Sunday, December 30, 2007


Greetings from Allister & Helen in, Melbourne, Victoria, OZ!

A simple, small, yet, sincere attempt to capture and record the wonderful memories of events, people, places and time during our young days in Colombo when I lived down Mary's Road, at Bambalapitiya.

Many are the people who we mingled with, had fun, cried and laughed, during those wonderful old times that will always linger in our hearts and minds forever.

The numerous characterrs who crossed our paths, in good times and difficult ones, the many places we haunted, away from the prying eyes of parents and elders, and the many magical mysteries we encountered will be portrayed within this blog.

Stories, anecdotes, events, people and places, related to these times and places will be featured on this blog on an on-going basis. Contributions from neighbors friends and relatives are warmly welcome. Please send mail to


F's Place - A trip into the many wondroues people and places of Colombo

Lanka Personalities - The wonderful people of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Genealogy

Royal People - The people behind Royal College, Colombo


Wesley College Official Website
Wesley College OBU of Australia
Wesley College OBU of UK
Wesley College OBU of USA
John Wesley
Rev Daniel Henry Pereira
Rev Henry Highfield
College Prefects
Vernon Achilles
Double Blue Bulletin
Old Wesleyites in OZ
The Band of Double Blue [Dr Nihal Amarasekera]

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The way the Cokie conquered!

The way the middle class urban people of Ceylon kept home and cooked in the old days: (based on an interview conducted with a Burgher lady in Colombo whose Mum was 80 and living at the time). The lifestyle described applies to all middle and upper class urban communities of that bygone era in Sri Lanka.

Q1. What do you recall of your mother’s/grandmother’s dealings with preparing the meal for the household?

My paternal grandmother lived down High Street (now W A Silva Mawatha) in Wellawatte in Colombo 6. It was a very large and sprawling old house, very open and airy with big open Verandahs, and at the back of the house, was the Servants Quarters. There was a cook, a houseboy, a driver and an "ayah" (maid).

There was also the rickshaw man, and the tailor who lived in separate rooms outside. My grandmother would summon the cook, Jane, to her and would discuss with her the menu for the day, every morning. I do not remember my grandmother ever doing much cooking herself, but when she wanted something special made (like her famous "Pol Kiri Badun” A coconut milk dish) which she always wanted made for her youngest child, my dad, she did it herself! Jane's was never good enough-- Jane herself told me this several times when she later worked in our home!!

Q2. Did they, as many of my relatives seem to have, sit down with a cook at the start of a day and decide what the meals for the day would be and then send the cook off with the money to buy the produce?

I think I have already answered that question by my answer above! I remember the driver being sent off to do the purchasing, but not daily. They bought quite a lot and stocked the fridges (referigerator’s). But probably they did so before fridges were a part of their lives.

Q3. Who dealt with the hawkers who came to the door? My aunts remember that my granny was very particularly about the quality of the meat the cook brought home and wasn’t about sending her back to get something better?

My mother often told us of how her mother dealt with hawkers herself, and yes, she was so very particular about the quality. Mum used to say that the woman selling cashews would bring her entire basket of nuts to my grandmother (who was an expert sweet-meat maker) and Granny would choose all the biggest nuts.

Of course they paid for the nuts by the 100 in those days. Also fresh live chickens used to be brought to the door by vendors, and Granny would chose the heaviest ones. The same with eggs and crabs etc My granny would make her famous marzipans, cheese straws and chocolate fudge with the freshest of ingredients.

During the World War II, when nothing was imported, Cargills (and/or Millers) asked my Granny to supply them with her famous sweets to replace all the imported ones, and she became quite famous for it.

Furthermore, the older folk had the competitive knack of bargaining with the many vendors who used to call over at their doorstep on a daily basis. There were the fishmongers, of whom Martha Akka from Moratuwa was famous in Bambalapitiya and Wellawatte, the green “Keera” vendors, and the fruit vendors. They all carried wicker basketloads of produce on their weary heads and trekked all the way to Colombo from far corners, viz Panadura, Moratuwa, and even Gampaha.

Dealings with these vendors was done n Shillings (a legacy of the British Pound, Shilling & pence currency system of old), where One Shilling was equivalent to Ceylon Fifty Cents. The vendors were also smart enough to fix their prices according to the bargaining capabilities of the buyers and it was a cat and mouse game, so exciting to watch, every morning at these homes within the many towns of Colombo.

Then there was the broomstick vendor who trudged along on his four-wheeled contraption carrying all kinds of brooms, mops, Ekel Brooms for raking in the leaves, floor mats and cleaning equipment. On his footsteps came the Gotmaba Roti man in the evenings, clanging away his metal Gothamba ladle on to the sides of his cart making a din that coulkd be heard a mile away. Complementing this gang was he Kadalai man, who carried his load in a basin on his head, filled with all varieties of spicy gram, chic peas, and nuts.

Gone are these door to door salesmen and saleswomen of yore who provided an excellent service of delivering fresh produce to almost every single home in the city.

Q4. Did they rely on the cook to cook the breakfast and the lunch, and have more of a hand in the dinner?

Yes! They did rely on the cooks to cook breakfast and lunch, but very often, they did the dinner themselves. Breakfast was always string-hoppers, hoppers, roti or other "local" food, mostly. I remember the “Ogurulang” (is that how it is spelt??) a kind of loose scrambled egg dish with lots of onions and dill seed which was always there with the string-hoppers and “kiri hodhi” (yelloe coconut milk gravy) and “pol sambol” (red hot chili-coconut scraping mix).

The table was laid along with the teapot, full of steaming hot tea covered by a cloth tea-cosy on a separate wooden tray, along with the cups and saucers, sugar and milk and the tea strainer on a separate saucer.

Lunch always consisted of rice, beef curry and fish curry, three vegetable curries, a “mallun” (spicy green leaf mix), something fried, and several bottles of chutneys and pickles. Fruit always followed.

Q5. Were there dishes that your mother/grandmother would never let the cooks make? My granny always made the Christmas cake, for example.

Of course! the revered Christmas Cake and Breudher were never made by anyone else! My maternal grandma did much more cooking than my paternal Nanna. Granny was a big strong Irish woman with her hair in a bun who did lots of cooking. Nanna was a petite genteel darling of a woman who married my grandfather when she was only 18 and the "Belle of Kalutara" and he a much older and previously married man. He wed her and brought her to Colombo and bought 3 houses for her, two in Wellawate and one in Colpetty. Needless to say, he spoiled her rotten, and she had servants at her beck and call, so did not do much cooking herself.

Granny on the other hand, did loads of cooking! She had her specials. Jewel like Marzipans which were laid out to "bake" in the sun, and looked too good to eat! Then she made her famous trotter stew-- heavenly! Then there was her Turkish Delight, Marshmallows, Chocolate Fudge, etc.

Q6. Did your family follow the common pattern of having rice and curry for lunch and a more European style meal for dinner? Whose recipes were used for the latter, or for any of the European style meals?

Yes, dinner was and still is with us, a more European meal. I remember my mother throwing her hands up in exasperation when once interviewing a cook who, when asked what "issaraha kaama" (“the first meal” or European food) she knew, she replied "Istew, Bistake, Cutlis"!! (meaning Stew, Beef Steak and Cutlets). Mother exclaimed "that is all they know to make". The dinners I remember in my home (or at my grandmothers or aunts') usually was a Stew, or Steak and Kidney Pie, Kedgeree, Bombay Roast, Crumb Chops, with the accompanying vegetables etc.

If we had string-hoppers for dinner, they would be accompanied by Mulligatawny, Beef Curry, Pol Mallun (A chillie hot coconut scraping mix with “Kooni” small dried shrimp) and sometimes Potato “Thel Dhala” (fried in oil). My grandmother’s and Mother all had their own recipes for these dishes, and all of them tasted different when cooked by any of them, but equally delicious.

Q7. Did you have a cook at all? Was the cook male or female? How old were they when they came into service? Where did they come from? How did your mother/grandmother know about where to find them?

Yes, my grandmother's cook, Jane, came to work for us when my Dad got married to my Mum. She was already trained by Nanna, and knew exactly what Daddy liked to eat!! Nanna made sure of that! When she left, we had a male cook, a Tamil man from a tea estate who had cooked for the British planters and who always kept a poker face and stood stock still to attention when spoken to. My brother and I tried so hard to make him relax and laugh awhile, but he just refused to do so! My cousins were planters, and usually servants were recruited from the old Colonial style Tea Estates.

From what I know of my grandparent's servants, and my aunt’s, servants came to work for them at a very young age, and generally stayed on till a ripe old age. Jane went to work for Nanna when she was very young, and worked for my parents for many years, taking care of me as a baby as well.

She even came back to work for me after I married and cooked for me when I had my first baby! I have an aunt whose cook, Soma, has been with her for over 47 years!

Usually servants who worked for one person brought along others from their villages for family and friends whenever needed.

Q8. How were the cooks paid? Did they get holidays? Where did they sleep and eat?

The servants in our homes had their own quarters--separate rooms and bathrooms. Salaries of course varied with the times, but were usually not very much. These people were so very poor and had next to nothing in their villages, so it was a massive privilege to work in our homes and live comfortable lives.

They were paid monthly, and were given holidays usually for the Sinhala & Tamil New Year, when they went home having spent a lot of their earnings on new colored cotton fabrics for the women’s “cloths" (traditional lower wrap-around garment) and jackets and also for the men's sarongs. They would return from their villages with a box full of Sinhala/Tamil festival sweetmeats that consisted of “Kavun” (oil cakes), “Kokis” (Oil fried Cookies), “Bibikkan” (Jaggery & Coconut Cake), “Kalu Dodol” (Jaggery & Coconut Sweet), “Aasmi” (Coconut Oil fried Crispies) etc.!

Q9. Did the cook or other servant serve at table? Did they get specially dressed for it?

Yes, usually the houseboy attended to the serving at the table. He had to be nattily dressed, always, when doing so.

Q10. Did the cook or other servants speak much English? Could they read English?

No, they never spoke English, and considered it very rude to do so, but for sure they understood the language very well! Our old cook from the plantations, Arumugam, spoke English in a quaint way.

Q11. What was the feeling of the relationship(s) of the cook and servants to your family?

Servants of those days were very respectful, and humble. In our homes they were always treated very well--but were never allowed to eat with us at our table of course. They also had their own plates and cups--they could never use ours. They never sat on chairs, but on a low bench, doorstep, or on the bare floor. They slept on mats on the floor, never on beds. This was what they were used to in their villages. Usually the children in the family were closest to the servants, and next the lady of the household, but last of all the master. He would have little or nothing to do with the servants except maybe the driver.

Q12. Were any of the cooks/servants married and/or have kids during their service?

None of our servants were married.

Q13. What did they cook on? Was the kitchen inside or outside the house? What fuel was used?

They cooked, in the early years, on Wood Fires (a multi brick/stone contraption that held the cooking utensils on top of it and used firewood as fuel) and later on, on imported Keresone and Gas Cookers, inside the house.

Most homes had two kitchens. One more or less used as a pantry for preparation and storage of utensils, while the other was the real kitchen, with chimney et al to disperse the smoke from the wood fires into the air and keep it away from the house.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

William Aiya meets King Kong

William Aiya of Maradana challenges - wrestler King Kong

It was early fifties as I recall the Illustrious Showman, the late Mr. Donovan Andree - got down world famous wrestlers, i.e. Dara Singh, King Kong, Tiger Holden (Australia), Red Scorpion, Ali Riza Bey (Egypt), The Flying French man - George Pencheff - Flying Kick Expert, "Angel Face" - Zibisco, Haraban Singh, Hooded Terror etc.

