Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Relationships are a part of life.
Friendship is the most common form of relationship and it’s a voluntary relationship. It is a choice one makes out of free will. Some of these friendships are special, and some are extremely special – because they are precious. This story is about one of those rare special and precious friends.
You feel that some friends are precious to you. But when you talk to others you realize they are precious, not just to you but to those others too……many others. You think they care for and share with just yourself. But then you find out they care for and share with many others too…they have time for everyone. They are kind of omnipresent among their friends.
They are like stars. They light up others’ lives. In a technical sense, they are like star‐networks with one‐to‐many connections. Just like the radiance of a star brightens up around it, they brighten up all those around them. This story is about such a star, a star that disappeared under a dark cloud…never to shine again?
His name was Ajith. Ajith Thevadasan. He brightened up the E/83 batch, just like many other groups, friends & family around him.
I must also say that this story essentially includes another of our batch mates – Jeyananthan who was more than a room‐mate and a dear friend to Ajith, but someone who shared his fate. They both left a friends party on the night of 22nd of June 1990, bidding good bye to some close friends, for the last time, and they left on one motor bicycle, Ajith riding and Jeyananthan pillion‐riding. It is hard for me to write this story about Ajith and talk about Jeyananthan without overshadowing the latter by the former. So first and foremost, my appreciation to Jeyananthan.
Again, I wake up from that dreadful dream, with a de-ja-vu feeling. Yes I have woken up from the same unpleasant or rather scary nightmare, with an unfinished story, and in an unfinished night, at least a couple of times before. It is heart breaking! It is about a lady weeping over his lost son, rather,disappeared son. Not knowing what happened to her younger son, not knowing what to do, not knowing whether the worst has happened to him, not knowing whether to leave the country that gives her the bitter memories forever, so as to join her only other child, her elder son in a faraway western country. This lady is none other than our Ajith’s mother, Mrs Thevadasan. She wonders what really happened to her most loved/most loving and most lively son. Years after his disappearance, she waits at Colombo Fort Railway Station. She suddenly sees a glimpse of someone who resembles her beloved son, in the middle of the rush hour crowd. She desperately runs through the moving crowds to see that beloved face. But, its hard to get to him. She is quite confident that it is him…..Her instincts say its her son…She can smell its him…..But she is falling behind in her chase, it’s too crowded…Is she losing sight of him in the crowd…
But then I miss the rest of the story, in all three occasions, it comes to a climax, and I have woken up.
I am sure it is not just a random dream.I have a feeling that someone told me such a story about his mum at the Colombo central….It must have been stored in my sub‐conscious mind.
I remember many, many things about him. He was so lively. Wherever he was, there was fun. Cracking a joke, pulling someone’s leg (giving an ‘andaraya’), making a story (‘a card’) or humming /whistling or singing a song are some of common characteristic of his. I do not remember exactly when we became good and close friends. But after we became a kind of same group (he doing Production and myself Mechanical, both being similar streams with many common subjects) our friendship grew.
We had a few things in common. Both of us were believers although technically, we belonged to two non‐connected churches. Catholic & Pentecost. We also had a very strong common bond, a love for music, same genre of music. I think I had no opportunity, no encouragement and more precisely little audience at the Uni for my kind of Music, only exception being my ‘Newman Soc’ group and wider church community (and the many camps and retreats with mostly non‐E’Fac fellow students). Apart from Sinhala Group songs and ‘Clarence W.’ style music my main love was for quite a wide spectrum of country & western, rhythm & blue, folk and a bit of jazz, pop, big‐band and rock. But all of this was Western Music. Not a good choice for Peradeniya. My room‐mate Anton Croos (who entered from my college to Pera Dentistry) and I used to sing in English quite often at Marcus. After Anton and I parted for obvious reasons Anton going to Marrs Hall and myself staying closer to EFac, I had hardly any motivation to sing.
Ajith was a talented singer. A great vocalist. He sang my favourite vintage songs. He sang many of my favourites. He had a beautiful voice and we sang together. I remember we sang some Hymns (with popular tunes) together and we both enjoyed that.
He was multi skilled. His culinary skills were outstanding. He was one of the best cooks (or should I say chefs!) I ever knew. He could make Kottu Rotti just like the Kottu Boy in the roadside café. He could cook meat just like a professional cook. He used to invite me to Hilda for his curry nights. I loved to go there on my way back from Sunday Mass at Galaha Church or Kandy cathedral. I can recollect at least two occasions when I joined Ajith and Jeyananthan (they were room mates) at Hilda in our third and/or fourth year. He called his good friends from adjoining rooms. Rohan Navaratnam (Medical and one year senior to us) and his Dental (our parallel) friend and a few more friends. We talk while he cooks. He adds the spices to the meat curry with precision and with correct timing while paying attention to our topics.
