27 November, 2020

Blog

Don’s Diary IVa: A Week In Jaffna

By Mahesan Niranjan

Prof. Mahesan Niranjan

Last two weeks, I travelled in Sri Lanka, participating at two conferences at the Universities of Jaffna and Peradeniya. This is the first of a two-part diary of random events and thoughts. Previous diaries can be read here and here.

Thursday: Straight after a workshop in Winchester, I take a bus to Heathrow giving me just two hours before the flight takes off. Much is said about the management of Sri Lankan airlines, but one cannot complain about their generosity with on-board service: I ask for a gin and tonic, she offers me two. Perfect. A fellow traveller sitting across the aisle is a Buddhist monk. Cabin crew greet him with immense respect, bending, kneeling and addressing him in very polite language (oba vahanse – ඔබ වහන්සේ etc.). To serve food, they spread a clean white cloth across the table. Buddhist monks are people who have detached themselves from our usual bonds of family and ownership. They live by alms given by random people. In return, we offer them respect, recognition of an elevated place on their trajectory to nirvana that we ourselves are not courageous enough to reach. Fair enough.

But after dinner, the monk who had detached himself from all earthly bonds made some purchases from the duty free trolley. He opted to pay by American Express. “Unfortunately we don’t accept Amex,” the stewardess was profoundly apologetic. “Never mind,” says the Robed One. Out comes a Mastercard. Is this what Siddhartha Gautama had in mind, I wondered.

Friday: I reach a friend’s place in Colombo in the afternoon. Over dinner and a couple of shots of arrack, we catch up on local gossips. I am deposited safely in an overnight bus to Jaffna. Comfortable bus, I get a good few hours of sleep. In the middle of the night, the bus makes a brief stop somewhere in the Vanni. The arrack has worked its way through. I ask where the toilet was. The kiosk guy points at a footpath outside. It is dark, and I cannot see the toilet. To the left I get foul smell, less so to the right. OK, I got it. Pressure on the bladder helps tolerate sensation on the nostrils. This is a curse when travelling in Sri Lanka. Public places do not have clean toilets. It helps me plan though. Before eating or drinking anything I ask myself where I would be when the stuff wants to come out at the other end.

Saturday: At 4.00 AM, the bus drops me off at the junction near the railway station from where it is a short walk to the hotel. I take a shower and get to work, reading through 32 posters to be presented at the workshop. I was to be one of the assessors. The event was beautifully organized by the Jaffna Computer Science department. On arrival the guests are offered a tray with holy ash and sandalwood pottu (பொட்டு ) for your forehead. I politely decline, such religious symbolism not to my taste.

The poster session from undergraduate students was rather good. After agreeing the winners with my co-assessors, I do a small experiment. I log into my home university and pull out 32 pieces of work from my own undergraduates and compare the quality distributions. I find them very similar. That is an impressive place to be in ten years since the end of the war for a young academic department. I know mine is not an unbiased judgement, given the staff there are my friends and I am an external examiner for that Department. Even then, it was a good show.

“What can we do to improve further?” is a question often asked in these situations. “The technical content of the work is good,” I respond, “but the students need to be more articulate in explaining their work.”

In response to the question “why?” the answer I often get is “Cantilever Sir told me to try this.”

[Note protocol demands “Sir” has to follow the name. For a lady teacher, it would have been, for example, “Curvature Madam told me so.”]

“How would you fix it?”

I give bold answer. “Just knock off a fifth of your curriculum and replace it by English lessons, spoken and written.” Better command of English would open many doors that are closed to young people there at present: access to wide archive of knowledge, greater confidence to debate their ideas and to communicate what they have achieved.

“But will it work?” I hear you ask. No is the answer. There will be objections from senior members of the community there. “Your suggestion is coming from a colonial mind set,” will be their response – a sickening drawbridge mentality.

Sunday: I was invited to a graduation party, of staff and students. Great food. Graduates spoke of their campus experience and future plans. Staff spoke with messages of congratulations. There was some singing, too, but it was quite clear that those in the gathering have trained their vocal chords to write Java programs. Towards the end of the event the students reacted in a way I had not seen happen in the past. They approached the staff one by one, kneeling before them, touching their feet as a gesture of offering respect and receiving their blessings. I was deeply uncomfortable seeing this and looked away. Two of the more adventurous students approached me. “Won’t work on me,” I warned, “I play football. Anything spherical near my feet I kick a good 30 yards!” I stand up, shake them by their hands and wish them well.

Just before the end of the party, I grab the microphone and congratulate the staff and students. I made it a point to record my delight at seeing the group of staff working as a team with a common goal, something unusual in the context of Jaffna as anyone observing political developments there would note. Fragmentation is the norm.

I take that opportunity to ask the graduating students a favour. “Tell me about this practice of ragging,” I ask. “Write to me with ideas on why this ugly practice persists in the public university system and how you think it might be dealt with.” Ragging is an initiation ritual, supposedly a welcoming one, organised by senior student already on campus. What started as gentle humour during times of my parents at university, grew to bullying and harassment during my time, and now features violence and sexually explicit torture. Students have been scared to enrol, some have left the universities and a few have taken their own lives. A student I met on a previous visit had told me he was hard of hearing in one year due to ragging. Slapped. Burst ear drum. The situation is desperate. The senior-most bureaucrat in the system, the Chair of the University Grants Commission, recently made a passionate plea regarding this menace. See his speech here. “But come on,” I feel like saying to him, “what is your solution? Is anyone taking responsibility for failing to curb this all these years?”

A few of the students wrote to me: “Students want to show their superiority to their juniors. So they use ragging as a medium of it.” “Seniors always wanted juniors to obey them and to create an image that they are powerful.”

