28 October 2014

We shall not be re-named!

Everyone takes note.  Some keep notes.  Some in diaries and journals.  Some in their minds and hears.  Some of these are shared via email or on Facebook or blog; some are not.  Among these people are Kolombians, people from Colombo who know much -- so much that they are wont to think that others don't know and can't think.  This is the third in a series published in 'The Nation' under the title 'Notes of an Unrepentant Kolombian'.

Don’t get me wrong.  I prefer the ‘Nelum Pokuna’ to what it replaced.  After all that place was an eye-sore in the heard of Kolumbian Country.  It used to be nice when the Nomads played cricket there, but that was such a long time ago.  It’s pretty.  Pretty impressive.  It’s good to have something like that in my town. 

My problem is not with the facility.  True, they show a lot of yakko stuff there.  Sinhala plays, of all things!  But we get to hear some good western classical music live now and then and that’s something to appreciate.  Anyway, who really cares about what’s going on inside?  It looks good and that matters. 

My problem is with the name.  Why call it ‘Nelum Pokuna’? I can accept the architectural value of using a cultural motif but they could have called it ‘Lotus Pond’ surely?  I know that’s incongruous because it’s not really a pond -- it’s a theater for god’s sake!   But the thing is that even something incongruous sounds poetic in English. Lotus Pond.  It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue as easily as, say, ‘bed of roses’ but that’s probably due to a tongue-bias to things Kolombian which, as we all know, is English-derived for the most part.  It’s still better than ‘Nelum Pokuna,’ though. 

What really gets my goat in this naming business is tagging the president’s name to the theater.  We didn’t vote for the man and we don’t like him.  Sure, he’s the President, but he’s gone overboard with this in-your-face stuff.  Not in the heart of Kolombian Country, no way!  I get a sick feeling in the stomach each time I pass the place.  It’s the most impressive structure in the top residential area of the city and it has HIS name, damn it! 

Someone told me sadly that the road name had also been changed.  It’s positively sacrilegious.  Ok, let me be honest, I didn’t know who Anandam Cumrasarmy was until I googled his name, but you won’t find us Kolombians effacing the name of such a personality ever.  That’s Mahinda through and through.  No sense of history. No sense of decency.  Someone told me that people of my tribe, the great Kolombians, have sworn to safeguard the names of ‘common thugs and mass murderers’ from England who ruled this country, but I think he’s suffering from an overdose of nationalism.  Those guys did us a great service.  We don’t thank them enough.  Anyway, we did get Anandan Cumrasarmy on a sign by a road, didn’t we?  If Mahinda is really a nationalist, he would have kept the man up there in the corner of the Alexandra Roundabout. 

Mahinda is our president.  I’ve been taught to respect authority.  I am a democrat and I respect the will of the people.  People talk about rigging elections. I am sure there was some shady stuff during the election, but nothing that could have tilted the result the other way.  He won.  I respect that.  I don’t mind him bragging about it.  I would do the same if I were in his shoes. I don’t mind him putting face and name to every project launched, every bathroom built, every road constructed during his tenure.  I just don’t want him to ‘sign-off’ in the fair territories of Kolombian Country. 

He does not belong here, alright?  I am not against outsiders, don’t get me wrong.  We get a lot of foreigners here in the city.  Ok, sure, there are less white people now than before and we are seeing too many from East Asia, especially China and that does irk me a bit now and then, but by and large we are a foreigner-friendly community, us Kolombians.  The problem with Mahinda the Outsider is that he’s not from these parts.  He doesn’t belong and yet he struts around as though he owns the place and worse, that he always owned the place.  And he insulted that Anandan Cumraswarmy chap too.  That’s just not cricket! 

Look, it’s ok.  The president can have his name in every street corner, in and out of a ‘cut-out’.  He can give his name to everything, calling it Mahinda Rajapaksa This or Mahinda Rajapaksa That.  Can he just leave our tiny little so-many-square miles of land in Cinnamon Gardens Mahinda-free? 

As things stand us Kolombians can’t move around without the man looking down at us.  We don’t mind someone like John Rankin looking down at us, but Mahinda?  No.  It’s too much to take. Way too much to take.   It makes me nostalgic for the Nomads. 

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Anonymous said...

I actually know of a Kolombian who laments the shifting of Queen Victoria's statue to a 'god forsaken' patch, cut off from the public eye! "Imagine, Queen Victoria exposed to all elements of nature? When they are beautifying Colombo, couldn't they at least put up a takaran shelter above her???

Malinda Seneviratne said...

worth a rant, me thinks! :) thanks.

sajic said...

Was this piece meant to be sarcastic or funny. Just asking?

Malinda Seneviratne said...

both and more.

sajic said...

Yeah. So I thought. Poor old Queen Victoria delegated to the dust heap.While we're about it maybe we should stop beautifying the grand old derelict colonial buildings like the Dutch Hospital and the Galle Fort. (They should NOT be tourist attractions). And we really should draw the line at cleaning up the war graves at Kanatte when people like Prince Charles come to visit!!

Gilbert said...

