Where Shadow Chases Light/Tagore

My shadow chases light. ... Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Chasing light in the morning. …
Photograph© Chulie de Silva

This is my delight,
thus to wait and watch at the wayside
where shadow chases light
and the rain comes in the wake of the summer.

Messengers, with tidings from unknown skies,
greet me and speed along the road.
My heart is glad within,
and the breath of the passing breeze is sweet.

From dawn till dusk I sit here before my door,
and I know that of a sudden
the happy moment will arrive when I shall see.

In the meanwhile I smile and I sing all alone.
In the meanwhile the air is filling with the perfume of promise.

Rabindranath Tagore
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Fleeting Moments at Hikkaduwa

Then there was the soft rain in the morning – falling gently, the morning drink for the parched grass after the blistering sun of yesterday. The planter’s chair  left on the back verandah is wet. Why should I be surprised?– It’s after all the monsoon and I love rain washed mornings. Beyond the fallen browned coconut leaves, beyond the sun hood of the boat bobbing on the gentle waves, the sky is turning blue.

Waves break on the coral reef at Benny's Point at Hikkaduwa. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Waves break on the coral reef at Benny’s Point at Hikkaduwa. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Waves form almost out of nothing, curls beautifully and lovingly break on the reef. I can watch these waves for hours. The beach too is washed, the sand damp and it is yet to be invaded by noisy screaming herds of children, youth peeing on our fence and their barking dogs. Calm before the human storm. Time for an early morning swim.

Photograph© Chulie de Silva

The inviting  sea.  Photograph© Chulie de Silva

The avocado my sister-in-law has got for breakfast is unblemished and had cost only 30 LKR compared to the 60 or 70 LKR I pay in Colombo.  The spot rupee had ended at 131.85/132.00 per dollar, on the 19 Aug. — its lowest since Sep. 17, 2012. So in dollar terms the avocado is good value. A bit of it ends up on my face — a cooling mask. Then I hear the drums — the steady beating and the sounds of a trumpet drifts in. In all our lives, there are sounds, words, phrases and images that resonate deeply. I hastily wash the impromptu stuff from my face and not quite knowing what it is but sensing a photo op., run out with the camera.

Young drummers set the scene for Buddhist Perahera. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Young drummers set the scene for Buddhist Perahera. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

It’s all happening across the road. The new Honda shop is a far cry from the little shop with a metal grid that I had clung to save myself in the tsunami. Certainly, Hikkaduwa has built back better. …

Children get ready with Buddhist flags for the start of a perahera to the temple. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Children get ready with Buddhist flags for the start of a perahera to the temple. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Girls stand in the hot sun holding colourful Buddhist flags eager to get going. It’s dress time for a little boy, who doesn’t seem too happy with his dress.

A mother wraps her young son in a shimmering red cloth for the perahera. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

A mother wraps her young son in a shimmering red cloth for the perahera. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

What’s it all about, I ask the kids. It’s a “Kiri Amma almsgiving” says one kid. This is usually an offering to Goddess Pattini to invoke her blessings for breast feeding mums, or the weak, sick and infirm. Goddess Pattini is partial to women devotees and has a strong following here. Mostly illnesses like chicken pox, measles and mumps are called “Deiyannge leda”- or gods inflicted diseases.

Boys hold the colourful canopy under which the devotess will walk to the temple at Hikkaduwa. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Boys hold the colourful canopy under which the devotess will walk to the temple at Hikkaduwa. Siriniwasa, our house  is visible across the street. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

The Nikini poya that falls today is also called a “Shudda poya.” This is something new that I had not heard before. Houses are washed, cleaned and a vegetarian meal is served on banana leaves in villages.

The little boy now holds a sheaf of peacock feathers and waits for the procession to start. A part of the newly renovated wall of Siriniwasa is in the background. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

The little boy now holds a sheaf of peacock feathers and waits for the procession to start. A part of the newly renovated wall of Siriniwasa is in the background. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

Mother’s dressed in white carry trays of food, beautifully arranged flowers — the symbol of impermanence.