Why this need for superiority, seniority, obedience and respect in what ought to be a collegiate environment of curiosity, learning and the pleasure of discovery? Why perpetuate such hierarchy by constantly hiring junior faculty mostly from an institution’s own graduates? Is it because senior people in the system expect recognition of superiority and obedience from junior folks acknowledging the image of being powerful? Is this what gets passed down in the form of respect for the teacher by falling at their feet to receive blessings? Is it then a small step that junior-most members already in the university (students in their second year of study) seek someone beneath them to boss over?

I have no answers, but I am uncomfortable with hierarchical relationships. The addressing of people as Sir and Madam for respect, to start with. So I refuse to be called “Sir”.

“I say, don’t call me Sir,” I say to a student. The response is the same as I have heard on previous visits: “OK, Sir, I won’t call you ‘Sir’, Sir!”

In the afternoon, my friend and I drive to the island of Karainagar, where my roots are. There is a navy check point at the entrance to the village. With a few questions, they wave us through. They were polite and pleasant, but it wasn’t clear what they were checking. National security works in mysterious ways.

The sunset from the causeway was beautiful and we stop photograph. The very same sunset my grandfather and his great grandfather would have seen, for we can trace back six generations on my paternal ancestry, farming the same piece of land in the village. The environment of that arid land is harsh and the soil not very rich, yet one’s sentimental attachment to roots is strong when the history runs a century and a half and you have been thrown out of that land for some reason. I certainly left the place by choice, seeking and finding greener pastures. My sentimental links are easily satisfied by an occasional visit and a selfie.

But not everyone can claim such luck though.

My friend Abdul is one such. His family have farmed the same piece of land for six generations on the West Bank in Palestine. One hundred and fifty years of recorded family history. Then came a knock on the door. Someone claiming an even longer history to the land. Two thousand years. It says so in the book. 2000 being a mightier number than 150, Abdul and his family got thrown out. Abdul himself, being good at calculus, escaped from that environment and made a decent life for himself elsewhere, but his extended family are living under squalid conditions of an open prison. The new arrivals claim national security as the reason for evicting the helpless people. Their first harvest of olives were from the trees Abdul’s grandfather planted, which they consumed with no sense of guilt.

We have examples closer to home, too. Of 2000 proving to be mightier than 150 in the interest if national security. But we, Sri Lankans, are not good at recognizing these for we are skilled at closing our eyes, shutting our ears and burying our eyes in the sand. All in the interest of our national security.

At Karainagar, my friends and I take a dip in the sea. When we return rather late, the moon is out. Bright, golden and perfectly circular. This view of the moon has  a special place in my mind, etched deep in memory. One day back in 1977, my father and I were returning to Jaffna from Colombo after a chess tournament I took part in. A friend of my father, Sivalingam (not his real name), joined us at Anuradhapura. My father and uncle Sivalingam were chatting from the seats at the window. I was two seats away recovering from the match I had lost. There were no lights in our carriage. Outside was very bright with the moon rising above the trees. A full round golden moon. But the light emanating from it was all silver. Of the friends, all I could see were their silhouettes in bright moonlit background. The silver light from the moon was shining peacefully over trees, shrubs and paddy fields of the Vanni as the train raced through. That was a scene of permanent mark in memory.

The very same moon we photographed from the causeway.

Monday:  A student I was to meet wants to cancel because of an event on campus – the ceremonial launch of a new dictionary of Tamil words of local Jaffna use. She invites me to join the event, but I hesitate. “They may serve vadai and murukku,” she adds and I am soon on my way to the auditorium, purchasing a copy of the dictionary at the entrance. It is a good effort by the author. Tamil as spoken in Sri Lanka differs much from that in India. Ours is closer to the written formal language and complies better with grammar. There is good regional variation in the use of words across different parts of Sri Lanka, too. The published dictionary was a good effort to document a version of it, i.e. the Jaffna version. The chief guest, a linguistics professor from India, did a thorough review of the publication, structuring the words into groups, identifying their roots making comparisons to their usage in Indian Tamil etc. But he dragged it too long, coming close to reading the entire dictionary. That the audience had lost interest once the vadai and murukku had been consumed had no effect on him. The Chancellor made the same error, speaking at length of something not very relevant. But then, being at the top of the food chain, he would have thought of it as entitlement, being listened to without challenge, being offered respect, feet touched and blessings received and all that.

Outside the university gates, I spot several new Tamil words in everyday use in the community, written out in big fonts on shop boards: ‘restaurant’, ‘fast food’, ‘learners’, ‘overseas’, ‘quality’ and ‘tools’, none of which seemed to have been included in the dictionary! Maybe the next edition will have these? Maybe we will be bold enough to expand the phonetics of our language?

Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday: A day trip to Kilinochchi, where the University has its Engineering and Agricultural faculties. Few meetings and discussions.

Friday:  I leave Jaffna early and drive to Kandy. There is beautiful landscape along the way with paddy fields as far as eye could see on either side of the road. Rain has been plenty and the plants radiate a special kind of green. Past the Vanni, we stop at Kekirawa for a break. A beautiful town, looking peaceful with paddy fields, coconut trees and a buzzling high street.

I connect to the UK and read the news. Boris Johnson had just won a landslide. His soundbites and the perpetual manufactured lies of the mainstream media targeting Jeremy Corbyn had succeeded in achieving a small vote swing, which, in a first past the post electoral system had given Johnson absolute power.

“You stupid people!” is what Rene Artois would have said to the Brits.

Maybe I should hide here for good, I think.

I have never been to Kekirawa before, but I remember the name of the place well.

Back in 1977, a couple of months after my return train journey from the chess tournament in Colombo, the JR Jayewardene government unleashed rioting on the Tamil community. Systematic, organized and meant to teach the Tamils a lesson. My father’s friend, uncle Sivalingam, whom I remember in association with the full moon, was killed in Kekirawa. Nurses in his hospital tried to hide him under a bed, covering him with laundry, but the thugs found him. He was dragged out, stripped and beaten with stones, iron rods, and bicycle chains. Efforts were made to retrieve the body. The Grama Sevaka (local government official) in the Kekirawa region managed to find the body, but ordered its instant cremation without sending it to the family for a funeral in Jaffna. Many thought of it as yet another example of hegemonic majoritarian rule we were building towards rebelling against in a dirty war of thirty years.

