Our Present Past (1)

“So what do you want to know?” she enquired.

“Everything,” I replied.

She chuckled. “Okay.  How much information do you have already?”

“Bits and pieces.  There’s a newspaper clipping  …”

“What does it say?”

“According to Rev. Donald Kanagaratnam who wrote an article which was published in the Morning Star, a young man named Kadirgamar Danvers from Tellipalai was baptized into the Christian faith in 1835. The villagers, angered by the conversion, burned the local church down.  Danvers fled to the village of Panditherruppu, where he met and married Anna Saveriyal.”

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A clipping of the article by Rev. Donald Kanagratanam published in 1981 in the Morning Star (courtesy Eric Perinpanayagam).  The Morning Star was the oldest English newspaper in Jaffna, established by the American missionaries in 1841.

“There was a lot of missionary activity in Panditherruppu at the time.  They were more tolerant towards the converts,” she explained.

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The American Mission Church in Tellipalai, Jaffna (prior to civil war damage and reconstruction)

 

“According to Rev. Canagaratnam, Kadirgamar Danvers and Anna had seven children.  One of them was Solomon Danvers,who trained as a medical practitioner under the famous Dr. Green of Manipay.  An old Bible geneology that came into my possession recently, makes mention of only four offspring.”  

 

The children of Kadirgamar and Anna Danvers (as recorded in the Bible of Solomon Samuel, their great grandson) –

  • David Danvers (married Harriet  Theivanei)
  • Solomon Danvers (married Thangam Vethanayagam)
  • Jane Elizabeth Danvers (married Joshua Perinpanayagam)
  • Gabriel Danvers (married Mary Santiago)

 David Danvers (son of Kadirgamar and Anna) married Harriet Theivanei.

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Victoria Harriet (Theivenei) Danvers  (courtesy Vasanthi Narendran)
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1. Gabriel Danvers and wife, Mary (nee Santiago)     2.  Gabriel’s son and wife – Alfred Muttiah Danvers and Archimuttu – with their daughter                         3. Albert Seevaratnam Danvers and his sister, Muttamma, children of Gabriel’s brother, Solomon Danvers (from notes by the late Rev. Donald Kanagaratnam)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The children of David and Harriet Danvers –

  • Mary Chellammah Danvers (married Vethanayagam Samuel)
  • Elizabeth Annamma Danvers (married Jacob Arumainayagam)
  • Rebecca Ponnamma Danvers (married Samuel Alfred Perinpanayagam)

 “Mary Chellammah married Vethanayagam Samuel, who was your great grandfather,” she said.  “Her sister, Rebecca Ponnamma, married Samuel Alfred Perinpanayagam. Samuel Alfred’s father was Joshua Perinpanayagam, who married Jane Elizabeth Danvers, (the daughter of Kadirgamar and Anna), David Danvers’ sister.”

My head begins to swim in a muddle of recurring last names …

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Mary Chellammah Samuel (nee Danvers) (From the archives of Rev. Donald Kanagaratnam)
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Rebecca Ponnamma Perinpanayagam (nee Danvers) (far left) (1901 Uduvil Female Seminary matriculation class. She obtained a Queen’s Scholarship on the results of the Calcutta Matriculation examination.  Her mother and she were among the earliest batches to graduate from Uduvil Girls School, established by American Missionaries in 1841) ( Courtesy Eric Perinpanayagam)
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Samuel Alfred and Rebecca Ponnamma (nee Danvers) Perinpanayagam (courtesy Eric Perinpanayagam)
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Samuel Alfred Chelladurai Perinpanayagam, at age 25 (born 1872)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Ah … so that’s the Perinpanayagam connection.  And Rebecca Ponnamma Danvers and Samuel Alfred Perinpanayagam were first cousins,” I commented.  “There’s a link to the Newtons, too, I noticed …”

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Family tree notes from the files of S.E.R. Perinpanayagam (son of Rebecca Ponnamma and Samuel Alfred Perinpanayagam) (Courtesy Thavo Perinpanayagam)
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Samuel Alfred and Rebecca (Danvers) Perinpanayam with their children and Rebecca’s mother, Harriet (Theivanei) Danvers (from the archives of the late Rev. Donald Kanagaratnam)

“There have been Danvers/Perinpanayagam/ Newton marriages over a few generations,” she replied. “My mother told me the old stories.  Now I can pass them on to you and they won’t die with me. I’m so happy you are doing this.” 

