story of 'the Podi Hamuduruwo'
To hear that a friend has been recognised for his creative
efforts is indeed welcome news. Particularly when he has not been
in the limelight but has, in his own quiet way, tried to produce
something worthwhile. So when I read that Punchi (ex-civil servant
P. G. Punchihewa) had won the annual Literary Award for the Best
Children's Literature, I was happy.
The award is
for his latest creation, 'Podi Hamuduruwo Saha Venath Katha' - a
collection of seven lovely little stories. Using simple words and
short sentences, he develops the plot in each story cleverly - and
each is just the right length for little ones to read and enjoy.
Some of them have a moral, like 'Eladenage Vasanawa' - the story
of a cow about to be slaughtered being saved by a little girl when
the animal escaped from the slaughter house and made a bee line
to little Ruvini's home seeing the gate wide open. Ruvini not only
gets the father to save the cow by paying some money but also gives
up eating meat thereafter.
are quite amusing. In 'Poto Mahattaya' the photographer has a time
in getting the children of the Daham Pasala to pose for the group
photograph only to find half of them gazing at a bird who flew over
them just as he was about to click the camera. Of course, they knew
about it only after the film roll was developed!
publication is well illustrated by Sybil Wettasinghe in her inimitable
style and the print, using big type is extremely clean.
other children's books are 'Baby Aiyage Bakki Karattaya', 'Avidina
Pambaya', 'Ratagiya Massa' and 'Aththa Banda Wewa' . The first three
have been translated into English and are being used as reading
material in schools in Indonesia. (Punchi spent 17 years in Jakarta
on a UN assignment after his assignment as Secretary, Ministry of
Coconut Industries). Incidentally, 'Pol Gaha' is another of his
works for children.
writing when he was Government Agent, Moneragala. He describes the
trials and tribulations of a peasant in his maiden effort 'Ganabol
Polowa' (The Hard Earth). 'Piyek Saha Puthek' is another novel he
wrote. He has also translated Thor Heyerdahl's 'Kotiki Expedition'
for the benefit of young ones.
Two more of
his books are in print. One is titled 'Palayanna' (Fugitive), a
translation of a novel based on an Indonesian guerilla which Punchi
describes as 'an absorbing story'. First written by an Indonesian,
it has been translated into English by an Australian writer. The
other is a book for children. He has titled it 'Mehi Pancha'.
I came back after a performance by the immensely popular pair,
Bathiya and Santush with mixed feelings. They are top performers
- there is no doubt about it. That is why they have done 60 shows
this year, as they claimed prior to the October Jamboree at the
Royal College Sports complex, where massive crowds turned up to
see them perform.
As for their
Sinhala songs, I am somewhat confused as to what we can call them.
They have a style of their own. We have been hearing their 'Nannane
Na Nana Nana' and 'Denga Dena Deno' over and over again over the
TV channels. Are they new interpretations to the traditional 'Vannams'
and other folk tunes? May be, their compositions are meant essentially
for the new (or 'now') generation and not for oldies like us. And
they wouldn't win awards at festivals unless they are being highly
appreciated. (They have just been invited for a music festival in
Yugoslavia, it was announced).
non-stop for nearly two and a half hours is in itself an achievement.
And the way youngsters responded to their call to join in the fun,
they obviously are the biggest draw today.
just before the final item, they invited everybody to stand for
'the Bathiya Santush anthem'. We did too but were curious. And then
they sang 'Nannane Nana Nana' (they had started the show with it).
I was even more confused.
By Vidushi Seneviratne
"One never knows what one is going to do. One starts
a painting and then it becomes something quite different."
Though Pablo Picasso's words don't make much sense at first, all
I needed was to watch Rhuani Rambukwelle at work in front of me,
to realize this was true. "I have no clue about what I'm going
to paint. It'll come to me, as I go on with it," she said smiling,
as she mounted a wooden board on an easel.
painting is not unfamiliar ground, with her professional life revolving
around designing. Working from home, she does company profiles,
logos, brochures and basically anything to do with art. Though painting
so far is just a pastime, she is certain that it will eventually
become a profession.
trained at an art class, she initially took to it after a friend
encouraged her to paint. Her artistic streak probably came from
her father's family, with her grandfather being a one time art master
at Trinity College and her father, who passed away recently, being
a painter himself. But this artist attributes her ability to the
religious upliftment which she found later in her life. Having held
11 exhibitions so far, Rhuani's latest will be titled "The
Journey Back". It was during a stay in England, that the idea
of holding this exhibition, initially blossomed. "Some friends
and I saw the most beautiful sunset. Being the nature lover that
I am, I convinced them to stop at different places, so that I could
photograph all its stages." Since it was this journey back
that prompted her to hold the exhibition, the title was decided.