He would make comments on his recipe or explains how to maximize the taste of a curry by adding spices at different stages displaying his culinary skills. He adds roasted curry powder possibly brought from home first when marinating and for a second time about 2 minutes before finishing. He moves his palm‐full of spices along the perimeter of the saucepan while shaking his hand in a zig‐zag motion to allow the spices fall, as from a sieve, just like a pro. Sometimes he sprinkles fine spice powders from far in to the pan. Oh what a talent.
He would not allow others to cut the pineapple for the dessert. Just like the Chef de Cuisine, or the Souschef assigning duties to his assistants, he gets his friends to peel the pineapple (with proper care, ensuring it is properly peeled) but cuts it himself. He uses the right knife and cuts the pineapple spirally. And removes it carefully from the centre stem without breaking, just like handling a baby. Personally, I had very minimal skills in cooking, having come from a family of five sisters. I would slice the bread and butter them while other friends mainly the Hildians help in cooking.
Once it was Kottu, and he goes bang‐bang on the hot metal plate with a pair of cutters – don’t know where he got it from. May be he got it from a kottu‐joint in Kandy. From my small time I couldn’t sleep without rice for dinner. String hoppers was the only possible, but non‐preferable alternative. But Ajith changed my habit for the first time. I learned to survive a night on Bread or Kottu.
Ajith always loved to join us at our Church socials. He never missed any of the welcomes going‐downs or frequent String Hopper nights hosted by Fr Mark at the Chaplaincy. I also made sure that he was invited or rather ‘told’ to attend. He enjoyed the company of our church community – boys and girls alike…and it was reciprocal.
I think it was one of those Vesak or Poson holidays. The halls were empty as everyone who could, had left for their homes for the long weekend. Ajith and Jeyananthan were among the few who were remaining in their wing. He came up with the idea of visiting his uncle (Dads own brother) at the TRI at Talawakelle, and he invited me to join him and Jeyananthan. As I had never been to TRI I was more than happy to join him, packed up the best warm clothes I had and we left in an afternoon. He also wanted to see his relative Pastor at N’Eliya. So we first went to N’Eliya, and the Pastor was about to leave for an important matter, so he met the Pastor briefly, and we proceeded to TRI. Due to lack of buses and it was already late in the evening we got dropped off at allocation about 5 to 8kms away from the TRI (St Coombs Estate) and we walked, walked and walked. That must be the longest walk that I have ever done in my life. Only compares with a walk back from Sthree Pura Caves hike, closer to same distance – now under Randenigala reservoir.
After good two hours we reached the Bungalow. But the walk was refreshing as the temperatures were low and cool and comforting and we came past beautiful sceneries of tea carpets and water streams ‐ which resembled mini water falls ‐ all pretty and amazing to me. We were warmly welcomed by Ajith’s uncle and aunt and their pretty daughter. Ajith’s cousin sis Deb was very sociable and very close to him, too. Just like an own sis. Thanks to the hot water we warmed ourselves up and played carrom for quite some time with cousin sis as uncle had to finish some work still (at the factory/office). He was a top official there and accordingly the bungalow was a top end one too. We also played Table Tennis. Now this reminds me the skills of Ajith in TT and the time he spent at TT tables whether at the Hall or at the Faculty common room. He was good at Carom too. Well what wasn’t he good at?
His uncle was a music lover too. It ran in the family. Although I cannot confirm, I am pretty sure his uncle was a great singer too. I had listened to an SLBC program where one of Ajith’s cousins (one of two brothers) played the guitar. They were Thevasagayams, one of them was a Vet from Pera.
It was the first day I saw such a big collection of Jim reeves songs, all on spools. His spools set was lent to our room, where three of us slept, nice and warm, thanks to the heaters. I don’t remember about Jeyananthan, but two of us listened and sang many many songs of Gentleman Jim. It was just like a competition, we refreshed our memories / recollected lyrics at the speed of the turning spools. I always liked to listen to music at a quiet night, possibly in wet and thick air and dimmed light conditions. All good things had to come to an end, and we went to bed around 3 am. One song Ajith loved to sing and sang beautifully was ‘I’ve been accused convicted and condemned; the trial is over and now my terms begun….’ and I got him to sing that song several times later at several different places.
