Monday, February 27, 2012

A Sunday of Youth events – a visit to ‘Diyagala Boys Town’ – Ragama

Yesterday was another day of packed events, starting with a 9 am toss up of a IPL type soft ball cricket tournament in Malwana just across the Kelani River. This area is predominantly Muslim, and it was arranged by the old boys of Al Mubarak National school, one of the 1000 schools program, in aid of building a parapet wall around the school grounds. We have promised about Rs100,000 worth of band equipment to the school which is mired in a recent controversy of an organization collecting fees for computer classes from all the students and disappearing with the money. So here the Principal is implicated. Another case of school fraud!

After a few other events including the regular funeral house route, we were off to the Diyagala Boys Town in Ragama, where we were invited to attend a youth camp of about 100 boys and girls from the Colombo East area, who rarely get a chance from getting out of a congested city into an open area to enjoy some fresh air and companionship, in an environment and conditions quite alien to them. We witnessed a soft ball cricket tournament of mixed gender, great for team building.

The location was ideal for this type of leadership program for young people, where the lodging and meal costs for the two day event including a night campfire run around Rs1000 a head, but hopefully these young people will go back with memories that are priceless. There is a special place for this camp, and the income the Boys Town receives from these camps helps to subsidize their activities.

A few words about the Boys Town, that is successfully operated for many decades by the Catholic Church for disadvantaged boys above 15 who come with many social and psychological problems. The usual annual intake is about 50, with all undergoing a 4 year vocational training course which guarantees a job at the end of it and the graduates usually are completely transformed into useful productive citizens, hardly recognizable from the troubled childhood they come in with.

The 75 acres includes a farm and coconut estate that helps defray the costs of maintenance. Successful old boys also contribute to the Rs1M a month operating costs. All the boys must have a sponsor who is able to take responsibility for them, and pay a monthly Rs1000 for their enrollment. They have a disciplined routine which help to husband the property. They are given plenty of time for organized games, with a volley ball and basket ball court to get off the natural aggression of youth, which they have hitherto not been exposed to. The boys are from all religious faiths and a Buddhist priest teaches religion to Buddhists who are encouraged to go to the local temple on Poya. Appearances were of a well managed establishment, practiced in the art of doing the impossible.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

An unexpected home visit by the vet. Cost Rs160 for 8 cows

Whilst my blog reading friends are pestering me to give them constant updates, I tell them it is not due to lack of content, it is simply due to lack of time to update!! Only if I compromise on my sleep will I have time to blog on my busy schedule.

Actually I have also not been sufficiently cognizant of the fact that I should go to a vedha mahattaya (native physician) to get some oils to help in my recovery as I still have moments of stiffness and pain in the recovery process, and still find it hard to walk for more than 10 minutes before the knees become too painful, so I should also be taking physiotherapy to boot. So as if I have time to blog!

I took a much needed day off today, Wednesday, to be on the farm, as I have a busy schedule on Saturday and Sunday on constituency work in Gampaha. An early morning friendly threewheeler ride to the Govt. vet in Homagama to give Sinha Bahu (ridgeback) his annual shots. In the past year, I have succeeded in losing his vaccination book, much to the annoyance of the new Vet there. The previous lot I have known for the past 4 years have been transferred. Actually his assistant a girl (vet student or qualified intern) took a blood test on the dog also and had the results in 5 minutes, as the new lab is now in the premises, that was a wow factor for me. WOW Thankfully it was negative so Bahu got the all clear.

It was then into Godagama town for a hair cut. Well the charge has now gone up from Rs100 to Rs 120 (since my last hair cut that is) and then for the first time I decided to stroll down the high street to meet the people I know in the shops I used to pop into before the accident, many of whom did not know about it and had not been told and had been wondering what happened to me! First to the clothes shop where I buy essentials for staff, then to the newspaper joint, chemist and then to the place I used to have my Tata cab serviced, and finally to the Battery and Tyre shop where I used to get my tires, flats repaired and periodically air pressure checked. They sure were glad to see me, and once they found out what happened did not appear to have one good word for the Govt. though I am sure they all voted for them!!

