Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"ayahapath kalaguna warthawa" - unfavorable weather report

The Western Province has been deluged with incessant rains these past few days, which has resulted in no sunshine for the past week. The Victory Parade that was to have been held on Thursday, May 20th has been postponed due to it. On Thursday the 13th, when I rode the bus to the WTC for work, there were in excess of 200 CTB buses that had lined up on DR Wijewardene Mawatha, which had brought security forces from all over the country for rehearsals. They were all in formation on Galle Face Green and the rains came hard as I watched these poor guys getting soaked from the 32nd floor of the WTC. They were not wearing rain coats just their uniforms and you know how thin our young boys are as it is the recruits who draw the short straw for this sort of thing. They were totally frozen and no doubt the next day 10% would be with coughs and colds and flu and the worse for wear. But no, I went on Friday, the rain was heavier and I got totally soaked, despite a brolly there was not a dry part on my body, getting drenched by the motor cars whizzing past the puddles on the road side.This time the buses were on Galle Face Green itself and the troops still on parade in the heavy heavy rain.

Now tell me the viewing platforms for the dignitaries are under construction, they will not know the suffering of those on parade, and what they had to undergo so they and the TV audience can be lulled into the spectacle that is being created, totally oblivious to the sacrifice that have to be undergone so the credit can go to the higher-ups, that is those who do not have to get wet!!

Anyway I digress a bit, and mercifully note this parade that was about to become a charade was postponed in the interests of common sense once the top brass realized the toll it has taken on the brass-less, with no one fit and able to parade.

So it was a weekend of rains on the farm, and where it is hard to get any productive work done. Worst of all Monday morning is a very busy day on the farm getting ready for market. My staff had the cheek to tell me it was raining and that they'd rather not go out and pick the leaves, vegetables and fruit. I said no leaves no sales, no sales no income and the choice is theirs. If I can get wet so can they!!

So finally I left late with having to load up the pick up with produce in the rain and then drive in the rain through flooded roads on my delivery route. Needless to say my King Coconut sales were totally down, taking a bath literally on them. People don't like to drink Thambili when it rains, a totally absurd view in my opinion. Ironically a lot of fruit ripens in the rain, but people reduce their consumption in the rainy period, giving a double whammy wallop to the farmer who has to reduce his price as both supply increases and demand decreases all at the same time. Now none of you readers realize this do you? unless of course you are one of the producers who have to face the consequences.

Anyways it was past 9pm when I finished my deliveries, as it rained all day long and I was delivering to homes in the rain. Here people are not willing to step outside their homes on a rainy day, and I turn up with produce, what more can they ask for? Anyway after a hard day's work it was a welcome relief to have a shower and a Raheema's chicken fried rice for me and my helper, before settling it to watch the TV news at 10pm showing the flooded city we had just been wallowing in!

So that was yesterday and this is today, and I got to the office at the 32nd floor by 8 this morning to avoid the inevitable deluge that struck an hour later.

Take it from me, I drove around Colombo 7 delivering and I have never seen so many roads and homes under water, even MacCarthy Road(Wijerama) homes had water in their verandas. The roads of Colombo are full of pot holes, the drains are so full of debris they were overflowing, and there just is no proper drainage for water to flow smoothly through the various channels to the sea as there has been a lot of development and infilling of marshland reducing the flow of water out. To see Parliament Sq and the Old Town Hall as islands was quite an eye-opener.

I trust those in charge will do something as the Indian Film Festival will otherwise showcase Colombo as a City unable to handle rain and remember the monsoon is only expected next week!! as the weather forecasters keep on saying.

They are hoping to spruce up the city, as we will get an extraordinary amount of publicity, and if the powers fluff this once in a lifetime opportunity, then it is another of the many failings in a litany of failings in administration.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Na tree in bloom in front of my home


The Na Tree (Ceylon Ironwood) with Latin name Mesua Nagassarium is the National Tree of Sri Lanka. ( Wikipedia uses the Latin name Messua Ferrea - so someone with better knowledge than me can enlighten me on the difference)

It was declared as the National Tree in 26th February 1986 according to the official Government of Sri Lanka web site which also states that "It is believed that the first visit of Buddha was to a grove of NA Trees at Miyanganaya and also the next Buddha (Mithriya) will attain enlightenment under a NA tree."

Why I chose to highlight this in my blog today was that I had planted the tree a few years ago, when I bought a seedling, and for the first time this year it bloomed and I was pleasantly surprised at the extent of buds and blooms, especially as I drive by the Na Tree lines Parliament Drive in Kotte where hardly a tree has bloomed, maybe the higher being does not approve of the shambolic state of some of the jokers in Parliament whose first job was to approve duty free vehicles to all, and so did not think it fit to grace the new parliament with a potentially magnificent sight of Na blooms.