Flower offerings for the temple  at Hikkaduwa.Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Flower offerings for the temple at Hikkaduwa.Photograph© Chulie de Silva

‘Once in a Blue Moon’ expresses the idea of a rare, special time when magical things can happen. According to astrologers there are conflicting definitions of what makes a Moon blue. Some say it is when we get two full moons in a row, both in the same sign. Other say it doesn’t matter if they are in the same sign as long as they both occur in the same calendar month. And there’s a third definition. Usually, there are three full moons between the date of the solstice and the date of the equinox – if you get a fourth, the third in the sequence is a Blue Moon too. By that definition, this Full Moon is blue!

Nikini Moon rise over Siriniwasa. Hikkaduwa, 19 Aug. 2013. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Nikini Moon rise over Siriniwasa. Hikkaduwa, 19 Aug. 2013. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

The Mudaliyar Great-great grandfather meets Olcott

Mudaliyar Andris Perera Abhaya Karunaratne Dissanayake of Dissanayake Walauwa, Nalluruwa, Panadura, Sri Lanka. Circa 1880s.Copyright Chulie de Silva.

Mudaliyar Andris Perera Abhaya Karunaratne Dissanayake of Dissanayake Walauwa, Nalluruwa, Panadura, Sri Lanka. Circa 1880s.Copyright Chulie de Silva.

I would make faces at him when no one was looking, quite sure he couldn’t come down to punish me, although I felt his piercing eyes follow my every escapade. He had a long impressive name — Mudaliyar Wijesuriya Gunawardene Mahawaduge Andris Perera Abhaya Karunaratne Dissanayake — and was my scowling grumpy looking maternal Great-great-grandfather (GGGF). He held a prestigious position as a Mudaliyar in the Colonial administrative system in the nineteenth century in Panadura.

The legend and the oral history was mostly on his dream of a location of “nidhanaya” a treasure trove and the gilded gold Buddha statue and other treasures. The loot he found is embedded in the Chaitya of the Welipitiya Abhaya Karunaratne Mudalindaramaya Temple in Panadura, that he built with his wife Waduge Appolonia Fernando ( Note women still hung on to their maiden names).

The Stone Inscription ( Shila Lipi) at the temple stating that the temple was built and financed by Mudliyar Mahawaduge Andris Perers Abhaya Karunaratne Dissanayake with his loving wife Waduge Appolonia Fernando. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

The Stone Inscription ( Shila Lipi) at the temple stating that the temple was built and financed by Mudliyar Mahawaduge Andris Perers Abhaya Karunaratne Dissanayake with his loving wife Waduge Appolonia Fernando.
Photograph© Chulie de Silva

The Chaitiya then and for a long time was the the largest one between the Kelaniya Temple and Tissamaharama in the deep South.

Chaitya - the Buddhist Shrine at the Welipitiya Temple. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Chaitya – the Buddhist Shrine at the Welipitiya Temple. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

The U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka in 1998, brought out a special edition of the “Images of Sri Lanka Through American Eyes”  to mark the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the United States and Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka’s 50th anniversary of independence.  I was working at the embassy then but didn’t discover till much later that this book contained a most colourful descriptions of GGGF when he played host to  Colonel Henry Steel Olcott — an American military officer, journalist, lawyer and the co-founder and first President of the Theosophical Society.

Olcott’s interest in Buddhism and its struggle against Christianity in Ceylon was roused after he read his friend J.M Peebles booklet on the famed oral debate between the Most Venerable Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera and Rev. David de Silva in August 1873.  Olcott landed in Galle on 17 May 1880, with a delegation from the Bombay Theosophical Society and with Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the co-founder of the Theosophical Society in New York.. Olcott and Blavatsky occupies a special affectionate niche in the family not only for the contributions they made to the renascent Buddhist movement but also for the vivid description of the meeting with Andris Perera.

