Good Morning (Again) Colombo!

Dear Judy,      

Splashes of butter and blood met my eye when I looked through the kitchen window, just two weeks ago.  Time to put the terra cotta flower pots away in the garage.

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View from kitchen window two weeks back.  The Virginia creeper blazed up and down the fence as the morning sun buttered the landscape with gold.

                                   

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My friend Judy Starrit (centre), who lives in BeaverBank, Nova Scotia.

                                                                                                So summer’s officially done.      

I messaged you two months ago: What can I bring you from Sri Lanka?

You replied: Send me pictures of your culture.

Puppy had the usual anxiety attack. Suitcases are a rotten omen, as far as he’s concerned.  

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Puppy hoping to halt the packing process. 

I decided to visit Dad later in the year, to avoid the hot season.   Got fried last April.

Texted Aunty Rom  (who’s not really my aunt!): I’m arriving in Colombo in two weeks. Looking forward to our morning walks.                        

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Aunty Rom, my stalwart walking companion.  This birthday card she mailed on one of our morning meanders never reached its destination.     

The familiar sense of homecoming as the plane touched down on the tarmac. I’ve spent more than half my life away from the motherland.

Sinhalese words came diffidently to my lips, then slid out with fluency. It takes my tongue a few minutes to get acclimatized.

Dad’s driver was waiting outside.  He cranked up the air conditioning.  The roads were congested, though it was still early in the morning.  

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Vijitha, Dad’s faithful driver and general factotum

 

 

A bewildering sea of highrises punctured the sky around me.

Colombo is currently the fastest growing metropolis in Asia, I’ve been told …

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The Lotus Tower (new since my last visit).  A Chinese investment.  The tallest free-standing structure in Asia.  

 

 

The Lotus Tower , dominates the skyline.

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City of Colombo growing upwards for as far as the eye can see

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Higher and higher …
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View from my friend, Angali’s balcony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NO LIMIT.  Sure looks like it …

Rush hour traffic is in full swing and Dad’s just waking up when we get home.  

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Dad’s home
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Dad’s halfway up. Never thought the parents would adjust so well to condo living. 

 

 

Everything’s spick and span, crisp linen in the guest room, a fresh breeze and the sun streaming in through the open balcony doors.

A resounding emptiness, though.  A sort of hollow ache  as the eye alights on an empty rocking chair, the laptop idling under a dustcloth and the vacant seat beside Dad’s easy chair in front of the  living room TV.

It’s been two and a half years.  Hard to believe.

I missed Mum’s embrace, her radiant smile.

 “How are you, my darling girl?”

Latha had prepared pol roti and katta sambol for breakfast.  

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Pol roti (coconut flatbread) and katta sambol (a fiery mixture of dried red chillis and raw onions). A carb-laden breakfast favourite.  Homecoming heaven!

Yum …

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Latha, Dad’s cook/ housekeepeer

 

 

 

 

 

Dad drove us to Independent Square in the evening to catch some fresh air.  I struggled to keep awake.  

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Independence Square, where the who’s who of Colombo go to keep fit, see and be seen

This is my Dad, Judy.                                        

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Dad enjoying a quiet moment under a banyan tree by the walking track at the old racecourse. 

He was a strikingly handsome man in his day. 

Independence Square is a great place for people-watching.  I got unobtrusively busy with my camera.

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A place for  lovers …
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… and loners

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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… and quiet reflection
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Backpack and burkha
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Caption: My Shirt Made a Difference (It did.  I paused to take a picture of it)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Daddy and his princess
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Secrets of childhood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A moment to breathe
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Palm trees in silhouette.  Twilight shrouds Independence Square.  Time to go home for dinner. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A change of scene the next evening, when Dad headed for Viharamahadevi Park (formerly Victoria Park).  An imposing statue of Queen Victoria appears to have materialized out of nowhere.

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Queen Victoria’s Statue (purloined from where it had been dumped decades ago, after independence) restored to its original spot just before the recent Commonwealth Conference. 

There’s a different ambiance in this space, besides the gnarly, mammoth trees, probably planted in Victorian times —

…  it’s the lovers cuddling beneath the colossal branches!

For as far as the eye can see …

Maybe because someone forgot to put up a sign like this one —

Tongue in cheek, of course …

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Sign set up at the old racecourse: This is a place of National Significance.  Keep Discipline

Around six o’clock, dusk begins to fall and uniformed decency police appear to guard the morals of the nation. The amorous pairs are shooed out of the park.

Don’t laugh, Judy.  I’m not fibbing – honest!

Three-wheeler tuk tuks swarm all over the city like a plague of locusts.  They are the quickest and most precarious mode of transport in this traffic-choked city. The captions adorning the bodywork often had me chuckling —

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“City Boy” — as opposed to … Country Boy?
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“Don’t touch my heart” (scroll in to see the words)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“God bless you”
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“I am strong to carry you” (I certainly hope so!)

 

 

 

 

 

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“Bad Boyz 008” (Like James Bond 007?)
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True liberty is to be A free of viceses (think they mean VICES?)
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Pirates of the Caribbean 

 

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Nobody honest in the world (how sad!)

So why is this one stuffed into the open doorway of an empty showroom?

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The door hasn’t been installed yet, so for overnight security …

Still good old tuk tuks are the go-to mode of emergency transport, I’ve often resorted to myself.  A wild ride.  Kids find it a hoot.

