Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tsunami Recollection......

It was the day after Christmas 2004. The Christmas joy was still lingering in many Christian houses. On the other hand, Buddhist families were at the temple, as it was the Unduvap Full Moon Poya day. Many people travelled down south for the holiday during the season. They were out on the beaches, playing and enjoying their holiday to the fullest.

While all this was going on, something unusual was happening at the beach. Around 9 am the people witnessed something rare. The water level of the sea was falling and no outgoing tide was responsible for revealing the area that was once under the sea, now opening to the blue sky. Some sea creatures were trying their best to survive from the gazing sun. People were thrilled. They ran out to the point where the water was. The children were highly excited about what was happening. However, the joy did not last long. Within a few minutes, a huge black wall of seawater arose from the sea, covered the people, buildings and everything possible on land.
In the blink of an eye, many coastal cities in the country faced the worst destruction of the century. Around 45,000 people lost their lives, and many became homeless. This year we are commemorating the sixth anniversary of this devastating incident.
Many people still weep for their family members or their friends. They have so many stories to tell. They are ones who suffered so much from this tragic incident. Akila Niranjan, a graduate from the University of Kelaniya is also someone who has first-hand experience of the bitterness of the tsunami. He shared his story about how he lost his best friend from tsunami, with us.
On December 26, 2004, the University of Kelaniya organised a ‘sil’ campaign for their students just before the final semester examinations began. Many students and lecturers observed ‘sil’ on that day. However, Jayalanka, a first year microbiology student, from Matara had other plans. He wanted to go home and see his old parents before the examinations began.
He took the early morning train to Matara to go home, hoping to return the next day. Everything was going smoothly, until the moment his friend received a call from him. He was in a hurry. Since he did not have a phone on his own, he had borrowed a phone from a fellow passenger.
“Sea water is coming to the land. It is flooded all over. We are trapped in the train. But, don’t worry I’m fine”. He disconnected the line. Within a few minutes, the news spread among the batchmates. However, no one thought it would be something more than just a flood. Therefore, they carried on with their program.
It was around three in the evening when they first heard about the rising death toll and the destruction that this “flood” had caused. They tried their best to contact Jayalanka. Nevertheless, all efforts were useless. Early morning next day, all his friends set sail to go to Matara. The journey took almost nine hours in the bus packed with many in search of their friends and relatives.
“It was a terrible experience. Some people cried when they heard the announcements on the radio. Updates about the tsunami destruction and the National ID numbers of the dead were broadcast all throughout. The worst was when they read an ID number of a dead person; a woman was travelling on the bus to find that person. I still remember the way she cried,” said Akila. “We were depressed just by listening to those stories,” he said.
Akila and his friends checked all the refugee camps for Jayalanka. However, they could not trace him anywhere. “We didn’t know what to do.
Then we went to one of our friends, Poorna’s, house to get some help,” he recalls. “With the help of Poorna’s father we went to Karapitiya hospital. One of the Poorna’s neighbours also joined us. He was looking for his wife.” he pauses. “I was terrified, to see so many bodies at the hospital. The entire place was stinking. Those bodies were beyond recognition,” he added.
The day turned night, and they checked each carcass with the help of a torch. At one point, Poorna’s neighbour said, “Putha, can you direct the torch to that body again?” He saw, it was his wife. He recognised her from the wedding ring. The night passed without any news about Jayalanka. As soon as the next day dawned, they went to Thalwaththa, where the train was.
“When I saw the train, I gave up hopes about Jayalanka,” Akila said and went on to describe the scene. “The rail track was badly damaged and the engine was many metres away from the track.
If the wave was that powerful, how can an ordinary man survive?” They found the National ID of Jayalanka, but not his body. They never found it. As soon as the sea settled, some badly damaged bodies had been buried. Therefore, they assumed Jayalanka’s body also must have been among them.
They went to his parent’s empty handed and held a funeral without a body. “His parents could not bear the news about the death of their only son. Still, when we visit that house they cry a lot. Jayalanka was their only hope.” Akila said. “The year after his death we organised a ‘pirith’ ceremony in the University to commemorate the first death anniversary. He was a great friend to everyone,” Akila sobbed and concluded the story with tears.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Greet with a touch of creativity...

“Hello, Shyamali!” I said to my friend.

“Hey Hi, it’s good to see you. It’s been long since your last visit to my place,” she replied.

“Yes, I’ve been busy lately, however we met often. Didn’t we?”

“Of course!” Shyamali is one of my childhood friends, who has an eye for creativity. She uses her spare time converting waste materials into gorgeous craft. Most of the time, her office room is a real hodgepodge. Even today, there is no difference.

“Some things never change,” I muttered and looked at her. She had paint stains all over her apron. Her hair is messy. I realised she must have been working for hours. A little guilt crept into my mind, “Did I disturb her?”

“What are you doing standing over there? Come and take a seat. Your favourite sofa is waiting for you,” she teased.

“Sorry about the status of the room, I am sure you are used to it.”

