Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Hidden Treasures of Galle
Beyond the colonial Dutch heritage which Galle is renowned
for, this somewhat laidback city in the south of Sri Lanka has its own hidden
treasures, in the form of vast stretches of lowland rain-forest in Sinharaja and
Kanneliya. But the most awesome of them all, is the rain-forest bordering the
According to Gehan
de Silva Wijeyeratne the internationally renowned wildlife celebrity, “Galle
is the rain-forest capital of Sri Lanka, and is the richest of Sri Lanka's
districts, in bio-diversity”.
When I visited Galle with my TV crew, to seek out the
hidden treasures of Galle for my TV series ‘Discover Sri Lanka’, I invited
Gehan to accompany us, because of his valuable insight into all things wildlife.
His input was to add educational value to the series of programmes on Galle.
My crew and I were invited to stay at the famous Jetwing Lighthouse Hotel during or stay in Galle.
Perched upon a rugged outcrop, along the famed south western coast of Sri Lanka, the Lighthouse Hotel, is the last unique architectural triumph, of Sri Lanka’s iconic genius, Geoffrey Bawa.
Gehan and the hotel’s Naturalist Anoma Alagiyawadu, had
methodically mapped out our Galle tou,r based on the Lighthouse Hotel’s
excursion programme. We started off with a boat safari down the Mahamodara
River, and a visit to Jetwing
Kurulubedda followed by the Rainforests of Galle
- Kanneliya and Kottawa Forest Reserves
and the Hiyare Rainforest Park.
The next day we travelled to Mirissa in the deep south
of Sri Lanka, to “Frolic
with Dolphins & Whales”. Mirissa is regarded as one of the world's best
locations, amongst the top two or three, for watching Blue Whales & Sperm Whales.
Our Galle tour concluded with the Seashore Trail along the coastline.
Saturday, January 25, 2014
Child Ordination-through a Mother’s Eyes!
As a mother, the following is one of the most emotionally challenging articles I tasked myself with, as I see a son of mine, in each child-Samanera (novice Buddhist monk)!
a recent alms-giving ceremony I attended, there were many such, of varying
ages. Some as young as 7 - 8 years of age, while some of pubertal age.
‘little ones’, with shaven heads, and their thin bodies swathed in saffron
robes, sat on the floor with their elders. It was hard to miss, their
expressions of sheer wonder, coupled with mischief on their faces, as they
watched the children of the laity, of similar age, running wild with chocolate
smeared faces, brandishing their favourite toys.
of these ‘miniature monks’ in particular, had his gaze fixed longingly on a
teddy bear, and another on a train set. While those, in their mid to late
teens, gazed appreciatively, at the pretty young girls prancing around, before
quickly hiding their faces, behind their over-sized palm-leaf fans, when
frowned upon, by a disapproving adult monk.
Sharmini on Buddhism and Ritual
By- H.L. Seneviratne
I started this as a comment on Sharmini Serasinghe’s “Open Letter”, but it turned it to be too long for a comment. So I am asking CT to publish this as a separate piece.
My view of Buddhism
is broadly similar to that of Sharmini, and there obviously are many
other non-ritualist Buddhists like Sharmini and me. But there is another
side. While the monks can fairly be accused of making a ritualism of
Buddhism, it is ritualism, and not the “philosophy” of the Buddha,
that has enabled it to gain popularity and become a world religion.
Even in the modern west, Buddhism is often culticized by individuals and
groups, though free of the gross ritualism of the traditionally
An Open Letter to Prof. Kapila Abhayawansa
Dear Prof. Abhayawansa,
You may regard the
following disrespectful, and highly impertinent, but I was educated within a
system, where I was encouraged, to challenge my teachers. And the most adamant
of them all, was my reverend Guru, the late Piyadassi Maha Thera.
Therefore, though you
are not one of my esteemed teachers, I shall nevertheless, regard you as a
To start with, your
post titled “God in the Buddha” on Colombo Telegraph dated 10thJanuary,
2014, in response to Mr. Shyamon Jayasinghe and Dr. Jagath Asoka, I found quite
intriguing, to say the least.
