11 March 2019

A man, a stream and a tree in Dehigaha Ele (or anywhere)

Dehi is the Sinhala name for lime. Gaha is the Sinhala name for tree. And ela is the Sinhala name for stream.  So, even if you haven’t heard of a place called Dehigaha Ela, you could guess that there’s a stream and that there’s a lime tree nearby or else there had been a lime tree at the time the stream was named. 

The stream falls into the Kiri Oya. Yes, ‘milk stream’.  But Dehigaha Ela is both a stream and a place.  It’s an elegantly designed vacation hideaway that appears to have grown naturally in the Dry Zone landscape. Indeed, the accommodation includes tree huts!  It’s 20 km from Dambulla on the Kandalama Road and 8 km from Sigiriya.  

This is not a story about what is undoubtedly one of the best vacation sites in the island. That’s if you are looking for peace and quiet in natural surroundings. 

It’s about a man and a tree. The man’s name is Channa Ekanayake. The name of the tree is Kon.  Channa knows a lot of things. He is an artist who is also a mathematics teacher. At the time he was managing Dehigaha Ela.  

Channa offered me a kon sapling. Now kon is also called the ‘Ceylon Oak’. It can grow into gigantic proportions. He had pointed out such a tree and said that it was at least 70 years old. 

‘We have only a small garden,’ I told Channa. 

He smiled. Then he spoke.

‘It is a common mistake. Or misconception. We tend visualize the full-grown tree in our gardens. Now it will no doubt grow to this height, but do you pause to ask yourself how many years that would take? Do we plant trees for our lifetimes? Even if that were the case, this Kon plant will not upset the landscape of your garden.’

Now that was a splendid lesson. Channa taught me that when we start thinking of benefit to ourselves, we get a lot of things wrong. If you had grown a guava tree in the garden would you be upset if a squirrel or a monkey or a bird nibbled on a few fruits?  If you’ve ever plucked a fruit or picked a flower, did you at that point or any time afterwards ask yourself, ‘I wonder who grew this tree?’  Even if you did ask, you may not know the answer, but then would you have offered thanks in silence for that unknown person who planted a seed or a sapling?

Do we or should we do things so we can benefit? Do we or should we do things expecting someone someday to say ‘thank you’?  

That’s one way of living. Channa lives in a different kind of way.  I like Channa’s way.

*Click here for Channa's story

Several years ago, I wrote a regular column for the JEANS section of 'The Nation'.  The editor of JEANS, Kusumanjalee Thilakarathna now handles the 'Littlestars' tabloid distributed with 'The Sunday Morning'. This is the nineteenth article for Littlestars.  Scroll down to find the full series of articles written for JEANS and the those of this new series.


Articles for THE NATION
On the softest things, softly
Venus-Serena tied at love-all
Some jokes are not funny
There's an ant story waiting for you
And you can be a rainbow-maker
Trees are noble teachers
On cloudless nights the moon is a hole
Gulp down those hurtful words
A question is a boat, a jet, a space-ship or a heart
Quotes can take you far but they can also stop you
No one is weak
The fisherman in a black shirt
Let's celebrate Nelli and Nelliness
Ready for time travel?
Puddles look back at you, did you know?
What's the view like from your door?
The world is rearranged by silhouettes
How would you paint the sky?
It is cool to slosh around
You can compose your own music
Pebbles are amazing things
You can fly if you want to
The happiest days of our lives
So what do you want to do with the rain?
Still looking for that secret passage?
Maybe we should respect the dust we walk on
Numbers are beautiful 
There are libraries everywhere 
Collect something crazy
Fragments speak of a thousand stories 
The games you can and cannot play with rice
The magic of the road less-traveled
Have you ever thought of forgiving?
Wallflowers are pretty, aren't they?
What kind of friend do you want to be? 
Noticed the countless butterflies around you?
It's great to chase rainbows
In praise of 'lesser' creatures 
A mango is a book did you know?
Expressions are interesting things
How many pairs of eyes do you need?
So no one likes you?
There is magic in faraway lights
The thambilil-seller of Giriulla
When people won't listen, things will
Lessons of the seven-times table