Mirror Magazine


An Esala beginning
Upul looked at the well-cut lawn in front of him and muttered to himself, "I am seated on a bench in front of the Faculty of Humanities in the University of Kelaniya". He was "thinking" in English, for that was what his Instructor - a beautiful girl dressed in a sari, who could not have been more than two or three years older than Upul, had asked him and his class to do that morning at the English Language Teaching Unit. She had said, "If you "think" all your thoughts in English, your language skills will improve in next to no time."

Now, he sat on the bench and waited till it would be one thirty, for the lending section of the library to open. The exams for the first semester were only a few weeks away. Upul's subjects were Economics, Sinhala and History. He was hoping to study for a special degree in Economics next year.

He began to think of another sentence in English, but was distracted by two girls who strolled towards the empty bench near him. The clumps of bamboo between the benches prevented the girls from seeing Upul. They were dressed in tight pants and equally tight, figure-hugging t-shirts. Upul recognised one of them - Subodha. During a friendly ragging session, Subodha and Upul had been paired together because they had the same surnames. The seniors had insisted they should talk and get to know each other. They were given ten-minutes.

Upul had begun with the conventional set of questions.

"Nama mokadda, Gama Koheda, monavada karanne?" (What's your name? Where do you come from? What are you studying?) She had looked at him with a frank, friendly smile and said her hometown was Matale, but that she had lived in Colombo all her life and that she was studying French, English and Western Classics. Upul, in his turn had stated his subjects and told her that he came from Uttimaduwa. Before she could ask where this is, he had explained to her that it is a small village in Anuradhapura, quite close to Situlpauwa. She had looked at Upul with envy and exclaimed, "Really! Life must be marvellous out there. You must hate being in Colombo." Upul had shrugged his shoulders and turned down his lips to say he didn't really know. They had run out of things to say after that. Upul had been busy thinking of Subodha's subjects. He could not help being overawed by the fact that she was studying English as a subject, the way he was studying Sinhala. He looked at her from the corner of his eye and realised she was different from the typical "English" girls, who dressed and talked and behaved like white-skinned people seen on TV. Upul had always tried to avoid them. He had always thought they would be stuck-up and look down on him for not being able to converse in English with them. But now he realised he had been wrong. Subodha, even though she was studying English as a subject for her degree, was warm and friendly. She was "nice". Nicer than some of the girls in his Sinhala classes.

Now, he listened to her voice from the other side of the hedge of bamboo.

"Dilu, I am not sure I'm doing the right thing by studying these languages and western classics."

"Hummp" said Dilu.

"Did you know I got eight distinctions for my O/Levels?"

"You told me," Dilu grumbled.

"I wish now, that I had studied medicine instead of Arts," continued Subodha.

"Do you think we will have the nine-to-ten lecture tomorrow?" asked Dilu, obviously not interested in her friend's tirade.

Upul held his breath and hoped Subodha would continue with what she had begun to say. He listened with great attention when she asked Dilu, "Why do I feel guilty when I am happy reading and analysing Jane Eyre or day-dreaming about Heathcliff, or chanting the Illiad even though I cannot understand half the verse? Why should grave doubts assail me?" Dilu had snorted at this point and said,"You sound like John Donne risen from the grave."

But Subodha had ignored Dilu and continued, "What use is it trying to figure out if Tolstoy condemns Anna in Anna Karenina for committing adultery or if he approves of her conduct? I know that there are two affixes in English morphology and I probably know more about E. M. Forster than what he knew about himself. But what use can I make of this knowledge? I cannot cure a dying man, I cannot build a mighty bridge with what I know...."

Upul listened to Subodha from his side of the bench. He had read the Sinhala translation of Anna Karenina, but the rest of the names and titles of books Subodha talked about were alien to him. He too had got eight distinctions for O/L. He remembered how he had yearned to study science. But his school had no science stream. He had no option but to study Arts.

"Come on Subo. Why do you have to be such a wet-blanket on a lovely day like this?" interrupted Dilu. "I can't half understand what you are saying. It's past one-thirty. The library will be open. Let's get moving."

Upul raised his eyes when they walked past him. When they fell on Subodha, he saw she was smiling, and that there was a look of recognition in her eyes. "Hi Upul," she said and asked him "How are you?" in her warm friendly voice. Upul grinned in reply. She waved her hand and walked off.

Upul yearned to talk to her. He wanted to tell her that whereas she had had a choice in deciding what subjects to study for her A/Levels, he had not. He wanted to ask her what Western Classics meant. This was the first he'd heard of such a subject. He wanted to ask her to help him learn English... he wanted..., he checked himself. He was thinking in Sinhala. "Think in English! Think in English!" he muttered to himself as he too began to make his way to the library.

Petals of Esala fell on his shoulders. Sunlight flickered through the leaves and drew cartoons on the stone path. Upul caught a glimpse of Subodha as she vanished behind the doors of the library. He felt happy. He sensed this was the beginning of something marvellous. There was plenty of time to get to know her... after all, this was still the beginning of the first semester...

But he could not continue his line of thought. He realised he was stepping on the fallen petals of the Esala flowers on the ground. He gave up thinking and began to concentrate on preventing his shoes from squashing the tender yellow petals on his path.

