Sydney Diary: Lunch at The Greens

It’s day 3 in Sydney, still a tad sleep deprived and jet lagged and waved Tara off to school very bleary-eyed. Manage to wake up and tagged along with Granddaughter no 2, and daughter-in-law where she introduced me to The Greens – a North Sydney Club, set next to a beautiful park with plenty of shady trees.

Best of friends head to the Children's park. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

Best of friends head to the Children’s park. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

The Park , next to the club with a children's playground. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

The Park , next to the club with a children’s playground. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not much of the history could be gleaned but there were some giant posters that gave a clue to the original founders of the Sydney Bowling club. The photos below reproduced with permission from the club tells the story.

A giant posters with the Founder members keeping a close eye on the Club they founded. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

A giant posters with the Founder members keeping a close eye on the Club they founded. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

 

Rephotographed from a framed photo on the wall. This Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

Rephotographed from a framed photo on the wall. This Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

 

The new bowling green. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

The new bowling green. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

The decor is modern except for these old photos.

Right at the entrance and to the left of the Bar is this classic menu on the wall. Rephotographed from a framed photo on the wall.  Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

Right at the entrance and to the left of the Bar is this classic menu on the wall. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

The well stocked Bar. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

The well stocked Bar. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orders taken here for a delightful menu that caters well for children.  Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

Orders taken here for a delightful menu that caters well for children. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

We ordered the Barman’s Platter for Two, Wagyu Beef Burger, and they didn’t disappoint us. Incidentally, all food was served on light printed paper titled “Our Australia” and had news on Anzac Day, Sydney Harbour Bridge, a recipe for Anzac Biscuits etc.

Barman's Platter with Pork Terrine, Scotch Eggs etc in front and the Wagyu Beef Burger behind.  Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

Barman’s Platter with Pork Terrine, Scotch Eggs etc in front and the Wagyu Beef Burger behind. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

More lunch time guests were arriving by the time we left. It is amazing how this large sprawling city has kept large green areas in its central business districts. Residents make full use of it all. There were people playing basketball on courts in the ground, personal trainers were putting some new mothers through training in a Mother’s Boot Camp, and we even so boxers being trained to box among the tree trunks. Blue skies, cool breezes, and a distant glimpse of the sea were all there in the panoramic view,

View from The Green. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

View from The Green. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

 

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Capering at Cape Byron Lighthouse

You take so many photos, you get us to stand this way and that way, but we never gets to see them,” yelled my sister, all the way from Brisbane, the other day. The line crackled, and I mumbled about lost computers and hard disks crashing, which sounded lame even to my own ears. Most of the time, we ignore her yelling bouts – but this one rang true, especially, as I had photographed her friends and was clicking madly on a memorable trip to Byron Bay.

So the question was where was those images. It was time to dig deep into the archives and voila! when I had almost given up hope, the files surface. Ahhh,amazing how photos reactivate your brain cells . … they are a tad wonky but it’s not easy to photograph these giants without a tripod.

Cape Byron Lighthouse, NSW, Australia. 6 March 2009. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva.

Cape Byron Lighthouse, NSW, Australia. 6 March 2009. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva.

Completed in 1901, out of precast concrete blocks and painted white, the lighthouse against the blue sky was indeed a striking sight.

The concrete blocks for building the tower were made on the ground, lifted and cemented into position and finally cement rendered inside and out. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva.

I walked around the base, looking for good angles to photograph.  When building this the concrete blocks for the tower were made on the ground, lifted and cemented into position. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva.

The most famous lighthouse structure from antiquity was the Pharos of Alexandria, although it collapsed during an earthquake centuries later.The roots of lighthouses lie in fires that were built in the very early days along hill tops to guide seafaring men safely ashore. Then it became a practice to put the fires on a platform to improve the visibility and that led to the development of the lighthouse.

A quick search revealed interesting factoids on the Cape Byron Lighthouse.

At the base of the tower there is an entrance porch, lobby and two service rooms, all having crenellated parapet walls, painted white with a blue trim on the bottom from the outside. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva.

Another view of the lighthouse. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva.

The tower is tapered, standing 74 feet (23 m) high, including the lantern. Ascending is done via an internal spiral concrete staircase. On top is the the iron floored lantern room which is domed, covered in sheet metal, and surmounted by a wind vane and a ventilator.