“Hey never mind. By the way, what are you doing today? Looks like you have been working for hours.”

“Yes I did. Just six days more for Christmas, I thought it’s time for me to make some cards,” she grinned.

“Oh! Aye! I remember your advice. However, it was too late for me to work on it. By that time, I had already posted the cards I bought.”

“Hmm... Still you can have a look on what I am doing today, so you can try these out later. What do you think?”

“I’d love to. I am sure I can use this knowledge to make birthday cards also. I spend a lot of money on them too.”

“I agree. I too save a lot of money, this way. Many admire the personal touch and the way I customise those according to the receiver.”

“That’s inspiring. Will you teach me how to make some cards? There are many handmade cards in the store, expensive though. I always wished if I also could craft in that quality.”

“With lots of patience, proper tools and a pinch of creativity, achieving that store quality is a piece of cake,” she explained. Then she sat on the chair at her working table to continue with her work. I sat next to her, hoping to get a better view.

“Alright, what are the materials needed to make a greeting card?” I queried.

“There is nothing in particular. First, you need to have something like Bristol board or coloured paper to make the basic card. For this empty milk boxes are also accepted, but you have to cover them nicely.”

“Really? So, what you are saying is, we can make a card even buying nothing at all?”

“Exactly, that’s my point. The next important thing is, folding the card. There are different ways for that. You can make a standard card by folding the paper or the board into two. You can also make different cards by folding into three. The design can be laid out in portrait or landscape. This makes the card stand out.”

“That’s true. I have seen cards folded differently and I’ve also noticed those, which have a different fold than the ordinary, are a little expensive.” “That is a possibility. Now, we are done with the first step. Next, before decorating the card, we have to finish off with the verse. Write your own verse according to the person you are intending to send the card or there are free verses available online, which can be downloaded easily. Use colour pens, gold or silver pens to write this. Write the verse with your best handwriting and clear enough to read.”

“Can’t we get a printout of the verse and paste it on the card?”

“Of course you can. Is that a thing to ask? Only thing is, be creative when pasting the paper. You can burn the edges to give it an ancient look or cut the edges using a zigzag scissor. “

“Fine, what is next?” I asked.

“Now, it’s time to decorate the card and write the greeting on the front page. Write these letters bigger, so they are prominent,” she said.

“I can understand that. So, what do we need to decorate the card?” “Again use anything. Coloured paper, coloured board, dried flowers and leaves or water colours. If you want, use all in one. Be creative. Before doing the design on the card, do a sample on a waste paper and see whether it comes out nicely. In addition, it is important that the design suits the greeting of the card.

“If a birthday cake is drawn on a Christmas card. That looks odd, right?”

“Yes. I understand. Thank you so much for the wonderful tutorial. Do you mind giving a chance to the apprentice to try out some card?”

“Not at all, best way to learn something is by trying out on your own. You make a card while I bring you a drink. Good luck!”

“Thank you,” I murmured while picking up materials to make a card for the first time in my life.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Kataragama, a blessed city

Kataragama, Kacharagama or Kadiragama... whatever name you may call it, it's a place of worship for all. People from all religions gather here to pray to the Kataragama Deiyo or God Skanda in the belief that their wishes would be granted.

Kataragama has a great history linked with many myths and beliefs. So, we spoke to the Chief Priest of Kataragama Abhinavarama Temple, Saranathissa Thera, to learn about the history of Kataragama.

Kiri Vehera

The bo tree

Kataragama Devala
There are a large number of stories which are believed by people as the true history of Kataragama, but these are mainly legends. According to Saranathissa Thera, Kataragama has a history dating back to the time of the Buddha's third visit to Sri Lanka, in the sixth century BC, during the reign of the Provincial King Mahasen.

The Buddha is said to have visited Kataragama with 500 other Arahat Theras. The present Kiri Vehera is said to have been built at the spot where the Buddha had sat. The location had been Mahasen's garden of Kihir trees. The Buddha had given the King a hair relic and the King had built a chetiya at the place, enshrining the relic. Since the chetiya was built in a forest of Kihir trees, it was known as Kihir Vehera. Later, for easy pronunciation, it had been changed to Kiri Vehera.
The chetiya built by the Provincial King Mahasen had not been that big; it had later been renovated and expanded to its present size by several other kings including Dutugemunu. It is believed that King Dutugemunu made a vow at the bo tree, to renovate the place and build a devala, before he left to fight the war with Elara.

Some of the Kshatriya nobles who accompanied Vijaya to Sri Lanka in 543 BC settled down at Kataragama and ruled the area. These nobles were among those who were invited by King Devanam Piyatissa to grace the occasion of the planting of the sacred bo sapling, which was brought down from Gaya, India by Theri Sangamitta, at Maha Mega Uyana.
The bo tree at the Kataragama Devala premises, which is worshipped by Buddhists, is one of the shoots that sprang from the eight fruits yielded by the sacred bo tree at Anuradhapura.