Sunday, January 5, 2014
Mahavamsa- An Insult to the Buddha!
if ours might have been a wiser, and a more ‘humane’ society, had our ‘ancient’
history, been based on Aesop’s Fables, instead of the Mahavamsa. For if not for
the Mahavamsa, the Sinhalese may not have been endowed, with the reputation, of
“Sinhalaya Modaya (The Sinhalese are Fools)”!
Saturday, December 7, 2013
Kamalini Selvarajan - A Child of a Lesser God!
Kamalini Selvarajan, my friend and colleague at Rupavahini- Sri Lanka’s national Television, has been diagnosed with Dementia!
“Kamalini my dearest friend
your smile and the magic of the aura,
that radiates around your vibrant self
always lit up the darkest of times
Though in your new world of the unknown
you no longer know me
yet you greet me with that charming smile
you gave so freely to friends and foe
in better times
And so, it breaks my heart to know
you don’t know me, once your friend, anymore
in this strange new world
your God has made for you!”
Forgive me my friend
but understand your God
I do not
He took away your soul
and left me a living shell
still with that charming smile
Did he not find another
more worthy of his wrath?
Kamalini is an iconic TV personality and film star. She was, and is still loved by all, irrespective of caste, creed or race.
She is best known for her role as an Indian teacher in the film ‘Ordinary Magic’ and ‘Komaligal’- the Sri Lankan Tamil film, where Kamalini acted with her late husband SillaiyurSelvarajan, as lovers.
The following testimony was sent to me by her family:
“It’s three o’clock in the afternoon. My sister Kamalini is sitting on a sofa staring at the TV watching ‘Tom and Jerry’ without any emotions or reactions to what she sees.
While I tidy up her room, she asks when she will have lunch. Is this the seventh time she has asked this question today? Eighth? I’ve lost count. Yet I take a deep breath, repeat silently to myself to be patient, and try to smile as I remind her that she had her lunch just over an hour ago.
She smiles back, and her eyes gaze vacantly, once again, at her surroundings. I don’t know what she is thinking, it is hard to tell. Kamalini is now sixty years of age. She is quiet, subdued and thinks I’m her ‘Aunty’. She no longer knows who she is or where she is!
Kamalini is a graduate in Mass Communication from the University of Kelaniya, and hails from an affluent family of highly qualified professionals.
Alas, disaster struck when a cub-reporter from a local newspaper, with no knowledge of Dementia, visited Kamalini at the apartment where she lives with her son. Posing off as a computer professional and part time translator, he had inquired after Kamalini’s health and financial situation.
This journalist then went on to air his ‘views’ in a newspaper article violating journalistic ethics, falsely claiming that Kamalini’s condition had been caused by her sudden dismissal from her employment at a TV station.
His false story goes on to claim that if sufficient money was spent, Kamalini’s condition could be treated. He then goes a step further, claiming that Kamalini’s son was not in a position to work full time as he has to look after his mother.
Similar comments were made by journalists of other media, without verifying facts, perhaps with the hope of creating sensationalism.
Some opportunists who were quick to grab this chance to make a fast buck, started collecting ‘donations’ in Kamalini’s name, not only in Sri Lanka but also overseas, such as UK, Australia, Switzerland, Canada, Norway and the Middle East.
But as far as the real story goes……..
Kamalini’s housing loan is paid through a standing order at her bank by her family members, and is not in arrears. All meals for both mother and son are provided, and costs incurred thereof, are met by Kamalini’s family members.
In addition cash is also provided to the son, to meet expenses such as utility payments and other incidental expenses. Clothing is also provided on a regular basis. The total monthly expenses in this regard are borne by her brothers and sister.
Kamalini’s family members wish to inform all those concerned about her welfare, that she is presently under expert professional care, with those possessing decades of experience in treating patients with Dementia.
