Sunday, December 16, 2007

Those Rugby Days

Bring back the Clifford Cup!

Sunday Times Feb 21 1999

The Clifford Cup Rugby was the blue riband of our rugby in the past. Since 1950 the elite clubs of Sri Lanka such as CR & FC, CH & FC, Havelocks S.C. , Kandy S.C., Dimbulla C & A C, Dickoya & Maskeliya C.C., Uva Gymkhana Club and Kelani Valley which had the best blend of local rugby talent and foreign rugby players who were working as planters and commercial executives played in the Clifford Cup Tournament dishing out champagne rugby.

In 1961 the Police, Army, Navy, Air Force and University who were affiliated Clubs playing in the 'B' Division too were permitted to participate in the Clifford Cup tournament and the entry of these teams added more colour to the tournament with their rugged and robust approach to the game.

Havelocks S.C. was the first winners of Clifford Cup when they became the League Champions in 1950, led by Ian Labrooy and had some outstanding rugby players of the calibre of R.C. Henricus, Hugh Aldons, Eric Aldons, H.E.V. Metzerling, Fred Aldon, Sib Pilapitiya, V. Kelly, Alan Drieberg, E. Matheysz, R. Sourjah, Ivor Bartholomeusz, 'Letcho" Ephraums, D. Ernst and K. Gunawardane.

CR &FC, that year was captained by the great Archibald Perera who was famous for his "Dummies" and lost to Havelocks by 11 points to 3 points.

CH & FC which was an all expatriate side, captained by H.H. Campbell won all their matches but lost to Havelocks in their last league game.

Dimbulla, another strong team from the hill country skippered by Lyn Simpson was hard to beat in their home ground at Radella. But lost to Havelocks by 13 points to nil thanks to tries by Fred Aldons, Eric Aldons and Ivor Bartholomeusz.

At the end of the league tournament the club placings were: Havelocks won all the seven games beating CH &FC, CR&FC, Dimbulla, Kandy, Uva, Dickoya and Kelani Valley, for them to win the coveted Clifford Cup at its inaugural year.

In 1951 too Havelocks won the Clifford Cup captained by Ian Labrooy. Interestingly Havelocks played all their home matches at Police Park, Bambalapitiya.

In 1952 CR&FC won the Clifford Cup captained by that shrewd scrum half Mahes Rodrigo who went onto become a double international in rugger and cricket. His team had some great players in Malcolm Wright, Dr. Trevor Anghie, Summa Navaratnam, Kavan Rambukwella, S.S. Bambaradeniya, A. Gunawardane, U. Amarasinghe, Ago Paiva, A.K. Dorai, Miles Christofelsz, R. Shockman, Devaka Rodrigo, Eardly McHeyzer, Norman Gunawardane, Ashroff Cader, H. Neuman, Geof Weiman and E.L. Fernando.

The year 1953 saw Dimbulla emerge as the Clifford Cup champions captained by Lyn Simpson, with some outstanding planters playing for his team such as Peter Clark, Mike Warring, Ian Campbell, Stanley Unanboowa, Malcolm Wright, B.Clark, D, Ironside, McClune, David Parker, McKitterick, Walker, Mollison, Wadsworth, and Stewart.

In 1954 CR&FC won the Clifford Cup led, by that fastest human in Asia, Summa Navaratnam, beating Kandy S.C skippered By S.D. Pilapitiya. Again in 1955 Summa Navaratnam captained the CR&FC to win the Clifford Cup championship against Kandy S.C. captained by Ken McPherson.

In 1956 CR & FC won the Clifford Cup for the third successive year captained by Malcolm Wright beating the combined might of Dimbulla and Dickoya led by J.A. Partridge. In 1957 CH&FC won the Clifford Cup for the first time led by St. John Davies against the Dim-Dicks skippered by Malcolm Wright. In 1958 CR&FC again won the Clifford Cup captained by Ashy Cader beating Dickoya led by Barry Cameron.

In 1959 CR&FC captained by the ace fly half Ago Paiva shared the Clifford Cup with Dimbulla led by Ken McPherson. In 1960 CH&FC skippered by Jeremy Lloyd won the Clifford Cup by beating Dimbulla led by Mike Warring.

In 1961, with Police, Army, Navy, Air Force and University from the "B" Division being permitted to play alongside the "A" Division clubs, CR&FC,CH&FC, Havelocks, Kandy, Dimbulla, Dickoya, Uva and K.V. the format of the Clifford Cup was changed where all 13 clubs had to play each other once in a Home and Away basis in alternate years on a league basis and at the end of the league the best eight teams had to play in a knock-out tournament for the Clifford Cup. The Police, Army, Navy and Air Force made best use of this opportunity and began their accendency in rugby displacing the elite clubs with some breathtaking rugby and began to dominate the local rugby scene which will unfold in the coming weeks in my column.

But today the tragedy is the traditional Clifford Cup with such a glorious past has died a natural death thanks to our rugby administrators opting for new trophies such as John Players Cup, Premadasa Cup, President's Trophy and Carlsberg Trophy. Forgetting the fact that the value of a challenge trophy is enhanced with the passage of time like the "Bradby Shield" which is awarded to the winners of the Royal-Trinity rugby encounter since the 1940s. It will do our rugby good if the administrators bring back on offer the Clifford Cup for the league tournament immaterial who the sponsors are so that we could relive the glorious past of our rugby with it's rich traditions. - SS

Those were the days . . .

Kavan: rugby skills and mango seeds

Another prestigious post Kavan held was being a councillor for the

Sport Council of the Ministry

of Sports. Prior to that he held other key posts.

By M.H.M. Manasique – Sunday Times Jan 4, 1998

A local rugby wizard who is accredited to be one of the greatest strategists - within and outside the rugby field - is Kavan Rambukwella.

His skills as a player, coach, administrator, selector, councillor, consultant and promoter is legendary and has blended to maintain a high calibre profile in the sport.