Her eyes grew misty.

I’m visiting the Colombo home of Aunty Paranidhi, Mum’s cousin.  We’ve just met for the first time.  She responds with ease to my barrage of questions  …

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Aunty Paranidhi, a goldmine of ancecstral history.  I managed to snatch two more visits during my brief stay in Colombo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My journey of inquiry commenced shortly after Mum’s funeral in 2015, when I came across a battered copy of a formal family portrait from the 1930’s.

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The photograph that began it all.  Shadrach Samuel, wife Mercy (nee Newton) and their children, taken before the birth of their youngest child, Elizabeth.  Left to right: Ruby, Pearl, Dan (seated), Peter. Beatrice is the toddler held by her father.

Faded photos on relatives’ Facebook pages – fascinating pictures of men and women from generations gone by – fanned curiosity to a compelling flame. 

The search began. 

I embarked on a voyage of e-mails, long distance calls and some stamped, addressed pieces of snail mail. Pictures, obituary notices, genealogies and newspaper clippings poured in from all corners of the globe.  Through Facebook introductions, Whats App texts and hand-written letters, relatives contacted each other on my behalf, and people I’d only heard of by name leapt onto the ancestry bandwagon.

An inundation of images and information descended on me.  Tantalizing clues, fascinating glimpses into a bygone colonial culture and whispers of a skeleton or two in the ancestral cupboards. Riveting.  The stuff bestselling novels are made of.

The first stop on the trail led me to Wellawatte (Colombo, Sri Lanka) and Aunty Paranidhi.  Her eyesight is almost non-existent, but her mind is razor-sharp, her recollection flawless. I see pieces of my mother in the facial features.  The family resemblance is evident. 

My pen flies across the pages of the notebook I balance on my lap …

“So Mary Chellammah – David and Harriet Danvers’ daughter – was given in marriage to Vethanayagam Subramaniam Samuel.  He was a farmer who owned land in Urumbrai – 

Vethanayagam Samuel and Mary Chellammah had six children –

  • Rebecca Chinnamah (married David Sinniah Kanagaratnam)
  • Subramaniam Chelliah (married Annam)
  • Shadrach Chinniah Samuel (married Mercy Sugirtharatnam Newton)
  • Elizabeth Thangamma (married Godwin Wesley Sittampalam)
  • Anna Chinnathangam (married Albert Kanthapoo)
  • Solomon Chinnatamby Samuel (married Mercy Atputhanayagam Gnanaratnam)
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Subramaniam V. Chelliah
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Rebecca Ponnamma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Elizabeth Thangamma
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Shadrach Chinniah
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Anna Chinnathangam
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Solomon Chinnathamby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Aunty Renee found handwritten notes in her father’s Bible  – that’s the Bible I mentioned.  She sent me scanned copies of the geneologies recorded on the fly leaf.  My heart almost stopped when I saw how the entries confirm the details set out in Uncle Donald’s article.  Just imagine, how information from a source in Australia confirms the data acquired from another source in Western Canada! Within weeks of each other.  It has to be providence!”

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Handwritten family records from great uncle Solomon Samuel’s Bible

“Your interest is inspiring,” she commented. “No one seems to care about these things these days. Renee is Solomon Chinnathamby’s daughter. He had ten children.  She is my first cousin.”

 “Yes, I know. I remember great uncle Solomon Samuel and the annual Christmas visits to his home in Mutwal. 

“Anna and Solomon were twins,” she continued.  “Shadrach Chinniah was your grandfather.  Anna Chinnathangam was my mother.  And Rebecca Chinnammah was the mother of Rev. Donald Kanagaratnam who wrote the article you told me about.  He was my cousin and your mother’s.”

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Rev. Donald Kanagaratnam (standing) with his sisters and mother, Rebecca Ponnamma

“According to the genealogy in the Bible, Anna Saveriyal – Kadirgamar Danvers’ wife – was a Bible Woman,” I noted.

“Bible women worked among the women in the village.  They visited the homes, shared the gospel of their faith and cared for them,” she explained.

“I remember your mother,” I said. “We called her Asai Granny. She came to stay with us once when I was about seven years old.  I remember the glasses and the white hair knotted at the back of her head.  She taught me how to make a rag rug with strips of leftover material and a hairpin.  I never forgot that.”