My father thought it was a spontaneous act of mercy on the part of the Grama Sevaka.

Others in our village could not see his point.

After a coffee with fish buns, my driver and I look for toilets. My mannerism in speaking Sinhala with the right mix of English turned out to be useful. Because I can — when it helps a good cause — sound like a spoilt brat educated at Royal College. The waiter takes us to the hotel reception and lets us use the toilet there.

This one is clean and does not challenge my nostrils.

[ To be continued as Don’s Diary IVb: Peradeniya. ]

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Latest comments

  • 1
    34

    Mahesan Niranshan: I understand what you are saying about the Bhikku. Yet, Don’t you feel stupid for showing YOUR lack of knowledge or stupidity You understand detachment from every thing as exactly the same as not using anything given by the People. How much you have studied or read. Buddhism. Almighty Lord Buddha had 18 Palaces like Temple buildings when Buddha was living. Those had build by spending large amounts of money and even the carpets there said to be very very expensive. Most were built by Kings and very rich people. WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE THOUGHT IF YOU HAPPENED TO LIVE THERE ?

    • 20
      3

      This is classic example of how Buddhist priests practice detachment from everything. In 1989 I was on an Airlanka flight to Tokyo via Singapore. A Buddhist priest was seated next to me. I was going only to Singapore while he was going to Tokyo. We were nearing Singapore, where I was to get off. After chatting with me, when he came to know that I was not a Buddhist, he gave me dollar notes and asked me to buy duty free whiskey from the cabin crew, for him to take with him to Tokyo. I obliged and got him what he wanted. Either he will consume it or give it as present to the Srilankan Buddhist priest who will be putting him up in Tokyo. It is naive to think that he would have not used what was given to him.

      • 9
        0

        Gnana,
        Unlike in old days, modern Buddhist monks don’t have to work hard to attain Nibbana in order to accomplish magical activities. That is b’cos anybody with a few bucks can now fly, pretty soon even to other planets as well; also, anybody now can converse with anybody anywhere in the world via mobile phone & internet. A couple days ago, science news also reported the possibility of teleportation by manipulating particle entanglement- in Einstein’s words, spooky action at the distance! If it is really possible, the most difficult task monks have to do is to find a way to keep the brain at or near absolute zero temperature when ever they wish to read others’ mind! About the bottle of whisky, I wouldn’t worry much b’cos winter in Japan could be pretty rough for a stranger from a tropical country!

  • 5
    3

    An interesting article that is true reality highlights the abject values of the Tamil citizens.
    @ RJ 1. Sad to confirm that ever since 1956 when the petty once a practicing Christian who turned over to become a cheap petty mined Ku Klux copying o to becomes a follower of the philosophy called Buddhism which enabled him to become a closet [ homosexual ] and there are strong rumors that he is not the true sire [ father ] of his only son the late Anura who whilst aboding on this wonderful planet of ours was a true fish out of water [ a true real waste of potent sperm ].
    @ R. J.2 This sad fact of being treated as step kids in one’s place of conception, a birth after 9 long months has put this once a well-developed isle has reversed itself down the pallan from when going up the hill sadly will never happen.
    @ R. J. 3. Till the fateful 1956 election, the country was run on a clockwork method by the always brainy efficient Tamil employees who were given the tasks of keeping the country’s wheels in motion.
    @ R. J..4. After the obnoxious racists took power there was an express decline in the economy and all the happenings in this once prosperous island.
    @ R. J. 5. Now after the November 16th poll the new elect who is and, his embezzling family along with the morally corrupt infidels they associate will ensure the country will be driven deeper and deeper into the bog of a cesspit.
    @ R. J. 6, Cheers in sadness,
    R. J. The one & only on this wonderful planet of ours.

  • 9
    2

    MN, I am curious to know the rest of your experience and your opinion as a country where we are now ? There are some brighter spots like the quality of papers presented but then there is plenty to remind the ugly past, such as your father,s friend who was murdered by religious terrorist. Since you left and now,
    ( many years ) thousands have perished and the rest are living in fear, not knowing when there turn will be. I am sure you would have met few of the victims who would have shared their unresolved grief and pain. Lanka is now turned into a quicksand, where every step taken with great difficulties ends up getting sucked deeper into desperation and hopelessness.

    • 3
      0

      Niranjan,
      You are correct; finding a clean public toilet when needed and a permanent solution to current indecent & brutal university ragging are equally “intolerable” problems in SL! However, the answer offered to you by students that the ragging has to do with egoism of the seniors is no longer valid. Rather, it is now used as an forced enrollment tactic to an ultra leftist student union.

      I agree with your opinion on latest British election results. I strongly reject many efforts to portray it as a result global trend conservatism (nationalism). What happened in SL is quite similar: a media spectacle helped by a very poor leadership from the Gvt side.

      • 1
        0

        Dear D. P.,
        .
        I’ve always been strongly opposed to ragging (mentioned in a comment which has yet to be displayed), but this connection that you make with Marxism, was not only something that I could have predicted of you, but also is totally unproven.
        .
        Why is this taking of pot shots so necessary for you?

        • 1
          0

          Panini,
          My opposition to Marxism is well known and therefore, the implication that every time I criticize certain activities by a Marxist group it automatically contains anti-Marxism as well is an easy conclusion particularly if the reader has affection to Marxism. However, I’m not naive to blame Marxism for the stupidities by some immature fanatics by the name of Marxism. To my knowledge, non of the other student unions affiliated with Marxist political parties didn’t behave in this crude manner. You should have noticed that I didn’t use the word Marxism in my comment.