There are two stories about the origin of the Kataragama Devala. One is that King Mahasen, who helped the villagers in a big way, was worshipped as a god after his death. It is said that the Kataragama Devala was dedicated to him by the villagers.
The second story says a person who came from India was worshipped as a god by the villagers due to his super-normal qualities. Valli, an indigenous woman, was known to be the wife of Lord Skanda, so it could always be argued that to marry a human woman, Lord Skanda should have been a human being.

It is said that the Sinhalese in the village built a devala in honour of him, and that these people who built the devala during the Dutugemunu era became the inherited officials or Kapuralas of the temple. Even now, the Kapuralas continue to inherit that position.
It is said that the Tamils at Kataragama did not worship Kadira Deva at the time. The Hindus worshipping at the shrine later introduced Skanda Kumar, son of Siva or Iswara of the Hindu Pantheon (a god of wars), as the reigning deity of the shrine.

Kataragama Deiyo is depicted in human form in an illustration in the front curtain of the shrine at Kataragama Devala; here, he is seen riding on a peacock, his vehicle of transport, and accosted by his two wives.

Kataragama Devala in 1950

He was once believed to be a real flesh-and-blood person, but became a mythical figure later. Thus, Kataragama Deiyo is believed to be a combination of two spiritual gods - Kadira Deva and Skanda Kumar - and is worshipped as one god.
Since the decline of the ancient Sinhala kingdoms on account of non-stop clashes among royalty and the vast destruction and ruin brought about by frequent attacks, especially by the cruel Chola invader Magha, both the Kingdoms of Ruhuna and Anuradhapura ceased to exist. The roads and byways disappeared within a short time.

The country was swallowed up by the jungle, which blotted out everything on its path, rendering the areas the abode of wild animals.

Entrance to the Devala.
Sinhalese kings confined themselves to rule from Dambadeniya, Yapahuwa, Kurunegala, Gampola, Kotte and Kandy. The remains of the ruined cities of Anuradhapura and Ruhuna were gradually covered by the jungle and remained hidden from human view for over four centuries.

It was the last of the foreign conquerors, the British, that directed their interest towards preserving the remaining traces of Sinhalese civilization. The wild jungles of Ruhuna had by then almost approached the precincts (limited areas) of the Tissa Dagoba built by King Kavantissa.

During the dark era of Kataragama, the existence of the ancient shrine was known only to a few villagers who lived there amidst great difficulty. They continued to worship at the shrine, holding on to the faith (on God Kataragama) of their ancestors. Pilgrims of the day had to walk to the shrine as there were no proper roads.

The place where coconuts are dashed.
Some Catholics and Christians are also attracted to Kataragama by the pooja performed at the shrine. Milkrice is offered to God Kataragama at the shrine by Buddhist and Hindu devotees; they also take holy water in their cupped hands and drink it with bowed heads in utmost respect, very much like at a Catholic Mass.

However, these rituals and practices had been conducted long before Christianity was introduced to Sri Lanka.

Muslims too have their own mosque at Kataragama, where they perform religious rites, at the grave of a Muslim dignitary, Saul Palkudi Bawa. Millions worship at this multi-religious shrine, irrespective of their religious beliefs.
At this Devale, there are no arches or figures of gods and idols seen in Hindu temples elsewhere.

The Holiest of Holies, or Maligawa as it is called, is hidden by a curtain, and contains a portrait of God Kataragama. No one is allowed to go into the Maligawa except the Chief Kapurala. He has taken an oath not to reveal a word about what happens inside. It is believed that it is not right to talk about it.

Kataragama deyiyo
Kataragama is an attraction for all time. With the march of time and with modern road constructions, the place is now urbanised. Hotels, guest houses, pilgrims' rests and commercial buildings have invaded upon the boundary of the Menik Ganga, which flows close to the Devale.
The river flows placidly and is shaded by giant Kumbuk trees as old as time, on either bank. The Menik Ganga is venerated by the Hindus as well as Buddhists. Earlier, there was only a suspension bridge across the river.
Now this has been replaced by a narrow concrete bridge, which is not meant for vehicular traffic. According to Saranathissa Thera, the Kataragama Devala premises are a blessed place. Those who have faith in the god will have their wishes come true.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Looking for a puppy...

I believe, a puppy is one of the best companions anyone can have. Friends might run away, will demand for things or they might argue with you for every little thing, but a puppy will never demand for anything other than your unconditional love and care. Considering all the possibilities, I decided that, I do need a puppy too, to be with me all the time. Since I was an allergy sufferer, I didn't have much options to choose from. At the same time, I wanted a fluffy bundle of joy. Then I had no choice other than going for a non-shedding variety.

As anyone might guess, I had very few options; Maltese, Yorkie and Shih-tzu topped the list. I tried my best finding a Maltese in Sri Lanka. I failed. I couldn't even find a person who owned a matese puppy. Then many adviced I should import a puppy. when I tried that option, it was evident that my savings were not enough at all and on top of that many tried to rip me off with fake offers. The same story goes with the effort I took to find a Yorkie too.

