Category Archives: Tribute

Getting into the Game – Success Stories of Girls in Sports

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The more active your daughter is now the more active she will be as an adult. That means a healthier heart, stronger bones, less chance of cancer and diabetes. And more fitness, stamina and flexibility.

Did you know that when girls are active their anxiety and depression levels fall? It’s true. Physical activity is a mood enhaner. And playing sports have alot of social benefits too. Besides building good friendships, girls learn team work and how to strive towards goals. Sports provides experiences in leadership, independence and assertiveness. But the best reason for girls participation in sports is to have fun!

The Woman in Sports Foundation founded by the tennis great Billy Jean King reports that girls and women who play sport have and experience higher confidence and self-esteem. They experience higher state of psychological well-being than girls and women who do not play sports.

We spoke to a few girls coming from different backgrounds who have found their joy in games. All three report their favourite sports to be making them feel good about themselves. Those who engage in sports are doing better in their studies, they are found to be more attentive and disciplined in class.

Amala (15) is the eldest of four siblings. She is in the 9th grade and is a passionate player of badminton. ‘I first started playing sports at the Children’s Club. It was there that I developed a keen interest for badminton. Earlier I never had access to equipment or even knowledge on how to play the sport. I lacked the confidence even to speak to a single person. Thanks to the sport I now have the confidence to say – No Dream is too Big

Amala started playing barely an year ago and already she has won a silver medal at the district level. In the next year she is vying for a gold at the district and says will not stop there but go on to the national level.

Kalpana (14) dreams of playing netball for her school. ‘When I saw girls scoring magnificently playing netball and scoring points I became so fascinated and wanted to play. I even went home that day and talked about the game with my mother’

Soon enough Kalpana was on the team and playing as defense. She revels in stopping her opponents from scoring points while she glows at her own team getting their goals.

‘The feeling of self-satisfaction cannot be expressed in mere words’ she claims excitedly about the game. ‘During practices we are never too tired to go through our moves again and again, the shooter working on precision and the runners on passing the ball and those on defense like me flaring our arms wildly to block the efforts of the opponents’ explains Kalpana.

Sadeesha (13) is among the quieter few who have taken up a sport that is still rare in our country. Because of tradition and culture girls don’t expose their bodies. This is one reason why girls participation in sports drop drastically with their reaching age 14 years. However Sadeesha is engaged in Aerobatic Gymnastics and is loving it. ‘I like Athletics too but most of all I like Gymnastics because it makes me move quickly and be very flexible’ she said.

Her school team won the National Championships last year and the girls were overjoyed with the results.’ We all shouted and cheered as our name was called. We just couldn’t contain ourselves. I like participating in competitions it builds my confidence and bring the team closer’.

Don’t miss out on anything girls – go and get into the game – and have fun!

Theo & Layla – Partners in Crime

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Tracy recalls bringing up her two lovely daughters in Sri Lanka and dog were always part of their life. She would be the one to feed a litter of stray pups found on the wayside. Tracy would even bring them in a box to her home along with the mother, if she could be found. It is only after the pups are a little fuller and grown-up that they are sent to kind homes. Moving to Australia the family continued their love for dogs.

“We’ve always had dogs growing up and loved their loving, affectionate nature. We feel dogs understand humans and are loyal creatures with loving hearts” says Sarah the younger of the two teenagers. Theo and Leyla are the names we all agreed on- Theo is little male Terrier who is two and a half years and Leyla a female, Husky cross German Shepherd who is just two.

One day Tracy and her daughters were doing their weekend shopping when they happened to spot a beautiful Terrier gazing through the Pet shop window. Tracy stopped by to give him a cuddle and the puppy had her hooked right there. “It was hopeless” says Tracy, “I knew I had to take him home”.

So there was this little ball of fluff just 3 months old when Leyla joined in. Initially we had to be careful how we treated the puppies since Leyla was a larger dog. Later the two got along well – actually they got on very well and became partners in crime. The three of them had to make an attempt to use stern voices to put a stop to their pranks. Chewing the girls’ favorite items was not done! Each time the puppies had to be reminded it was wrong. Through tough training and discipline some authority was regained by the humans.

But then in March, when all had gone out on Mother’s Day they returned to a house of chaos. “It was like snowing inside the living room, the couch and the floor was covered with white feathers. My heart sank” said Sarah. On one hand what the puppies had done is wrong on the other hand it might be the last straw that broke the camel’s back and the puppies will be gone she thought. Holding the remnants of her favourite quilt, Sarah valiantly put on the act and demanded from the two culprits “Who did this?’ Two guilty faces looked up with a few feathers stuck on to their furs.

Even with all these mischiefs we don’t complain says Tracy, they are a good stress reliever. At the end of the day they are always there to greet us at the door. I don’t know what we would do without their company.

“Dogs do speak but only to those who know how to listen”

The long and the short of it all

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“Dachshunds are ideal dogs for small children that they are already stretched and pulled to such a length that a child cannot do much harm one way or other” – Robert Benchly

I had to pick a dog that was small enough it could remain a secret in a small house that was refusing to welcome a dog. It was Ruveen my younger son’s birthday who was quickly growing up and turning nine that year. A tiny puppy just 6 weeks old, turned out to be a wonderful gift for the boy. It arrived one Sunday afternoon wrapped in a cardboard box – still a secret. My two sons were overjoyed.

