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I mention here a shortlived pleasure, seeing my father’s old friend Neville Kanakaratne in Galle, where he was now Governor of the Southern Province.

I mention too a delightful colleague whom I have to confess I had forgotten till I started going through my diaries. This was Chris Mead, an elderly utterly conscientious volunteer from England, who entered actively into the spirit of the place.

The pictures are of the Samanalawewa dam and the spill, a most enchanting sight.

Old and new friends

Next morning I went to Getamanna for the annual family almsgiving, and looked at the Madola land and spoke to the relation who had started a project for my father and done well. But he had then fallen ill, and indeed looked frail now, and the chap who had taken over was not as competent which was why my father was glad that I was taking it over.

I spent the night at the old family house and then went to Galle to have lunch with Neville at the Governor’s residence, and spent the night there, after a lovely evening with him over drinks and dinner. I had lunch with him the next day too, having marked papers in the morning as I had done the previous afternoon, and then I went to the Tangalle and Ambalantota GELTs in the afternoon, with the night at the Hambantota Resthouse. We left after lunch the next day but found the GELT at Kataragama was not functioning, so we went on to Buttala to see Mrs Siriwardena before going to the Wellawaya Saranga Inn for the night.

Next day we had to negotiate our way round an earthslip at Koslanda, but we got to the university where I met a delightful elderly lady, Chris Mead, whom VSO had sent to us. We had interviews that day and next morning for new staff, and then left after lunch with Chandra and Shantha and his wife and another elderly lecturer who had joined us, Ms Guniyangoda, stopping at the Ratnapura GELT to leave papers and at Tharanjee’s.

I was at home for the next three days, which cemented the bond between Ricky and me. I have recorded taking him outside on all three nights, for he had once peed in my room. But he never did that again, and in all respects was a model companion.

On the Friday I stayed at home, but worked at Nirmali’s on the Saturday and Sunday, and then on the Sunday evening went back with Kithsiri to the university. Teaching started the next day for the new term, and there was much of it while I also had to adjust timetables, before I left on Thursday May 7th, with Priyantha, visiting the Balangoda GELT on the way. The next two nights I record again taking Ricky outside, but I was out for work a lot, and then on Saturday I went with my sister and her family to the university and gave them the usual tour of the campus and the dam the next day. This was the Vesak holiday so they stayed till the Tuesday, and on the Wednesday there was only administration before classes the next day.

I introduce here my plans for an English project at Madola, the estate in his home village of Getamanna which my father had bought; and also the momentous arrival at Lakmahal of Ricky.

The second picture is of the much loved Haputale Resthouse.

New initiatives

There was more to check over during the next two days, but on the Tuesday afternoon I visited the Bandarawela and Welimada GELTs and stayed the night at the Haputale Resthouse. Next day I was back at the university, when I had to work with the staff on widely disparate Continuous Assessment marks, for while Nirekha and I wanted to increase the weight of such assessment, we also realized that staff needed training in ensuring that it was equitable.

There was more of this the next day, and a dinner for Somasundara that night, after which I went to Colombo to welcome my new puppy who had been delivered the previous day. He had spent that night on his own in the upstairs lounge, but having dubbed him Ricky I took him down to my room as I arrived. That in time became his home and he soon realized he and I belonged to each other, but this first meeting for only for one night. For the next day, after a lot of running around, including to the Sri Lanka Canada Development Fund about support for a project at Getamanna, I left for Thailand and Nepal, after dinner for Ena at Nirmali’s.

I got back on April 15th and next day, having dropped in at the FNS, Kithsiri and I took Nirmali as well as Chandra and Priyantha to the university. We made arrangements the next day for the workshop and then had two days of intensive teaching for our MA students over the weekend. On the Sunday we had got the distinguished Civil Servant Dharmasiri Peiris to speak on the general requirements of such a course, which was also in English and Administration, and he took Nirmali to Colombo while I worked that night on a book of criticism on post-colonial literature which came out as Inside Limits.