Uber is the latest trend, though, and so much cheaper with heavenly airconditioned vehicles …

I was up all night for the first ten days,  Jet lag kills me.  It gets worse with the passage of time.

The early walks with Aunty Rom were my day’s highlight. 

In spite of these urgings –

and the necessary tools left lying around —

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Road sweeper’s ekel broom on the sidewalk,  leaning against a tree 
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Garbage collector’s handcart 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

… and these willing workers

— the streets looked uncared for, garbage piled up in corners, picked over by crows and stray dogs.

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The instructions are pretty clear
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Check out the mess under the sign …

 

 

A disappointing regression since the government changed hands.

The supervised disposal of crow’s nests has been abadondoned, Aunty Rom tells me.

Animal rights activists or government cutbacks.  Don’t recall  …

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Mama crow guarding her nest. These raucous scavengers are becoming a problem again. 

The morning walks energized me, Judy. I began each day embracing the essence of the city with all its quirks and complexities.    

I remember this woman from last year —

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This gentle homeless woman has a puppy in her arms today.  
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This was her last year with just the one dog. (Click here : Good Morning Colombo! for story)
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Aunty Rom and me as the sun rides highter
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Dawn over Colombo city.  My favourite time of day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The homeless slumber on –

… and the dogs —

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The stray dogs – all mild and minding their own business –  have increased in numbers since I was last here.  A troubling threat of rabies.
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Abandoned coverlet and water bottle.  Someone just woke up

Vigorously cleaning business premises —

At the bus stop. To school and work –

And so the day begins –

Early morning moments –

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Beggar freshening up at public tap
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Maid going to work at the big house
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Young vagabond with electricity in his eyes …
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Dust pan and broom seller
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Newspaper delivery – motocycle and …
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… by bike. (Sarong tucked up high)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of my favourite moments, captured just for you, Judy –

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Walking his employer’s dog
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Happy to pose for camera lady
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“Where’s that wife of mine? …”
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“… where the heck is she?
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Lady in red 
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“Just dropped in at the temple …”
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Jaunty three-and-a-half-legged dog …
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… pausing to check out a pile of garbage before hopping merrily on its way

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Whats App, Doc?”

The streets at peace half an hour before morning mayhem breaks out –

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Peeping Tom
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Laurel and Hardy. These billboard pasters came rolling up and spilled out of a tuk tuk ..
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… and asked to pose for a second picture, pot of glue and all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Graceful lady cop
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Flock of nurses off to work
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What’s in the hand?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Breakfast from the corner vendor

 

 

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“Hey, thanks for the brekkie money!”
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In a mighty hurry
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Shoolgirls packed like sardines into a private van.

Business is brisk at the food truck –

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At the corner of Dad’s street

Aunty Rom and I pass these two every  morning –

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Determined walker. This one means business, down to the nifty running shoes
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On her way to work?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aunty Rom pauses to pick up her newspaper –

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A moment to chat with the vendor.  English newspaper, please.

From time to time she suprised me with a detour.  Like the time we popped in at Uncle Chandi and Aunty Christine’s home and sat for a while chatting.

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Aunty Rom with Uncle Chandi and Aunty Christine (not my uncle and aunt!), aunty Rom’s cousins and my cousin’s in-laws.  I met them for the first time last year when we ‘dropped in’ during one of our walks.  
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Uncle Chandi’s  lovely garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I acquired a new aunty when I took this picture last year. 

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Her name is Welai.  Met her at the corner store by the church, early one morning last April. (Click here for the story in Good Morning Colombo)

Found out later that the smiling woman was the employee of Aunty Rom’s friend, Sharmini.

Only in  Sri Lanka …

Newest aunt, Sharmini, invited us both over for breakfast one Tuesday morning. Aunty Rom and I walked over.  We’d been Facebook friends since the photo incident, and met face to face for the first time today.

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Aunty Sharmini (right) in her beautiful home (with Aunty Rom)

Warm, generous Sri Lankan hospitality …

Welai had prepared a delicious meal of pol roti, chicken curry and spicy, accompaniments. Fresh bananas for dessert.

So good …

She was all dressed up to meet us and quite overwhelmed to encounter the camera lady once again!

 

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Welai, feeling shy, in her Sunday best.  All dressed up for Aunty Rom and me

New aunty has a lovely Secret Garden.

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Aunty Sharmini and Welai at the entrance to the Secret Garden. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Welai looking coy and posing in the garden wearing her regular work clothes!

 

 

The sun rode high in the sky.  Too sticky to walk.  Aunty Rom and I took a tuk tuk back home.

The next week,  Aunty Rom, New Aunty and I went to breakfast at the Commons Coffee House, steps away from new aunty Sharmini’s home.  

Scrumptious cheese toast with good friends, all because I made a random click on my I Pad …

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Singing in the rain.  Aunty Sharmini (left) and Aunty Rom outside Commons Coffee House, Cinnamon Gardens.  

 

 

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Sri Lankan Menu (Commons Coffee House)

 

 

 

 

 

Some mornings Aunty Rom surprised me with a different route (to feed my appetite for photography), pointing out stately homes.  Many of them are commercial buildings now.

The remaining single unit homes lurk behind high fortress-type fortification walls and iron gates.

A handful old mansions still remain private residences –

… a couple of them in varying stages of disrepair.

Love how flowers and foliage create waterfalls of colour along walls and from balconies —

Destructive love language along the sidewalk …

Architecture and construction accommodate behemoth trees –

The iconic Cricket Club Café has changed locations. There seems to be some confusion as to whether the old location is for sale —

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FOR SALE proclaims this gate …

… or not!