The preaching hallwhere Olcott probably addressed the 4000 people.  Photograph© Chulie de Silva

The preaching hallwhere Olcott probably addressed the 4000 people. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Olcott in his dairy says:

We were lodged in a new pansala adjoining a Vihâra, which had just been erected by a picturesque-looking old man, named Andris Perera, at his own cost. He was tall, thin, dark, had a spacious forehead, wore his hair brushed back and twisted into a long switch, which was put up like a woman’s hair, with an immense and costly tortoise-shell comb; and a circular comb—a Sinhalese fashion—arched over his fine head. He wore the country dhoti, and a single-breasted, last-century coat of blue cloth, with long skirts, turnover cuffs, twenty large gold buttons down one side of the front and as many loops and lacings of gold lace opposite them, and the same ornamentation on the collar and cuffs. A gold-laced scarlet baldric, passed over one shoulder and under the opposite arm, supported a short sword with a gold scabbard; a huge gold medallion-plaque, as large as a dessert plate, was suspended diagonally in the contrary direction by a golden chain; a heavy and richly embossed gold girdle was buckled about him. His feet were bare and he wore leather sandals! The figure was so striking, so unlike any other we saw, that I noted the above details in my Diary. He had advanced some little distance from the house to receive us, and behind him stood his six tall, striking-looking sons and three handsome daughters. The group struck us as being very picturesque. I bethought me of Torquil of the Oak and his stalwart sons, though I cannot say that I thought the Sinhalese family would have withstood the Gow Chrom as well as the champions of the Clean Quhele. Without delay, the old “Mudaliyar” (the title of a Headman’s office) led the way to a large permanent preaching-shed, and I addressed some 4,000 people.”

Olcott had developed an interest in spiritual phenomenaand had met Blavatsky, the daughter of Colonel Hahn of the Russian Horse Artillery, and widow of Colonel Balvatsky, Governor of Erivan in Armenia. Olcott & Blavatsky together formed the Theosophical Society in New York in September 1875.

H. P. Blavatsky, editor, of the Theosophist, writing in the VOL. I., No. 10 – JUNE, 1880 (Section 2), in an article “Our delegagtes in Ceylon” says:

The party lunched at the house of Mr. Arunachalam, the Justice of Kalatura, a Cambridge graduate and a gentleman of high breeding and culture. The unfinished railway (Colombo and Galle Railway) is here reached, and the Theosophists were conveyed by train to Panadure, where the station and platform were found tastefully decorated with cocoanuts, flowers, and foliage, and both sides of the main street and the approach to the bungalow set apart for their use lined with strips of palm-leaves suspended from continuous cords.

Their host at this town was the venerable and wealthy Mudeliar Andris Perera, a stately old man with a large family of stalwart sons and daughters. He had not allowed any committee to assist, but had supplied every thing — decoration, house, furniture, food, and servants — at his personal cost. As the guests neared the bungalow, they saw a triumphal arch. erected at the gate of the compound, and their host approaching them in the full uniform of his rank of Madeliar. A large shell comb — the comb is worn by all Cingalese gentlemen — was in his iron-gray hair; his dress comprised a blue frock-coat with gold frogs and jewelled buttons; the national skirt, or dhoti, worn as a simple wrapping without folds and confined at the waist by a gold-clasped belt; a satin waist-coat with two rows of large emeralds for buttons; and a magnificent sword with solid gold scabbard and hilt, both studded with gems, suspended from a solid gold baldric elaborately carved. He was attended by two stave-bearers in uniform, and followed by his family and a host of acquaintances. As he marched along in the full sunlight, he certainly presented a very gorgeous appearance. His sword and baldric alone are computed to be worth at least 2,500 Pounds.”

The Tortoise shell combs were worn by gentlemen then, to separate themselves from the labouring classes who carried goods on their heads.

The British Coat of Arms at the entrance to the Dharama (sermon Hall) Salawa, Welipitiya Temple, Nalluruwa, Panadura, Sri Lanka.  Photograph© Chulie de Silva

The British Coat of Arms at the entrance to the Dharama (sermon Hall) Salawa, Welipitiya Temple, Nalluruwa, Panadura, Sri Lanka. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

The building of the temple commenced in 1868, in what was a marshy property he and Applonia owned. The recovery of the Gold Statue, the erection etc  makes an interesting story too. He had used a mini army of workers who passed baskets of sea sand from one to the other to fill the land. Next came elephants to stomp on it till firm to make the ground solid for building. Although he at first wanted to build it to be as big as the classic Ruwanweli Seya in Anuradhapura, the work couldn’t progress. After another message in a dream he reduced the circumference and then work progressed. Looks like he was a man who listened to his dreams or knew how to interpret them or better even is the thought that he was a clever strategist who knew how to make himself a powerful man in the community. Although Olcott states he had 6 sons and 3 daughters, its listed in a little booklet on the temple that he had 6 sons and 4 daughters.