 Then I thought, why not a Shih-tzu, they also complied with all my needs. Darling as ever, hilarious, and lovely. Of course they can enlighten my gloomy life. I called few places where they sold Shih-tzu puppies,  but all those came with an unbelievably high price tags. I can't even think of buying a puppy for that price. Now, I'm gloomier than ever before. It kills me sometimes when I think, I might not be able to afford a puppy forever.

Can I ask you for a favour? If you know about a Shih-tzu puppy available for a reasonable price will you let me know?  I badly need a lovely canine companion for my rather lonely life... Thank you loads in advance...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Save during Christmas!!

All right! Don’t panic! It is just the credit card bill, another piece of paper with a few numbers in it. How can some figures scare me like this? I am sure I am stronger to look at it. I stared at the weeping woman on television, trying to make up my mind to open the envelope. Don’t panic! I commanded myself for the hundredth time.

It cannot be gigantic; I can guess the value easily. It will be roughly around Rs. 4,500 or maximum Rs.5,000. I closed my eyes and tried to total the values in my head. I bought my mother a saree as a Christmas present for Rs. 3,000.

It was on sale! How can I ignore that opportunity? It was the best buy after all! Then I bought myself a designer dress for Rs. 5,000. I should buy a Christmas present for myself too, as a reward for spending a great year. I deserve it! All that adds up much? Rs. 13,000? No! I must have miscalculated. My credit card bill cannot be so much! It is important to establish credit worthiness by being up to date with your credit. LexisNexis has a great solution to make sure you have and establish credit worthiness.

“Is everything ok?” Shyamali looked at my desperate face through her reading glasses.
“Ya...umm...everything’s fine..” I stammered.
“But, you don’t seem fine. What is on your table? Your credit card bill?” she queried while inspecting my cluttered table.

I hate it when she becomes nosy like this. To stop further inquiries I grabbed the envelope and tore one end revealing the white thick papers in it. I opened the bill. It was two full pages with all black lettering.

“The bank must have done a mistake. I didn’t buy this much!” I muttered.
“Oh! Knowing you, I doubt that. Let me see!” Shyamali snatched the bill from me.
“Oh my! The business crowd must be in love with you, what are all these?”
“It’s just nothing! I did Christmas shopping,” I was innocent, and my voice displayed it.
After all, it is the season of gifting. To avoid last minute rush I did my Christmas shopping early this time.

“Those are inevitable,” I tried to justify.
“But, I thought you were in a financial crisis! With all that, why do you spend so much? See here, you have spent Rs. 4,000 only on Christmas cards.”
“Yes. That was essential. I have to send Christmas cards to my friends and relatives. Else they will think that I neglected them.”
“Yes that’s true! However, if you wanted, you could have made nicer cards by spending way less than this. What do you need, just some boards, colour papers, colour pencils and some materials to decorate the card, like glitter and stars right? I do not have to say how to make it, you know it only too well. Something like that has a value addition also than just buying a card.”

“I agree,” I nodded in silence.
“What’s next? Hey, you have spent a lot of Christmas ornaments too. Again you could have made those at home.”
“How can I make Christmas ornaments? We always buy those.”
“No. Look at this. I found these craft ideas in a paper sometime ago. I have tried those. These ideas will help you save a lot of money,” she said while giving me a yellowish old piece of paper.

“Hey, it’s time for me to go. See you later then,” she grinned and waved.
“She is right! They look simple and a lot fun too. In vain, it is too late for this Christmas. May be for the next year then”, I thought with a sigh and waved her back.

Cat tree ornament


Wooden craft spoons
Acrylic paint
White card stock
Pipe cleaners
Seed beads
Fine-point permanent marker
Green tissue paper
Red beads or glitter
1. To make each one, first coat a wooden craft spoon with acrylic paint. Paint a patch of the same shade on to a piece of white card stock and let the paints dry.
2. Cut a half-inch square from the card stock, then cut the square in half diagonally and glue the two triangles to the top of the spoon for ears. For a tail, curl a 6-inch piece of pipe cleaner and glue it to the back of the spoon
3. Glue on black seed beads for eyes and draw a face with a fine-point permanent marker. Add a holly collar by twisting two or three one-inch squares of green tissue paper around the tip of a pencil, then glue them in place, adding a few tiny red beads or glitter for berries. Glue on more beads for buttons
4. Make a hanger by tying a piece of string into a loop and gluing the knot to the back of the spoon. Let all the glue dry before hanging

Homemade candles


Cookie cutters (choose shapes that can stand up)
Honeycomb wax sheets in various colours
1. For each candle, use a cookie cutter to make 10 identical shapes from the wax sheets. Divide the shapes into two stacks of five
2. Sandwich a wick between the two stacks, starting at the bottom, and extending it beyond the top by at least an inch. Press the sheets together gently.
If they do not stick together, take the wax layers apart and use a hair dryer to gently warm each one before restacking them, adding the wick as instructed above.
3. Trim the wick to about a half-inch. Stand your candle up, shaping the base as needed to make it sit securely

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas for Sale!