When one sees some of the top rugby personalties bow down at the sight of him in sincere appreciation of the services he has rendered, one is left to wonder what sort of a magnificient player he has been. His concentration for the game began at Trinity College, Kandy where every student enjoys a bit of rugby in his schooling career. He started playing the game with the mango seed with colleagues during lunch breaks. Anchoring a berth in the College First XV side at the age of 14, his attachment to the game now spans 50 years. A glowing career, it still glitters with the hope of giving the best guidance to players who seek his advice.

Even today his expertise is sought by the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU) where he is heading the Appeal Board of the Union as Chairman. Here the judgement of the Disciplinary Committee is scrutinized for a milder punishment when appealed by the defendant. A honorary job which could be typically handled by men of high regard and respect in the rugby society. Having witnessed varying rugby standards from many angles since the time Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon, he has practically analysed every scenario in the rise and the fall of the game.

Based on his findings he has engineered many meaningful remedies for the propagation and the upliftment of the sports in Sri Lanka. Dedicated to the core, he once resigned as the Chairman together with the entire Selection Committee of the SLRFU backing his decision in protest against Sports Ministry intervention in forcing to include a player of his choice. He further refused to accompany the same team as the manager during the 1979 tour of Malaysia for the Asiad. However the minister's nominee ended up with sore eyes. A stable decision maker he has led a no nonsense life though mingled freely with ruggerites and their administration staff. Helping the needy ruggerite when in troubled waters, he has successfully negotiated many fine jobs for budding young ruggerites for which he has been showered with high accolades. Hailed as 'Golden Boy of Ceylon' for his try scoring ability in international matches where he excelled as a centre three quarter he was able to play freely unlike in local matches being well marked by two to three players at a time. The publicity he received in the media had been very encouraging and still maintains most of his paper clippings neatly pasted in two thick drawing books.

Having lost his parents when young he was brought up by his uncles. Most of his young life had been at the school boarding and finally ending up at Alison House at Trinity. Organizing his life in such a way he established himself steadily and later became a Director at Bartleet Tea Brokers. He served there for 30 years after being an executive for five years. Thus he held one of the top most positions in the Company. His vision to promote the game and to standardize the quality of the sport was always broad-based. He is glad that most of his ideas are taking shape these days. One of which was to introduce the game into the provinces when he held office as SLRFU President in the 1978/79 term.

The inauguration of mini-rugby was another brain-child of his. Another major assignment he undertook was the successful campaign in conducting the Rugby Congress at Hilton for a day, where media reports of the past 15 years were reviewed by the entire rugby fraternity in the county seeking specialist instructions and guidance for the sheer sake of improvement. He was also privileged to be the first President of the Duncan White Sports Foundation mostly represented by the media personnel of the highest repute.

Another prestigious post he held was being a councillor for the Sport Council of the Ministry of Sports. Prior to that he held on to some key offices.

Kavan's ability to coach brought him unexpected fame specially after dominating the international scene. He guided CR&FC from 1963 to 1965, the club which ear-marked his success as a coach.

Later he went on to coach the Police team for six continuous years. He was there with the Police until they won their first ever Cup in 1971. At the same time he was running a school of junior rugby where 20 odd cub ruggerites successfully passed the 3 month course which taught them the basics.

Highly recognized he was able to run this school only for few years at the Depot Police. He has coached more than 2000 rugby players with some of them ending up at the highest rung.

He romped to sporting glory from athletics, winning a record run in the 100 with 11 seconds in the under 16 of the Public School Championship. He led the Trinity athletic team when he was 19, but could not pursue further as he was keen on rugby. He has also played a little cricket and was a medium pace opening bowler and has played a couple of matches during a schools season.

Given the right break he started playing rugby to his true potential. With only three to four years of schools rugby he excelled to such an extent that fans would travel long distances just to watch him play.

He acquired his basic skills from Philip Buultjens and Major Hardy. He was always liked by many.

The most memorable moment in school rugby is from the match against Royal in his third year. He scored three tries in rapid succession to give Trinity victory. This effort clearly marked him as an outstanding player and brought him the rugby colours from Trinity. Maintaining the same form the following year he was awarded the coveted 'Lion' in 1951 which was his last year in school. Whilst in school he was invited by the Club representatives at Longden Place. But after one year's play at CR, he joined the hill country club Dickoya, where he was employed with European planters.

After two years he reverted back to CR after negotiating a job with Bartleet where he was employed until he retired in 1993. Having enjoyed the game to the hilt especially pitting his skills against the Europeans, his rugby career ended abruptly when he was injured during club practices.

The matches which attracted the crowd those days was the CR-CH and the Capper Cup game between Colombo and Outstation Clubs.

He has toiled hard to be fit so as to be in par with the Europeans which gave him the edge to shine at every game.He represented the All Ceylon side in the All India tournaments in Madras and Calcutta, then against the New Zealand and Australian Colts. He could not do much when playing with local clubs where a minimum of three players marked his movements which stalled the use of his skills, but did exceptionally well when playing with foreigners. He has gone on scoring sprees winning match after match for Ceylon earning him his Golden Boy image where rousing spectator appeal gave him the will to play even better. Other ruggerites who have spent longer spells with him are Ashroff Cader, Geoff Wienmann, Ago Paiva, S.B. Pilapitiya, Malcom Wright and Mahesh Rodrigo to name a few. His marriage to Anne Hardy the daughter of his own coach has been very happy and understanding.

Anne had spent most of her time watching Kavandisplaying his excellent skills under the stewardship of her Dad. Known as 'love birds' in rugby circles at that time, they were always spotted together except when Kavan was playing rugby.

In time they were blessed with their daughter Rhuani, who is managing her own Advertising Company which is known as Kurio Ishon and son Ramesh who is a regular visitor to the United States. After all the hard work with a clean slate Kavan is somewhat saddened to note that some of the present officials holding office in key sports bodies want to promote themselves and not the sport.

The Captain of the 1st STC ML 1st XIV Rugby Team - 1955

Mr. K. S. Ananathan

slide1.jpg (36710 bytes)

First year of Rugby Football -1955

When one is rapidly approaching the Biblical span of three score and ten years the memory tends to play a lot of tricks. Since I have been requested to jot down my thoughts about the first year of Rugger at S. Thomas’ College, I shall endeavour to do this as best as I can.