Administration over the next week was the more complicated because we also had to work out procedures for external work, the degrees as well as the GELT, Then on the Wenesday I went via the Ratnapura and Eheliyagoda GELTs to leave papers, and then I visited the Ruwanwella and Kegalle St. Joseph’s GELTs before spending the night at the Kadugannawa Resthouse. I had the morning there and then saw the Mawanella and Kegalle St. Mary’s GELTs before going to Eheliyagoda to leave books with the coordinator and then returning to the university after dinner at Ratnapura.

In addition to other work I drafted a reference letter next day for Priyantha for he wanted to move on, and in time did very well, going on to the International Organization for Migration and working abroad. That afternoon, having dropped papers at Balangoda, I visited the Embilipitiya and Walasmulla GELTs and took classes, with tea with the Tangalle RESC Coordinator Nimalka who always gave us a feast, after which we spent the night at the Tangalle RESC.

I introduce here another initiative I contributed to, on a small scale but fascinating, conducting English classes for the little monks at the Malwatte Viharaya in Kandy, arranged by Derrick Nugawela.

The pictures are of that Mahanayake with the twinkling eyes though in this picture he concentrates on the new Prime Minister of a few years earlier, and of Derrick and Neville of the earlier generation.

English classes for Malwatte monks

There was a Council meeting next morning and then I went after lunch to Kandy to stay with Derrick. On the Sunday, March 1st, his 70th birthday, we visited his good friend the Malwatte Mahanayake, with whom Derrick was planning to start English classes for the young monks. I marked papers after that and then left after lunch for Colombo where I managed some EASL work at Nirmali’s before dinner.

Next morning I met the GELT coordinators at the UGC, and then collected the computers we had been allocated for the university with the closure of the GELT office there, and then went to the FNS which wanted me to conduct a workshop in Nepal after the success of those in India. That night I went with Kithsiri and Chandra to the university, for three full days of classes, and much administration including on the Friday. That afternoon I set off for Colombo, taking Chandra and Priyantha and Shantha though we stopped on the way at the Balangoda GELT, though the Ratnapura one had closed early since it had rained, and only 13 students were still there.

On the Sunday Kithsiri and I took in addition to Priyantha and Shantha the son of Chandra Aluwihare from Matale, for she had wanted a job for him after his schooling was over. But he could not stay away from home and left after a few days. We went via Tharanjee, and had dinner at Ratnapura as usual.

There was more administration than teaching that week for we were moving into exams, and then on Wednesday afternoon I visited the Kalawana and Eheliyagoda GELTS before spending the night at the Ambalangoda Resthouse. The next day I went to the old Coral Gardens hotel for a seminar arranged by the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies, leaving only on the Sunday evening for the university. There were lots of interesting people there, including our old family friend Neville Kanakaratne who was now Governor of the Southern Province and with whom I talked about doing more work in English there.

That week too was largely administration and then on Wednesday I went to Buttala and Moneragala and Bibile to look at and take GELT classes, before spending the night at the Mahiyangana Resthouse. I saw the Mahiyangana and Badulla GELTs the next afternoon, and then went to the university, where I had to deal with a call for help about the GELT from the Rajarata University for it was my former AUC instructors there who were running it for the North Central Province.

There was more administration the next day and then on Saturday morning my father arrived with my cousin Clara from England, and Sharmini who was staying with us at Lakmahal, to spend the weekend. I took them round the university and to see the dam, and then did some work while they rested after lunch. The next day Nirekha Starkloff gave them lunch at their lovely little place at Haldumulla before they left.

In addition to my work, I record here my first sight of the German Shepherd who was to be my great companion over the next nine years. The pictures are of Ricky, preceded by his parents with my aunt, and then Janaka Walgama, a good friend over the years.

New companions

I taught over the next two days but went to Colombo on Tuesday evening. It was only the following Tuesday that, having seen Richard’s mother Manorani, whose mind had now deteriorated, and then taking delivery of Breaking Bounds, I had dinner later at Chandra’s after which I went to the university with Kithsiri and Priyantha. There were no classes next day for the first year students had gone on a trip, but I had much administrative work and a GELT paper to set. Next day there was much teaching, and in the evening I went for the night to Kuruwita and visited the Eheliyagoda RESC next morning and Tharanjee, before work at the UGC.