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Anna Chinnathangam (Asai Granny) as I remember her

 

 

 

Aunty picks up the threads of her narrative …

“Vethanayagam Samuel, a successful farmer, wanted more land.  After the birth of his two oldest children, he relocated his family to Vavuniya in the undeveloped Vanni region of the northern province of Jaffna.  In those days, people of the Vanni were considered wild and uncouth, even the British avoided the area, so land was dirt cheap. Samuel disposed of his property in Urumbirai, and with the proceeds from the sale, invested in several acres in Vavuniya. He built a house for his growing family and began to cultivate the land.

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Jaffna province in northern Sri Lanka (Ceylon)

Once established and beginning to prosper, Samuel encouraged his brother and family move to Vavuniya and make a new life for themselves. The brother sold his land in Urumbrai and purchased the stretch of property adjoining Samuel’s fields. The families became neighbours.

Vethanayagam Samuel distinguished himself as a prominent citizen and earned the respect of his peers.  He was appointed chairman of the village council, which was a position of authority and responsibility.

The were no proper roads in the region.  Daily journeys on foot could involve traversing stretches of jungle inhabited by snakes and wild animals.  Legend has it that Samuel was skilled in the art of herbal medicine and would venture into the jungle in search of plants for his potions.

The farming life called for disciplined manual labour.  The older children, still all under ten, had to wake up at dawn each day to perform assigned chores.

Rebecca Chinnammah had the unenviable job of cleaning out the cattle shed.  One morning she pretended to be asleep and refused to be roused.  Her father, whose task it was to wake her up, finally declared, “If my child is really asleep, her feet will move.”

Rebecca reacted as expected and wiggled her toes.  She received a spanking for her naughtiness and was shooed out of bed to complete her daily task.

The twins – Anna and Solomon – were born in Vavuniya.  During the pregnancy, an astrologer made a grim proclamation.  He declared that the birth would not be a good omen and would bring about the untimely demise of both parents (Samuel and Mary).

Solomon showed no signs of life when he was born.  The midwife placed the tiny body on a banana leaf outside on the open verandah of the home and rushed back inside to attend to the mother who had gone into labour with a second baby – a twin – whose appearance was an unexpected surprise.  Rebecca, the oldest child, sat beside the lifeless form of her new little brother, shedding tears over the loss.  Providence intervened when a fly settled on the infant, who shuddered in response and began to bawl loudly as if nothing had been the matter. 

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Solomon Samuel in his twilight years.  He lived to a ripe old age and was known for his vigour and boundless energy.

Custom dictated that on the thirty-first day after the delivery of a chid, a traditional ceremony of cleansing (thudakku kaliththal in Tamil) must be carried out.  The woman who had given birth would take a ritual herbal bath and the house had to be washed and cleaned from top to bottom.

Vethanayagam Samuel and his wife were about to begin the task of house-cleansing when a message came from the village counsel.  Samuel was needed to arbitrate on a matter involving a dispute.  Samuel sent word asking to be excused. He requested that the vice chairman to act on his behalf.

A second summons came.  The matter was urgent, they said.  His presence was mandatory.

Samuel left home on the mission of mediation, assuring his wife he would return in an hour.  He conferred with both parties and reached a verdict.  The disgruntled man who hadn’t been favoured by the decision, reached for a weapon concealed in his clothing and struck a heavy blow.  Samuel’s head split open.  Never pausing to retaliate, Samuel re-tied his turban and headed home. Blood gushed down from the wound in his head.

He passed a pond (kulam) as he walked, and saw the family dhoby (washerman) scrubbing his way through a pile of villgers’ clothing.  Samuel stepped in to cool off and dipped his head in the water.  The dhoby, concerned to see how the water turned crimson from the blood, reached for some fresh-washed clothing spread out on the ground to dry.  Samuel shed his blood-stained linen, donning the clean sarong (veshti) and turban offered by the dhoby. He walked into the house to his waiting wife, stepped over the threshold and announced that he was ready to start cleaning. Then, barely pausing for breath, Vethanayagam Samuel collapsed at her feet and died.

In an instant Mary Chellammah Samuel found herself a widow with six young children on her hands.  Rebecca – the oldest – was 10, the twins – Solomon and Anna – were barely a month old.

Rebecca Chinnammah, a child herself, had to take charge of a brood of fatherless siblings while her mother attempted to salvage the pieces of their shattered lives.

(To be continued)

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Good Morning Jaffna!

