Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Escape to Karandulena

Escape to Karandulena

C Gadiewasam /Pix by Nalaka Priyadharshana



What do you find relaxing and healing to the soul? Some young people try chatting, gaming, watching television or even getting wasted, but to one young accountant, Nalaka Priyadharshana, who works at a busy local non profit organization, a truly healing escape is losing himself in the wilderness, at least once in two or three months and disappearing deep into the rainforests of Sri Lanka for a couple of days.


"These are places you won't hear any of the sounds of civilization, you can get away from the crowds, horns, arguments  and selfishness of human beings,  this is truly another world' he says about his recent escape to Suriyawewa, Ambilipitya  in the Hambantota District . " Here, its just you and the universe."



Nalaka and a group of friends and colleagues found a different way to  recharge their spiritual batteries.  They spent two weeks, last month in a secluded rock temple hermitage called Karandulena, a team of more than a dozen young urban professionals, truly living close to nature and working for a good cause, which was to build a small meditation room for the jungle dwelling hermit monks. After being trapped in spreadsheets and deadlines this is Nalaka's idea of a true green escape.


"This was a complete and amazing change from our usual day-to-day grind,' he says "We carried rocks, bricks and bags of sand and cement to the top of a hill, working like actual slaves. After a few days we were in some serious pain from the unaccustomed work. Accountants, lawyers, doctors etc, who usually hardly even walk for exercise and live their lives in electronic cubicles, shed all the artificial differences of class or profession and came together as a team of well wishers who united for a cause and also reconnected with their humanity.  

"At the same time, the change, the being close to nature, the beauty of our surroundings leading to the soothing of our minds can hardly be described. We ate simple food we cooked on wood(dara)  fires, you know, you take some parrippu and some karapincha, and a salmon tin and some onions - its like those days when we were kids with sellum bath( pretend cooking) and the fare after all the hard work had an incredible taste, when you are truly tired and hungry


"This experience brought out the beauty in the mundane. After trekking up and down this hill thirsty and suffering, you drink a little crystal clean water from a hillside stream it is like the most wonderful beverage ever," he says, recounting the incredible experience with nature and with the monks who live a much more disciplined and quiet life, than their city counterparts. True  Buddhism is a gentle, quiet philosophy of selflessness, which gives a great deal of respect to nature, and does not harm animals or trees, or seek material possessions, therefore showing the ideal path to counteract an increasingly consumerist world.

" Compared to the city monks who are more about preaching Buddhism and promoting it, the forest monks are more about practicing and living  true  and pure Buddhism, themselves.  Every night we were attended  a meditation class which taught us the true essence of the doctrine and also proper ways of relaxation that no modern technology can ever give us."


Finally at the end of the day, on top of the hill, in an out door camp, you should try to lie on the surface of a large flat rock,  still gently warm, under the cool stars. It is then that you understand how small you are and how small your worries are in contrast with the infinite universe which you see twinkling down at you, suffusing you with an incredible sense of peace.



Email and tell us about any recent green escapes youd like to share.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

hey, guys its me...Literally speaking.

Not bad no, I finally got my mugh in the paper, after about 5 years of writing articles

Mom was like " haarney dad, look will you, its someone just like our duwa" and then dad goes " hrrrmpph, what are you talking it IS the name, will you..."

one of those days that make it all seem worthwhile :-)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Marrying Mom

Seriously fun! Totally recommend it if you want to find yourself LOLing!
A wickedly funny comedy of New York life and love, from the
seriously stylish,
bestselling author of The First Wives Club and Bestseller. She's the despair of her family, she tries to run their lives, and she just won't act her age. In fact there's only one way to get Mom out of her children's hair... When Phyllis Geronomous decides that retirement in Florida is not for her and moves back to the Big Apple, her three grown-up children are horrified. Sigourney is a successful stockbroker and a control freak, Sharon has two young children and a troubled marriage, while Bruce, the baby of the family, is finally feeling comfortable about having a significant other called Todd. They just can't let crazy Phyllis ruin their lives all over again. Murder is out purely for practical reasons. Only Sigourney has the ideal solution: they'll marry Mom off, and then she'll be someone else's problem. But where are they going to find a deaf, dumb, old, blind, and, above all, rich groom?