On Sunday, February 15th, my cousin Theja had an almsgiving for the first anniversary of my mother’s death and that night I set off for the university with Kithsiri and Priyantha and Tissajeewa and also a student called Shantha from my second Jayewardenepura batch whom I had also now roped in to help me. We had tea at his house which was on the way, and dinner at Ratnapura, getting late to Belihuloya.

There were many classes and much administration the following week, including a meeting at the university with the new Diyatalama Chief Instructor, Colonel Walgama, whom I went to see on the Thursday at the Academy where he gave me dinner after drinks when we had got a final draft of the syllabus done. Kithsiri had taken me, and we went from there the next morning to Tangalle to the RESC and then I visited the estate at Madola and had lunch with my uncle and aunt. They had two lovely dogs, Bruno a black German Shepherd and Cindy a brown Alsation who had just had pups, one of which they promised me.

I set off in the afternoon and spent the night at a Guesthouse in Eheliyagoda and went to the RESC there next morning for a GELT workshop, heading after that to Colombo via Tharanjee, from where I collected the Handbook we had put together for our external courses. The next day I relaxed at home but went to Nirmali’s for dinner before setting off for the university with Kithsiri and Priyantha.

After work at the university over the next two days I went to the Ella Resthouse on the Tuesday night, and was given the lovely old rooms at the front where it was said the Bandaranaikes had had their honeymoon. Next morning there was a GELT workshop at the Buttala camps, and then got back that night to the university for classes the next day. On the Friday we had Colonel Ananda de Alwis who ran English at the Academy and his staff to discuss the English syllabus we had devised, and I realized he and to a lesser extent they were very old fashioned and I would have to work very hard to ensure change.

This post is about settling in to a very varied routine, in the first days of 1998, at the university mainly but with a lot of ancillary activity, including developing a degree course for the Sri Lanka Military Academy. Sadly I could find no pictures of General Percy Fernando, nor could I trace one of Liberal Values, so what appears is from an advertisement for what seems now a rarity. It is followed by the cover of the update, which included essays too from India and Pakistan.

Settling in at the University

There was much teaching, that first week of January, and the preparation of a new book collecting my essays on Sri Lankan Literature in English, Breaking Bounds. On the Thursday I went back with Kithsiri and stayed the night at the Avissawella Resthouse and went early next morning to Tharanjee, whom I was using for books under the Sabaragamuwa University Press imprint along with the official handbooks. I went back to the university on the following Monday,  with Tharanjee again on the way, and taught on Tuesday and was then taken in an army jeep to Diyatalawa on Wednesday where I met the new Commandant, Brigadier Percy Fernando. I got back to the university that night but then went to Colombo next morning for an Aptitude Test workshop at the UGC and also spoke to the Chairman about the GELT budget which was now being decentralized. The Colombo Universities, which looked after the Western Province, got massive allocations, even though attendance was low at their centres since students had other alternatives which was not the case in other areas.

On the Saturday I got back to the University for a Council meeting, with Major Dayan Athukoralage of the Military Academy, the most capable officer there on the academic side, coming to see me about the curriculum. I stayed on at Belihuloya next day to work on the GELT budget and also an editorial I had been asked to provide by the Journal of Commonwealth Literature, and then there was intensive teaching over the next four days before I went back with Kithsiri on the Thursday evening, staying that night at a Guesthouse at Kuruvita. I went to Tharanjee next morning but found they had not gone further on Breaking Bounds, and then it was work at the UGC and Nirmali’s and also at Mrs Amaratunga’s where we conducted a workshop on Liberal Values, the book I had put together as a manual for South Asia after Chanaka Amaratunga’s death.

On Sunday I was off again with Kithsiri to the university, along with two of my former USJP students whom I had got to help me, Priyantha Kulatunga and Rev. Tissajeewa and another lecturer, getting there early to work in my office that evening on arranging extra classes for the First Years who needed them. That week I had classes until the Thursday morning, when I went to the wedding of a staff member at Balangoda, and then got to Ena’s for an evening on her lawn before dinner. I spent the next day there, leaving on Saturday via Kurunagala and Eheliyagoda to spent the night at a Guesthouse in Pelmadulla before heading on Sunday morning to the university to inaugurate the external courses we had started.