Our transformation from Soccer to Rugby was quite an event in 1955. Justice E. F. N. Gratiaen was instrumental in influencing Warden R. S. de Saram to make the change. He is reported to have told the Warden that ”Football was a working class game and no boy at STC would get into the planting sector unless he played Rugger.” Some of us were aware that Rugger was to be introduced in the second term. We took to hanging around the CR&FC grounds during the holidays hoping to pick some of the finer points of the game from the stalwarts of that year like Mahes Rodrigo, Ago Paiva, Ashroff Cader to name just a few. We did not pick up very much apart from ‘fielding’ the ball whenever it went out of play since they were too busy practising to worry about us.

Having played Soccer all our lives Rugger was quite alien to us. We were tutored in the basics by Mahes Rodrigo, an old Royalist and Johnny Walker and several others. Despite this we still had a tendency to dribble the oblong ball instead of picking it up and running as we remembered the ‘hand ball’ rule in Soccer. Forward passes seem to be the order of the day. Mr. Lassie Abeywardene who was more at home coaching cricket was appointed Master in Charge. He was as clueless as most of us. We however carried on with a grim determination. What we lacked in knowledge of the game we made up in guts and true Thomian grit.

As expected Brookie d’ Silva, the athletic coach, was totally against the introduction of Rugby on the grounds, quite rightly, that his star athletes would sustain injuries on the hard ‘Big Club’ grounds, And, as expected, our crack sprinter M. Balasubramaniam who had won the 100 Yards and 220 Yards and helped in winning the 4 x110 yard relay at the Public Schools Athletic Meet the previous year fractured his hand following a bad fall during practise. The critics were obviously proved right that the ‘Big Club’ was not a place for Rugger. But there was no where else to go so we die-hards continued practising under the watchful eyes of our coaches. Injuries were sustained with alarming frequency but this did not deter us in anyway.

Despite these setbacks and lack of knowledge we gave a very good account of ourselves against veterans of the sport like Royal, St. Peters and Trinity. It may perhaps have been our chaotic style of play and our lack of knowledge of the game that frustrated our opponents that the margins by which we lost were quite small. We played our first unofficial game under the caption Thomian Tigers against a team which called themselves Trinity Lions. It was a fast game and of course we lost 11-6. This gave us enough confidence to take on Trinity, Royal and St. Peters . We lost all these games but the margins, as mentioned, were very small.

One incident stands out in my memory; the Royalists had a front row forward who was tipping the scales at around 250 pounds. At one stage in the game the scrum collapsed and our diminutive hooker was under the hefty forward and pleading for him to get off as he could not breathe! This raised quite a laugh. There was no serious injury and I wonder if he is still around and may perhaps remember the incident.

In conclusion I would like to wish S. Thomas’ Rugby and the Old Thomas Rugby Football Union all success in the future.

Details of the 1st Rugby Captain (1955)

Surname : Kanagasabay
Other Names :Satkuna Ananathan
Profession : Retired Mercantile Executive
Contact Nos : Res. 00 64 4 232 9089
Cell 021 172 5301
Postal Address : 22 Turriff Crescent, Tawa, Wellington, New Zealand
email address :
O/L Year : 1952
A/L Year : 1954/55
Year Joined : 1946

Rugby at STC Articles

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tale of Two Kochs

Two Kochs are better than one..!

Picture by – Johann Jayasinha (SNNI) Melbourne, AustraliaExclusive to – (SNNI) In Melbourne

At a function in Melbourne, International events and media correspondent Johann Jayasinha stumbled upon an unique event not repeated since 1970 in Sri Lanka (or Ceylon as it was known then)... there they were, birds of a feather reminiscing about those good old days on stage together with Sri Lankas most celebrated Pop group THE JETLINERS.

Loretta Koch and Alston Koch both held the roost for *THE JETLINERS when they were at their best and were the lead singers along with Mignonne (Rutnam )Fernando, Harris Jurangpathy,Anton Gunawijaya, Roger Menezes & Desmond Schokman.

We know of Alston Koch and his exploits in the international music arena since and we know that *THE JETLINERS were never his only claim to fame but Loretta Koch..

Yes, known as the nightingale of THE JETLINERS when they toured the East and playing the more popular music venues in Sri Lanka such as THE COCONUT GROVE etc etc. What was she doing after all these years ...back in Australia?

Well, she said.. I am here from Marbella Spain where I live now, especially to spend some quality time with my Dad who was a big influence in my singing career. Loretta has 2 children, Amanda & Steven who are in London and 2 beautiful grand children Jack & Olivia...

The Real Story

Loretta Koch quit the Jetliners in 1971 together with Alston Koch, Harris Jurangpathy & Desmond Schokman. They had just returned from a record-breaking tour of India & a sell-out season in the Blow-Up discotheque at the TAJ MAHAL HOTEL in Bombay. It was a nerve shattering blow for a show band band that was hailed as the supreme musical outfit at the time and the Ambassadors of song for Sri Lanka.

Although the band had their changes from time to time this was indeed a severe set-back for the group with 4 members leaving all at the same time. When I asked them for their reasons for leaving The Jetliners they remarked that they had never discussed it before but since the years have now sped past and the group is no more they unanimously believed that the fun aspect & the buzz of working together as a team had diminished.

Loretta made special mention that although she was there through the many changes to the band through the years, the group was at its best according to all that knew them only during that Koch era and that special brand of musicians the Jetliners had at the time.

Loretta left for Australia and decided she was not embracing the stage and its glamorous lifestyle although at the time she was undoubtedly one of the best Sri Lanka had ever produced.

Before joining the Jetliners, Loretta at the age of 14 entered the Maliban Talent Quest and quit the quest before its completion to embrace the arena with the bright lights and her 1st professional performance which was at the Kandy Lake Club. The first song she remembers singing in a beautiful turquoise dress was the evergreen
*Till there was you..

Some of the musicians she has performed with are legends of the music industry in Sri Lanka including Raddy Ferreira, Conrad De Silva & Budrin Musafer who accompanied her at times.