        • 1
          1

          Is it not due to this so-called DP’s his hubris, lack of mental development and more growing pains being part and parcel of his efforts to metamorphose into something better, battling the shackles of his inherent low order genome & memome whilst showing off a smattering of some ill-understood science here and there trying to find place of him being dishonest to himself and concealing his identity?

          From Shakespeare’s Hamlet:-

          Polonius:

          “This above all: to thine own self be true,
          And it must follow, as the night the day,
          Thou canst not then be false to any man.
          Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!”

          • 0
            0

            M Spencer,
            Wow! Looks like I have hit a hornet net of somebody this time! What bothered you? Was it Marxism or FSP? Whatever it is, why not come out like a man with a straight forward accusation, instead of throwing off a barrage of meaningless words like a slum -dwelling woman?

            • 1
              0

              D P aka Donkey Poo,

              What a brazen dishonest liar you are after having ignored 5 or of 6 of my direct posts to you; now are responding to what I responded to another with a fake name like you though an honorable one unlike you.

              Are you not being humbug fraudster hiding behind two letters conducting yourself as an unscrupulous form of a deplorable low life, that the CT is incapable or unwilling to see through and permits your type to spew venom and any vomit or muck from a psychiatrist’s couch to primarily self -heal themselves than to address the genuine woes and concerns of the SL communities and ethnicities? Only karma bitch can give you your and your ilk their just rewards hopefully during the reign of the tyrants.

        • 2
          0

          A bit unfair there, SM. He (D.P.) is linking ragging to an ultra leftist student union. That is not the same as Marxism. The union now is a bunch of students / thugs who ought not to be on campus. Marxism is about a particular model of organising an economy (and its undesirable side effects). I am struggling to see the connection.

          • 0
            0

            Dear Chandra,
            .
            I know that “an ultra-leftist student union” need not be “Marxism”. From other comments of D. P. I take it that he means “The Frontline Socialist Party” – “Peratugami”. Kumar Guneratnam, leader. Nawagamuwa, Presidential candidates.
            .
            I just don’t know enough about them to comment. So, may be you are right, Chandra.

  • 5
    1

    Thank you Niranjan for sharing your journey. A very well observed ‘social ills’ we yet to address as a Nation so wonderfully observed by you and shared with good examples too as it unravel itself in our life journey.

    You have applied very progressive thoughts to all we do not just selectively on academic matters is what is required for our children so we do not clone them but allow them evolve. A very holistic approach to problem solving at ground level indeed.

    Thank you from a fellow theivan from Karainagar and look forward to more from you always.

    I want to work on environmental issues with the Sri Lankan youth (waste management/recycling/water management potable/industrial & farming pollution/sewage & marine sustainability)- how to have a National discussions on a centralised management of all the above issues/projects/education/tailor made education. Is it possible you can introduce some of your fellow Lectures in Jaffna/Kandy universities to write articles to educate us who live overseas how we can be of practical help please.

    Thank you from our heart for your kind work to share your knowledge all around be it academic or otherwise.

    My email address is thiagarajah1981@gmail.com

    • 0
      0

      Dear Venugopal,
      .
      I emailed you just as the New Year dawned. Got it?
      .
      It is very important that we guys who hold moderate views should be-friend one another – you from the North, me from the Southern Hills.

      • 0
        0

        Dear SH

        Thank you. The comment section is all about exchanging thoughts on subjects we do not normally get to discuss out in the open. The is a great platform for all of us to share what we know/experienced so can contribute constuctively to change.

        I never hold animosity towards anyone for holding a different view is what is all about respecting others.

        I have had people justifying killings because others differed in shaping of their own future using the same tools such as democracy/elections that was and still is available to us yet people were denied all these by the same in 70’s & 80’s in Jaffna. The same use it to make their case yet did not allow others and continue to demonise others to have their own way is so unacceptable to see….specially for the younger generation suppose to learn from us how to respect human rights……..all starts with us.

        We are and always be Sri Lankans no matter what is for sure. Instead of celebrating life we just went through a carnage of killing fields/hurting each other instead of addressing all the social ills as so wonderfully captured by the Prof. We effect change this way will change all else is the essence.

        Happy new year.

  • 4
    0

    Very interesting article. Ragging in our Universities began in the early days with good humour. Then it was a case of bullying followed later on in the years as torture and sex oriented. How will the foreseeable future be?
    Cold blooded murder of the Freshers?!
    Politicians and others talk in terms of fixing the Economy, increasing the Growth rate etc etc.
    But if there is one thing that cannot be fixed it is this phenomenon known as Ragging!

  • 3
    0

    Professor Maheshan Niranjan,
    .
    I don’t think that I have met you,
    but I vividly remember your mother; your brother Nirmalan, I now regard as a pal.

    You had the bulk of your school education in the very place that I was born in, while your father taught English at St Joseph’s College, Bandarawela, once the premier Roman Catholic School in the town, educating boys from all backgrounds in the Sinhala and Tamil media. It was one of the two places in the District (St Bede’s, Badulla, being the other) where Tamil students could study Science (laboratory work then being mandatory) I have no memory of your father, although we may have met.
    .
    About 1977, wasn’t it, that he, and all others – teachers and students – whose mother tongue was Tamil were moved over to St. Mary’s, which then became Bandarawela Maha Vidyalayam? Segregation complete. Weren’t you there for a couple of years before moving into the Anglican Private School and your private tuition in the Sinhalese language – and that subject alone?
    .
    Please take a peep at the current administration of that school:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/some-thomian-pharisees-are-adamant-on-the-need-to-cheat/
    .
    Ragging, and the Mohan de Silva video. I was a couple of years his senior at Gurutalawa, and declared war on ragging. Yes, it began in “our” schools and was bad, although not as horrendous as now. Enough for now!

    • 0
      0

      You are a shameless and fraudulent rogue belonging to the SB lumpen proletariat.who should get his just deserts fom a similar minded clan.

