, no fleshy stuff, just some measly vegetables," said a wise one.

As the sun set, we dispersed and walked into our dimly lit houses. Life continues in Wellawatte, amidst tears, heartbreak and hardship.


Weather - the safest of topics

Although it is a bit windy at the moment, we are all right unless we wear flared skirts or carry umbrellas that have a tendency to turn inside out. I remember this boy who made a parachute out of a bed sheet and was contemplating jumping from the balcony of his house, on a windy day. Luckily, his mum who was out, called, and she alerted the next door neighbour to stop him before he broke something.

It was a nightmare when we had to go to school on a windy day, as our knife pleated uniforms would rise up and expose our underskirts or petticoats. Since it was not the done thing to carry schoolbags, we carried our books by hand, so we were left with just one hand to battle it out. Of course, you could just fling all your books and stuff on the pavement, but that meant trouble too. And when you pulled the front of your skirt down, the back would be merrily flying high up overhead!

Flying kites

One of the nicer things about windy days was that everyone would start flying kites. Mostly it would be boys, but some girls too did engage in this activity. Sometimes there would be a kind of a game where you tried to bring down someone else's kite by getting the string attached tangled up in yours.

The Galle Face Green would be full of kite flyers, since there was uninterrupted space as well as a strong breeze. There would also be vendors trying to sell colourful paper windmills and other toys which were wind operated. Of course, every little kid who spotted these would want one.

We would also make paper rockets that would whizz around the classroom, a welcome distraction to a dull and dreary subject. Of course, the teacher would not be amused and ask us if we thought we were boys instead of ladylike girls! I love wind chimes, and I have hung several up at home since we have open space with plenty of wind whistling through. The tinkling sound of bells is always so very pleasant and soothing to the senses.

What I didn't like, was the moaning sound the wind would make in the night, with ominous creaks accompanying it. It was really eerie, and once when we were in the hill country, it moaned so loud it sounded like a human being wailing and groaning. We were up most of that night!

Sneak out

Sometimes, we would drape a white bed sheet over ourselves and make ghostly sounding noises and scare each other. We would sneak down to the sea and be drenched by the spray from the enormous waves. Our parents would be none the wiser! We even had a sort of tornado recently in a coastal area, that had left considerable destruction in its wake. Once, in a well-known restaurant famed for its alfresco dining, on a windy night a part of the roof landed amongst us!

Luckily no one was hurt, but most of the patrons weren't amused at all. The other thing I don't like is that beautiful flowers are ruined. What a waste! But the good thing is all the dried leaves and twigs fall off the trees, though not for the person who sweeps up. Lots of flying objects have to be avoided and grit gets in your eyes.

Frozen bottom

Across the world, my friend in Switzerland says her bottom is frozen to her chair, and she might have to thaw it out before attempting to get up. It's snowing and getting colder and colder. We are luckier in that sense. She's addicted to Hagen Das ice cream, which she moodily spoons into her mouth in a trance like state, whilst contemplating life. She kicked up a huge row at her regular ice cream outlet as they wouldn't stock her favourite, Double Chocolate Chip, during winter.

"Imagine," she said indignantly, "how can I wait until summer to eat it again?" They tried patiently to explain to her that ice cream sales were down in winter, normal people ate it only in warmer weather. So she had to resign herself to another flavour. My other pal who returned from there says her son enjoyed sledding and skiing on the snowy mountain slopes. Another friend in the Saudi desert says it's very pleasant and cool there now. A most safe and non controversial topic, the weather! Keeps conversation flowing smoothly, doesn't it, when there are gaps and lulls?

- Honky Tonk Woman

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