Friday, June 8, 2012

An evening courtesy of the Norwegians

I wondered what I would do this evening after a day’s work. I opened my email at 5pm and had an invitation for a Norwegian musical evening at the British School by a Norwegian friend from the 60’s, Arne Fjortoft. I called him immediately at 5 and said I will come. I got the best seats!!!

I did not have a vehicle to take me home to change and shower, so I walked over to the venue from my office about a hundred meters away and met a mutual friend and sat with him. I Chatted with Mano Chanmugam, who I had not met in decades, and exchanged pleasantries before settling in to an enchanting evening of music.

I was hoping for some Norwegian folk songs from the three musicians but instead was treated more to their version of English language American country music, and then the soul sounds of Soundarie David Rodrigo really got it going with a selection of old well known soul music and sprinkling of pop music from her female choir of 20. It was the first time I had heard them and was pleasantly surprised at their talent and they also sang together with the Norwegian trio for a while.

Soon after, I went to the Norwegian Ambassador’s residence which is right opposite where I live. I was the only guest who lived so close to the cocktail party venue. I chatted with many I knew like Bhavani from CPA and Ismeth’s wife and many I introduced myself to who knew of me, like Sanjiv Gardiner and Jehan Mendis, a relative, Orania and Mohan’s son who I was introduced to by Bhavani and only then realized who he was as I had met his mom earlier when I was walked up the stairs to the show.

Talked to artists, diplomats, and avoided the political types like KJ and Dayasiri, Sumathiran, Nimal Siripala and the NGO types like Jehan Perera, Pakiasothy and the Pafferel guy and a host of likeminded. Chatted with the host’s husband who was returning to Oslo in a week and the Ambsassador herself was leaving in a few weeks, after a record 6 years as deputy and then head. Her position will be filled by another lady.

The food and wine was great, and I only sampled the cheeses at the end, before walking across the road, home about 10pm. The music was a three piece jazz type band to keep things humming along. These places sure do pack out with a motley collection, all talking nonsense. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A break in the dry zone – a worthy place to spend some time


Getting the most of a 4 day break, even while taking public transport is an opportunity to savor some quiet tranquil moments, even though it was interspersed with the occasional socializing and chats with friends and neighbors which forms part of one’s circle in these desolate parts.

Ratmale, while in the wilderness is not too far away from the center of town in Colombo. I left Gregory’s Road at 4 am on the 1st, calling a cab, and which came to the gate in 10 minutes. It was a Rs300 cab ride to the Private bus stand at Pettah and then onto an intercity bus to Minneriya costing just Rs230 for a one way ticket. It is a very pleasant time to travel with little traffic on the roads, and cool to beat.

I could have got off at the Minneriya (Railway) Station Handiya to take a Rs150 three wheeler ride to my property, but I went on and got off at the town, as I needed to get supplies for the few days stay. So technically using public transport I could be at my place at 10am the latest having left Colombo house at 4am and if I had caught the earlier bus that had just left, I would have been here an hour earlier.

It is the windy season, and there is a cool breeze that blows due to the tank by the property as well as the two ponds in front of the verandah, where I am typing this. There is no requirement for a mosquito net, and at nights a covering sheet is in order to keep out the excessive blowing. I sleep in the verandah which is open on 3 sides so I maximize on the wind blowing from all sides. The windy season in these parts are generally from May to October, and I recommend this time as the best time to be here to relax and unwind from the daily pressures of city or working life.

The abundance of bird life makes it all the more eventful, especially if you are an avid birder. Today comes to an end, a visit to the temple next door decorated today as it is Poson Poya, and then onto Gal Oya Railway Station riding pillion on the back of a bike sans helmet, to take the express train at 11pm to be in Colombo fresh for work in the morning!
The lack of transport ensured a more relaxing time. I was also able to spend time at the property and discover all the little things that need to be attended to. There is still a lot of work to furnish, but just for my relaxation, the place is adequately equipped and that can happen in stages.

The photo above is of the lush paddy fields of the village which are fed from the stored waters of the local village tank adjoining my property, the Ratmale Tank.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The love-nest for a newly married couple – or is it just a mud hut?

I was invited to a wedding of a close associate of mine, in Hingurakgoda, whose runs a small rice mill close to my agricultural property there. The wedding photos are in the previous blog entry.

It is considered normal for a man in this area to get married before they reach 25 and the girls before they are 20. I do not know the reason, but I fear parents do not want their children to go astray and often it is they who encourage early marriage. Often the age difference between the young couple is barely a year, and some associations are made in the school itself. Here very few make it to University, a normal method, where marriages are delayed due to higher studies.

It is also worthy of note that many who get married at a young age, are not sufficiently mature, and many of the men are still in their flirtatious stage. It must be noted that as I write this, my boy who is 19 has just been thrashed (while I was writing this entry) by the father of the girl he had an affair with in the village here in Ratmale, where I am at the moment.

She is 17. It was not my place to intervene, and he took the blows, without beating up the older man in turn. It is the way parents get it off when such an incident happens, without blaming their daughter also for the association. By the way she is gated, not allowed to go to school anymore, which is a worse sin for this association from which she has no chance of bettering herself. Now tell me when the girl discovers the Dad has just beaten up her boyfriend, she will be more determined to pursue a dead beat relationship, than if the parents allowed them to associate in their presence when both would finally give it up. So who is the fool?

Anyway to get back to what I was writing, the newly married couple will be living in the main house with his parents. So in the end of the property on the other side of the paddy fields that surround it, the father has built a cosy hut, I went there yesterday to relax in an easy chair in the shade. It is quiet and with the windy season in full swing in the area, a clear breeze blows with the sound of rustling leaves a perfect spot for privacy.

It is a charming property well tended, a right little ranchette with about 3 acres of paddy to make it whole. No wonder those in Rajarata live like kings sometimes, even though in terms of assets they posses very little.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Garden party Nuptials 'at home'

I attended the Garden Party 'at home' at the home of the groom today. He is the owner of the Rice Mill where I have for many years milled my paddy, before I bring it to my customers fresh the following day. Most of that activity has had to be in abeyance since my accident and this boy Hasantha insisted I come to his wedding.

The main celebrations were at the Giritale Hotel the previous day, and there were about 250 guests at his home today for a lunch time buffet lunch at his parents home which will also be his home as a couple.

He is 22 and his bride 20, and if one looks at the photos one would realize that the Polonnaruwa District lasses unlike the puny Colombo ones, are quite nourished, living on three square meals a day throughout with the bulk of it being white rice!

The photos are of the couple during the day. They had the obligatory videographer and the live band as well for the event. Despite a power outage in the area, they were even able to get an emergency generator to ensure the proceedings went off smoothly.

Like in all weddings, there was a corner reserved for the gentlemen to indulge in their tipple, to which I was directed for much of the morning, where as the time went on, the talk grew more and more incoherrent not on my part I might add.

It was very creditable, for this boy, when I see so many young people his age or older, without any direction, to have decided to take on the rice mill at the Kotelawala junction and make a go of it. He even uses by products as fuel to par boil the paddy when he make the par boiled rice for sale in his mill.

It shows what one can do if one really puts one's mind to it. I believe the wedding was completely financed by his earnings as his bride is not of any financial means to assist in this regard.