Referee was Wong Bock Lee. These open air Bouts were held at B.R.C. Grounds, Colombo. The Late Mr. Donovan Andree was also responsible for organising shows like "Holiday On Ice" and the "Harlen Blackbirds" at the B.R.C. Grounds, Col. 7.

I can remember somewhere in 1955 - Donovan Andree was voted "Personality of the Year" by 'Ceylon Observer' readers, and if I am not mistaken Sir John Kotelawela came second. Mr. Andree was awarded the "Stanvac Trophy" (Standard Vacuum Co.) by the Ceylon Observer. He was the one who introduced Erin de Selfa - top Singer who I met at the Kinross Club - Wellawatte sometime ago - before the dreaded Tsunami. Years ago she sang at the London Paladium.

In 1980, Mr. Semage - got down wrestlers, Dhara Singh, John Powers (tattoed all over his body). The Prince etc. held at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium - I took my very young 2 sons and wife to these bouts - Mr. Semage gave me passes - for this - my wife was attached to the President's Office then.

Jiffry Younoos (Deceased - Lake House) and I Premil Ratnayake (Lake House) and a crowd of about 15 went to B.R.C. Grounds - for a wresting event. With us was Williyam Aiya of Maradana, who owned a Club, with a small billiard table opposite Ananda College. Next to this Club, a big water sump was built and filled with water by the A.R.P. (Air Raid Precautions), this was wartime. William Aiya was a tough Guy and very straight, pint sized mazcular man, a James Cagney look, and very much tattoed on his chest were the words, "Budhu Sasuna Babeleva" and along the shoulders were the words, "Danna Apita Boru Mokatada" tattoed.
All of us sat on tiers - cheaper seats. First came Tiger Holden a real villain - smoking a cigar and mug of beer in his hand - he used to drink the beer and throw the mug at the crowd, who hooted him. He would burn his opponent and the Referee Wong Bock Lee - with his cigar, and be disqualified. But, he would not leave the ring - minutes later Dhara Singh and Ali Riza Bey - climbed the stage and removed him bodily - but he gave them a fight too.

Most popular with local audience was Dhara Singh, Ali Riza Bey and Haraban Singh - most hated were "Tiger" Holden, King Kong and "Angel Face" Zibisco because they played foul and even manhandled the referee. Flying Frenchman George Pencheff - always a favourite with some superb Flying Kicks.

The Grounds B.R.C. was always full for these fights one by one the fights ended. The last for the night was King Kong vs Dhara Singh - referee Wong Bock Lee. People cheered as Dhara came on to the ring - he bowed to the crowd. When King Kong came on stage, he was greeted with hoots - spat at the audience and showed his fists threatening the on-lookers. During the fight King Kong assaulted the Referee, when ordered to go to his corner.

He grabbed Dhara's eyes with his fingers, bit his ear, and at the end, Dhara was bleeding from his forehead and carried away in a stretcher. Some people say that these fights are staged - but we do not take this for a fact. Everyone was worked up now - as their favourite Dhara Singh was carried away in a stretcher William Aiya was the worst effected and angry.

William Aiya was a straight forward guy, who I have witnessed, taken on two or three tough guys at once, and also I remember Kalu Abey of Waidya Road, Dehiwela, still living taken on more than that and even challenged two Mr. Ceylons at the venue on the day of the final selection. William Aiya told us and a few of the crowd to come with him to King Kong's tent, which we did - about 25 of us, we reached his tent, and William Aiya stood closest to the tent and shouted "Ado King Kong Waren Do" several times and we were all joining him in the shouting.

After about few minutes King Kong emerged out of his tent - with a chair in his hand, lifted high above his head, dashed it on the ground and with a big roar - came towards us - what happened then was history - we took to our heels, falling over each other and ran for dear life. I cannot remember how I went home. I met William Aiya - only 2 weeks later - at Maradana and he gave me a sheepish look and did not utter word about King Kong.

- Maurice Dahanayake



“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven”
Wordsworth: Preludes

In the Nineteen Forties and early Fifties, Bambalawatte was the centre of the universe. It was where all the meaningful action took place and where the principal actors were mainly Burghers and a group of expatriates drawn from half a dozen nationalities.

This was brought most forcibly to my mind after reading the recent obituaries which appeared in the local press – one to Zoe Jayatilleke by Tita Nathanielsz; the other to David Gladwin Loos , C.C.S.. by Bradman Weerakoon.

The two articles made reference to a host of distantly remembered persons who figured prominently in those halcyon days, persons who were just names to me but spoken of quite frequently by, or were known to, my younger aunts like Beryl and Aileen and older cousins such as Allanson, Rene, Noel and Inez.

Bradman Weerakoon in his appreciation of David Loos brought to mind a dozen or so distinguished young Burgher Civil Servants of that time. While David stood out as the “Adonis” in that constellation there were others equally note-worthy such as Neville Jansz, Anton Mc Heyzer, Donald Speldewinde, Raine Wright and someone whose Christian names alone made an indelible impression on my generation of Government Service collegues as we perused the old “Civil List” – Dirk Philippus Rutgert Paulusz.

In various ways they distinguished themselves during their period in the C.C.S., despite the fact that many left prematurely either to take up more lucrative appointments in the private sector or to seek their fortunes abroad. I am informed that even in today’s war-affected Vavuniya, a portrait of Donald Speldewinde continues to hold pride of place in the Kachcheri, while the MacHeyzer Stadium is still the main venue for sports in Trincomalee.

The persons referred to in the Zoe Jayatilleke obituary included Harry Nightingale, the swimming coach; Greg Roskowski; Rolf Sando Mirsky; Marjorie Sample; Dr. Justin “Dadda” Flamer-Caldera and his brood; Harry and Olga Koch;Stanley and Christobel Livera; ‘Budgie’ Metzeling; the Driebergs and the Felsinger sisters Jean and Miriam. Though not referred to, other names conjured up by association were Yvonne Gulam-Hussain (nee Toussaint); Dr Larry Foenander, Rodney Jonklaas and Trevor Oliver (Tod) Dias.

Associated with the above and what gave Colombo at that time a very cosmopolitan character was Yvonne Bradley, a dance instructress from England; Madame Maryse Fumet, a French cookery expert; Thelma Kai who taught Hawaiian dancing and the Hawaiian guitar; Rupert Wagn, a Dane who taught the piano; Frank Harrison, a ballroom dancing teacher from Australia and Gerd Von Dinklage, a German who was Sri Lanka’s pioneer spear-fisherman..

To these must be added Ms. Marjorie Sample and Mrs. Spencer Shepherd and the two earlier mentioned Poles, Greg Roskowski and Rolf Sando-Mirsky, the latter name also bringing to mind his preferred mode of transport- the Triumph Speed Twin on which he met his untimely death..

The scenes of much of the activities of the above named were the Otters Swimming Club; the B.R.C.., Colts Cricket Club, and the Havelock Rugger Club. Strangely the D.B.U. did not feature in their revels, being much too straight-laced for the likes of the above.

A major influence in fashioning this sub-culture was the newly created Commercial Service of Radio Ceylon, headed by Clifford Dodd and assisted by Livy Wijemanne, Bob Harvey and Norton Pereira. The last of that line of Mohicans, Jimmy Barucha passed away earlier this year, creating a great void in the lives of many people of my vintage. What great pleasure Jimmy gave my aunt Daisy and me in Mutwal every Saturday night with his radio programme “Melodies that Linger”: and his characteristic introduction to each singer – “Now approaching mike- side is………”

But this little microcosm of life could not withstand the political changes that rapidly swept Ceylon from the mid 1950s. Most of the people referred to emigrated to Australia, U.K. or Canada while some of the expatriates returned to their countries of origin. The process for me was completed when we no longer saw “Pinkie” Gerreyn and Johnny Ayscough trawling the streets of Bambalawatte, the former on his Harley-Davidson, the latter in his Standard 8 Tourer.

Like many an ageing Burgher, I bemoan the passing of that happy, innocent era when men wore lounge suits or, at least, long-sleeved shirts and cravats to the 6 o’clock film show at the Majestic and the Savoy and their ladies wore hats and gloves to evensong at the DRC Church, Arethusa Lane, Wellawatte.

But “ tempus fugit “ and all of us have to accept the necessary changes which time must inevitably bring . As Shakespare wrote –

Golden lads and girls all must ,
As chimney sweepers, come to dust

Rodney Vandergert

Christmas in Sri Lanka

Christmas in the good old days
By Noel Crusz

Here I am on the ocean liner THE PACIFIC SKY in the Coral Sea on a pre-Christmas voyage from Sydney to New Caledonia.

The memories of how we celebrated Christmas in Sri Lanka come back.

The house was painted, the walls white-washed with low black taredgings all round the rooms and the chairs were re-cushioned. The traveling tailor came home, measured the rooms, and made the curtains on ourold Singer sewing machine.

Red Mansion polish was applied on the cement floor, which got a shine from a heavy handled brush. Cake making was a ritual, where my mother laid the rules and we offered to help. We ate a good many cadjunuts and raisins There was the wooden ice-box with sawdust and a heavy metal covering for slabs of ice.

Two weeks before Christmas the children were taken in a hired car toPettah's Main Street. The well known shoe store was T.G.M. Perera's and we were fitted with the best shoes. Even Jamaliya's Shoe Store in Wellawatta took in orders for boots, the teenage fashion of the thirties.Before World War II, there was Ono & Co. This Japanese toy shop owned by a Mr. Numano had a wonderful array of toys from Japan.

The Main Street tailor measured us, as we provided China silk for our shirts. The silk of course was bought in early November from the Chinese peddlers who plied their trade on bicycles. Some of the Chinamen carried their bundles on their back, with a heavy stick for balance. Main Streetin Pettah in the early thirties was very narrow. It had to cope with the tram lines and bullock carts. Our Christmas shopping included a visit to X.P. Paivas for lunch andice cream. Round the corner was The Rupee Store, where for one rupee you could buy many things. Millers, Cargills, Simes and Whiteaways dominated the Fort shopping.We went to Hunters and Siedles and The Roche Brothers shops for many items.

I cannot forget the shopping in the golden mile of Colpetty, Bambalapitiya and Wellawatta. The Wickremesinghe Brothers headed by George imported the famous Mende Radiograms from Germany.We cannot forget the well known shops in Wellawatta: M.P. Gomez, A.W. Jansz, J.B. De Pinto, Nooranis, Jamaliya's Boot Works and many famous boutiques.

As a boy I went with my father to A.W. Jansz's store near High Street. We bought Dutch Edam Cheese, as an accompaniment for the Christmas breudher. I still remember Jansz bellowing to a tardy salesman:"What are you standing there shooting 'papaws'! Jansz sold liquor and all types of hardware. We bought wire-netting to build chicken coops.

The shopping spree in Colombo included a visit to Pilawoos for atreat of buriyani. Elephant House played a significant part in booking Christmas cakes. Yet there was one last item that was in the shopping list: Fireworks. We gazed in wonder at the array of fireworks in the Fireworks Palace opposite the Fort Railway Station. Sparklers, Roman candles, sky rockets, Catherine wheels, squibs, crackers of every size were there in the showcase. Christmas was on. The cake was made and sent to the bakery. The servants were pounding and roasting, making string hoppers and pittu, cutting up A.W. Jansz ham, with cutlets and seeni sambol. Churches saw long queues at the Confessional.