Dear Judy,

The snow’s piled up outside.                                          

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This morning’s view through kitchen door.
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My friend, Judy Starrit (seated), who lives in Beaver Banks, Nova Scotia.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Just the beginning …

Summer still clings to my head in spite of the skeletal trees brooding outside my window.

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There’s a desolate ugly-beauty about leafless tress 
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Sigh …
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Not if I had any choice in the matter …

Okay, so returning to warmer times in sunny climes …

We are now in Jaffna, Judy.  Part Two of our virtual travels  together, you and I —

Click here to read  Good Morning (Again) Colombo! (Dear Judy, Part 1) …

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This is the island of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean, the tear drop at the foot of the sub-continent of  India.  The pink shaded area in north is the Jaffna peninsula where our ancestors hail from.

We drove into Tellippalai where Dad’s parents settled on their return to Ceylon (Sri Lanka’s pre-republic name) from the British colony of Malaya, shortly after World War II. Grandpa, a communications officer under the British government, took up the post of Airport Controller in the neighbouring town of Palaly.

Ghosts of war-time devastation lined our route.   Cringing skeletons of  bombed out buildings still haunt this once-upon-a-time ghost town. 

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Tellipallai was subjected to merciless bombing, in an ugly game of political tit-for-tat 

 

 

 

 

 A trickle of former war regugees are returning after decades of absence.  Several  unclaimed properties are now in government hands …

Desolate brick-and-motar wraiths of buildings steadfastly guard their ground –

So on day three of our odyssey, Husband and I found ourselves  at the entrance of the graveyard attached to the Church of the American Ceylon Mission.

The rubble of shattered gravestones poked their way through tall vegetation, thorny underbrush and rope-like vines.   A tangled tatch of tropical  jungle.

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The entrance to the graveyard-turned-jungle.  A short way down the road from the church.
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Rope-like vines with broken bits of tombstone peeping through the undergrowth

 

 

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Yikes! How trustworthy is the church caretaker who said there were no snakes?

But I have to tell you first about the journey leading up to this moment, Judy.  

So this is how it came about …

Husband and I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to visit our ancestral homelands in the Jaffna Peninsula, a war zone for decades and only recently open to tourists.

How to figure out the details in such a short space of time?

I remembered Yamindra Watson Perera of Jungle Fowl Leisure Planners

Yamindra Watson Perera, partner at Jungle Fowl.  Her cousin told me about this adventurous new start up.

— and presented my wish list to Mariesz, her assistant. A demanding cut-and-paste itinerary, a combination of every location in the area associated with family history and lore.  Neither lady turned a hair.

Until …

Mariesz:  No.  So sorry, we are still in the process of setting up our site for online payments.   IMG-20171215-WA0002

Me: (wailing) But I don’t have time to go to the bank!

Yamindra and Mariesz showed up at Dad’s condo the next afternoon, with Accountant Lady and credit card machine in tow.

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The Jungle Fowl team: Yamindra Watson Perera (left), Mariesz Ebert (centre) with the credit card machine, smiling lady accountant (right)

Impressive service or what?

All booked and paid up by the time Husband flew in from Toronto.

Still pitch-dark.  Growling clouds burped and released a deluge as we drove away.     

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Droplets on car window as day awakes 
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Sunrise over cocunut trees

 

Rest stop and a scalding pot of Ceylon tea in the ancient city of Anuradhapura

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Tea at Seedevi Family Restaurant, brewed the Sri Lankan way — strong, with loads of sugar and condensed milk.  No time to linger unfortunately.
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Nirangan, our driver/guide, sips his tea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Searing heat.

And it’s well past the hottest time of year …

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Brave tourists on bikes, mopping moisture off their persons
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Go girls! Ladies on scooters and mo’bikes.  The pillion rider is texting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Landscape grows arid, parched and thirsty.

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The Jaffna peninsula’s signature palmyrah palm thrives where no greenery would dare
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Gasping to grow …

 

 

 

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Salt farms along the coastal line.
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Post-war reconstruction has produced impressive roads. Highway skirts the ocean and rail route

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A paradox-panorama of war and peace as we fly by –

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Memories of war – Concrete water tower resting on its side.  Toppled over by the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam) militants.
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Monument to peace – the island of Lanka supported by multiple hands, the national flag in full flutter

Crossed Elephant Pass, a sliver of strait connecting the northern province to the rest of the island, sandwiched on either side by shallow stretches sea.