They were Nicholas ( aka Baron); Arnolis; Helena; Carolina; Francina; Charles; Selesthina; Hendrik; Abraham and John Perera Abhaya Karunaratne Dissanayke.

We have kept in touch with only the clan of John, the Great grandfather and his wife Annie Caroline Fonseka, who had four daughters:

Gillian Appolonia who married Aaron Edwin Fernando; Eva Edith Engalthina, my grandmother who married Romiel Anthony Fernando; Rita Caroline who married Notary Wiliiam Fernando Wijesekera; Birdie Agnes who decided that she didn’t want to marry; and Nora Agnes who married Abraham Hector Lawson Perera.

Panadura clan at Dissanyake Walauwa on my Great-grandmothe Annie Dissanayake’s birthday.-She is in the middle in the first row, with my maternal grandmother Eva to her left and my handsome grandfather Romiel Anthony Fernando to her left. My mother Manel, holds Prasanna in her lap on the right first row.  Poddi is 3rd from the left on the back row and Aunty Malini (Honda Amma) behind my mother on the back row, with my father Benny next to her on the back row. My sister Yasoja is seated neatly feet tucked under her on the seated kiddie row and am the grumpy with the feet sticking out, protesting at my bad pudding-bowl haircut. Re-photographed from a original by Chulie de Silva

Panadura clan at Dissanyake Walauwa on my Great-grandmothe Annie Dissanayake’s 75th birthday Re-photographed from a original by Chulie de Silva.

Front Row: Leela eldest daughter of Gillian Appolonia; Abraham Hector Lawson Perera & wife Nora Adlin; Romiel Anthony and Wife Eva; Great grandma Annie Caroline; Gillian ( husband deceased); Notary Wijesekera and wife Rita;  Birdie Agnes; My mum Manel with Bro Prasanna.

Back Row: Victor husband of Leela; Nissanka, Iranganie & Sepal, no. 2,3 & 4 children of Romiel and Eva; Swarna & Srimathie no 3 & 2 daughters of Rita and Notary; Nanda, Wilmot and Peter sons of Gillian; Bennie My father and Malini, eldest daughter of Rita and Notary.

Seated Front row: Indrajith, youngest son of Nora & Hector; Chulie (me); Nimal, youngest daughter of Rita & Notary; Neomal, eldest son of Nora & Hector and my sister Yasoja, eldest daughter of Bennie & Manel..

Reference: Goonetileleke, H.A.I. (ED.) Images of Sri Lanka through American Eyes, 2nd ed. 1978. pp 155-156.

Happy 4th July, American Friends

Happy memories of street clicks in Washington DC.

The 45 words that form the cornerstone of Democracy , rendered larger than life in a 74 foot-tall marble tablet at the entrance to the Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington DC. Photograph © Chulie de Silva

The 45 words that form the cornerstone of Democracy , rendered larger than life in a 74 foot-tall marble tablet at the entrance to the Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington DC. Photograph © Chulie de Silva

I was lucky to have a friend Delores Boyer, who would check what was on, and guide me to see Washington. As she drove, I clicked when she stopped at a traffic light or just through the window.

Photograph © Chulie de Silva

Photograph © Chulie de Silva

Photograph © Chulie de Silva

Photograph © Chulie de Silva

Over the years, she introduced me to several exhibitions, museums, guiding me through a mind boggling array of art work and sculpture.

For a museum freak like me some pieces remain engraved in my memory.  Degas little ballerina is an eternal favourites. So many years later  it still stirs such emotions as you see this statue and read the story behind the work . …

“At the sixth impressionist exhibition in the spring of 1881, Edgar Degas presented the only sculpture that he would ever exhibit in public. The Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans, the title given by the artist, has become one of the most beloved works of art, well known through the many bronze casts produced from this unique original statuette after the artist’s death.”