      After failing to responded to about 5 or 6 direct posts to you seek to respond to this that was not directed to you. You belong to the lowest type of humans on this earth hiding behind 2 letters. Discerning readers will know you for what a lownlife form you arre and do the needfull whilst karma bitch takes care of you and your criminal ilk.

      • 0
        0

        Dear M Spencer,
        .
        For a moment I thought you had directed that at me!
        .
        But no, by two letters, you probably mean “D. P.”
        .
        By the way, is your name really, “M. Spencer”? One sometimes has a genuine problem with the names of Sri Lankan Tamil Christians. I’m not complaining. It’s just part of our Post-Colonial Heritage.
        .
        Sincerely,

        Panini Edirisinhe

        • 0
          1

          So-called Singhala man, how can I verify that you are really what you State to be your name given now?

          Likewise had you followed all my responses to him you will not be asking this Q? Are you or him in any social media like FB and LinkedIn?I am on both for many years, probably a decade or more.

          The means may justify the ends in the short term though it is the very means that will determines the end in the whole universe as from no less a person than Aldous Huxley. One cannot get good music from a defective and faulty musical instrument like from an unscrupulous person like him who hides behind two letters. In a unlevel and unequal playing field , thete cannot be due regard for the truth fairness or justice.

          • 1
            0

            Dear M Spencer,
            .
            I know that these pseudonyms can be tiresome and confusing. But the means to verify was already at your disposal.
            .
            My name is Panini Edirisinhe (note the idiosyncratic spelling of my surname).
            .
            I am on both FB and LinkedIn, but maintain neither, but I guess it’ll be O.K. for verification purposes.
            .
            But you could interact more constructively with my article, link already given to Prof. Niranjan:
            .
            https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/some-thomian-pharisees-are-adamant-on-the-need-to-cheat/comment-page-1/?unapproved=2321596&moderation-hash=714fe8154bf3ff39f993a960df54bde7#comment-2321596
            .
            However, if CT comment expiry is accurately timed there’ll be only about 20 hours to go. The article appeared about 3.00 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
            .
            You will see not only my name, but also my (un)handsome visage
            Why not say something about education?

          • 2
            0

            S M or P E ,
            Pse read as that will not give a fair balance in the interests and quest for the truth , fairness or justice. We have had the Spencer surname for about four generation’s.

  • 3
    5

    Dr. M. Niranjan,
So you observed how the students are made to cringe and kneel in front of the teachers, and also found that you were encouraged to put holy ash and the பொட்டு before you enter the event. There may have been many other things that you have not observed. But you would have instantly perceived that the Jaffna University people want to make it a part of the Hindu Saivite orthodoxy. You should have offered to remove your top shirt etc and gone bare bodied, and objected to the presence of women and other polluting influences. You should have pointed out that the workshop or seminar should have commenced with Sthothram ((Sanskrit:स्तोत्र)) and other appropriate recitations and invoked the Gods to complete the Saivite atmosphere, instead of insisting on doing things the way they do it in Oxbridge or in Harvard, Paris, Tokyo or even in Madras.
    You should have pointed out that those members of the different strata of society who come from the lower parts of Brahma’s body should have been given seating which is lower in height and appropriate to their status, following Manu Dharma . Because that is where the Peers who run the University, and the political leaders like Wigneswaran and Sampanthan want the North and East to go.
    Have you checked why there are hardly any so-called “low-caste” students among those who presented posters at this event? The Tamil people are being misled by these ultra-conservative upper-caste jingoists who set themselves as leaders, and want to create a Sankili Arasu once again with some of them becoming the ruling oligarchy. They plan to rule the North-East from Kaurvakkaddu as absentee landlords.
A previous generation of these very same leaders began to mislead the youth since 1948 (or even before, already in the mid 1930s), and paved the way for SWRD, JR and other Sinhala jingoists to come to power.

    • 9
      0

      Hoo, hoo, Nadesan,
      Hoo
      ‘l ever you are,
      Don’t
      Shoo, shoo
      ‘t from the hip.
      Please.
      Samuel James
      of postcode seven
      and
      Moonjewel Abraham
      of same fixed abode,
      firmly in the driving seat,
      steering aimlessly in the dark,
      overseeing our car crashes,
      then and now,
      aren’t the ripe
      Saiva fruities,
      you’ll find.

  • 2
    9

    That part of the story about the Buddhist priest is unnecessary.

    Soma

    • 2
      0

      It is very necessary, Soma.
      .
      Unfortunately, this monk seems to be a rare exception:
      .
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zucSDjO6OaY
      .
      Or, may not be so rare. I certainly hope so.

  • 4
    4

    MN,
    Just one question. Did you notice any discrimination, intimidation, thuggery, harassment or any other form of unacceptable treatment of Tamils in Sri Lanka?

    • 6
      2

      Eusense, how would you describe the murder of the author’s father’s Tamil friend? Should you celebrate the humanity and courage of the Sinhala nurses who tried so desperately to protect him (which is a cultural trait we ought to be proud of), or should you work to hide under the carpet the fact that he was murdered by thugs (which is part of an organised political process of which the minority communities in our country are still sh*t scared of)? You be the judge.

      • 2
        3

        Mr Chandra,
        What is your problem? My question was directed towards MN’s observations. Why are you bringing all these irrelevant garbage?
        If you are worried about thugs and their murders and scared minority communities, why don’t you talk about suicide murdered innocent southerners by the Tamil Tiger terrorists? You don’t think they deserve justice? You think the innocent southerners were not ” sh*t scared of” the Tamil terrorist during those 30 years?? By the way, are you a sleeper tiger under the name “Chandra”, getting so upset about my question to MN?

