23 January 2015

Collect something crazy

This is the seventeenth article in a series I am writing for the JEANS section of 'The Nation'.  The series is for children. Adults consider yourselves warned...you might re-discover a child within you! Scroll down for other articles in this series. 

Life is about collections.  We collect all kinds of things.  Some people collect certificates.  Some like to collect picture postcards.  A lot of children collect stamps and coins.  Some like to collect feathers. Some collect money, others collect vintage cars. 

And there are things we collect without actually thinking it is a hobby.  Like souvenirs.  Like friends. Like all the books written by a favorite author.  Enid Blyton, Tintin, Asterix and comic books for example.  Some collect song and lyrics, some collect movies.  And whether we like it or not, we all gather memories.

But we are talking here about crazy ‘collections’, things that people don’t necessarily think of as hobbies.  For example place names. 

How many villages or townships do you know which end with ‘deniya’ for example?  Five? Ten?  Peradeniya, Penideniya, Gurudeniya, Theldeniya, Gorakadeniya, Padeniya, Paragahadeniya, Apaladeniya, Bangadeniya, Ududeniya, Udadeniya, Meedeniya, Middeniya, Diddeniya, Kiriwandeniya, Karandeniya, Elamaldeniya, Vaduvadeniya, Deldeniya, Dehideniya, Gandeniya, Gangodadeniya, Dunakadeniya, Veveldeniya, Nelundeniya, Thoradeniya, Maadeniya, Kotakadeniya…the list goes on.  Just so you know, there’s someone who once counted more than 75.  He guesses that there are probably double that number.  There’s even a ‘deniya’ called ‘Deniya’. 

But what’s the joy of such collections? On the face of it, nothing.  But maybe you’ll find there’s a bit of music in reciting a list of names all of which end with ‘deniya’.  A crazy hobby, yes.  But then again, names have meanings.  And meaning is made sometimes of history.  For example, a couple of miles from Kottawa on the road to Polgasovita there’s a place that’s called ‘Sal Gas Handiya’ or ‘Junction of the Sal Trees’.  It is also called ‘Sal Gas Deka’ (The Two Sal Trees).  At that junction there are two Sal trees.  Years from now, when the trees are gone, it will still be called ‘Sal Gas Handiya’.  There are many ‘handiyas’ like that, marked by a tree you can’t miss.  Names are not just points on a map but are landmarks for the traveler.    

Forget ‘deniyas’.  Spent a few minutes each time you encounter a place name.  Ask yourself how that name might have been coined and immediately you enter a world made in a different time where different things were considered important. 

How many names do you know that contain some reference to kos (Jak)?  Kosgoda, Kosinna, Kosgama, Koslanda, Kosgahamulla…got any more?  And then there are the varaka-names too such as Warakapola and Warakaulla. If you think of where these places are located you will immediately understand how important kos was (is, and even should be) to our people.  And since all these names begin with ‘k’ here’s another interesting fact: the ‘ka’ section or rather a part of the section carrying all the words that have ‘ක’ in them Sinhala Dictionary (as yet incomplete, by the way) is larger than an Oxford Dictionary.  Can you imagine how rich the language is?

Moving on, again on the subject of names, there are other ‘collection possibilities’.  There are place names with stories.  Asupini Ella is a waterfall. Legend has it that a prince, hotly pursued by his enemies, spurred his horse to jump across a stream just where there was a waterfall.  The horse didn’t make it and went down along with the rider.  There are gory names too such as ‘Bella Kapapu Handiya’ (Junction Where the Beheading Took Place).  You don’t have to write any of this down, but each time you hear such a name or pass a name board carrying such a place-name or hear someone mention it, you can think about it.  You might even find it fascinating. 

There are other name-collection ideas.  Names (in Sinhala) with pure consonants, i.e. without ispili, paapili etc.  Like Mahara.  Maharagama.  What is the longest pure-consonant place name you can think of?  And the shortest?  There may be other two-consonant place names, but I know of a village galled ‘Waga’.  Can you think of others? 

It is quite ok to collect coins.  Or feathers.  There’s nothing wrong in collecting and pressing between the pages of a book leaves or flowers of different shape, texture and color.  Occasionally, though, it won’t hurt to ‘crazy-collect’. 

Other articles in this series