Anna Goes To School (Our Present Past 3)

 
[ To get caught up on this story Click here   for OUR PRESENT PAST (1) / CLICK HERE FOR OUR PRESENT PAST (2) ]

 

Pink streaks of dawn stained the sky when the overnight train from Jaffna ground to a halt at the Fort railway station in Colombo.  Clutching his small bag of belongings, the boy stepped out of his carriage, overwhelmed by the noise and bustle of the waking metropolis. 

Aunt Rebecca Ponnamma was waiting on the platform, her husband — Uncle Samuel Alfred Perinpanayagam — at her side.  She waved to catch her nephew’s eye. Rebecca Ponnamma wrapped her arms around her dead sister’s boy and Shadrak heaved a quiet sigh of relief. This was his mother’s flesh and blood.  His own.  

He was home.

Tramcars on York Street, in the bustling metropolis of Colombo, circa 1900’s. (Courtesy Google images).
Goodbye farming communities, wattle-and-daub abodes and coconut-thatch roofs in the rural the northern province of Jaffna … (Google images)

 

Rebecca Ponnamma Danvers was an intelligent young woman, as beautiful as she was bright.  She conversed fluently in English, a bright star at Uduvil Girls’ College where she was awarded a Queen’s Scholarship in 1901 when she obtained her Calcutta University Matriculation Certificate.  

 

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Woman beyond her time: born in 1876, Rebecca Ponnamma Danvers (far left), with classmates (courtesy Eric Perinpanayagam)
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Uduvil Girls School founded by the CMS Anglican Missonaries in Jan. 1824, the first girls’ boarding school established in Asia.

 

A senior class at Uduvil Girls’ School, circa early 1900’s (Courtesy Tishan Mills, ceylontamils.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

School teacher, evangelist, lifelong friend and ally of Dr. Mary Rutnam, Rebecca Ponnamma Danvers was a woman beyond her time.

Dr Mary Rutnam (1873-1962), a Canadian pioneer, physician, philanthropist and political activist, came to Ceylon in 1896. She was rejected as a missionary doctor because of her marriage to a Ceylonese Tamil man. In defiance of missionary and colonial society, she remained in Ceylon and worked for the government.

In 1904 Rebecca married Samuel Alfred Chellathurai Perinpanayagam who was a first cousin.  They were both grandchildren of Kadirgamar and Harriet (Theivenei)  Danvers.  (Kadirgamar Danvers was the first in the family line to convert to Christianity). The couple moved to Colombo where Samuel Alfred was employed by the British firm, Messrs Boustead Brothers.  They settled in the then fashionable suburb of Kotahena, where they purchased a home in Silversmith Street (now Bandaranaike Mawatha)

 

 

Shadrak found shelter in the kind maternal presence of his aunt and was happy in the home in Kotahena.  Barely approaching his teens, the boy was apprenticed to the British firm, Hoare and Company.  Here he was initiated into the hardware business.  The job called for hard manual labour and his duties often included heaving heavy bags around on his back.   

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Samuel Alfred and Rebecca Ponnamma (Danvers) Perinpanayagam, grandly attired in colonial finery (courtesy Eric Perinpanayagam)

Young though he was, and now a cog in the wheel of big city life, Shadrak never gave up the daily discipline of a quiet early morning time alone in prayer and scripture-reading. 

He clung with steadfast determination to the early discipline of  his grandmother’s teaching,

From time to time he paused to open the twelfth-birthday letter from his granny to refresh his memory and savour the words in of the blessing scrawled in Tamil script.

 

Granny Victoria Harriet (Theivanei) Danvers, one of the earliest graduates of Uduvil Girls’ School, whose birthday blessing written to Shadrak on his 12th birthday, were a powerful source of inspiration. She wrote: May you one day, little one, be a millionaire and a great man …

 

Fishing boats in Kotahena, circa 1900’s. (Courtesy Google images).

 

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Pettah, Colombo, circa early 1900’s.  A Colombo suburb in young Shadrak’s new territory (Google images)

                                                                                                                                                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Anna felt forlorn.  She missed Solomon, her twin and boon companion.  

Young Solomon, along with his two older brothers, was sent away to the northern city of Jaffna, to be taken in by foster families and educated at St John’s College, a reputed missions school for boys.  The twins, perhaps due to the traumatic circumstances surrounding their birth, had been inseparable.  It would be many years before she would set eyes on her beloved twin brother again.

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St John’s College as it stands today, renovated and restored after the civil war (picture taken by this writer in 2017)

 

Souvenir published in 1998 to mark the 175th anniversary of St John’s College, a prestigious seat of learning for boys established by Anglican missionaries, shows the original school buildings.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sara Chinnamma (the oldest of the three sisters) and Anna Chinnathangam (the youngest) attended the local missions school in Vavuniya. 

Students at a local missions school, with a native teacher at the blackboard. (Google images).

Elizabeth Thangamma, the middle sister, who had no particular desire or inclination for book learning wasn’t unhpappy when her schooling was discontinued prematurely.  She stayed home and assisted  Grandma with the household chores.  

Vavuniya in the Vanni region, where the girls lived with their widowed grandmother, was still wild, undeveloped territory.  Foreigners hesitated to set foot in the area and all missionary work was relegated to the native converts to Christianity. The local centres of leaning were staffed by native teachers and the level of education offered at these schools was basic.

Anna was a student at such a school, which was a short walk away from her grandmother’s home.  She shone like a star.  

One unforgettable day, an unexpected visitor was directed to this modest seat of education in Vavuniya.  The Reverend S.S. Somasundaram from Saint John the Baptist Anglican Church, Chundikuli, Jaffna, was on a tour of inspection.  Wearing a long, flowing beard and unusually short cassock, the famous bicycle-riding priest cut a striking figure when he stepped into Anna’s classroom.  The child eyed the stranger with fascination. 

 

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A little Tamil girl from northern Ceylon, Bible in hand, early 1900’s. An Anna lookalike, perhaps?
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Rev. Sangarapillai Somasundaram (later Canon Somasundaram) was born (1877) to an orthodox Hindu family.  He was disowned by his family when he became a convert to Christianity.  He was once called the greatest Christian of the century in Jaffna.  His chosen mode of transport was his bicycle, on which he was known to travel long distances. (Google images)

 

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A vintage map of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) showing the northern Vanni region where Anna lived with her sisters and grandmother (Google images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The clergyman conducted a spur-of-the-moment quiz, utilizing a large map of Ceylon, which hung on the wall.  He pointed and encouraged the young scholars to identify various locations on the the island.  Burning with enthusiasm, Anna was the one student who eagerly raised her hand and stood up every time to deliver a  correct response.

Intrigued by bearded the stranger, she lingered during lunch recess and observed curiously as the august visitor partook of his meal.  She noticed that the accompaniments surrounding the plate of rice were bland and wondered why there were no spice-hot curries in the mix.  Something didn’t seem right.

A traditional Ceylonese (Sri Lankan) lunch. Rice with fiery curried vegetables and meat or fish (Google images)

As she watched, she saw the visitor’s hand go his stomach and gathered from the way he winced and the grimace contorting his face, that he was suffering great pain.  

 Boldly she stepped forward and enquired in Tamil, “Rasam kondu varalama?”  (“Could I bring you some rasam?”) (Rasam is a spicy soup, a northern speciality, tasty eaten with rice and curries and an excellent remedy for digestive ills.)

