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N.U. Jayawardena - The first five decades:

Inspiration to the youth

Reviewed by K. GODAGE

“NU Jayawardena —— the first five decades,” is perhaps one of the most fascinating books I have had the privilege to read. The story of NU J’s life has been written by his daughter-in law, Dr. Kumari Jayawardena and the wife of his grandson Milinda Moragoda, Jennifer.

Despite the fact that the authors are close relatives of the subject they have been unbelievably objective. They have certainly put distance between themselves and the subject they were writing about.

The quality of the printing also deserves mention, it is of the highest quality. An enormous amount of research appears to have been done and the book contains information which would be of interest to every Lankan who cherishes our history. I should also make mention of the photographs reproduced in the book not only those of the family, for they tell their own story.

The story of NU is of a life well lived. It is an inspiration to the youth of this country. I would urge those who brought out this book to have it translated into Sinhalese and Tamil.

The book should be in ‘Paperback’ form, to make it affordable to students and the larger reading public of this country. This is the story of a man who was blessed with a brilliant mind.

He was a visionary, pragmatic and a man of action He was also a man with indomitable courage and a burning ambition to succeed in life against unbelievable odds.

From relatively humble beginnings through his love for learning and sheer hard work he was able to reach the pinnacle of success. His life is an inspiration to us all. The book is packed with extremely useful information particularly on the South and the Hambantota District and the conditions under which the people of the district lived in colonial times.

Considering the state of the infrastructure in the district credit must surely be given to those English Government Agents such as Leonard Wolf and others such as Forbes who endured great hardship and hostile conditions to serve the people of such an undeveloped district.

The book also mentions those horrible men who called themselves ‘sportsmen’ and came to kill big game such as Elephants, Leopards and Bears. There is a picture of one such barbarian, Franz Joseph of Austria sitting on an Elephant he had killed.

NU’s father had been the Rest House keeper at Hambantota and the book contains an interesting note on the ‘Rest House culture’ of this country. In 1911 there had been 193 Rest Houses in the country.

In colonial times they were essentially for government officials on circuit. They were always well maintained, affordable and the food, almost without exception, good. Even in the 1950s and 60s the Rest House served an important purpose not only for government officials but also for the local tourist and casual traveller and the RH keeper or the Aarachchi as we referred to them was a respected person in the district.

Even Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip once stayed at the Polonnaruwa RH but today Rest Houses have become taverns mainly frequented by our politicians.

Of particular interest to the reader would be NU’s education and the contribution made by Christian mMissionaries, particularly the Jesuits, which NU has acknowledged with deep gratitude.

The chapter on NU’s education has been appropriately titled “Emancipation through Education’. Considering the fact that we had not, even in the 20th century, shed our feudal past, NU’s rise to one of the highest offices in the land speaks not only for the tenacity of purpose and determination of the man but also for his courage to face up to the social barriers he would no doubt have faced throughout his life.

NU had commenced his education in a small missionary school in remote Hambantota, from there he had been moved to a another missionary school St. Servatius in the larger own of Matara and later to the prestigious St. Aloysius College in Galle. He was twelve years old at the time.

The book records “the reverence for education in Sri Lankan culture which is reflected in the traditional ceremony of writing the first letters, it is an initiation ceremony into the process of learning”.

NU’s education had begun at the age of three with this ceremony.

During the four years that NU studied at St. Servatius in Matara he walked three miles to school everyday. He had carried his shoes in his hand as he was more comfortable walking bare feet.

He had of course to wear his shoes when in school. At the age of twelve he had been moved to St. Aloysius in Galle. This was where life began for NU. To quote NU himself from the College magazine “So my life from rags to riches, from elementary education to self acquired knowledge from shattering adversity to rewarding accomplishment, is an epitome of the determination, the tenacity, the purposefulness and above all the cultural values inculcated in me as a Buddhist, by the teachings and the example of the Christian Fathers and Teachers who moulded my upbringing in the impressionable age of my youth. I then learned never to take no for an answer”.

When at St. Aloysius NU travelled by train from Talpe to school in Galle town. Train schedules regulated NU’s life. He had to leave for school hours before classes commenced and returned home only after 9.00 p.m. because the train was invariably late. Though he had experienced much hardship travelling between home and school he had spent his time studying in the ‘waiting rooms’ at the Stations and on the train.

St Aloysius had left an indelible impression on his life. He states that it was St. Aloysius that moulded his character, this was where he claims he learned the art of writing, the elements of sound reasoning and logical sequence and above all ‘precision’ and the importance of detail.

In notes reproduced from NU’s diary, it is said that NU claimed that it was the rigorous training and wide experience he received at St.Aloysius and the dedication of his teachers that gave him the ability and determination to face the future.

The authors discuss “the lure of government service” in a most interesting chapter which serves as a prelude to NU entering government service. His first salary as a government clerk had been Rs. 27.50 a month!