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NOT FOR SALE declares the gate at the other end.  Didn’t notice till Aunty Rom pointed it out.  Someone can’t make up their mind!

Paradise Road Galleries on Dad’s street has been torn down –

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The rubble of Paradise Road, a classy tourist shopping spot
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Took this pic last year

 

 

 

 

 

to make way for yet another highrise.

Found time to browse at Dean the Bookman’s secondhand store – 

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Discovered Dean at the Saturday pola (farmers’ market) at Torrington Square last year.  Bought this copy of short stories by Guy de Maupassant
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A 20 volume collection of Dickens novels, over a hundered years old, on sale for Rs. 20,000 ($200 Canadian approx)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the old colonial cemetery where we buried Mum two and a half years ago, Judy.

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Kanatte Cemetary.  I never saw it as a place of beauty until now

I’ve just discovered the beauty of  the old memorial monuments.  Wonder why I’ve never noticed before. I was almost tempted to stand in the sunshine and recite Victorian elegies, surrounded by discoloured Italian marble gravestones.  Some of the sculptures are really quite exquisite.

China is pumping money into this country. Thousands of Chinese construction workers are swarming all over the city of Colombo. 

This is the future Port City, a Chinese enterprise –

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View of Port City from lighthouse.  Reclaimed land, stretching fifteen miles out into the sea, leased to China for ninety nine years. 

The ocean at Galle Face, where generations of Colombo dwellers came to relax and enjoy the fresh, salt air is gone.  The Galle Face Green where you could fly kites, buy a cone from the Alerics ice cream van and have a ride on a sad, mangy pony, barely exists anymore.  What’s left of it is all withered and brown.

Not sure how smart an idea this Port City is, politically speaking …

Slave Island is the dizziest hub of construction in the city –

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The star of them all is the Leaning Tower (Altair building).  By day …
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… and by night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sights and sounds of Sri Lanka, Judy, are very much like India, with a lot less people, of course, and not as colourful.  And less dirt, I suppose.

The varied face of Colombo fascinates me –

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Working girl carrying her saree with grace
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Beggar commencing his day

 

 

 

 

 

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Woman and street dog: crossing the road in opposite directions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shoe shopping
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Cool dude!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Cheque, please!”

 

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Dapper gran’pa …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Texting and walking

 

 

 

 

 

 

The flexibilty of the Sri Lankan woman is pretty amazing …

Umbrellas, come rain or sun —

Tried my hand at rainy day photography.  Quite pleased with the outcome –

The street of my childhood grows less recognizable each time I go back.

Uncle Gerry and Aunty Doreen’s home is one of the few original houses in the old neighbourhood.

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Uncle Gerry and Aunty Doreen at their front porch. The last of the original homes.  They lived two doors down from us. She was one of Mum’s close friends.

A highrise is under construction on the premises of  #13 where my old home used to be located —

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A highrise at #13, stomping on memories of the past

I’m embarrassed to admit that lunch become another highlight of my day.  Latha excelled herself –

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Red rice and curry accompaniments.  Three meals a day, served up on Mum’s Noritake dinnerware, with linen napkins and everything.  I packed on the pounds fast!

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I miss the leisured  simplicity of life as it used to be when I was growing up.

Change is inevitable of course.  It just took longer coming to Sri Lanka …

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Sidewalk strewn with temple flowers (frangipani) before the sweepers get going
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Betel juice.  An ungenteel ‘provincial’ habit that needs to change. Red spittle on the sidewalk from chewing betel leaves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The old Parliament building from colonial times

 

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Colombo lighthouse

 

 

 

 

 

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Galle Road in Sinhalese, Tamil and English.  The city’s main thoroughfare, leading all the way down to Galle down south

 

 

 

 

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View from the lighthouse

 

 

 

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Little Lion ice cream from Top Shelf.  Consumed copious quantities of it as a girl!

 

 

 

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New concept.  Hindu temple (golden dome visible) atop a highrise.

 

 

 

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… and Elton John!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judy, have  I mentioned the research I’ve been doing towards writing a  book on Mum’s ancestry?  I chased clues all over the city.

Felt like a character in The Da Vinci Code

I spent fascinating hours with Mum’s cousins and some distant relatives I’d never met before –

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Aunties Daisy and Sybil (real aunts!), Mum’s cousins with old photograph albums. 
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Mums’ cousin, Paranidhi.  Met her for the first time.  Went back to visit twice more.  A fount of old family history and intriguing insider stories.  

 

 

 

 

Heard some incredible stories from the family archives, gathered a goldmine of information and tons of old photos.  A  mountain of notes to be transcribed. Almost wore my hand out writing in longhand as fast as it would move!

So when Daughters enquired (during a Whats App phone conversation) if I was bored, I answered: “No, I create my own adventures.  There’s a new one every day and I can barely keep up with them all!”

The plan was for Husband to fly out from Toronto and join me after two weeks. While talking on the phone before he arrived, we decided, on the spur of the moment, to visit the Jaffna peninsula together.  This area, a war zone for decades, is where our ancestors hail from. 

With only days to go and a specific cut-and-paste tour in mind, I had to figure out how to make it happen.

Then I remembered … Jungle Fowl!              

Jungle …what?                                                                           

I’ll tell you all about it in the next post. 