Taken aback the Reverend replied, “Where would you get the rasam from, little girl?”

“My granny will make it,” Anna answered with unhesitating conviction and darted away.

She returned a short while later carefully holding a jar of the promised liquid, still hot from Granny’s cooking pot.

With grateful gulps, the gentleman availed himself of the thoughtful offering, pleased and taken aback by the child’s unexpected action.  Touched by the concern she showed, he told her he felt much better.

“You’re a clever little girl,” Reverend Somasundaram declared, smiling at the bright-eyed child.  “Would you like to study in Jaffna?”

“I’ll have to ask my grandmother,” Anna responded.

“Then I want to meet your granny,” the priest replied.

Anna ran back home again.

The bewildered grandmother was ushered into Rev. Somasundaram’s presence and almost collapsed from shock when she heard him say, “May I have your permission to take this child back with me to Chundikuli?  The Church will be responsible for her education.”

Grandma Harriet Danvers gladly gave her consent and little Anna Chinnathangam was whisked away to her new life by the timely intervention of fate.  She was enrolled as a boarder at Chundikuli Girls’ College, an Anglican missions school in Jaffna, where she adapted well to the dazzling overnight change in her circumstances.

 

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Chundikuli Girls’ College as it stands today, restored after a brutal civil war. (2017)
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Chundikuli Girls’ Collge at its original location, in the fashionable Jaffna suburb of Chundikuli, in 1904

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anna excelled in her studies, successfully completed the Senior Cambridge examination and embarked on her chosen career as a trained teacher.

 

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Anna Chinnathangam bloomed into an elegant town girl.  She came to be known as a stylish dresser.
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Staff at a CMS Anglican Missions school, circa 1900’s 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big brother, Shadrak, in the meanwhile, domiciled in Colombo, impressed his employers with his intelligence, disciplined work ethic and quiet wisdom.  He rose to the position of store manager at Hoar and Company.

 

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Rebecca Ponnamma (Danvers) Perinpanayagam (seated, centre) with her family.  Her younger son, George Walter Kulasingham Perinpanayagam on her lap.  Standing (right) her older son, Stephen Edgar Rasasingham Perinpanayagam.  Her husband, Samuel Alfred Chellathurai Perinpanayagam (standing behind her).  Seated (left) her mother, the praying grandmother, Victoria Harriet (Theivanei) Danvers
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Still pretty in old age – Rebecca Ponnamma (Danvers)  Perinpanayagam, circa 1950’s.  Rebecca had a second son who died before his first birthday.  There was also an adopted daughter who passed away in her teens.  (Courtesy Elizabeth Gnanaselvam)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shadrak referred to his Aunt Rebecca’s sons – his cousins, Stephen Edgar Rasasingham and George Walter Kulasingham Perinpanayagam (later known to his children as Rasa Unca and Geo Unca) – as his brothers.  The affection was mutual and the closeness remained till the end of their lives.

 

The closeness remained till the end of their lives. Rebecca Ponnamma (Danvers) Perinpanayagam holding her nephew Shadrak’s first grandchild, Srikanthi, on her lap (courtesy Cynthia Pillai)
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Cousin Stephen Edgar Rasasingham Perinpanayagam, a learned intellectual, older son of Samuel Alfred and Rebecca Ponnamma (Danvers) Perinpanayagam (Courtesy Eric Perinpanayagam)

 

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Cousin George Walter Kulasigham Perinpanayagam the younger son of Rebecca and Samuel Alfred Perinpanayagam (courtesy Bala Abraham)
Shadrak Chinniah Samuel in his forties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faith was the glue that held the community together.  Sunday was a day of rest and socializing when immediate and extended family met to worship at morning service at Saint Thomas’ Anglican Church, Ginthupitya, and spent the rest of the day visiting each other’s homes.  This tradition was maintained for several years as a steady trickle of migration brought relatives from the north, to the island’s capital and they all settled in Kotahena, within visiting distance of each other.

 

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The little church of Saint Thomas, Gintupitiya, one of the oldest Anglican churches in the country, built on the mound where the apostle Thomas is believed to have preached when he visited the island of Ceylon en route to his missionary journey to India (Google images) 

 

Young Tamil woman, circa 1900’s. (Google images)

Always uppermost on Shadrak’s mind were his siblings, two hundred miles away in the arid northern province of Sri Lanka.

To be continued …    

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Tell Me The Story, Daddy!

“Tell me about Singapore,” I said.  “During the war. When you were a child.”

Dad set his fork down, a rush of memories spilling into his eyes.

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The famous Raffles hotel, Singapore,  playground of the colonial elite,  circa 1920 (Google images)
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High Street, Singapore in 1945, just before the outbreak of WW2 (Google images)

“My father was a radio communications officer.  He worked for the British government in Singapore …”

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I don’t remember Grandpa James who died days after my first birthday.
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A WW2 radio communications officer (Google images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

“He was a highly intelligent man, but he had a volatile temper!  He was my hero, though it was frightening to live with someone like that.

He flew into a rage one day and struck me with the radio wires he was working with.  My mother had to apply a hot fomentation on my back for days until the marks subsided.

I don’t remember my mother ever cuddling or kissing me. But there was plenty of food. A laden table.  She was a good cook.  My father was a hospitable man. The house was always filled with people and she fed them gladly.

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James and Violet. Grandpa James was part of the diaspora of English-educated Ceylon Tamils who were wooed into coveted government posts in colonial Malaya and Singapore.  He sailed home for a brief visit  when an inter-marriage was arranged for him and his sister.  Grandpa James wedded my grandmother, Violet;  grandma Violet’s brother married Grandpa’s sister, Fanny. 
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Dad’s older brother, Rigby, was born in 1935. Dad arrived thirteen months later. Granny Violet had three children during the Malaya/ Singapore years.  Dad grew up speaking Malay and Chinese.

“We lived in a sprawling home on Mount Rosie, surrounded by a large compound. I remember climbing fruit trees and playing for hours outside.”

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An old colonial home on Mount Rosie Road (circa 1940’s) which matches Dad’s description of the home he lived in as a child (Google images)
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Mount Rosie Road — the current street sign (Google images)

“The Japanese considered their monarch a god.  They worshipped him as such.

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Screaming headlines (Google images)

The West was distracted by Hitler and Stalin.  It was the perfect time for the Japanese to leap in with their own agenda.  They worked their way through the East, carving out an empire …”

 

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Map of the Japanese Empire in 1942 (Google images)

“When the Japs bombed Pearl Harbour, the Americans got involved.  This was the beginning of the Pacific War.”

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Hawaii 1941.  US Soldiers watching the explosion after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. (Google Images)

 

“The tanks rolled into Singapore.

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Japanese troops storm the shores of Singapore (Google images)

Headlines screamed.

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Singapore surrenders (Google images)
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Screaming headlines (Google images)
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Singapore: the newest feather in the cap of the Japanese Empire (Google images)
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Invaders patrol Singapore streets (Google images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was one of the worst defeats in British military history …

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The fall of Singapore was one of  Britain’s greatest military defeats.  The 1942 battle ended with 140,00 troops and citizens of Singapore captured, wounded or killed.  Around 80,000 British, Indian and Australian troops based in Singapore became prisoners of war.
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POWs in the Changi Prison, Singapore WW2 (Google images)

“Pretty much everyone was labelled a traitor.  They shipped them off to POW camps.  By the thousands.”                