At the base of the tower there is an entrance porch. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva.

The entrance porch at the base of the tower.
Photo copyright Chulie de Silva.

Legs a tad wobbly we climbed for a better view. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva.

Legs a tad wobbly we climbed for a better view.
Photo copyright Chulie de Silva.

It is Australia’s most powerful lighthouse, with a light intensity of 2,200,000 cd. However, it started life with a concentric six wick kerosene burner with an intensity of 145,000 cd.[This was replaced in 1922 by a vapourised kerosene mantle burner with an intensity of 500,000 cd. In 1922 an improved apparatus was installed, doubling the power to 1,000,000  cd. In 1956 the light was electrified, the clock mechanism was replaced by an electric motor, and the light source was replaced with a 1000 Watt120 Volt tungsten-halogen lamp with an intensity of 2,200,000 cd, fed from the Mains electricity, with a 2.5 KVA backup diesel alternator. At that time, the keeper staff was reduced from three to two. The station was fully automated in 1989, and The last lighthouse keeper left in 1989 when the station was fully automated.

Our friend Elaine, was giving us the history and pointed out that I was standing at the easternmost point of the mainland of Australia, located about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) northeast of the town of Byron Bay.

Standing on the eastern edge of Australia. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva.

Standing on the eastern edge of Australia. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva.

The view below into the sea is fascinating too, showing the jagged coastline. We did see some dolphins frolicking below, but couldn’t catch them in a photo.

The sea below, gives you the jitters when you look down. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva.

The sea below, gives you the jitters when you look down. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva.

Am always fascinated by the sea crashing on to the shores and can sit watching it for hours. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva.

Am always fascinated by the sea crashing on to the shores and can sit watching it for hours. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva.

The site is beautifully maintained and contains the head lighthouse keeper’s residence, and two assistant keeper’s cottages that were also erected from precast concrete blocks in 1901. These can be rented out now by holiday makers. See http://www.byronbaylighthouse.com/lighthouse-cottages.html

The view of the site from the lighthouse end. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva.

The view of the site from the lighthouse end. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva.

The total cost of building Wikipedia  says was £10,042 pounds to the contractors, £8,000 for the apparatus and lantern house, and £2,600 for the road from Byron Bay township. Adjusting for inflation, this equates to roughly $2.8M Australian dollars today.

Light was fading, heat cooling as we left, in search of fish and chips. The beach had been crowded but a few lingered. Gulls swirled and the adventurous ones were still having fun.

Flying high. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva.

Flying high. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva.

The light is operated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, while the site is managed by Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water as part of the Cape Byron State Conservation Area, and by the Byron Bay Headland Reserve Trust.

 

In May I go a-walking in Washington

Yes, it was the Spring of 2008 and I was in Washington DC — the big city. Armed with my new camera I was drunk with the thrill of taking photos. Every moment of light was grabbed –early morning before going to work and evenings as the day ended.

Playtime in the gardens of the cathedral. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Playtime in the gardens of the cathedral. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Hearts are gay, blithe as May 
Dance and sport the livelong day;
Spring has come to make us glad, 
Let us give her greeting. 

Anon. The Cowslip

Weekends my friend Delores would plan my cultural forays to museums, art galleries, Washington Cathedral, Roosevelt Memorial Park . …the list was long. I was seeing Washington through my lens frame and she would slow down willingly as she did to catch this Sunday classic shot of baseball players.

On the road leaving Washington Cathedral, Washington DC, 17 May 2008. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

On the road leaving Washington Cathedral, Washington DC, 17 May 2008. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

My journeys would start in Dupont Circle, a very cosmopolitan area and I could have taken 100 shots here.

Men playing chess at Dupont Circle, Washington DC, 10 May 2008. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Men playing chess at Dupont Circle, Washington DC, 10 May 2008. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

I didn’t know about the genre of street clicks but that is what I was doing — see, like, click.

The ubiquitous Big Mac. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The ubiquitous Big Mac container at Dupont Circle. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Interestingly, McDonald’s tried to stifle a locally owned Lanka Spice Limited (LSL) from registering its trademark logo with the word McCurrie. Sri Lanka’s Intellectual Property Office rejected the notice of opposition. Its ruling said that the facts did not show any violation of the country’s intellectual property laws, noting that the LSLs “McCurrie” only sells raw spices through groceries and supermarkets in Sri Lanka and does not compete in the restaurant industry. LSL’s products have been in the market since 1982, according to local media reports.