Welcome to Jaffna, the traditional homeland of the Tamil people  …                    

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Finally the Lion of Lanka has united the troubled northern region (where once flew the  Tamil Tiger Flag)  with its southern brethren.
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Approaching Elephant Pass

Zipped through Vavuniyya, then Chavakacheheri —

 — and on to Jaffna town.  

A different ambiance manifests beyond Elephant pass.   It’s unique, distinct.

Ladies on bicycles

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Don’t forget the handbag. Multi-tasking with ease!

— scooters and motorbikes –

Neatly draped sarees and all …

Scooters/ motorbikes are the new, affordable middle class family vehicles –

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Not a single car to be seen in this parking lot

 

 

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Gentleman clad in traditional sarong, climbing nimbly on 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A plethora of Hindu temples at every corner –

Temple architecture is typically South Indian …

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… and dozens more under construction.  (Protective ‘cadjan’ screens made of coconut leaves)

 

 

 

 

 

Ancient deities –

– worshipped in nooks and under spreading trees –

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Ancient (could this one be from as far back as a thousand years, I wonder) and …
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… relatively modern.  An occasional Roman Catholic icon in a glass box.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sages and ascetics, some long dead ..

… and some still very much alive —

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Those burning eyes …

A distinct, bright South Indian flavour in the traditional women’s fashions –

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The mannequins in the shop windows are very European-looking!

One-of-a-kind cuisine –

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Couldn’t  get enough of thosai (crisp, savoury crepes) with its spicy, vegetarian accompaniments
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Vadai (savoury ‘donuts’ with a hole in the middle) for sale in display case

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Holy’ cows roam the streets unchallenged —

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Foraging for food in a pile of garbage
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All dressed up and nowhere to go.  Wearing a coronet of green leaves and tethered to the premises of an ancient temple undergoing reconstruction

 

 

 

 

Ubiquitous stray dogs- 

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… or in packs. (These guys growled and barked as we walked by, till someone stepped in and shooed them off. Thoughts of dog-bites and rabies made for some unpleasant momentsn
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By themselves (this one has made a hollow in the soil and slumbers unperturbed in the hot sun as hundreds of people mill around him ) …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 A conservative culture still –

Check out  the sign, Judy.  Chuckling with you …

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In three languages. Wise up, folks! Big brother is watching you … 

Discreet couples sneak into quiet corners away from the prying eyes …

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… and somehow a stray dog will find you!
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With a  cellphone, of course …

A certain demureness about the young women.  Untainted grace and elegance.

Long tresses, often worn in a single braid, still the order of the day  –

Post-war phenomena: 

(1) Shopping malls boasting …

… beauty parlours and bright billboards 

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For the emancipated post-war woman ..
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... and a banner advertising lingerie. (Someone must be blushing!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(2) Supermarkets –

Shopping in airconditioned comfort versus haggling over prices at the local market …

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Bombay onions and manioc (cassava) – locally grown produce

(3) Upscale tourist hotels –

(4) Mobile phones –

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Hunched over and lost to the world. The universal body language of the millennial
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Even on temple premises …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(5) … and Tom Cruise!

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Niranjan slowed down to point out the ruins of the old Kachcheri –

The bombed remains of the Kachecheri (district secretariat), a maginificent Dutch-era seat of administration.  It’s modern replacement sits across the street ..

and other landmarks around town :

 –   The Jaffna Public Library and clock tower –

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The Jaffna library, home to priceless ancient ola leaf manuscrips, was burned down in the ethnic conflict.   This is the rebuilt, state-of-the-art building.
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Old clocktower undergoing restoration

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sangilian (died 1623), bloodthirsty last ruler of the Jaffna Kingdom,  overthrown by the Portugese colonial lords
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Sangliliyan’s ‘thoppu’ in Nallur,  gateway to the Kingdom of Jaffna.  All that remains of old glory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lingered awhile in the amazingly well- preserved home of King Sangilian’s minister.  

How it survived the war is a mystery …

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This treasure of cultural history squats unannounced and uncared for.  There’s no charge to go in, no one to supervise visitors.  A hang out spot for the town’s bored youth, who probably are responsible for the graffitti smearing the walls.

 

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The  architecture takes my breath away

 

 

 

 

 

 

  – The teaching hospital

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–  And ever-present phantoms of the past

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Haunting memorial.The shell of a torched train sits at the very end of the rail route to the north.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remains of once-magnificent Dutch-era architecture –

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This beauty is being renovated to serve as a banquet hall

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(Click here to take a haunting walk through the shattered ruins of an old Dutch-period mansion.)

