Monday, June 27, 2011

Alls well that ends well!

 It was a fine Sunday morning, I should have woken up earlier. I had to sit a very competitive examination at an examination centre I had never gone and never heard of before. It was at 9.30 in the morning, and I woke up at 8’o clock. At the first glance on the wall clock, I was convinced that the clock had stopped last night at eight.

Oh no, seeing the same time displayed on the mobile phone and my mother’s scream hit me hard, I nearly fell off the bed. Nothing was ready. “What had I been doing last night? Oh, Aishwarya was gorgeous in that lovely red dress and Sharukh was really handsome.” Another one or two minutes was wasted in pensiveness until my father also screamed at me.
Wearing a wrinkled top and not at all matching denim, dishevelled to the maximum, I got into the car with pens and pencils in one hand and a sandwich in the other. “Oh, I forgot the bottle of water,” I screamed. “I cannot turn back. Buy one from a nearby shop,” father exploded. I sat back and tried to loosen up.

The morning was a complete disaster; I hope that at least the examination will be a piece of cake. “Dad, do you know the place?” “I think so. I asked my peon for directions,” he replied. I was relieved. I admired the striking colonial type buildings along the road. Turning left and right, finally dad brought me to a place which looked like a school. “The building over there with a high green wall is your examination centre,” he pointed. “Right, then after the examination I’ll have to come home by bus?” I asked praying he would say he would come. “Yes, you better. Walk down this lane and what you see over there is the main road,” he rekindled my hopes. I walked into the premises, without wasting even a millisecond to confirm that the place was correct. “Could you tell me where hall number 01 is please?” I inquired from one of the girls there and they pointed to me the direction.

As I was on my way to the hall, another candidate asked me, “Is this Wolvendal School?” I was flummoxed, because it was not my examination centre, “I’m not sure. I didn’t actually check the board, however, my centre is Kotahena Central College,” Shocked as I was, she suggested, “Shall we ask somebody else?” “Yes, sure” At the end of all the inquiries, I realised that it was I who had come to the wrong centre.

I hurriedly rang my father while those girls lamented that I had to go a long way to find the centre in a limited time. My furious father virtually flew to the place and as soon as I got into the car he said, “Didn’t you ask directions to the school?” “They said I need to go to Kotahena,” I stuttered. “No, it should be somewhere around here,” he screamed.

He took a nippy turn to the next byroad, and asked a person about the school, “Go straight on this road, and take a right turn and then a left turn.” We followed his directions and it brought us nowhere. Time was ticking fast and there was precisely 10 minutes for the examination to begin. Highly frustrated, I was almost in tears. My father kept scolding me about my messy life. He dashed at of the car to ask directions, on his way back he asked another. He said, “Kotahena! My Gosh, you need to go to Kotahena what are you doing here?” We silently came up to the main road. The admission card had the address of the centre as Maha Vidyala Veethi.

We were both convinced that the lane should be somewhere around here.
I actually could remember passing that street when we were on our way to the earlier place. We gave up asking for directions for the school.

We asked for the street. Within a few minutes, we were standing in front of the school. As always, I have been lucky, it was exactly 9.30 and the examinations had not yet begun. By the time I entered the school, the candidates were still loitering. The morning was full of action and within seconds, my mind was at ease to write the examination in style.

Monday, June 6, 2011

An evening at Galle Face Green

The sun was at the edge of the horizon and the Galle Face green was warming up for a long night despite the slight drizzle. It was a busy Sunday evening at the Galle Face Green. An array of old and new models of vehicles filled the car park and the ticket officer was busy issuing parking tickets. Through the barricade, we entered the breezy stretch of green, the walkers’ paradise, which graciously welcomed us to the arena.