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Singapore surrenders, 1942 (Google images) 

“So how did Grandpa survive, Dad?” I asked.

Dad’s tone was matter-of-fact. “My father worked for the Japanese,” he said.

My jaw dropped.                                  

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Sword held high, ready to strike.  Japanese officer, Singapore, 1940s (Google images)

“After the surrender of Singapore, the Japanese generals stood at our doorstep with drawn swords.  They threatened to cut off his head if he didn’t work for them.  There was no other option.”    

“On our way to school, we’d see rows of traitors’ heads impaled on the walls.”

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POWs who were used as targets in practice had their heads blown off (Google images)
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Katana (Samurai) swords laid out in rows.  They were long, curved, single-bladed and could slice a man in half. (Google images)

“The Japs began losing ground after America entered the war with a powerful fleet of fighter planes and bombers.  I remember them.  There were the B-27s, B-23s, B-24s and B-26s.”

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Anti-American propaganda (Google images)
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The Chinese and Japanese were hostile to each other. If the Chinese had been for the Japanese, the Americans would never have won the war.”

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American bombers (Google images

“I remember watching the Japanese bombers flying overhead in formation with anti-aircraft units hot in pursuit.”

“The air raid sirens could go off at any time of day and you were supposed to seek shelter immediately in the bunker, under a staircase, or under furniture.  Our bunker was in the basement of the house.”

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Singaporeans waiting out an air raid in a bunker (Google images)

“I remember the dog fights in the air, when the Japanese bombers came in V-formation and the American fighter planes went after them.”

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Japanese boat plane (Google images)
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Japanese fighter plane (Google images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Aerial dogfight, WW2 (Google images)
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American ground forces observing the wake created by aerial dogfights.  Pacific War (Google images)

“I stood outside one day and watched as a Japanese plane got shot down.  It caught fire and made a nose-dive to the ground.  It crashed into our compound, its tail pointing upwards.  There was a huge crater in the ground.    

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Tail pointing upwards.  Downed warplane (Singapore) and gaping onlookers.  (Google images)

After the flames burned out, the gardener ran up.  He was an eccentric Indian man.  We were all convinced he was mad. He dragged the dead airman out, pulled off his boots and pillaged the corpse.  He pocketed the wrist watch and searched for gold fillings in the teeth. Then I saw the allied planes pass overhead – massive aircraft, gleaming in the sun.  You could hear them from miles away.”

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Allied planes. Massive aircraft, gleaming in the sun … (Google images)

 

 

“One day my father was shaving upstairs, when a shell came flying in through the bathroom window and rolled down the staircase.  Thank God it didn’t explode. 

 

Our home was like a refugee camp for the Ceylon Tamil community – injured boys and girls were brought there.  Providentially, Mount Rosie was never bombed.”

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Singaporean students being taught Japanese, circa 1940s (Google images)

“We attended an Anglo-Chinese school.  There was a Tamil priest on the teaching staff.  The Singaporean teachers were compelled to learn Japanese and then teach it to their students.”

“Our formal schooling was sporadic through the war years.  English was forbidden.

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A Japanese class with soldiers in attendance, Singapore, circa 1940s (Google images)

My father taught us in the basement bunker at night.  We had to memorize poetry and I was able to read far beyond my years.

I remember reciting The boy stood on the burning deck …

 

 

The Japanese soldiers had funny uniforms – long, long khaki shorts and hats with elongations at the back from the brims, covering their necks.”

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Dad’s amazing power of recollection: “The officers wore white shirt, khaki jacket and leather boots”. And the long swords he described … (Google images)
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Japanese soldiers wearing long khaki shorts and hats with “long extensions at the back”.  I was amazed at Dad’s accurate description, culled from his memories from over 75 years ago. (Google images) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The officers wore white shirt, khaki jacket and leather boots.

 I remember coming down the hill, one particular day, where the school was situated.  There were steps going up the hill to the school building. The students were all lined up on either side of the road to greet and wave flags at visiting Japanese army dignitaries.  They came in a convoy of lorries and military vehicles.  A boy standing across the street called out to me.  Without thinking, I dashed across the road to reach him, cutting through the oncoming parade.  A lorry hit me and I was knocked unconscious.  They drove on.  They didn’t stop.  The entire convoy passed over me. 

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“They didn’t stop.  The entire convoy passed over me …” (Google images)

When the parade was done, the Tamil priest — the teacher from my school – picked me up and took me to the government hospital.  Miraculously, there was no serious injury and I recovered.”

“How old were you, Dad?” I queried.

“I must have been about 7 or 8.”

“That was nothing short of divine providence,” I commented.

Dad nodded.  “Yes,” he said. “And I used to collect all the shells and metal fragments I found lying around. That was my hobby.”

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Grandma Violet looking fine, wearing a saree (1961)

 

 

“My mother carried her jewellery in a pouch tied around her waist, under her saree.  She finally buried it all outside in the garden.  When the war was over she wasn’t able to find the spot to dig it back up.”

“You mean she lost all her jewellery?” I asked.

Dad shrugged.  “Many people buried their valuables and never found them again.”

 

 

“The Americans bombed Singapore before the Japs surrendered.  I remember Singapore harbour up in flames.”

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Inferno.  American forces bomb Singapore, 1945 (Google images)
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Singapore harbour in flames, 1945 (Google images)

 D-Day came and the Germans surrendered, but the Japanese hung on until the American bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  That was when they finally gave in.

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Mushroom clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan officially surrendered on September 12, 1945 after the US military dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.  About 200,000 people died in the horrific aftermath of these nuclear explosions (Google images)

” Japan would never had surrendered if not for the atom bomb.  America was the only nuclear power in the world at the time.    The bombs were dropped two days apart.”

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Singapore is signed back over to the British, September 1945 (Google images)
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The British return to Singapore, 1945 (Google images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My father had a radio hidden in the basement.  He tuned in at night to listen to the BBC news.  There was no other way of knowing how the war was progressing.  Suddenly one day, the war was over.  Everything fell silent.  The Japanese forces vanished.      

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The Union Jack flies at full mast over liberated Singapore, 1945 (Google images)
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The allied troops roll back in to Singapore, 1945 (Google images)

“A Ceylonese Burgher gentleman who was a friend of my father’s  – his name was Mr. Garth, an educated man, slightly brownish in complexion — ended up in a Japanese POW camp.  After we knew for sure that the war was over, my father took me with him to the POW camp.  I remember sitting  in the car as we drove there. 

The camp was a place of the living dead.  Men, women and children had been starved and made to do hard labour.  We found Mr. Garth.  He had been a prisoner for four years. He was plain skin and bones.  We brought him back home. My mother had cooked a good meal and set it on the table.  Mr. Garth sat and stared at the food for quite awhile.  Then he ate slowly, savouring every mouthful.   He saved the boiled egg for the last.”

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Plain skin and bones.  A starving POW, Singapore, circa 1940s (Google images)
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Parade of prisoners in a Japanese POW camp (Google images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The war ended in September 1945. 