Dupont Circle Metro. Washington DC. 25 May 2008.  Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Dupont Circle Metro. Washington DC. 25 May 2008. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The grunting, groaning metro was there to get to the Washington Mall — often the most favoured destination.

Away from the hustle and bustle of a big city — the quiet read.

The quiet read. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The quiet read. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

As it fell upon a day,
In the merry month of May,
Sitting in a pleasant shade
Which a grove of myrtles made,
Beasts did leap, and birds did sing,
Trees did grow and Plants did spring.

Richard Barnfield. The nightingale

The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial needs a separate blog but here’s is another shot taken as I was walking around.

Boy and his Dog at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memoria, Washington DC, 18 May 2008. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Boy and his Dog at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memoria, Washington DC, 18 May 2008. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

the Law and Order watchdogs.  Photograph©Chulie de Silva

the Law and Order watchdogs. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Then there are the other bikers. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Then there are the other bikers. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Yes, Washington was loads of fun and what could be more American than this of adults and kids playing!

The view from the Washington Cathedral. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The view from the Washington Cathedral. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Spring Vienna 2007

Photos, photos and photos, you take heaps on holiday and then they lie inside a folder, often forgotten. … Till, one fine day, you unearth them from a half forgotten archive. It all comes back then — the walk through a park, on a warm spring morning in Vienna.

The grasses stirred as the soft wind rippled the water. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

The grasses stirred as the soft wind rippled the water. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

Time to go cycling with Dad. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

A father goes cycling with the duaghter. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

Seeing the boy fishing in the clear stream, brought back memories of how my cousins and I used to fish in the little stream below the bridge at Hikkaduwa. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

A boy with his net catching fish in the clear stream. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

Cooling off in the clear meandering stream. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

Two girls and a horse cooling off in the clear meandering stream. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

Photograph© Chulie de Silva

… and then there were the lovely birds —  drakes am told.  Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Three drakes in a row. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

Three drakes in a row. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

.... and then there was four. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

…. and then there was four. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Four ducks on a pond,
A grass-bank beyond,
A blue sky of spring,
White clouds on the wing;
What a little thing
To remember for years
To remember with tears!

By William Allingham (1824 – 1889) , “Four Ducks on a Pond”, from Evil May-Day &c., published 1882

Among ghosts and legends at Sasseruwa (Res Vehera )

Ancient monasteries, potent legends, the mystique of incense laden Buddhist temples is a heady combination and a good playground for amateur photographers. Sasseruwa also known as Res Vihara is such a Buddhist monastery, so named as the area was flooded with rays of light (Res) when the Bodhi tree was first planted. The tree was one of the first 32 saplings (Dethis maha bo Ankara) of the Sri Maha Bodhi in the Anuradhapura.

The monastic complex is located off the beaten track at Galgamuva in the Kurunegala District. Dating back to the 2nd century BC, Sasseruwa Raja Maha Vihara had nearly 100 caves where over 360 priests had lived and attained spiritual enlightement like the Buddha. The main attractions now are the magnificent colossal unique Buddha statues – one reclining in the main cave shrine and the other, the unfinished standing brooding Buddha carved into a rock face. Incidentally both statues are around 39 feet in length and height.

Reclining Buddha Statue, rock cave, Sasseruva (Res Vehera). 23 Feb. 2014. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

Reclining Buddha Statue, image house of the “Raja Maha Viharaya”  Sasseruva (Res Vehera). 23 Feb. 2014. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

Details of the feet without the customary pedestal - the unfinished collosal granite Buddha Statue at Sasseruwa. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

Details of the feet without the customary pedestal – the unfinished collosal granite Buddha Statue at Sasseruwa. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

We had taken a couple of wrong turnings and the light was fading, and the inky blue black night was almost on us. I was despairing as there wouldn’t be enough light to photograph. The glimpse of the white stupa, across a lake at Sasseruva was a welcome sight.  As KM de Silva said, the white stupa “gave a subdued but unmistakable quintessence of Buddhism –simplicity and serenity.”