After that he had passed the General Clerical Examination in 1926 and had been posted to the Department of Public Works on a salary of Rs. 75. Though NU joined the clerical service he had not abandoned his ambition to study for a degree.

How he pursued this ambition is quite inspiring. He had followed a correspondence course from Woolsey Hall in London and completed the BSc (Econ) degree as an external student of London University. He was at that time the highest qualified clerk in government service. His pursuit of knowledge and education did not end there.

He continued to take correspondence courses and registered for a post-graduate (MSc Econ) degree, but for reasons beyond his control he was unable to achieve that goal. Coincidentally his reading for the MSc was on Central Banking!

NU’s rise from here on is a fascinating story. He held a number of interesting appointments, but perhaps his biggest break came when Mr.Peri Sunderam, Member of the State Council, recognizing NU’s talents, appointed him a Assistant Secretary of the Banking Commission in 1934.

The Secretary was Professor Das Gupta who was unable to travel with the Commission when it sat in every provincial capital of this country. This enabled the Assistant Secretary, NU, to obtain a comprehensive overview of the problems of banking and credit in this country. NU never looked back from then on, and he ended up as the first Sri Lankan Governor of the Central Bank of Ceylon.

The story of his working life after his stint as Assistant Secretary of the Banking Commission must be read to be believed. I commend it to everyone interested in the history of this country, particularly our youth, for it is as inspiring a story as that of Obama for he too had to surmount many obstacles to reach his pinnacle of success.


Six stories from an immortal Sinhala heartland

Reviewed by Carl Muller

In his foreword to this collection, Jayantha Dhanapala, Chairman, UN University Council, tells of the author who, judging from his literary output, “clearly has direct experience of life in the village in the Sinhala heartland. Hence, he sees the poverty, the unemployment, the superstitions, the youthful romances and the tragedy when the violence of the insurgency mounted by the JVP... and its brutal suppression convulsed the country.”

Amarakeerti was a lecturer at Cornell University, New York. He obtained his BA, Sinhala, from the University of Colombo, his PhD and MA, Literature, from the University of Wisconsin and has now accepted a Senior Lecturer position with the University of Peradeniya.

“The Hour when the Moon Weeps”

Author : Liyanage Amarakeerthi - Translated by Kumari Goonesekera - Vijitha Yapa Publications, Colombo 2007 - pp. 124

The six stories in this collection, originally in Sinhala, are presented in English with great sensitivity by Kumari Goonesekera who took her BSc Chemistry Honours (First Class) from the University of Colombo and the MA from Princeton University as well as having read English at the University of Texas.

An ideal combination, I would say, and when Amarakeerthi gives us his “Notes from Andagala Mountain” at the beginning of this work, it brought back memories of my days as a crime reporter for the “Sun” when I scouted the village huts and the banks of the Deduru Oya to unearth the truth behind one of the grimmest murders - of the headless corpse of a young woman and a man called “Jester” who, in an orgiastic fury, decapitated the woman he was making love to on the sands beneath the bridge. As Amarakeerthi says: “...the stories heard from village adults prompted me to write my own stories associated with the Deduru Oya...” and you see how well the power of association works.

Each of these stories are told with an elegance that gift-wraps the village.

We have in “The Nest in the Colony” (pp. 1-12), a silence that seems to blanket emotion, longing and that lack of philosophical concept. What would a rough and ready man like Jayasena, and the girl he gathered to him, know of philosophy? They met, they knew each other, she ran away from her home where no one would tolerate her “goings-on” that, as was said, had “no limit” and she trusted herself, her feelings, for the man she loved. Yes, they had secrets to share; a nest to build for themselves.

He could give her little but there was the tilapiya from the village tank. Her dreams were sponged away by his fears - fears he would drown with the music from his cassette player.

The writing is exquisite and we can see Mala, eyes full of sadness that would one day impel her to leave her nest of hopeful dreams.

Even as John Aiya served his jail term, he would spend his nights with the moon - one marshmallow-white, silvery, ghostly face peering through the bars of his cell to illumine another ghastly face - and he was a murderer and had left his weeping wife and little sons that he pay for his crime.

This story, “The Hour when the Moon Weeps” (pp. 13-30) is of terror and counter-terror, of boys absconded, the ingredients of tyre pyres, of village thugs who swear to seduce the wives of others, of bloody revenge and cruel loss. The end is as seductive as the beginning. Read it and feel the coils of old age tighten remorselessly.

There is Black Pokuta who can swing up the tallest jak tree, look down on the Badagamuwa forest, Athaagala and Dolukande; but of Red Pokuta there rise stories to chill the blood. In “Black Pokuta and Red Pokuta” (pp. 31-50), it is the sheer wonder and the rustic mindset of village life that is varnished over with superstitions, age-old rituals, the do’s and do not’s that are so vital for survival, both physical and spiritual:

“...everyone in the village knew that... he killed and devoured the red lula... the red lula is a spiritual manifestation of Red Pokuta.”

