21st January 2001
Sports| Mirror Magazine
Bags maketh a man!
By Royston EllisWhat a lot of stickers!" the bellboy said as he hefted my suitcase into the waiting taxi.
"Yes," I replied automatically. I was actually pondering over my bill, which carried the annotation that I had just concluded my 89th stay at the Galadari Hotel.
To stay 89 times in a Colombo hotel says a lot about the standard of the hotel, just as my suitcase pasted with stickers from hotels around the world said a lot about me.
The suitcase that drew the bellboy's attention is over 20 years old, older than the bellboy himself. It is an aluminium one (or "aluminum" as they say in New York where I bought it).
It was outrageously expensive but I bought it because it looked sturdy enough to withstand the rigours of being slung on and off planes by maniac baggage handlers at anti-passenger airports.
The only problem was its glowing appearance; it shone like a highly polished zinc bar counter in Paris. I quickly plastered it with hotel and country labels to make it look travel-weary, instead of an expensive travel accessory worth stealing.
Over the years the suitcase, and others of that ilk that I have added to my luggage family, have become works of art. Other hands, mostly unknown to me, have added stickers of their own establishments and countries, creating a glorious montage of colour on the bland aluminium. With the addition of security stickers slapped on whenever my cases emerge from airport X-ray machines, my once-gleaming suitcases have gained the veneer of veteran globetrotting bags.
I have since discovered that the proud possessors of that particular upmarket brand of luggage zealously treasure their metallic sheen. It identifies it as trophy luggage, supposed to be kept untarnished and unadorned by tatty hotel labels. The snooty owners want other travellers to know how much more expensive their shining aluminium luggage is than ordinary brand name bags. While other owners remove every label that adheres to their up-town cases, I add more, dragging them downtown. As the Galadari hotel bellboy asked me: "Why?"
Just take a look at the luggage waltzing around on the carousels of any airport. It all looks the same. Suitcases come in black fibreglass, in a design like a Persian carpet, or wearing camouflage vests like those suitcases sold in India.
To help identify their own luggage some intrepid travellers tie red ribbons around the handle. This only adds confusion if several people think the same battered, beribboned bag is theirs.
My suitcases, however, stand out like the costumed Carnival King and Queen of the Carousel. No one is going to take my bags by mistake, and they look so vulgar no one else would want them anyway. I welcome them as old friends, relieved they have been returned safely to me.
I gaze aloofly as other passengers drag off their drab bags, jerk them upright and start to wheel them away. Then I watch smugly as their bags skitter out of control and crash into other passengers' ankles.
My suitcases are so old, they were travelling before the wheel was invented (as an appendage for suitcases, that is). However, inexplicably, they have grown heavier over the years.
At airports like Colombo, where porters are not allowed in the arrival hall, I sidle up to the conveyor belt with my luggage trolley. Then I struggle to ease the heavy bags off with the aplomb befitting their pedigree. I wonder then how they, like me, have become overweight with age.
Fortunately, on departure from Colombo airport there are porters on hand to assist one through the various machine and hand searches right up to the airline check-in desk. Those people who do the hand searching seem excited by my suitcases. With their exotic labels and dented sides they exude an air of belonging to a world traveller, not to a charter-flight tourist. It must be a disappointment to find they contain clothes, just like ordinary luggage. I recognise that I am a luggage snob. In the same way a man can be judged by the company he keeps, I feel that I am judged by the baggage I carry. My only wish is that I could carry it without the help of porters and bellboys.
Sometimes I wonder whether it is time to leave my classy bags at home
and buy one of those nasty black hold-alls with zippers and wonky wheels.
But without my stickered baggage how will the bellboy at the Galadari Hotel
identify me when I go there for my 90th visit? Perhaps I should wear a
To add to their woes, the bridge linking Rathmalgaswewa and Welasiya was in a bad state.