The Bodhi tree at Sasseruwa Raja Maha Viharaya. One of 32 saplings of the Anuradhapura Bodhi tree. Saseruwa Raja Maha Viharaya. 23 feb. 2014. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

The Bodhi tree at Sasseruwa Raja Maha Viharaya. One of 32 saplings of the Anuradhapura Bodhi tree. Saseruwa Raja Maha Viharaya. 23 feb. 2014. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

My mind wandered away back in time. I roamed invisibly among the caves of priests meditating; listening to sermons in the evenings, with “hulu athu’ (natural torches made of leaves) lighting up the complex; the Bodhi Puja at the feet of the tree; the lonely artist  moping near his unfinished statue; King Dutugemunu’s Army camping near the lake and even spotting a love tryst between a comely maiden and a handsome warrior. ..

Romanticism aside it was also interesting to reflect on the fact that although  the two forms of religious exercise Buddha proscribed were mediation and learning through sermons, how we lesser mortals needed the rituals of worship for spiritual sustenance. Prof. MB Ariyapala in his book “Society in Medieval Ceylon.” says how people influenced by beliefs and superstitions needed Bodhi trees, dagabas and image houses and the rituals of worship. Thus he says every monastery then also had to have amidst the meditating priests, Bodhi trees, stupas, image houses, and alters for offering flowers and incense. In that respect, society hasn’t changed that much from medieval times.

Reclining Buddha Statue, in the image house of the Raja Maha Viharaya. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

Reclining Buddha Statue, in the image house of the Raja Maha Viharaya. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

The main image house “Rajamaha Viharaya” is perched high up on a rock. Inside it is a virtual treasure trove, albeit the collection of frescoes and statues are fast decaying. The Pièce de résistance is unique 39.5 foot reclining Buddha Statue. I walked around the statue as I have never been able to before in any other temple. The robe is of actual cotton threads pasted on the statue and then painted. The threads, the story goes were were woven by a poor woman as an offering to Buddha.

Feet of the reclining Buddha statue with thumbs in equal position indicating this is not a parinirvana statue. Saseruwa Raja Maha Viharaya. 23 Feb. 2014. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

Feet of the reclining Buddha statue with big toenails in equal position indicating this is not a parinirvana statue. Saseruwa Raja Maha Viharaya. 23 Feb. 2014. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

Lotus chakra marks on the soles of the feet of Buddha. Sasseruwa Raja Maha Viharaya. 23 Feb. 2014. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

Lotus chakra marks on the soles of the feet of Buddha. Sasseruwa Raja Maha Viharaya. 23 Feb. 2014. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

Buddha is supposed to have had thousand-spoked wheel sign on his feet, as described in the Digha Nikaya, in the “Discourse of the Marks” (Pali: Lakkhaṇa Sutta). In the earliest phase of Buddhism was generally aniconic, with the Buddha being represented as symbols such as a footprint, an empty chair, a riderless horse, or an umbrella. Many early worship stones with the Buddha’s foot print exist at monastery sites.

The entrance to the resident of the guardian cobra of the reclining Buddha, Raja Maha Vehera, Sasseruwa. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

The entrance to the resident of the guardian cobra of the reclining Buddha, Raja Maha Vehera, Sasseruwa. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

As I was trying to focus on the intricate design of chakras carved under the soles of Buddha, another traveller was pointing and photographing the hole on the wall just behind me. Apparently the hole was the entrance to the abode of a cobra, the guardian of the statue. And if that message on the wall was not enough for any robbers, there was this seated Buddha statue with the cobra sitting very protectively over the head of the Buddha.

The Cobra shielding the mediating Buddha. Sasseruva (Res Vehera) Raja Maha Viharaya. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

The Cobra shielding the mediating Buddha. Sasseruva (Res Vehera) Raja Maha Viharaya. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

Earlier, with creaking bones and wobbly knees I had climbed up uneven 300 or so stone steps to view in wonder the 39 foot vertical colossal Buddha statue of Sasseruwa. Chiselled in high relief, this unfinished statue is considered to be far inferior to that of the more famous twin the Aukana Buddha statue. In the fading light, there was so much feeling and intensity. One long ear lobe was carved ( as in photo) and the other was not.

