The Bells of St. Lucia's Cathedral

"A cathedral is an eloquent testimony to what can be achieved when artistic inspiration and far-sighted vision collaborate harmoniously with deep Christian faith. That is why the pilgrim to Rome is overwhelmed not so much at the immense scale of the basilicas or by their artistic splendour, but by the sheer faith that inspired artists like Michaelangelo, Raffaello, Bernini and Maderna to visualise and execute such breath-taking wonders for the glory of God. Similar feelings awe and administration flood the soul of the visitor to St. Lucia's Cathedral, Kotahena, Sri Lanka. He is overpowered by the majesty of the dome, the gracefulness of the vault and the grandeur of Corinthian pillars. But above all, he is wafted high on wings of faith as he kneels to pray and contemplate this beautiful cathedral, such a magnificient Alleluia of praise to God, the creator of the universe."
- A light Set On a Hill

Had the rare opportunity of seeing the renovation work that is being carried out at one of the oldest churches in Sri Lanka - the St. Lucia's Cathedral. Construction of the Cathedral began in 1873 and was completed in 1902, with additions going on till about 1905. Over a century old, the cathedral today needs major maintenance work done, to restore the building to its former glory.

Among the many wonders at the Cathedral, are the chimes of bells. Donated by Mr A. N. De Silva of Mayfield House, Mudliar Henry Perera of Wasala Walauwa, Mrs F. J. Alles of Ternon House and Mr J. C. Peiris of Grandpass, the four bells were shipped from a foundry in Marseilles (France) in the SS Himalaya and were transported to the cathedral on the 5th of November 1903. Installation of the bells was a mammoth effort: the largest bell weighes 4,300 pounds. Messrs Walker Sons of Mutwal - one of the well-known engineering companies of that era, completed the task.

The bells were christened at 4.30pm on the 13th of December (the Feast of St. Lucia) by His Grace Rev. Dr. Th. Andrew Melizan - the Archbishop of Colombo. They were first ceremoniously washed with salt and water, then anointed four times with the Oil of Chrism, and named. When this was done, His Grace the Archbishop of Colombo sounded each bell once and this act was repeated by sponsors, the clergy and the Religious present. The wooden frames and the main teak beams were covered with white cloth, tied with green ribbons, Broad-lace, and gold paper. The bells were dressed in white satin robes edged with lace and embriodery. A thurible with burning incense and other aromatics was placed under each bell.

The whole ceremony lasted nearly two hours. That evening, the Angelus was rung on the newly christened bells.

The four bells are engraved with the Crucifixion, and the likeness of Fr. Chounavel. The name of the Foundry is inscribed on each bell: Georges & Francisque Paccard, Founders - A - Annecy - le - Veux Hte Savoie - France - 1903.

1. The biggest bell weighs 4,300 pounds and is christened
It has engraved on it beautiful floral wreaths, the Crucifixion, the Sacred Heart, Our Lady, St. Joseph, and the twelve apostles. It has the crest of Oblates of Mary Immaculate with the caption Evangelitur Pauperibus Misset Me
This is the main bell of the cathedral - rung only in occasions whence the statue of St. Lucia is taken out in procession.

2. The bell next in size weighs 2,000 pounds and is christened
This, along with the bells three and four, are connected to the clock - to chime hourly, every half an hour and every fifteen minutes consecutively. The clock is still in perfect working condition, while the mechanism to chime the bells have ceased to function.

3. The third bell weighs 1,400 pounds and is christened

4. The fourth bell weighs 950 pounds and is christened

The clock that is at the facia of the cathedral has the mechanism located elsewhere. They are connected with a long set of "differentials" that run through the thick walls. That is, another marvel, another story.

Perhaps, later.


Ignorance is bliss - ii

Life in Taprobane
"you are all I'll ever want
but this I am denied
sometimes, in my darkest thoughts
I wish I'd never learned
what it is to be in love
and have that love returned

is it written in the stars?
are we paying for some crime?
is that all that we are good for
just a stretch of mortal time?
is this God's experiment
in which we have no say?
in which we're given paradise
but only for a day?"

(Written in the Stars - Elton John)

Ignorance is bliss

There is a little roadside tea-shop in Balungala (Balanagala) closer to Girandurukotte, on the way from Polonnaruwa to Mahiyangana. The woman runs the shop while the husband tends to the patch of land they cultivate and other manly affairs in life.

Inside the little shop, there's a couple of plastic chairs for the odd traveller, and a kettle on fire in a corner on ground level. In the dimly-lit corner, next to the fire place, one would find a family of cats snoozing. Their toddler, with a home-made toy - an old tuna tin with a string or something - keeps himself busy while the mother attends to the guests. There are some skinny dogs loitering about - life in all forms and shapes exist in harmony around the place.

You will taste the best Vade, halapa, dodol and laveriya there - and of course a plain-tea with a piece of jaggery would be THE treat for the weary traveller.

The woman, has the most amazingly calm look I have ever seen on any woman's face. Peace, serenity, tranquility - crosses my mind. Her face says she is content with life. It says her life is perfect. It says she is the happiest person on this planet.