Until then, take care, my friend. I intentionally recorded every detail of this trip just for you, so you were sort of travelling along with me, you know.

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Judy with  her grandson, Eamon, and JOY on the windowsill
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My friend, Judy, chooses to live out her diagnosis of ALS with joy.  She is an inspiration to everyone she encounters.  Click here to read Judy’s story in Love Those Bhangra Boys!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 I’m thankful for you, Judy.  You inspire me to keep living out joy, because joy doesn’t depend upon external circumstances. It comes from within.  

Love always and thinking of you, my friend,

sincerely

p.s  Woke up to our first snowfall this morning.   Oh Canada …

Just got a text from Aunty Rom.  She wrote:  A few days ago, I met the dog lady.  She said the puppy had been run over.  I was happy for her, so she didn’t have to find food for another mouth. This morning, she had another, carried in a box!

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Her Old Piano

We’ve just driven into town, there’s a piano on the kerb outside our hotel.  A note scrawled on yellow paper, propped against the open lid –

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Unusual sight.  Unprotected piano outside Europa Inn, St. Andrews-by-the-sea, New Brunswick
Signed: Simone Ritter .  Work in progress, she says,  stay tuned …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Piano  won’t stay tuned for long, squatting outside in the elements 

Intrigued, curious.

Who’s the lady?  What’s her plan?

We check into Europa Inn, Husband and I.  Two nights.  Delightful auberge in sleepy, small town seaside setting, old fashioned European charm.

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Serenity by the sea.  Yep. That’s what I’d call it.
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Europa Inn: flights of backstairs and balconies full of pink petunias

       

 

 

 

 

Old-world nostalgia and a plethora of      prewar/war-time memorabilia …

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Old iron safe (from town’s namesake church) in quiet backroom of Inn
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Europa Inn.  Famous for signature  eight-course dinner banquet by Chef Markus Ritter. Must-do tourist experience in New Brunswick,  as per travel guide 

 

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Did the road trip instead!

On summer road trip with husband.

Spectacular paintings jostle for elbow room on walls.  Struck by joie de vivre, bright light and vibrant energy in them.

Signed:  Simone Ritter.

Breakfast- a mouthwatering masterpiece.  Friendly host, proud hubby, Chef Markus Ritter, gives glowing account of talented wife’s hobby-turned-profession.  

Simone Ritter Art …   

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Simone Ritter’s  artwork (on display for sale) lines the walls of Europa’s dining room

Leave two days later.  Weather’s changed, sporadic showers.  Piano clothed in plastic protection.

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A raincoat for poor piano on the morning of our departure .

 

 

 

 

 

Never encountered Simone in person. Forgot to ask about the piano. Wish I had.  Kept wondering …

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My mind is an interesting place I’ve been told.  

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This is my mind, where nothing is impossible!

“It’s about perspective,” I reply,

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She’s too small or the chair’s too big? (Moncton, New Brunswick, 2015)
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It’s how one views things …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

– “being able to see where there’s nothing to see.”

When waters swirl sixty feet deep, who’d imagine the possibility of a stroll on the ocean floor?

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Chocolate waters around Flower Pot rocks. (High tide, Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick)
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Hard to believe … a walk on the ocean floor?
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Husand (left) standing where waters stood sixty feet high
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Walking the ocean floor. Sixty-foot high waters have receded. 
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Husband standing under centre of arch.  (Check first photo.  This archway was completely submerged)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A parable?  Sort of.

Waters did recede, in spite of what we saw when we first arrived …

Which is the definition of faith.  Sort of.

Hebrews 11: 11  Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see … 

………………………………………………………………….

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Seeing beyond the physical reality –

Which brings me back to when eye sees what doesn’t yet exist –

Like knowing when garbage is more than garbage …

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For example –

(1) Old washbasin – just  an unusual lily pond-in-waiting –

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Didn’t throw out the sink. (After fall bathroom renovations)  Hurry up, summer!
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Won’t look like this one, tho’!

 

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For sure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2)  An ordinary bottle  … a prospective tree ornament, of course!

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Colourful chopstick, shiny marbles and sea shells and … voila! (In my summer garden)

(3)  The old kitchen sink – a perfect container for growing swamp plants 

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After kitchen renovations (In my summer garden)

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(4)  That tired saucepan – an eccentric hanging container for a flowering summer plant

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Rope to hang  it with and hurrah for blooming beauty-to-be!

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Mr. Pot Man (Clay pots are not just for planting in)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(5)  Ancient pots and pans make whimsical garden ornaments

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Kitchen Corner (In my summer garden)
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Not just a bundle of old twigs (neighbour’s garden)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daughters issue dire edict when ensuite toilet is replaced: “No planting flowers in it, Mom. Not going in our garden.”

I give my word!

See a bath tub tossed out on sidewalk recently, imagination bubbles over.  So tempted. Wish I could carry it home.  

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Threw the old one out!  (There’s a limit to creative art …  even I have my standards!)
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Kerb-side tub.  It looked like this .. would have made a gorgeous garden planter – sigh! (Bed and Breakfast, Annapolis Royale, Nova Scotia)

Which brings me all the way back to Simone’s piano.

A year and a half’s gone by.  Often wondered about it.  Have to know …

Find Simone Ritter on Facebook and shoot off private message. She sends picture of finished work with a note –

Simone writes: It was popular with the passers by during the summer months, even in the unfinished stages.  Unfortunately a storm came through and ripped the plastic off the piano.  The heavy rains made the wood swell and then it could not be played anymore …

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…  her handiwork
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Ta da!