Details of the face of the unfinished statue showing the carvings on the left ear. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

Details of the face of the unfinished statue showing the carvings on the left ear. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

At least 3 versions of legends exist as to why it was never finished –it was a competition between the master and the protege and the latter gave up when the Guru completed first his Aukana statue. The second is the work was abandoned when the artist discovered a crack on the rock. The third is that it was the work of a craftsman from King Dutugamunu’s army and was carried out when the army camped here before going to war with King Elara. Apparently, the army was unable to cross the “Malwathu Oya” (river Malwathu) due to heavy rains.

Saseruwa granite Buddha statue in the Abhaya mudra. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

Saseruwa granite Buddha statue in the Abhaya mudra. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

This statue might have lost out to Aukana, but there is still an unmistakable impressiveness of this colossal which can dwarf a worshipper to a Lilliputian.

The cool black of a village night, pierced harshly by a few modern lights, yet caressed by soft breezes was upon us when we left. I turned back to record in my mind a one last look. Are the ghosts I could sense a figment of my lively imagination or is the disappointed sculptor still brooding; is the woman who sewed the robe still around — maybe returned to guard the statue as the cobra; are the many painters who devotedly painted murals lamenting over the decaying of their art works. Who knows, but what I saw was not just ruins but a rich piece of their lives. Are we telling their story well?

Colours of Nepal

The sights, the sounds, the smells, the laughter all came tumbling out when I re-discovered  the photos I took in Nepal in 2005.

The young and the not so young,  seated in the sun. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The young and the not so young, seated in the sun. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

This was my first visit to the country of birth of Lord Buddha. Though I didn’t get to Lumbini, I kept thinking this is the country, this is the earth that he walked on. Not having traveled much in the subcontinent, everything was spectacular.  I had only a hand me down camera but it was great fun trying to capture the mood of what I saw.

The evening shadows were getting longer when we got to the  Buddhist Newars temple of Swayambhunath, with the giant eyes painted on the Stupa. It is  one of the most sacred among Buddhist pilgrimage sites.

Swayambhunath Temple with the eyes painted on the stupa.  5 March 2005. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Swayambhunath Temple with the eyes painted on the stupa. 5 March 2005. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Children at a Nepal Temple. 5 March 2005.Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Children at the Swayambhunath Temple complex. 5 March 2005.Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Multi-coloured flags fluttered, white robed holy men walked the streets. ... Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Multi-coloured flags fluttered, white robed holy men walked the streets. … Photograph©Chulie de Silva

It was street life at its most interesting.

A snooze to recharge the batteries using solar power. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

A snooze to recharge the batteries using solar power. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

 Bead necklace Seller. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Bead necklace maker and vendor sits in front of a beautifully carved door. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Bhaktapur, the ancient Newar city — a World Heritage site seemed frozen in time. On that bright sunny morning everyone was out basking in the sun. There was a  labyrinth of narrow alleys linking houses, courtyards where it was common to see groups of people giving each other oil massages, pounding rice in open courtyards, or just sitting there in the sun.

The labyrinth of interconnected passgages in Bhaktapur. 6 March 2005. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The labyrinth of interconnected passgages in Bhaktapur. 6 March 2005. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Morning chat in the sun. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Morning chat in the sun.
Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Some were busy at work but this was a slow period for tourism due to various factors.

The potter at work. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The potter at work. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The natural kiln. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The natural kiln. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Batsala Temple is a stone temple dedicated to Batsala Devi and  has many intricate carvings.  It is most famous for its bronze bell, known to local residents as “the bell-of barking dogs,” so called as when it is rung, dogs in the vicinity begin barking and howling. The colossal bell was hung by King Ranjit Malla in 1737 A.D. and was used to sound the daily curfew. It is nowadays rung every morning when goddess Taleju is worshiped.

Stone Temple of Batsala. Bhaktapur, Nepal. 6 March 2005. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Stone Temple of Batsala. Bhaktapur, Nepal. 6 March 2005. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Bhaktapur Durbar Square is an impressive  conglomeration of pagoda and and is one of the most interesting architectural showpieces of the valley highlighting the grandeur of the ancient arts of Nepal.

Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

he grandeur of the ancient Nepalese art. Bhaktapur, Nepal. 6 March 2005. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The grandeur of the ancient Nepalese art. Bhaktapur, Nepal. 6 March 2005. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

And the Pièce de résistance of the visit — the unforgettable flight over the majestic Himalayan mountains.