As this post shows, Somasundara was keen for me to represent the university publicly whenever possible. And by now I was spending much time there, and was delighted to put people up.

The pictures are of my cousin Rohan, of the Sinharaja, and of Martin whom I just found out was also a Wijesinghe, though sadly he had died last year.

The end of the year

I headed back with Kithsiri and Priyantha after lunch that day, and went to the sale Ena was having at I think Anila’s, and for dinner to Nirmali’s, to which she had also asked my father and Shanthi Wilson, doubtless in Ena’s honour.

The next afternoon I worked at Nirmali’s and then went with Kithsiri and Priyantha to the university, dropping in at Tharanjee to collect books and having dinner en route. I taught on the next day with more of administration on the Wednesday, and then set off to spend the night at the Avissawella Resthouse and go on next morning to Wellampitiya to sign the register for my cousin Rohan’s wedding. After going to the UGC in the afternoon, I set off with Kithsiri to Aluwihare, and then went next morning for the Vice-Chancellors’ meeting which Somasundara had asked me to attend. That was at the Kandalama Hotel, but before that we were given tea in the Sigiriya Herb Garden with a slide show by Senaka Bandaranayake who had led the recent excavations there. We had heaps of sessions until Sunday lunch, the last discussion being on repositioning the universities, and then I drove back to the university though Nawalapitiya and Bogowantalawa.

I taught for four days the following week and then went back to Colombo on the Thursday with Priyantha, dropping in again at Tharanjee Printers about the covers for the new books the Press was bringing out. The next day, Friday December 17th, was hectic, with the UGC and Nirmali’s and an EASL meeting at the British Council before I took a plane to Thailand for a holiday there and in Cambodia, getting back to Colombo only on the night of December 28th.

On the 29th I went with Kithsiri to pick up Ingrid Outschoorn, daughter of my parents’ friends and her Spanish husband Ubaldo, and took them along with Priyantha to the university where in between classes I gave them a tour of the university and then took them for a drive up to Beragala in the evening.

They stayed in the double room in my house that night and then were taken to Colombo while I taught over the next three days and worked on the SLMA curriculum. Then, on the night of Thursday January 1st, Ena arrived and stayed that night, when I asked Priyantha to join us for a drink before dinner.

Next morning I went with her to the Sinharaja, something we had wanted to do since our first visit there in 1983 when we could not stay.  She had now found a place which gave out rooms, run by a chap called Martin who had it seemed been an excellent guide for birds. But now, when we got back to his house after an afternoon walk in the reserve, we found it a tourist trap, with Martin not entirely sober and trying to see dreadful paintings. So we fled next morning after breakfast, driving through Kalawana to the university. It was a good thing I got there for one of the survey students had been injured and I had to make sure he was taken care of properly.

Ena left next morning and I had the student taken to Colombo, and then had a very relaxed day before resuming work at the usual intensity on the following day, Monday January 5th.

I describe here my decision to leave the Council, when it transpired that the work I had done on the AUC programme might fade away since there would be no one at USJP to take it forward. Geetha Premaratne was emigrating to Australia, and the wonderful Prof Palihawadana was retiring, and their plea to me that I take over was not something I could easily dismiss. Given too that Gail was stifling my educational efforts, it did make sense to move to a place where I could do much more that was useful.

The picture is my last of Vimala Navaratnam, at the lunch for my 60th birthday at Lakmahal, where she sits on my father’s right. He died three months later, and she a couple of months after that.

Reasons to leave the Council

January was largely routine work with much work on the books, but on the 5th was Ranmali’s wedding reception where I had to speak, and the next day we had a farewell lunch for John, together with the Exchanges Unit which was his main responsibility. On the 8th I had lunch with Andre who was entertaining his legal adviser, and the following evening we put on a recital by Prashanthi Navaratnam, the daughter of our longstanding family doctors. She was training as an opera singer in London, so presenting her seemed a reasonable idea when her mother, Dr Vimala Navaratnam, asked, and the show went very well, with a party afterwards at her house.