Hello out there

To the cute Muslim girl who came to Crescat on February 1 with three friends,
Remember me? I was sitting in front of your table...I like you very much and think of you. Please contact me through this page.
SS (786) black T

My honey Sonu,
I miss you so much. I am still waiting for you. Please contact me. I love you.
Reeza U.K.

My life Esha
Please call me or write to me. I am dying here.

My dearest Shehan Baba,
Happy third birthday! May Allah bless you. May all your dreams come true.
Dada, Mama and brother Enderamulla

To our darling mom,
We hope you have an extra portion of happiness on your birthday. Have a wonderful year! May Allah bless you.
Amjad, Mizra and Arquid

Dream Girl Samanmalee (634),
I have no words to say how much I love you. I'll wait my whole life for you. Please don't avoid me.
You know who I am

Dearest Sarath Sir,
It has been like a dream since you entered my life. You have touched my heart. Please call me. I love you.

My ever loving AC,
I love you very much. Don't ever forget me. I love you from the bottom of my heart.

My ever loving Fara,
Belated Valentine's Day wishes. I really miss you and still do love you more than ever. Please give me a chance to talk to you.
From the guy who gave you a card through a friend from your school

Dear Tushini,
Happy birthday. Best wishes for the future. Remember the time we spent together with Yuganthi. Good luck for your A/Ls.

Dear Ammi,
Please forgive me if I hurt you. It wasn't my fault. Don't be angry. I really love you.

Hey Nuskiya,
Happy 18th birthday. Wish you delightful moments that you can treasure in your heart always.
Farha and Mizra

Dear Chaturanga, (Kandy-Bio)
Have you forgotten about me? I have been worried since that super fax. Call me!
From Crazy lover BIDS

My loving Iresha,
I have a soul, a life, a world and hope all because of loving you. (Kiribaddhiya)
Your loving Udhyoga

To the girl I met in front of Suntel, Mount Lavinia on 18/2 around 7.10 pm,
You really captured my heart. Your face, the way you dressed and walked are still on my mind.
From the tall guy who was wearing black jeans and grey shirt
To my sweetheart Manori,
You are the only one in my mind. I am waiting for your love. I really love you.
From Chanaka

To the cute girl who came to the Architectural Exhibition at BMICH on January 23 wearing a black sleeveless top,
I hope you remember me. You are cute and nice and I am dying to meet you. I could not talk to you as your mother was there. But I love you.
From the guy who was looking at you

To Diana,
Happy 20th birthday. May all your dreams come true. Wish you success and hope to see you soon.
Love, Dinali

Avoid computer vision syndrome
The advantages of computers are many as will be verified by all those who prefer using computers to manually maintaining their records which can be a very tedious process. Computers are everywhere today and so are complaints from computer users.
Spending hours in front of computer screens and video display terminals has resulted in people experiencing symptoms like headaches, dry eyes, blurred vision/eyestrain, pain in the shoulders, neck or back, light sensitivity, intolerance to contact lenses, irritable, itchy or scratchy eyes and difficulty in focusing. These symptoms have been grouped together and dubbed as computer vision syndrome or CVS. Adhering to simple precautions can greatly benefit people and help relieve CVS.

Checking CVS
CVS occurs because besides straining the eyes, computer use necessitates excessive eye movement as the user's eyes have to rapidly flicker across the screen. People also tend to blink less since computer operation calls for intense concentration on the screen.

In the process of accommodation and the frequent difference in power required for reading and distant vision while working at the computer, the eyes get fatigued. A fourth of computer users are prone to complain of one or another symptoms of the syndrome after one hour of use. But every one is likely to complain of the symptoms after four or five hours of use. Prolonged computer use has the inherent danger of inducing myopia.

To rid oneself of these painful symptoms one should:

A. Take few minutes' break after every half an hour to one hour while operating the computer. Make it a point to look away from the screen for a minute or two. Splashing of cold water provides some relaxation to the eye.

B. Blink frequently and naturally to keep the eyes moist.

C. Ensure that the eyes are not above or below the computer but at the same level of the screen. The computer screen should be at a distance of 16 - 30 inches from the eyes. The top of the screen can be slightly below horizontal eye level or tilt the top of the screen away from the eyes at an angle of 10 to 20 degrees.

D. Minimise glare on the computer screen with a glare reduction filter.

E. If possible, try to use an adjustable copy folder to place reference material at the same distance from the eyes and as close to the computer screens as viable to avoid changing focus when looking from one to the other. This will also enable less movement of head or eyes back and forth.

F. Avoid too dim or too bright a screen and make sure there is adequate lighting. Use table lamps for jobs that require more light.

G. Clean your computer screen often as dust and fingerprints can reduce clarity.

H. Since itchy or dry eyes are some of the initial symptoms, it is advisable to use eye drops prescribed by your physician.

Doing the convergence exercise twice a day, every morning and evening, is also of benefit to the eyes. It involves holding a pen or pencil at a distance of 25 cm. from the eye and bringing the pencil gradually to the tip of the nose till the pencil tip becomes blurred. The movement should be stopped and the focus should be on the blurred pencil tip till the image becomes one or focused again. This should be repeated for five minutes, making sure that the tip is one each time the pencil is at the tip of the nose.

People with refractive correction should do the exercise wearing their vision correctives like eye glasses or contact lenses.

By educating their patients about these simple basic rules, optometrists can help their patients to deal with CVS easily and alleviate the discomfort caused due to this syndrome.
- Mangala Samarakoon

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