Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Sunday in the life of a working MP!

Sundays are usually the busiest days of a working MP who has both to husband an electorate and as is the case now due to the preference voting system, has to travel throughout the District to ensure that people know him in the whole area, where he can expect to garner votes at an election.

For the Gamapaha District MP, today we had allocated to the Ja Ela constituency, to go around with two local, one Pradeshiya Sabha and another a Provincial Councillor to go about distributing items.

The first stop was at a fairly large Sunday School, of over 900 students namely at the Deepaduththamarama Purana Vihare in Nivandama, where 5 steel desks for the school were given as one is shown in the first picture. 

The second was giving a water tank to a very small, you can see all the students above, of a Sunday School that is held in the open for lack of any buildings. It was one of the smallest temples around with a great need for improvements, and this was one that requested a tank for storing water both for the school and the priest.

 Then it was off to a small Catholic Church to give them some chairs for the school, and also to be shown where they were hoping to build a few rooms as the Sunday School is currently held under the trees in the garden surrounding the church.

We then proceeded to a Baptist Church which was over 170 years old, to which we also gave chairs as shown in the photo above.

After we were hosted to a scrumptious lunch by Mr Ranjit Govinna, a teacher at St Benedicts College, Colombo, we spent the afternoon giving sports equipment to sports clubs in the area.

The photo above shows some boys holding onto the equipment they had just been given and photo below shows, a carrom board at another place where the local kids can play.

Then there was the obligatory funeral house of a long standing party supporter, who had died at a ripe old age, and it was good to show solidarity with a faithful supporter even after his passing.

After a further gift of a volley ball, and cricket bats and balls at two other places, see photos below we were able to get out of the area by 5.30pm. It was there fore a long day since 9am.
 The day was not over yet as we had to get back to the constituency for a series of wedding invitations, and funerals.
The day ended when I got back today Sunday the 13th of May after 10.30pm

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Vesak that I missed, is that really Vesak or a show of entertainment?

 When I snuck off to Minneriya over the Vesak holidays, people asked me why, as I would miss all the light shows in Colombo. Living on Gregory’s Road which completely lit up with lanterns as there is a Temple just up from where I am and then right along Wijerama is also lit, to say nothing about Bauddhaloka Mawatha, which is just a flash of light along and across like you have seen nothing yet!

Then to the Town Hall, and Nelum Pokuna decorated for the first time, and then walk along to the Gangarama, and Sirasa and Beira area and it is just a carnival of lights with thousands of people from all over converging to see the lights and the Vesak lantern competitions, where the first prize is an expensive motor vehicle.

Each year these Vesak Lanterns get even more sophisticated, and the show gets more widespread with the lights around the Beira incredible with its gaudy cacophony of colors, and quantity to dazzle anyone.

If it is all part of the massaging of the minds, to forget our daily hussle to feed our families, then I suppose it achieves the objective. If it is to remind the people of the true significance of Vesak, then where I went to was more real here was surreal! We had a sow dansal in the village and a few local small events, whilst the line of Minneriya Army camps provided us with the Vesak Lantern competition which drew crowds from around, all in tractor loads bursting at the bulges with humanity. 

 It reminded me of the irony, where now Trishaws can only carry 3 people at the back, and so soon the 20 people packed in a trailer of a hand tractor to see Vesak will also be a thing of the past. So let us enjoy it while it lasts!

There is no small amount of money spent to make this show, and it is pure entertainment for the masses and I cannot think it means anything more. The time and effort for the few days of show, is a huge commitment by all those engaged on the various projects of building the pandols and lanterns.

I wonder considering the hunger, more Dansalas and less light, would probably save a few hungry bellies this Vesak season.

Even tonight, that is the 10th of May I can still go and see some of the lights here and there, but I do not have the urge to see a display of extravagance when there are more issues to be concerned about. It is a kind of escapism of the mind to take our minds of daily events to indulge in this but when the state constantly tells us they do not have the funds and that we must tighten our belts through this period, it does not tally with the huge amounts of money being spent on this spectacle.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The overnight train from Gal Oya Junction to Fort

I stayed a few nights over Vesak (4th- 7th May) at Ratmale residence near Kaudulla National Park.( I was without transport. I was confined to my house. I am still unable to walk without feeling stiff with the elbow crutch!

On reflection the enforced stay was a great relief, as I could sit on the rocking chair on my verandah and watch a splendid show of bird life pass me by, all unexpected and a thrill. The pied hornbill was the best in show this time, as he came every day and sat on a tree eating fruit from place to place almost in front of me.

The regulars, like the Serpent Eagle, and the Fish Owl, along with the smallies, like the paradise flycatchers, four varieties of kingfisher along with barbets, woodpeckers, oriols, and numerous small finches to eat the jam fruit from the trees all added to the interest of sitting and taking all natures wonders in.

With my verandah open the birds fly right through it, and when we include the butterflies, dragon flies and other flying insects there was a constant display.

It was the first time I had stayed so long here and I must say I enjoyed every bit of it and was sorry to leave. I had to use public transport to get back the toss up was taking the faster bus, but catching it in Hingurakgoda to get a seat as the Minneriya Station junction, the closest point in the main road would mean a tight squeeze in. The second choice was taking the slow train catching it at Minneriya or the faster express catching it at the Gal Oya Junction and I opted for the latter.

After dinner at a very close farmer friend who is also a neighbor, I was taken in a trishaw by two friends who are both park rangers at the Minneriya National Park the whole distance of about 5 km to the Station about 15 minutes away.

The train was late the 11pm coming in at Midnight. They only sell the tickets once the train leaves Hingurakgoda station, I do not know why. Anyway each ticket was Rs400, though the ticket itself has Rs220 stamped on it. So I hope I was not overcharged for the second class ticket.

We got to Fort at 6am on the dot so the train made up all the lost time. I was fortunate to get a seat as the train was full, with people getting back to work after the long weekend. It was the Batticaloa Express to Fort. I nodded off to sleep from time to time so I do not know all the stations it stopped at but unlike the ‘thapal train’ which stops at over 20 stations I think this was about 7. Palugaswewa, Kekirawa, Maho, Kurunegala, Polgahawela, Gampaha, Maradana.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Vesak - Bucket Lanterns

Today is Vesak Poya and as part of old traditions, we usually make a lantern to hang outside the home or we also make and set up some bucket lanterns with candles inside for effect. 

So we had to arrange the lanterns carefully as they are rather crudely made, so that we need to ensure the candle does not make the lantern burn.

It is for that reason mainly that the use of the traditional burning lantern is not used,

We purchased the lanterns and just put it together putting the wires to hang them and the candles inside and carefully lit them and then hung them on a jam tree outside the verandah over the pond.

I am in my property in Ratmale Minneriya, and so we had to improvise a lot as we do not have power here and it is all lamplight living.

The photos are those of getting the lanterns ready and then hung on the trees around the place. They obviously only light up as long as the candle lasts, which is about an hour and so we stuck to tradition, which does not result in a permanent light show that the electrical colored lights would give.

Nevertheless it was a way to spend the evening before popping over next door to the temple to see what was happening there.