The majestic Himalayan mountains . Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The legendary Himalayan mountains . Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Acknowledgement: Thanks for this visit to Nepal go to my former manager Dale Lautenbach and Country Director Peter Harrold, who thought a short spell of work at the Nepal World Bank office would be a welcome change for me after the traumatic tsunami of 2004. In Nepal these visits would not have been possible without the support of Rajib Upadhya, Sunita Gurung and Reena Shrestha of the World Bank in Nepal and Jim Rosenberg of World Bank DC.

Talking to Kingsley Premachandra

I had been dragging my feet for months, and the voice inside me was rising to a crescendo about the jobs around the house that needed to be done.  On “Me Time” life is serendipitous and often its pretty easy to ignore this inner scratchy voice. But the grass on the lawn was getting longer and visuals of more slithering reptile friends joining the garden party with my “thalagoya” were getting frequent. Short of getting a herd of goats like Google, the job had to be done by none other but yours truly.

First step — get the lawn mower blades sharpened. So, finally, finally, off I went to the only repair shop I knew in Colombo — its one advertisement being the open shop with a lawn mower outside at a busy traffic intersection. And that’s how I ended up talking to Kingsley Premachandra.

Kingsley Premachandra at his shop on Havelock Road, Colombo 5, Sri Lanka. 6 Sep.2013. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Kingsley Premachandra.  Sri Lanka. 6 Sep.2013. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Few minutes into meeting him, I realised here was a man who loved what he was doing, a skilled man, a forthright speaker. Someone out of old “Ceylon.”

The machine he touched, as lovingly as one would do an adoring child that has been ill-treated!. “Nona, whoever used this has not used it properly.’ He addressed me still as Nona ( lady) in an old fashioned way but there was no mistake in the tone — I was getting a rap on my knuckles for not looking after a friend of his. “These days they import  Chinese machines that are sold at exorbitant prices though they are not a patch on these German ones. … See here the wheels are worn because  you didn’t use it properly and the blades have not been oiled and have rusted. … there are no parts for this machine but I will fix it for you so you can get some more wear out of it …”

Kingsley Premachandra at work. Havelock Road, Colombo 5, Sri Lanka . Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Kingsley Premachandra at work. Havelock Road, Colombo 5, Sri Lanka . Photograph© Chulie de Silva”

So it was lecture 101 in lawn mower upkeep and usage!

I learned my trade from my father NPG Francis, while working with him. I wasn’t a good student and often cut school but I loved anything to do with Yakada (iron). I always remember what my father told me ‘Never be in a hurry to finish a job. You must do the repairs, keep it for awhile and test it again and do a proper job, so the customer doesn’t have to come back to you with complaints.”

I quickly dismissed any chirpy Pollyanna thoughts I had of collecting the machine in a couple of days. Nevertheless, I didn’t miss the tinge of sadness in his voice. He remembered the exact time and place of this conversation with his father as being 6:30 am at the Kalubowila Hospital. “My father passed away at 5 minutes to 1 pm that same day and that memory is carved in my mind.” Something I could very well relate too.

Kingsley Premachandra's shop is just near the Dickman Road traffic lights on Havelock Road. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Kingsley Premachandra’s shop is just near the Dickmans Road traffic lights on Havelock Road. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

He couldn’t give me a receipt as his wife who handled all these transactions was out but I was told to write my name and address and phone number on a blue card which got hung on the handle of the machine.  They would contact me once it was repaired, which would take about 4 weeks he said. A simple process of doing business!

Sure enough, the call came almost to the day 4 weeks after the machine was handed in.

It was a cloudy, drizzly day, and it took a few minutes for him to recognise me when I arrived to collect the repaired machine.  I was meeting his wife Sunita, the voice on the phone for the first time.

The business part of the repair done, it was time to catch up on our unfinished conversation. I learned he was also a plumber  who had worked on many important buildings. All the money he had earned had been earned honestly with these hands, he said. I watched them black with grease, as he spread them out and recalled the words of his mother on her death bed: “Nothing will go wrong in your life as you have worked hard with your hands and looked after me.