Degas 14 year old little ballerina. Photographs© Chulie de Silva @ National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. May 2008

Degas 14 year old little ballerina. Photographs© Chulie de Silva @ National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. May 2008

And then there was the famous Dale Chihuly’s glass boat.

Chihuly Glass on a boat Botanical Gardens, Washington. Photograph © Chulie de Silva

Chihuly Glass on a boat Botanical Gardens, Washington. Photograph © Chulie de Silva

The botanical gardens with spring flowers in bloom was such a treat.

Connecting across the globe -- A charming lady I stopped to chat at the Botanical Gardens. Photograph © Chulie de Silva

Connecting across the globe — A charming lady I stopped to chat at the Botanical Gardens. Photograph © Chulie de Silva

Delores would sometimes sit and read, while I wandered around trying to capture the ambiance of a place.

National Gallery of Art, Washington. Photograph © Chulie de Silva

A favourite haunt — The National Gallery of Art, Washington. Photograph © Chulie de Silva

Photograph © Chulie de Silva

Photograph © Chulie de Silva

Thanks to Delores and many of my other friends too for the great memories. Have a Happy 4th July!

Random Clicks and Musings at Dupont Circle, Washington DC.

It’s hard to believe that the now posh cosmopolitan neighbourhood of Dupont Circle was once home to a slaughter house and a brickyard. There had also been a creek, Slash Run, within a block of Dupont Circle, but the creek has since been enclosed in a sewer line.

I loved to stay at Dupont Circle whenever I got a chance to go to Washington, courtesy of my former  employees. Early morning before work or after work I’d wander around with my camera and took a large number of photos. Some I’ve misplaced but here’s some from the ones I have found.

From the vantage point of my hotel room sipping my Sri Lankan tea, I’d watch the people saunter in for their quintessential brew at Starbucks. Everyone kept more or less to themselves — in their own capsules, not talking, not smiling, basically minding their own business as they do in big cities. Not quite like our famed “kopi kade” where anybody’s business was everybody’s business.

Starbucks Cafe from my room at Jury's hotel. Dupont Circle, Washington DC.  Photo Chulie de Silva

Starbucks Cafe from my room at Jury’s hotel. Dupont Circle, Washington DC. Photo Chulie de Silva

The Circle is named after Samuel Francis Du Pont, in recognition of his service as a rear admiral during the Civil War.  The surrounding area is full of historical houses, cafe’s, Museums — like the Phillips Collection with its Renoir’s famous “Luncheon at the boating Party” plus works of many other famous artists. A bit further away on Embassy Row is Gandhi’s statue. I remember spending hours trying to get the light right on some buildings and the Gandhi statue but just can’t find them now!

One section of the traffic lights at the Dupont Circle. Photo Chulie de Silva

One section of the traffic lights at the Dupont Circle. Photo Chulie de Silva

A popular haunt of many Kramerbooks & afterwards cafe was just across the road. Photo Chulie de Silva.

A popular haunt of many Kramerbooks & afterwards cafe was just across the road. Photo Chulie de Silva.

The Dupont Circle Farmer’s Market held every Sunday morning is very much more posh than our humble farmer’s “Pola” but the concept is the same. The farmers’ come  early to set up shop and offer for sale fruits and vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, fresh cheeses, fruit pies, Jams, breads, fresh pasta, cut flowers, potted plants, soaps and herbal products etc.

A lady stoopes to pet a dog as she walked out of the market. Photo Chulie de Silva

A lady stoops to pet a dog as she walked out of the market. Photo Chulie de Silva

The bread queue was the longest but most orderly and reminded me of the mid 1980’s in Sri Lanka when we queued up as early as 5:45 am to make sure we got ahead in line for our fresh loaves of bread. We took our own cloth bag kept solely for the bread, no plastic bags then. Here in DC, it was either wrapped in brown paper or you held out your own bag. Something else was different – In Lanka we spoke with others in the queue while waiting for the shop to open — we grumbled about the high cost of living, the current political issues, illnesses and deaths in our families and laughed at the expense of the politicians. Putting aside these thoughts, I would get fresh bread, very sinful, very fatty but absolutely delicious almond croissants and then cross over to buy fresh goats cheese and tomatoes for my lunch.