Based on a Just So Story by Rudyard Kipling we name the female pup Taffiana (Taffy for short). The name somehow in a childish way was meaning- a malleable doggy in spite of it unusual length. The puppy was a glossy black, short-haired miniature Dachshund with telltale markings in Tan. As it grew from been a tiny pup that fitted a 2-kilo Marie Biscuit box, to its full height and length it earned its stay in our house as a damsel would with her charming ways. The smallest dog in the neighborhood Taffy was also bossy and loud when allowed to have her say.

Those days my sons were engaged in a myriad of sports. Taffy would wait impatiently on days that they arrived after evening practices. Playfully she would claim him her own (playmate) by grabbing his Hockey stockings and making a quick dash. My son whined and moaned asking the dog not to rip his socks. Many a times using the Hockey stick he wrench it off the mischievous dog, that was hiding beneath his bed. That was Taffy playing under-cover.

Another tactic she reveled in was to jump into the bed with my children. Taffy would urge and implore the boys to get her up there. Since this was breaking the rules of the house she allowed the boys to hide her deep down under the covers until the lights went out. That way she was able to get cozy and catch up on the warmth she missed during the day.

The long and the short of it all is that a dog will teach us many things – its need of our attention, friendship, warmth and tenderness and above all loyalty.

Dachsie, meine dachsie the best canine under the sun; Call you “wiener” or “sausage” or “hotdog”; We know that you are number one!

 

Enticing Wood Carvings at Embekke

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Embekke Devalaya, 14th century complex where every roof, pillar and post is covered with intricately crafted flower vines, dancers, animals and birds pays silent tribute to the craftsmen of the past. Among the carvings, there are 125 series of decorations, 256 Liyawel, 64 lotus designs in Pekada, 30 decorative patterns on timber, roof members, making a total of 514 such exquisite carvings.

This historical site is one of the three been explore en-route to Kandy and is located close Daulagala, some 12 kms from Kandy.

Many a legends tell an interesting tale of the origin of this splendid place. So according to the epic Embekke Varnanawa composed by Delgahagoda Mudiyanse, it was built during the Gampola period of King Wickrema Bahu II (1371 AD). One of his consorts named Henakanda Biso Bandara, in association with a drummer named as Rangama, as told in a miraculous dream, is supposed to have built this Devale dedicated to God Kataragama. The building complex at that time was three-storeyed. Which is not surprising given other architectural feats achieved during that time.

The entrance to the Devalaya is through a waiting room with half raised walls and a sloping roof with flat tiles and tell-tale embellishments atop. The Devale is in two segmented buildings, the Digge (Dancing Hall) and Drummers Hall (Hewasi Mandappaya).

The wooden capital pillars have assumed varied shapes moulded skilfully into these intricate wood carvings. The bottom square is octagonal with carvings, while its top terminates in a leaf emanating from square. The other intricate but unique piece of woodcarvings rest on the Pekada.

Enticing woodcarvings are also carved on some beams, rafters, doorways, and doors as well. Among the best masterpieces on the capital pillars are thus: Hansa Puttuwa (entwined swans) double headed eagles, and entwined rope designs, mother breast-feeding child, soldier fighting on horseback, female dancing figures, wrestlers, women emanating from a vein, bird with human figure, combination of elephant-bull and combination of elephant-lion. Among such wonderful carvings, what attracted me most was the elephant-bull carving and that of the elephant with its elongated trunk which is mystically manifested.

The roof of the Embekke Devale bears some ingenuous carpentry in fixing the rafters. The ‘Madol Kurupuwa’ is one of the finest examples of medieval carpentry excellence. It is a wooden pin (this Madol Kurupuwa) which holds together 26 rafters at the hipped end of the roof of the Digge of Embekke Devale. The giant pin is carved with Pathuruliya, Patha motifs.

A little distance away lies another assembly of stone pillars on which are carved the very replicas of the wooden pillars of the Embekke Devale. It is believed that the wooden beams of the roof had rested on carved wooden Pekada, which are no longer to be seen in the site. Rope design, entwining swan, berunde bird, dancing girl are some of the creations found on these stone columns, quite akin to the woodcarvings at Embekke Devale.

The villagers still remember the existence of this Ambalama with the wooden roof about 100 years ago. This building is also called Sinhasana Mandapaya. In ancient times, the king and his royal entourage used to rest here and watch the Perahera when it was held.

 

Embekke  Devale is part of three ancient sites closely located Pilimathalawa enroute to Kandy, others been Gadaladeniya and Lankathilaka temple complexes.

 

Ancient temple of Gadaladeniya etched in stone

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Kandy is a beautiful city of culture located in the up country 115 kms and 3 hours ride from Colombo. Along the way past the Kadugannawa climb and close to Kandy are three major architecturally rich sites belonging to the Gampola period. The first of these important architectural sites is found in Pilimathawa and 7km interior along Daulagala road. Then you find the Gadaladeniya temple complex of the 14th century, perched on a rock outcrop.