It has been a while since my last visit to our neighbourhood supermarket. While I was pondering the implications, all of a sudden my mother remembered that she had forgotten to buy sugar in her last shopping tour. I had no option except running to the supermarket. As usual, the car park was full of vehicles and the place was crowded.
As I entered the building, the first sight was a huge Christmas tree with hundreds of little boards saying Naththal Cash (Christmas money). “Christmas? in November?” I was surprised. “Isn’t that too early and by the way what is Naththal cash?” I wondered. The word was alien to me, but I right away realised that this must be something related to their latest marketing campaign. I took a closer look.

Of course! They were encouraging their customers to buy more supplies from them qualify themselves for a raffle draw.
This Naththal Cash was the name of the contest. I must say, I was shocked to see the way they used a religious festival to promote their business. Going beyond our country’s oceanic boundaries, we can see that this type of campaigns have become very common in most parts of the world in the recent past.

The Christmas season is the best time of the year for the business community, irrespective of the business being big or small.

Even the street vendors earn their living by selling Christmas cards, masks of Santa Clause and Christmas decorations. During Christmas, selling Cyprus trees is another common sight.
Many of you must have seen these trees or rather branches, which are available mostly near Vihara Maha Devi Park. Who says Christmas is not profitable? Vendors can sell anything during this period.

That is why the marketeers spend more than half of their budgeted advertising amount during this time, expecting the biggest windfall of the year. These days even the least Christmas item is advertised by highlighting some connection to it. 

If you see a mosquito coil advertisement saying ‘this is the best coil you can use while you are at the midnight mass’ do not be surprised! People do get brilliant ideas like those! Many of you must have noticed that a number of new shops pop up during the season. They know that as soon as they open they will have a considerable amount of sales to cover their initial cost.

Maria is a retired teacher. She recalls how she used to celebrate Christmas with her family. “We enjoyed our Christmas lunches a lot more than nowadays. We celebrated Christmas according to the old traditions. After the Christmas lunch, we used to break Christmas crackers, which were made by Akki and myself. Now, Christmas is like another name for shopping.” She laments. Somewhere down the line, the real holiday spirit has been lost.

Instead, the celebrity awe struck, materialistic attitudes have replaced the joy surrounding the Christmas season. Many companies advertise their products as if those are essentials to celebrate Christmas in the right manner. Not only that, some toy companies wait until Christmas to launch their latest products. As a result, children demand their parents to buy those toys as their Christmas presents. Helpless parents have no option than trying their best to fulfil the child’s wish, as they do not want to disappoint them during this festive season.

In the movie Jingle all the way, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the role of such desperate father, who tries his best to buy a newly introduced action figure toy for his son as a Christmas present. The movie shows how people stand in queues from morning, to do their last minute Christmas shopping. Though it is somewhat unusual for us in Sri Lanka, this is a common thing in the Western world.
Sometime ago it was in the news about a man who was trampled to death while other people rushed into to a supermarket after waiting in a queue for hours to start Black Friday shopping. The interest surrounding Christmas has now shifted from what the season is meant to represent. It has now become a marketing tool and a product-focused event where consumer commodities are incredibly in high demand and companies will try anything to make a profit during the holiday season.

It would be good to see the old traditions return and Christmas to be celebrated for the right reasons not as a commercial opportunity. Making these occasions more prominent would be a good way to enhance the peoples’ Christmas spirit and for them to realise the importance of the holidays.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

When fires break out...

This is to enlighten you about a valuable service carried out by a dedicated and courageous group of men in our country, which we normally take for granted, the service done by the Fire brigade. Let's check out what exactly happens from the moment a call goes through to them, informing of a fire taking place somewhere....

Once the emergency call is made...

Whenever someone dials 110, the call is received by the personnel at the control room of the fire brigade.
The caller's name, telephone number and the place on fire is then recorded. However, if the call is made from a telephone booth, the caller is requested to immediately inform the nearest police station about it. Then the control room personnel will call the police station to clarify if it is true.
This needs to be done because there are some who make such calls for fun. Don't ever do so and waste the valuable time of the fire brigade personnel. You may be blocking the line for a genuine caller.
Now, getting back to what happens next. Once the call is verified as a genuine call, the fire alarms are immediately set off.
There are different ring tones to indicate the type of emergency and the need.
For instance, if the alarm rings continuously, it signals a fire. If it rings twice with a pause in between, it means the call is for a rescue operation and if it goes in a sequence of three rings with a pause, the need is for an ambulance.
By this time, all the firemen are on alert and ready to go into action. Those in their rest rooms upstairs will promptly come down to ground level where the equipment and vehicles are kept, using a pole that
 connects the two floors.
Time is precious, so no staircases are used. Everyone could be seen rushing around, getting into their special suits and organising the gear.