I remember well the Allied troops celebrating Christmas in Ceylon. In the Seminary in St. Francis Zavier in Bambalapitiya, the African troops came for Midnight Mass.

In Bandarawela, the Italian prisoners of war, brought tears when theysang the Adeste Fideles.

As I look out now at a placid sea, the Christmas memories for an expatriate find no sequence. There were Christmas trees from up-country estates sent by train. Carol parties on Christmas Eve went about in lorries.

Arthur Van Langenberg helped me to stage a massive Christmas pageant on Christmas Eve at St. Lucia's Cathedral Square in Kotahena. There were hundreds in the cast. The beautiful teenager Camille Cramer played Mary, as she was seated astride on a real donkey, led by a young doctor, who played Joseph. As Gerry Paul hit the Police drums, the donkey took off, with Josephclinging to its tail, and the audience, including Mary in ripples of laughter. As midnight came, there were a never-ending sound of fireworks andsky rockets, that would surely have awoken the Christ Child.

Carol parties came to the doorstep. At Kawdana, children in costume came around singing Sinhala carols. A hand cart with an illuminated crib was thebackdrop. They even brought a portable harmonium. Of course the homes saw families sitting for a feast of string hoppers, ham, breudher, cheese, mulligatany and cake. There were presents near the family Christmas tree.

The postman, the dhoby, the baker, the fishmonger were the regular Christmas early birds. They all got cash, plus a tot of arrack or gin.

As children we waited eagerly for the Sakkili Band. These were the poor men and women who carried the night soil buckets, before the water closet and drainage era. Many householders were generous in the cash tips they gave them. An extra pint of arrack helped them in their dance!

The famous Kukul Charlie also made his trek down all the lanes. Those were the days when Donovan Andree dominated and enriched the local entertainment scene. Donovan brought down the Ice Follies. Soon night came once more. We lit our fireworks, saw the servants lighting the big Roman candles and sky rockets.

The radio blasted yuletide melodies.As my ship went on its voyage, I was dreaming not of a 'White Christmas', but of the Christmases I spent in Sri Lanka. Nowhere in the world did I ever experience Christmas, as the Ceylonese prepare and enjoy it. I can still hear the hustle and bustle in Pettah, the cries of the street vendors and the pavement hawkers. The wailing of the mamma-pappa balloon, the rattle of the toy-carts, and the delicacies from the gram sellers are unforgettable.An Aussie Christmas is pea-nuts compared to a Christmas in Ceylon.

I do not wonder why my parents christened me Noel, and my sister Noeline.

I am reminded of J.P. de Fonseka who gave lustre to Christmas writing. He edited the Christmas issue of St. Mary's parish bulletin in Bambalapitiya. He wrote: "St. Thomas Aquinas theology avoids the Christmas cake and wine and toys and crackers and family reunions of children and parents... He considers the mystery of the GOD man, without whom the Christmas wines rejoice not and the crackers crack in vain."

[sent in by Anne-Marie Kellar in Colombo, whose parents marriage was solemnized by the Rev Fr. Noel Crusz during the time he was a priest]

Noel Crusz, the author of this wonderful piece, was the priest who married my parents at St Mary's Church Bambalapitiya in 1954. He was Dad's classmate and best buddy, and as a Wedding gift to my Dad he had arranged for Bing Crosby (who was in India at the time) to sing at the wedding, my Dad being a huge fan..Sadly, it was not to be, as Bing Crosby fell ill with diarrhea and could not make it.Noel Crusz gave up the priesthood and became a layman-- and achieved fame as a writer, journalist and broadcaster here and in Australia.

I really don't know if it's something in the air that is making so many people reminisce in the past few days of the "good ole days", as I've been getting so many such emails from folk all over the world, reminiscing about the days gone by!! They all are so nice to read and, even though I don't consider myself "an ageing Burgher" like this writer does, I still find lights coming on in the cobwebs of my mind when I read all these beautiful articles! Memories of the old days when we Burghers would never attend a wedding unless we had stockings, hat and gloves. And yes, we did dress so well--even to the rugby matches at the Havies and CH, when we wore the latest fashions, and it used to be a treat to the guys to arrive early just to watch the parade of all the outfits! Everyone wore their best to church on Sundays, and no one ever travelled overseas if they were not dressed in their elegant best!

Nowadays, when I see people so shabbily dressed all the time-- even to church, I cannot help but shake my head in disgust. People walk out of their homes to rugby matches, church, the cinema etc dressed as if they had just got out of bed, very often. And it is quite a common sight to see people at airports boarding planes in rubber slippers, shorts and even singlets!And what really makes me mad is seeing female guests at weddings dressed all in black!

My word, whatever happened to etiquette and decency?? It has always been a rule that no guest ever wore either black or white to a wedding! Oh for the days when, as the writer below states, "men wore lounge suits or, at lest long sleeved shirts to the 6 0'clock film show at the Majestic and ladies wore hats and gloves to even song at the DRC church ...."!

Call me oldfashioned, but I would give a lot to go back to those grand old days when people were so very decent and cultured and the way of life here in Colombo was so genteel and altogether so much more "civilised". Well, we can dream, can't we?

Anne-Marie Kellar, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Nov 2006

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Birding in Colombo



Colombo is a bird watchers paradise, and is a prime location for observing our feathered friends and studying their habits, and is unmatched in any other capital city in the world. Few other cities enjoy such a varied landscape as that of

Colombo. Its diversity of scenery is reflected in the wonderful rich bird life that abounds in the gardens of the city.

This article is designed to help recognize and remember some of the common birds that frequented our home gardens, and still do, and it is hoped that it will bring back unforgettable memories of those wonderful days, when we had the time to ,”Stand and Stare” as a poet so aptly put it.

CROWS: The most common bird found in Colombo is the Crow, belonging to the family Corvidae. There are two species, the House Crow (Corvus splendens), Kolamba Kaputa (S) and the Jungle Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos), Kalu Kaputa (S). The House Crow is relatively smaller than the Jungle Crow with smaller beak, smokey-grey neck and glossy wings. Sexes are alike. The Jungle Crow on the other hand is larger with a heavy beak, and the plumage is black throughout. Both species mingle freely, but do not interbreed. Both species are notorious parasites of man and are seldom found at any great distance from human habitation. Their nests are a mass of twigs lines with fibers, and set in a tree with no attempt at concealment. They lay 3 to 5 eggs of a coloration of green to blue.

KOELS: Another common garden bird is the Koel. The Koel belongs to the family Cuculidae (Cuckoos), Koha (S) and is widely distributed in Colombo. Its presence is largely governed by that of the two species of Crows as they often victimize the crows by foisting their eggs on the Crows and leaving them to foster their offspring. Hence the breeding season corresponds with that of Crows.

During the breeding season they are excessively noisy birds with their monotonously reiterated, “ kuuuuuu-kuuuuu-kuuuuuuuu-KUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU”….increasing in pitch, call that can be heard from dawn to dusk emanating from a lofty tree. The male of the species is black with a bright red eye, whilst the female is speckled.

COUCALS: The Coucal, Attie-Kukkula (S) belongs to the same family as the Koel, It is about the size of a Crow, with a long and broad tail, with a slightly curved black bill, and chestnut wings. Its principle haunts are well wooded cultivation and scrub jungle, and is found in most home gardens. Much of its time is spent on the ground and in hedges. Its flight is slow and labored, and hops to the topmost branch of a tree for take off. The Coucal hunts solitarily and is a notorious robber of other bird’s eggs and young, and will eat almost any small animal like lizards, frogs, snakes, mice, and even snails.

The Coucal’s call is one of the best known bird-sounds, with its far-sounding, “Hoop oop oop oop oop” ending in a curious sound donk, much like a cork being extracted from a bottle. Its nest is a mass of creeper stems and leafy twigs, and the female lays two to three dull chalky white eggs.

BARBETS: Barbets belong to the family of Capitonidae, and although there are four species found in Sri Lanka, it is mainly the Brown-Headed Barbet, Polos Kottoruwa (S) that prevails in Colombo. This bird can be recognized by its large brown head and breast, yellow naked face, and heavy reddish-colored bill. Overall body, wing and tail color is green. Its monotonous call of, “Kottuur kottuur kottuur” can be heard over great distances to be answered only by its mate. It lives mainly on berries, fruits, and wild figs, and is often seen eating berries of the Jam Fruit tree (Muntingia calabura). The female lays three to four dull white eggs in a hole pecked out in a soft- wooded dead stump or branch. The nest hole entrance is about 2 inches in diameter.

BABBLERS: Babblers belong to the family Timaliidae. The most common of the species that invades the home gardens of Colombo is the Southern Common Babbler or “Seven Sisters”, Demma-litcha (S). This yellowish-grey bird is always found in flocks of seven or more. Its pale bluish-white eye gives it a curiously anemic look. It feeds on insects and vegetable substance, and most of the food is taken on the ground. The troop keeps up a noisy chatter, and its members indulge in a kind of dance.

The nest of the Babbler is a fairly deep cup, and the eggs, three to five in number, are a beautiful glossy turquoise blue. Breeding proceeds to some extent all year round.

SUNBIRDS: Sunbirds belong to the family Nectariniidae and are a family of very small birds. The commonest are the Purple-Rumped Sunbird, Mal-Sutticha (S) and the Purple and Lotens Sunbirds, Dum-Sutticha and Run-Sutticha (S).

FLOWERPECKERS: Flowerpeckers belong to the family of Dicaeidae and these birds are even smaller than the Sunbirds. There are three species. They are the Thick-Billed Flowerpecker, the Legges Flowerpecker, and the Tickells Flowerpecker. The (S) Sinhala name for all these species is generally, Batticha or Pillatchia.

ORIOLES: Orioles belong to the family Orioldae and few birds surpass them in ornamental value as their splendid plumage is commonly seen in gardens. There are two species of Orioles that are present. The Black Headed Oriole, Kahakurulla (S) is a race peculiar to Sri Lanka, and the Golden Oriole Kahakurulla or Varakamadulla (S) is a migratory bird from India.

The Black Headed Oriole with its beautiful yellow and black coloring is found frequently flying around from tree to tree displaying its bright coloring in between the green foliage of mango trees, and other similar fruit trees. It feeds on insects, berries, and fruit. Ripe jak fruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) is one of its favorites. The breeding season is from October to May and its nest is like a basket slung in the fork of a tree. The two to three eggs are creamy white spotted and blotched with shades of brown and purplish black.

The Golden Oriole’s behavior, eating habits, and nesting are very similar to those of the Black Headed Oriole.

DRONGOS: Drongos belong to the family Dicruridae. In total there are five species of Drongos found in Sri Lanka. However, only the White Bellied Drongo, Kawuda or Kawuda Pannikkiiya (S) is peculiar to Colombo. Besides its white belly, its most characteristic feature is its glossy black plumage, and its long deeply forked tail. They are arboreal birds of strong flight. Their diet is mainly insectivorous, taking most of their food on the wing. The Drongo is a great songster with various musical whistles, which include imitation notes of many of the other bird species. It has even been known to imitate the mewing of a cat. Its nest is rather small and shallow, and the eggs, two or three are pale cream to salmon pink.