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Rejoicing survivors (young boys in their midst) exit the Changi prison camp, Singapore, 1945 (Google images)
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Rows of Katana swords after the surrender of Singapore at the end of the war (Google images)
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Captors now captive … Japanese forces being guarded by Indian troops in Singapore, 1945 (Google images)

 

 

 

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Captors captive. Japanese soldiers being hauled off to POW camps,  Singapore 1945 (Google images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The British returned.

Many Ceylon Tamils who lived in Burma had walked to South India to escape the invasion.  They were found and rescued.

Everything was in a mess.  A new administrative system had to be set up. All residents of Singapore had to get their British citizenship renewed.  Those who were not originally from Singapore were given the option of staying or receiving a free passage back to the country of their birth. 

Mother wanted to stay, but Father had no choice.    He had worked for the Japanese during the war years and was declared a traitor to the British Empire. 

His name was on a formal list of Traitors To The Empire that appeared in the newspapers directly after the war ended.

The British arranged for our repatriation.  We travelled in a massive ship which had been used as a troop carrier during the war.  It was called the SS Arundel Castle.”

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The SS Arundel Castle. I was delighted to find a picture of the liner and amazed at the accuracy of Dad’s recollection.  (Google images)

Our passage was paid and they provided us with clothing and food.  With a load of over one thousand passengers – all Ceylon Tamils – the vessel set sail soon after the war was over.  The voyage lasted five to six days before we docked at Colombo harbour.   I remember being loaded onto a boat and coming ashore, where there was a big reception committee awaiting the home-comers. 

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Colombo harbour, circa 1940’s (Google images)

My mother’s sister’s daughter — my cousin, Mabel — came to meet us at the dock.  We slept the night at her home in Maradana and caught the train to Batticoloa  the next day.”

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Maradana Railway Station (Google images)
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The journey by rail from  the west coast of the island of Ceylon to Batticoloa on the eastern shoreline.
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In the land of their ancestors.  Rumbling through the countryside on British-built rails …  (Google images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At breakfast the next morning, a heavy-eyed Dad informed me that he hadn’t had much sleep the previous night. “The horrible scenes kept playing in my head,” he said.

I picked another subject for that evening’s conversation. 

A year and a half in later, after the birth of his youngest child — a son — Grandpa James returned to Singapore.  He approached the British authorities in anticipation of being reinstated into his former civil service post. Representatives of His Majesty’s government grimly reminded my grandfather that his name was etched on the infamous traitor list. They concurred that Grandpa’s only other choice would have led to the instant annihilation of himself and his young family. They graciously granted him a pension for his service to the British Empire.  Then they showed him the door.

Grandpa sailed back to his native Ceylon.  He disembarked at the port of  Colombo and rode the railway back to Batticoloa in the east, where his wife had inherited extensive acreages of profitable paddy land.  

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An old steam train (1940’s Ceylon) rattling its way around the island on an efficient network of railways that still remains in use (Google images)

The new baby symbolized the end of an era in their lives.

Old dreams dead and buried, life commenced anew and in earnest. The three youngsters, foreigners in the land of their parents’ birth, were constrained to learn a fifth language. English, Malay, Chinese, Japanese and now … Tamil.

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Settling in nicely.  Dad in his teens some years later, thriving in academics and sports, sporting his trademark moustache and burgeoning film-star looks. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If Grandpa was granted his pardon, if Granny obtained her heart’s desire, Dad wouldn’t have met Mum and allied himself with a new country and people.  

And I wouldn’t be here to tell the tale.     

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Looking good at 82.  Dad at Christmas service, 2017

 

 

An interesting thought which strengthens my conviction in the knowledge that life is directed by an unseen hand.  A hand that masterfully orchestrates circumstances in such a manner as to bring an undeniable destiny to pass.  With one hundred percent accuracy.     

                               Until next time,      

sincerely

      

 

 

 

P.S. Dad meets his bride in Matchmaker, Matchaker! (click here)

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Widow’s Dilemma: Our Present Past (2)

Click here to read Our Present Past (1)

Life changed with the grisly demise of her husband, Vethanayagam Subramaniam Samuel. In ways Mary Chellamma never imagined. The breadwinner struck down in his prime, she was left alone to raise month-old twins amongst six young children. There was neither time, nor expertise to tend the land which was the family’s only source of income.

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Rice farmers in Ceylon in the early 1900s, clad in loin cloths and driving buffalo yoked to hand-crafted ploughs.  Similar scenes are still to be seen in rural parts of the island (now Sri Lanka) (Google images)

Mary turned in desperation to her brother-in-law, her husband’s brother, who cultivated rice and raised cattle on the adjoining property.   He agreed to take on the management of her farm. Mary was relieved to be rid of the burden.

Blood is thicker than water, after all, and they were neighbours …

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Rice (paddy) cultivation in the early 1900s – back-breaking manual labour.  The same primitive methods are still in  practice in certain rural areas of the island. (Google images)

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Woman of faith: Grandma Harriet Danvers, wife of David Danvers (who was the son of Kathirgamar Danvers, the first convert to Christianity in the family line)

Harriet (Theivanei) Danvers – Mary’s mother, the children’s maternal grandmother – a widow herself, lived in her own home, a stone’s throw away. This pious woman was a bottomless reservoir of strength.

The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw evangelical activity at its height in northern Ceylon.  The numerous schools and hospitals in the region bore witness to the presence and commitment of the American and British missionaries. Mary Chellammah, a young woman still, found employment with the CMS Missionaries in the area, who offered her a position as nurse’s aide at the local missions hospital.

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The Misses Leitch ( AMSmissionaries) with Tamil converts in Jaffna.  Foreign missionaries did not venture into the untamed Vavuniya area (wary of both inhabitants and jungle animals). Mary would have been assisted by native Christians, who were sent to serve in this region (courtesy, Google images) American missionaries in Jaffna, northern Sri Lanka, where the Samuel family originally hailed from (courtesy Tishan Mills, ceylontamils.com)

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Northern provinces of Ceylon (highlighted) Vethanayagam Samuel relocated from the Jaffna province (shaded pink) to Vavuniya in the Vanni region (shaded brown)

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Bullock carts, a bull trussed up for branding,and  a young boy with branding iron in hand. (circa 1900’s, Google images)

Disaster struck again.   Neighbour-brother-in-law turned perfidious predator and assumed ownership of the widow’s property.  By unscrupulous means he had changes were made to the the title deeds and the cattle were re-branded accordingly.

Grandma Harriet – Paatti to the little ones – was a woman of prayer and unshakeable faith.  She was known to sit in her house for hours by herself, lost in prayer. Her hands one upon the other, palms facing heavenwards, she pleaded with tears for heaven’s favour. 

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Aunty Paranidhy (Anna Chinnathangam’s daughter) recalls the stories her mother told her. She shows me how her great grandmother Harriet’s hands reached heavenwards in prayer.

Subramaniam Vethanayagam (S.V.) Chelliah, her oldest grandson, looked in through an open window one day, and heard the old lady praying out loud in Tamil: “Heavenly Father, what am I to do about these children?  Open the windows of heaven and bless them, I pray.” (“Aandavaney, intha sinna kulanthaihalodu naan enne seivan?  Vaananthin palahanhelai thiranthu intha chiruvarhalai aasirwathiyum.”)

Irreverently tickled by the pious woman’s fervour, Chelliah summoned his brothers and sisters to witness the peep-show. The amused youngsters gawked at their grandmother while she made her petition to the unseen Almighty.

