Opinion
Moratuwa-Moratuwa

Being a retiree I have lot of time at my disposal to view and listen over the TV and radio various entertainment programmes in Sinhala. It is not by any coincidence that it dawned on me that if there is a town the name of which is constantly heard over the waves, it is Moratuwa. It is really heartening to hear the name of your hometown, realizing that you are one of its denizens at that very moment. You look around with a sense of exhilaration and pride. Yes you must be proud to be a Moratuwite.

In the annals of my memory there has not been recorded a major calamity like flooding in Moratuwa. I have not heard of such a thing from my parents or grandparents. However, there had been an epidemic of smallpox before my parent were born. Catholics believe that the epidemic was brought under control through the intercession of St. Sebastian to whom they have dedicated the town, and for whom they have prayed for protection. Upto date in case of serious illnesses both Christians and some non-Christians invoke his blessings and give alms in his honour.

There is a special prayer that is recited after every novena asking the saint to protect the people from dreaded diseases such as ‘wasooriya’. Fisherfolk around Moratuwella regard this saint with great deference. It seems that when they go far out in the sea the pinnacle of the tall church acts as a landmark for them to come ashore with his saintly guidance. These are beliefs among some, although Moratuwa is predominantly a Buddhist Town.

According to statistics collected by Mr. Balapatabendi, the secretary to the President, Moratuwa is the most educated town in the whole of South Asia. This may be true with its large number of schools scattered around its villages.

Moratuwa welcomes any outsider to come and make his abode there. In fact most of its present day leading businessmen are migrants from far away towns such as Matara and Galle. It is sad to say that the majority of Moratuwa’s pioneer business clan is now in Colombo attracted by the port, ancillary industries and elitist schools. Whatever it is when you see a Welcome Board to Moratuwa take it seriously. We don’t have biases against outsiders and not xenophobic, because when we sing even doors of haunted houses automatically open ajar!

Now think of philanthropists. Not those who flank a disabled person for a photograph after offering him a wheelchair. No other town has produced a man like Charles Soysa, a colossus of a man where charity is concerned. I need not tire the reader who already knows his unbelievable lavishness on his fellow man.

Then how about music and song? Amaradeva, C. T., M. S. and Rukmani all had their roots and connections in Moratuwa. Rukmani was Daisy Daniels then. It is trite to harp about the galaxy of stars produced by Moratuwa in the field of music and song. Clarence Wijewardena dedicated his song "Moratuwa, Moratuwa" to this town, because it was at Moratuwa their talents were recognized. Clarence was absorbed by ‘Golden Chimes’ and was encouraged to go forward when they had been badly let down by the folks of Ruwanpura. Moratuwites are naturally drawn to good music and song.

When it comes to cricket Moratuwites go raving mad. There is real rivalry at the Moratuwa’s big match between St. Sebastain’s and Prince of Wales colleges. These two schools are separated only by the Lunawa lagoon. This match was suspended from 1938-1953 because of a clash between the two sides. After it was resumed in 1954 with a superb century by Philip Cooray, the late editor of the then "The Ceylon Daily News", there was restiveness among the crowd. However, feelings were calmed down when Philip Cooray’s stumps cart-wheeled from the first ball hurled down by Stanley de Alwis in the second innings. In fact there were two or three baton charges during matches by the Moratuwa police to control unruly crowds. Actually those days when I applied for leave to go for the match my manager used to ask me "At what time is the baton charge this year?"

Again in 1969 when Duleep Mendis was the captain of St. Sebastian’s the series came to an abrupt halt. The common belief among Moratuwites is that it had to be abandoned because Sebastianties did not agree to change the venue to Soysa Stadium mooted by the Cambrians. However, it is the loudest whisper among old Sebastianites that it was the result of ‘fear psychosis’. Duleep was in full cry and in his best element like a swashbuckling buccaneer plundering runs with his willow. Even after he was angled out by St. Thomas’ the match was not played in 1970, when Flavian Aponso was the captain, making venue the bone of contention. Duleep was the only schoolboy who captained 1st eleven cricket teams of two leading schools.

It is strange why these peaceful neighbours give vent to some of their feral instincts at this event. It may be in their blood. They are the progenitors of carpenters and fishermen. One clan is used to sharp tools, and the other to a rugged life overpowering the forces of waves and the vagaries of weather. No one wants to lose the fight. However, it is in record that during 1983 and 1987 ethnic riots not a single Tamil was murdered in Moratuwa, except for a few cases of looting and arson mostly being the work of looters and hooligans from outside. One retired police personnel told me that Moratuwa was the most memorable and the easiest station that he served because of its educated citizenry.

Where craftsmanship is concerned Moratuwa carpentry is world renowned. There is a fully blown coconut flower chiselled out of wood hanging from a wall at Buckingham Palace. The song ‘Wadu Weden" and the saying ‘Atuwa Kadala Hadai Putuwa’ are tributes made to these craftsmen. It is with reluctance that a carpenter would allow a piece of wood to go waste.

‘Moratuwa aratuwas’ are known for their patriotism. If patriots are those who die for their country, then heroes such as Veera Puran Appu had shown how patriotic they were by rising up against colonial powers and laying down their lives for their country. On the other hand patriots are also those who love their countrymen, so much so, that they strive to make the latter’s lives more comfortable by spending their wealth lavishly. Their benevolence is not limited to their hometown alone. They are altruists who do not have boundaries for their generosity. It is this that makes us happy to see the big match played at the Soysa Stadium to honour one of the great patriots of the modern times.

I am sorry if my braggadocio has made the reader uneasy. Being a Moratuwite I can’t resist the temptation of being proud of my hometown. However, I will be withholding something from you if I don’t enlighten you on the ABC of Moratuwa. It is Arrack, Baila and Cricket. This was told me by an elderly citizen followed by a hearty laugh.
A. C. I. Fernando
Katubedda


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