Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 29 May 2016





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Our conqueror of Everest and a curse that boomeranged

“Even with all our technology and the inventions that make modern life so much easier than it once was, it takes just one big natural disaster to wipe all that away and remind us, here on Earth, that we’re still at the mercy of nature.”

That was said by Neil de Grasse Tyson. Don’t ask me who he is or what claim he has to fame since I am clueless, but what he wrote resonates with me.

Yes, we have absolutely no control over nature.

This cat with a feline’s seventh sense, believes nature has a prodder behind that causes havoc to be unleashed. It may be God Almighty, may be lesser gods, devas and perethayas, and in our country, it could be Kuveni’s curse catching us again in its grip.

Nature, personified as a gentle female in poetry and the imagination, is kind; gives the world bountifully and is tolerant of human foibles, even crimes of tampering with her – raping forests, polluting the environment and over-using her resources.

So she will not, in this feline’s reckoning, unleash such torrential rain so the Kelani Ganga rises dangerously and mountains slide down burying people.

She has to have someone or something pushing her to ravage the land and cause dire suffering to living beings, more especially humans.

Wrath of the Gods

Those in Parliament laughed when Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe said, tongue in cheek, that the recent storms, floods and mudslides were due to coconuts being dashed invoking the wrath of gods or devas.

The Jt Op laughed at him and others with him. The wrath, invoked by dashed coconuts, was to be on the government and its Cabinet. But when humans meddle with these supernatural entities, be they perethayas or devathaavas, the curse boomerangs.

Unfortunately none of the coconut dashers were affected; rather the country was devastated and innocent, marginalised, less-able people made to bear the brunt of tropical storm Roana. So this cat, for one, agrees with the Prime Minister of the country.

Those of the Jt Op who dashed coconuts and those behind the scenes who egged them on are guilty of bringing the wrath of esoteric beings, who directed Nature to cry havoc and let loose the dogs of flood and landslide.


“We tend to think of heroes only in terms of violent combat, whether it’s against enemies or natural disasters. But human beings also perform radical acts of compassion. We just don’t talk about them so much.” - Diane Ackerman.

We saw plenty of such heroes in the recent fortnight, ever since the deluge on Sunday May 15.

Too numerous to mention instances and people; they ranged from the police and armed forces to ordinary citizens. Such acts of selfless giving, such fatigue to body and mind in trying to dig up dead people at Aranayaka and other spots where the earth slid down with lethal consequences to villages perched on the mountains. For this cat, however, the hero of the last fortnight is women’s rights activist Jayanthi Kuru-Utumpala (37) who reached the summit of Everest (29,029 ft) on May 21. Bravo! Congratulations!

We love you! We are so mighty proud of you and your achievement - one among a hundred or so women who have reached the summit. Johann Peries was with her; trained for weeks; then climbed to station 4, the camp just before the final assault. But he had to stop and rest, and the evening news of Wednesday, May 25 said that ill-health prevented him from completing the final assault.

Never mind! You tried and gave it your best Johann, and you supported Jayanthi.

She, with Sherpa guide Fura Gyalzn trekked past Death Zone by the light of the Vesak moon. Our Prime Minister and his wife sent her their congratulations and of course she would know all Sri Lankans congratulate and rejoice with her. She was earlier a journalist and worked in the Daily Mirror, now an activist and of course mountain climber.

Two climbers who attempted the feat at the same time as our Sri Lankan mountaineers, not of the same group probably, descended with altitude disorder and died.

First love

This cat remembers the news that impregnable Mt Everest had been conquered by a New Zealander and a Sherpa on May 29, 1953. Bee-keeper Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were delegated by the manager - Sir John Hunt - of the vast team of climbers, doctors, helpers, Sherpas and luggage bearers - to attempt the final lap.

Soon after the news broke and jubilation all over the world was in full swing, particularly in Briton where the young Princess Elizabeth was crowned queen on June 2 the same year, a smudge appeared.

I believe the narration I give here. Hillary was finding it difficult to climb and Tenzing Norgay helped him by pulling on the rope that bound them. He said that he cut laborious step after step in the ice and moved upwards until there was no way he could cut another step.

After some perturbation he realized he had reached the top! Hauling Hillary up, they spent time celebrating, photographing each other and burying flags and Norgay’s offering to the gods of the mountain.

Descended and lionized, Hillary told reporters that he was first on the summit, since Tenzing was struggling like a fish out of water and he pulled him up. Tenzing, told this, very simply said it was not so.

This cat remembers another bright spot, without a blush or excuse. Her tender early-teenage heart was won over by a Sherpa far away in Nepal! She was deeply and sincerely in love with short and ever grinning Tenzing who conquered the mountain that had reigned supreme with no man’s footstep placed on it – so far recorded.

For two days her heartbeat quickened at seeing pictures of him in the newspapers. And as swiftly and as violently as the attraction had taken hold of her, it evaporated – poof! – and disappeared.

She did, however, feel a pang of sorrow, when, a couple of years ago, she read that Norgay had died, a natural death, after very many more climbs and helping people achieve their mountaineering dream.

With improved clothing – much lighter and warmer – climbers could trail up without the load of an oxygen cylinder on their backs. An all female Japanese team climbed Everest several years ago; so also a blind man with a helper, and a climber minus all his toes, sacrificed to frostbite on an earlier climb up another mountain.


Sunday TV night news had a JVP spokesman saying the JVP is watching politicians to see they do not repeat the Helping Hambantota scam. It is good to have vigilantes but not mere talkers and threateners. We need them, but at this time of crisis, more actual doers of what is beneficial to us Sri Lankans are who we need.

- Menika



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