“Look at how her hands are open and reaching upwards,” he snorted with  laughter.  “She’s waiting for heaven to open and blessings to fall into them.”

The yield from the land continued to be purloined by the greedy uncle. Mary and her little ones lived in a home, which, according to the doctored deeds, was theirs no more.

Life was a struggle. 

The stuff that ugly fairy tales are made of …

When the twins – Solomon and Anna – were six years old, Mary Chellammah took ill and was confined to her bed. Grandma Harriet, who carried on as best she could, was out of earshot when young Chelliah complained, “The food is not good (chaapadu chari illai).”

“Be patient, my son,” his ailing mother urged. “I’ll be up and about to cook tasty meals for my children (porungo rasa, naan elumbitu wanthu, nalai chamaichchu kudukiren pillaihalukku)

Mary was unable to keep her promise.  Fate struck another foul blow when she succumbed to her illness and died a short while later. The six fatherless offspring of Vethanayagam Subramaniam Samuel  were now orphans.

Grandma Harriet – was left to raise the children on her own.

The children became unofficial wards of the Anglican Church.              

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The Anglican Church of the Holy Spirit, Vavuniya, where the family would probably have worshipped.

Elizabeth Thangamma, who showed no particular interest in academic learning, was constrained to give up her schooling in order to remain at home and help cook and care for her siblings.

The boys were fostered out to benevolent families in Jaffna, sixty miles north of Vavuniya. The providential intervention of the church enabled them to continue their education at the reputed CMS Missions boys’ school, St. John’s College , Chundikuli (Jaffna).

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St. John’s College, Jaffna, as it stands at present, renovated and reconstructed after the civil war.

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Jaffna town is approxiamtely 60 miles north of Vavuniya

 

On Shadrack Chinniah’s twelfth birthday he received a letter from his grandmother (who remained in Vavuniya with his sisters), mailed to his new address in Jaffna.  The single sheet of notepaper was laced with weighty words of blessing written  in the Tamil language. 

Granny wrote: May you, little one, go from strength to strength, and become a millionaire (Chinnavan aigiramum siriyavan palaththa seemanum aavaan).

This birthday proved to be a milestone marking the end of Shadrack’s formal schooling.  He bade farewell to Saint John’s College where he learned to read, write and speak with the polish and ability of a highly educated individual.    His dreams lay beyond the confines of the arid northern province, far away in the colonial metropolis of Colombo.

The landscape shifted from dusty-dry to lush-verdant as the tracks snaked inland and the train rattled on its way, two hundred miles down to the capital city in the south of Ceylon.

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A steam train speeds along the British-built coastal railway lines of early 1900s Ceylon (courtesy Google images)

In his shirt pocket, pressed to his heart, was the precious birthday letter.

The memory of his mother grazed his thoughts. The grim ghost of his uncle’s unthinkable actions haunted these quiet moments.  

Shadrak pressed his face to the train window.  Coconut-thatch huts and green fields flew by.                                                                                         

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Mary Chellamma (Danvers) Samuel, young mother of Sarah Chinnamma, S.V. Chelliah, Shadrack Chinnathamby, Elizabeth Thangamma, Anna Chinnathangam and Solomon Chinniah

The new life beckoned.                                         

World War I was still to come.

To be continued …

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the wide, wide world.  Dam Street, Colombo, circa 1900 ((Google images)

Geneology of the Danvers and Samuel lines (from the files of the late S.E.R. Perinpanayagam, courtesy Eric and Tim Perinpanayagam)

Danvers family line –

 * Kanthar married Thangam and had 4 children – 2 sons and 2 daughters (Circa 1790)
 * Their son, Kathirgamar Danvers (born 1809) married Anna Saveriyal.
*  Kathirgamar and Anna Danvers had 7 (8 ?) children – only 1 daughter
           David, Jane, Daniel, Gabriel, Samuel, Solomon & Joseph.
* David Danvers married Harriet Theivanai
* David and Harriet Danvers had 3 children, all daughters.
      Mary Chellammah, Elizabeth Annamma & Rebecca Ponnamma
* Mary Chellammah Danvers married Subramanium Vethanayagam Samuel
* Mary Chellammah Danvers and Subramaniam Vethanayagam Samuel had 3 sons and 3 daughters –
      Sarah Chinnamah, Subramaniam Vethanayagam Chelliah, Shadrack         Chinniah, Elizabeth Thangammah, Solomon Chinniah and Anna Chinnathangam
*Rebecca Ponnama married Samuel Alfred Chelladurai Perinpanayagam

Samuel family line –

Illanganayagar Udaiyar of Kaithady – Vethanayagam married: Seeniachi of Urumpirai
They had 6 daughters and 3 sons which included
* Subramanium Vethanayagam Samuel who married Mary Chellammah Danvers
&
  Thangam Vethanayagam who married Solomon Danvers

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

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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 …

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

Mary Chellamma (Danvers) Samuel
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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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.  Shadrack 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 –

  • Sarah Chinnamah (married David Sinniah Kanagaratnam)
  • Subramaniam Vethanayagam Chelliah (married Annam)
  • Shadrack 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

 

 

    

Shadrak 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.  “Shadrack 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.

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Bible Woman, circa late 1800 – early 1900’s.

“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.

A group of Bible Women (1910), Bibles in hand. (Courtesy ceylontamils.com)

“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.

Sarah 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. 

‘Dhobies’ – washermen – human washing machines, beating garments against rocks and washing boards to get them clean. Circa late 1800s, northern Ceylon.

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.

Click here  to go to Part 2:  Widow’s Dilemma

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Just Junk (Or Maybe Not)

Fascinated by the art of decoupage as portrayed on Pinterest, I began to look for forlorn bits of this and that at garage sales and thrift stores.  Ideas for their transformation simmered and stewed until the magic moment arrived some weeks ago. 

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When you wake up know it’s time to tackle the task …

The relentless force of it carried me through a fortnight of sanding, painting, gluing, lacquering.

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When you start and simply have to keep going …

Exhibit One –

A handcrafted stool lurking on a pile of junk in a country thrift store.  One word: hideous. The darling drawer with the dangly handle was my undoing. 

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Exhibit One – after sanding.  Lovingly handcrafted and painted by someone who knew what they were doing.  Water damage and peeling paint …

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Mixed two shades of Dollarama paint to obtain the colour I needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A coat of Dollarama paint, two favourite hymns on the top and all around …

Et voila !  A quirky stool to tuck into a corner.  For occasional extra seating …

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The music sheets of old hymns on top and all the way around

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Aerial view of stool.  I ‘aged’ the sheet of music using a soaked tea bag.

Exhibits 2 & 3 –  Plain brown wood straight-backed chair and child’s rocking chair –

Forgot to take pre-painted ‘before’ pictures …

 

There’s a story to tell … 

I’d hunted fruitlessly for wrapping paper or paper napkins with an old fashioned sort of rose design. 

Months go by …

Searched for wrapping paper or paper napkins with a design like this one.  (Image downloaded from Pinterest)

A week before Easter my friend, Gail presented me with a bouquet of lilies.  The bridal blooms were done up in a layer of tissue paper printed all over with … red roses.  The exact kind I was looking for.  The attached card was from the florist at the mall up the street.

Woo hoo! Can’t wait to get going.  Transformation time.  Decoupage, here I come …

 

 

Pleasing finale. Tissue paper roses on garage sale salvage …

 

Wait …

That old flip-top table could do with a matching makeover. 