Friday, June 14, 2013


I do hate it when visitors wake me from an afternoon siesta, don't you?
Youre sticky and groggy and you don't know what kind of nightmare it was that you were having and are going to have except that it isnt night, it is the blazing humid tropical equatorial afternoon and you honestly wish you could die rather that face people. 
Ceiling or table fans are just no use. Your brain is fried, and next your eyeballs and you cant even make sense of what people are saying. Your dehydrated gut craves caffine even though you know that will raise your body tempreature by another Celsius or so
This time was no exception and whats worse was the very worried look on my mother-in-law's face, as she peered around my door curtain.
" there are some people here to meet you, and they don't look happy' she said gently.
Which was an understatement – they looked furious, the whole tribe of them, I couldn't remember who these people even were except that I seemed to have done some business with one of them sometime back, but where on earth had they got so many damn backups from ? there seemed to be old people, young people, young mothers, offspring – an entire blooming clan.
I raked my groggy caffine starved mind for any idea of what I could have done wrong to them, because they had faces that were completely synchronised in how they seemed to hate me. 
It had to be one of the properties I had sold sometime back at the start of my forey into the real estate business. There must be something wrong with the deed or something, but then I was completely immune from that sort of thing having carefully drafted a brokerage contract which limited my liability for any subsequent problems which I could not possibly have found out following a reasonable investigation into the background of the place…
I liked to think that unlike tuk tuk drivers I was doing the land brokering business with a sense of ethnics as well as reasonable standard of professionalism. I actually earned my commissions.
"Take it back! It has problems !you are responsible. You said this was a good place, you recommended it " said the wife of the podgy young man who had done the deal with me – I groped among my turgid afternoon drowsy brain cells for his name. It had been Nuwan. He looked like a Nuwan, or a Lahiru or a Sumith- don't you know the kind who has a three wheeler but does other things, trafficking sort of things.   Typically he was being relatively soft spoken and it was his wife who was honestly scaring me now, with the rough way she was handling her squalling new born looing infant while she tried simultanously to shut it up, and to scream at me. I had to sit down to think hard. This was becoming a daylight nightmare.
"Can we discuss this reasonably without disturbing my parents and the neighbours please ?"I asked groping for time.
"Yes we came  here to disturb people. You can pretend to be all civilised. Do you know what you did ?" she howled whilst her chubby hairy thug husband made a charming pretend show of trying to tell her to slow down or pipe down.
"I did not carry out this deal with you, please may I speak to the relevant person," I said politely since anything would have been better than dealing with this female; possibly post partum stress was making her this way, new mothers had some strange hormone issues I hear. I turned to Nuwan (or Lahiru or whoever)-who continued
  " the house, is haunted we there are problems there from the first day – that is why it has been cheap –"yes it blXXXy well was cheap it was 7 laks and that's blxxxy cheap for a two storey house in Sri Lanka, what did they expect for that price ? you cant even build a garage for that amount these days can you? " you have to take it back, we cant live there, you have to give us the money" Hold on a minute, that was not part of the agreement -
" I don't have the money . I got a regular commission remember, you will have to contact the previous oweners and Im not sure that –  " The whole family started bablling at once and it had a decidedly hostile tone to it . They clearly held me responsible for what ever misery happening in that darned place. I wracked my afternoon dozey brain for a recollection of the actual propertly and remembered the day I had gone over to see it . It had been beautiful and yes you couldn't believe that it would be available for 7 lakhs. It was on 15 perches of land to start with so realistically the land value itself in that area was almost 2 laks. Then the house was good, nothing SPECIAL nothing crazy but it was a good house. I had haggled with the owner and brought it down to 6. Which alone should have warned me that there was something really wrong. You cant build a barn with 6 lakhs in Sri Lanka. 
You had to travel in lazy village buses through lovely paddy fields and rubber plantations and this house  was near a tiny darling little stream, overlooking a paddy field …real Sri Lankan serandipity. The only feeling you got from the house was one of being charmed. It just didn't feel haunted.
" Wait a minute? YOU seriously believe this stuff?" I tried to appeal to the threewheel guys macho sense, and put him down a bit for beleiving silly stuff about spirits – I knew his kind and the only spirits they took seriously were the ones you get from Cargils in large crates on the days before Poya days etc. He evaded my parry and looked to his lactating wife for oral support –
you don't know the things that have happened to us , she bagan to screech and I wonderered how this man lived with her, let alone with the spectres supposedly haunting their  new house. You don't know how we are suffering the baby doesn't sleep cries all the time around 6 pm always ( its called colick you dumb lactating bovine, read more of Tharunee or something, I wanted to say- babies get gaseous in the) evenings. Some people should not be allowed to reproduce without a license!!!  ) and then there are sounds terrible sounds in our house (I understood- I was hearing one such just now) and the animals all died, our  pet love birds and the parrots they were valuable and the new persian cat we brought from the animal fair , she was inside the washing machine, dead ok that is really eww, you really should be more careful when you throw in the nappies, count them or something – and then mother fell down the front stairs and broke her hip- (ok THAT I just don't have a real  answer to, have you tried giving her Anelene -its good for the bones - ) "have you tried an excorcism?" I suggested reasonably.
There was another garbled babbling from lots of people including senior citizens,  speaking at once, and the answer seemed to revolve around how much capital they had acutally lost in the process of excorcism. I grinned as I imagined the local kattadi adds where they milked their clients dry based on how gullible they were. OK so that had been done.  
There was nothing for it but plan B
" Look I don't have to do this because its not my problem, but since I like the place myself I will offer you a deal. A very good deal, I must say. And I doing the best I can mind you. . ."