The next day I went with Raji and Mali and Michael Hjalstead to Aluwihare for breakfast, champagne and caviar as well as hoppers, and then, without Ena I think, we went on to Trincomalee, also with Raji’s cousin Chitty and her German husband Gunther and their children. One of Raji’s cousins on the Aluwihare side, Saliya Kulatunga, was in charge there so we had tea in the mess and then went to the Nilaveli Beach Hotel where we swam before drinks and dinner.

The next day we drove along the coast and then came back to town to clamber up to Fort Frederic and Swami Rock, before going to the mess for a swim and drinks and a fabulous lunch which Saliya had arranged. And then next morning after breakfast we went to Dead Man’s Cove and the Sea Anglers Club, before heading back to Colombo.

The next day Jenny Vanderstraaten, who had been John’s Secretary when I joined, and then Clive’s, and had thus worked for me along with her assistant patiently and well before I got my own secretary, resigned. The next day I met the new Assistant Representative, Marcus Milton, and we had a farewell for Jenny that day. And the following day when Geetha came to see me about our curricula, she dropped a bombshell in telling me she was going to emigrate to Australia. She asked me to take her place, and when I said that I was happy to help from outside and would be able to work with Prof Palihawadana, she said that he would be retiring soon. Though I took some time to finally decide, I think I knew then that I would take up her suggestion.

This post describes a range of cultural and educational activity, though increasingly there was much that had nothing to do with the Council. But my expertise in education was now generally recognized, leading to a strong rebuke from David to Gail when she tried to limit my involvement in it.

The first event mentioned was I think my first visit to Geoffrey Bawa’s home at Lunuganga, where I was to see Ena over the years. Her house, the first famous one he built, has been reconstructed there and my book about my travels with her will be launched there in early May.

The pictures are of Lunuganga and Aluvihare and then of a place called Ardtrasgairt Ash which I gather the Hoopers now look after, a listed building in Scotland.

Another Christmas with Ena

On the Saturday we had a seminar at the Council on the new Ordinary Level Literature syllabus, and the next day I went down to Geoffrey’s home at Lunuganga with Ena’s nephew Suren for an Exhibition being held there. We had lunch there but stopped at the Sinbad Hotel on the way back for drinks with Gehan Jayawardene, a laid back character who had been a good companion on one of our Yala trips.

The Library had us to lunch on the Monday, presumably for Christmas, and we opened a Young Zoologist’s Exhibition that evening at the Council. The livewire of the event was a former student at S. Thomas’ whom I remembered as a very little boy. It was good to hear that he was now involved with one of the girls in the Exchanges Unit. And that evening, after a play at the Wendt, I had dinner with Andre.

Next day I went with others from the Liberal Party to make representations to the Education Commission that had been set up. The following day Gail had a dinner for Neil Hooper, who was leaving after his long stint in the Maldives. And then on Thursday I took part in the interviews at USJP for AUC staff, deeply upset to find very few good candidates.

That evening my grandmother’s birthday party was at Anila’s for it was clear having it at home would have been a strain for my mother. On the Saturday I continued work on the books, and then on Sunday John arrived, having much enjoyed his visit the previous year for Christmas. We had dinner that evening at the German Restaurant after drinks with Raji and Mali, and dined the next day at Kolio’s, after a discussion with David about how to promote the Ordinary Level syllabus, and a dinner by Richard Webber, the KELT concerned with Evaluation.

The next day we had breakfast at the Oberoi with Ena and the Hard Core for Kusum and David were staying there, and then John and I hired a van to get to Aluwihare, going on after Christmas there to Yala. But we left on the Sunday the 29th, and John went on to Negombo while I went into work over the rest of that week. Sadly the Shands too were now leaving, and on the 30th I went to a dinner given for them by the Italian ambassador.

This post describes the sort of intensive schedule I had, in that I went straight from the airport on my return up into the hills to help David with workshops, something Gail resented very much.

And then I give details of the irritation caused by my story.

The pictures are of Max, showing he has not changed since those happy days, and of Gill.

