Motorcycle Journeys – Trip to Mahawilachchiya from Koradekumbura via Nuwara Eliya and Kandy with Aleksandar Isailović from Serbia


Route to Nuwara Eliya from Koradekumbura

Route to Nuwara Eliya from Koradekumbura

Aleksandar Isailović from Serbia and I were woken up by Jayaweera Jayasundara in the morning of May 17, 2017 as we had asked him to do so to see how his “students” practiced physical exercises early hours of the day in the village playground.  Jayaweera arranged a three wheeler for us and I felt bad as to why we can’t walk while others in the village just walk or jog to the playground. But he wanted us to be comfortable I guess.

Jayaweera Jayasundara at the playground while his followers are doing physical exercises.

Jayaweera Jayasundara at the playground while his followers are doing physical exercises.

Jayaweera Jayasundara at the playground while his followers are doing physical exercises.

I was ashamed of traveling to the playground by a vehicle as there were 50 odd people – young, middle aged and very old – were already there and they all had walked to the place before 5.00 am. How many things do we take for granted when there is an initiative like this? (I will write a lengthier blog post on this later to do the right justice to Jayaweera and his followers.)

Jayaweera's family with Aleks

Jayaweera’s family with Aleks

Jayaweera’s wife took the pain of cooking us Kiribath and Katta Sambola for breakfast.  She was very caring for us and arranged two lunch packets also for us to have on the way. We said goodbye to the family and Koradekumbura.

On the way to Nuwara Eliya we stopped at Seetha Amman Temple to take few pictures. This is a temple which the Indians value and respect more than the Sri Lankans. The temple is situated in Sita Eliya and is believed to be the place where the King Ravana, the all-powerful ancient Sri Lankan king kept the Indian princess Sita imprisoned to take revenge from her husband Rama who insulted Ravana’s sister Shurpanakha . Read Ramayana to learn more details. This is just a legend than history.

Seetha Amman Temple, Nuwara Eliya

Seetha Amman Temple, Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya City from a distance

Nuwara Eliya City from a distance

Road to Nuwara Eliya City

Road to Nuwara Eliya City

We went to Nuwara Eliya and spent some time at the Lake Gregory which was a very picturesque site. Water level was low as Nuwara Eliya does not get sufficient rain in the summer. I wanted to ride a horse here but we did not have enough time for it as we had a long way to go back to Mahawilachchiya.

Lake Gregory, Nuwara Eliya

Lake Gregory, Nuwara Eliya

In Lake Gregory in Nuwara Eliya

At Lake Gregory in Nuwara Eliya

Aleksandar Isailović at Lake Gregory in Nuwara Eliya

Aleksandar Isailović at Lake Gregory in Nuwara Eliya

A vegetable stall by the roadside

A vegetable stall by the roadside

We spent some time to take pictures of spectacular extensive tea estates. The greenery and the intermittent fog with the mist made the place very romantic. I was lucky to spend the whole year 2006 surrounded by this type of stunning environment. I want to return to the hills for good. In fact, I was planning this since I was a kid and saw the beauty of Nuwara Eliya in Sarath Madhu’s comic ඉතිං ඊට පස්සේ (Ithin Eeta Passe) in the comic weekly සිත්තර (Siththara) where the story was wound around the hills in Sri Lanka. The only thing which prevented me settling down in here was my commitments to Horizon Lanka at Mahawilachchiya. But now I am planning to transfer the project to the safe hands of the youths in Mahawilachchiya who are being given responsibilities to run the place on their own. It will take time, but I am confident about them.

Route to Mahawilachchiya from Nuwara Eliya

Route to Mahawilachchiya from Nuwara Eliya

 

A tea estate in Nuwara Eliya

A tea estate in Nuwara Eliya

In Nuwara Eliya

in Nuwara Eliya

Aleksandar Isailović in Nuwara Eliya

1 Aleksandar Isailović in Nuwara Eliya

We had some tea at a small tea shop in Pussellawa and it was not hot enough. I complained the shop keeper and he apologized and waved off the price of the two tea cups. We paid for bananas we had there though.