Loretta in her earlier appearances sang with her sister Pauline as a duo & later as the lead singer with her famous Dad & Comedian Extraordinaire *Freddie Koch who was the anchor of the Black & White Minstrel Show that also included Arthur Speldewinde.
It was electronic wizard
Bala Namasivayam who introduced her to the Jetliners and she never looked back since.

At this function in Melbourne she was surrounded by her admirers still embracing the memories of her days on stage and the songs she used to sing so well. Loretta had the distinction and the knowledge to pick the right songs which made her the legend we all know and she was appreciated by everyone.
Her exit from the music arenas
in 1971 was a void that was never filled.

There is a strong rumour that Loretta might grace the stage on 31st night with Alston again after 37years...and a special CD is on the cards..

We wish her well.

Elmo Jayawardena

Ginger Tea and the Candle Man

This is not a tale about an airline Captain who flew above the clouds, but about a one who touched down in the 'land of the forgotten', nor is this about an author who writes to win prestigious awards but about how he helps write new life stories for those who cannot afford to buy even a pencil and nor is it about a man who hands down nickels at the stop light and drives away to another world, but about a man who drives the kinder to light the darker world.

This is about a man who has done his very best to find time to help the needy by making people get up from the "do nothing" seat to 'do something", about an ordinary man but who is an extraordinary human being.

The cool breeze sweeps over the moonlit Moratuwa Ganga and kisses his grey lined chest and the silver beard. Sitting in his balcony at 'Waypoint 9', in his most preferred attire, the sarong, tied low with a half a knot almost loose that it had to hug precariously to its dear master to protect him from any potential embarrassment, Captain Elmo Jayawardena knew these moments when he and his beloved 'Dil' would have a relaxed chat over a cup of ginger tea are fast becoming very rare. Life has got busier by the minute even after his retirement from flying to sign-off the Big Jumbo captains for Singapore Airlines. He was pensive thinking how the day had been. The smile said he was happy and content as life has got busier for the right reason.

It was a Saturday, when usually life takes a slower pace in Sri Lanka, for some it is the weekend to relax, for the others it is to execute the plans plotted through the week for that great escape. Elite husbands test each other in a cricket bar on who knows most about the Duck Worth Lewis system or how to punish Darrel Hair for not allowing Murali flex his wrist while their wives banter about the latest twists in Santa Barbara, Bold and the Beautiful soaps or how fast their daughters read Harry Potter. For the more down trodden it is into a bush hideout they tread to enjoy the organic pot arrack or a 'Buruwa' card session to test their intellect while their better halves exchange ideas over the shrub lined fence, how to crack their husband’s pot luck and other means of punishments for the common offences. For the more pious, it is the church or the temple they head to.

But it does not matter to Elmo Jayawardena what day of the week it is, he seldom distinguishes between the Gregorian norms of working days and weekends. For him every day has to be spent with the best use of time, with every minute counted. His normal day always starts before the rooster doodles at 4.30 in the morning. After a big glass of water he steps into their purpose built office facing the beautiful misty river. The office wall adorns a picture of him smartly dressed in the Captain's uniform with 4 bars on the sleeve and on a stand nearby is a scaled model of a Singapore Airlines Mega Top Boeing 747. A querying eye would find a few books on aviation nicely stacked in a rack. Those are about all one would find in this office to say he flew aero planes. More captivating is a picture of a little girl in a blue frock standing in front of her little mud and straw house. By the old hut is a new brick house in white with a neatly tiled roof. Her beautiful smile tells thousand stories, the caption in the picture says 'you have a beautiful home, she needs a home too'.

Captain Elmo Jayawardena has a beautiful home. Now this little girl of Indigaswewa has a beautiful home too.

Elmo and Dil have their two desks side by side facing a line of lap tops, printers and fax machines. Stacked on a desk are files with stories of all types of people known to some but unknown to many. Old, young, male, female, retirees, primary students, university students, sick, physically handicapped, visually impaired etc…., they all had something in common. They are the poorest of the poor. In a country where middle class is an endangered species and fast evolving to being poor, the poorest of the poor have little chance of anything but hope. These files are about them and this office is all about how to help them see the light in some way. From this office Elmo and Dil operate the command center of the charity they founded 12 years ago in 1995. He believes one should not blame the darkness but light a solitary candle, the theme of AFLAC International 'Association for Lighting a Candle', passion of their life to alleviate poverty in Sri Lanka.

From this office they get in touch with the world. They would have an unending litany of e-mails to write. It is not to reply to junk mails of lotteries promising to share million dollars or to forward numerous e-mails flying around the cyber world in the name of different Gods, promising favors only if it is forwarded else threatening with their wrath as if all these Gods have no better use of their time but counting forwarded e-mails, No, he always writes to someone with a purpose, to help someone from the stack of files. He doesn’t care which God they worshipped or what was written in their birth certificate to fill that (somewhat obscene) four letter word “Race“, he knows anyone can be poor, and he cares because they are poor..

For him the secret of success for anything is timely communication. He always respected the time of another who had written to him. He knew that person had spent some time as well and always replied back with at least a few meaningful sentences. If World Wide Web, Microsoft and other Silicon Valley giants have their own Emmy/ Grammy/ Oscar like awards, Elmo Jayawardena would easily win the award for 'Best Performing e-mail artist' for his purpose, punctuality and speed of e-mail communication. One of the best and most effective exponents of this powerful communication tool, he would write to discuss various subjects with people from all walks of life, from all nooks and corners of the world, different nationalities even from Punta Arenas, Anchorage and Greenland, some people he had met in places where he had flown his big Jumbo and spoken how to help the poor of his country, the others he had not seen at all yet it didn't matter as most of the time it was to discuss his passion, how to light another candle.

He loves to watch the Sun wake up from its slumber to gently chase away the mist from its overnight romance with the river. He would then watch the fisher folk collect their prawns from the bamboo cages they had submerged beneath the Ja Kotuwa the night before with a kerosene lamp on the surface to attract the prawns. But before the prawns come ashore he would always write to staff of AFLAC office to guide them on various issues. He never waits for the sun to rise nor to set to take care of matters of priority. Most of the time, someone’s life would see light, long before the first rays of sun creeps through their windows.