      • 0
        2

        There were many other worthy and innocent people killed, and not just the friend of the father of the Don. For example, the Mayor Duraiappa, Hon. Amirthalingam, Cnagaratnam, Thiruchelvam, Kadrigamar etc etc. According to Dr. Sebastian Rasalingam, more Tamils have been killed by the LTTE than Dutugeminu and all the Sinhalese kings and state power put together.
        (See DBS Jeyaraj’s “Federalidea.com website). The killing of the Dons father’s friend is personally important to him and he should mention it. But in the context of the ethnic conflict, the net effect was that the Tamils annihilated their own people because some Colombo based upper caste lawyers with a lot of hubris, and their financial backers abroad followed their goulish pla nts using the poor people iof the Vanni and their children as cannon fodder. We Tamils living in Mt. lavinia lived in great fear of both the LTTE and the Sinhalese thugs, but I must say, since the 1983 Pogrom, the Sinhalese have been very restrainied even when their Dalada Maligawa was attacked and even when pilgrims in Anuradhapura and monks in Aranthalawa were massacred. The Muslims too did not go on a rampage against the Tamils when they were massacred at Katankudi wen in prayer. Let us face the facts, and remove our blinkers, and admit that people like Sampanthan have nicely looked after themselves by getting himself a post-retirement palace after having done nothing for the Tamils, and after having suppported the LTTE to the hilt. But poor Anandasangaree who opposed the LTTE on principle can only crow about being the CEO of the virtually defunct TULF with noting to show. Meanwhile his son in Canada is propagating Wigneswaran’s myth that there has been a genocide of Tamils since 1948.

        • 1
          1

          I was born 15 years after independence, and I have lived among the Sinhalese, in Mt. lavinia, and seen much of the violence against Tamils and some of my relatives; but I will say that there was no deliberate genocidal policies by the Sinhalese government., exceptperhaps during the day of the 1983 July pogrom where the utterly immoral JRJ wanted to “teach a lesson” to the minorities.
          But during that time the top police and law enforcement officers were Tamils. So there was no discrimination against the tamils as such in the government compared to racial discrimination in Western “democracies”. What did those top Tamil men do? I think Pasupathy was the Attorney General. Even after the demise of JRJ and the LTTE they have not written their memoirs and explained why they did not establish order, or if JRJ gave them a command to let the pogrom go ahead.
          The policies of the ITAK which culminated in the the Vaddukkoddai resolution actually had the effect of genocide of the Tamils, in pitting a mere 5% of the Tamils (population under Prabhakaran) against the 75% Sinhalese majority in an armed conflict. As long as THE SINHALESE COULD BE FOOLED INTO NEGOTIATING and keeping thier troops in the barraks, this could go on. But you cannot do that all the time, especially after killing Premadasa, then Rajiv Gandhi and antagonizing India. That is the level of the folly of Anton Balasinham-Prabhakaran outfit and their Diaspora backers. We need Tamil policies and Tamil leaders that do not have the effect of pitting us against the majority, to our immense disadvantage. The Muslims and the Estate Tamils under Thondaman Sr. have been far more strategic because their leaders were not driven by personal hubris, caste pride and a privileged life of being wealthy land owners who had no cares of the world except to go for the crown and Arasu.

          • 0
            0

            Nadesan

            “but I will say that there was no deliberate genocidal policies by the Sinhalese government., exceptperhaps during the day of the 1983 July pogrom where the utterly immoral JRJ wanted to “teach a lesson” to the minorities.”

            Could you give us a universally accepted definition of “genocidal policies “.
            Could you also let us know what constitute a wholesome genocide or a piecemeal enforcement of Genocide.

      • 1
        0

        Eusense,
        .
        What happens if I ask you the very same question as Chandra has?
        .
        Will that turn me also into a Tiger?
        .
        Can’t you face upto the fact that although you are a racist, many other Sinhalese aren’t?

        • 1
          4

          Mr. Sinhalese man,
          Are you upset about my question from MN too? Are you saying that the LTTE suicide murdered Sinhalese of the south and the innocent Tamils of the north don’t deserve justice? You too think these victims and their families were not ” sh*t scared of” the Tamil terrorist as Chandra states of the minorities?
          To answer your question, You are either a Tiger or a stupid Sri Lankan who doesn’t comprehend what the Sinhalese went through during those 30 years!
          Please write sense next time rather than stupid statements!

          • 0
            0

            Eusense,
            .
            I well know how much this whole country went through for thirty years. You are one of those who told us that it all ended some day in May 2009.
            .
            Yes, I request you to stop making all these statements that contain veiled threats to every one of us who would like to see a happy and united country.
            .
            I’m not begging you for favours, Eusense. I’m asking you to displayu some enlightened self-interest, even if you are incapable of compassion and charity. I worked as hard as was possible to prevent Gota being elelcted. Yes, I’m here in Sri Lanka, living amongst my fellow Sinhalese and saying that.
            .
            I’m hoping that Gota will get more things right than wrong. The simplicity that he has emphasised is good. You should realise yourself that the treatment meted out to Rajan Ramanayake is unhealthy. Which Gota will prevail? It is in the realm of the possible that I will start supporting him if I see that benign face displayed more than the vengegeful.
            .
            I expect no miracles. All of us are an admixture of good and evil.

        • 0
          4

          Sinhala man,
          Asking MN “Did you notice any discrimination, intimidation, thuggery, harassment or any other form of unacceptable treatment of Tamils in Sri Lanka?” makes me a racist??
          What an idiot are you?

        • 2
          0

          Aren’t we all rascists only differing in the degree and extent. First let’s be honest to yourselves.

          Have you not heard and observed that “Birds of the same feather flock together”. Is not our’s and all life forms genome programmed like wise for their safety and security that way.

          Then is not our memome ie born with and acquired cultural and family background glorified and fortified through other ethnic and religious beliefs?

          Only a few are able to overcome due to untold constraints within and without?

          Are not T V Pirapaharan & N G Rajapakse exceptions to the above? What TVP was to the low IQ& EQ Tamils is what NGR is to the low IQ&EQ Dinghslese?