Ructions at the Council

My father met me at the airport, but then I went straight on to Nuwara Eliya with Nirmali and Maxwell Keegel, for a seminar at the RESC which David had arranged. We stayed at the Grand Hotel, and then next day went on to Bandarawela and joined David for a seminar at the RESC there. We stayed at the Bandarawela Hotel that night, but visited the RESC Coordinator, Marina Anandappa, a lovely little lady of whom David was very fond – as indeed Scott had been for he too had worked at that RESC for David – who lived with her two maiden aunts. She had to look after them, but then suddenly she took ill the following year and died, a tragedy that still fills both Scott and me with sadness, and most of all David while he lived.

We continued with the seminar the next day and then went to Colombo where I went to Anila’s with regard to an Exhibition that Ena was holding there over the weekend. But in addition to getting to the Exhibition on both days, and seeing Ena at the house in Kotte where Raji and Mali lived, I was also back to working on the books.

The next day I got a copy of the multicultural book the Hindu Cultural Ministry had produced, which was heartening. That Wednesday I was lunched by the Oxfam representative as I had been before I went to England, but why this was I cannot remember. On the following day I had to face Jarvis and John who were upset by a story in my collection which had been based on our work at Samanalawewa. I was told I had breached confidentiality in working in JVP actitivy in the area, but in fact I had known nothing of that myself and had made something up which it turned out reflected reality.

But perhaps more upsetting for the Council was that I had a character based on Gill, who was married in the story to the character based on Neil, which upset both Gill and John considerably, understandably enough. John did tell me that what would have been unforgettable was to have had the Gill character engaged in an affair with the Siran character, but I told him I would never have dreamed of that. I should add though that a couple of years later Gill had Siran’s baby, and was deepy upset when he married someone else who was even younger than her.

Though Gill and John were not pleased, we continued to get on well. Jarvis was I think delighted at the way in which Neil had been presented, for it was clear that, while he had to stand up for him as far as I was concerned, he too loathed him. But I think my increment was stopped and I believe an appeal to London did not help. So, though apart from that things eased, it was clear that I was very much at odds with the Council as an institution.

This post describes a happy memory of dinner with Bill McAlpine, the British Council representative of my childhood who had stayed on after his retirement, and was a constant presence at Council and other cultural activities. But his wife had died, and he was now a lonely and sad man, though he remained an excellent host.

And I mention the launch of a collection of short stories which proved a great success though it upset Gill Juleff for reasons which I explain later when I had to deal with reactions at the Council.

Briefly I touch on a visit to England for an Arts Council Seminar at the Council which brought Cultural Offices from all over the world together, and where I remember I first came across e-mails. But after the Seminar I travelled, including to France to join A J who was there for the tour of a Sri Lankan dance troupe, and then to see the Drurys in Poland for a wonderful stay. Sadly this was the last time I saw Jamie, and Dindy I met only once thereafter, nearly a quarter of a century later in Cyprus where she had settled down on her own after Jamie died suddenly there during his last posting.

The pictures after the book are of Bill and AJ and of Ranmali and Dindy Drury.

The Lady Hippopotamus

We had a visit from a senior officer of the Council who interviewed me since clearly what had happened in Sri Lanka was causing some worries. And I remember too a dinner at Bill McAlpine’s, one of the last we were to enjoy in that beautiful setting at Siripa Road. I believe his wife Helen had died recently, and he was very melancholy, which is why I suppose Nihal and Dodo Fernando had taken him with me the previous week to see Ian Goonetilleke, in the house in Colombo to which he had retired.

But most important of course in this period was the launch of The Lady Hippopotamus which took place at Lakmahal on October 22nd. Ena had created for me a wonderful pair of hippopotami in brass, a big one and a little one. The book, at the princely cost of Rs 100 a copy, sold well and so did Ena’s artefacts. And the next day, her birthday, she had a sale at the Hilton. That evening Ranmali got engaged formally to Kumar, and on the Friday I signed the deed selling the land at Battaramulla to Anjalan.

I left for England on Saturday October 26th, first for an Arts Seminar at the Council which was extremely interesting, though it is probably better described in my accounts of visits abroad. It lasted nearly two weeks and then I went to France to join A J on a theatre tour from Sri Lanka, and then I went on to Berlin and then to Warsaw to stay with Jamie and Dindy Drury, while attending a meeting of Liberal International, and for a few days after that. So it was only on Wednesday December 4th that I got back to Colombo.

Rajiva Wijesinha


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