Archive for April, 2013

Royston’s Report Number 158

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

 

ROYSTON’S REPORT, Number 158

 

Tropical Topics, Sunday 28 April

 

Greetings from sweltering Sri Lanka (30 plus degrees) where we anxiously await the cool breeze and rain of the monsoon season, supposed to begin in May.

 

Made in Sri Lanka

Kooni has several meanings (just Google it to see) but I’d never heard of it until I saw a packet in my local supermarket (the source of many wondrous things); bought it out of curiosity, took it home and opened it – to discover dried baby shrimps. Packed, and presumably harvested there, in Payagala on the west coast, the 200g pack cost me Rs 230 [£ 1.21;  US$ 1.84]; on line it’s available at $5.99.

Kooni (dried)

Kooni (dried)

When I lived in Dominica we used to delight in tiny, tiny fish (titiri) cooked in battered cakes, but how to prepare these exceedingly small shrimps? Obviously they needed lots of washing to sift out the sand, so I left that job to Kumara’s mother-in-law who provides Sri Lankan rural cuisine for my cottage. She did a marvellous job, tossing the shrimps with onion and seasoning in oil, resulting in a bracing breakfast dish, which I ate with cucumber salad to neutralise the saltiness.

Kooni ready for breakfast

Kooni ready for breakfast

 

Brief briefly

Signboard to Brief

Signboard to Brief

 

“Brief” is a privately owned garden created in the raggedness of tawdry plains that proves nature can benefit from man’s help. The transforming of this former – and failed – rubber plantation by Bevis Bawa and its subsequent maintenance by its current owner Dooland de Silva, is a man-made miracle. It demonstrates that with passion, experiment and ‘blood, sweat and tears,’ nature can be moulded to man’s dreams.

The dream in this case was of Bevis Bawa (1909-1992) who was given the 200-acre rubber estate (acquired by his lawyer father through funds earned from legal briefs) by his mother when he was 20. He took poorly to plantation management, preferring the camaraderie of army life where he distinguished himself by becoming ADC to a succession of British governors of Ceylon.

Gradually Bawa sold off acres of rubber-growing land, ploughing the funds into the creation of his dream garden; a dream based on gardens he had seen in Europe fused with the gorgeous trees, plants and bewitching foliage of the tropics. Now there are five acres of over 120 varieties of trees, but no flowers.

 

Evening shadows at Brief

Evening shadows at Brief

Brief is open every day from 8am to 5pm and admission costs Rs1,000 [£ 5.26; $ 8]. Visitors are left to enjoy the gardens, as one flows into another, by themselves. These are gardens that don’t need a guide, only a chance to contemplate nature’s glory (and the gardeners’ painstaking work) in solitude.

Brief entrance sign

Brief entrance sign

After enjoying the gardens, visitors can tour the house, which has been preserved by Dooland de Silva, as it was when Bevis Bawa died. It is an amazing example of a simple, tropical colonial life style that has visitors gasping in admiration at its quirks and beauty, including a priceless mural by the famous Australian artist, Donald Friend.

Donald Friend's mural at Brief

Donald Friend’s mural at Brief

There is also a handsome mosaic table that must have been fun to create, and concrete slabs bearing Bawa’s signature imprint of a leaf.

 

Home made mosaic table at Brief

Home made mosaic table at Brief

It takes only 30 minutes from Colombo along the Southern Highway to reach the Welipenna Junction on the way to this extraordinary garden of Eden, then a further 15 minutes to the approach to Dharga Town and a Bo Tree shrine marking the differently named Ambagaha Handiya (Mango Tree Junction).

Turn right there (or left if you are coming from Alutgama) until a dignified sign board with lettering like the writing on a legal brief, directs drivers to the right. Then the road disintegrates to a country trail until a retired fountain marks a crossroads. The extreme left fork leads through carefully manicured bushes to Brief – and its garden paradise.

 

Dooland de Silva at Brief

Dooland de Silva at Brief

 

More names for Sri Lanka

Richard Boyle, the British writer and resident of Sri Lanka who is an indefatigable researcher into the origins of words and Sri Lanka’s legends, writes about the many names of Sri Lanka in his forthcoming book Island of the Cosmos: An Alternative Guide to Sri Lanka.

“After the arrival of Vijaya – an outcast Indian prince who supposedly arrived circa 543BCE and was the legendary founder of the Sinhalese people – the island acquired the name TambapanniTâmraparnî – which means “copper-palmed” in Pali. …Taprobane – pronounced Tap-ROB-a-nê – the name by which the island was first known to the Greeks, is thought to be a corruption of Tambapanni. However, some believe it is derived from tapu-ravan or “the isle of Ravan” (a reference to the king of Lanka, Ravana, the villain of the Ramayana); others that it comes from the Hebrew taph-porvan or “golden coast”, which, like Tambapanni, is another allusion to the characteristic colour of the island’s soil. …

“Later, Taprobane became Simundu, Palai-simundi and Salike. Palai-simundu is perhaps derived from the Sanskrit pali-simanta, or “the head of the sacred law”, as the island had become a major centre of Buddhism. Salike may well have been a seaman’s corruption of Sinhala, Sihala or Sihala-dipa, the name chosen by the Sinhalese themselves, which means “the dwelling place of lions”; although some assert that “the blood of the lion” is more correct.”

 

The Small Print

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Sunny regards

Royston