Rose-covered table to set off the seats.  Lovely …

Gail’s tissue paper yielded just enough for the two chairs – nothing left over.

Alas …

Flash of inspiration.  The mall florist might have a sheet or two to spare.

Right?

So I went.

Me: I received a bouquet of flowers from your store some days back.  It was wrapped in an unusual tissue paper with a beautiful rose print on it …

Pretty straight forward, huh?

Florist guy:  Yeah.  I know the one you mean.  You know what’s weird, though?

Okay, what?

                    …. We never ordered that kind.  We never have.  Don’t know why they came here.

Opens drawer and fishes around …

                                                            …They’re all gone.  Guess the girls used them up.  And we won’t …

Me:  … be getting anymore.

Florist Guy:  Weird, huh?  As I said, we never ordered it.  We only use the plain kind.

Weird all right …

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So what’s going on? (Which door? Dreams or reality? Thanks, Nicole, for this pic.  Luvit!)

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Love how life works … noticed this licence plate at the traffic lights on the disappointed drive back home!

Roses on two chairs AND a table would have been overkill anyway.

So I covered the table top with white lace, edged with baby ribbon.

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Forgot (again!) to take a pre-painted pic.  The ghost of a once elegant table, with chipped paintwork in a floral crackle-effect off-white and blue design

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A chandelier rainbow settled on the tabletop as I worked .  It turned out rather nice.

 

 

 

 

Love the finished effect …

I paused to ponder on the Tale of the Florist and the Tissue Paper

A light went on –

There’s a dream waiting to come alive in every rejected thing and there’s a dream-bringer who makes it happen. At the top of the chain is the Dreamgiver who creates the dream, orchestrates and manipulates events to make it all come true …

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The way I saw it …

This poor monstrosity has lived in the basement since forever –

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Haven’t been able to bring myself to toss it out …

Just had another idea for a fabulous furniture facelift.  

Watch out for the next Cinderella table-metamorphosis story coming to this blog!

I love breathing new life into dull, dead things.  Adore the thought of being prompted by a dream-giver.

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Found this book in a clearance bin at a bookstore.  Couldn’t put it down. (The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson – author of The Prayer of Jabez)

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Check it out …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So there’s really no such thing as junk …

Thankful for beauty-basking-beneath-ugly-if-you-only-choose-to-look

Thankful for dreams.

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A passerby as I took a walk one morning …

 

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Why ever not?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s always another dream.  And then the next one.   And the next.                                                      

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Roses … tiny dreams-come-true.  Teddy bears’ teaparty time for two little tykes! (Thank you my friend, Liesl, for the vintage ‘roses’ table lamp – a perfect match!)

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On my desk to remind me …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can’t stop dreaming, no matter what!

Until next time,

sincerely

 

 

P.s.  ‘Crafty’ weekend guests offer invaluable input.  Thank you Roshini!

 

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For Her Eyes Only

Life’s poignant vignettes erupt at unexpected moments.

Like that time in the hotel in Delhi …

She hovered uncertainly and looked anxious.  Out of place in a sprawling hotel lobby teeming with tourists and brass-buttoned bellboys. 

A bouquet of flowers in her hand.  Red roses, in orange florist’s wrapping. 

A dark swathe of garment flowed from the crown of her head all the way down to her heels. Only the hands were open to scrutiny.  And the eyes.  Beautiful eyes. 

Elegance and grace.

He stepped up from behind.  A brief exchange of words and she relaxed.  The fabric of her shroud merged into the black of the couch.

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“Only have eyes for you …”

The quiet tête-à-tête played out in the mirrored wall behind them.

His eyes never left hers.  She leaned towards him.  An ease, a pleasant familiarity in their interaction.

A glint of gold flashed on her fourth finger.  I caught my breath.

The blinding brightness of Diwali, the annual Hindu Festival of Lights, crawled all over the streets outside, dripping off buildings and dangling from trees.

India ablaze …

… with light —

Bargain hunters poured into late-closing stores, negotiating traffic-snarled streets.  Pavement hawkers squawked and beckoned. 

Loud distraction painted the cosmopolitan metropolis and seeped into the marbled luxury of the hotel.

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… other symbolic Diwali decorations 

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Images of Hindu deities in the hotel lobby and …

She nodded and waved a slender hand.  The band of gold gleamed in the light of the crystal chandeliers. 

Her eyes smiled.

The aching weight of might-have-been.

Playing with fire …

…………………………………………………………………………

And then there was Farah …

My tiny friend  flirted toothlessly and allowed me to hold her when harrassed-mom-of-three-kids-under-six looked like she could do with a break.                                 

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She sat on her mother’s lap, smiling all the way through a 15 hour flight.                           

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Farah: “That’s my mommy and she’s wonderful!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She nodded off from time to time and I caught this moment  in cameo.  It touched my heart –

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Sleeping Farah – an allegory of rest in complete trust

as I recalled lines from the Psalms –

But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a child quieted at its mother’s breast. (Psalm 131:2)

A powerful visual image. 

 …………………………………………………………………………………

There is an air of haughty luxury about some Middle Eastern airports –

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and a mysterious modesty surrounds the veiled women –

The preoccupation with cellphones, of course, is global –

In the Middle East …

In India …

Sri Lanka …

A worldwide phenomenon, here to stay.

Does one even remember life before mobile devices?

………………………………………………………………………………

Thankful for leisured people-watching fiestas during long layovers at far-flung international airports.  Life at its unselfconscious best. 

And thankful to be home.

Puppy found his present …

 Until next time,

sincerely

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“Get lost, silly tourist!” (Amritsar,  India) 

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Good Morning JOY!

Dear Judy,      

The sun glowed orange during rush hour this morning.  My heart sagged under a weight of joy and I slowed down to take pictures –  

I almost sent them off to you.                                         

Then I remembered …

I recalled a recent dialogue we had.

Me: Could I use these pictures of you, please?  There’s such a beauty about you that’s riveting.

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… and this one. (Judy wrote:that is Eamon reading a letter that I wrote to him. I love my bedhead look.”)

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I asked her for this picture  … (Judy with a mixing bowl and the rubber chicken she used as a ‘bell’ too summon assistance)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 

 

You:  You can use every picture you want.  You don’t have to ask.  Surprise me!

So I’m surprising you today …

You: How long was your fight with cancer?

Me: The cancer battle was over a year and a half.  My oncologist calls me a success case (I prefer miracle patient).  I don’t look like myself in the picture, do I?  Within two weeks of your first chemo, the hair starts falling out and you mutate into someone else. I began to practice intentional thankfulness.  When gratitude seeps in, joy is not too far behind.  Those were beautiful, dark, lovely, intense and precious times.  God sends angels, as you know, in many shapes and forms.

You: I don’t look like myself anymore, either.  I was always on the go.  Now it is my mind that is on fast.

Enjoying the evening
What a girl! My friend, Judy, as she used to be.

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Judy (right) standing tall at 6′ 1″, with her mum and sister, Linda (left)

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

The aircraft commenced its descent into Halifax last Thursday afternoon and my thoughts overflowed with vignettes from your heart –                                                           

  • My mum sent the pink rose to me today … just because.  The Ford Escape is on the lawn because Cam wanted me to see it.  He just bought it yesterday as a second vehicle.  My wheelchair van rides low so it’s not practical for snowy days ahead.  I always loved a Ford Escape and Cam would drive a van.