The variety of bread for sale and the fresh baked smells was mouth watering. Photo Chulie de Silva

The variety of bread for sale and the fresh baked smells was mouth watering. Photo Chulie de Silva

Well, a hard job picking from this lot! Photo Chulie de Silva

Well, a hard job picking from this lot! Photo Chulie de Silva

We don’t have fresh made soaps at our Sunday markets but we do have good old Sri Lankan specials like Kohomba (using neem — my favourite) and the other long time best seller the Rani Sandalwood soap now has a gorgeous shower gel too. I suppose its all about packaging and customer relations as this seller knew his customers and had a friendly word for everyone.

Home-made soap seller at the Farmer's Market Dupont Circle. Photo Chulie de Silva

Home-made soap seller at the Farmer’s Market Dupont Circle. Photo Chulie de Silva

In place of our Sri Lanka”s Virindu singers who sing improvised poems to the beaten melody of a rabana, on trains and bus stands to earn a living, here there were these two gentlemen providing the music and the case open on the ground for the contributions.

Entrance to the Farmer's Market. Photo Chulie de Silva.

A mother encourages a toddler to put a contribution to the musicians at the entrance to the Farmer’s Market. Photo Chulie de Silva.

Te fresh produce for sale is displayed very attractively. Photo Chulie de Silva

The fresh produce for sale is displayed very attractively. Photo Chulie de Silva

No, its not quite the same as our village sunday markets — the displays, the temporary tents of the sellers, at Farmer’s market sets them apart from our village markets but then who knows — paddy farmers now come to their fields in motorbikes in Sri Lanka, and we now have clean streets, so maybe — just maybe in the future our humble “polas” might go posh too.

Letters From my Father Bennie: Travels with Rati

In an era where there was no email and when even an international telephone conversations had to go through an operator the letters from my father- Bennie (Bhasura) Kirtisinghe–were my umbilical cord to the family. I used to get 3 letters a week in the period 1966-1969 from my father.They kept home sickness at bay and I would carry the last letter with me in my bag and take it out and read on the long bus journey to work in Liverpool.

The shoebox of old letters.  10 March, 2013. Nugegoda, Sri Lanka. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

One of the shoeboxes of old letters. 10 March, 2013. Nugegoda, Sri Lanka. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Sadly, most of the letters from this period are lost but some remain from the time when we lived in Penang and then Kuala Lumpur and later in Brunei Darussalam.

The aerogramme of 3 April, 1983.  Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The aerogramme of 3 April, 1983. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The letters are a rich chronicle of family life that has faded from my memory, but to read again his scrawling hand writing is to relive the past.

He didn't hold back when he wrote to me, and his frank writings often were hilarious. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

He didn’t hold back when he wrote to me, and his frank writings often were hilarious. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The box not only contained letter from him, but there were some from my sister Yasoja before she emigrated to Australia, my mother relating her anguish at finding her only sister had cancer and from friends too. There’s a wealth of family history archived in the letters. However, the most interesting were from my father, who was an inveterate storyteller. He would write to the edge of the aerogramme, and often sign as Father B or just BK.

He didn’t hold back when he wrote to me.  I would wait eagerly for his letter and  I would even share his outrageous comments with friends in Malaysia who got to know him from these letters. His wanton imagination often went on wild romps. The letters I suspect were also an escape from the boredom of life that he often complained to me about as he aged. He knew however outrageous his comments were, that I wouldn’t censure. “Yes, I am now expensive. At 65 it has to be that. I am an unhappy man, nothing is done in this house (my house) as I wish.” In their marriage, power had shifted over the years to my mother, the matriarch. She very knowingly would say I am not sure what rubbish ( in Sinhala the term she used was manasgatha) he is writing to Chulie. He would refer to my mother as his ‘(n)ever loving wife’ but close to death, he only wanted food cooked by my mother and would listen only to pirith chanted by my mother – as only she had the proper intonation that she had learned in her hometown of Panadura.

I plan to edit and post his letters on this blog. Today, I give extracts from a letter that was written on the 3 April in 1983 and is probably a response to my writing to him about the transcendental meditation I was practising and my inquiry as to whether he was meditating.