          Isn’t NGR like TVP taking you”ll not to Nathikadal but probably to the Kalu or Mahaveli Ganges or the sea as you have already been to the Kelani ganga in 71 and 89?

          • 0
            2

            M Spencer,
            We are not all racists. In my case I am dead against terrorism by any racial group. I have many Tamil friends and neighbors who I admire because of their stance against Tamil terrorism.

            • 1
              0

              Eusense, yours is a claim frequently made by the worst racists.
              .
              Not all Sinhalese are racists is a statement that is just as true as is the statement that not all Tamils are racists.

    • 2
      0

      Speaking on behalf of Machan I can say none what so ever. It is all an imagination

  • 6
    1

    Machan

    Where have you been . It looks like and sounds like you have returned after 5 years of ” VANAVASAM” . The last time you wrote which was after a heavy “BOUT” of drinking on your return from same visit and you sang the songs of praise for MR. You are at it again.
    I dont know if you know Gotha has promised the following.

    1) Development but no Devolution. As a Proff you know what that means dont you Development for Colonisation.

    2) Clean up all the corruption when he is burried in it and surrounded by Thiefs such as Basil ( the biggest) MR and Wimal the Wansa a few to mention. Even Iqbal Athas has flipped his hat fearing for his life and abduction in a White Van
    3) Karuna has learnt to his disappointment that Gotha has gone back on his word.

    Gotha reads CT so you will be rewarded for your contribution. Frankly I havent read this piece and I am only going by your track record so I hope I have done you a diservice . Gotha is going through a 5 year “VANAVASAM” n Country to engage with

  • 0
    7

    Bashing Buddhist Monks has become the pet subject of Dravidians and Muslims. The two incidences mentioned in the article and a comment could be fabricated stories.

    • 0
      3

      Eagle Eye
      That helps them keep Sinhalese and Tamils in a state of constant animocity, a fundamental requirement to maintain the separatist agenda alive.
      That helped us make Gotabhaya president.

      Soma

    • 1
      0

      Blind Eye,
      “All studies agree that there is a significant relationship between the Sinhalese and the Bengalis and South Indian Tamils and that there is a significant genetic relationship between Sri Lankan Tamils and Sinhalese, them being closer to each other than other South Asian populations. “

  • 1
    0

    Why this need for superiority, seniority, obedience and respect in what ought to be a collegiate environment of curiosity, learning and the pleasure of discovery? Why perpetuate such hierarchy by constantly hiring junior faculty mostly from an institution’s own graduates? Is it because senior people in the system expect recognition of superiority and obedience from junior folks acknowledging the image of being powerful? Is this what gets passed down in the form of respect for the teacher by falling at their feet to receive blessings? Is it then a small step that junior-most members already in the university (students in their second year of study) seek someone beneath them to boss over?

    • 5
      0

      awadg abayasekara: Interesting you just cut and paste a paragraph from the article. Want to say something?

      • 0
        0

        Noticing that was sharp of you, Chandra!
        .
        Are you man or woman?

        • 4
          0

          If you don’t ask that question, I won’t have to tell a lie!

      • 1
        0

        The question remains unasked, Chandra. So, relax, you don’t have to tell me a lie, dear Chandra.
        .
        I have enough instinct to know that you are a woman. Sharper than any of us men.
        .
        I have indeed checked what you had said, and yes, awadg abayasekara has indeed lifted a whole paragraph and pasted it there. The positive in this is that he recognises good writing when he sees it. What was that thing they used to say? Something like “Hypocrisy is the compliment vice pays to virtue”. Now that the quote has been hit upon by me, perhaps “abayasekara” will google and oblige us with all the news about who first said it and when – and perhaps whether Donald Trump had been given it by one of his on some occasion.
        .
        The downside of this is, of course, that there is total lawlessness in this land of ours. Just try explaining why plagiarism is criminal. I mean it. Just try. Nobody will understand any of your explanation of the “big word”.
        .
        Chandra, more seriously, there are only about 12 hours to go for you to say something about Niranjan’s Old School in the Hills:
        .
        https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/some-thomian-pharisees-are-adamant-on-the-need-to-cheat/

  • 0
    0

    Why perpetuate such hierarchy by constantly hiring junior faculty mostly from an institution’s own graduates? Is it because senior people in the system expect recognition of superiority and obedience from junior folks acknowledging the image of being powerful? and dissertations corrected by same university colleagues

    any comments

    This should stop

    • 0
      0

      Dear awadg abayasekara,
      .
      How have you had the temerity to write that without responding to Chandra’s query?
      .
      We are presented with far too much of reading, and don’t bother with thinking. Niranjan’s writing is fine, but you’ve made a joke of it with your cut and paste.
      .
      Perhaps I’m being unfair. It may be that you’ve responded, but that response is not to be seen it yet.

  • 6
    0

    Great writing, honest, down to earth and humorous.
    Enjoyed reading. Personally I have also experienced many you wrote.
    Hope govt agencies take note of the issues you highlighted including a need to build one or two nice rest houses on the way to Jaffna.

  • 8
    0

    “Just knock off a fifth of your curriculum and replace it by English lessons, spoken and written.”
    Thank You for having the Courage to State the Obvious!

    • 3
      0

      Hamlet:-
      Mahesan Niranjan Stating The ‘Obvious’, does not appeal to the current Set of Politicians, whose Proficiency in their Spoken Mother Tongues, is the Only Reason they are in the very Lucrative Business of Politics!