If there is one person who has surprised me in my lifetime by visiting me at a sick ward (at C – Quarters of Akbar Hall, allocated for Chicken Pox victims during our Final Exams in Feb 90) with a Special Rice parcel from the best restaurant in the town (by students’ standards), it was Ajith. He brought a Lyons Special lunch, just before my lunch time and the surprise was not due to that. He gave me the Lyons Special and wished me a Happy Birth Day. How on earth did he know that, or remember that. The answer was, I had mentioned several months ago, and he had a photographic memory for numbers. As I was down physically and mentally with chicken pox and also having to sit the exam with chicken pox he had come to ‘raise me up’, and brighten my day. I asked him to leave me asap and he didn’t care to listen to me. Instead he said that he and Jeyananthan had already gone through it and recovered (a few weeks before) and won’t catch it again. He offered his help, notes, short notes etc. and asked Jeyananthan if he could help, too. Because I insisted, he agreed to leave me say after about 20 minutes.
He rode away the Kawasaki 200 with Jeyananthan pillion riding.
Volumes can be written about Ajith. That’s just from my friendship and experience, alone. But I know some of you, our batch‐mates, were very close to him, much closer than I. You too, will have memories that can be written in to volumes of books. So, I would like to pen‐off with the few memories, jotted down above. In fact I did most of above writing, in June 2013. I didn’t get to finish it on time to circulate.
So last week I did some finishing lines. You will notice that my write up comes to an abrupt stop, with the sentence ‘He rode away on Kawasaki 200 with Jeyananthan pillion‐riding’. That is the story of Ajith.
An unexpected, sudden and abrupt stop, as he rode away on that Kawasaki 200 with Jeyananthan pillion‐riding, but this time, for the last time, on 22nd June 1990.
But our memories will live and linger as long as we live.
Parakrama Fernando aka Para (E83)
Monday, May 22, 2017
We recently published a letter from one of our Alumni, Ariyadasa Yapa, sent to the editor of this blog.
Those who have not read that letter, can use the link below.
As you can see from the link above, a few fellow alumni have said that they dont agree with the views expressed by Ariyadasa.
It turns out that this is not the first time Ariyadasa, who seems to be having a personal grudge against Vickrambahu, has come out to attack Vickramabahu.
We take this opportunity to republish a trail of articles previously published in the Lakehouse publication, Daily News, in 2007.
The first article is about an European trip by Vickramabahu Karunaratne in 2007.
'Loony' left leader in LTTE payroll
R. Srikanthan in London
UK: The aging leader of the unrepresentative Nava Sama Samaja Party (NSSP) in Sri Lanka has undertaken an international campaign work for the LTTE. A leader who was born in the communist era and campaigned for decades for proletariat revolution in Sri Lanka is now compromising his ideological stand to campaign for the LTTE killer machine.
Dr. Karunaratne advocates that LTTE is a national liberation movement fighting a legitimate struggle against the oppressive state of Sri Lanka.
The NSSP leader is currently touring the European countries. He addressed a meeting in Norway on February 24, 2007 and in his marathon running campaign work flew back from Oslo to London to make a key note address at a LTTE meeting on the same evening attended by the opposition British Lib- Dem parliamentarians. The meeting turned out to be a vote winning campaign meeting for the Lib-Dem that made any mileage to the LTTE cause.
Dr. Karunaratne's speech in Oslo was relayed in the Vanni based Tamil National Television (TNT) of the LTTE. In his financially rewarding campaign work Dr Karunaratne has agreed not to speak about the NSSP members killed by the LTTE.
The prominent of those killed was the NSSP member Comrade Annamalai who was gunned down in Jaffna in the late 1980's. Killing of Comrade Annamalai was a campaign tool of NSSP against the LTTE for a long time.
Dr. Karunaratne and his party live a very meagre financial existence. NSSP is considered as a passive talk shop which does not command major support anywhere in Sri Lanka to impact on the Sri Lankan politics.
Their loony politics is not attractive even during popular left base campaigns in Sri Lanka.
A full scale investigation of funding for his trip will confirm LTTE's dirty money being used. Dr. Wickramabhu Karunaratne is well looked after by the LTTE activists in London.
Vickramabahu Karunaratne provided the following clarification.