It was while
she was at school, Ladies' College, that Rhuani's talent was initially
noticed. As part of an exchange programme organised by the principal,
the students had the chance of befriending a penpal and exchanging
paintings. Rhuani's painting was so commended that the ambassador
of the country concerned opted to keep it.
she did creative designing at Grants, and this stint helped her
decide exactly what she wanted to do with her life. She mixes the
texture of her paintings by using oil paints, water colours, acrylics,
pencil colours, felt pens and now even led pencils. Since canvases
are quite expensive, the more economical MDF boards are used. Rhuani
initially began her artistic work by painting greeting cards. Each
card took about five minutes to do, and she used to display thousands
at her initial exhibitions, but now concentrates more on paintings.
Her late father having been a huge pillar of support, she plans
to dedicate this exhibition to him. "The Journey Back"
will be held on October 17, 18 and 19 at the Lionel Wendt gallery.
"An Evening of Sacred
Music" by the Philharmonic Choir
Prof. Gerald Cooray founded the Colombo Philharmonic Choir
in 1955 by amalgamating the Kollupitiya Methodist Choir with the
choir of the Maradana Methodist Church where he was both organist
Gerald Cooray left Sri Lanka to work in Nigeria in 1967, the Colombo
Philharmonic choir went from strength to strength with choral performances
both secular and sacred. The annual Christmas concert was an occasion
the musical fraternity of Colombo looked for in eager anticipation
and was not disappointed.
of the Symphony Orchestra was also obtained on occasions to the
mutual benefit, no doubt, of both. A considerable number of concerts
were also given by the choir without accompaniment (a capella),
with its demands.
took over the Choir in the '70s, but after his death in 1998 the
choir faced the problem of a suitable director and the attendance
declined. No improvement in attendance or in the commitment by members
of the Choir was forthcoming and the choir was unable to function
properly due to poor attendance.
This year saw
the choir resume practices under Manilal Weerakoon, who apart from
being the leader of the French Horns in the Symphony Orchestra of
Sri Lanka and one of its conductors, had also been a member of the
"Interlude Singers". He is a product of the choir of S.
Thomas' College, Mt. Lavinia during the time of Rev. Bowyer Yin.
The choir gave an "Evening of Sacred Music" at the St.
Andrew's Church in Kollupitiya on September 27. It had the usual
mix of solos, duets, quartets and music for full Choir made popular
during the time of Lylie Godridge.
The choir has
an excellent balance with good tonal quality and accurate singing
which augurs well for the future.
The two altos
held their own quite well against almost a dozen sopranos and ten
male voices. They could do with a few more, however.
of St. Andrews' lends itself to choral and instrumental music due
to its excellent acoustics. The Church, I believe, has ideas of
developing its strategic site and ambience to encourage more such
musical performances in the future, including lunchtime concerts.
The pipe organ,
which was used by Spencer-Shepherd for her Sunday recitals over
Radio Ceylon, in addition to the Church services, is being restored
and could contribute to this endeavour.
organ used for accompanying the choir, though adequate and skilfully
handled by Denham Pereira, has its limitations.
which has had many ups and downs since its heyday in the fifties
and sixties showed the potential for more things to come in the
Dr. Lalith Perera
again a classical treat from Robin Zebaida
British pianist Robin Zebaida
will perform at The British Council onThursday, October 24 at 7
a Liszt recital as 'a pianist of Herculean stamina', Robin Zebaida
enjoys a flourishing international career. In the first half of
this year alone he has performed in the USA, Canada, Hong Kong,
South Africa and Australia, where his Sydney recital was reported
as achieving 'a warmth and empathy with the audience rarely seen'.
At home in
London, he has performed at various venues including St John's Smith
Square and the Queen Elizabeth Hall.
and versatile recital performances encompass not only standard repertoire
from Bach to Gershwin but also many unfamiliar or neglected composers.
Particular areas of interest include Russian music, orchestral and
vocal transcriptions, and music for the left hand. A former recipient
of awards from the Ann Driver Trust, which supports musical education,
Robin Zebaida also enjoys the opportunity to combine recital tours
with teaching. As well as individual coaching for pianists and chamber
groups, he gives masterclasses around the globe in English, French
and German. He has examined for the Associated Board of the Royal
Schools of Music since 1998. His programme in Colombo will include
works by Chopin, Tchaikovsky and Godowsky and three English pieces
by Ireland, Vaughan Williams and Moeran.
the saga of a Vihare and King Sirisanghabodhi
The Department of Archaeology has recently published
a booklet entitled, the Hatthikucchi Viharaya. This vihara has been
referred to in the Visuddhimagga of Buddhaghosa Thera as an abode
suitable for Vidarshana Bhavana. It has been kept on par with the
Mahinda guha associated with Arahat Mahinda.