He then has to keep in touch with twenty or more AFLAC branches worldwide and thousand or more sponsors, volunteers, many through e-mail and some through telephone as well. They are from all walks of life and all parts of the world, one cannot comprehend the range of diversity, would be a challenge to a professional writer to complete the list let alone by this amateur.

These good people are the backbone of AFLAC, they keep the candles burning through, hundreds of primary and university student sponsorships, provision of food supplements to hundreds of poor families, caring for patients at two wards in the cancer hospital. They have already helped AFLAC to complete more than thirty very important projects for Tsunami affected people of south and east. Some are behind the success story of AFLAC Swim for Safety program. While some silently coordinate establishing new libraries around the island to help open the doors of the world to poor students the others help the people of 'AFLAC Village' at Indigaswewa Dambulla where they built a house for each family and a self sustenance program to provide some permanence to life disturbed by pachyderms who thought it was their land. These are few programs amongst many others they work so diligently to carry out their duty towards humanity.

Through AFLAC Elmo manages to provide a genuine transparent way for people wanting to give, a link to reach out, and a way for people who could not give financially but wanting to give some how, a way by working with AFLAC as volunteers. With this network of kind human beings around the world and back home this simple man helps to link someone's generosity to another's need.

His charity raised bigger waves of love and compassion towards Tsunami recovery

For this 60 year old, his life revolves around being physically fit. For the last 50 years he has exercised almost everyday. His weight had fluctuated only within 2kg for the last thirty years. He would run 5 km, walk with Dil at Soysa Park or pedal his canoe upstream of Moratuwa Ganga with a dip in the cool waters mid river. Else get into his self styled gym if the skies come down. He always does something to keep himself in shape. The place and time does not matter to him when he needs to exercise. During his active flying days he would land the aero plane and the moment the chocks were in place, he would challenge his cockpit crew for a run or a game of Tennis. The rest is almost history by the time this old Captain in his own words, 'beats the crap' out of a pilot twice younger than him. Even at this age he would still play sixty minutes of intense Basketball with young players at College courts or a good game of Tennis at Carlton, by the Lunawa Lagoon.

A great competitor with a never-say-die attitude he even finds time to row his canoe to corners as far as the stretching waters would take him, even to the foots of hills where the Kalu ganga starts her long journey. Many are such excursions, almost to match the silver grey hair. Being the adventurer he is, he recently rowed the canoe upstream with his nephew in search of an ancient Dutch waterway which had supplied water from Kalutara Ganga to Bolgoda Wewa (Lake). The pictures taken by the nephew do not say much about how they were lost and had to track back for six hours, but the excitement found in adrenaline pumping challenges of navigating through the waterways hidden beneath the jungle canopy. He was grounded after this escapade and an embargo was imposed by the 'mother superior' as he lovingly refers to the role assumed by 'Dil' in these instances. The grounding he accepts with a smile, until the next time.

Navigating his canoe upstream to the waters edge, beneath the jungle canopy

Today was a good start to the day too. He wrote lots of e-mails, one of them to a CEO of a bank who has pledged to sponsor 100 university students as they were convinced that AFLAC is a great partner to fulfill their Corporate Social Responsibilities. He then completed his exercise routine followed by a Kola Kanda (green leaves kanji) usually made at home during the weekend. After a breakfast of his favorite kiribath (milk rice), they attended a passing out ceremony of poor children from the training program of AFLAC Swim for Safety academy at Moratuwa. This was the 10th batch of 100 young swimmers, by this time they have already exceeded the annual target of 1000 children. Plans are afoot to train parents as well. He was much content and happy seeing how these poor children had learnt to tread water without fear. The swimming training program has achieved fathoms in no time. They have given hope to these children and their parents.

His long known friend Siri too had flown all the way from the Canadian Calgary by the edge of the prairies to see how his friend’s Charity works. Siri didn't need much to be convinced, there was proof right in front of him.

This event was scheduled for 9.00 in the morning and it started sharp on time. He never misses the time in any event he is associated with. In his life everything starts on time even when the chief guest is not there on time. This he had proven many times over. He always honors the time of people who are there on time. Most of the players whom he had coached Basketball, specially the team captains would share their testimonies of how much they suffered being punished for the team not being punctual, all for good reasons and life longs lessons. Of course the chief guest and most everyone were punctual and on time today.

He was requested to speak a few words of AFLAC and the Swim for Safety program. Before that there were few other speeches too. Being young as they are the children chat during these speeches and parents get caught up in it as well. So there was general clatter as one would usually hear during these occasions. But he being a Captain, Mentor, Teacher and a Coach, never spoke when people were talking around him. He is invited to speak at various events in different countries. Being the chief guest of an event or a guest speaker to a group of university students, an inspirer in a corporate team work development program or as an author at a writer's forum, even as a winner of an award, he would always demand that everyone listen. He always paid attention when others spoke and he needed them to hear every important word he would speak as well, because he always spoke from his heart. Today too as usual he established total silence amongst his audience before he began to speak and they all listened.

The speaker The teacher

After the ceremony Elmo and Siri were sharing a lighter moment of their long lasting friendship and how much they had kept in touch from worlds apart. Siri could see a man of a darker complex with a mustache dressed in a common man's sarong trying to draw Elmo's attention, (Sri Lanka had different sarongs for different social classes. While the affluent wore the sarongs of the up market brand “barefoot” with their branded hand crafted sandals, the others could only afford the poor man's pallai kaat version which they wore with the old favorite Bata rubber slippers), he wore a white shirt with few patches of stains, definitely not a shirt washed in a whirl pool washing machine with snow white and comfort softener but a shirt, probably like the wearer himself, which has taken it’s fare share of beating from life, sparred against a stone by a well, with a pinch of Rinso. This was a moment to cherish by Siri, in a matter of seconds this Captain who commanded a super Jumbo brought everyone down to simplicity of life. He put his arm around to lovingly introduce this person who very innocently and meekly stood by him as 'Anta' (short name for Anton or Antony named after St. Anthony), he said 'Anta' didn't go to school but was his first friend, his first Co Pilot with whom he flew toy planes made out of coconut leaves,. They didn't have dye cast scaled models those days, could not buy even if it were available. 'Anta' always had time for Elmo and he in turn always had time for 'Anta' and valued that friendship, Could not care less because 'Anta' didn't study nor did a job, he always looked after 'Anta' and many like him. For him a person's class and status did not matter at all and he could be with anyone as one of their own. He didn't worry whether anyone else did so or not, but he did. Today ‘Anton’ helps out at the Swim for Safety program.