How equipment and vehicles are selected

There are different types of emergencies and it's important to have the right equipment to deal with the situation.
Now, how would the firemen know if the fire reported is a small one or a large-scale one? From the details the callers give and of course the number of calls coming through. If the control room is inundated with calls, it's a sure sign that the fire is a major one.
Then more personnel and vehicles would be needed to combat the fire and action will be taken accordingly. If the fire is taking place in a high-storeyed building, then the vehicle with ladders will be sent.
Once the initial crew, which may number four to five personnel per vehicle, go out carrying the necessary equipment and water, additional crew will be sent out on the request of the officer-in-charge.
As the water content in the vehicles may not be enough, the water bowser too follows the main crew.
In the event an electrical fire occurs, the control room operators first inform the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), especially if a transformer is involved.
Until such time the CEB personnel arrive, the firemen go into action to control the fire. The fire is usually controlled by disconnecting the electrical line and spraying of CO2.

What happens on arrival

Once the fire brigade reaches the place which is on fire, they go into action immediately, fixing and unwinding the hose pipes, extending the ladders to reach higher elevations and rescuing people trapped inside.
The OIC will request for more personnel and bowsers if the fire cannot be controlled with the initial crew.
If necessary, the 54 metre sky lift too will be called for along with assistance from the forces depending on the strength of the fire they are combating. Going into burning buildings could be dangerous but the firemen have to take the risk and go in as far as they could to douse the fire. It is their job.
They wear necessary gear such as masks and goggles and carry oxygen tanks, and various other equipment when they go into buildings to fight the flames.

Types of fires and how they are controlled

There are many types of fires involving different types of materials. While some fires could be doused by water, others need more than just water to be put off.
Ordinary fires
These are very common types of fires and the material involved is wood, cloth or paper. These fires can be put off by spraying water.
Liquid and gas fires
Fires caused by LP gas leaks is very common.
These types of fires cannot be controlled with only water. The firebrigade personnel take CO2 (carbon dioxide) gas and dry chemicals also to control such fires.
Electrical fires
For this type of fires too, water or CO2 gas is used to bring it under control. Short circuiting is the major cause of these fires.
Metal and chemical fires
Usually foam, dry powder and water are used. But the decision is taken according to the situation.
Oil fires
These oil fires cannot be controlled with only water so foam is used to douse them.
Equipment and gear
Fire extinguishers come in three colours for easy identification.
The red fire extinguishers contain water
The cream extinguishers contain foam
The blue extinguishers contain dry powder
The black extinguishers contain CO2
According to the European standards, all the fire extinguishers come in red with what it contains indicated by a stripe in the relevant colour. About 50 per cent of the extinguishers used in our country are these.
* There are four kinds of fire suits. They are chemical suits, asbestos suits, fire suits and hash pack suits.
* The rescue vehicle is equipped with all the tools needed to open doors and get through various obstacles to rescue people.
* The water curtain is used to protect the people and vehicles from the flames and the heat. This is mostly used when there is a difficulty to get through the flames.
* Dry powder extinguishers help to control fires quickly, but they leave behind a deposit. This is suitable for open spaces.
* CO2 will not leave any deposits so they are the best to be used in places such as kitchens and computer rooms.
* Asbestos blankets are used to stop the fires from spreading.
* The hose-pipes used to spray the water, foam and chemicals are about 15 m long and 2.5 inches wide.
The fire brigade conducts fire drills in offices as well as in public places to educate the people about the correct action that should be taken during the fire.
They also conduct training programmes and schools and could call them to arrange such a training session in their schools.
Don't you think the fire brigade is doing a great service, not just dousing fires and saving buildings, but also putting their own lives at risk trying to rescue others?

Dog breeds out of the ordinary

Have you ever seen a German Shepherd or a Pomeranian? Sure, you have! But, have you ever heard of a Polish Owczarek Nizinny? Not likely. It's one of many unfamiliar breeds of dogs roaming the Earth and though the name is a mouthful, it is a beautiful creature.
There are many more dog breeds out there that, unless you are a dog expert, you may never have heard of.

Chinese Shar-pei
The Shar-pei is a large mass of wrinkles. Its face, back, sides, and legs are just one wrinkle after another. Picture a wrinkled, miniature hippopotamus. Originating in China more than 2000 years ago, the Shar-pei nearly became extinct in the 1960s.
In the early sixties, it became the rarest dog breed in the world, but was saved from extinction after it was imported and bred in the United States in the early seventies.
The Shar-pei is a medium sized dog, weighing in at 40 to 60 pounds when full-grown; it's about 46 to 50 centimetres high at the withers (ridge between shoulder-blades).

Karabash (Anatolian Shepherd)

These dogs have large frames, but are still sleek and very responsive. They are independent, self-assured and courageous. These strong and loyal dogs become overprotective of the family home and property.
Because they are affectionate with their family, but suspicious of strangers, Anatolian Shepherds make great watchdogs - not allowing strangers on the property in the absence of their owners.