I remember my late father saying to me "How sad it is to erase a part of our history by renaming roads and various places with unpronounceable names. I agree with my father. The irony is that there's a road named after him and a recreation hall named after him !(I doubt very much he would have wanted this)
How much better it would have been to have a Hall of fame and mark the names of those who had contributed to the well fare of the people of Sri Lanka,this would have saved us from the task of having to stop frequently trying to read the unpronounceable and may be visit this place of fame and discover who all these people are and if they have truly merited to be there ! Bless our lovely isle : Lanka, ,Sri Lanka, Serendipity, Thambapani, Sinhale, Ceylon after all " A Rose by another name will always be a rose ...............!

Jack Point said...

We refuse absolutely to be renamed or use those ugly new neames!


Shaik Ahamath said...

When renaming any structures with the sole objective of honouring somebody, what has to be considered among others is:
1) The purpose.
2) The previous name and what that honoured.
3) The disruption caused to the public.
I also believe that it should not be necessary to use the full lengthy name for a road. E.g. Sir Chittampalam A. Gardiner Mawatha, as it not only inconvenience the residents but also honours just one person. If the road was simply named Gardiner Mawatha, that person and his descendants carrying the Gardiner name would be honoured for ever more.
I remember the kerfuffle when the new Refectory at Peradeniya University was proposed to be named after Sir Ivor Jennings, the prominent educator and founder Vice Chancellor of our first university. He was responsible for promoting the humble Ceylon University College to the now glamorous Peradeniya University with the Faculties of Arts, Oriental Studies, Agriculture and Veterinary Science, the Department of Dental Surgery etc. I don’t remember the reasons for the objections but we did miss an opportunity to honour a remarkable Englishman to whom our students past and present owe a huge debt.

Anonymous said...

Bandu de Silva
Malinda, when did you write this piece, recently, or sometime back? If recently, why so late?.

Bandu de Silva said...

andu de Silva
One should read my writing in The island long before the theatre was built when Nomads play ground remained closed up.The Island Editor followed up with a supportive editorial.When theatre was renamed Nelun Pokuna -MR Theatre , perhaps, I was the first to object thr articles in Ceylon Today.Equally well,I opposed the change of name from [Savant]Ananda Coomaraswamy MW.to Nelum Pokuna-Mahinda Rajapaksa Mawatha.The former road was the most appropriate as this was considered the /Cultural Zone/.The psychopaths surrounding the President though otherwise.Who is Ananda Coom any way.An unknown /para-demala/compared to our modern day national hero M Rajapaksa who saved the nation.Perhaps that was the logic employed on this occasion.Pity even Prez Secretary Weeratunge soiled his name over it.
As for NP, I wrote there was no pond there, except the imaginary garrish iron structure which the architects have presented as an imaginary pond.Insult to Parakramabahu/s 12 Century anonymous architects who created a Pokuna on stone.This is not modernism but weired thinking.Another female sycopath credited Prez Rajapaksa with suggesting the inclusion of an Orchestra well.The designers should have been sent to gallows if they missed to include that in the plan.
Is this a national Theatre anyway? without a programe of seasonal events, as I repeatedlycommented.What one now sees is mostly third rate stuff though originally the management bragged that only selected high class shows wld be presented at prices standing as high as Rs 7500 a seat.As the Japanese govt thought, is there a sufficient theatre conscious
population in Colombo today as those visiting the Kabukisa in Tokyo or the Beijing Opera in Beijing? The Japanese thought of a small capacity Nat theatre and not a show piece.Johnde Silva days are no more when when Colombo/s upper middle class flocked to the Thetre. Presenting Sarachchanndra/s Maname by present day Maname Mudalais there did no pride to the Theatre or the plyright.His body wd have turned in his grave! Manel/s Punchi Theatre doing better.

I am awaiting the Cultural Centre [Indian gift]in Jaffna cause I know our compatriots in the North have better sense.

Anonymous said...

Similar to Queen Victoria's anecdote, I can share many more Kolombian anecdotes with you, some of which might inspire you a piece!
Another art loving Kolombian said "I admire Gota for the facelift given to Colombo and it was so sweet of him to have taken the initiative to give decent space to relocate George Keyt's statue near the National Art Gallery when the road was expanded! Now this is some food for thought.

Malinda Seneviratne said...

send send!!

Anonymous said...

Ok here is another Kolombian anecdote:
Kolombians classify those around them as 'English Speaking' and 'non English speaking'. The English speaking virtues are their offspring can barely manage 'enna' giya' awa' but beyond that any sinhala word would be a tongue twister. The Kolombians moms spend most of their mornings in a gym toning their figures (having dropped their kids whom are assured only of a minimum pass for Sinhala, that too with grueling effort!) and rest of the day is spent on facebook and flagship stores.
Watching Kolombians moms at kiddies birthday bashes is super entertainment- stressed out trying to figure our how on earth they would pass Sinhala. "Why can't they do away with this subject and that literature part of it! Gosh a nightmare'.
So Malinda, please craft something along this-- how Kolombians mom take great pride in the fact that their children are 'awful in Sinhala'Even if a project is assigned to them on 'paththarayaka kotas' (sections of a paper) for Parisaraya, Kolombian moms would dare not cut and paste Sinhala Paththara Kotas!!! NO WAY not even LAGNA PALA PALA !!!!