 

 

 

 

 

Absolutely breathtaking …

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Gorgeous explosion of creativity.  Well done, Simone!

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

It’s  all about  knowing how to look –

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… in the most unexpected places
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Husband with tour map 

 

Living in the possibility of the moment –

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Picture of a woman taking a picture of her shadow.  (Happened to look out of high-rise window and captured the moment)

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And honing the inner vision –                                       

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Me reflected in neighbour’s glass door, seen through glass pane of laundry room door

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So how do you see what you see?

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A hug or a serpent? (Neighbour’s front yard)
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Dead wood or sculpture?
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Just a car or dawn-in-the-windows? (On the driveway)
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Stars in my eyes. (Reflection in family room mirror)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

……………………………………………………………………………….

And that’s Life According To Me, a deliriously expectant resident of  La La Land!

Love living there …

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More than content to be one of the Fools Who Dream 

Because, ultimately, it’s about the final, impossibly possible picture –

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Life’s glorious gifts, hidden in plain sight –

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… just waiting to be unwrapped

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Of course I do !

Unimagined sweetness –

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… and eaten up in a single go!  (Guilty. When Rosalyn brought dessert)
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… just begging to be tasted

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Finally a thaw in the air.  Milder days ahead. 

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So thankful.        IMG_20170226_214313

Until next time,

sincerely

 

PS:  Meet the Ritters of Europa Inn –

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Ritter family. Chef Markus, artist Simone and kids, Saint Andrews-by-the-sea, New Brunswick

And Puppy has the last word –

I do!

Faith We Follow

“There was a crash.  The knife came down, barely missed my eye. Blood everywhere…”

I can almost hear Mum’s voice.  Wish I’d paid more attention to details.

Her tales often commenced with all six of us.  img_8482

Pearl, Ruby, Peter, Dan, Beatrice, Elizabeth …  

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“All six of us” (1976).  Seated (left to right): Beatrice, Pearl, Ruby, Elizabeth.  Standing (extreme left): Peter, (extreme right): Dan, the brothers-in-law behind their wives -(Left to right: Prins, Sub, Prince, Selva)

Mum:  So all six of us climbed into Babby’s cot with the cake Alice baked.  We found it on the kitchen table.  Just as Petes lifted the bread knife and said, ‘Let’s have a piece’, the cot collapsed.  The knife came down on my forehead.  It narrowly missed my eye.”

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Alice, the family retainer who helped cook and keep house, the hapless victim of boyish pranks.

Peter and Dan – Petes and Danma to us nieces and nephews – youthful villains.

Baby Elizabeth was Baba.  Babby to the next generation.

Me: (doing mental calculation) But Mum, if Babby was say … five, and you … eight, the others would have ranged in age from eighteen and under.  How could all six of you have squeezed into a baby’s bed – with a cake and knife?

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Gifted teller of jokes and stories,  writer, mimic par excellence.  Mum loved to laugh.    

 Mum’s a storyteller, not a mathematician.  It’s how she remembers …

Mum:  On Sunday evenings we had family prayers.  On our knees.  They went on forever.

Her eyes are brimming with memories …

Mum:  We quietly slipped away into the kitchen to have a feast.

Me:  All six of you …

Mum: Poor Alice.  No one listened to her protests.  The patties were for the visitors.  She made lovely patties.  We ate everything we could find and crept back to the living room, knelt down and folded our hands.

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They did!

Me: And No one noticed?

Mum:  No.  And E.T.S Aunty was so impressed by our piety,   we all got  toffees.  She said we were good children!

E.T.S Granny (always known by her initials), Grandpa’s widowed sister, frequent visitor, devout, determined lady, given to eloquent, lengthy prayers.     

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Lo-o-ong prayers

Mum:  One Sunday evening, Geo Uncle came to visit.

Me: At prayer time?

She’s chuckling …

Mum:  Petes used a coat hanger to start Uncle’s car.  We all climbed in.

Me:  All six of you …

Mum:  He drove to Geo Uncle and Malar Aunty’s house.  We ate all the goodies Malar Aunty fed us and drove back home again.

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George  (Geo Uncle, poet, man of letters) and Malar Perinpanayagam on holiday in hill country with Beatrice (Mum)  She spent a lot of time with them in their early married life.

Me:  And their eyes were closed, they were still praying?

I’m laughing with her …

 Mum:  He never knew!

Me:  And Malar Aunty?

Mum:  I don’t think she ever told him.

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Lest we forget!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Shadrach Samuel Esquire, aspiring businessman aged 32, won the hand of Miss. Mercy Newton of Chundikuli, Jaffna.  As legend has it, the friends of the sixteen-year-old bride called out over the fence as she walked past the schoolyard of the local girls’ school, on her way to church to be married.         

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Miss Mercy Newton, second daughter of Charles and Rose Newton of Chundikuli, Jaffna

Shadrach and Mercy set up home in Colombo, sleepy metropolis of colonial Ceylon.  

He founded the iconic engineering firm, Samuel Sons.  

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Samuel Sons, founded 1922.  70th anniversary commemorative mug.  Uncle Peter, an artist, designed the logo.

                                 

 

 

 

The union produced six children.

  A seventh, Mum remembers as Bertie, succumbs to an untimely demise as an infant …                                                       

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Shadrach & Mercy Samuel and offspring.  Left to right:  Ruby, Pearl (seated), Dan (seated) and Peter.  Baby Beatrice held by Dad.  (Elizabeth was born a year or two later)

Grandma Mercy died in her sleep at age 33.  Cause of death unknown.