He had also reserved two hours in the afternoon for a young cadet pilot who needed help (as this wise old Captain says) 'how to fly an aero plane'. These are all part of a normal day for him. Being very effective and influential as a teacher, he does not essentially need to be in a cockpit or a flight simulator to teach someone the basics. Such is the effectiveness of this coach, this guru, he could even teach someone, physically handicapped from waist below to swim 50 meters in just 3 days. It is a real life story of two resolute men facing a challenge together. One of them is Jayatilleka, a handicapped boy from a poor remote village near Dambulla, who could not go to school until he was 10 years, his friends carried him to school on their backs, but ended up winning a full scholarship at the National University of Singapore when he completed his degree at Katubedda campus sponsored by AFLAC. The other was a boy who left school at seventeen and beat many odds in life to become a much respected airline Captain who never scratched a plane and being so persevering in achieving the impossible himself, inspires others do too. For them together, it was only another challenge.

Today he had planned for his evening Basketball game too. He knew he could fly the Jumbo through the thunder storms and enjoy the ride but as any Captain he too wished for the blue skies. However, the only other time he prayed to the weather God's mercy was when he had a Basketball game in the evening. He enjoyed the evening game at the college so much. Basketball is very close to his heart. He calls himself Magic Jayawardena after the famous NBA star of LA Lakers, Magic Johnson. The game and coaches had taught him and his brother Duncan, to fight the good fight during the days when their life was a rugged, stony path. The courts of Moratuwa has been their sanctuary, the place which taught them the disciplines of managing life with bear minimum, the place they always came back to enjoy the reality and equality of life. He has now completed almost 50 years of playing and coaching Basketball. His coaching skills had more to do with life than Basketball itself. Numerous players who played the game at highest levels but more so became better human beings, bear testimony to this. Today the weather Gods signed off the evening the same way the good captain often does with “Blue Skies”. It did not rain and it was a good game of Basketball.

Dil and Dinel,i his adored fans At 55 he was playing at world masters with 40+

The day for him is far from over. He had another important matter to attend to with Dil. They had to spend the evening at the printer to finalize the launch of his next book, a collection of short stories called ‘Rainbows in Braille’, a book about normal people seeking always that ever elusive ‘pot of gold’ at the end of the rainbow, presented through the pen of a writer with an ability to being unusually natural and unique in his presentation. A brilliant forward to this book has been written by former diplomat Mr. Bradman Weerakoon who works with AFLAC very closely.

Elmo Jayawardena, the author, has worked so hard in life to earn this great talent. During his days in school at St. Sebastian’s College, Moratuwa, he could not afford the two rupees to read English books in the school library. He wouldn’t give up though. He borrowed books from friends and read it overnight to return the next day. His English master ‘Earl Sir’ (Mr. E.N.S. Fernando) recognized the desire and drive of this boy to read books. This kind master paid the two rupees and got the books for Elmo. This made a big impact in Elmo’s life that he now got to read books because someone else sacrificed the daily two rupees to read. He made the best use of this magnanimous gesture and never let his Master down. The day Elmo Jayawardena launched his second book ‘The Last Kingdom of Sinhalay’, his English master who was spending the evening of his life was there in his usual simple whites. Elmo in his speech paid a fitting tribute to this master and threw a total surprise when he presented the first copy of the book to his ‘Earl Sir’. He had always been grateful and he had always remembered his roots. He did not seek glory for writing this book after 10 years of challenging research, which won him the State Literary Award in 2005, but glorified his teacher for being there for him when he needed to read English books.

His first book probably offers the reader the best reflection on how naturally Elmo Jayawardena writes. ‘Sam’s Story’ presents a fascinating tale of a village boy who comes to Colombo to work in an airline Captain’s house and how he is caught up in conflicting states created by the people of the house due to the ethnic issue. This book won Elmo the coveted Gratiaen Award in 2001. ‘Sam’s Story’ is now presented through the cinematic version in Sinhala as ‘Samige Kathawa’, directed by Priyankara Vitanachchi.

Every book he writes is sold at a very reasonable price as the idea is for many to enjoy reading them. Also true to his nature, he doesn’t take any profits, all of it is diverted to AFLAC to help a poor child somewhere who is deprived of access to books so they may read free of charge.

The author who writes in both English and Sinhala, to help poor children, read free of charge with his profits.

So the day has been good and well spent, he pondered. He was thinking of Dineli their daughter, Roshan her husband and the mischievous grandson Navik. He would see them soon. Mevan their son and wife Abi too would come from Melbourne to join them at Dineli's place in Singapore. It would be nice. The thought of Mevan brings a sense of pride to his heart. He was grateful to Mevan as this young man had done so much to carry the entire load of AFLAC projects to help the Tsunami victims by taking nine months leave without pay from work.

Before he could enter into a deeper thought he is drawn to the strong aroma of ginger brewing in tea. He turns his head to find 'Dil' with her enchanting familiar smile. Dil’s smile & Ginger tea has been his favorite combination for as long as he could remember. Dil, his beloved wife and his partner had stood by him as they climbed and descended through many a mountain to discover life's plains and plateaus. She has become the nucleus of AFLAC and carries a great load by herself. He calls the load bearers the 'log carrying Elephants ' and himself, the 'Elephant in the pageant'.

Next day Elmo and Dil went to the AFLAC Office at Rawatawatte in the afternoon. There was a young man seated there, helped by the staff to fill a form. He has traveled from Borella by bus, in the rain to seek a sponsorship. He hails from Vallavaya - father is a farmer, Chandana reads an arts degree at the Colmbo Campus. He had not had lunch. They brought him home and he had something to eat and then he went away. That evening a friend dropped by and Elmo told him about Chandana and the friend immediately said he would sponsor Chandana.

