New Year’s Eve: A celebration for some, but not all
With the ending of another year people around the country waved 2013 goodbye in their own special ways. For some, the glamorous New Year celebrations hosted by hotels and dancing the night away seem to be an ideal way to end the year. Others preferred simpler house parties; surrounded by friends and family, while some prefer to turn over a new page on a more spiritual note. So while many put on their dancing shoes, popped open a bottle of wine or celebrated with fireworks, or reflected in quiet on the year that was ebbing away, everyone seemed to have their own unique way of welcoming 2014.
‘Dear Valued Customer’ the notice read, ‘kindly note that we will not be selling cigarettes with effect from 1st January 2014.’ If
anything at all had changed at Pilawoos, the popular cafe in Colpetty, this had to be it. Strangely it seemed the reason behind this was simply not having time for change. “During the rush hours we just can’t manage to keep calculating and giving out coins,” explains Mohamed Farzan of the Pilawoos Administration.
The staff that mans Pilawoos on January 1 does not really have time to celebrate the dawning of a new year. While in other parts of the city affluent Colombo pops premium spirits and counts down the arrival of the New Year, the boys at Pilawoos smash out kottus and whatever else is ordered. “We plan for a staff get-together, but it never really happens,” admits Mohamed Farzan. “It is very difficult to get everyone together because the work is on shift basis.” Having service hours from 5 a.m. to 4 a.m. the next day their rush hours are lunch time and after 8 p.m. in the evening. Serving Colombo’s clubbing and partying crowd who fancy a bite throughout the night leaves the staff with very little time for anything else.
“Most of our workers are from the upcountry and they don’t take leave all the time,” explains Farzan. Going back to their families for a few weeks at a time is how all their off-days are used up.
Meanwhile the elders at the home run by the Sisters of St. Margaret’s Convent, Polwatte enjoyed a different kind of New Year celebration. “We had very good food!” says Lucky who has come to be known as a permanent fixture in the convent. Having been in the St. John’s Orphanage in Moratuwa as a child she recalls many happy seasonal parties where she “sang and ate ice cream.”
“Those of us who can go to church in the morning do that,” said S. David who has been at the home for over 10 years, “I also used to go until last year.” Coming back to a wonderful breakfast that included Breudher and bananas is enough celebration for them, he reckons.
“After going to church we usually come back and call our families,” one resident smiled. After exchanging wishes they eagerly await their special lunch. “This year’s lunch was truly special because Sister herself cooked it for us!” was the unanimous comment for the Sister in charge of the convent had to cook lunch for the residents as their cook was ill.
Taking pleasures in the little things in life, they enjoy doing what they love, be it sewing, jigsaw puzzles or even dancing. As Lucky puts it, “We had good food! What more could we want?”
Outside the convent, every morning as the clock signifies 6 a.m. both Ujitha and N. Kanchana put on their bright orange uniforms and pick up their cleaning equipment. “I have been working now for about one and a half years,” claims Ujitha who enjoys sweeping the roads to energising music.
“It’s a hard life,” both Kanchana and Ujitha say. Starting the shift at 6 a.m. sharp at the top of St. Michael’s Road and working their way through little lanes, their work for the morning only ends at 9 a.m. “Then we start work at 2 in the afternoon again,” explains Kanchana who works until around 7 p.m. when the light is good.
While most hotels host early breakfasts for guests who survived the night of partying to greet the sunrise, Ujitha and Kanchana put on their yellow jackets, switch on their music and clean-up the remnants of crackers along the roads.
“The Sirs and Madams treat us well though,” says Ujitha speaking of residents living in the area. “We get good food and drinks on new year.”
While Colombo waved 2013 goodbye amidst a rainbow of lights and the fanfare of music and dancing, hundreds of kilometres away in Ampara, the General Hospital was a mirror of lights and laughter as the Ampara General Hospital celebrated the dawn of the New Year.
A hospital is one of the few places that never, for a second, can cease to work. With the constant possibility of a birth, death or illness springing up one might take a minute to wonder whether the doctors ever get the opportunity to put aside their stethoscopes and workload for a few hours.
But come the 31st of December, and you only had to take a peek in the doctors’ quarters to see them on a makeshift dance floor along with their families, with music and singing provided by the doctors themselves. According to Dr. Lankathilake Jayasinghe, the Director of the Ampara General Hospital it has been an annual event.
A rare occasion where around 70 doctors are all together, they spared no pains with their party preparations. There were no fancy cocktails or the dance bands but for the doctors of Ampara, the fish and chips and devilled chicken dishes along with the local dance troupe that graced their party provided them with a fun filled escape with most of their loved ones and family, ending with the lighting of crackers and ‘nila’ before they prepared themselves for another busy day at the hospital.
Whichever way you celebrated the dawn of 2014, we wish you a happy new year.