    • 2
      0

      Dear Hamlet,
      .
      I agree that if English is effectively taught,
      then these young guys can expand their knowledge from the Internet. The question is will they be taught English, and by whom. I’m a retired teacher of English. I’m not going to be teaching basic English again.
      .
      Do you think that I’m being nastily unco-operative? No, I’ve done my share of it – but will guide anybody who wants to teach. I will teach “Literature” (well, Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”) to any student who is interested, but there are none.
      .
      I went for a swim last evening in a clean pool in Maharagama. Three young fellows who had just got A. Level results were discussing what to do next. One fellow had started attending IELTS lessons. I admitted teaching teach that, but I try not to snowball the lessons required. I asked how listening was taught. In class with phocopies and a DVD recording that was played. I asked whether they’d ever been told that the books are available. No.
      .
      Full past papers from Cambridge University – 14 collections by now, pirated versions on the Internet. I find the students hankering for the “latest”. Six months ago I found No.13 in a bookshop in the “International Edition”, printed in Malaysia. Price, Rs 10,750/=. The bookseller said that some wealthy guys actually buy it. By now it must be in the bookshops in an identical “South Asian Edition” printed in India. Price: 1,500/=.
      .
      I told the guy in the pool that the book includes the DVD, and gives not only the answers, but also the tape-scripts with the phrases providing information for each answer underlined. Aren’t these teachers cheating by doing their “wawagena kanawa” (that means cultivating bits of knowledge and reaping the benefits.)?

  • 3
    0

    “Cantilever Sir”, “Curvature Madam” — the writer has a sexy mind!

    • 1
      0

      All normal human minds are “sexy”. That’s how we’ve been made.
      .
      The hypocrites pretend that it doesn’t exist and try to suppress it. The Puritanical mind-set. Hawthorne exposed it in this:
      .
      https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jan/06/scarlet-letter-nathaniel-hawthorne-100-best-novels
      .
      Here’s the whole book for free.
      .
      .
      https://www.gutenberg.org/files/25344/25344-h/25344-h.htm
      .
      .
      But why not look for it in the local Public Library? I’t’s amazing how much treasure these much neglected libraries contain.

    • 1
      0

      And how much I used to read:
      .
      https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/aug/17/the-100-best-novels-written-in-english-the-full-list
      .
      I think that of the hundred books listed there, I must have read sixty. The ones that I haven’t read are the more contemporary ones. Proves me to be a fuddy-duddy, I guess.
      .
      I think that I still read a lot, but little bits, on the Internet. Will my grand-daughters read all that during their adolescence – that’s the age to develop reading?
      .
      Or will all this technology take away forever the Wisdom of the Ages, and substitute for it the shallow culture that alone is imparted by our schools? We had most of those books in our Library in Gurutalawa. Niranjan, just ask your brother, Nirmalan, whether he remembers his only visit to Gututalawa, about three years ago. He ordered me out of the Foster Hall while he conducted his workshop there. He wanted no awesome figures of authority while he interacted with the boys, mainly in Sinhalese.
      .
      So, I looked carefully through the library. It was not just that I had read lots of the books between 1960 and 1965 (neglecting most of the syllabus subjects). Mr M. Chinniah and I had Decimal Indexed the entire library in 1967 and 1968. So I knew even the books that I hadn’t read. All gone. The greatest books ever written, some like Tolstoy’s War and Peace in English translation, all, all gone. Nirmalan saw me crying.
      .
      .
      Why are they all gone? Doesn’t this recent article shine much light on the reason?
      .
      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/some-thomian-pharisees-are-adamant-on-the-need-to-cheat/
      .
      Knowledge is too much dominated by Puritanical Priests – Arthur Dimmesdale repented and possibly died to be resurrected. What hope of resurrection for our Pharisees?

  • 9
    1

    Eusense: It is good to talk about Tiger terrorists if you so wish (and not about the Sinhala nurses in the hospital who tried to protect the man). After all, the memory of these terrorists, rather than the nurses, is going to define the future political discourse in our country, right?
    +
    So, let us talk about the terrorists. One of them, the most powerful one who recruited large numbers of little children into their suicide army and who was in charge when 600 policemen were rounded up and shot traveled on a diplomatic passport to the UK. How come? Who are friends who hug this terrorist? His deputy, currently in the Batti jail had our present Prime Minister paying him a visit. How come? Did you know that in 2005, these terrorists were paid suitcases full of money so they would order the Tamil people not to vote? Did you know that in 1989, when these terrorists were at their weakest (no more than 100 of them), the President sent them truckloads of guns? Terrorists, Eusense, are bad. But how are they created? How are they supported?
    +
    That minorities are fearful is fact. Election results show this. One cannot win them over by repeatedly shouting “you guys are all terrorists”. Just have some patience and to think through what the cause of their fear is.
    +
    Meanwhile, Eusense, take a deep breath and celebrate the fact that some nurses in a hospital went out of the way to protect a colleague. As a Sri Lankan, I am proud of these nurses. I invite you to share that pride. That, Eusense, might make us a better people and country.

  • 2
    1

    Spencer and Chandra, A Big Thank You. You two seems to have exceptional clarity. Majority Lankans dwell on who is more evil ??who killed most?? who is most violent ??who is more corrupt?? . That includes Mr. Nadesan too. Sir your argument may sound solid , (in the context of race) but how do you explain the deaths of thousands of youth in the hands of our own governments during insurgency. Also you say the upcountry Tamils and Muslims had leaders who bargained for a better deal, but the fact is they too are right now in the same situation as the rest. Though I may be half of your age, my opinion is that anything different would not have really changed the mentality of our ruling governments. The only difference is that the end results could have been slightly better if not worse. To emphasis further, the future is not going to be any different from our past.

  • 0
    0

    Dear “chiv”,
    .
    It’s good to know that there are young guys also who talk sense.
    .
    Please continue to give us large doses of your common sense.

  • 2
    0

    Niranjan,
    Thank you for
    “Just knock off a fifth of your curriculum and replace it by English lessons, spoken and written.”
    I fully agree.
    Not sure about the book of Jaffna Tamil words although I am sure it is a good starting point for a conversation. For example injaaroom, how oder men called their wives, is claimed as a Jaffna word. But is it not a corruption of ingay paaroom, meaning look here?

  • 1
    0

    Thank You Sinhala Man. To be honest it is people like you, who give me the inspiration to be active in these sites.

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