Ask for the Popham Arboretum and most people in Dambulla will shrug their shoulders. But ask for ‘Suddage Watte’ and they will direct you to the man-made jungle just two km from the town on the Kandalama Road. An arboretum (Ruk Gomuwa) is a place where trees are grown for study and display as a tree garden, without allowing unnecessary undergrowth. “Unnecessary bushes and undergrowth are controlled manually letting the big trees grow freely.
Need a paddy strain which can resist salinity in the soil, a variety which will withstand a drought and not leave the farmers wringing their hands in despair or a disease-resistant kind to bring a bountiful harvest and ease the burden of consumers in times when rice prices have sky-rocketed. What of the other major crops in the country - tea and rubber bringing in all-important foreign exchange and coconut, also so pricey these days, essential for that hot pol-sambol?
Sometime in 1964, Savoy cinema in Colombo screened the first James Bond movie Dr No, with Sean Connery aiming that .25 Beretta fitted with a silencer; the sexy Ursula Andress in that inevitable white bikini with side-strapped dagger emerging like a phoenix from the Caribbean sea. We were then grade ten students at Royal College Colombo. Connery in the plush casino answering a beaut across the green baize, “Bond, James Bond,” while lighting one of his Morland Specials with a gunmetal Ronson against that famous theme, made an indelible impact in a bizarre way on our sensitive psyches. We switched from reading Chase to Fleming’s Bond books. Although we did not know it then, Ian Fleming had died in the same year on August 12.