Dil & Chandana, a visually handicapped Uni student A family whose dream of a new house realized, with

who trekked a long way to see his rainbow in Braille Mevan, AFLAC Chief Coordinator Tsunami Relief

Elmo Jayawardena is an ordinary man who epitomizes simplicity but such an extraordinary human being for what he has given back to the world with so much compassion and love, without expecting anything in return.


By Priya Cooray, 20November’2007

This was not to write everything about Elmo Jayawardena as it would require few years and many volumes to capture all the episodes in his life, but to present this simple man of extra ordinary human qualities as an inspiration to the reader. My life was first touched by him 35 years ago, when I ran like a bat out of hell after breaking a window in my school lab. I never ran away from anything after that day.

Edited by Gerard Wijeyeratne and Jaliya Pilimatalawwe

Gerard is the AFLAC representative for North America. His Wife Monique introduced the e-mail message feature to propagate the cause of AFLAC. They started working with AFLAC when they had all the invitees to their wedding, donate their gifts towards AFLAC.

Jaliya and Tehani are based in Hongkong. Jaliya is a budding poet and an author. They compile the “Candle Factory”, a periodical e-magazine to tell the stories of AFLAC people.

XMas's of the Past

Christmas has to be the saddest time of each year for me, as the ghosts of Christmases past (another time, another place) come back to haunt me. I admit to shedding a tear now and then, as my mind goes back to those carefree days of my childhood and teens, spent ‘upcountry’ in Sri Lanka, where my father was stationed as an engine driver.

I recall, that for months ahead, there was preparation for Christmas. The houses were all white washed, painted and got ready for that one day ‘when the world stood still’. In the meantime we would be taken to the tailors who measured us for those special hand-made clothes. The shoe maker would be next in line for his bespoke products. What a build-up to Christmas.

The special trip to Colombo made by my parents to purchase all those special Christmas goodies, including a box of fireworks for each of us from ‘Fireworks Palace’, the Christmas fare from ‘Elephant House’, which always had to include an Yule Log. The making of the Christmas Cake was a major event in every household, the finished product had to be down at ‘Salgado Bakery’ in town by 6.00am on the day of baking.

A long queue of Cakes for baking from each household would be seen lining up at the bakery. As soon as the day’s bread was baked, and the ovens still hot the cakes had to go into those giant ovens. The baker would gently ease each cake pan in to the oven on a giant paddle, where they were placed cheek by jowl inside the oven. The baked product had to be collected by 9.00am and trundled off home.

As the day drew closer the excitement heightened, it was the culinary department of each home that worked overtime, all those puddings, sweet meats, pickles, chutneys that had to be made. The turkey’s and chickens prepared, the hams cured. Most homes made the traditional milk wine, others made ginger beer, almond liquor, crème-de-menthe etc.

‘Christmas trees’ were brought home by each railway man from either Nanu Oya or Nuwara Eliya. These had to be set up in a vantage point in the home and decorated with many seasonal ornaments and lit up with twinkling jets or even candle lights. The homes were also festooned with streamers, bunches of balloons etc. Baskets of flowers and vegetables would come down, again from Nanu Oya, Nuwara Eliya, Bandarawela, etc. The homes would smell sweet from the aroma of the arum lilies, the oxide daisies, gerberas etc.

The baskets of veggies would include cabbages, lettuce, spring onions, leeks, carrot, beetroot, cauliflower, beans, broccoli, pumpkin etc, all fresh from the ‘up country’ market gardens. Mum would be always busy preparing so many of her specials – Turkish delight, stuffed dates, meringues, pumpkin preserve (puhul dosi). Her cold meat platters were the envy of many of my friends. So was her fruit punch and the hibiscus punch she made on some occasions.

Come Christmas Eve, a gentle quiet would pervade the neighbourhood, awaiting that special moment. Almost everything that had to be prepared, cooked, roasted and basted was done and ready. Clothes ironed and laid out, shoes spic and span, the home was aglow. We counted the hours before we set off to Church.

Midnight would find most families in Church partaking in the solemn celebration of the Birth of the Christ Child. When the ‘Gloria In Excelsis’ was intoned the Church bells would peel out to the town that the ‘Saviour had been born’. Once Mass was over, there would be so much meeting and greeting that it would take quite some time before we begin our way back home.

This scenario was repeated time and time again, no matter where my father was stationed whether at Kandy, Matale, Nanu Oya, Kadugannawa, Nawalapitiya or Bandarawela (these were the towns we called HOME – Nawalapitiya on two occasions for a total of 12 years)

Christmas Day, was one of continued enjoyment and merry making, and of partaking of the majestic spread on the dining table, enjoying all one’s presents and gifts. I still remember, the No 5 Mecano Set, (as a nine-year-old) I received at Christmas. We called on friends, had friends call on us. Members of the public utilities who served us through the year, dropped in for their ‘Christmas Bonus’ – the postman, the baker, the garbage collector etc.

By night fall one was completely exhausted, but the best was yet to come, that was when we opened our boxes of fireworks and lit them all – the squibs, rockets, golden rains, Catherine wheels, Chinese mini crackers and more. The air reeked of a burning, acrid smell, but who cared. It was Christmas. The weather ‘upcountry’ always contributed to the season, when more often than not a cool zither of a breeze would prevail and a ‘scotch mist’ would settle in.

It is these memories that bring a tear to the eye, to recall the days gone by and to think our grandchildren will never enjoy such times. One has everything one wants today, Christmas fare could be savoured every day of the year. Gifts and presents are only for there commercial worth. Gone are the days of caroling, friendships, camaraderie, bonhomie that prevailed.

The magic of it all, was that the less we had, the more we enjoyed. That was the special gift of the times.

Victor Melder, Melbourne, Australia, Mon Dec 10 2007

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Baabath & Pittu

The Sunday Times - 18.12.2005

Pittu and baabath in a humble little shop off Malay Street draw hundreds of customers

It’s simply delicious

By Smriti Daniel

They come in hordes to this pittu and baabath shop; they come on rainy days and on hot days; they come so often that it sometimes seems as if nothing could keep them away for long; they come to this place where there are few chairs and only one table and they bring friends, family and even the odd stranger with whom the only thing they have in common is a hankering for a good meal. On occasion they refer to themselves as “foodies” – lovers of good food. And if there is one thing any foodie worth his salt knows it is this – good food is often found in the most unlikely of places.

