By M. M. Janapriya –
For quite some time I have felt Sinhalese despite being a beautiful language in some instances seems to lack the wordpool necessary to give the exact meaning to a word it choses use. I say this with despair and dismay as I love my country and my language immensely.
The words I am going to talk about are relatively new and hence are very likely those coined by some team of Rajya Bhasha experts.
I will start at the very beginning,
A very good place to start.
When you read you begin with A B C
When you sing you begin with Do Re Me
So let me put in words and see why they are there and what they mean.
Adhipathi (අධිපති) is like an emperor often used to describe the proprietor of a big business. Eg. Nawloka Samuha Wyaparaye Adhipathi. (Owner of the Nawaloka Group of companies) This man owns everything about the business but the employees. In organizations like this, employees often get treated as if they were in a feudal system. In my opinion this word Adhipathi that has been coined, has been and is being used quite loosely without any foresight whatsoever is the biggest stimulus for people in power to lose their heads.
Derived from this word Adhipathi is Janadhipathi (ජනාධිපති) which gives the holder of the position the impression that he reigns supreme over all beings in the country great and small. J.R. Jayewardene was the man first to suffer from this mental malady. He demanded to be addressed as His Excellency and said in an address to the nation the only thing his enormous and unlimited power couldn’t do, was to make a woman, a man. Just like in the time of ancient kings he had to have concentric rings of confidants and guards to ensure his safety. In order to look after the welfare of these people money had to be spent in large amounts and to this end laws had to be bent. He didn’t stop at that. He needed Judges to give judgements in favour of his government. Senior and righteous members of the Judiciary like Mr. Neville Samarakoon had JR goons shouting derogatory slogans in front of their homes. JR’s successors did the same but worse, with the exception of late Mr. D.B. Wijetunga. The Rajapaksa era is something I don’t need to elaborate on. Just to describe in one sentence, papa became the uncrowned king of Sri Lanka whose progeny treated the countrymen with contempt. They never considered the possibility of an oppressed majority rising against their corrupt regime creating a human Tsunami.
The equivalent term to Janadhipathi in English is President. It is a very simple and a benign English word which we used as early as the 7th standard at school for example, to denote the colleague who got elected to lead the literary union. Presidents of developed countries are addressed as Mr. President and they have no squirms about it. There is public and media scrutiny about all their doings. This being a key feature of a vibrant democracy those at the helm consider it their duty to talk to the media regularly. This is conspicuous by its faint presence or indeed in some instances total paucity of it in the arena of Sri Lankan politics where Janaya’s Adhipathi and his minions and lackeys reign supreme over those who sent them to the Parliament. What an irony? Janadhipathi should be renamed as Muljana, (මුල්ජන) Janakara (ජනකර) or Janapala (ජනපාල) Mark my words, if it is renamed as above the clamour to become one will diminish considerably.
Maha Banku Adhipathi (මහ බැංකු අධිපති – Governor Central Bank) comes next in the order of importance. Almost all Maha Banku Adhipathis thus far have run amok in their job simply because the term Adhipathi has gone right into their heads. Governor simply means a regulator. A good example of a governor is what I had in the Korea made Kerosine generator I used over 25 years ago. It was a simple spring-loaded mechanism that maintained smooth running of the single piston 4 stroke engine by either tightening or loosening itself on its own. This happened when either a load was added or removed from the circuit.
The governor of the bank does exactly that, regulate the country ‘s economy by making minor looking adjustments in monetary policy which have far reaching outcomes to maintain economic equilibrium. This is indeed a responsible job in which august Adhipathis present and past have failed to deliver and hence should have been taken to the cleaners. If the law in this regard is ambiguous or indeed lenient on such wrong doers it should have been ammended swiftly. On the contrary these Adhipathiyas have been and are being paid astronomical amounts of money as salaries for undertaking the responsibility of running the economy. Laki and Cabby have demonstrated in no uncertain terms that one can do a shoddy job of it as Adhipathi and run away with a loot like what was in Aladdin’s cave. Nadanlal is marking time till his pocket jingles well while the economy is getting stabilized at a new normal almost on its own. We don’t need a so called golden brain to tell us to be austere in times like what we are in right now and to start horticulture in whatever way we can to storm the widely anticipated food shortage. It is just common sense, isn’t it? If I am voted to power at some point individuals like this would be brought under the long arm of the law and given the maximum punishment stipulated for such offences. All their ill-gotten monies would be confiscated. I recommend that these unimaginably high salaries, the payment of which cannot be justified even in one’s wildest and weirdest dreams be slashed to realistic levels forthwith. There must be hundreds of Nadanlals or ones better than the so-called best hovering around incognito waiting. I would call them in to take over. Also the word Adhipathi of the bank should be replaced with maha Banku Samanayakara (මධ්යම බැංකු සමනයකාර) which conforms better to the real meaning of Governor which is indeed Regulator.