Bouvier des Flandres
These small, but sturdy dogs look somewhat like a terrier. They usually have a dark, rough coat and a generally calm manner. They were originally bred as herders in France and are today used in both police work and as guide dogs or assistance animals for the blind.

Belonging to the terrier group (along with pinschers and schnauzers), the Affenpinscher is a toy dog with good manners. These little dogs are very intelligent and trainable. They have a dark and stiff coat, round head and long hair all over the face.
For their size, they are anything but delicate. This smaller version of a working terrier has a square body with a deep chest. The Affenpinscher is naturally affectionate towards humans and makes a wonderful family pet.

The Basenji is a medium sized muscular dog that is also known as the African Barkless Dog. It never barks, but not because it is mute; apparently it just does not want to.
Basenjis were originally bred in Africa as hunting dogs. They do not make naturally good pets, but overcome their aversion (dislike) to humans if they are handled consistently from an early age.

Central Asian Ovtcharka
It is a large and muscular dog and typically has its ears and tail docked at an early age. It is known as loyal and fearless and has protective instincts that make it an excellent herder and watchdog.

Polish Owczarek Nizinny
Perhaps, you thought we made the name up just to get your attention, right? This dog is a medium sized, shaggy dog with a long coat that covers its eyes. Loyal and devoted, it makes a great pet as long as it is not left alone for long periods of time (this dog is known to cause trouble when unsupervised for too long).

Thai Ridgeback
The Thai Ridgeback Dog, or Mah Thai, is the national dog of Thailand. It gets its name from the ridge of colour growing down its back from just behind the withers to the hips.
The ridge is like a cowlick (tuft of upturned hair on forehead) - formed by hair growing in opposite directions from each side. A loving and loyal breed, it is speculated that the Thai Ridgeback may be one of the oldest dog breeds known to man.
The breed's history dates back to ancient times. There is much speculation over its lineage (line of ancestors), which can be traced back through the evolution of the canine species from wolf to dingo to our present day domestic dog.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The right fragrance

It was rather a hot Sunday afternoon and many A/L mathematics students gathered at a primordial hall, the usual venue of one of the most popular tuition classes of the hill country. Sun-rays peeped into that hall through the tiny holes of the rusted roofing sheets, making the inside temperature rise more. The two feeble ceiling fans tried their best to comfort the students. Moreover, the place was noisy as a flea market. 

 We, the girls seated in the front rows were busy jabbering about everything from fashion to boys. Of course, we spoke about subject matter too! It was very close to the starting time when all of a sudden I smelt a familiar fragrance and became very excited. The owner of the fragrance was the person I admired so much and even without seeing him, I sensed his arrival. When I publicised my discovery, the girls broke into a loud laugh. They teased me for being so vigilant and enthusiastic. However, that day I realised how a perfume could go one-step faster, to give an impression about you to the others. Making this impression - positive or negative - mostly depends on how suitable is the choice of your fragrance for your character. 

Today, let us give you some insight tips on how to choose that perfect perfume to give a positive first impression! The body chemistry of a person is unique to everyone. Do not be surprised if the exact same perfume, what your best friend is using gives a different fragrance on you. Looking for a scent that smells great on you is a challenge enough; buying a scent for someone else is worse! Let us guide you to get through this challenging task. 

The first thing to consider when buying a perfume is your daily lifestyle and activities. The type of the person and the weather you are intended to use it in are also important factors. As an example, heat often evaporates perfume faster while cold temperature or humid conditions strengthen it. You might also want to do yourself a favour by avoiding trying too many samples. Later, you may face the difficulty of identifying which is which. One useful tip is, use coffee beans to reset your nose. Using test papers to spray samples helps you to avoid spraying too much samples on you. If you feel that, you like the smell, then spray it on your pulse point. However, refrain from rubbing it into your skin as it can spoil the composition. Leave it for a minimum of one hour and see whether you still like it because perfumes tend to change their fragrance overtime. 

 The top note (the immediate scent) is different from the middle note (the scent 2-30 minutes after application) which is also different to the base note (the scent after 30 minutes of application). It is important that you like the fragrance of the perfume throughout its life. Perfumes can be grouped according to three factors; their concentration level, the family group they belong to and the notes of the scent. Its aromatic compounds determine the properties of a perfume while the percentage of that determines the intensity and the duration of the fragrance.
 Every time when we shop for perfumes, those labels play mind games with us. So, let us decode them for you.

 * Perfume extracts contain a 20-40% aromatic compound. 
 * Eau de Perfume contain a 10-30% aromatic compound. 
 * Eau de Toilette contain a 5-20% aromatic compound. 
 * Eau de Cologne has a 2-5% aromatic compound. 

 Therefore, according to these facts something you should note is Eau de Toilette is not the perfect choice if you are hunting for a perfume that lasts longer. Never apply too much perfume. 