A collector of antiques, Kingsley's shop has old clocks, gramphones from the past and yes plenty of "yakada badu." Photograph© Chulie de Silva

A collector of antiques, Kingsley’s shop has old clocks, a grampohone from the past and yes plenty of “yakada badu.” Photograph© Chulie de Silva

The past silently keeps watch of the present in his shop. There are the wall clocks with static pendulums, old lamps, a faded pink Gramophone and numerous bits and pieces in “yakada.”  He had once picked up three second-hand broaches the shop of his next door friend.  Asked how much he had to pay for them, his friend had said “Just give me something for a cup of tea.” So Kingsley paid him Rs. 100– enough for much much more than a cup of tea. Many years later, a chance comment about one of these broaches his sister wore on a saree for a wedding, got him washing it in shampoo and taking it to a jeweller for checking. That’s when he discovered the stone on the broach was a “Diyamanthi” (diamond).

Kingsley's dog Tiny a silent listener to all the stories of his master. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Kingsley’s dog Tiny a silent listener to all the stories of his master. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

At 63, the future looms uncertainly for him. His sight is failing and has to undergo an operation to remove cataracts. He has no sons to hand over his business. A relative he trained under him for 9 years played him out. He doesn’t own a house, but one thing he and Sunita are both proud of is their daughter. With shining eyes, and pride in their eyes, they told me she is a graduate and following a Human Resource Management course and is also working as an intern. “All our efforts were to give her the best education we could afford.”

Underlying theme of many of Kingsley’s stories was his grouse about the lack of integrity, and ethics in the business sector as everyone is hell bent on the accumulation of wealth.  “Today even religion is distorted in the pursuit of wealth.”

We had talked till closing time of disappearing values and lifestyles. As I got up to leave both Kingsley and Sunita said “You must come again and meet our daughter.” I didn’t have to ask but Lionel his assistant who had been playing with Tiny, offered to carry the repaired machine to my car.

Although not a labourer, I thought of Khalil Gibran’s statement ‘Of life’s two chief prizes, beauty and truth, I found the first in a loving heart and the second in a labourer’s hand.’

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

Oxford Baths, Well Baths & GNT

A couple of my friends have asked me what’s an Oxford Bath after I mentioned it in my blog Benny’s Point. Very simply it is what these boys are doing in Dhaka — bathing in the nude.

Boys in Dhaka having Oxford baths in a city lake. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Boys in Dhaka having Oxford baths in a city lake. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

I had heard this term when I was a kid in the 1950s when indoor bathrooms with piped in water were not so common. My aunts would go to the front house “Mangala Giri” saying they are going for an Oxford Bath in the closed bathroom.

A year or so ago, my memory was refreshed when I saw it on the heading of an article by Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala titled “An Oxford bath for Sri Lankan Diplomacy.” In this article he gives probably the origin of the term “Oxford Bath.” “An old joke, shared between Oxford and Cambridge Universities, relates how an elderly Cambridge Professor visited his Professor friend in Oxford. It was a hot summer day and the two men decided to swim in the nude in a secluded spot along the Isis River. Suddenly a bevy of women undergraduates rode past on bicycles. The Cambridge Professor hastily grabbed his towel and wore it round his waist. The Oxford Professor, however, frantically wrapped his towel around his head hiding his face. As the giggling girls retreated the Cambridge Professor asked the Oxford don why he only covered his face. The reply he received was, “Well, in Oxford, some of us are better recognized by our faces”!

Boys  bath in a shallow stream, Kilinochchi. Bathing in the open is always more fun than in a closed bathroom. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Boys bath in a shallow stream, Kilinochchi. Bathing in the open is always more fun than in a closed bathroom. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Thus Amb. Dhanapala says throughout the English-speaking world, the “Oxford bath” has come to mean a bath in the nude. But only we oldies remember this term and it is now probably not in use now!. Even when we had bathrooms, a well bath in the sun, the cool refreshing water sans chlorine was my choice.

The well was an important water source and still is for many in Sri Lanka, who do not have piped water. Wells and access to water were also high in the priority for many people resettling after the ending of the war. Seeing this abandoned well in a property next to the hotel we stayed In Jaffna in 2009 was very poignant. I remembered my own childhood and many happy hours at the well, as children and then as teenagers with our neighbhour Dayanathi  and “girlie talks” amidst dousing ourselves with buckets of cold, refreshing water.

ffna., Sri Lanka  1 Sep 2009. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

An abandoned well in Jaffna., Sri Lanka 1 Sep 2009. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

My Great-grandma’s house had an inside bathroom but the domestics had to carry water from the well and fill huge vats inside for anyone who wanted to bathe inside. While we had baths inside when we were very small, as soon as we were old enough we would bath at the well. Even after a sea bath at Hikkaduwa, we’d rush to the well and pour buckets of fresh water to wash the sticky salt out.