I will later investigate other traits of the tree and include in the blog as I understand there are ayurvedic properties also associated with various parts of the tree.

In the meantime just appreciate what I see, just a wonderful sight to walk out of the front door to!

A few days later the blooms increase and now it is the only Na in the island with so many blooms. I challenge anyone to contradict me!!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The greatest Sri Lankan celebrates his 80th birthday “Happy Birthday”

After the ceremonies in the office, I was invited to the Board Room for tea and cake

I have been fortunate in learning from one of our greatest but little known Sri Lankans. In the interest of respecting his privacy I will not reveal his name, but those who know me will easily guess who I am referring to.

This gentlemen who will reach a well deserved 80 on May 6th 2010, is still one who works like a driven man with a specific goal in his mind and a discipline that is the envy of anyone who knows him. He does enjoy life’s luxuries that he certainly has earned, however he has not let that overawe his purpose in life and enjoys simple pleasures in life too, just like the “kiri ala” that he asks me to supply him with, which his staff are lazy to serve saying he will just eat a spoonful only. A man who began life in very humble circumstances, and who managed to learn a trade and then use his knowledge to build a brand and a business empire that I admire as I know the hard work that has gone into it, which many envy and in Sri Lankan lore try and downplay noting reasons why he has succeeded rather than really giving him the credit for the effort that has gone into everything he has done.

Cutting his birthday cake with his family, executives and office/factory staff

In my experience being with him for some years and learning from him in the UK, I have noticed that he does not let obstacles prevent him from going ahead. When faced with the proverbial brick wall, I like to say he will break it and not sidestep it or avoid it. In his business as he built it from the ground up, he knows every aspect of the work, so it is difficult for those who serve him to make excuses as to why they cannot do some task, as he uses his experience to show them the way when faced with a ‘cant do’ opinion from a subordinate.

He lead life alone, bringing up his two sons single handedly. He is a perfectionist in everything he does, and able to handle a multitude of disparate tasks that he has been forced to handle at the same time. One aspect I learned from him, is to make a ‘to do’ list at the beginning of the day and resolutely go through it and clear as many points from it. I am only still able to clear a quarter of the items he can, but it is something I learned that needs to be done if one is to achieve some satisfaction at the end of the day that you actually performed a worthy function. One can then relax with a sumptuous meal or a nice cigar knowing full well you really earned it.

He is the only person in Sri Lanka worthy of titles that seem to be dime a dozen these days, but for some unfathomable reason not been awarded him. In a way when I know those who have actually been awarded these, I rather like the idea that he is not in such undistinguished company, needing no titles to buttress his greatness, but humbly carries on his work with little fanfare but much purpose.

I unashamedly say to people that his product that is sold in 100 countries worldwide and which I helped also to publicize in some of these countries, is better known than the name Sri Lanka itself. The quality of the product is one that I was proud to sell as on a par or better than anything available in the market today.

I know many of the distributors all over the world who sell his product, and I know how many distributors who would like to have exclusive rights to sell his product and therefore know the esteem to which this gentleman his held by his representatives all over the world and the attention to detail he places to all his distributor family who can still identify with him personally as he still replies to his emails himself, something that no other company chairman does in this country, nor for that matter anywhere, to the extent that he does.

He has set up a foundation, that is run by a separate group of people who painstakingly investigate the merits of certain charitable contributions, not to just provide short term relief but to provide long term real benefits to the recipients, like livelihood enhancement, that goes with teaching and raising the skill levels already attained by those who are the beneficiaries of his assistance. The size of this foundation is greater than any other charity currently set up by any living Sri Lankan, and the real benefit from this to the economy of this country passes unnoticed but is very real and rewarding.

What can I say when the man is better known outside of Sri Lanka than within as well as his products, as I noted earlier. He has not received any recognition from his motherland, for his contribution to the economy of this country in processing a valuable raw material into a super value added products that due to the countries he has to service results in over 8000 different product types that have to be produced in just one factory location, which is arguably the only factory on the face of the earth that produces so many different products destined to so many different countries.

“I wish you good health and peace of mind that no matter what, there are people who silently admire you and wish to emulate your success in a small way, learning from you by way of example, so that we can teach our youth what is possible. We need real role models for our future that we can emulate and know that given hard work anything is possible. There is one thing you were born with which no amount of training can gain, and that is an incredible photographic memory for names, places, and events, that has enabled you to maximize that ability to the best advantage of your products, people, processes and profits. I thank you Sir for the time you spent with me, something I will treasure always and put to good use.”