KINGFISHERS: Kingfishers are very colorful birds and belong to the family Alcedinidae.
Sri Lanka has seven species of Kingfishers, and here again it is only two species that reside and breed in Colombo. These are the White Breasted Kingfisher, Liya Sudhu Pilihuduwa (S) and the little Common or River Kingfisher, Mal Pilihuduwa (S).

The attractive White Breasted Kingfisher is a feature of Colombo gardens and parks. It can catch fish if available, but its diet consists mainly of grasshoppers, frogs, lizards, centipedes, and worms, and its relatively large bill is put to good use.

The Common Kingfisher on the other hand prefers the rivers, canals, reservoirs or lakes in Colombo. Its diet is mainly small fish and it waits patiently on a branch overhanging the water waiting to plunge and dive into the water for its prey. It seldom misses its strike.

Both species of Kingfishers have their nesting burrows in a bank besides water. Their eggs, three to five in number, are a glossy white in color. It is sad to note that Kingfishers seem less abundant in Colombo now, most likely due to the degradation of the environment and air quality.

BULBULS: Bulbuls belong to the family Pycnonotidae and Sri Lanka has six species but only two seem to reside in the Colombo area. The most common is the Red Vented Bulbul, Kondaya or Konda Kurulla (S). Sexes are similar with a black crested head, mottled dark brown body, and bright vermilion under tail coverts. It feeds mainly on berries and insects of many kinds. The nest is a compact cup of small twigs lined with fine fibers. The eggs are profusely spotted and are purplish to reddish brown.

PITTAS: Pittas are of the family Pittidae, and the Indian Pitta, Avich-chia (S) is a regular winter visitor. It arrives from India in large numbers in September- October and departs again in April-May. The Pitta spends most of its time on the ground under big trees turning over dead leaves in search of insects. Pittas are one of the most beautiful types of bird species in India and have the most gorgeous coloring. They breed in the Himalayan foothills making large nests and laying four to five glossy white eggs with spots of purplish brown. Pittas have a clear double whistle which makes their presence well known.

ROBINS: Robins belong to the family Turdidae, and the Magpie Robin, Polkicha (S) is the most familiar in Sri Lanka, and is found in every garden in Colombo. The male of the species is a glossy blue-black and white. The female has a grey head and is duller than the male. Both sexes indulge in a curious gesture of tail raising and dropping of wings. This bird keeps late hours often being active until well after dusk. Its call is a four note chirp on a descending scale. The nest is a mass of untidy grass and fibers set in a tree hole, well above eye level. The eggs, of up to three, are of a blue to sea green coloration.

PARAKEETS & LORIKEETS: Parakeets and Lorikeets belong to the family Psittacidae.
Sri Lanka possesses five species, being: -

Alexandrine Parakeet, Labu Girawa (S)
Rose-Ringed Parakeet, Maala Girawa (S)
Blossom-Headed Parakeet, Panu Girawa (S)
Layards Parakeet, Alu Girawa (S)
Ceylon Lorikeet,Girra-Malitta (S)

These birds, although they are common in Colombo, are not strictly found in home gardens but are seen in flocks, flying to their places of roosting in the late evenings.

MYNAS & SPARROWS: The common Myna bird, Myna (S) belongs to the family Sturnidae, and like the House Sparrow family Passeridae, Ge’-Kurulla (S) are too familiar to need description, other than that they are both hangers-on of man. They are distributed throughout the Island wherever human communities exist.

I hope that even in a small and humble way I have helped readers to reminisce on the beautiful songs and colors of birds that formed part of our daily lives in those very happy and memorable days we shared while growing up in Sri Lanka.

I also wish to thank ALBATZ for the encouragement and support, and his kind permission in the use of his website.
Ian Hepponstall

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Remembering old times

DOWN MEMORY LANE ................

When the worst thing you could do at school was smoke in the bathrooms, fail a test or chew gum. And the banquets were in the tuck-shop, and we danced to a gramophone later, and all the girls wore fluffy pastel gowns and the boys wore 'longs' for the first time, and we were allowed to stay out and watch a 9.30 pm show at the Liberty and the Majestic and the Savoy....! and the biggest thrill was holding hands ...... !

When a Sunbeam Alpine or an MG was everyone's dream car, to cruise, peel out, lay rubber and watch the road races and people went steady and it was the greatest weekend to go to the Galle Face Hotel's 'Coconut Grove' with the JETLINERS, or to Ceylinco with the SPITFIRES or to the Little Hut with the AMAZING GRACE or to the Akasa Kade with Sam the Man ! The entrance ticket to the GFH ~ Coconut Grove Sundown Dance with the Jetliners on Sundays was five ruppees per adult .

And no one ever asked where the car keys were 'cause they were always in the car, in the ignition, and the doors were never locked, and you got into big trouble if you accidentally locked the doors at home, since no one ever had a key. The national armed forces were for regimented purposes only !

Remember, lying on your back on the grass with our friends and saying things like "That cloud looks like a..." and playing cricket with no adults to help kids with the rules of the game. Back then, cricket was not a psychological group learning experience - it was a game !

Remember when stuff from the store came without safety caps and hermetic seals 'cause no one had yet tried to poison a perfect stranger ? The Parliament had gentlemen MPs of distinction & repute .

And... with all our progress... don't you just wish... just could slip back in time and savour the slower pace... and share it with the children of the 80's and 90's...

So, send this on to someone who can still remember Bill Haley and the Comets, The Hardy Boys, Laurel & Hardy, Roy Rogers and 'Trigger', Famous Five, The Galle Face Green, The Lone Ranger, Kinross .... The Otters, Bobby Arnolda Tours, The Piccadilly at Wellawatte, 'house-dances', Jam Sessions, Zellers at Bamba, Sunday Choice on Radio Ceylon, that even the Indians in Bombay, etc., still talk about!

Jimmy Barucha and Chris Greet, Donavan Andree and Vijaya Corea , ' The Blue Leopard ' and of course Sirisanda... Bill Forbes and the Jay Cee Shows at Mount Lavinia Hotel and evenings filled with bike rides, playing in cowboy land, and visits to the pool... and the 'Bambalapitiya Flats'.... eating Fish & Chips & Sundaes with that special chocolate sauce at the 'Fountain Cafe.' ( I still remember the mouth-watering "knicker bocker glory", and the jaggery sundae) Then there was delicious Buriyani at Pilawoos , Chinese Dragon Cafe and the Mayfair ........ !

When being sent to the principal's office was nothing compared to the fate that awaited a misbehaving student at home. Basically, we were in fear for our lives, but it wasn't because of terrorism' by shootings, drugs, gangs, alcohol and road rage ....... etc.

Michael Tissera, PI Peiris, Dennis Ferdinands, Buddy & Ronald Reid , Keith Labrooy, Anura Tenekoon , played cricket for St Thomas' Mt Lavinia, Nimal Maralande, Denzil Kobbekaduwa played rugby for Trinity , Ken Balendra, Roti Seevaratnam represented Royal at rugby, Josephians & Peterites , Anadians and Nalandians , Benedictines and other schools also had super sportsmen of repute, All Ceylon cricket squad comprised six medical doctors in blazers & flannels, former schoolboy cricketers DS Senanayake , Dudley Senanayake, Sir John Kotelawala and JR Jayawardena in Parliament ....... it was not whether you won or lost - but how you played the game!

Our parents and grandparents were a much bigger threat ! But we all survived....because their love was greater than their threat .

Didn't that make you feel good ? … just to go back and say, " Yeah, I remember that ! ' ...... and was it really that long ago?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Free Town Boys


Francis lived in a big house down a narrow road, between Kinross Ave and Castle Lane in Bambalapitiya. He was always my favourite cousin, friend, mentor, and guiding light during those early days of my childhood. I always looked up to him for guidance and knowledge. He taught me both the good and bad things in life, and still earned my respect, as he would radiate a great feeling of love and kindness whenever I was around him, that made him more like a brother to me than a cousin.

Francis had many skills, one of which was being Secretary of the Free Town Boys Cricket and Athletics Club of that narrow road he lived in. He was a third generation member of a well known family, and so enjoyed the privilege of this office. As the club name suggested membership was free and the only qualification was that you had to be a resident of this road.
In my case, the requirements were ignored , for after all, I was the cousin-brother of the Secretary. He ran this club successfully with no financial backing, and the Club did not even seek a donation from anyone. May be this was a good thing in a way, as the only beneficiary could have been “ Saraswathie Lodge”.

Some one had to only come up with a cricket ball, and out when a host of written letters inviting other clubs to participate in a game of cricket. Some of the names of these clubs that come to mind are “Dead End Kids C.C.”, “The Golden Eagles C.C.”, “ Silver Arrow Sports Club” and “ Royden Cricket Club”. I remember very well the opening paragraph of this letter ……Quote “ We the members of the above mentioned C.C. challenge you to a game of cricket on this day the…….in month of…….. in the year of our Lord 19……., notwithstanding, the terms and conditions herein stated.” Unquote. This document sounded more like something coming out of the Attorney Generals Department than from a club of meagre means.

On the morning of the match, Francis would be up with the birds for there was work to be done, firstly the venue had to be booked, by this I mean stumps put in place and someone of authority (in other words a toughie) left at the grounds to ensure all went well when we arrived ,by then other clubs too would have arrived and there were more stumps planted, more than even crosses found in Kanatte. At times you really did not know whether you were batting against or bowling to the right opponents. ".

Some of the grounds we played at were St. Peters, the Golf Links down Greenlands Rd., the park next to the BRC, Kotalawella Gardens, Shruberry Gardens and the Seminary grounds with all but five hundred coconut trees.

Francis had still more work to do…... like visiting the homes of all the players confirming availability, as at times some would be grounded for domestic reasons, then there was cricket gear to look for, this was easly solved by picking a rich kid with plenty of gear and no cricketing skills.

Makeen S was captain, and our opening bowler was a demon called Johnny R., he had a slinging action, and every ball he bowled was a thunder bolt, but sadly accuracy was not part of his repertoire. The first ball could be aimed at the batsman’s throat, the next would sail over the wicket keepers head, and the next would have third slip running for cover, but whenever he got it right, he either broke the stumps or the batsman leg, for we wore only one pad. It was regimental, that after every over J.R. would reach for his comb and rearrange the “ Yankee Puff “ that fell half way down his forehead.

John M. was wicket keeper, and got the job as he owned one and a half wicket keeping gloves. We shared equipment with the other teams and vice-versa,and in days gone by “Helmets “ were not even worn in Toobruk..

Raju was our umpire , and the very sight of him was enough for the opposition to summon the ICC. However with a promise of fair play he was allowed to take his place.

If in anyone today thinks Darrell Hair is biased and controversial, then Raju set the bench mark.

Faleel, was a important player in the side and whenever we could not get a batsman out he was sent to the position of short leg to taunt and frustrate the batsman into loosing his wicket. The plan always worked.

Some of the other members of this honourable side were, Allister B. (Francis), Hamza S., Haig K., Guy M., Farooze, and Ian H.

At the end of the day the game of cricket was played as only gentleman will , and maybe the time has come for of our international sides to learn how the game should be played from our humble beginnings.

Finally, it is with great sadness that I have learnt that some are no longer with us, and although some of us have moved to alien climes, I hope that when the time comes for us to abide, our souls will return home to rest in better places in better times.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Legend


Gerd Von Dincklage is another member, lifeguard, swimmer, and spear fisherman, of Kinross Club fame. One, who certainly could have easily won the world spear fishing contest in the late 49’s -51.