Dr. Karunarathne’s clarification
On February 28, 2007 the Daily News carried a news item about my visit to Europe with many errors and lapses and I wish to clarify the following:
R. Srikanthan’s report on February 28 is interesting and it would have been informative too, if not for the following lapses.
Firstly I have claimed the LTTE to be a liberation movement since its inception, in spite of its capitalist socio-economic perspective and terrorist methods of which Comrade Annamalai was a victim. Secondly I am yet to receive any contribution from the LTTE.
I have accepted all contributions and help from everybody that were prepared to donate, including my friend President Mahinda Rajapaksa. But all these were used for my aims and perspectives.
Thirdly, it is true that I spoke in a meeting with two liberal democratic MPs and a Libdem European Parliament Member, a baroness.
However it is lunacy to maintain the both, that I presented the view of a ferocious guerrilla organisation and also helped the election campaign of English liberal barons!
Presentation of a consistent democratic way out for the Tamil and Muslim people may have helped the liberal campaign. As a Marxist I did not advocate separation.
On the contrary, I made a strong appeal for unity, based on substantial autonomy for the Tamil speaking people.
In any case if I am a loony then those who took me seriously and bestowed awards, such as then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa who presented a certificate with a trophy for distinguished service to the working masses and also the academics of the universities of Peradeniya and Cambridge who gave me certificates of distinction, must also be loonies.
Finally Srikantha is silent about my campaign against the development strategy of the Mahinda regime which has made the corrupt rich richer while the poor has become miserable with inflation beyond 20 per cent, at the same time all social services are reduced, ecological recourses are plundered, over 2500 years of both Sinhala and Tamil cultural assets are destroyed and labour and media have lost their rights.
DR. VICKRAMABAHU KARUNARATHNE - President Left Front
Within a couple of days following letter from Ariyadasa Yapa was published in the same news paper.
Response to Wickramabahu’s clarification
In his clarification Dr Karunarathne has mentioned that acadamics of the universities of Peradeniya and Cambridge who gave him certificates of distinctions must also be loones (reference DN March 10).
Yes, there is some truth in it. Let me clarify this. In Sri Lankan society, people generally respect and recognize titles or letter added before or after the name like Dr, Proc, Prof, or BA, MA, B.Sc, M.SC, P.hD, D.Sc, etc., because, majority of the Sri Lankans are still respect the academic achievements and consider those titles or labels added to the name as a measure of the integrity, honesty, decency and trustworthiness of the individual.
I came across Dr. Karunarathne in 1970s when he was a member of the academic staff of the Faculty of Engineering in Peradeniya University and I was also a student in the same faculty.
He was supposed to teach mathematics to the engineering students. But he never did his job right.
Instead, he abused his position and freedom as a lecturer in the faculty of engineering which is considered a very respectable position among the student community as well as in general public to confuse people by spreading false and harmful political ideologies to gain cheap popularity specially among young people.
He encouraged students to fight with the university administration for student’s demands promoting violence, sabotage and vandalism.
He acted as an important catalyst in instigating student unrest by student union creating strikes and unwanted disruptions to the peaceful academic life in the campus.
He did not know or deliberately ignored to recognise that the university is another place for learning and not to govern the country.
He was a real headache and a troublemaker for the peaceful existence of the entire Peradeniya Campus at that time. He still try to abuse his titles and the names of the academic institutions for his advantage to achieve his cheap political objectives. I do not know how many decent Sri Lankans will listen to this man to day.
He is a real danger to the entire nation and a disgrace to the academic institutions that he claimed to have obtained distinctions.
Jayantha Anandappa, a batchmate of Ariyadasa Yapa, provided the following reply.
Bahu Vs Yapa
Ariyadasa Yapa (DN March 12) had completely failed to digest the issues raised by Dr. Wickramabahu Karunaratne (DN March 10).
Instead he has picked a cursory remark made more in irony on the subject of qualifications and had chosen to go on in a tangent quite angrily, alternating between idiocy and lunacy in a senseless display of mud slinging.
Normally I will be reluctant to respond to such meaningless comments. But as an ex-engineering student of Bahu and a fellow batch mate of Yapa who had sat in the same lecture rooms and followed the same lectures (at Peradeniya in 1972-75) I must post these comments.
As far as I know Ariyadasa Yapa left the island in late seventies or early eighties and since then had been living overseas. Clearly he is light years away from understanding the contemporary Sri Lankan politics and the complex problems faced by the country and the society.