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Her mum’s rose in a vase on the window sill and Judy’s view of the Ford Escape, parked by the hen-house.

  • We have a cottage on the Bay of Fundy and watch the tides go in and the tides go out.  Nature at its best.  September is a special time.  Most cottagers are only there on weekends, so the solitude and beauty is magnified.  My paradise …

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Her paradise – the cottage on the Bay of Fundy

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A serene spot to sit stare in a sky-blue chair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your beloved Cameron –

  • Cam and our brother-in-law are re-shingling the back of the cottage.  It has been a  busy day.  For me, the moments when I can look out the window and see the eagle fly, sandpipers having their last meals before heading to South America and the magnificent clouds being reflected in both water and wet mud are highlights of my soul.

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Judy and  Cameron

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Judy and her beloved Cam on their wedding day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  •  Today it was 29 degrees and sunny,  so I went out in my wheelchair to enjoy.  On impulse I drove on my lawn around to my gardens to see the tulips and bleeding heart.  I felt free until my wheelchair got stuck in soggy lawn.  Resourceful Cam got blocks of wood and we managed to get out.  BUT my tires were full of mud.   Cam cleaned as much as he could off and them I wheeled myself in.  A flashback hit me.  How many times had I told the boys NOT to wear their dirty boots in the house?  Cam, patient Cam, has been working at getting the wheels clean ever since!!!

JOY was your three-letter codeword –

  • Went to the Festival of Lights today in Wolfville, where Cam and I met while going to Acadia University.  At the farmer’s market, it was all about Indian food and entertainment.  I got a dragonfly and the word JOY done with henna and several Indian silk scarves for Christmas gifts.

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Waking up to JOY on her arm each morning …

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 Henna tattos: dragonfly-and-JOY  (the dragonfly is the ALS symbol)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • I am waking up immediately to JOY in the morning for the next couple of weeks.

 

  • What made my day?  My careworker this morning for 4 hours was Holly. Someone that previously had only been there for my half hour tuck-ins at night.  We were sitting at my kitchen table in the sun, when I asked her about her heart-shaped ring  … and that was my further joy for the day.              

You infused JOY into every moment, Judy, distilled, savoured, sipped on it, then infected the air you breathed and intoxicated those around you.

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… in Judy’s home

This says it all
JOY glowing on her front lawn and …

You: There is no such thing as coincidence. 

Absolutely. I agree …

You:  Maybe I came into your life to show you the other side of ALS.  The joyful side.

You did just that.  And you did it so well …

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Always smiling.  Judy (left) chose joy during her four-year journey with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS)

Your boys: your pride and JOY – 

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Judy’s/Charlies’ Angels! The three Starrit brothers all grown up. 

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Judy’s JOYS: Cam and her sons

  • Tim is home. Happy heart.
  • Just got back from taking Tim to the airport.  What a lovely visit and a wonderful son.  He left such wonderful memories behind.

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Tim with his newest nephew, Henry

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Andrew and his boys  

  • Andrew came home on Friday and stays till this Friday.  Check him out on You Tube in the Hot Fireman ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  (Click here to watch  Judy standing at Andrew’s side as he takes up the challenge.)

 

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    Matthew visits at Christmas

    Matthew was home from Wednesday to Saturday.  Shared the big news that Laura is pregnant!  Be still my heart.  We are so blessed.

Those grandbabies –

  • Got a wonderful card in the mail today, with an ultrasound picture on the front and the announcement inside saying “It’s a boy!”  Our third grandson is due the end of October.  The Starrit genes were working again.  OverJOYed!!!!
  • He was born yesterday and all is right with the world.  8lb 11 0z of pure JOY! Yesterday was such an emotional day.  Waiting, wondering, wishing, praying.  And then the phone call came.  Rejoicing, heart exploding, celebrating our new JOY!  And then by 10.00 at night, emotional breakdown.  Thinking about what I will be missing in his future, but being so overjoyed he is here.  A part of me.

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Celebrating Henry, the newest JOY …

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Judy with sister, Linda, and tiny Henry

  • He’s Henry now.  Named after Cam’s dad.  We are still on our baby high.  Will be for quite a while.
  • Cam just stenciled a picture of him onto a pillowcase.

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Cam’s handiwork: Baby Henry-on-a-pillow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Tomorrow Andrew, Findlay and Eamon are coming for Thanksgiving weekend. I am beyond excited!!!

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    They’re here!  Watching for Findlay and Eamon through her bedroom window.
  • I have arranged for the pilot, Debbie, of the only plane that travels to Sable Island, to come and speak about her experiences.
  • I took pictures, but my hands were unsteady with excitement.

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“Starfish or a shell?” (Pilot Debbie engages the kids in discussion)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandad, Grandma, Findlay and Eamon
“Smile guys!” (Gramps and Grammy with Findlay and Eamon)

 

 

 

  • Eamon just messaged me.  Andrew is taking them to a movie.  He likes to keep me informed.

Your sister —

  • Tonight Linda comes.  Any minute now.
  • Linda is here and we are going to listen to the sixth CD of the Book Of Joy, a conversation between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu.  This is our sixth Monday night doing it …

The Rhuda girls
Sister Linda (right) with Mum and Judy

… and the whacky, wonderful friends –

  • My friend, Mary, and sister are coming out to play a card game called Quiddler.  A weekly event.  I am on a winning streak.
  • Mary brings muffins for Cam
  • My tree is trimmed and …

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The tree is trimmed … (in Judy’s living room)

 

 

 

 

 

… the Wild and Woolies are coming at 4.00.  Laughter will abound.

  • The Wild and Woolies have been getting together for over thirty years

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“Wild’s the word: wool’s the game!”  (The Wild and Woolies, Judy’s crazy rug-hooking gang at her Celebration of Joy)

 

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Laughter abounds. Judy with Wild and Woolly Pal, Jean

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The Wild and Woolies hooked a pun-ny Christmas gift for Judy:  JOY TO THE WOOLED

Don’t forget the goats

  • Andrew and Cam have just taken the goats up the hill for a walk.    If we let them loose too close to the house, they would eat all the flowers coming up …

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Playing the giddy goat … Cam at her bedroom window

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Goats-on-a-quilt. Judy’s handiwork …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • I always have flowers in my view.  I even got flowers for Father’s Day!

 

 

 

 

Gotta be kid-ding – goats at a wedding?(The “kids” are included in Andrew and Shantel’s backyard nuptials) …

… and the chickens (of course) —

  • Just had the chickens playing the xylophone at my window.

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Chicken serenade.  Pecking a little tune.   (JOY on the windowsill)

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Cereal inducement.  Cam scattering cheerios on the keyboard of a toy xylaphone! 

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  • Homecare just arrived, but chickens come first!

 

On living with ALS –

  • I have a whole new view on listening.  My boogie board is my voice now.  People don’t wait until I finish writing and assume what I’m going to say and rush off to do their own thing.  Also, they read it wrong, and I have to get their attention and underline a word or words.
  • It cost less than $30 at Costco.

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Judy’s “boogie board”.  She used a tablet-type device to communicate.