Early morning mild winds blew over the hill area. As I clambered up the steps cut on the rock a striking building arose into view. It had close resemblance to a Hindu shrine with those tall Shikaras. As if the design was a battle between two, even though the temple had an unusual likelihood of a Hindu shrine, the one with taste for Buddhist architecture seem to have won. On top of massive, flat granite slabs, were bubble shaped pagodas. A large stupa was taking the center place with two other smaller ones on either sides. Through the main entrance and into the belly of the temple complex was the image house. Inside under a decorative Makara Thorana was a large statue of Buddha in seated position. Other images and paintings on the walls were fading with age. Taking the full circle around the temple complex two other smaller rooms were found to be shrines belonging to Hindu deities. Strong influence of Hinduisms flowed into Buddhist temples following the Polonnaruwa era and is even seen today.

Two small natural pools on the rocky surface were filled with water and had purple water lilies floating in them. Nature on its own accord pay respect to the many Gods, without human intervention. At the entrance to the image house are two elaborately carved stone pillars that were impressions to behold. On either side of the steps are two proud Gajasinghe carvings on granite with artfully curling tails and startling eyes. These mythical creatures are a combination of elephant and lion.

In close proximity to Gadaladeniya temple are two other places forming an architectural trinity of sorts beckoning travelers taking the Colombo-Kandy route. The other two are Embekke Devale and Lanakathilaka temple.

I have a dream by Martin Luther King Jr

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I was a nervous teenage school girl as I went up the platform to deliver this very speech I am making to you today. That day I thought I would never live till it was all done. I did not succeed to impress the audience or any one on the panel of judges. But it was one small step in overcoming the fear in public speaking – a giant leap toward what I have become today.

The famous speech I Have  Dream was delivered on 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC. Martin Luther King Jr. was an American Baptist minister and activist who was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights based on Christian beliefs. In the speech he speaks on behalf of his fellow black men, and women fighting for freedom.

I remember my father quoting Luther-King:

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase”

It had a tremendous effect on me as I prepared for other speeches later on. He was a big big figure in my father’s life and so in mine as well.

Martin Luther King was shot years before I was born in Memphis, Tennessee. It was April 1968.


I have a dream … delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”2

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!3

Me & baby elephants face-to-face on the road to Thanamalwila

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These little devils will break your heart with their rather amusing antics! I watched these two baby elephants (may be 6-9 months not more) rounds up the corner and reach the bar for their regular feed – ETH, Udawalawe

Uda Walawe National Park lies South of the central hills of the island, 180 kms from Colombo. It surrounds the man-made reservoir of Udawalawe, a mixture of abandoned teak plantation, scrub jungle and grassland. During the dry season many herds of elephant roam the park. Which is usually between May and September.

Traveling on Thanamalwila road about 10 kms before the park entrance is the Elephant Transit Home (ETH). The orphanage was established in 1995 by the Department of Wild Life with funding from Born Free (UK) to rescue and nurture baby elephants. The place was opened to the public eight years later. At the time of my visit about 25 baby elephants were in care. These juvenile elephants have strayed away from the sides of their nursing mothers and herd while roaming inside the vast expanse of the National Park. They have been rescued brought in by the small team of dedicated wildlife officers. Some animals carry the tell-tale signs of injuries – torn ears, scars or a broken leg. A juvenile of very tender age was wailing in its pen without the warmth of its mother’s company. These elephants are all nurtured and cured prior to been reintroduced into the park reserve.

The ideal way to visit the Elephant Transit Home is to combine with a visit to the Udawalawe National Park early in the morning or late afternoon. The orphans at the ETH can only be viewed when they are been fed. The feeding times are 9am, 12 noon, 3pm and 6pm. At this time they can be watched from the viewing platforms for about 20 minutes while they are given milk.

As the bell tolls the baby elephants are seen lining up in queue, slowly ambling into pens for feeding. Workers pour cow’s milk by the gallon and the babies guzzle hungrily at the bottles. The littlest ones appear hungriest and they actually refuse to go away without receiving some extra milk. The rest of the time the animals spend in the National Park out of the view of people, in preparation for their return to the wild when they are about four years old.

One adolescent male elephant stands out in my impressions, his name is Namal. Drawn to the animal who had a prosthesis hind leg I asked the caretaker for permission to get a close look. Many animals suffer injuries in the hands of cruel men who try to protect their cultivation by setting up crude devices. Namal’s injured leg makes him too vulnerable to return to the wilderness.

In stark contrast to Pinnawala Orphanage and elsewhere, where elephants are seen in captivity the ETH has completely done away with tethering the animals. While visitors are kept at safe distance the workers are familiar in handling the animals without the use of any harsh methods.

A small herd of wild elephants are seen grazing in the shore line of the reservoir. Their entrance to the road is barred by protective electric-wire fence. Close at dusk a drive across the dam and reservoir makes way for a picturesque view. The skies are enveloped in warm rays of pink and orange that melts into the far horizon of purple mountain ranges. The still lake is a mirror image of the grandeur of the beautiful sunset. The rippling water add texture to what could have been one of Turner’s oil paintings.