by Anura Guruge
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I know that this year it started on April 13th
but I tend to think of April 14th as Sinhala New Year.
So Happy New Year, AGAIN.
Third (and last) New Year of the Year I celebrate.
April 13th to I is ‘Old Year’
— when I would take a bath (even when I didn’t need to)
It was also the birthday of the grandmother who brought me up
and, at birth, straightened my twisted limbs and made sure
I could ‘pee-pee’ because my foreskin was fused together.
Since she was the matriarch of a powerful family
her birthday was a big deal.
So for me New Year, in Ceylon, started in April 12th
and went on, non-stop, with people, food, presents
and celebrations till the 14th.
Rather than trying to reproduce the traditional pictures, e.g., oil lamps, betel leaves, milk rice etc., I wanted to share some OLD pictures from Ceylon — from the 1950s.
I don’t have as many as I should. About 10 years ago I threw away over dozen very large cartons of old photos — because I just didn’t have the space to keep them. I still have some BUT those from the 1950s and 1960s are SMALL and are mainly of family members. I found these two, of interest, and two pictures I had drawn, in Ceylon, c. 1963.
I hope some of YOU will recognize the person in the middle in glasses. Yes, that is Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike, Prime Minister from 1956 to Sept. 1959. He died just after my 6th birthday. I remember his death. I am sure I met him. His wife went onto be “Aunty Bandaranaike”, a lady that I spoke to, first thing in the morning, nearly every day for many years when I was 9 to maybe 12. I think this picture is at an airport. Click to ENLARGE.
A typical 1950s dinner party in Ceylon. I remember these. This was in Wellawatte, in ‘Hampden Lane’ — probably around 1955 (maybe 1956). Notice the banana trees (growing wild). This was in the gardens of the first house I lived — before moving to Nugegoda.
When I was in Ceylon I used to go to art school etc. and I was supposed to be able to draw and paint. I did do a lot of it.
I painted a lot of planes and trains. Here are two examples, probably from when I was about 10. Notice the brown pilot.
Judging from the engines I was trying to capture a Comet-4, the first jet plane I encountered and one that held me in thrall for years.
The train engine looks like what we used to call “Canadian Diesel” — but it might have been a “Power Unit”.
What is interesting is that it is not steam. I not only remember the steam trains I even worked on them! Different stories.
Helps when you have an uncle who was an inspector of railways.
Click to ENLARGE.