A night drive with Vivien footnote to Richard Boyle Richard Boyle’s fascinating piece on Vivien Leigh reminded me of my encounter with that beautiful star while she was filming Elephant Walk in Sigiriya. I was post-University pre-job and accompanying my father, Asst.Archaeological Commissioner, keeping an eye on the film crew to see they did not [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Letters to the Editors


A night drive with Vivien

footnote to Richard Boyle

Richard Boyle’s fascinating piece on Vivien Leigh reminded me of my encounter with that beautiful star while she was filming Elephant Walk in Sigiriya. I was post-University pre-job and accompanying my father, Asst.Archaeological Commissioner, keeping an eye on the film crew to see they did not desecrate historic sites. I wrote on this in my story “Star Struck on Lion Rock” [in “Quest for Shangri-La”] from which I give this extract:

“Vivien insisted on a ‘day off’ to visit the ruins of Anuradhapura……the trip was to be made at night – and I was picked to be the tour guide.

It was an unforgettable trip. We set off at dusk whooshing along the rarely travelled highway……The jungle lowered darkly as we sped along and, once in a while,we passed the dim glimmer of lonely lamplit huts. At last we reached the Sacred City. This was in that magic era before the peaceful ambience of the ruined temples was despoiled by asphalt roads and over-bright street lights…

We briefly halted by the most imprssive dagabas – Ruvanveliseya, Abhayagiri, Jetavana and Mirisavetiya where I summarily recounted their histories, learnt from my father, while their massive blackness loomed, the flames of little oil lamps flickered and the flowers heaped on the ‘mal asanas’ faintly perfumed the night air. ….A farewell drive along the tree shadowed Tisaweva bund enchanted her with with the quiet lapping wavelets of this huge expanse of water stretching far to the jungle horizon.

As we sped back through the jungle and our car slowed down at a bend in the road Vivien, showing her star temperament, excitedly called a halt. “Let’s have a bonfire.” A heap of brushwood she had glimpsed had inspired this whim.. It was a totally unexpected adventure and our drivers and our ‘support staff’ set to with a will to collect more twigs and branches to satisfy our star. The brushwood was then set alight amid general jollity.

Vivien then said “What’s a bonfire without a sing-song?” All of us now linked arms and swayed around the bonfire inspired by an atavistic impulse towards togetherness. My memory is vague when I try to recall the songs we sang that memorable night. Most of them would have been those hardy perennials “Tipperary”, “Roll out the Barrel”, My Bonnie lies over the Ocean”, and “Irene, Good Night”.

As the fire burned lower and our repertoire was running out of steam Vivien asked “Does any of you know this?” and began quietly singing that mildly ribald ballad “Foggy, foggy, dew”. Fortunately, I did. And that night as as the bonfire quietly dimmed, my tuneless tenor joined Vivien’s soprano to sing of the fair maid whom “the weaver took into bed, and cuddled up her head / To keep her from the foggy, foggy dew”.

Tissa Devendra, Via email

Kamma takes care of criminal act, regardless of death penalty 

This is a response to Valerie Y. Davidson’s letter “In defence of the death penalty” (Sunday Times, July 29, 2012).
Bearing in mind that we live in a predominantly Buddhist country, we hope the following, which is an excerpt from the text titled “Kamma and Causality” by Francis Story (also known as Anagarika Sugathananda) will be helpful.
“Ditthadhamma vedaniya kamma provides us with data for studying the operation of the law of cause and effect objectively. In the usual course of things, crime brings its own consequences in the same lifetime, by a clearly traceable sequence of events, but this does not invariably happen. For a crime to receive its due punishment, a complicated machinery of causes has to be brought into operation.

“First, there has to be the act of crime, kamma. Its punishment then depends upon the existence of criminal laws, of a police force, of the circumstances that enable the criminal to be detected, and many subsidiary factors. It is only when all these combine that the crime receives its due punishment in the same lifetime.

“If the external factors are missing, the kamma alone will not bring about its consequences immediately and we say the criminal has gone unpunished. This, however, is not the case. Sooner or later, either in the same lifetime or a subsequent one, circumstances will link together, albeit indirectly, and give an opportunity for the kamma to produce its results.
“Hence, from the Buddhist standpoint, the question of capital punishment rests not on considerations of mercy to the murderer, which must always be a source of contention, since mercy to a criminal implies a social injustice to the victim and lack of protection to potential victims; it rests on a consideration of the kamma-resultants to those who are instrumental in punishing him with death, since it is kamma of the worst order to kill or cause another to take life.
“It is not possible here to enter into a discussion of the moral difference between the action of one who kills another from greed or anger and one who carries out a sentence of death in the course of duties to society. That there is a difference cannot be doubted, yet for Buddhist psychology, it is clear that no act of killing can be accomplished without the arising of a hate-impulse in the mind.