The monthly cost of care alone is approximately Rs 164,814/-, excluding the cost of medication.
For obvious reasons, her family members do not wish Kamalini to have any visitors, until satisfactory recovery is observed.
Whilst appreciating the concern to assist Kamalini, we her family members are of the view, that she requires complete rest, which will ultimately pave the way for her stability.
Any fund-raising activities with dishonest motives, both locally and overseas must be discouraged in toto.
We her family, hereby request friends, well-wishers and relatives, not to be misled by rumours, and therefore be cautious in falling prey, to nefarious fund raising attempts.
Sincere well-wishers are requested instead, to make their contributions, only to Mrs Kamalini Selvarajan’s current account number (039010001955) with Hatton National Bank, Bambalapitiya Branch, and to no one else.”
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Sri Lanka has a 2600 year-old Culture?
If what has become of Sri Lanka today is the legacy of a “2600-year old culture”, might we have been better off without any culture at all?
Ever so often we hear the famous cliché ‘dropped’ by our politicians- “………Sri Lanka’s 2600-year old culture……….” It is a sine qua non statement repeated ad nauseam at many a public and political forum (the most recent being CHOGM) to add ‘weight’ or to perhaps impress otherwise empty utterances. This is obviously done solely to awe the audience, especially a foreign one.
I recall, as an impressionable young girl, when Sri Lanka’s first Executive President J.R. Jayawardene made his State Visit to the USA during Ronald Reagan’s tenure as US President. In his televised address on the South Lawn of the White House, JRJ casting aside his noblesse oblige referred to the United States as “a country with only a 200-year old history, while Sri Lanka’s was over 2500 years old”!
This ‘casual’ or ‘calculated’ remark (with JRJ one never knew) has remained with me to date. To me even then, this ipse dixit remark reeked of an acute inferiority complex and I felt utterly embarrassed on his behalf.
Friday, November 22, 2013
What did Sri Lanka get
out of CHOGM?
It appears that our Emperor’s
attempts to show-off his new clothes viz spanking
new infrastructure, spotless city etc., to the world through CHOGM went
At the expense of the Lankan
tax-payer we managed however to provide a free and very expensive platform for
the LTTE diaspora to be heard through the Eton- educated gab of none other than the British Prime Minister David
Cameron himself. He made no bones about why he was coming to Sri Lanka and what
he was going to do here and he did it!
What did Sri Lanka get out of CHOGM?
India’s CHOGM faux pas!
India’s CHOGM faux pas!
India’s Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh is being flogged mercilessly by the Indian Media – a symbol of how tall
democracy stands in that country – over what is being dubbed as India’s ‘CHOGM
The Indian PM’s decision not to
attend the summit in Colombo is being viewed as giving into the bullying
tactics of Jayalalithaa’s Petticoat government. Just days before, Singh while
Annual Conclave of Indian Ambassadors/High Commissioners abroad in New Delhi
outlined what he believed to be the ‘Five Core Principals’ of India’s
development-centric Foreign Policy.
Friday, November 15, 2013
Singh will not sing at CHOGM!
So the Injun PM is not coming after all! No surprises in that, given the racket Tamil Nadu has been making in the recent past over him attending/not attending CHOGM in Colombo.
Just imagine our poor Emperor hopping mad; pulling his
jet-black tinted hair and moustache, seething with fury over the snub. After
all what can he do, short of dragging the Injun PM by his turban or beard to
Saturday, November 9, 2013
CHOGM- A Carnival is coming to Town!
There is a tangible feeling of an
impending carnival-coming-to-town in the air these days in Colombo. The city is
being virtually turned up-side-down and inside-out, dusted and vacuumed by the
Surgeon General of Lanka’s cosmetic surgery-Urban Development cum Defence - in order to make it look pretty to
impress the visiting revelers.