Though it was just 5 o’clock in the evening, the promenade on the sea face stretching one and a half kilometres was swarming with families, children, vendors, lovers and merrymakers.
The largest open space in Colombo used by many hundreds a day was a donation of the British Governor Sir Henry Ward. He laid out this land in 1859. It was used for horse racing a hundred years ago and it is now a paradise for high-spirited citizens.
Two major Sri Lankan hotels, the Ceylon Continental and the Galle Face Hotel, mark the boundaries of this picturesque green turf, while Taj Samudra overlooks the stretch. Many Romeos and Juliets were huddled under umbrellas were dreaming and in their own world. At the same time, some children along with their parents raced across the stretch with their toys and while some flew kites.
The tantalising aroma of fast food vendors was too inviting to ignore. Unless you are a hygiene freak, there are enough and more food choices to make. My favourite has always been the prawn vade, without sauce though. These vendors have everything you need to pile up some fat on your tummy. If you are not into snacks, they will even give you dinner. The famous of the fast food joints is the Nana’s. There were three shops with the same name; however, the inauguration years were 1979, 1987 and 1988. The Nana’s food stall of 1979 boasts of being the pioneers. Galle Face Green hardly goes empty during any time of the day.
It attracts many locals as well as tourists. It is the best spot in town for vendors. Merrymakers strode on to the beach from the steps, which lead from the parapet wall, under the vigilant eyes of lifeguards, these merrymakers enjoyed the experience of the rolling waters. The giggles of the girls echoed on the walls and the men followed the hum to check out on girls. Those who wanted to remain in dry clothing cheered the rest. The evening was vibrant!
A little walk towards the Continental brings you to the 100 metres tall remote operated flagpole and to the newly built bridge, which spans up to the deep waters. The experience on this observation point is wonderful. The deep waters circle around the supporting pillars, as if they are ready to drag them to the seabed. This is the ideal spot to watch the divine view of the sunset.
The mesmerising colours of the evening sky hold you to a step closer to nature. The view of the sea is magnificent; it calms down a tensed mind and eases the pressure. However, the situation on land is pathetic. Among vendors and visitors are piles of garbage thrown here and there. There are garbage cans kept at some points. Maybe these are inadequate and the public are not educated enough on the proper disposal of garbage.
At one point there was a board displayed to warn the public of a fine, unfortunately, someone had changed the lettering and it read ‘If you keep the environment clean, Rs. 500 will be fined.”
However, it is the responsibility of all of us to keep the place clean, so that future generations can benefit from this invaluable landscape.

Self-discipline for cyclists, a must

Road accidents are on the rise and every day the country loses five to six valuable lives on the road. Who takes the blame? People point fingers at officials, but how fair is it? Every citizen should take responsibility. Upholding road laws by users make the experience on the road pleasant for all of us. On a previous week we enlightened you on some best practices, pedestrians need to follow. Today we are educating you on some rules and regulations cyclists need to follow. According to Sri Lankans, the cycle is the vehicle of the poor.

However, now many youngsters use cycles to commute to school. Intentionally or unintentionally, sloppy cyclists cause many accidents on the road. The first step of safe cycling and in avoiding accidents is checking the bicycle, to see if it is in good condition. Ensure that it is mechanically good, the height of the seat and the handle suits your height, and the fixed revenue license is visible.
The number of accidents, related to cyclists, occurs during the dark hours can be more, when compared to daylight hours. Therefore, a white lamp infront and a red lamp or a reflector at the back is essential. Painting the mudguard in white is also important. When the light is dim, always activate these lights and wear light coloured clothes to make it easier for other vehicles to spot you.
The wisest action is using the dedicated cyclists' lane if present, as it is safer than on busy roads. However, in the absence of a lane, ride closer to the left edge. Riding in vertical lines, rather than going in pairs is secure for the riders. Some modern day youngsters do perilous stunts using bicycles. Unless they are professional stunt performers, this action would lead to many accidents.
Therefore, riding using both hands is the best, while not giving hand signals. Even when signalling, do that early allowing sufficient time for drivers to prepare. Never carry anything extra, which will disturb proper handling of the cycle. In some areas, especially in villages, people hold other cyclists and chat while riding. This practice is dangerous and should be avoided. Unlike other vehicles, bicycles have the benefit of taking less room on the road. Then cyclists are tempted to overtake other vehicles in a bad manner.
This could surprise other drivers, and could lead to accidents. When it comes to mishaps related to cyclists, always it is not the fault of the rider.
Therefore, it is better to be cautious than be regretful. While passing parked vehicles, see if a careless passenger has opened a door, or may be another motorists might hastily overtake the parked vehicle and you. Be careful about your surroundings.
Another fatal moment in motor traffic is when a vehicle enters a main road, since this is an unexpected movement for drivers on the main road, it is better to stop and watch the traffic. When the highway is clear, entering is secure.
On a one-way road or at a roundabout avoid taking the opposite way. Sure, you notice vehicle come to your face, but these motorists do not anticipate you. Thus, the result will be an accident.
Arresting accidents is easy if we act cautiously on the road and follow road rules. Let us aid the country to minimise the number of lives lost unreasonably. In another episode, we will elaborate about road rules applying to motorists.