In recent years
the Hatthikucchi Vihara has drawn the attention of Buddhists and
students of archaeology, for this place is supposed to be, according
to some, the venue of king Sirisanghabodhi's head-offering.
displeased a number of writers, for it goes against the popular
view, that the incident took place at Attanagalla in the Western
There are two
main reasons in favour of the adherents of the Hatthikucchi Vihara
theory. In one of the inscriptions discovered at this vihara site
there appears a word, Ati-Kuci. It has been interpreted as a term
from which the word Attanagalla has been derived. The other reason
in favour of the Hatthikucchi theory is the existence of a vatadage
among the ruins there.
One or two
letters in the word Attikuci in the inscription cannot be satisfactorily
read due to exposure to the elements. Therefore the reading is rather
doubtful. The existence of a vatadage is no proof, for the Hatthavanagalla
Viharavamasa states that a two-storied pasada had been erected at
the site of the head-offering. Thus there are pros and cons on deciding
the location of the place of head-offering.
book would undoubtedly arouse the interest of historians and archaeologists
again. The author has rightfully sketched the history of the Vihara
and that of the pious king Sirisanghabodhi who lived in the third
century. The chapter on inscriptions and the ruins is well illustrated
and its contents are informative. The other chapters are generally
lucid and readable.
unveils huge sculpture
One of the world's biggest indoor
sculptures has gone on display at London's Tate Modern. The work,
which measures almost 150 metres in length and is 10 storeys high,
spans the entire entrance of the art gallery.
winner Anish Kapoor hopes that his sculpture, Marsyas, will have
the "wow factor".
It has taken
40 people about six weeks to build the sculpture for the gallery's
Turbine Hall. The sculpture, which is 23 metres wide and 35 metres
high, consists of three steel rings, connected by a specially-made
Two rings are
positioned vertically, at each end of the space, while the third
is suspended above the bridge spanning the centre of the Tate.
The space demanded
something big, says Kapoor. It remains to be seen whether he has
broken the record for the biggest sculpture indoors. But he said
he had just done what the "notoriously difficult space"
had demanded. "It's a big thing because it needs to be a big
thing. One hopes that it's a deep thing." He said he hoped
people's reaction would be: "You walk in and you probably can't
help but go: "Wow what's that?"'
aims to humanise the industrial feel of the former power station.
It is impossible to see the entire sculpture from any one position.
It was a sculpture to walk through but not around, he said. The
artist's previous works have ranged from powdered pigment sculptures
to gigantic installations both in and outdoors. The current sculpture's
title refers to Marsyas, the satyr in Greek mythology, who was flayed
alive by the god Apollo.
or utility of 'words, words, words'?
The final outcome of the peace talks and the euphoria surrounding
them may rest in the lap of the gods. The immediate reality, however,
is that the representatives of three groups of people, three races,
met in the congenial surroundings of Sattahip in the Kingdom of
Thailand from September 16-18 to talk about a harrowing Sri Lankan
crisis, a crisis between two races - Sinhala and Tamil. They talked
about the crisis and will continue to talk for many more months,
is that the language of their talks was and will be neither Sinhala
nor Tamil nor Norwegian; it was and will be English. There was and
there will be no need for interpreters, as in previous talks. English
will do. Come to think of it, it was 'Sinhala Only' that was one
(though not the only) cause of the crisis. A few years after the
Bandaranaike election sweep of 1956, the late S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike
asked at a public meeting in Kandy, "Sahodaravaruni, bhashava
kannada? (Comrades, can you eat language?"
not food for the hungry. However, the language of a people is more
than a medium of communication. They will fight unto the death for
their right to use it because each nation values its tongue as a
listening to the telecasts of the Sattahip talks, we were filled
with awe for the English language and the finesse with which it
was used by Professor G. L. Peiris and also Dr. Anton Balasingham
and Mr. Erik Solheim, each in his own fashion. Professor Peiris,
however, outshone the others with his noble monument of English
prose. The momentous occasion was given magnificence by his masterful
use of the English language, reminding us of similar statements
made during similar moments in history by outstanding personages
such as Winston Churchill, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Martin Luther
King. What could other mortals among us like the populist Sinhalese
politicians have said on such an occasion except to utter rabble-rousing
profanities and vulgarisms in Sinhala like the ones in their banal
posters that deface the city walls and at their well-orchestrated
Here at Sattahip
was from Professor Peiris's tongue a flow of the English language
to hold us and the adversaries in the national conflict in thrall.