“To take life quite disinterestedly, as advocated in the Bhagavad Gita, is a psychological impossibility. There must, in any case, be desire for the accomplishment of the act, or the act itself could never be carried out. This applies to every action except those performed by the Arahat. Since there is no ‘unchanging Atman’, no distinction can be made between the deed and the doer.”

C. Ranasinghe, Colombo 7

Academics turned politicos must think before they write

As a former Fulbright scholar, I read with interest Ramya Jirasinghe’s article that appeared in the Sunday Times of July 29, 2012.I then read with dismay Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha’s inaccurate reference to Ramya Jirasinghe as “an employee of the US government”, “a staffer” and the like in his latest diatribe in the Daily Mirror of August 8.

Had Mr. Wijesinha read the credit-line that appeared in the Sunday Times as closely as he seems to have for his narrow purposes the article itself, he would not have made this significant error. It was clear that she works for and at the bi-national US-Sri Lanka Fulbright Commission.A cursory glance at the Fulbright Commission website would reveal that the Commission has been functioning in Sri Lanka for the past 60 years and governed by a board comprising equal numbers of Sri Lankan and US government officers and citizens as it members, with neither government having veto power. The programme is funded by both governments with the aim of providing academic opportunities for Sri Lankan and US citizens.

To date, more than 1,030 US and Sri Lankan academics (mainly Sri Lankan university cadre, completing their Master’s and postdoctoral research that is required for tenure positions) have got the opportunity to study and research each other’s countries.Wijesinha’s error makes us lesser mortals wonder whether our professorial academics turned politicians are unable to read with comprehension though they be literate.Attention to detail, we are told by our university teachers, is the hallmark of a responsible academic. Perhaps those academics turned (appointed not elected) politicians are not concerned with time-honoured values that true academics uphold.

I wish to share a passing thought with the academic community in general. Should not we demand from politicians who, at the end of the day, are accountable to us citizens, that they think before they write vituperative and inaccurate stuff that they frequently do? Comment may well be free, but are not facts any longer sacred?

Nissanka Gunasekera-Kurunegala

That Reid was definitely not this Reed

Whilst agreeing with Tilak Fernando that roads should not be renamed willy-nilly (the Sunday Times, August 5), I write to point out that the Reid after whom Reid Avenue was named is not the Reed of ‘School of our Fathers’ fame.
That Reid was Mayor of Colombo who in 1924 laid the foundation stone for the Town Hall in Colombo which was completed in 1927.

So one should not fault among others the Royal College Union, the present Principal (who notwithstanding not being an old boy carries on the school’s traditions to the best of his ability or the sons of Phillip Gunawardena (who all passed through the school’s halls of learning) for their apparent disinterest or inaction, over the renaming of Reid Avenue.
Major T. Reid should not be confused with Major H.L. Reed.

That Reid was definitely not this Reed.

M.I. Bahar – Kadawatha

Gatecrasher at almsgiving: Food for thought

My heart goes out today to President Mahinda Rajapaksa whose popularity seems to have plunged especially among his Cabinet of Ministers. Where in better times they would have fallen over themselves to invite him to their house-warming all night pirith ceremonies and would have afforded him honour and respect, the President has now been reduced to gatecrashing their almsgivings.

The President did make a beeline to the almsgiving and have his frugal lunch of greens and rice. But apart from the popularity reason, I wonder whether there is something far more serious that prompted the President to flout all norms of social etiquette and determinedly gatecrash almsgivings.

Could it, heaven forbid, be due to the insurmountable problem that besets his millions of subjects? The rising cost of living where in order to survive till tomorrow it has become necessary to scrounge a free meal from another today?

Dhammika Seneviratne – Dehiwela

Hymn for Sri Lanka

(The words and music of this hymn were composed by Lakshman Kannangara, whose birth and death anniversaries both fall in August.)

Look down upon Sri Lanka
Our lovely land, O Lord.
Keep it from harm and danger,
To us thy grace afford.
Keep this our land united,
Our people as one kin.
The flame of peace ignited,
To cleanse us of our sin.
To each no one a stranger
Let Lankans so abide.
Look down upon Sri Lanka
Our Counsellor and Guide.

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