No, I am not meditating. Meditaion is not sitting stiff for 10 or (5mins) repeating one word & thinking of nothing (or trying). One day at meditation Mara sent her [sic his] cleverest & most sexy daughter “Rathie” to seduce me. In fact at that moment any female could have won me over. She took me back to my late teens and early 20s. She took me to all my girl friends. ..Some disported front opening brassieres & some did all the wiles of women. Little hands without rings on their fingers and with one or two gold bangles at the wrists. They went round my neck and some said “I won’t let you go.”

Rati- Goddess of love, lust and pleasure.

Rati- Goddess of love, lust and pleasure.

On the 19th I went on a sentimental journey to the past that Rathie took me as a voyeur. …I went to see my ‘alma mater ‘ Dharmaraja College, Kandy. Like a schoolboy I climbed to school hill (1000ft +). It was a Sunday, and I went all over my haunts with my camera.  The swimming pools were abandoned. The tennis courts that were cut and laid by my friend and I were not there. Some classrooms were there. There were no trainer’s court at all. On the staff court was built a shrine room. ‘Our Principal’ a mighty man who married an English girl was not there.”

The Principal was his maternal uncle P.de. S. Kularatne and the English lady his “Aunt Hilda.” He has oft repeated stories of his time when he and my Uncle Bertie were boarders at Dharmaraja. It was while they were here they received a telegram of the passing away  of their father, my grandfather K.H. Bastian.

My father seated in front of my grandfather and Uncle Bertie in front of my grandmother with the 5 elder brothers when the eldest P. Kirtisinghe returned from University of London after obtaining his M.Sc.  Rephotographed from an  original©Chulie de Silva

My father seated in front of my grandfather and Uncle Bertie in front of my grandmother with the 5 elder brothers when the eldest P. Kirtisinghe (Loku Thatha in the middle) returned from University of London after obtaining his M.Sc. Left to right Uncle Ritchie, Uncle Albert, Loku Thatha, Uncle Lionel and Uncle Vinnie. Rephotographed from an original©Chulie de Silva

However, the obituary notice had mentioned only his five elder brothers, and left out the two younger children. Not sure what the logic of this was, but on their return to the boarding after the funeral they had been teased by the other children that they were adopted and not really nephews of the principal.

In the last story of his, he relates how an English couple sitting in front of him on the train journey from Kandy to Colombo lost their money and passports. He had explained to the railway authorities their lack of tickets at the exit point and given them Rs100/- to get them to their hotel. He says a week later he had a letter from them with Rs.150 in it and an invitation to visit them in London.  Winding up he says ” I have no brandy” — an obvious hint  for a gift and reiterates “ I don’t mediate but takes a ride to the past with Rathie.”

See also: Remembering Father B – Bhasura the lion of Hikkaduwa; Kirtisinghe Geeration1: Loku Thatha Comes Home. 

Note on Rati from Wikipedia.

Rati (Sanskrit: रति, Rati) is the Hindu goddess of love, carnal desire, lust, passion and sexual pleasure.[1][2][3][4] Usually described as the daughter of PrajapatiDaksha, Rati is the female counterpart, the chief consort and the assistant of Kama (Kamadeva), the god of love. A constant companion of Kama, she is often depicted with him in legend and temple sculpture. She also enjoys worship along with Kama. Rati is often associated with the arousal and delight of sexual activity, and many sex techniques and positions derive their Sanskrit names from hers.

The Hindu scriptures stress her beauty and sensuality. They depict her as a maiden who has the power to enchant the god of love. When the god Shiva burnt her husband to ashes, it was Rati, whose beseeching or penance, leads to the promise of Kama’s resurrection. Often, this resurrection occurs when Kama is reborn as Pradyumna, the son of Krishna. Separated from his parents at birth, Rati – under the name of Mayavati – plays a critical role in the upbringing of Pradyumna. She acts as his nanny, as well as his lover, and tells him the way to return to his parents by slaying the demon-king, who is destined to die at his hands. Later, Kama-Pradyumna accepts Rati-Mayavati as his wife.