Ask her about the cost of living, or who voted for whom at the elections, she wouldn't know. Has she read the papers or watched tv lately? She doesn't find an absolute necessity there. What's going on in the next town - is there a musical show or a political meeting taking place - that's not at all important to her...

That is life perfect. That is bliss. Not to know the thing that you don't need to know.

The image of her serenity is carved in my memory - and every time I get frustrated and emotional about issues that are beyond me, I keep telling myself that ignorance is bliss. The more we know, the more we complicate our lives.

Sometimes, I wish I were an illiterate peasant living in a remote village, somewhere deep in the bush. My life, my aspirations, my expectations, would have been much less complicated. Sometimes I just wish I had never known most of what I know now.


Of Mascots and their Creators

Sometime back, I read some interesting comments on why Sri Lanka has no good designers (See www.nidahas.com). Lack of training and coaching facilities, no proper design schools, not getting paid well etc. were some of the reasons discussed.

This mascot of the SAF Games - the infamous Pandan Allan Kukula - is a testimony to the calibre of self-acclaimed 'designers' we have today. It is such crap and a load of shite, it makes me want to puke. I'm so shameful to be born in a country that qualifies such crap to be national symbols.

Here are my two cents to the designer. I hope you'll take it as constructive criticism and do something better next time. (That is if there IS a next time)

1. A Mascot is a mascot, not a real animal. Understand your brief first.
2. Create a mascot based on the real animal. Give him a personality, make him adorable. Bring him to life.
3. Inject the spirit of the event to the mascot - if it is sports, make him playful.
4. Give a name. Christen your child. Call him something. I still remember my Mishka (aka Misha) I got from Moscow Olympics, and this year's Football mascot is Goleo vi. His football is Pille.
5. Make sure your mascot is versatile. Remember he is going to be used commercially to generate funds.
6. Make him flexible in application. Make sure the mascot reproduces well in different mediums, processes and material etc.
7. Read, read, read. Do some research and learn what the world has done. Look at the Football World-Cup Mascot, look at Olympic mascots. Learn from them, get inspired by them, and do better than them.
8. Take ownership. Set up guidelines.
9. Offer a digital library of poses and applications. Don't let others massacre your baby.
10. Remember, simplicity is key. Don't complicate your design.

There's more, but at least try to stick to these basics - you won't go wrong.

I wouldn't blame the "designer" for this disaster, the governing body of the SAF Games Sri Lanka should have had some better brains. People, if you know that you are in the wrong job, please, please leave. Leave with dignity - don't hang around and expose your ignorance and stupidity. You are bringing shame not only unto yourself, but to the whole nation.

Pandan Allana Kukula

Just saw a piece of communication for the South Asian Federation (SAF) Games, soon to be held in Colombo.

There was a man throwing something (I think it's a Kabadi player), and a rooster with a torch - both being used as graphic elements promoting the event.

My first question: why two symbols? Answer: One is the logo of the event, the rooster is the mascot.

It's not just another rooster - it's a Vali Kukula, the symbol of the nation, I was told.

All these years, I was under the impression that the symbol of the nation was the lion. And peacock, the national bird. They both have a sense of regality, sense of pride and integrity, above all - a commanding presence.

But, a rooster? That too a rooster that runs for life, into the bush, the minute it hears the slightest noise? A bird that gets picked on and pecked on, a bird that is better off dead than being alive? One that lives in constant fear? One that has no pride or presence at all?

And the best part of course is the pandama (torch)..!

What the hell is wrong with this nation? I cannot understand. What is a lion or a peacock, and what is a rooster?

Then it dawned on me - this is an extremely clever plot to symbolize the nation what it stands for today, in reality: pandan allana kukulo...!


Evolution of the Sinhalese - Part 2

The Laws of Evolution

Mammoth died, the cockroach lived. The law is simple: the clever, smarter species would survive and the weaker ones would die away.

If I were God/Mother Nature/Supreme Power/Brahma or the Matrix, who would I choose between the Tamils and the Sinhalese?

With the current score, I would pick the Tamils and let the Sinhalese be wiped out of the plant earth. I am a Sinhalese, but I have to be fair - I'm the Matrix.

We, the Sinhalese, have time and time again, proven that we are a weaker race. We are ignorant, we are foolish. We have no vision. We are a bunch of frogs in a well.

Pick 10 people randomly, and ask what would they be doing in five years' time? I've tried it - the majority of the Sinhalese are clueless. They have no idea. They have never thought about it. They have never planned anything.

Apply the same to the Tamils, or to some foreigners, if you must. Majority would know what exactly they want, what exactly they'd want to be five years down the line.

It's like the JVP and the LTTE. The JVP had the first revolution in 1970, second in 1988-89, and over a period of 36 years, their objective, their mission, has changed like the weather. LTTE, in the meantime has held on to their demand - they have never lost focus.

Perseverance. Integrity. The fighting spirit. I can keep adding words, it's only going to favour the Tamils.

