I am humbled -Mr Renton De Alwis (former chairman Sri Lanka tourism)

I am humbled -Mr Renton De Alwis (former chairman Sri Lanka tourism)

I am humbled



My 'Ge' (family lineage) name is 'Adambarage'. It literally means 'from the house of the proud ones'. That was the Ge name my father, his father and so on had, as the first prefix to their name. Being adopted into this family of the proud ones, I too was bestowed with that name. My father was A Z de Alwis. At work in the Railways, he was called 'A to Z'.

This last weekend, I had a occasion to revisit lineage and touch on Ge names when I was with a lady and a young man I admire most. Iranganie (Chandi) Serasinghe and Malinda (was born too late for me to call him by his nick name) Seneviratne.

Waning phenomenon

On Sunday on our way back, Chandi and I made a visit to an alms-giving, held in memory of late Thusith Gunesekara of the Kiula village, where we met a member of that family. She told us that although she was from the Deep-South, she now lives in Mt. Lavinia. She went on to tell us that most of Mt. Lavinia is now owned by Southerners. I interrupted her with a somewhat rude "that's where I was born, at Watarappala Road". I felt a heaviness of heart and my rationality was overshadowed, when I was told that my area of birth was 'invaded' by pitagmakarayas (persons from outside of the area). A waning phenomenon, but still a concern indeed for many among us, in the South, North, Centre and elsewhere of our land. I took solace in the fact that I am today a pitagamkaraya living in the village of Kiula; generating a dent on that phenomenon.

Read, learn and practise

Talking about lineage, you cannot beat that of the one who played Sudu Hamine in the tele-film Yashoravaya. In real life, she hails from Ruwanwella in the ancient kingdom of Seethawaka. Iranganie Serasinghe nee Meedeniya is a true Lama Thani, more like the role played by her in the film Bak Maha Deege as the Mudali Thuma's young wife. Today, at the prime age of 84, she told the Kiula audience of readers young and old, that 'one can not be a good actor or an actress, or any thing for that matter, if one does not read or continue to learn and practise one's skill'. She said that she continues to read, learn and practise even today and will do so, as long as she lives. She went on to say, "mama me dan rangapanawa newai, attha jeevithya ganai kiyaane" (this is for real and about my life for I am not acting today).

Malinda on the other hand hails from Kurunegala and also carries an elitist lineage. I knew his father as the man of few spoken words and as the only bearded board member of the Ceylon Tourist Board, representing the Government's Treasury Department in the early eighties. There were whispers outside the boardroom then, that he was from a 'good' family but had 'left' leanings.

Different strokes

At Salawa near Avissawella I stopped at the 'Seilama', the glazed pottery-ware shop to pick up a 'family set' of mugs that has cutely painted the words Amma, Thattha, Nangi, Akka, Malli and Ayiya on them. I wanted to surprise Malinda, Samadanie and their two lovely daughters with a 'thank you' gift. I was faced with a dichotomy though, for the shop did not carry a mug that said Appachchi. They only had Thatha. I requested the manager that they consider making mugs with Appachchiand also in Tamil with Amma, Appa, Thambi, Thangachchi etc.

Malinda told the Kiula villagers that he must thank them for borrowing books from the library and for reading with such interest. He said that without readers, writers like him will be out of a job and will not be able to earn a living. Apart from all the good that reading did for each of them, he urged them to continue to grow their reading habit, also for the sake of writers like him. That drew light laughter and the point was registered clear and strong. "Not only should you read. You must also write and write and write", he said.

The village folk that met and saw Sudu Haminefor the first time outside of cinemas or their television screens, begged her indulgence to call her Sudu Amma. A young lady came up to her, worshipped at her feet and said "Sudu Achchita Budhu Bawa Athwei". (May you our Fair Grand Mother have the blessings of the Buddha). Malinda and she were at the Kiula Kiyawana Gunaya Mobile Library's second Award Presentation of the quarterly quiz on reading, last weekend as special guests.

There was love and caring all around. Substance without frills, it was. No posters, no polythene or gokkola decorations, no drummers, no false promises, nothing was asked for; surely not their votes, nobody got sold or sold anything to anybody. Two little village children greeted the special guests with beetle leaves and a lovely exchange of good vibes radiated. Good, clean food for thought to complement the talaguli, biscuit, banana and osu-pan (herbal tea) treat they had before the event began. There were no losers, only winners. No one had to beat another to win. No first places, second places or third places. All 31 qualifying participants got a glazed-pottery mug and the ten 'winners' in two age groups i.e. five to 15 and 15 and above, had additional 'rewards' of a mango and pomegranate plant each, pens, notepads and a Sinhala-Tamil Dictionary.

Sharing merit

To me the highlight was when a younger child from the village said "mamata pinsiddhawenawa ape aaccchiwai, me mamawai meheta genawata" (may you be blessed with much merit for bringing our grand-mother and this uncle to us). Most of that merit I share with Nalaka Malli, who actually runs the mobile library each Saturday afternoon.

But I selfishly retain for myself the spirit of that statement, for that makes me humble and brings me joy.