A fruit stall in Pussellawa

A fruit stall cum tea shop in Pussellawa

We did not want to go via Kandy City as Aleksandar had already visited Kandy the previous week. Kandy is a congested city with a lot of traffic and I didn’t like to get stuck in there. The only time I loved Kandy was when I was in love, a long time ago. I loved to walk along the Lake Nuwara Wewa holding hands with my sweet ex-girlfriend. Those were the days….. Aah….

A jackfruit stall in Matale - Dambulla road

A jackfruit stall in Matale – Dambulla road

We bypassed Kandy and directly reached Katugastota via Gannoruwa. Had our lunch by the roadside and proceeded to Anuradhapura. We had some delicious jackfruits in a small village between Matale and Dambulla. Aleks loved jackfruits. He had earlier eaten cooked raw jackfruit as a curry and it was here he ate the ripe ones first.

Mahawilachchiya Reservoir

Mahawilachchiya Reservoir

We reached Anuradhapura by the evening and had tea at my sister’s house. Then we proceeded to Mahawilachchiya around 6.30 pm. The whole journey was a fascinating ride for me. But my friend was exhausted as he had to be on the pillion of the bike throughout the whole bike hike as he was not comfortable riding my bike model (Bajaj Pulsar 150) despite having an international driving license.  Thus we ended 630 km – 3 day- bike hike. The whole ride was a “chanceless” one. There was not a single බුදු අම්මෝ! (Oh My God!) moment throughout the ride. At least not for me. I don’t know about Aleks though.

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Chithrakatha – The End of an Era


Siththara

If my memory is correct, I got used to chithrakatha (comics) even before I entered Grade 01. We didn’t have Montessoris during our time and there was less access to story books (except for some Russian story books my late father got from Russia) and the only reading material was the comic paper.

“Siththara” was the most famous and adored while “Sathuta” was widely available as well. There were some other papers too in the market which didn’t last long. “Dasuna” was special because it was designed in landscape style. “Sathsiri” was started by Camillus with a breakaway artists group from Siththara and the latter was affected a lot and Sathsiri became the preferred comic paper.

I preferred Eunicor over all the heroes in the comics. Toga was attractive too but he was ‘poorer’ than Eunicor and was clad only in a piece of leopard hide while Eunicor was smartly dressed with all black waist and a pair of tight shorts. He had a white transparent tape over his eyes which gave him a majestic look. He was muscular than Toga and looked braver too. He never was scared of any challenge while Toga was scared and excited in the last square of the week’s page. But he fights the enemy and wins next week. A friend of mine from Grade 01, Dhammila had the everlasting question that who will win if Eunicor and Toga fought each other. My endless attempt to tell him that the two were in different stories and will never meet each other didn’t have any effect on Dhammila and he has the same question to date.

I started drawing Eunicor in exercise books and it got a big demand in the class and even in upper classes. Many would bring me blank exercise book leaves in exchange of one comic of Eunicor I drew. Since my parents found it difficult to buy exercise books for me those days, this ‘earning’ of papers helped me as I could use them pinned together as a book.

We never bought comic papers ourselves. We usually borrowed them from the others who used to buy. One paper would go to more than hundred individuals every week. Some had the habit of preserving the papers or a single story. To my knowledge, the most collected story was “Ithin Eeta Passe.”

Some students used to cover the cover pages of the school books with comics papers. We were too obsessed with the papers and removed the covers, read the stories and put the covers again. The owners of the books were greatly annoyed but that was what they get for putting picture stories as book covers.

When I was transformed from a kid to a teenager my drawings were also transferred from heroes to lovers. I was so shy to draw girls during the initial stage of the transformation and I would draw a beautiful girl and before anyone saw it, would put a moustache and sunglasses and make her a boy. Later I mustered courage and started drawing girls’ pictures but was very shy to draw their breasts. It took some more time for me to draw big breasted girls.

I drew some pocket cartoons and sent them to “Madhura” but none of them appeared in the paper. I drew few single episode comics too but they too didn’t appear in any paper.