This place is so popular, that it doesn’t even need an official name. Ask anyone on Malay Street for the pittu and baabath shop and they’ll point the way. The shop opens at 4.30 in the evening and closes by 9 at night and yet in that time it does brisk business.

Baabath or tripe, is the main ingredient in many of their dishes, and appears in such specialities as the baabath curry and pastols. For those who have so far lived in ignorance, a pastol is a pastry stuffed with tripe and when it comes crisp and steaming it’s a temptation that is hard to deny. Other specialities on the menu include the likes of fried lung or liver along with less exotic fare such as beef and fish patties. However, it is the beef and marrow bone soup that is quite literally, the hot seller. Best on cold, rainy days, it is a broth one customer described as “absolutely divine”.

At first glance, it is a humble little shop that serves this delicious fare and yet its customers come in their hundreds. People from all walks of life frequent it and no one in the neighbourhood is surprised to find the business executive parked outside in his fancy car eating side by side with labourers from down the street. This is made possible mostly by competitive pricing - you can have your bowl of soup for Rs. 30 and a pastol for even less (Rs. 12). Very often there is not enough space inside and so people sit wherever they can – on stairs, on pavements and in vehicles – while they eat. Many choose to take-away the food.

The proud owner of this establishment is Kabeer Sappideen, who shares this responsibility with his wife Nona Uma Sappideen and seven children – two boys and five girls. “My wife learnt the recipe for the dishes from my mother,” says Mr. Sappideen, adding that his mother in turn learnt it from her mother and her mother learnt it from her mother – his great-grandmother. It is from these Malay ancestors that the current Sappideens have learnt the art of making the perfect baabath. This involves intensive cleaning followed by boiling sessions over a wood fire that last more than a day to ensure the meat is tender and well cooked; ditto for the beef marrow bone soup.

“The business has been in the family since 1942,” he says. Mr. Sappideen himself has had something of a colourful history, having been a cook on board various ships for nearly 25 years of his life. “I have been right around the world,” he says, “the only place I haven’t seen is Australia.” He goes on to give a list that is as dizzying as it is long and seems to truly include every place under the sun –Japan, Dubai, Somalia, Abidjan, Egypt and South Africa to name a few. He is also something of a linguist and can lay claim to knowing Greek and a little bit of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese in addition to being fluent in Tamil, Sinhala and English. He knows how to cook Greek food and says he picked it up while serving on a Greek cargo ship.

“I used the money I made on the ships to build this place,” he says, proudly indicating the room we are sitting in and the two storeys above it. He goes on to explain that the building is relatively new as it was only built a year or so ago. Before that the shop was located on Malay Street instead of its current Ferry Lane premises. In the middle it had been closed for a few months. “I was planning on closing it,” says Mr. Sappideen, “but then my customers told me that they would sue me if I did not sell my pittu and baabath curry again.” He points out a small brown bench tucked into a corner and says that for a while that was all the seating space he had to offer his customers and that too was on the pavement.

It is obvious that there have been difficult times, especially because he has so many mouths to feed. However, he expresses a lot of faith in his family, and hopes in particular, that the family business will continue into the next generation. It is far from being an unlikely possibility, thanks to a devoted clientele.

“I have been eating here for 20 years,” says Dominic Sansoni, one of the island’s most celebrated photographers, “and I have found the food has always been consistently good.” Simple but delicious food is such a pleasant break from the usual and there are no unpleasant surprises - “the menu hasn’t changed in years”, he says. “You can always find your favourites here.”

Response from Branu Rahim in Colombo

Dear Faji,

I did read this article many years ago, however I will relate a very interesting episode about this wonderful place>

As a kid of 6 or 7 years (that will be the early 50s), when my cousin Haji's mother and father used to come to our place for their weekly call to Colombo from Maskeliya, auntie would send me to this Pasthol joint. Vividly remember the cost of a Pasthol being 0.05 cts at the time.

So, armed with a Rs. 1/- note, I would go to this place and reteurn with 20 pasthols.

The lady was affectionately called "Puttu Nanay" by all those who came to buy Pittu + Babath or Pasthol not forgetting the famed "Kaaki Soup" (bone marrow soup) which was a delicacy even then.

Bolly's, my other cousin's, brother Rashid (remember him?), one day came and told us a story of how he had gone to buy Pasthol. He described in detail the method of preparation to an audience comprising even Haji's mum and dad.

There were pre-made small balls of kneaded flour on a mat on the floor. Puttu Nayanay would be seated on a small "hiramane" (manual coconut scraer) stool in front of a firewood flame between 3 large stones forming a tripod and a "Thachchi" delicately placed on top. When Rashid had gone to buy the Pasthol, the lady was frying the first batch for the day. She was apparently seated with her house-coat tucked way above her thighs and while frying the Pasthol, she would apply oil on to her left thigh with her left hand. Then she would take one of the balls of kneaded flour and place it on her thigh and begin to flatten the ball to a round flat round piece like a small thin roti.

She wud then proceed to put the filling into the flat piece of flour, fold it and make it into the shape of a patty which she wud put it aside for the next batch of frying.

With the right hand she would proceed to fry the pasthol and with the left hand she would flatten the dough on her thigh and make the pasthol for frying! Can u imagine this scenario?

After hearing this story, many people in our household including Haji's mother stopped eating pasthol!! Because of Rashid's big mouth, I was deprived of my favourite snack! In hindsight, I feel Rahsid would have been enamoured by the lad'ys lovely white thighs looking shiny with the applicationof coconut oil and would have been devouring this process more than the pasthol (large patty) manufacturing assembly line!

The episode may be frivolous, but I go to this place and savor the pasthol's even now. I also sometimes get some pittu from this place and bring it home as nobody in my family, including my wife, knows how to make "mani pittu".



Wed Dec 5 2007