So that's how I bought a haunted house. And its been that way since then, because I didn't have time to visit the place. And Im not really bothered you know, because I believe that time heals everything. And the best thing, is that in the real estate sector- properties appreicate with time, whether they are haunted or not.
So if you are interested I have a lovely little house in Padukka, near a stream and Ill give it to you at cost, for just 8 lakhs. Send me an email. Seriously.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

WALPURGISNACHT Having a devil of a time

Walpurgis Night, and the risks of being different

C Gadiewasam

April 30th which fell last week, was although few modern people know about it, one of the biggest days in the calendar of the ancient witches of Europe in the Dark Ages; or that's what is claimed. It sits at  the exact opposite of Halloween or All Hollows Eve, which is October 31st and six months away, and much better known the world over.

Witchcraft in Sri Lanka is not a domain of ugly old women, and in fact some of the best known and ' most effective" sorcery is attributed to witch doctors, kapuralas (attendants to the Gods, who actually know their language ) or kattadiyas/gurunanses (witch doctors/demon priests) as the case may be. In practice also, such people have always been held in great esteem and even if they are mostly confidence tricksters, they are paid vast amounts of money for an exorcism or a spell. ( Ive heard that a good one can cost upto USD 7000) So, in general,  Sri Lankan 'witches' have it lucky.

However at a certain time long ago in the history of ancient Europe a powerful hysteria went around among ordinary people who feared that certain women were in league with the devil and responsible for the death and destruction that befell either crops, farm animals,  families or entire towns and villages.  We now know that the Black Death or bubonic plague for just one example was caused by a regular microscopic germ that lived on the fleas on black rats, but in those superstitious and uncivilized times, people preferred to think that this was the work of the Devil and since he was unreachable in practice, they took out their frustrations on some ugly or quiet woman in the village.

Indeed the words 'witch hunt" even now means "searching out and deliberately harassing people considered unorthodox(or different) " in society. So basically this was a situation where no one could win in the end. If you were even marginally different you ran the risk of being accused of being in the league with the devil. You could be extra pretty, extra ugly, have a squint eye or a stutter or a baby brother who walked funny – and bingo you were targeted for torture, flaying(ripping your skin off), scourging(beating your skin off)  and execution at the stake(over a slow fire)!This means  whatever bad stuff that happened in the village like farmer Bills cow dying of foot rot, was your fault , you could be a witch!  But if you did not want to be different you had to agree with the crowd, and say that yes, the pretty girl up the street, or even your quiet aunt Sally with the three cats, had to be a witch. A truly horrible choice, again, because the results of such a conviction were not pretty. This was probably where they came up with the saying being "between the Devil and the deep blue sea"

And this persecution of women, was completely gender biased.  Women had been thought of for very long as inferior and common perception was that they were more susceptible to foolishness and sin. The Devil was a male personification of evil and would prefer female assistants. The prosecutors were mostly male, sometimes celibate, as affiliated to the Church and extremely sanctimonious in their accusations , indeed the more women they tortured and burnt, the more holy and virtuous they felt! Including a number of pretty village lasses who had rejected their advances. .. since there was no decent media or internet to correct the more absurd speculations made by people, the stories conjured up and recorded became quite wild indeed, limited only by the imagination of the scribes and citizens of the era.

So, coming back to April 30th,  the eve of May Day was a date when the so called "Grand Sabbat" was held, which was considered the biggest festival of witches, involving anything from 10 to 10,000 invitees usually held in some Baltic forest high on a mountain called Brocken in North Central  Germany for example.

 The Devil appeared as a huge black bearded man, or a black goat (!?) or even a humongous toad… He sat on an ebony throne and his witches gathered around. There were the usual formalities such as initiation of intern witches and punishments for those who had not met regional disaster creation targets, and then everyone brought him presents (they had to be black in colour, so you need to try finding black food coloring if you want to take him a cake) . There was also an ultimate act called osculm infame, (which you can google and find the meaning of, if your parents allow you to do so.)

Finally the party, but since it was the sanctimonious and fun-hating religious paragons of the time reporting this, none of the food had any taste, and the participants were hungry anyway. (Something a bit like the pretas of the East who never enjoy their food or get satisfied no matter how much they eat.) And then there was dancing, around a bonfire or the Devil or a Maypole, or some kind of pillar, which lead to worse things. That's what they claim anyway. Who knows maybe they did have witches, or maybe bored groups of people who were somewhat different and needed a ball, what with all the death  and misery going on around; these were after all the Dark Ages!

Authors note: some of the best Hollywood fare around depicting this inglorious and ridiculous era, includes "Black Death" and "Season of the Witch", which you can view, again, if your parents allow you to do so, and if you don't mind being depressed to death.  On a happier note, "Walpurgisnach"is celebrated in a much more fun way by modern day Europeans who camp out, make bonfires and sing and dance the night away…

Ps- dig the artwork- Satyr type fellow is clearly loving it -