There are so many Pathis like Kulapathi (chancellor), Upakulapathi (Vice Chancellor), Sabhapathi (Chairman), Nagaradhipathi (Mayor) etc. Even the most innocuous of it all like Viduhalpathi (Principal Teacher often called the Principal) gives the individual horns. Metaphorically those who have been kicking their staff and students will gore them once the ‘Pathiness’ goes into their heads.
Maha is the other word that makes people behave insanely. In Sinhala culture and Buddhism the word Maha is frequently used to describe the enormity of an object. Mahamera (මහමෙර) is an enormous mountain described in Buddhist mythology (which the blind followers believe to be true). It is also known as Mahameru Parwathaya (මහාමේරු පර්වතය). Maha Brahkma (මහා බ්රක්ම) is the chief of the world of Brahkmas. In this world only the mind exists and the physical body doesn’t. Maha Brahkma is supposed to have powers to perform miracles. Maha Margaya or Maha maga is the singhala equivalent of the word highway. Here the word Maha signified its almost infinite distance and in the long past it was humans on foot who mainly used the maha maga. They walked long distances to do business, to get to reputed places of worship, see physicians and soothsayers, see parents and of course to see Lord Buddha.
Lord Buddha is supposed to have had 32 Great Male Attributes (දෙතිස් මහා පුරුෂ ලක්ෂණ). I believe inflating the image of the greatest man who walked this planet by incorporating unbelievable untruths in Buddhist books has been done to create a godly figure in the minds of the followers. His height is supposed to have been eighteen 1.5 foot units called Riyan (රියන්) which translates into 27 feet. Gosh, a human measuring 27 feet in height? There is nothing in the history books to say at least Prince Siddhartha was an exceptionally tall man.
As a result of the foregoing, in the listener’s mind, the word Maha created a special place of grandeur. So much so they considered anything and everything Maha like Maha senawa (මහා සේනාව) a large army was invincible and hence it generated a sense of venerability. Hence the Rajya Bhasha Departhamenthu buffoons should have got into the habit of thinking long and hard before using this prefix in coining titles. Not to be. They seem to have used these words in a very casual or offhand manner or they may have been genuinely incapable of coining proper and more appropriate words.
The head of a provincial council of Sri Lanka is called in Sinhala Maha Amathi (මහ ඇමති). This scantily educated, Alawaka bellied rascal with a pigeon brain lost his head the moment the man sat in the Maha Amathi chair. Alawaka is a demon described in Buddhist mythology that had a mammoth belly as a result of eating humans. In English this same chap Maha Amathi is called Chief Minister which simply meant he is the senior guy amongst the ministers. In the Scottish Parliament (Scotland is almost a self-administrative region of Great Britain) the chief of the elected crowd is not even called the Prime Minister. The individual is simply called the First Minister. Maha Amathi should be replaced with Pradhana Amathi (ප්රධාන ඇමති).
Another word of importance in the Sinhala language is Mahaacharya (මහාචාර්ය) This is simply a position which is often the highest in the tutorial staff of a department of a University. It has nothing to do with the person’s overall knowledge of the subject. Neither does it describe the degree of skill the holder of the title has if it is a subject like my own field which is Surgery. Newly established Medical Schools recruited from the profession as Heads of Departments, individuals with a good academic record directly as Professors not infrequently because they had people inside the system to ‘to pull wires’ for them. Few decades on, the process seems to have got completely politicised. People with bad academic records like failure in one or more subjects at the final MB.BS, did not prevent them securing positions in the tutorial staff of medical schools as long as they had political backing. One such appointee is Penisumana, (පැනිසුමන) a darling of the last elected President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka who ran for his life. Penisumana is supposed to have failed in Paediatrics. Completing the game of filling the blanks, his thesis too is alleged to have been written by a friend.
This term Mahacharya mesmerised all and sundry including the State and Private print and electronic media into believing that these jokers were the end all and be all about the subject. Because of this venerable nature of the title people stoop to very low levels to secure one. In my field, there were plagiarists who reproduced other’s work verbatim as their’s and when discovered got away with it like how Nihalsiripala did recently on the commission issue. Wrote very ordinary papers and published minutia. Delivered orations only suitable for a gathering of village elders. These substandard stuff were entertained by a system which jealousy guards the plumes they often borrow or steal. The few lines of poetry depicted below, that appeared in Sunday times of the 13th August 1995 says it all, at least in my field of expertise, Surgery.
My description of a professor does not apply to the few who are real experts in their field of speciality. I extend my sincere apologies to the handful of such individuals. I strongly feel this title should be renamed Pradhana Acharya (ප්රධාන ආචාර්ය) or Prathama Acharya (ප්රථම ආචාර්ය) because there is nothing maha about it.
Dear media people do your homework before bringing professors on your TV channels for expert views. More importantly the Neologists or Lexi connoisseurs of the Singhala language who are called Sinhala Bhasha Parameshwaras (සිංහල භාෂා පරමේශ්වර) should deliver for every coffer they are paid and do justice by the nation by coining appropriate words that exudes the exact meaning of the word required than simply use pathi as a suffix and maha as a prefix to an already existing word and hope for the best. History has proven that best hasn’t happened. Instead, the exact opposite has.