Mum recalls asthma and a family history of heart disease  …

Rajes Aunty, seventeen-year-old bride, moved in with new husband, Thurai Perinpanayagam (Grandma Mercy’s cousin) to help take care of a brood of children, some of them almost her age. 

To this day, Rajes Aunty occupies a special place in all our hearts.

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Looking good!  Aunty Rajes Perinpanayagam celebrates 90 years (2015)  Husband and I made a detour on a summer road trip, to attend the surprise party at her son’s home in Connecticut

The siblings grew closer to one another.                         img_20150805_222918

All six of us …  

Grandpa Shadrack never recovered from his loss.  Well meaning aunties and clucking grannies suggested umpteen prospective brides to grace his hearth and mother the children.

Mum:  He always said, “There was only one woman for me.  God who took her away from me will take care of my children.”

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Grandpa’s was. (Photo of picture hanging in friend Evelyn’s home.  Painted by her niece.)

Me:  Do you remember her, Mum?

Mum:  Of course!  She was slim and pretty, darling, gentle, soft-spoken, a lady through and though. Always simply and tastefully attired. She was an artist, she painted beautifully.  I remember whenever she baked a cake, she let me stir the batter and lick the spoon.  I got a new dress every year, for my birthday.  She cut it out herself and made me turn the wheel of the sewing machine for her.  She used to call me Pambaram.

Me:  Pambaram?

Mum:  Because I was a tomboy.  I could never sit still.  It means spinning top in Tamil.  She played the piano.  On Sundays, all six of us would stand ‘round and sing hymns.

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Tomboy Beatrice.  How she was allowed to pose for a formal picture dressed like this is a mystery.

Me:  It must have been awful after she died.

Mum:   We had Daddy.  We loved him. He was strict, of course, but such a kind, generous man. He helped everyone.  Babby and I secretly called him Dixie Daddy from a song on the radio hit parade.  We giggled every time we said it.

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Dixie Daddy!
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Super Daddy Samuel …

 

 

 

Me:  Did you miss having a mother, Mum?

Mum:  Of course, darling.  On the day she died, I  asked God why he took my mummy away.  I was six.  Babby was only three.  I made up my mind to eat all my vegetables and grow strong, so I would be fit and well and never die and leave my children all alone.  But we had each other, it was a happy home.

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All six of us …

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Picture of Dixie Daddy on Mum’s autograph album
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1954.  Grandpa’s signature in Mum’s album:  S.C. Samuel.  He wrote:  “Let kind thoughts, words, wishes and deeds and the spirits thereof be ours and of those around us.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Church was an important part of family life.

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St. Paul’s Milagiriya, Colombo, where the Samuel family worshiped and most of the children and grandchildren (myself included) were married.  (Mum and Dad in bridal car, Beatrice’s wedding, 1961)
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Dad at St. Paul’s after morning service on his 80th birthday (2016)

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And faith.

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Malar Aunty wrote in Mum’s album in 1955: “Behind life’s darkest clouds, God’s love is always shining …”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

As cousins, we have childhood memories of our mothers and aunts talking for ages on the phone.  Cousin Dileeni and I often recreated these conversations – to loud applause and gales of laughter – at family-gathering kid-concerts, 

“How are you, dear?” ” Did Alice come today?”  “Can you believe the price of sugar these days?”

They couldn’t do without each other.            

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Sisters:  (Standing left to right) Pearl, Ruby, Elizabeth.  (Seated)  Beatrice

Time marched on. 

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Pearl and Sub (Dr & Mrs J.T. Subramaniam)
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Ruby and Prince (Dr & Mrs R.P. Rajakone)

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pearl and Ruby married their doctors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter and Dan sailed off to the United Kingdom to pursue engineering degrees.

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Dashing sportsman, artist, dreamer.  Uncle Peter (left) engineering student in  England. (1950s)
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A brilliant mind.  Uncle Dan (front left),  also engineering student, England (1950s)

   

             

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Uncle Dan never married.  There were whispers of a mysterious Swedish lady who  broke his heart.

         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mum kept house for Grandpa and played doting aunty to a growing circle of adoring nieces and  nephews.

They called her Bety …

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The tribe of Samuel grandchildren at Mum and Dad’s engagement party.  Waiting to be born: Sister and Me, and Shiro (Babby’s daughter)

Tragedy struck again.  Grandpa Shadrach died unexpectedly, after routine surgery.  He was only 63.  Mum was 19 years old, Babby just 16.        

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Newspaper clipping.  Obituary notice.

Shadrach and Mercy united in death, buried side by side ….

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Together forever, Shadrach and Mercy (Anglican Section, Kanatte Cemetry, Colombo)

Mum and Babby clung to each other –

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Beatrice and Elizabeth outside Westholme, Kinross Avenue, the sprawling family home by the sea
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Babby wrote in Mum’s autograph album:  “There’s no friend like a sister, in calm or stormy weather …” (Signed: Beth)
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Babby, an artist like her mother, probably painted this page for Mum
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Mum’s signature on her autograph album.  Her maiden name.
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Dr Elizabeth Samuel.  Congratulations!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter took over the headship of the firm.

Elizabeth attended medical school. 