But the humble folk of Rathmalgaswewa would not be deterred. They didn't moan or lament. They decided to help themselves, with support from the Vinivida Integrated Voluntary Organization and the Rural Transport and Manufacturing Programme of ITDG-South Asia. The men and women of the village decided to improve the road, reconstruct the bridge and buy a truck, through the Rathmalgaswewa Praja Sanvidana Ekamuthuwa (PSE), which is an umbrella organization of seven village societies.
A bus for transport , they decided, would be uneconomical because the village was sparsely populated. They would collect their hard-earned money to buy a small truck and get it modified as a dual purpose passenger-goods carrier.
With the objective of developing the community's capacity to meet their own transport needs, the Rural Transport and Manufacturing Programme of the Integrated Technology Development Group-South Asia provided the balance funding for the purchase and modification of the truck. Management and maintenance would be by the villagers themselves.
Remembering earlier shramadana campaigns to reconstruct the reservoir and repair a seven-kilometre stretch of road in Rathmalgaswewa, the villagers decided to put in their sweat and toil to rebuild the bridge. Technical and financial support was once again provided by the ITDG, while the Pradeshiya Sabha gave the machinery.
And their labour has borne fruit. On January 25, Deputy Minister of
Agriculture and Puttalam district MP D.M. Dassanayake will inaugurate the
Rathmalgaswewa Community Transport Service and open the rebuilt bridge.
The Chief Executive Officer of ITDG-UK, Cowan Coventry will also be present
to applaud the humble folk of Rathmalgaswewa.
At the pre-congress seminar, held at the Lionel Auditorium Sri Lankan Professors Carlo Fonseka and Dennis Aloysius received an ovation for their presentations on "Pitfalls of Medical Therapies".
Dr. P.R. Anthonis chaired the pre-congress session.
The main scientific sessions of the Congress were held at the B.M.I.C.H.
Dr. Michael O. Smith, M.D., of New York who has treated over 7,000 patients with AIDS demonstrated his methods of management with acupuncture and traditional medicines.
Prof. Mohan Moonesinghe of the World Bank, Washington, made a presentation on ecology titled: 'The sickness of our Planet'. He stressed the importance of sustainable development.
Several Lamas from Tibet and Nepal headed by Lama Gangchen Rinpoche covered the spiritual and energy correlates of healing. Over 210 original papers were presented.
Prof. Dr. Sir Master Luong Minh Dang, Knight Commander of USA, attended with the largest single group of 116.
A special stamp, and a first day cover were issued by Sri Lanka on December 1 to commemorate the congress. The stamp depicts the Yin and Yang together with the five elements (The Pancha Bhutha), which signifies the philosophy of Oriental Medicines.
Fourteen doctors from China were convocated M.D., (Acupuncture) after and examination and authorized to practice in China.
Justice Palakidnar chaired the session on December 2 at the B.M.I.C.H. where a discussion was held on "Negligence, malpractice and illegal medical practitioners".
Congress Chairman Anton Jayasuriya summarized the scene of complementary medicines. "In U.S.A. where medical statistics are the most reliable, 54% of patients in their first illness are seeking complementary medicines. As reported in the British Medical Journal of November 4, 29% of all patients in U.K. are now being treated with complementary medicines.
As against this, many doctors who are qualified in Western Scientific Medicine (Allopathy) are jobless around the world (including Sri Lanka). Some young allopathic doctors are driving taxis in Germany or working without pay in order to obtain their education to qualify as specialists. For instance, female doctors unable to get over the Act 16 hurdle in Sri Lanka are working as masseurs in massage parlours.
Foreign qualified Sri Lankan doctors sans Act 16 are moonlighting illegally as doctors at night in private hospitals and mushroom clinics in the city. In U.S.A. medical schools are reducing the yearly intake of students."
The specialist practitioners from abroad held many workshops and treated about 4,000 patients free of charge at Kalubowila. New techniques such as laserpuncture, sonopuncture, microcurrent therapy, lasertherapy, iridology, colour therapy and bio-energetic healing were demonstrated.
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