When he joined the Kinross Swimming & Life Saving club at 13 or 14 years of age, he was thin, pale and anaemic looking, so much so that after 3 months of learning to swim under EMMESS (Mike Sirimanne), he insisted on being entered for the Two Mile Annual swim but as he was considered too inexperienced the offer was rejected. He then disappeared and after a lapse of several months appeared again and requested that his name be entered for the swim.” Enter my name for the swim “, he pleaded, “Because it is my intention to be placed.”

The officials were sceptical as Gerd could only swim the breast stroke, However, he was entered and surprised everybody by being placed a very good fourth in the race with an excellent timing for a breast stroker. According to his cousin, Gerd had spent over three hours a day training for this event in secret in the sea off Kollupitiya.

At the age of 16 Gerd proclaimed to all present at the New Years party that he could dive in excess of 50 feet without goggles and fins, This he did with ease to beat the existing record held by EMMESS,, for breaking this record he won the prize of 50 rupees, big bucks at that time.

Gerd was an amazing eater . At a string hopper eating contest organised by the Club he ate 75 large string hoppers with the assorted curries and vegetables and topped it up with several double ice Creams and fruit salad..

Again at spear fishing gala organised by the club at the beach town of Hikkaduwa, when over 200 pounds of fish were speared by seven club spear fishermen, Gerd ate a whole curried paraw fish. Incidentally the whole town of Hikkadduwa was invited to partake of the catch and they could hardly believe their eyes to what they saw that day,

Several years later the world class spear fishermen, six foot one barrel chested, well muscled, was a great admirer of the opposite sex, and there were many women who were enamoured by this strikingly handsome young man , with long blond hair. A spear gun and knife attached to his waist gave the impression of a daring adventurer. - CEYLON’S TARZAN

Gerd owned a dilapidated, ex US army model Harley Davidson that used more engine oil than petrol. However that did not deter seven Kinross spear fisherman from persuading him to organise a spearfishing trip lasting a week along the SW Coast of the Island from Colombo to Tissamaharama and back. The Harley had a side car in addition to sturdy mudguards and a pillion seat that could accommodate two riders, - seven on a motorbike, believe it or not.

The guys (team) started out from Wellawatte, with money for enough petrol and engine oil.

The first stop was the town of Alutgama where seven booked in for a two day stay.

The next morning our seven were soon in the water and by the end of the day over 300 pounds of fish were speared, more than enough to pay their food and accommodation bills.

Gerd left for Australia in about 1952 and settled in Perth, He then took a wager that he would swim from Perth to Rothness Island some 15 miles off the coast of Perth. This he did with with only a pair of goggles and a knife strapped to his waist,

The stretch of sea between Perth and Rothness Island is frequented by the great white Sharks, but this did not deter Gerd.

The swim was well covered by the press and a clipping is still available in the Club House.

Indeed , GERD is a Kinross legend and Icon and his deeds are still talked about wherever and when “KINROSS MEN MEET”

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Bohemian


If ever a human being qualified to be called an original it was Vickeredhira Gunawardne Wijeytilleke AUTUKORALA, better known as ATU, and to his friends as Vicky.

Born on the 4th of September 1915 it could be said that whoever created him destroyed the mould.

From his early days he showed a propensity for all things close to nature. In fact he claimed that he must have had a Veddha as an ancestor,

Sacked from Royal College for playing truant he proceeded to haunt the precincts of the public library of The National Museum and educated himself on all aspects of Natural History so much so that he was acknowledged as one of the foremost naturalists in the country. Bufo Atukorala – a toad, Horadandi Atukorala a fish, and several verities of orchids were named in his honour either by the Royal Society ,Smithsonian Institute or other organisations of a similar nature.

At an early age he encountered a group of Samoans who were in Ceylon as a part of a musical group popularly known as Thelma Kai and the Royal Samoans.. The Samoans were expert swimmers, divers and spear fishermen. For spears they used Bamboos and face masks hand fashioned out of bamboo, rubber, and cut glass. Their favourite haunt was the sea off Kinross Avenue.

Atu followed them closely and they in turn taught Atu all they knew of the sea, diving, and spear fishing. The Samoans never used spear guns or fins and ATU declined the use of these, instead his sole equipment was and a hand spear It could be claimed that ATU was the fist spear fishermen of Ceylon.

From his youth he found kindred spirits in the Jayasekera brothers of whom Bertie was a keen and knowledgeable angler and a lover of nature, Neville (Kadala) Jansz and Eric Conway were also his close friends. This gang would often surreptitiously push Berties father’s car to the road late at night, start it by connecting a few wires and disappear into the jungles for a few days on end returning to face the wrath of their respective parents,

In later years Vicky and Eric Conway set up as the pioneer breeders of ornamental fish in the country.

Atu owned 20 perches of land in Peterson Lane Wellawatte which he converted into a veritable jungle. A few friends were privileged to visit this site which he considered private and contained breeding tanks, rarest of orchid’s cactus and other flora and fauna.

Leading into Atus jungle was a footpath which became a meeting place for others with similar interests. Among them were Sam Elapatha Dissawa, Arthur C Clarke, and Mike Wilson. Rodney Jonklaas. Happy Heptulabhoy a pioneer exporter of ornamental fish, and Dhanapals Weeraseekera other exporters readily acknowledged their debt to AtU.

The now defunct cactus society had its origins in Atus domain.
Atu and Conway never showed any interest in developing the business but spent their earning on booze, However, the others who learnt this businee made fortunes from it.

Apart from several other nature pursuits Atu was employed as a collector of specimens for the Colombo Zoo, which gave him the freedom to roam the jungles of Ceylon and perfect his mastery of Jungle craft, He was also, for a while, in charge of the ZOO hospital during which time he treated a Bengal Tiger belonging to Circus Bosch.

ATU also became an expert on snakes had a large collection of deadly venomous snakes in his bedroom.

In later years Atu lived on the beach which he loved dearly, Towards the end of his life and dying with cancer, he produced some amazing paintings of flora from specimens brought by his loving friend Eric Conway,

Many tales are told about this amazing man, an unique and lovable character of his exploits and love of the sea, the jungles of Ceylon, wild life and fauna, and a kind and loyal friend.

Vicky Autokorale was honoured with life membership of the Club ,

From the Diamond Jubilee Magazine-2001 Author Tissa Ariyaratne.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Kinross Club Song

Extracted from the History of Kinross Club written by Mike Sirimanne

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Mike Wilson

The Enigmatic Mr.Wilson:
Submarine safaris and adventures

Mike Wilson in later years as a SwamiIn this three-part article, Richard Boyle documents the life of Mike Wilson (Swami Siva Kalki) 1934-1995,who among other things made a significantcontribution to the Sinhala film industry, and pioneered underwater exploration around the island.

1997 February 26th being the second anniversary of the death of Mike Wilson (Swami Siva Kalki), as well as the golden jubilee of the Sinhala film industry, the time seems right to look back on the life of this remarkable man.

While the name Mike Wilson is familiar mainly to a certain generation of cinema-goers in Sri Lanka as the director of films such as Ran Muthu Duwa, others know of him as the diver who recovered the lingam associated with the Konesar temple, and silver treasure from a wreck on the Great Basses.

Some know of him as the Swami who championed Kataragama; some as the man who was claimed to be responsible for wrecking Satyajit Ray's science fiction film project, The Alien.
Mike Wilson arrived in the island with Arthur C. Clarke in 1956. The circumstances surrounding their friendship, and the manner in which fate brought them to Ceylon, is told in Arthur C. Clarke's The Treasure of the Great Reef (1964 and 1974).

In describing the main characters that frequent this factual account of underwater exploration off the south coast of the island, Clarke writes:

'The lead is undoubtedly my energetic partner Mike Wilson. I first met Mike around 1951, as a teenage intruder in the pub frequented by the London science-fiction fraternity. Every Thursday about 50 of us used to meet to discuss the books and stories we had read, and those we would write whenever we happened to have the time.'

Mike Wilson was in fact a 16 year-old crew member of a transatlantic liner and had attended his first White Horse meeting during short leave. This was his initiation into the wonderful world of science- fiction 'fandom' of the early 1950s, in which enthusiasts formed groups, published odd magazines, held even odder conventions, and devised elaborate hoaxes to play on one another.
As Clarke recalls, Wilson introduced him to the pleasures of skin diving: 'Mike who had done this during a spell in the British Merchant Navy, infected me with his enthusiasm, and I was soon learning to use flippers and face masks in a London swimming pool. After a few chilly dips in the English Channel we decided that this was a hobby for the tropics.'

However, in the spring of 1952, having turned 18 and left the sea, Wilson received his call-up papers, conscription being an ordeal all young men would have to endure until National Service was abolished in the early 1960s. At this time, Clarke was hatching a plot against Irish Fandom code-named Operation Shamrookie.

When Wilson informed him that he was going to do his training at Ballymeena in Northern Ireland, Clarke immediately understood the possibilities and began coaching Wilson.
Posing as 'neofan James Wainwright', Wilson fooled the 'Belfast mob' into thinking he was an ordinary soldier with no connections to London. Clarke had suggested that Wilson write some stories for Irish Fandom, but as Wilson had little time due to his intense training schedule, he resorted to submitting a story he and Clarke had developed earlier. It was a shade too good; suspicions were aroused and eventually the hoax was uncovered.

In early 1954 Wilson left the British Army and proceeded to Australia, where he met up with Clarke on the Great Barrier Reef so that they could pursue their interest in diving and collaborate in producing an account of their underwater experiences. Wilson was to undertake the photography.

"I have described our first expedition, writes Clarke, which took place in 1955, in The Coast of Coral; it is significant here because both Mike and I passed through Ceylon on our way to Australia, and both decided independently that we would like to come back and spend more time in the island. We were able to do this in 1956, and the first result was The Reefs of Taprobane."

When they landed at Colombo in January 1956 they had not 'the faintest idea' as Clarke puts it, that the island would become their permanent home. Clarke and Wilson were extremely active during their initial years in Ceylon. Together with the diver naturalist Rodney Jonklaas, they thoroughly explored the waters surrounding the island, and researched and investigated some 40 wrecks, many of historical importance

Parallel to this Wilson and Jonklaas endeavoured, without much success, to establish a diving business known as Clarke-Wilson Associates.

Their tasks consisted mainly of mundane ones, such as the cleaning of water inlet and sewage outlet grills of ships in Colombo harbour, and morbid ones, such as the retrieval of corpses. The most demanding and perilous job they performed was at Castlereagh Dam, where they had to work in the claustrophobic confines of an l8 inch wide shutter chase, with oxygen piped from the surface.

Jonklaas decided that his future lay in exporting tropical fish. So Wilson tried to promote what he called 'submarine safaris' underwater tours encompassing marine archaeology, exotic fishes and marine mammals, rare seashells and corals, and unrivalled spearfishing.

Despite the stirring words of a handbill I have in my possession - 'Your Guides, the top underwater men in the East; your equipment the finest in the World; your diving grounds the most exciting anywhere' - the idea proved to be ahead of its time.

As Clarke shrewdly observes, 'Perhaps it was just as well; Mike is not the person who suffers fools gladly, and if he had had to cope with underwater tourists, it would have been only a matter of time before he failed to bring one back.'