  • I WAS a talker!
  • I do most of my writing on my phone now.
  • I am using my BiPAP for about 20 hours a day.  It gives me the freedom of not having to think every time I take a breath.  The strength in my hands has diminished as well.  I will NOT let that keep me from living a full life but it has put limitations on what I can do.  ALS sucks sometimes.

Sucks? The beast stinks …

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Judy: Bipap to breathe, crimson manicure and loads of laughter.

  • Thank you, my dearest friend, for caring so much

You have no idea how much, Judy …

About the annual ALS Walkstrong fundraising campaign

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Judy (right), active spokesperson and ALS Awareness campaigner with Kimberly Carter (left) of the ALS Society of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia

  • Success.  Beyond resounding!  My mind is still going.  Still walking.  Still enjoying yesterday.  There were 59 people, including care-workers, friends and family on Judy’s Joys.  I am blessed  Truly blessed.

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Judy’s Joyful Angels – one of the  teams representing Judy in the ALS fundraising walk – and …

 

 

 

 

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… Judy’s Joyful Jewels

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Took 5-6 days to get over the walk.  SO worth it!

 

 

We shared our rainbows, you and I —

In your home …

… in mine –

You: We are definitely sisters from another mother.

There’s no doubt about that!

You: The physical meeting somehow eludes us, but we are so much beyond that.  We are so much closer than that.  What we have done for each other is beyond friendship.     

Me: Can’t wait to meet you, Judy.  It will be odd, though.  Kind of like having a first date after being married for a year!

You: I, too, want to meet you!  If I could, I would be on a plane now.  But the other side of reality is that I know I won’t be travelling by plane anymore.  Too many uncertainties. 

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Just a text away.  Judy used pictures, video clips and GIFs to express herself.  They were dead on and often hilarious.  (Bottom left, her Facebook profile picture.)

You:  Wish, wish you lived nearby.  Always thinking about you.

Me: Me too.  I love how Cam cares for you, love the chickens, love the red bike.  I even love your ghastly puns!

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Flowering bicycle planter (painted red by Cameron)

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Hilarious hens partying at the window

 

 

 

 

 

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The lady loved her puns. One of the many groaners on Judy’s Facebook Page

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

You: Our friendship goes much deeper.  I needed you as much as you needed me.  You took me outside of myself.

  • By the way, Cam is going to mail a parcel to you tomorrow.  No parcel from you yet.  Tomorrow.

Your parcel arrived by express post on December 23rd.  Icicles dripped off the eaves as the mailman hopped from one foot to the other and blew on his hands, while I hastily inscribed a signature on the electronic board he held out to me.

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DREAMS made from Scrabble pieces  Hangs by my desk to inspire me as I write.   

Such a treasure trove of thoughtful things inside …   

         

Me:  Did you make the Scrabble ornament?  Love it!

You:  Bought it at the ALS sale.

Me:  It was meant for me.

You: I found your DREAMS, didn’t I?

You sure did!

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We called on Christmas Eve, before heading out to church.  Husband, Daughters and I sang We Wish You A Merry Christmas on speakerphone.  Cam said you raised your arms in delight and crossed your hands over your heart.

On Christmas day we shared cameo moments.

You sent me –

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Joy on the Christmas tree

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Mum sipping a cup of yuletide tea

and I sent these –

  • Isn’t this fun?

Absolutely!

  • Our house was always the ‘go to’ house at Christmas.  I used to make rolls and shape them in the form of wreaths and Christmas trees.  Decorate them, of course, and wrap them in clear, cellophane with fancy ribbons.  That is a thing of the past now, but Christmas still comes and goes!

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

I sent you a song on Saturday night.  It came with my heart.  Your response set my heart ablaze.

Click here to listen

I picked up Cameron’s message on Sunday afternoon.  You crossed over an hour after we last messaged each other.

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

Cousin Preman met me at the airport and drove me to the afternoon and evening visitations. 

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Joyful Judy moments up on the  screens at Knox United Church

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Judy’s JOY all over the church foyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

I met Cam and Linda, Mum and your boys.  And the Wild and Woolies, of course.

Linda told me she’d packed my Christmas box of  goodies for Cam to mail.  She recognized the necklace I wore.  

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Wore it to the funeral.  The breast cancer ribbon necklace from my Christmas box – celebrating survival

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Judy’s sister, Linda, at the evening visitation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I laughed with the Wild and Woolies.  Such stories they had to tell …

It felt like I’d known your friends and family forever.

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Your final farewell on Friday was one immense celebration of joy.  The church was packed.

An unusual, uplifting occasion.  You planned it all yourself, Linda said in her tribute. 

Your beloved Bhangra Boys danced their hearts out.  

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Judy’s Maritime Bhangra Boys performed 

(Click here to dance with Judy and her Bhangra Boys, on her birthday last year.)         

I picked up my tea bag and one of your dainty, embroidered white hankies on my way out.

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There was a tea bag ‘party favour’ for everyone, with Judy’s instructions to have a cup of joy with a friend and an invitation to take one of her lovely old fashioned handkerchiefs to be used to wipe away tears of joy and sadness.

 

 

 

 

(Click here for photos and video clips of Judy’s funeral Celebration of Joy)          

 

 

 

 

It felt strange to visit your home on Saturday.  To walk up the ramp and knock at your kitchen door. 

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Cam and Mum on the volunteer-built wheelchair ramp 

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Judy’s hospital bed (from which she took many pictures), all neatly made up, will be donated to the ALS society.

 

 

 

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Google Earth view of her home posted on Judy’s Facecbook Page

 

 

 

 

 

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Cameron with Andrew (left) and Matthew.  Tim had left for the airport

Joy all over the house, pouring from every corner.

Cam and I sat in your room.  We chatted like we’d known each other forever. 

My Christmas package finally made it out to you after New Year’s, he told me. Two days before your final departure.  Cam said you smiled when he showed it to you

He showed me your rubber chickens.  I peeped into the henhouse on my way out.

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Cam with the rubber chickens. Judy used them like a bell, to summon assistance

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Had to check out  the henhouse.  An infrared light keeps the cluckies warm in the winter

You wrote three months ago: PS:  Oct 11 – went to my regular 3 month appointment with all the specialists today.  They are all pleased with how I’m doing …

 The only predictable thing about life is its unpredictability, isn’t it?

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

I’m sipping, as I remember and write, from the mug I found nestled in my surprise Christmas box.               

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From my Christmas box.  Life sure surprised me with you, Judy.

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From my Christmas box.  The dragonfly is the ALS symbol

                            

 

 

 

 

The dragonfly brightens my kitchen window.  I love how it begins to burn when the sun seeps through.           

We never said ‘hello’ in person, Judy.  I never got to write about what I discovered in the bombed out jungle graveyard in Tellipallai, Jaffna.  This was not how our Dear Judy travel series was supposed to end.

I’m thankful you found this blog and reached out in joyful friendship.

(Click here to read how we met)

Thank you, my courageous friend.  You are proof that a purpose-driven life does not necessarily embrace a bed of roses. You were a true and unique gift.

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RIP Judy Starrit, my amazing, inspirational friend. 

  • Loving you from afar. Love, xx Judy

I love you too, Judy …

We’ll meet face-to-face.  On the other shore some day, when my own journey’s done. 

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He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nopain any more, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 RSV)

 

              

 

 

 

 

 

 

His Master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant … enter into the JOY of your master.” (Matthew 25:23 RSV)

Until then,
sincerely

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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