(Says the arecanut tree): “If there is any extra expense to be incurred at a wedding or funeral, I’ll be glad to bear it.” And that is why the arecanut flower is used at weddings and other celebrations. Blessed water is sprinkled with an arecanut sprig too. Funeral pyres use arecanut logs, do they not?

Read of Jayasundera’s love letter to Erandathie, secreted in a bunch of low-hanging ehala flowers (pp. 51-77); and also of the victimization that saps sense and reason when a new government drives the unwanted out of their workplaces, transfers to places of rank misfortune and of children who are “bunker kids.” (pp. 78-98).

“I was dumped here as an act of revenge - just because my husband worked for the last government. If someone is sent somewhere as punishment, then the place can’t be good, no?”

And there is the new boy’s love of drawing sharks - and the story ends with an explanation more terrible than ever, but something we have all come to expect, even as karma; the night callers, the beach, the gunshots, the roar of a vehicle or a motor boat. Didn’t Richard de Zoysa die that way?

I leave the last story to my readers, for it swirls back to the beginning, to the author’s “Notes from Andagala Mountain.”

And it is all so marvellously written and remarkably translated that one can see a melding of great literary minds, a deep respect and a kind of sheer infatuation of theme that has given us that hour when the moon weeps.

It is indeed fitting that this collection was awarded the H. A. I. Goonetilleke Prize out of the Gratiaen Award instituted by Michael Ondaatje, and even more fitting that its publication was undertaken by Vijitha Yapa. Have you got your copy. No? How can you miss a collection such as this?


Title: Loka Bankuwa goleeyakaranaya and nawa yatathvijithavadaya

Author: M. Sirisena

Book on globalization and neocolonialism

Title: Loka Bankuwa goleeyakaranaya and nawa yatathvijithavadaya

Author: M. Sirisena

The book in a way is a fine economic and political analysis. The author is critical of the International Monetary Fund of the World Bank, which according to him operates solely to extract the resources of the Third World countries in order to use them for the welfare of the capitalist countries. “The world Bank is an illusion in the fullest sense of word”. Neo colonialism operates under the pretext of globalisation.

The author has first written the book in English “World Bank and Neocolonialism”.

 

 

 


Book launch

The launch of Buddhi’s and Malini’s Sahurda Satahan-2 (Notes of a Connoisseur-2) and The Valley Below (collection of poetry translated from Sinhala) will be held at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute Auditorium, Colombo 7 on Tuesday, November 25 at 3.30 pm.

Shard Satahan-2 is the second volume of a collection of literary and cultural notes penned by Buddhadasa Galappatty to ‘Veemansa’ the literary supplement. The first volume of these notes came out as Sahurda Satahan in August last year.

Sahurda Satahan-2 consists of 36 notes written based on persons and events connected with literature, music, cinema, stage drama, television and other media.

The Valley Below is a collection of 45 poems selected from Buddhadasa Galappatty’s eight books of poems published since 1971 ,the last of which came out in 2007, and translated into English.

The poems have been translated by Malini Govinnage, who has given the Sinhala reader some memorable Sinhala translations such as Fontamara,The biography of Che, The Bolivian Diary and Cry, the Beloved Country. With The Valley Below, she ventures into English translations introducing Sinhala literary works to the English reader,

The illustrations of both books have been done by Shantha K. Herath. Dr.Tissa Abeysekera will chair the meeting of the launch. Victor Ivan will talk on ‘Media practice in Modem Sri Lanka’. Lakshman Femando whose theme of the address will be ‘Literary translations from Sinhala to English’. Buddhi and Malini have invited some of their teachers, Amara Heva Madduma. Prof. Sunanda Mahendra, Prof. Vimal G. Balagalle, Prof. Tissa Kariyavasam, Prof. Vinie Vitharana, Prof. A.V. Suraweera, Prof. Rathna Wijetunga, Lakshman Fernando and Miss. Sumana Saparamadu to the event to present the first copies of the books. (RC)


 

 

Duttagamini Abhaya Maharajathumage Dasamaha Yodhayan Saha Thawath Dedenek

Ven. Ellawala Medhananda Thera’s “Duttagamini Abhaya Maharajathumage Dasamaha Yodayan Saha Thawath Dedenek” will be launched at Dayawansa Jayakody Book Exhibition Hall, Ven. S. Mahinda Mawatha, Colombo 10 on November 25.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Media Guide 2008/9 Edition launched

A professional media guide for Sri Lanka 8th updated edition, containing names and addresses of about 810 profiles with 7972 media contacts , was published on third week of November, 2008 by the Sri Lanka Environmental Journalists Forum (SLEJF). This media guide was compiled by Dharman Wickremaratne.

 

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