I am too an apolitical person, but this does not mean that university students or lecturers or anyone with voting rights should be denied their fundamental right of expressing their political views or dissent (particularly with respect to social injustices) in a legitimate manner.
Bahu was arrested more than once - on one occasion for hoisting a black flag in his quarters as a protest against the 1978 Constitution giving dictatorial executive powers to one person, an act that has proved to be the bane of the country, which we all must agree at least now on hindsight.
He was also arrested in 1981 in Fort for peacefully demonstrating against JRJ’s ruthless mass scale sacking of public servants for going on strike - an unprecedented undemocratic act in Sri Lanka.
After more than three decades, though his performance as a lecturer may not have relevance to his current role in politics, it is uncharitable to say that Bahu never did his job right as a lecturer.
It is certainly a lie to say that he promoted violence, sabotage and vandalism.
I do not recall a single instance in which Bahu tried to use his position to preach students on his political ideology, certainly not during the course of a lecture.
Contrary to what Yapa had pictured, Bahu was generally regarded as a good lecturer, was popular and highly respected by the entire student community and the staff. He was academically brilliant, charismatic and was one of the few lecturers who knew how to mix with the students. As students, we were simply fascinated by his charismatic personality.
Being the wide eyed, naive undergraduates, we could not then understand how a person of his calibre (who could have achieved anything he wanted in the field of engineering) could get attracted to politics of the masses. Some time in the late seventies or early eighties, Bahu decided to get in to politics full time.
This was Ariyadasa Yapa's reply. It seems that the exchange of letters ended there.
Bahu Vs Yapa
In response to Jayantha Anandappa’s letter titled ‘Bahu Vs Yapa’, it is important to note that the writer has provided wrong information on my behalf. At least, he should have checked with the Sri Lanka immigration about my departure/arrival dates from the island prior to sending false information about myself to a national newspaper.
Furthermore, he has made a flimsy attempt to express his own view about my personal knowledge and awareness of contemporary Sri Lankan issues by saying that my understanding is light years away because of my present stay away from Sri Lanka. Clearly, he has no knowledge of myself and how often I visit my family, relatives and friends in my home country.
It is also apparently clear that Mr. Anandappa is not aware of the modern communication systems and the internet available today for people to learn about Sri Lankan affairs on a minute by minute basis from any where in the world.
Obviously, this confirms to me that Jayantha Anandappa who admits himself that he was fascinated by the charismatic personality of Bahu as a wide eyed naive undegraduate is light years away from the current affairs of the world. Therefore, he has the right qualifications to defend Bahu.
Interesting, itn't it?
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
We have received the following letter from Peradeniya E-fac alumni Ariyadasa Yapa.
Dear blogger/ publisher,
I read through all articles published in this site with interest as an old student of the faculty.
I visited the faculty last during the inauguration of Professor Mahalingam Fund for supporting the final year student’s projects. I witnessed the slow or no progress of our oldest and prestigious academic institution for learning engineering.
I could not see or meet any member of the academic staff having the calibre even close to late Professor Bartholomeusz. I believe some of the current staff members are the student of this beloved professor.
Most of the people I met are motivated and involved in politics and not interested in academic activities.
No wonder why we are sliding down in our academic achievements and professional standards. I am very sad to see that the traitors like Con-Doctor Vickramabahu are highly decorated and recognised academics even in this blog.
Our faculty is a national treasure and the protection, promotion and preservation of its values, standards, prestige, achievements and reputation is the duty and the responsibility of all of us the past and present students.
Please do not allow to abuse the name of this institutions by unscrupulous cunning and opportunistic political animals like Bahu.
"The world is unsafe not because of handful of terrorists, but due to the silence of many good people”.
You may leave your reply to Ariyadasa Yapa as a comment below.
Thursday, March 9, 2017
This is an open invitation to all Peradeniya Engineering Faculty Graduates.
Share your memories!
Write to us:
In the meantime, read following aricles already published in this site.
1. It's time by Rasika Suriyaarachchi
2. Engineering and Politics by Vickramabahu Karunaratne
3. Oviravu (One night) by S. Sivasegaram
4. Just before the stoam by E/81/214
5. Sisira Adikari (E/83) writes his memories
6. Memories about late Professor Bartholomeusz
7. My Memoirs - by Maximus Jayantha Anandappa
8. The Canteen Story - By E.F. Bartholomeusz
9. Memories about late Professor Mahalingam
DON'T FORGET TO LEAVE A COMMENT.