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Carefully slid camera under barbed wire fence to get this one.  No one could identify the sprawling ruins, probably a palace, across the street from our hotel.  The damage is definitely pre-war, from ceturies of neglect.  Thick tree trunks grow out of remnants of walls.

No fanfare or signage for many ancient abandoned Hindu worship-places squatting by the roadside  –

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A sense of unhurried uncomplexity about life in this region.   As if it’s just awakening from a long sleep.

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Manual labourers off to work with a ‘mammoty’ an implement that has served generations before them.
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Just chillin’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pausing in traffic to chat with a pal

 

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Only a dog in sight. Patiently awaiting customers

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Questions of life.  All the time in the world to ponder 
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Gentle afternoon stroll

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Time to share some news.  Cops are people too, you know …

Fluorescent lights, after-sundown markets and shops groaning with made-in-China and other items in varying violent shades of neon –

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Brisk sales at the food carts 
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Intriguing shop sign: For Guys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tailor pauses to pose
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Business booms at the mobile phone centre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The three-storey Rio Ice Cream parlour with its wide variety of modestly-priced sundaes, is the place to visit these days.  

A constant stream of tourists spill out of loaded buses …

The place is popular with couples anxious to hide from nosey parkers.

In a culture of arranged marriages, young women have to be cautious about ‘spoiling’ their names and ruining future ‘chances’ …

Popped in at Aunty Sothy’s old house, occupied for years by the LTTE and then the military.  Street numbers and names have changed.  It took some locating.

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Kind lady who answered the door, let us in and showed us around.  The house looked different from when I visted last at age 16
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An eyesore of a concrete underground bunker, legacy of the LTTE , occupies most of the backyard

 

 

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Ice-cream pink outhouse now serves as a storeroom

Then on to some vanishing landmarks of the LTTE –

 –  The unmarked site of the slain Tamil Tiger leader, Prabhakaran’s home –   

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Government forces have flattened the house of the slain Tamil Tiger founder and leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran. A flat, scrubby, weed-ridden property is all there is to see.
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Determined not to forget. Graffiti in Tamil on the boundary wall stubbornly proclaims the name of the former  LTTE head

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

– and the remains of a Tamil Tiger  war-themed children’s playground   –

Built for children raised to hate and kill.  Sent unpleasant chills up my back  …

Must-see tourist spots –

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Supposedly bottomless, this water source has recently been found to have a depth of around 150 metres.  The site, like most tourist spots in this area, is still unglamourous and free of tawdry tourist ‘hoopla’. 
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Steps leading back up from the well

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The legend goes that a princess who was born with a horse-face, was instructed by a sage to bathe in this pool.  She obeyed and supposedly emerged from the waters  with  a normal woman’s face ..

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… She was worshipped as a goddess and a Hindu temple  erected on the site.  Note the horse faces on the standing statues
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17th century Portugese-era fortifications, now undergoing intense government-sponsored restoration
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The fort was a high-security zone during the war.  A part of it is still occupied by the military.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Fort Hammenhiel  –
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    Approach to Fort Hammenhiel (literally heel of Ham), the old Duch Fort on a little island, a short way from the coastline.  It’s now a hotel/ resort operated by the navy.   
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    Fortifications of fortress visible from the mainland beach

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a more evident Buddhist presence these days, in this former enclave of Hinduism –

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Sunday morning service at St John’s Church, Chundikuli, where Mum’s parents were married –

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St. John The Baptist Anglican Church, a victim of war, recently restored and modernized .

 

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Sung communion in Tamil.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Click here to sing along in Tamil with the congregation of St John’s …

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Friendly assistant curate
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The congregation files outside after service, to shake hands with the officiating ministers and linger for a cup of tea.  Lovely, leisured provincial customs 

 

 

The minister gave us access to old vestry records …

The ones that survived …

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Turn back time …  records and updates continue to be written by hand
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Husband and I both recognized names from our family trees in the surviving graveyard records.  Amazing …

 

 

 

 

 

… and introduced us to David, who led us to the little churchyard –

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David, the church sexton, who remembered husband’s great uncle and aunt in the village of Kopay
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David unlocks the gate, warning that the graveyard has sustained damage and been neglected for years.
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Handwrittenrecords in hand, David searches for our ancestors’ graves …

 

 

 

 

 

… and pointed out tombs and monuments of interest –

 

Such a thrill to locate the site of Mum’s grandpa Charles’  grave …

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Niranjan invited us to visit his ancestral home.