Nevertheless, Wilson's underwater expertise was well-respected, and in early 1958 he became embroiled in a controversial attempt to revive the pearl fishery in the Gulf of Mannar. This involved the use of a mechanical dredger, rather than traditional diving techniques.

But as a journalist from the Observer newspaper claimed, 'Experts who have explored the precious pearl banks are positive that dredging has caused immense damage to the oyster beds. Mr. Rodney Jonklaas, who explored the beds in 1945, swears to this. And so does Mr. Mike Wilson. He told me yesterday that "the dredger leaves a grim trail of desolation". He asked: "Why is it that other governments which have better dredgers and better scientists have given up dredging?"'

In the meantime of course Clarke's career as a science-fiction novelist of distinction advanced apace. The mid 1950s, for instance, had seen the publication of the impressive Earthlight and Expedition to Earth. And in 1957 Deep Range was published, which is dedicated to 'Mike, who led me to the sea and pulled me out of it'.

Their sojourn in Ceylon was occasionally interrupted by trips to the United States to undertake lecture tours and attend conventions. During his youth Wilson was a prodigious philanderer and these trips gave him ample opportunity. In The Authorised biography of Arthur C. Clarke (1992), Neil McAleer relates how, at the 1956 World Science Fiction Convention in New York, Clarke received a knock on his hotel room door late at night.

It was the science-fiction author Harlan Ellison who requested Clarke to 'please ask Mike Wilson to leave my girl alone'. Nevertheless, it was while returning from a lecture tour a year later that Wilson met onboard ship his future wife, the acclaimed beauty Elizabeth Perera.

It was in the late 1950s that Wilson began to develop a reputation as a talented photo-journalist, contributing to magazines as diverse as TIME and Playboy, articles from surfing in Australia to missionaries in Borneo and Sarawak. He also covered Dave Brubeck's 1960 Australian tour, and Brubeck requested him to shoot the cover of his forthcoming album.

The late 1950s also saw the start of Wilson's mercurial career in both the local and international film industries - a career destined to last little more than a decade and which effectively was to end with the failure of The Alien project. Wilson wrote, photographed and directed the 25 minute documentary Beneath the Seas of Ceylon in 1958.

This 16 mm film was the first underwater one to be shot in the seas around the island. Like its more famous predecessor, Basil Wright's Song of Ceylon (1935), this film was sponsored by the Ceylon Tea Propaganda Board (and remarkably, both expend a minimal amount of time extolling the virtues of tea). Beneath the Seas of Ceylon features some breathtaking scenes of Rodney Jonklaas taming some very large groupers, and then being chased by sharks.

Wilson's next venture was the fantasy short film Boy Beneath the Sea, (1961), starring the American teenager Mark Smith. It was during the production of this film that Wilson, Mark Smith, and another American teenager called Bobby Kriegel, discovered a wreck on the Great Basses containing freshly- minted silver coins, all bearing the date 1702, some of which were donated to the Smithsonian Museum and to the British Museum.

In 1962 Wilson made his debut as a feature director with Ranmuthu Duwa, which has the distinction of being the first colour full length film to be produced in Ceylon. Made in Sinhalese and with a screenplay by Wilson, the film predictably involves the discovery of underwater treasure, with a mixture of ancient legends, human treachery and romance thrown in. It may not have been great art, but it proved to be a massive hit with audiences.

A great discovery at Trincomalee

Ranmuthu Duwa, the film in which Mike Wilson made his debut as a feature director also launched the career of Gamini Fonseka. And its compelling songs by Mahagama Sekera and W.D. Amaradeva are still played on the radio. 'I have never grown tired', enthuses Arthur C. Clarke, 'of watching the scenes of dawn over the great temples, the sea-washed cliffs of Trincomalee, the lines of pilgrims descending Adam's Peak, and the mysterious underwater sequences. For a first attempt at professional movie-making, it was an outstanding effort.'
The feature film industry in Ceylon was in its infancy at the time, and Wilson's contribution to the development of the industry - especially in the context of his being a Westerner - was considerable. It was not until 1956 that the country produced a film worthy of attention.

This was when Lester James Peries from the Government Film Unit to make Rekawa, a film deemed good enough to be shown at the Cannes Festival. "During the past few years", wrote Quinn Curtiss in the New York Herald Tribune of 27 July 1973, 'other directors have produced fine films, among them Titus Totawatte, Gamini Fonseka, Siri Gunasinghe, Herbert
Seneviratne, and Mike Wilson.'

A scene from SaravitaWilson's contribution to the Sinhala feature film industry extended beyond his own directorial efforts, for he actively encouraged other aspiring directors to make movies under the banner of his company, Serendib Productions. One such film - a favourite of Wilson's - was Saravita scripted by K.A.W. Perera and starring Joe Abeywickrema.

This delightful film was directed by Tissa Liyanasuriya, who had started as an assistant under Wilson and went on to become a prominent figure in the industry.

It was while filming Ran Muthu Duwa in 1962 that Wilson made an important maritime archaeological discovery that was to have a profound personal effect on his life. 'Discovery is very much a mental event, rather than a mere physical awareness of any given thing that one comes across', he used to assert.

This peak experience occurred in the sea around Swami Rock at Trincomalee.
When Jonklaas and Wilson had dived at this spot in 1956, the Brahmin had requested them to keep a special eye open for the lingam associated with the Konesar Temple.

'I was not aware then', Wilson admitted at a seminar on the maritime heritage of Sri Lanka held in Colombo in 1987, 'of the oral and written tradition concerning the emblem of God Siva, which was of peculiar significance and sanctity here, at Konesar Temple.'

During this initial dive, and subsequent ones in the diving seasons that followed, Wilson & Co. searched diligently for the lingam, but without success. 'All the columns and pillars we encountered' observes Clarke, 'had obviously been purely architectural, with alternating square and hexagonal sections. '

Mike Wilson and Gamini Fonseka with lingam, in 1962Then one day in 1962, while using the site as a film location for Ran Muthu Duwa, Wilson went for a dive to cool off during a camera break. He suddenly perceived for the very first time a perfectly circular pillar. He had found the lingam! Alongside it was discovered a naturally rounded stone, the significance of which was not realised until a little later.

Having delivered the lingam to the Konesar Temple where it was enshrined and has been worshipped ever since, Wilson returned to Colombo and made straight for the Museum Library. The librarian there produced two prime reference sources from which Wilson learnt of a special classification of linga, the Swayambhuwa, which are mounted on pedestals of natural stone. Of the 69 Swayambhuwa said to have been located in the Indian sub-continent, only a few still exist, such as the one at Swayambhuath in Nepal.

Wilson was convinced that the lingam and its pedestal recovered at Trincomalee was one of the original 69. He suspected that being seated alone in the presence of thet Swayambhuva formed part of a ritual. He had done so, and he said of the experience, 'One is aware of its enormous antiquity. And one's mind is able to soar back to the distant past and "see" all those who have sat there before'.

Wilson was enthusiastic about not only diving but all water sports, especially surfing, water-skiing and racing boats of every variety. Indeed one of his favourite occupations was racing his hydroplane Pegasus at breakneck speed across the Bolgoda Lake.

A scene from GetawarayoIt was apt then that Wilson forsook underwater for the surface with his second feature Getawarayo, which Clarke describes as 'a sort of "Wild-Ones-on-Water", with a climax out of Ben Hur, but involving hydroplanes instead of chariots."

In 1966 Wilson started his third and possibly wackiest feature, Jamis Banda, which, as Clarke describes, 'pitted Hitler's illegitimate son against Sinhalese secret agent Jamis Banda. It had its good moments but the best was off-screen.

One day some innocent German tourists wandering around Galle came face to face with a group of SS officers. They must have wondered what had been happening while they were away from home.'

Before Wilson had completed the post-production of Jamis Banda, Clarke told him of an idea Satyajit Ray had for a vedic science fiction film. Wilson was intrigued by the idea and interested in raising international finance for the project, so he wrote inviting Ray to come to Colombo to discuss matters. Ray was too busy to leave Calcutta, and instead invited Wilson to come there, which he did.

Over a period of a fortnight, Wilson waited while Ray wrote a first draft screenplay. Wilson then sprung into action, setting up a meeting for Ray with Peter Sellers in Paris, and a few months later with Columbia Pictures in Hollywood, who were keen to back the film. Stupidly, however, Wilson copyrighted the script in his name as well as Ray's, an action that sowed the seeds of mistrust in the mind of the director.

The project was transferred to Columbia Pictures in London, to where Ray and Wilson subsequently travelled to try to clinch the deal. This trip ended disastrously, though, with Ray his mistrust fanned by Columbia executives eager to ease Wilson out of the project. For Ray the final blow came when Sellers announced his withdrawal, because he felt his role was not developed enough.

Later Wilson was persuaded to relinquish the copyright, and Columbia and others encouraged Ray to take up the project once again. This he never did, instead preferring to blame Wilson for the fact that the film remained unmade. The history of cinema is punctuated by a number of great 'might-have-beens', such as Sergei Eisenstein's Que Viva Mexico!

There is little doubt that The Alien falls into this category. The story behind it is a fascinating one - one I have attempted to piece together in my forthcoming book,The Wrecking : The story of Satyajit Ray's ill-fated science-fiction fllm project, The Alien.

The Tenth Avatar of Vishnu

The very late sixties and early seventies were extremely turbulent years for Mike Wilson both professionally and personally. During this period he tried to develop several film projects - the most promising being an adaptation of Hasan, Piers Jacob's spiritual novel with a Sri Lankan setting - but nothing materialised. His friendship with Arthur C. Clarke had reached a crisis point. However, his decision to quit the household life at the age of 40 was no hasty act of renunciation but a premeditated metamorphosis that began twenty years previously with his highly significant and symbolic discovery of the legendary Swayambhuva Lingam of the Konesar Temple.

'It changed me completely', he declared in an interview in The Sunday Times of 18 November, 1990. 'It was diksha (initiation) and darshan (divine vision) all in one. I understood something, how I had spent many lives here in Sri Lanka already, how this was not my first. I was prompted to go to Kataragama. One needs a place to sit and ponder; that place for me was Kataragama.'

For his new life Wilson had taken the name Swami Siva Kalki. Apart from Siva's connection with Kataragama, it is of significance that his most important emblem is the lingam. Of course, various contradictory and complementary aspects are welded together in the concept of Siva: He is both creative and destructive, austere and exuberant self-controlled and orgiastic, benevolent and fierce. Perhaps it is not mere coincidence that the man who took his spiritual name from Siva embodied all these characteristics and contradictions.

Believed to be the tenth avatar of Vishnu, Kalki will come in glory to establish a golden age by judging humankind, destroying the world and creating a new and superior race. Kalki will appear mounted on a white horse. Then he is supposed to draw his sword, which will 'blaze like a comet', and the wicked will be annihilated, the age of the Kaliyuga ended. This apocalyptic theme was pursued by Gore Vidal in his novel Kalki (1978). It relates the story of James Kelly, a Vietnam veteran who settles in Asia after the war and then returns to the United States to implement his plan for the destruction of the entire human race - that is apart from himself and his female followers. Although Vidal is a friend of Clarke and has even visited Sri Lanka, there is nothing to suggest that this fictional Kalki was modeled on Wilson. Swami Siva Kalki spent a portion of the years 1975 to 1985 at Kataragama, living in a Kuti, in the garden of the local postmaster's residence. Eventually, however, the rigours of this ascetic life, combined with recurrent and increasingly debilitating bouts of malaria, forced him to return to Colombo on a more-or-less permanent basis, apart from the occasional foray into the spiritual hinterland. So it was that he lived out the last ten years of his life mostly in the city or its suburbs, staying with a succession of friends and family members.