He reminded us of one of the greatest writers of all time, William
Shakespeare, who wrote those memorable words 'There is a tide in
the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads on to fortune'.
In his concluding
phrase, 'as we prepare to keep our tryst with destiny', he reminded
us of the reference to 'a moment in history' in Nehru's memorable
midnight address at the dawn of Indian Independence on August 15,
1947: "Long years ago, we made a tryst with destiny, and now
the time has come when we shall redeem our pledge... At the stroke
of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will wake to
life and freedom.
A moment comes
but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new,
when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed,
finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment, we take
the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people,
and to the still larger cause of humanity."
also reproduced the music of the cadences and the felicities of
rhythm of Martin Luther King's famous speech "...that in spite
of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I have a dream..."
Vice Chanceller of the University of Colombo also resonated Churchill's
famous, 'blood, sweat and tears' words. And a million listeners
and viewers began to wonder if all this grandiloquent language,
without rancour and acrimony, was (God forbid) going to be in vain.
Professor Peiris reminded us of the late S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike's
keynote speech as Leader of the House on the momentous occasion
of Sri Lanka's independence from British rule: "We must not,
we cannot, allow the newly regained freedom to run the risk of remaining
merely a theoretical concept, a thing dead and without real meaning
for the mass of the people. We must see that it quickens into a
life of greater happiness and prosperity for us all."
facilitator Erik Solheim quoted Mahatma Gandhi: "There is no
path to peace; peace is the path". Will these great words echoed
by the participants in a peace process after decades of defiance
bring an end to a two-decade-old civil war and hold the promise
of a better human condition, if not for us, at least for future
If they don't,
these words, notwithstanding their dignity and vitality, will remain
'words, words, words' - reminding us of Shakespeare again, this
time of Hamlet, not Julius Caesar - both tragedies.
The club did it
A scientist finds evidence of an actual dinosaur, alive and
living in the rain forests of South America. He campaigns in several
universities and succeeds in getting a grant to launch an expedition.
pass and the expedition party stumble upon a three foot tall pigmy
standing near a 300 foot long dead dinosaur.
approaches the pigmy and exclaims, "Dear Lord! Did you kill
replied the pigmy.
"But, it's so big and you're so small!"
"Yep!" replied the pigmy.
"How the hell did you kill it?" inquired the scientist.
"With my club," replied the pigmy.
"How big is your club?" demanded the scientist.
The pigmy replied, "Well, there are about 50 of us!"
Three sons left home, went out on their own and prospered.
Getting back together, they discussed the gifts they were able to
give their elderly mother.
The first said,
"I built a big house for our mother."
said, "I sent her a Mercedes with a driver." The third
smiled and said, "I've got you both beat. You remember how
mom enjoyed reading the Bible? And you know she can't see very well.
So I sent her a remarkable parrot that recites the entire Bible.
It took elders in the church 12 years to teach him. He's one of
a kind. Mama just has to name the chapter and verse, and the parrot
mom sent out her letters of thanks:
she wrote to one son, "The house you built is so huge. I live
in only one room, but I have to clean the whole house."
she wrote to another, "I am too old to travel. I stay at home
most of the time , so I rarely use the Mercedes. And the driver
is so rude!"
Donald," she wrote to her third son, "You have the good
sense to know what your mother likes. The chicken was delicious."
As the crowded airliner is about to take off, the peace is
shattered by a five-year-old boy who picks that moment to throw
a wild temper tantrum. No matter what his frustrated, embarrassed
mother does to try to calm him down, the boy continues to scream
furiously and kick the seats around him.
From the rear
of the plane, an elderly man in the uniform of an Air Force General
walks slowly forward up the aisle.
flustered mother with an upraised hand, the courtly, soft-spoken
General leans down and, motioning toward his chest, whispers something
into the boy's ear. Instantly, the boy calms down, and sits quietly
as his mother fastens his seat belt.
All the other
passengers are relieved and grateful; they smile and nod at the
General with gestures of thanks as he slowly makes his way back
to his seat.
One of the
cabin attendants approaches the General. "Excuse me, Sir,"
she asks quietly, "but could I ask you what magic words you
used on that little boy?"
The old man
smiles serenely and confides, "I showed him my pilot's wings,
service stars, and battle ribbons, and explained that they entitle
me to throw one passenger out the plane door, on any flight I choose."