It took a long time for me to find how Sarath Madhu drew Dedunu and Kelum’s hair with such beautiful curls. Later I found the way he did it and I too started drawing them. But my favorite female characters became short-haired girls. I loved short-haired girls those days. They looked cuter and smarter.

I loved Wilbert Ranasinghe’s “Sellan Salli,” a cowboy story. It was only last month I came to know that it was the same story as “For a few dollars more” movie where Clint Eastwood plays the title role.

Sellan Salli

Sellan Salli

Sanda Kumari was a love story between Kanchana, a high school girl from Kandy and Dinindu, a university student from Peradeniya was also very popular. It was presented by Ananda Dissanayaka. Unfortunately the last few parts of the story had to be drawn by an amateur artist who messed it up.

Sanda Kumari

Sanda Kumari

During the same period I had the privilege of reading some Superman comics in Sinhala. The comics came as magazines and a whole story was included. This was done by Wijeya Group and I enjoyed them a lot. I am looking for a copy even today but they are too rare to find now.

Kumudu was very talented in drawing teenage stories. The way the artists drew boys and girls was excellent. I can still remember the way the artist had drawn a kissing scene between a teenage boy and a girl. It had all the features of the intensity of a first kiss.

Aravinda came to the scene with the story “Suranganawak Horen Ewithla” which was very popular among the youth due to its theme and the way the young girl and her aunt were drawn in exposing nighties. Susil Premarathna’s Judy too was always in a nighty. The teenagers those days enjoyed these a lot as it was the only way they could access some nudity.

Suranganawak Horen Ewithla

Suranganawak Horen Ewithla

“Vision” was a different type of comic paper that came to the scene in late 90’s. It was a publication with stories in English with difficult words given in Sinhala. It was even approved by the National Institute of Education to be used as supplementary reading for schoolchildren. I used some of the issues for my English classroom teaching. I heard that it was a commercially viable paper but happened to stop due to some management issues.

Sarath Madhu’s departure from Siththara to launch Dasuna was a big blow to Siththara. His two stories, Ithin Eeta Passe and Uniquo were continued by Gunapala Jayalath who did a very poor job as he couldn’t draw a picture to balance the size of a head with its body. Later Ithin Eeta Passe was drawn by many artists and the story got carried away. It ended poorly by the two lovers losing each other. The story didn’t deserve such an end. Recently a teledrama was done by some idiots loosely based on the story and it killed the taste of the whole story.

Comics were blatantly criticized by the schoolteachers, intellectuals and parents of the children. This was a detrimental blow to the industry. More blamed the papers for being lewd. This is true up to some extent and to my knowledge, that trend was set by Sumathipala-Jothipala duo with the story “Suddi” which included nudity and lewd language to a level that was unacceptable. The rest of the artists also followed suit and some parents and principals totally banned comics at homes and schools.

Suddi

Suddi

Towards the late 80’s and early 90’s the quality of the comics was deteriorated and readers got away from them as they had teledramas and video movies as replacements for entertainment. A host of new, but short lived comic papers such as Hithawatha, Chithrakatha, Siwrasa appeared and disappeared.

Today the comics are limited to some newspapers as small strips and the golden era of comics died a natural death. I don’t say comics were bad. It educated us a lot. From it we learnt about how things go in other parts of the country and the world. Some stories were based on historical events. The stories produced a lot of artists within the papers and a lot of youth who became artists by just copying the originals. Today we don’t see such artists even to draw a banner in a funeral . They just go digital.

http://slcomics.wordpress.com/

http://chithrakatha.wordpress.com/

http://sihisatahan.wordpress.com/2011/04/10/blogpost14/

http://www.wimalonline.com/srilankancomics/index.html

http://www.vijithayapa.com/pdesc.php?id=26619

http://magazine.lankahelp.com/2012/01/22/to-bring-the-sweet-memories-of-the-%E2%80%9Cchithra-katha%E2%80%9D-back%E2%80%A6/

http://retrolanka.blogspot.com/