He spent two decades leading the life of a Swami - not always successfully, but with an intensity and conviction that made up for any deficiencies on his part. As a Westerner he occupied an unique position and commanded an unusual perspective. William Mc Gowan in his book on Sri Lanka's ethnic crisis, Only Man is Vile : The Tragedy of Sri Lanka states that Swami Siva Kalki 'lived at the odd intersection of the expatriate academic community, the local intelligentsia, and the community of Lankan spiritual seekers'.

It was an odd intersection indeed, and his location there induced him to champion some remarkable causes. For instance in the early 1980s, when the Swamis of Kataragama were being harassed, he composed a lengthy 'curse' to place on the relevant authorities for interfering with the Swamis' traditional practices. This came to be published in the international magazine, High Times.

Despite humble origins and only a basic education, Wilson became something of a polymath in his adult life. His learning extended in many directions, embracing on the one hand an exhaustive knowledge of human spirituality, comparative religion and universal tradition, while on the other, an impressive understanding of the sciences. Indeed during the last twenty years of his life the formulation of a Unified Field Theory became his magnificent obsession.

In the abstract to his unpublished paper A New Approach to Field Unification he explains: 'This model seeks to demonstrate that the four fundamental forces of nature and their fields can be successfully unified by the correct application of Maxwell's four electromagnetic equations. It seeks to demonstrate how Maxwell's equations can be validly extended to describe the functions in other fields. seeks to demonstrate how these four equations are in fact laws which may be seen working in all physical situations; and how every physical situation can be completely described by means of these equations alone. It seeks to demonstrate that Maxwell wrote the four fundamental laws of Nature - the Unified Field Equations without realizing it.'

After he donned robes, Swami Siva Kalki did not let his spiritual preoccupations constrain either his intellectual pursuits or his abiding interest in the arts, especially film. Indeed throughout his years as a Swami, writing for the screen remained a bridge that linked him to his former life. In the mid-1970s, during the initial stage of our friendship, I collaborated with him in writing several, ultimately unproduceable, screenplays with spiritual themes, such as The Gospel Accordinq to St. Thomas (concerning the apostle's reputed sojourn in India) and A Story for the Older Child.

The latter script, which was also co-written by Manik Sandrasagra, took Swami Siva Kalki to London exactly ten years after he last went there in connection with Satyajit Ray's The Alien. Temporarily swopping his robes for a pair of jeans and a polo neck sweater, he slipped back easily into his past existence. He was accompanied to London by Sandrasagra and myself, and together with the producer Dimitri Grunwald we endeavoured without success to put together a package, despite encouragement from John Boorman among others.

A Story for the Older Child is of interest because, like The Alien, it turned upside down the Westernised plot conventions of most science-fiction films. The story is set at the end of the 21st Century, when Earth has settled down to an uneasy peace under a Technocratic Instrumentality. Athena, a giant computer, makes possible the fair distribution of food, shelter and entertainment to the billions of subscribers to the system. Other groups, such as the remnants of the once-great religions reject this scientific materialism, preferring to live traditional lives.

One day an alien entity known as Anfal falls into Earth orbit. Anfal's mission is to scour the Universe for wisdom, and after hooking up with a television satellite, it requests a discussion with Sumedha, a Buddhist monk who is also a presenter at the Voice of Dharma, a Buddhist television station in Sri Lanka. There follow a number of televised philosophical discussions between Sumedha and Anfal that are viewed by most of the population of the planet. Politicians are thrown into disarray by this turn of events. As the old order crumbles, a new consciousness arises and Anfal becomes an Arahant.

In addition, Swami Siva Kalki provided the religious dialogue for my script, Rampage. This story of a psychic elephant hell-bent on avenging the death of its mother was directed in 1977 by Manik Sandrasagra and starred Gamini Fonseka and Chris Greet.

Satyajit Ray: at odds with WilsonSatyajit Ray has asserted that Wilson was unable to provide coffee for him while he was writing The Alien, let alone make any creative contribution. Wilson's reluctance to make coffee I can well imagine, but his supposed inability to conjure up any usable ideas is harder to understand. By 1967 he had written a number of film and television screenplays, and there is no question that his concepts and plot elements had inspired authors and film producers alike.

Needless to say, Swami Siva Kalki was no stranger to controversy. In particular, a series of documentary scripts written by him on the spiritual festivals of Asia was to cause considerable alarm among religious groups, academics and television executives in Australia, of all places. During the annual Kataragama Festival of 1984, Swami Siva Kalki met the Australian film producer Albert Falzon, who was there to cover this spectacular event. Falzon's main claim to fame at that time was the cult surfing movie Crystal Voyager.

For Falzon especially it was a fortuitous meeting, because he had not as yet found a scriptwriter with sufficient grasp of the complex and sometimes esoteric subject matter. Over the next eighteen months Swami Siva Kalki wrote six scripts for the series, Festivals of the Far East. The first film in the series, on the Kataragama Festival, received its world premiere when it was broadcast on ITN in Sri Lanka in July 1986.

Ironically, although this film was broadcast without any adverse comment in Sri Lanka, when it was screened by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation the following year there was considerable consternation. Jonathan Holmes, Head of Television Documentaries at ABC wrote to Falzon: 'You may be interested to know that the Buddhist Council of New South Wales was outraged by it. So are most Hindus who have seen it.

For an independent assessment Holmes had sent the Kataragama film to Dr. Eric Sharpe, Professor of Comparative Religion at the University of Sydney. Professor Sharpe's report on the film was particularly scathing. It described the narration as 'shuttling uneasily back and forth between Hindu and Buddhist ideas, and slipping over and over again into a worldly transcendentalism'.

He concluded with authority that 'in confusing Hindu and Buddhist elements in the festival it offended Sri Lankans who consider the national religion of the country to be Buddhist'.
Apart from his erroneous conviction that the film had offended Sri Lankan Buddhists, Professor Sharpe demonstrated his incomprehension regarding Kataragama (which he had never visited), as well as the blurred interface between Hinduism and Buddhism in a multi-religious country such as Sri Lanka.

In addition, the protests and assessments confirmed the chasm that exists between Western converts to Buddhism, who have almost without exception made the intellectual transition for the sake of its teachings, and Eastern Buddhists, whose culture demands ritual.

At the time Professor Sharpe compiled his report it is obvious that he had no idea as to the identity of the scriptwriter whose work he was criticising. Neither did he know the nature of this man; a man who had lived the Kataragama experience for many years and who was the master of the lengthy rejoinder.

In September 1987, when Sharpe received a 57-page reply to his averments, complete with glossary, he may well have wished that he had never been requested to write the report.
'I trust you will understand', wrote Swami Siva Kalki, 'that when you call into question the validity of the expressed interpretations which accompanied the images of these films, you are calling into question a body of tradition with which you are obviously totally unfamiliar. You also call into question the validity of the traditional systems of academic training - as well as certain aspects of the western academic tradition - which exist both in Sri Lanka and India'.

Swami Siva Kalki continued by quoting expansively from a number of religious texts, and by using persuasive argument, to pour scorn on Sharpe's analysis. 'The object of the film, he declared,' was not to show various prejudices (whether Buddhist, intellectual, or any other). Rather it was to show the lack of prejudice and wondrous synthesis that is the unique religion of Kataragama.'

For good measure, Swami Siva Kalki also wrote to Sharpe's colleague, the Chairman of the Buddhist Council of New South Wales, who supposedly had been 'outraged' by the film.

According to Sharpe, the film 'contained no meditation and no philosophy', so therefore it could not be "Buddhist" as the Council understood it. 'Did anyone say it was a Buddhist film?' inquired the aggrieved Swami. Surely it is clear that Buddhism is only one component of Kataragama - although an important one. With regard to the question of philosophy, I can only remark that the Buddha has in many places spoken of the futility of all philosophies.'

The scripts for the series Festivals of the Far East, together with the one for the documentary Nimrod's Tower (directed in 1989 by Sharmini Boyle) were the last to be written by Swami Siva Kalki. During the final years of his life he became preoccupied with writing his guide to meditation practice, The Dawn of the Arahants, an intriguing book that remains unpublished.

The following extract will give an indication of its tenor:'
First we must thoroughly understand the cause of pollution, which we call defilement. There is no ecological pollution without mental defilement and no mental defilement free of mental pollution. Pollution is the effect of the cause - and the cause is mental defilement as first principle. To eradicate pollution we must eradicate defilement. This work must start within us. First, by identifying the defilements and seeing how they effect both ourselves and others as mental, physical and ecological pollution. Once the defilements are identified, steps have to be taken to get rid of them. That is the whole purpose of these exercises'.

Swami Siva Kalki died on 26 February, 1995 at the age of 61. This has been but a cursory glance at the life of a multi-faceted, delightfully, enigmatic man, who remained a paradox, to some. He was certainly no saint yet he was capable of displaying great compassion and wisdom. Soon after his death I wrote an appreciation of Swami Siva Kalki the opening sentence of which I believe still serves to encapsulate this remarkable man: In an age characterised by dross, conformity and inconsistency, Swami Siva Kalki (formerly known as Mike Wilson) was an honourable exception.

Compiled from the online Edition of the Sri Lanka Sunday Times of 1997
March 2nd , 9th , and 16th.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Mary's Road

Mary’s Road, Bambalapitiya

Mary’s Road is a narrow street that starts at the Galle Road, almost opposite to Kensigtopn Gardens , and ends at the railway tracks.

Right next to Coomaravels Auction Room on the right was a plot of land with a large Kottang (Almond) tree and opposite to it stood the large building facing the Galle Road which was occupied by a few families. One of the families had a daughter named Sriyani and a son, Christopher and they were, both, students at St Pauls Milagiriya. Christopher and Shirani Ibrahim, who lived at No 15, were in the same class at SPM. Their Mum was dumb. The Claessan family also lived in this building. Adrian Jansz, sister of Linda, also lived here with her husband until they left for Australia.

Behind their house was a small place where a Tamil family lived and the lady was referred to as 'Sinnamma'. They used to prepare Pittu and Stringhoppers together with Babath (tripe) curry and their daughter used to deliver the food to the homes down Mary's road.

Here, on the left, lived the Bartholomeusz family at No 9, “St Bee’s”, the head of whom were Francis Carlisle Bartholomeusz & Esmee Bertha Susannah Maynert Herft. Francis used to be the Santa Claus at the annual XMas parties that were held at the Motha residence in Wellawatte.

Their children are Carol (married Frederic Renshaw Clarke), and moved over to a small flat down St. Peters Place. Allister (who was born on April 30, 1934, married Christobel Ebert), Myrna, Ioni (married Jerry Carroll )and Heidy (married Laurie Munding).

Allister was a keen supporter and member of the Kinross Swimming and Aquatic Club on the beach at Wellawatte. He was also a champion swimmer at the Kinross Club and tied for third place in the two Mile sea swim from Mount Lavinia to Wellawatte held in 1954. he held the posts of Club Captain, and was a Bronze Medal Holder of the Sri Lanka Swimming Association (SLSA) in and around 1959. He was the youngest ever Hony. Secretary of the CASA & Kinross Club, and a delegate. to the CO &CGA. He Capped for Ceylon in 1956.