Vibrant coloured banners and
gadgets decorate the streets and roundabouts, competing with larger-than-life
cut-outs of our very own Emperor-in-new-clothes. Trees pruned and some
uprooted, innocent homeless dogs banished, roads re-carpeted and of course the
pavements/side-walks dug up and some still awaiting to be tiled. In the
interim, pedestrians at great risk to life and limb must share the roads with
In short, anything that doesn’t
look pretty and prosperous is being removed and pretty-looking-things put in
But this is not just any ol’
carnival coming to town, it’s CHOGM!
Friday, November 8, 2013
Sinhala-Buddhists vs Buddhist Moderates
In Sri Lanka today there are two types of Buddhists- the Buddhist Moderates who identify themselves as Sri Lankans and those who identify themselves as Sinhala-Buddhists which they regard as their nationality!
As a Sri Lankan (a Sinhalese and a Buddhist by faith) I have lived and worked amidst the strange practices of Sinhala-Buddhists in Sri Lanka. As such I have observed closely what a Sinhala-Buddhist is as opposed to a Buddhist Moderate.
The following are my observations.
Courting Satan in Saffron Robes
“It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it, and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it” – Aung San Suu Kyi
The Rajapaksas’ moment of glory has passed. The sheen
on the “We won the war” badge has now faded. The golden moment that presented
itself post-2009 to ‘right’ the ‘wrongs’ of the past is now lost. The lack of a
political vision, direction and leadership of a country emerging from the
quagmire of a protracted bloody civil war is tragic, to say the least.
Monday, April 22, 2013
Sri Lanka’s National Anthem Betrayed
and strength renewed,Ill-will,
hatred, strife all ended,
enfolded, a mighty nation
onward, all as one,Lead us,
Mother, to fullest freedom.”
These are the mighty words Lanka’s National Anthem ends with, which has no relevance today!
should now read as-
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
BBS’s Latest Target- Muslim Dress Code
With the ‘Halal’ issue exhausting all the hot-air being blown around it, now here comes the Muslim dress code to the fore. Muslim women are now being pinched, pushed and spat on because of their choice of dress in the form of a long loose over-garment called the ‘abaya’.
It was not until the effervescent Saffron Brigade (Bodhu Bala Sena) drew attention to it did anyone pay much heed to the ‘abaya’ which is a common sight especially in urban areas of the country. Upon further investigation into the relatively recent popularity of this outer-garment favoured by some Muslim ladies in Lanka one finds significantly varying reasons for it.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Sri Lanka- Forever a Nation in Tears
‘Buddhist Sri Lanka’ perceived as the ‘sole protector’ of the
Dhamma is where all beings irrespective of caste, creed, religion or race are
supposed to live in peace, compassion and harmony. Then why is this tiny tear-drop
shaped nation in the vast Indian Ocean destined forever to be in tears? Where
did Buddhism go wrong for Lanka? Or should it be where was Buddhism made to go
wrong for Lanka?
Never before in recent history has the populace of this
comparatively ‘small’ country - Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim - been as ‘largely’ polarized as we see now.
Physically we are so very near to one another but yet so far apart. For today
we are a nation where not only are the Sinhalese and Tamils surveying each
other with fear and suspicion, but the Sinhalese and Muslims as well. Whodunit!
Friday, March 22, 2013
Jaffna- From Shell Shock to Culture Shock
My last visit to Jaffna was almost nine years ago (2004) in an official capacity as a Director of the former Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP), an office that came directly under the President of Sri Lanka.
In a context of time nine years seems like a long period but in fact it is not. The Jaffna I saw then and the Jaffna I saw a fortnight ago seem like two different places. Of course nine years ago we had a Norwegian brokered cease-fire between the LTTE and the government of Sri Lanka in place. Our movements, despite a cease-fire, were under a heavy blanket of security as the LTTE violated the very spirit of the truce with impunity.
However my recent visit to
the North was as a private citizen and therefore afforded me greater freedom of
movement and the chance to mingle and interact with the common man of Jaffna.
Of course within a short space of three days one cannot grasp much, but what I
did see and hear was a revelation in more ways than one.
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Bigotry of Sinhala-Buddhism