I decided for the first time to walk back to the farm instead of taking a three wheeler from the rank, for the approx 1km walk. A slow walk meant noticing the changing skyline even as far from Colombo as here. New homes mainly, but also the local school had new classrooms. The road had also been newly paved in one section, and at the head of the road was the regular large as life Board, saying that the people of the area were eternally greatful to Mr Kumarage for allocating 15 lakhs from his Pradeshiya Sabha budget for resurfacing the road. (Rs15 lakhs for that little stretch of about 100 meters!! What is the world coming to?) Of course the photo of his was there as large as life, and thankfully there was not one of MR also taking the credit for that. For the record it was resurfaced on Feb 2nd 2012 and there are no potholes yet, so let us check in 6 months the state of play. At the head of the road was a mountain that has been cut to fill the Colombo ring road with soil

All this before a late breakfast of red rice flour string hoppers, pol sambol and watery dhal hodi, no need for lunch after that. I forgot mention, when I woke this morning sent my helpers at 6 to go milk the cow for some fresh milk with the tea. The regular milking time is at about 7.30.

While the chores of doing my laundry, boiling the water and bottling it to take back to Colombo. (Nothing like fresh water from the well here to take for drinking than imbibing treated water from the mains) Cleaning and mopping the floors, ironing the clothes, the Vet turns up unannounced. This was the same chap who saw the dog earlier in the day in his office.

He came in his Green Pajero about 30yr old with his assistant and official driver to tag the 8 cows and calves and register them all. It must be a govt. program to take a census of the dairy industry. I guess it is good to visually record as we do receive certain free vitamins from him for the FEMALE calves and also subsidized food sacks so that they will hopefully grow up well nourished to give us a lot of milk.

The tag is in the ear as shown in the pics, and it must hurt them as it is like an ear piercing of a much bigger size. I had forgotten how strong these animals are and so they had to be tied round the trees and in a position for the vet to be able to do his job. The cost to us for each animal was Rs20 so a total of Rs160 for the home visit. In contrast the bill for Bahu’s three shots and blood test this morning was Rs800.

As one can see the day off was filled with work of one sort or another with no time to blog except now after 1 am when all is quiet and Hugo the other Ridgeback is asleep beside me. He used to live in a fully airconditioned mansion in Colombo, but I think he is rather happy to live here as he is usually let out at nights to roam around the property. He was getting too big or a handful there, so I got him gratis but I cannot have Bahu and Hugo together as they fight like hell, as Bahu is first born and head of the pack, Alpha male they refer to him in a sense so I want to avoid the incidents of bloodshed when they happen to meet each other. Another busy day tomorrow with an early pick up to take me to the office, and back to the hustle and bustle of Colombo from the relative cool and peace of Godagama.

Hugo Parakrama Bahu

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Independence Day 64 years on – What does it mean to people? - Cockfights!

The significance of Independence from British Rule 64 years on means little to most people as 90% of those alive today were born post Independence. So if I were to ask the crowd that gathered for a ‘Feast of Cockfighting’ today it was merely a great day to meet friends and fellow gamblers for a day where ‘game cocks’ from all over the country, about 200, were brought to a place near Homagama. Millions in cash were wagered from young boys to older businessmen, a spectator crowd of about 500, where in the cock pit two cocks are wagered on to win the fight. This is a place where even a parking fee is charged for vehicles, such is the demand to park close to the action, and girls are only visible in that they are used to note name of the wagered and the amount so that the cash can be settled upon each result at the conclusion of each fight.

There is no police in sight for this illegal activity that is under the radar, as many are OIC’s of various police stations here to wager some of the takings from their for want of a better word, ‘bribes’ to prevent fines or prosecutions. It is a great place to wager ill gotten gains as there is little to lose when unearned income is wagered. I have noted before how popular this sport is amongst ordinary people in this country, and I believe it is one indulged in by average people all over the world. I put it down to it being transparent! In that it is clear how the money that is wagered is shared between the winners and the owners of the game bird, with little for overheads unlike in other gaming halls or dens or even casinos, where poor people feel they are fleeced.

It is welcoming to note that in Sri Lanka cockfighting does not involve people attaching sharp razors to the feet of the cocks to sheer off the parts of the opponents. That is common in other cock fighting countries. As I have noted before it is a common sport amongst young boys in the country to raise a game cock and take it to a show like this to have it fight. I understand that if the cock runs away from a fight, it will never be able to fight again. So in the event an owner feels his cock will lose he has a right to raise it out of the cockpit before it runs away, and then it is considered a loss. In order that these are not fixed, it has to be apparent that the cock is about to lose, get killed or run away before the owner of the loser is allowed to save it from a worse fate!

While this goes on, the President is watches the parade in Anuradhapura, with most of his cabinet, ministers and his MP’s, senior military personnel, as well as many senior government servants, and many of the citizens who are not going about their daily activity are watching the tamasha on TV for want of better entertainment.