The family migrated to Australia and live there now with their respective families.

At No 15, “Trevine”, 17 & 19, Mary’s Road lived WM Saleem and three of his sisters, Safiya Umma Wapu Marikar, (wife of Uduma Lebbe Marikar A.L.M), Ummu Saeeda Wapu Marikar, (wife of Shahul Hameed Abu Bakr), and Zainambu Wapu Marikar, (wife of ACA Hamid) and their respective families. All three properties were owned by Safiya Umma, who had no children, and who, thereby, bequeathed No 15 to her brother WM Saleem, and Nos 17 & 19, jointly to Ummu Saeeda and Zainambu as undivided co-owners.The Wapu Marikar (WM) siblings were the children of the late Wapu Marikar Sheikh Marikar & Mariam alias Puwachi Umma (sister of Shekadi Marikar Cassim Lebbe Marikar’s wife).

The rest of the siblings who were not resident at the Mary’s Road were, WM Abdul Jabbar, (father of AJM Jameel, AJM Anver and AJM Sadiq), Habeebathuz Zohra, (wife of Sahib Thamby, and mother of STA Wahid, STM Samsudeen, & Noor Nasiya Kurhdoos), WM Thaha, (father of Saleema, Sithy Rahma, Mubarak, Noor Musafer, Mymoon Ghouzul Ameer, Noordeen, Mahmood, Zafrullah, Moomin Zubair, Ni’amathullah, Fathima Honeya Sherrif Nizar, Abdul Jabbar, and Usman), WM Hassim, born 26-Jan-1880, died, 6-Jul-1960, (married to ALM Ummu Nafeesa - daughter of OLMALM Alim - and father of Thaifoor, Kamil, Ahamed Jameel, Sithy Latheefa Jameel, Mohideen, Noor Na’eema Sadiq, Ameen &Sulaiman), Mahmooda Umma, (wife of Ahmed Lebbe Marikar O.L.M. and mother of Shahabdeen, Razeen, Na’eem, Nazim, & Zubaida Umma Hassan), and Zavahira, (wife of OLM Zainudeen and mother of Noor Saneena & Moinudeen).

WM Saleem had three wives. His children by his first wife, Noor Naleefa, were Ahamed Shaharan (married Iynul Huzaima Abdul Basheer of Kandy), Hibshi Mazaya (married Husain Jiffry Ibrahim of HM Customs, Colombo) and Hibshul Hana (married to Zacky Salih of Flower Road, Colombo 3).

His second marriage to Sithy Lareefa from Galle had no offspring. His third to Sithy Shareefa Ahmed Lebbe Marikar, produced Khaneema (married to MSM Ozeer of Dematagoda), Zackiya (married to M Mansoor Hassan), Fareeda (married to M Nuhman Noordeen, son of Sithy Saleema Thaha, brother of Mubarak Thaha) and Hamza (married to Ummu Saliha Ansari of Bandaranaike Mawatha Colombo 12). The children moved to different locations within Colombo subsequent to their marriages and Fareeda and her daughter, Dina & family, still live at No. 15 having inherited part of the estate of her father after it was sold and disbursed subsequent to the heirs after his death.

Shaharan Saleem and Iynul Huzaima Abdul Basheer had three children, Thasneen, Ummu Zuhard and Imran Fekhrishta. Thasneen married Rafi Ismail bin-Hassan from Negombo, and have now moved to Vajira Road at Bamba, while Ummu married Nawaz Saleem of Bagatalle Road in Colpetty and has moved in there. Imran married Dina Bari of High Street (WASilva Mawatha) in Wellawatte and divorced her subsequently. He then married Sharmila Farook of Pennycuick Road at Wellawatte and is also divorced from her. His third wife Zeeniya Mujahid is also from Nelson Place in Wellawatte. Imran lives and runs his own tourist guest house, called Maple Inn, down WA Silva Mawatha at Wellawatte.

Husain Jiffry Ibrahim & Hibshi Mazaya Saleem had four children, Firoze, Shirani, Jasminah & Fairuf.

Firoze married Bisreeya Ahamed, formerly of Asoka Gardens in Bamba, and embarked on a career of Draftsmanship and Architecture, venturing into building construction. Subsequently he moved to Dhahran in Saudi Arabia and then to Hafar Al Batin in the north where he spent many years with the Ministry of Defence project there. He, subsequently returned to Colombo and spent a few years with his family before embarking to Dhahran once again to work with the Royal Saudi Air Force where he is attached to now. He now specializes in fresh water treatment.

Shirani married Fazli Sameer of No. 300 and Jasminah married Faizer Zahir of Castle Lane.

Fairuf married Zaheena Subair from Mount Lavinia and was killed under tragic circumstances in a car crash in Riyadh on Dec 31, 1996. He worked, initially, at Jafferjee Brothers in Colombo and then moved to Dhahran and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia where he was employed by GAMA, a hospital management project attached to the Sports Medicine Hospital, and served them until his demise.

The Ibrahims moved to St. Peter’s Place at Bamba, and, on the early death of Husain moved, once, again to Vihara Lane at Wellawatte. Hussain died suddenly of heart attack in 1963 at the age of 44 while delivering a speech as the Presdient of the Customs Officers’ Union at the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo. Hibshi passed away at Vihare Lane in 1996.

Zacky Salih & Hibshul Hana Saleem had seven children. The last one died at child birth. Fidha, Shiraz, Moreena, Faris, Fahmy, and Shahul Hameed were the others. Fidha married Razana and passed away after a sudden illness after the pilgrimage of Hajj in Makkah. Shiraz married Faizeen Haniffa from Kandy. Faizeen used to work with Sifani Jewellers in Kandy and Colombo and then moved to Jeddah, where he served with the Intercontinental Hotel for several years before returning home to Colombo to roost. Moreena married Faizeen Hassim of Alexandra Road in Wellawatte and has eben working with UNICEF for the ast three decades. She and her family moved to Kazakhastan and served the UNICEF there for several years and have since recently moved to Bangkon on a new assignment. Faris married Fazna Mowjood Nafi of Habib Bank and Shahul married Fazmina Alavi Muhammad. Fazmina passed away after an illness in 2003 after having lived in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia where her husband, Shahul Hameed, is employed. The Salih’s moved to Swarna Road at Havelock Town and then again to Kalyani Road in Kirulaponne where Hana passed away in 2002.

Khanima Saleem married MSM Ozeer, who passed away in 2003, and now lives with her children at Ratmalana. Her children are Mafooza Samsudeem Dr. Shahnaz Ozeer (married to Dr. Nazli Zainab and migrated to Australia), & Shanooz Ozeer (married to his first cousin Minna Saleem, daughter of Hamza Saleem.

Zackiya Saleem, who married Muhammad Mansoor Hassan passed away in 1981 now lives down Fredericka Road at Wellawatte. Her children are Imthiaz (married to Mueeza also of Fredericka Road), and Rizvi (married to Aynfa Haleem of Nawalapitiya). Both sons were bankers in Colombo and subsequently moved to take up employment with banks in Saudi Arabia where they are resident now. Imthiaz has moved out of the banking sector to take up employment with a large private sector corporation in Jeddah, while Rizvi and his family live in Riyadh.

Fareeda Saleem & Nuhuman Noordeen (son of Saleema Thaha and grandson of WM Thaha) lived at 15 Mary’s Road where Nuhuman passed away suddenly in 1979. Her daughter Dinazad, son in law Malik Ashraf Ali and their son Nuhuman now live on the upper floor of the same residence at No 15. Her other children are Yousoof (married to Farah Salih), Asgar Ali (married to Amana Sufi Ismail ) & Mohammed Ali (married to Farwin Muhammad) and now in USA.
Hamza Saleem and his wife Ummu Saliha Ansari, of Bandaranaike Mawatha, Colombo 12, now live at Ratmalana. Their children are Muhammad Shezmin (USA), Fathima Minna (married to her first cousin Shahnaz Ozeer), and Muhammad Shazleen.

The Sherriffdeens lived next of whom Faleel married Sithy Khalisa Sameer of No 298, Galle Road, mentioned above, and Mackeen married one of the daughters of Dr Shaideen, Fauzul Haniya, of Castle Lane, at Bamba. Mackeen passed away in May 2005.

Alavi Sherriffdeen married and moved to Dickmans Road at Bambalapitiya. Sulaiman married Khairi and the youngest Yehiya was attached to the Air Force.

Of the daughters, Sithy Fathima married Ajward, Saliha married a doctor and moved out of Colombo, Noor married Mubarak and moved to Wellawatte while Badri married Zachraff Azeez and moved to Mount Lavinia.A Japanese fishing crew moved into No 19 after the Sherrifdeens moved out. They were there for a short time and when their business didn’t succeed they moved out.

The Lye family, members of whom were Zirach, Okley, Sydney, Patricia, Amy, lived next door. Then came the Bilimorias, Sattars and the Pieris families in succession.Fricky Khan, the notorious racing driver belonged to the Sattar family with his brother Azeez Iqbal and Yousoof and sister Abida. Indrani and Chitra Pieris, who attended Holy family Convent at Bamba, are members of the Pieris family.

The right side of Mary’s Road began with the Coomaravel Auction House whose entrance was titlted at a 45 degree angle to the Galle Road. Right behind it lived Sriyani and Chrsitopher followed by a large open and spacious garden which was famous for its Kottang (Almond) tree where all the youth of the neighborhood used to haunt.

A family lived in a small house within this garden and used to eke out a living by preparing String Hoppers and Pittu which were quickly snapped up by the rest of the residents for their evening meals.Brian Karunaratne and his family lived next door, followed by the Goonerwardena’, Navaratnams who sold thehouse to a Muslim shipping owner and at 18 was the Saverimuttu namely Dharman, Patricia and Sushila.

The Serasinghes, Ebels Pereira (Dutch Burgher), Livy Wijemanne Radio Ceylon announcer and Walcart show organizer and Noor (Borah) familes followed.

Mr Nicolle, a notable auctioneer and broker in Colombo, also lived down the street during its latter years and spent his last days there, living alone, in an annexe of the Saverimuttu residence.

In the 1950-1960 years, Marys Road residents considered themselves as one large happy and united family where everything was done collectively by the neighborhood with unity and strength.

The Goonewardene family also lived here prior to moving to Vajira Road, Bambalapitiya.
Another significant family down Mary's Road at No 24 were the Pereira's who comprised of Dolart, Deloraine, Macky, Roger, Yvette and "Small Boy" who was tragically killed in a bicycle accident.

The Fernando's lived at No 17. Mr & Mrs Fernando were referred to as Aiya and Amma and were the head of the family. The children were Matilda, currently resident in South Africa, Rani, Jerry (UK), Rose (last heard of as a Nun), Guy, Jean, Antoinette (South Africa), and Sherine. They, subsequently, moved to Charlemont Road at Wellawatte.

Mr & Mrs Carwallio also lived down the street. Their family comprised Jennifer, Stanley Benny & Wife. They moved to Kensington Gardens, in Bamba, in 1962 and then on to Arethusa Lane at Wellawatte.

Mrs Serasinghe was a widow and worked at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital. Her son, Preman, is now a Priest. The Vallipurams, a Tamil family, lived in the last house.

Many residents still reminisce of the old days they spent there in excellent peace, tranquility and harmony.