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A pause to pick up the  keys from his aunt, and Nirangan drove us to this beauty of early 1900s architecture
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A typcial central courtyard, with doorways leading into the rooms around it.
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Wood-burning hearth in the kitchen
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Antique furniture in the bedrooms

 

 

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Outhouse.  The home has no indoor plumbing.
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Well for bathing and drinking water

 

 

     

 

 

He shrugged  when I enquired enthusiastically if there were plans for restoration and renovations in the near future.

“Who has the money?”  

Framed family photos still adorn the walls, dusty books distintegrate on cupboard shelves, clothing and kichen untensils scattered on  the floor  while a rusty parrot cage languishes in the yard outside –

Signs of hasty retreat …

Me: Is there any bitterness in your heart, Nirangan?  

Niranjan:  No.  The people of the north accept that war is a political machine.  Soldiers are paid to do a job and follow orders.  Without acceptance and forgiveness, there is no way of moving on. Besides, we are tired of war and the stagnation it brings.”

Niranjan was born into war, a child  of the horrendous ethnic conflict that saw a death toll of over one hundred thousand civilians.  His eyes clouded over when he described the growing up years without electricity or leisure activities, when he had to do his homework by the light of a kerosene-fuelled hurricane lamp.  When there were no sounds of boys playing cricket in the dirt lanes outside the garden gates.  When no one dared step into the dusty streets after sundown. When schools ceased to operate, childhood ceased to exist and young people disappeared, never to be seen again. When every young man was suspected of being a terrorist and subjected to  unspeakable horrors, or seen as a potential recruit for the Tamil Tiger cause and expected to perpetrate such horrors.

He talked of  the time he was conscripted into the LTTE, months before the end of the war –

Against his will …

– and  when the militants surrendered and the army closed in.  The memories grew ugly and burdensome. He changed the subject.

Sometimes the eyes speak what the lips cannot utter.  There’s a heaviness in the air …

Nirangan:  No more tears.   Why dwell on the past?  Sinhalese is spoken on the streets as much as the Tamil language now.    

I asked if I could write his story and he  agreed to sit down and talk the next time I visited Sri Lanka.

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Driver/guide Niranjan outside the ancestral home in his village, built in the early nineteen hundreds.  His brothers and sisters all reside in the west.  He opted to return to the land of his birth from where he’d fled, to take care of his widowed mother. 

I purchased a hurricane lamp –

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This blue kerosine oil lamp sits on my dressing table
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Bought it from this soft-spoken vendor who respectifully bore with my halting Tamil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A souvenir to remember the many years determined young people of Niranjan’s generation excelled academically despite deprivations and hindrances …

And now I should return to the beginning and the jungle-graveyard in Tellipalai, shouldn’t I?   But I’m all out of time, Judy.  I’m so sorry.  In the next post, I promise. Probably not until after the New Year though. 

Tons of Christmas stuff still to get done .  I’m really behind this year …

If you should happen to know anyone who’s thinking of exploring Sri Lanka in an off-the-beaten-track sort of way,  I would recommend Jungle Fowl.  The service is personal and prompt.  The team is with it, knowledgeable and passionate. An exciting, different kind of travel service, to be sure.

                                        

Stay warm, my friend.  Loving this country as I do, the tropics still run in my veins.  I’d be happy to remain indoors from December all the way to March, if I had the choice.

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Passionate crusader and spokesperson for ALS. (Judy holding her mixing bowl and rubber chicken spoon. Someone’s coming to borrow it.)  Click here to read Judy’s story in Love Those Bhangra Boys!
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A math teacher once upon a time, she inspires with her positivity and passion for groanworthy puns.  Judy communicates by typing on an Ipad-type tablet she calls her ‘boogie board’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So thankful for the freedom we take so much for granted in this wonderful country of my adoption.  

God keep our land, glorious and free,

 Oh, Canada we stand on guard for thee …

Merry Christmas, my inspiring friend.  You are a truly remarkable lady.

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Merry Christmas.  Peace on earth, goodwill to all … 
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Rainbows  downstairs, on the Reason for the Season. 

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking of you with affection.  

All my love until next time,

sincerely

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