The law of evolution, the matrix, says, keep the Tamils and let the Sinhalese be gone. And the system has begun work, and guess what - the Sinhalese are doing a brilliant job in wiping out their own race.

Evolution of the Sinhalese - Part 1

Why are we shocked at the recent betrayals?

There is a debate going on about President Rajapakse's decision to let Daya Master be treated in Colombo. Is it right or wrong, good or bad, I wouldn't know. However, this has prompted discussions leading to LTTE vs SLGov and the Tamils vs Sinhalese comparisons.

We, the Sinhalese think that we are the greatest. We are united, we are peaceful, we the cultural, we are this and we are that. We are the dog's bollocks. For all the Sinhalese in this country, let me offer a self analysis.

We descend from Vijaya, who's grandmother - Suppadevi (a princess from Vanga) - ran away from home and mated with a lion (Could be a human from the "Lion" tribe). Their kids, Vijaya's parents - Sinha Bahu and Sinha Seevali - were twins. It is also said that Sinha Bahu killed his own father for a reward from the King of Vanga, and later assumed throne.

As we know, Vijaya and his boon friends got deported from his own kingdom - they were that 'well-behaved.' The first thing Vijaya does upon landing in "Tamba Panni" - or the copper-coloured shores of Sri Lanka - is to get laid with the very first woman he sets his eyes upon... The woman, Kuveni, becomes his mistress and betrays her own clan to help Vijaya exterminate them. What does grateful Vijaya do eventually, after assuming the crown? He "imports" a new bride and sends Kuveni and his two kids packing in to the jungles of Adam's Peak. Kuveni doesn't survive in the hands of her enraged kinsfolk, but the kids are said to be the ancestors of the "Pulinda" race - the current "Vedda's."

Now boys and girls, aren't we proud of our heritage? A proud heritage of incest, thuggery and betrayal?

Does 'selling one's soul' sound strange to the Sinhalese? Does anyone wonder why the top ranks in key positions are selling information to LTTE? Does anyone wonder why the Sinhalese are offering the LTTE all the logistical support in carrying out their missions?

Friends, don't blame them, blame our ancestors. It is in our DNA.

We would sell our fathers, get rid of the wife, throw the kids out... we Sinhalese would do ANYTHING for selfish gains. Our fingers itch, if we don't make a fast-buck.

Even King Parakramabahu (12th Century), who had the greatest ever Sinhala army in the history, had a "Solee (Chola)" regiment to safeguard the tooth relic, it is said. He could trust his army to invade Burma, but he knew he couldn't trust them with the symbol of the crown. He knew, even then, the true colours of the Sinhala race.

My dear countrymen, fellow Sinhalese, open your eyes and smell the coffee. Don't ever be surprised at the Sinhala traitors and the ones who betray the country - it is not at all a new concept to the Sinhalese.

We are born to have fun, make material gains, and live a life full of joy. Can't find a woman - sleep with your sister. Need some money or power - kill your dad or plaster him to the walls with cement. That's the heritage we are proud of, that's what we are made of.

Who are we kidding?


Aliens - Contd.

Have you ever wondered why the “aliens” are always dressed in the same costume? Did they just go “Ok, from tomorrow, all of us shall wear green tights with gold polka-dots on them...” and unanimously passed a bill?

Or is it simply because we have always seen the Star-treks and the Blakes-Sevens in their “uniforms” and it makes us think that the aliens also must be in their uniforms when they visit outer space?

Whichever way, it looks like there's no room for fashion designers or the skinny models in the future - or in the outer space. No wonder the aliens get sick of their planets and start wandering around the milky way - how would you like to see all the women in the planet in the same under-wear? Only different in size? No colours, no laces, no strings, no thongs, no frills - life must be boring enough to hop in a space shuttle I suppose.



Aliens in Paradise?

My paradise isle has been attracting all kinds of tourists. Some come with their sweethearts, some come with their families. The Dutch, the Portuguese and the British came with their armies, and didn't leave for centuries.

The latest, it seems, are the aliens.

Saw some news reports indicating that there had been some alien sightings in the Southern Sri Lanka. There were the landing marks, crop-cirles, pictures taken from a mobile phone etc. etc. to back-up the claim.

"Do you believe in aliens..?" a friend asked me.

I told him that I don't believe these particular reports, but I wouldn't disregard the fact that there could be some other life forms in this universe. After all, the earth is just a grain of sand in the desert.

I think the problem is that most people are "pre-conditioned" in this day and age - they have read about aliens and already have formed an opinion and a visual impression of the strangers from the outer space. So it's very easy for one to describe the sight - and more often than not, they all tell the same story:
Big eyes, small figure, proportionately larger head... all too familiar and seem to be in line with X-Files and "Bhavathra" (the local version).

Look at this planet earth. There is an umpteen number of different life forms that roam the earth. So, why can't the aliens be present in the form of a... say, a bird, a beetle, a snake or a chimpanzee..? Why must be they imitating the human figure..? Why only stop at fauna - why can't be there any alien flora, growing somewhere in my own back yard, transmitting some sort of signals to the outer space..? How amazing would it be to discover that the little dung-beetle in the garden is an alien..?