Mum ran the family home for Uncle Peter, wrote wonderfully imaginative short stories that were published in the newspapers, taught Sunday School and created exquisite cakes for nieces and nephews, an abundance of relatives and friends. 

The artistic, thespian, writing/storytelling genes run strong in this family line …

 

…………………………………………………………

Grandpa was a man of faith, a praying man.

His example rubbed off.  Mum was a staunch believer in the power of prayer. 

I remember Sunday evenings with Mum at the old piano of her girlhood (now situated in her own home), singing the same beloved hymns she sang as a child.

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Mum taught Sister and Me this hymn

I remember us as little girls – Sister and I – kneeling by our beds as Mum taught us to pray.  I remember Mum reading from a book of devotionals, holding hands with Dad, Sister and Me (in our tiny school uniforms) and sending us off for the day with a prayer.

Sister and I often made fun, called her Saint Beatrice.

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Mum learned from Grandpa Shadrach. 

They prayed, things happened …

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Hanging in our home

               

   

   I learned from Mum.  

   Much older now, I’m an ardent              believer in  the mountain-moving        power of prayer.

     Faith we follow …

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Worked for Grandpa.  Worked for Mum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Just dialed long distance to talk to Babby – godmother, second mum — in Bethesda, Maryland. 

The pain of missing Mum is less when she and I talk …

Babby is the only one left.  She feels it badly.

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Elizabeth (left) and Beatrice (Babby and Bety).  Mum adored her baby sister.  Babby and Mum were close, right to the end of Mum’s life.

 

Asked about the size of the cot.  Says she slept in it till she was around eight years old. 

All six of us?  

It must have been a humongous piece of baby furniture!

 

 

Called Rajes Aunty some months back, posed questions about the family tree.  She snail-mailed  handwritten details from New York – 

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Appetizer.  Found the Newton/Perinpanayagam connection.  Thank you, Rajes Aunty!

Excited, more curious than ever!

Saw a picture of an ancestor on Facebook recently.

The Perinpanayagam connection, circa 1834  …

 Fascinated.  Impelled to dig deeper into the family tree. 

Mum’s second cousin, Thavo (Geo Uncle’s nephew), e-mailed more puzzle pieces from New Zealand –

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A snippet from a fairly lengthy document put together by Uncle Geo’s brother, Stephen Edgar R. Perinpanayagam.  

Cousin Thavo remembers the Noddy cake Mum made:  ” For my sixth birthday in 1959.  It had Noddy’s car and house and even had 2 milk bottles outside the house” …

Discovered that Grandpa Shadrach and Grandma Mercy were distant relatives.

An exhilarating peep into the past.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

It was misty this morning in Toronto. 

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View from front door

Much brighter/warmer in the land of our birth.

Alas for ugly politics, economics:  the clans are scattered worldwide.

Appetite whetted.  Must know more.

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So which came first, the chicken or the egg?
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The pictures fascinate me

 

 

 

 

 

 

These roots go deep.

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Stay  tuned.  More stories to come as more dots are joined.

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Until then,

sincerely

PS:  If you happen to be a branch/ twig/clipping of the Samuel/ Newton/ Perinpanayagam family trees and have old pictures/information, I’d love to hear from you. 

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… grandchildren AND great grand children!

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And I’d be delighted to share what I’ve gathered, with you.  

Thank you!

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All pictures in this post are clicks on Ipad and phone.

Good Morning Colombo!

”So what do you do with your time, Mom?” Daughter asks.

“You know me,” I reply.  “I find things to do.”

Daughter’s voice, all the way down the line from Toronto to Colombo, is as clear as a bell.  It’s a free call, thanks to Viber, What’s Ap and Magic Jack.

The suitcases come out of storage four weeks before.  I pack in spite of an unhappy Puppy

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and head for the airport and a month in Sri Lanka, to visit my Dad in the Land of Dreams.

Dad turned eighty on March 23rd. March 28th marked the first anniversary of Mum’s passing.

This is my dad, a good-looking octogenarian –

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                                             He’s adjusted remarkably well to  being alone.   I miss Mum.  


April is the hottest month in Sri Lanka, with soaring temperatures and stifling humidity.  A perpetual film of moisture clings to the skin. 

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It’s snowing  in Toronto. 

“Aren’t you bored, Mom?”  Other Daughter enquires a week later.

Me bored?  Never!

Meet the aunties who are not really my aunts.  (In the Land of Dreams everyone is your aunty or uncle.  It’s respectful.)  Aunty Romola lives on the third floor,  Aunty Amitha – her friend from Australia -lives  round the corner. 

The aunties and I walk every morning, just after dawn.

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Romola de Mel (left) and, Amitha Fernando

The Ipad and camera phone are an established part of my anatomy.  The aunties are very forebearing.

Pause.  Click.  Pause again.  Click.  Aunties shrug and move on.  Catch up at a trot …

“Stop!”

Aunties halt.

“Our shadows.  Look!  Don’t move.”

Aunties strike a pose.  Aim and tap.

“No backsides, please!”  Aunty Romola warns.garagedoorback

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The aunties and me

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have the routine down pat –

“Excuse me!” (That’s me in one of three languages) “May I take your picture?” …

“They probably agree just because you’re a woman,” my friend Suresh says when I show him my cache of pictures.

I never thought of that. 

Aunty Romola squeaks when she sees this one –

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“That’s my friend Sharmini’s maid!” she says. “Where did you find her?”

I e-mail the picture to Aunty Rom, who sends it on to her friend, who chides the sweet old lady for posing for a stranger.  “Don’t you know they do terrible things on the internet?”