The real art of applying perfume is to find the right amount such that there is a clue of fragrance, and not obvious smell. You can do this by first spraying a small amount on your wrist. With the perfume on your wrist, dab it on your other pulse points, such as the one on your neck, behind your knees, between breasts and of course, your wrist itself. These pulse points are where blood vessels are closest to your skin and therefore are warmer. This means that these pulse points will “transmit” the fragrance for you. Be sure not to miss the pulse point behind your knee because fragrances rise. Remember never to spray perfume directly on your clothing as it will leave a stain and will be difficult to remove. Therefore, always apply your fragrance before you dress.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Blog needs a new design...

Hello there,

It's time for a change. Butterfly thoughts needs a new look. A look that will be easy on readers eyes, a look that can attract more readers. So, this is an open invitation to those who are creative and good in computer to give a hand to make this space a beautiful one!! The best design will be featured here, with a description of the creator!


Janani :D

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Significance of Il Poya Day

It was a full moon day on the month of Ill (November) and the entire town-dwellers were busy when hermit Sumedha stridden in to the town. Many men were busy clearing off the roadside fences, and colour washing the houses. Some were busy trimming the tree branches allowing the sunshine to light the streets. Women profusely walked here and there helping their men, who worked hand-in-hand to make their town a pleasant place. Curious hermit Sumedha was eager to know what befalls in the city. He slowly made his way towards a strong man, who was busy setting up the road. “Sir, what is this big ha-ho? Anything special is happening in the city?”
The man looked at the hermit and with all due respect replied. “Why, haven’t you heard? Today Deepankara Buddha is visiting our city. So, we want our city to be in the perfect condition”
“Really unbelievable this is! I would also like to be a part of it,” Hermit Sumedha said determinately.
Looking at the hermit again, man said pointing towards the road, “All right! Then can you construct that part of the road?”
Hermit Sumedha was thrilled with that offer. Immediately he agreed. Keeping his possessions at a roadside amabalama (resting place for the weary traveller), he began his work. After the heavy rains, which lasted for few days continuously, the road was full of mud. It made his chore even harder. He was to cover the mud with gravel and clean it, for the Buddha to walk on it without a problem. The sun, which was just emerging from the sea when he arrived at the city, is now almost ready to drown back in the ocean. Yet, he is not finish with the duty. He heard people’s loud voices echoing “Sadhu! Sadhu!”
 He felt guilty for scorning the townsman who handed over the task. Without a second thought, he knelt down and laid his long black hair on the ground in an act of devoutness, so the Deepankara Buddha could cross the puddle of mud without soiling his feet. The Buddha walked slowly up to him and stopped. “Do you recognize this person?” He pointed out the hermit and questioned the people. Men and women nodded in astonishment. The one, who allocated him the duty in the daybreak, stood still wishing he would not be blamed for anything.  
Sumedha!” The Buddha called him. Hermit sat down on the ground worshipping the Buddha. “In the ages of the future you will come to be a Buddha called 'Shakyamuni'” The Buddha announced while people cried in amazement.
"I am to become a Buddha, awakened to enlightenment; may you tread with your feet on my hair - on my birth, old age, and death," Replied the hermit.
 "Freed from human existence, you will become an effective teacher, for the sake of the world. Born among the Shakyas, as the epitome of the Triple World, the Lamp of all Beings, you will be known as Gautama. You will be the son of King Suddhodana and Queen Maya. Shariputta and Moggallana will be your chief disciples. Your caretaker will name as Ananda." Hermit Sumedha received niyatha vivarana (the assurance of becoming a Buddha) from Deepankara Buddha, on that Ill poya day. After that, He spent 554 lives completing the necessary paramithas to become Gautama Buddha.
Significance of the Ill Poya day does not stop here. This day, also marks the conclusion of Vassana season. For a Buddhist, offering of "Katina Cheevaraya" is considered as a meritorious act, which takes place in most of the Temples during the month of November. Brought in processions to their respective temples, ‘Katina Cheevara’ is  offered to the resident Upasampada monks, who observed Vas, (Rainy Retreat) for nearly three months.
Another significant event happened on this day during Gauthama Buddha’s era, is converting the three Jatila Brothers Uruwela, Nadi, and Gaya to Buddhism who lived in Hermitages close to the River Neranjana. These three brothers had thousand followers. The Buddha proceeded to the hermitage of Jatila Uruvela and performed "Pelahara" (spiritual powers or super natural power). The Enlightened One delivered the "Adithya Pariyaya Sutta" on this occasion. They attained Arahatship, where they will be no longer subject to rebirth.

The passing away of Sariputta, senior chief disciple of the Buddha also occurred on Ill Poya day. A week before he passed away, he visited his beloved mother Rupasari, who did not believe in the Triple Gem. Sariputta Thera's was determined to make his mother a follower of Buddhism. After listening to Sariputta's sermon, she attained the first stage out of four stages towards the nibbana. Following this event, Sariputta Thera passed away, while the Buddha was still alive.
During different eras of the past, various important events related to Buddhism happened on this Ill Poya day, which we commemorate on the Full moon day in November and mentioned here are just a few such incidents.