In Pandura we were told to bath with only 20 buckets of water -10 first, soap your self and 10 more. Otherwise, we were warned we’ll catch our death with pneumonia. These dire warnings along with the directive was often totally ignored. Ceclin our maid/cook, the majordomo at that time was not averse to keeping an ear cocked while we were at the well. She knew me too well and would yell  from inside the kitchen, “Chulie Baby, are you bathing to soak your bones!” (In Sinhala — Ata pegennakang nanawada?). Many years later when I met her she still called me “baby” and had not lost her sense of humour.

Cecilin our maid, laughs remembering our childhood pranks. Panadura, Sri Lanka..Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Cecilin our maid, laughs remembering our childhood pranks. Panadura, Sri Lanka..Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Village life in some parts of Lanka has still not changed. For many, the trek to the river or stream or even a man made water tank is a daily ritual. This often happens mid-day, like the man in the photo above at Mahdangasweva. Or  the bath is at the end of the day, when all work is done.

A woman returns after an evening bath in a stream at Mahavillachiya, Sri Lanka. 22 April 2008. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

A woman returns after an evening bath in a stream at Mahavillachiya, Sri Lanka. 22 April 2008. Photograph© Chulie de Silva.

My male friends would schedule trips to villagers around the times these women bathe and referred to these times as GNT — in Sinhalese meaning Ganu ( women) Nana ( bathing) Times.

You may as well ask Why? because the bathing costume was a sarong or a wide piece of cloth, called the “Diya Redda” ( literally the Water/wet Cloth).  This they wore covering the breasts and reaching to knee level. Once wet, the cloth clung to the body — need I say more?

A girl returns from a bath in the stream wearing a "diya redda" Heeloya, Sri Lanka. 16 April 2008. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

A girl returns from a bath in the stream wearing a “diya redda” Heeloya, Sri Lanka. 16 April 2008. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Ritigala, where Gods are smiling

The excited voice on the phone said “Chulie I am in Sri Lanka, are you here?” Sadly I wasn’t – I was stuck in a hospital in Dhaka with pneumonia. The caller was Nirvair Singh Rai, a young Indian friend I met while working at Drik. Today, we caught up on GChat.  “I am in love with your homeland, and the people. Everything about it! and Ritigala always calls me back.” He pays tribute to Ritigala in his blog and says:

Life is but another threshold for a monk, waiting to be crossed over. Photo©Nirvair Singh Rai

Life is but another threshold for a monk, waiting to be crossed over. Photo©Nirvair Singh Rai

Deep within the heart of Sri Lanka, a monk treads softly on a path that has been walked on since as long ago as 1st Century BCE. Monarchs, kings and rulers have come and gone, but this humble monastery situated in Ritigala, the highest peak in northern Sri Lanka, still stands in all its austerity and simplicity.”

“The monastery does not feature any of the traditional symbols of Buddhist temples, it does not have bodhi trees or stupas. All it has to offer is the honesty of its scarlet robed monks, and the kindness of their hands—some, as weathered and wrinkled as the terrain itself, and some, as young and as unlined as green saplings.”

Kindness lies in the gentleness of hands, and wisdom, in the quietness of a gaze. Photo©Nirvair Singh Rai

Kindness lies in the gentleness of hands, and wisdom, in the quietness of a gaze. Photo©Nirvair Singh Rai

  “Somewhere  along the way, we have forgotten how to navigate the ardous terrain of life. But in this hidden land, the map to the pathways of the heart and the mind, as well as the nimble grace needed to walk them, still lives on. This series is my attempt to share some of Ritigala’s purity and wisdom. It is merely my effort to make you feel what I felt—bliss…”

 Read and see more on his post: The Gods are Smiling

Nirvair copy

Nirvair hails from Bathinda, Punjab, India and is currently studying photography at Pathshala, the South Asian Media Institute, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Ritigala the ancient Buddhist monastery and mountain in Sri Lanka is located 43 km away from the UNESCO World Heritage city of Anuradhapura.

Note: All story text of “Gods are Smiling” and photographs copyright Nirvair Singh Rai. For publication of full story with high res images please contact: nirvairrai@gmail.com