The poor thing is horrified.


Aunty Rom looks over her shoulder.  “Did you get that?”

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Picking flowers

“I did!”    

Aunty Romola is beginning to see with my eyes

She points again. “Get that!”

That  is a line of tiny clothing hanging out to dry between a lamp post and a tree. 

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Not far away, a  beggar family is asleep on the tiled threshold of an upscale  store.

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More Colomber 3-at-dawn moments –

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Drink up, baby, it’s good for you!
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You want my picture?  Why?
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Friday,  it’s mosque day.
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Hope for another day
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A sound night’s sleep

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cripple

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All dressed up.  Tuk-tuk awaits
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Off to temple with mom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

nurses
On duty
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No school today

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Yep.  Just woke up.
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Early to school
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Before breakfast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(For more pictures go to Colombo Faces and Kollupitiya Places & Other Spaces)

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The city landscape is changing rapidy.  A handful of remembered landmarks from my girlhood remain –

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Lovely old colonial homes –

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colonialhome1colonialhome4

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are being torn down –

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to make way for more high-rises-

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View from Dad’s condo

 

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This is Mr C.R. de Silva, a friendly retiree from Washington, DC.  We often pass him and his wife on their morning stroll.  Today he’s pruning the greenery hanging over his garden wall.

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Chanaka Richard de Silva 

 

This charming gent delights and intrigues me with his impeccable English and private school accent –  

Iottobooth

(It must be over 40 degrees celsius inside the lottery ticket booth.) I ask about his family.  He tells me he’s single and lives alone.  He’s inclined to chat and I’d love to linger.  The lights change,  time to cross Duplication Road. The aunties urge me on.


I ask Dad about Dr Chinniah, who was my dentist when I was a girl (too long ago).   Is he still in practice? 

Aunty Romola and I bump into Dr.  Chinniah on Galle Road.  

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Dr Nithi Chinniah (left) with Aunty Romola

Only in Sri Lanka!

Doyne and Sunitha are my neighbours in Canada –

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Doyne and Sunitha Seneviratne

They

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during the cold months,

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La dolce vita …                

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Kiri bath and all the accompaniments, fresh mango for dessert

I partake of a sumptuous breakfast and warm Sri Lankan hospitality in their fabulous home.


This year Sri Lanka celebrates the Sinhala and Tamil New Year on April 13th and 14th.   It’s all about the astrologically pre-determined auspicious time.

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For days the metropolis of Colombo becomes a ghost-town.  I stand in the middle of Galle Road, the capital’s normally traffic-choked main thoroughfare, to take pictures.

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Overnight showers have done nothing to ease the stickiness.  The streets glisten with pretty puddles.

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Aunty Romola suggests we pop in at Aunty Christine-and-Uncle Chandi’s for a quick visit.  Their home is along our route.    

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Chandi and Christine Chanmugam

Aunty Christine is my cousin Dileeni’s mother-in-law and Aunty Rom’s cousin (and not my aunt at all!). It’s 7:15 am. They are a charming couple, gracious and welcoming, notwithstanding the early hour.  They’ve been married for sixty plus years.  I meet them for the first time. We stay for fifteen minutes.  

Aunty Romola and I walk home holding cinnamon branches from Uncle Chandi’s well tended garden. They’ll serve as plant-props on Aunty ‘s balcony.

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Cinnamon branch shadows

Dad sometimes takes an evening stroll at Independence Square.

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and I accompany him.  Dusk is falling when  I happen upon this sweet old lady and her son.

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Mom and her boy

She beams when he tells me her age.  She’s ninety something years old.

This young family is happy to pose –

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Chip off the old block

I click and I head towards the walking track to get this one –

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Evening prayers (zoomed in from a distance)

and  collide into my once-upon-a-time friend, Piyali.  Piyali and I met (too many) years ago at a cooking class for young ladies.  I’ve often wondered where she was.

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Piyali Dissanayake 

We recognize each other instantly. I puff and pant to keep up as, never pausing, she sends me a friend request on Facebook and enters all my contact details into her phone.  It’s boiling hot,  I’m wilting.  

I find out that Piyali’s in Colombo for a few days.  She shuttles between Sri Lanka and Abu Dhabi, where her husband works. The timing of our meeting is amazing.  She hasn’t changed one bit. She’s a mother-in-law now.    


Dad shows me a copy of the family tree on his mother’s side.  It dates back to 1670.  I find Aunty Romola on it, so I guess she’s sort of an aunt after all!


imaginetheimpossiblebuysrilankan

 

 

 

givewingstoyourdreams

widenyourworld

allofsrilanka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

barefootsign

foot

 

 

 

 

 

meshadow
That’s me!

                         

suninhereyes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


flowersonwall
Morning Glory

goodmorningbeauty

girl1
At Katunayake International Airport
girl2
Katunayake International Airport

homeofgoodtea

girl3


Aunty Amitha messages me on Facebook .  She’s back in Melbourne.  

It’s spring again in Toronto.  The suitcases are unpacked.  I’m home.  

Puppy is pleased.

puppyunpacking


I close my eyes and dream of Paradise.  It’s such a long plane ride away.

paradiseroadgalleries

paradise foodcourt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s something about Sri Lanka.  It’s …

divine

To Paradise Island, land of endless summer, land of my birth –

IMG_6377

sincerely

 

Share the love, like this page and follw.   Until next time …