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2nd May 1999

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Farewell to a wonderful teacher

A slight breeze ran through the red and white carnations. Outside the window the jungle green leaves of the young jak fruit trees stirred slightly. The big classroom was flooded with sunlight. Facing the students of English of the University of Kelaniya sat Prof. D.C.R.A. Goonetillake, Dr. Manique Gunasekera, Ms. Eisha Hewabowela, Ms. Maithree Wickremesinghe and Dr. Lakshmi de Silva.

A more simple, humble farewell, there could never have been. The morning of April 26, 1999, saw the English Department of the University of Kelaniya bidding goodbye to one of the doyens of English Literature in Sri Lanka - Dr. Lakshmi de Silva.

The single decoration that marked the occasion, a vase brimming with lotuses, was symbolic. Flouting every first year student's suspicion that the Head of the Department of English could not speak Sinhala, for Dr. de Silva is as much a don in Sinhala Literature as she is in English-no other flower than the lotus would have done justice as a symbol of her achievements.

At her lectures there would not have been a single student who would not have gasped with awe at the way she could quote entire passages from Chaucer, Shakespeare, Wyatt, Dryden and on occasion, the Kausilumina.

The farewell did not last more than sixty minutes. As she took leave of her present batch of undergraduates her mind would undoubtedly have wandered towards the past, to all those who had been her students down the years.

And for a moment the air seemed to mingle with their presence - the spirits of writers, poets, dramatists, editors and lecturers nurtured by her seemed to join those who were present to bid farewell to a wonderful teacher.

Outside the window the asela flowers paused briefly in their rhythmic swaying. The squirrels stopped their incessant chatter. Nature too held its breath.

As she walked out with the bouquet of flowers, the only gift she would accept as a farewell present, the students stood in silence, their hearts filled with love and gratitude.

What Socrates, Aristotle or Abelard were to their disciples, Dr. Lakshmi de Silva in her quiet, unobtrusive ways, has been to the young aspiring undergraduates of English Literature, of the University of Kelaniya. -Aditha Dissanayake

In her mother's footsteps

By Roshan Peiris

Shanthi Casie ChettyShanthi Casie Chetty, wife of diplomat Daneshan Casie Chetty has a flawless complexion and statuesque good looks. Proud to follow in the footsteps of her mother, Anita Dickman, Shanthi has written a cookery book, a well illustrated publication titled "Anita Dickman's Cookery Course". This is written as a tribute to her mother.

"I am a cookery teacher by profession. Before I went abroad with my husband I taught cookery at home to young housewives in the making and even to experienced housewives too. I am also a Chartered Secretary.

"In India where we were posted, I did not give cookery demonstrations, but learnt much of the intricate Indian cooking.

"In fact, in Indonesia and Belgium where my husband was Ambassador I made it my vocation to follow cookery classes."

In Indonesia Shanthi wrote a special feature on Sri Lankan cookery for an Indonesian magazine. "A clever way to publicise our country," she said.

"Indonesian cooking too has spices, especially Padang near Sumatra," said Shanthi. "They are very similar to us in the choice of food. But of course, they were both intrigued and delighted at tasting our string- hoppers and hoppers. I did make pol mallun since Indonesians are used to coconut in their food. I also made the other accompaniments that go with stringhoppers and hoppers such as ambul thiyal, seeni sambol and fish curry. They loved it all.

"I also demonstrated for women's groups including Ambassadors' wives the art of making our curries, sambols and yellow rice. I did it to show how we Sri Lankan's liked our food, not with a view to earning money unless it was to collect money for charitable causes."

In Belgium, she said, the wives of Ambassadors met often at each others' homes for tea.

"I not only served them patties, cutlets, kavums and kokis for tea but demonstrated to an eager and attentive group how to make yellow rice. The Belgians being adventurous said they liked to eat as the Lankans do, so I made seeni sambol and egg plant pahe (brinjal pahe) using paprika, the red variety instead of chillie powder.

"I learnt to make chocolates the Belgian way. The cocoa was from the African countries. I used the Belgian chocolates and did different kinds of fillings such as liqueur, hazel nuts and the like. Over here of course I use cadjunuts.

"At the tea parties of the Asia Pacific Women's Association we did demonstrate our different cuisines. It was quite an experience to learn so many different cuisines while attending a tea party."

Shanthi is an ideal wife for a diplomat with her fetching ways, good looks and desire to help make our country known through her cooking.

"I always wanted to follow in the footsteps of my mother Anita Dickman and so I am glad I took to teaching cookery to young girls and adults."

It can, Shanthi said, be an absorbing profession.

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