Sri Kailasanathar Swami Devasthanam: The oldest Hindu temple in Colombo

Sri Kailasanathar Swamy Dewashthanam
The deafening sound of Ketti Melam, music played at Tamil weddings, filled the atmosphere of Sri Kailasanathar Hindu Temple, and the grandly dressed crowd rushed around the kovil to ensure a perfect nuptial ceremony. Not wanting to barge in, we wandered around the place to find the kovil office. A man appeared from nowhere and offered us to help. "Show us the office please?" "Come I will show you," he signalled us to follow. "There, at the blue painted building." We thanked him and followed his directions. We were stunned to see the board 'wedding hall.' The man had assumed we too were invitees. After another round, around the kovil, we found the correct place and managed to meet the kovil officials.

The decorated roof

The astrology chart

A bull statue
The decorated Gopuram
Sri Kailasanathar Swami Devashthanam is a kovil hidden inside a bushy surrounding behind the Fort Railway Station. Built during the Portuguese era, it was a family kovil. Apparently, it is the oldest Hindu temple in Colombo. Although it is Sri Kailasanathar, Swami Devashthanam, many still identify it as the kovil at the Captain's Garden. Though I presumed it as an unseen and unknown kovil, we later realised that it is popular even among non-Hindus. The number of Sinhala notices displayed there makes it obvious.
The entrance to the road leading to the kovil is near the famous second-hand bookstores at D. R. Wijewerdene Mawatha. Turn right from the main road and kovil Veethi, leads to the kovil over the Fort railway lines. As soon as you take a right turn from the kovil Veethi, to the kovil grounds, there are two kovils in the vicinity; a new building and an old colour-faded building. According to the kovil Manager, the faded building is the Ganapathi Kovil and the new-fangled building is the Easwaran Kovil.
Though the two kovils are adjacent the management of the two is different. Construction of a new kovil was under way at the place. A man who hid behind the stone dust was carving beautiful sculptures from the stones brought especially from India. Nowadays with the use of machines, cutting and polishing a stone into a sculpture is an easy task. However, the life of the artisans who originally built the kovil would have undergone many difficulties. The clerk of the kovil office, Nesarajah, took us on a tour around the kovil. Starting from the intricate lotus-carved main door, the tour covered almost all corners of the kovil. As soon as we entered, Nesarajah pointed to the roof. Oh! A gorgeous carving of an astrology chart, adorned the roof entrance. Magnificent paintings of Gods and Goddesses decorated the entire roof of the kovil. The kovil is full of statues of various gods. Shrines dedicated to various gods filled every empty slot of the temple.

The Vel Cart
"Easwaran kovils usually have shrines for almost every god," said the manager. The kovil has shrines for almost every god whom I have read in Tamil folk tales. Sri Kailasanathar Swamy Devashthanam is the starting point of the Vel ceremony, which later went up to Bamabalapitiya on the Galle Road. The kovil has two major festivals, in March and August.
The March festival is dedicated to goddess Pattini, while the August festival is dedicated to God Easwaran.
There is a beautiful Vel cart, decorated with intricate wooden carvings. In June 2010, the kovil Management had organised the most recent Kumbabhishekam ceremony. The kovil offers different special poojas for various gods during the week.
Beginning the week on Monday with a pooja offered to Goddess Pattini, the kovil has a unique set of poojas to Goddess Durga, Bahirawa, and nine planets. On Poya days, the Sri Sakkara Pooja is followed by an almsgiving to the devotees.
The Kannagi Amman festival began on May 25, and it will last for 10 consecutive days, Nesarajah said. The shrines of Goddess Pattini and God Easwaran had two carved bronze flag poles in front.