Galle: Sneers for Ranil, Nirupama no balled, Trump prevails


I went back to Galle to attend the Literary Festival after an absence of a few years; a festival which made Galle even more popular in the world. The Literary Festival with interesting discussions, and fond memories. I met many of my friends from Comrade Mano Sekaram, Adrian and Chris Basnayakae, (Prof) Senerath Walter Perera all the way from Peradeniya, and of course my friend and his wife who made Ranil W famous with that dance with gracious Irangani Serasinghe, Tina Edward Gunawardane and others, I hadn't met for years. It was good to meet charming and caring Gnana Moonesinghe, wife of late Mangala Moonesinghe, after a long time. I wonder why Sri Lanka isn't using her vast knowledge and experience. It was good to see many young and energetic volunteers who had become the backbone of the Festival. I don’t think they could have done it without them. Hope they were well taken care of. That is the energy in Sri Lanka we all would like to see. There was more commercial participation, too. Maybe it should be controlled because no one wants some noodle company or other to take over the literati.

Sinhala writers dumped

I am glad over time, the festival organisers added Sinhala and Tamil, the two main languages of the country, to the festival; however, it was still the stepmotherly treatment for the two languages of Sri Lanka. Remember, Galle is in Sri Lanka’s Southern Province. Many of us couldn't find where the Sinhala literary discussions were held. Later, someone directed me to a place hidden by a multinational tea truck/stall. That truck was taking pride of place rather than the hall where Sinhala writers gathered. The hall too was very small. Participants couldn't move about freely. Stepmotherly treatment in one’s own backyard is unacceptable for sure. Later, when one of the Sinhala literary coordinators had complained, a scarecrow like Bristol board was placed saying ‘Sinhala discussions’. That too in English! I failed to find the Tamil sessions. Sad indeed! Talk of reconciliation. Just go to hell!

Mr Prime Minister

Mr Prime Minister was treated with some booing at the ‘Thinking Out Loud’ session of Charles Allen, who made an excellent presentation on Ashoka–The Search for India’s Lost Emperor. In fact, Wickremesinghe even unsettled Allen. It was told that he was coming at 6.30 to make a presentation. Instead, much to the annoyance of festival goers, his security was in place from 1.00 pm. Sri Lanka is free from terror. Literati are harmless. Then we heard he was coming early to attend Charles Allen’s sessions. Many participants were annoyed when the security chaps questioned them when they walked in to the Fairway pavilion. The organisers started sweeping the carpets, brought additional red carpets. People laughed, made cat calls and joked. The organisers delayed the sessions to make way for the Prime Minister. One elderly gentleman shouted "If the PM cannot come on time we can’t wait". People clapped and cheered him. Another said "Look at Chandrika. She is in the next hall moving freely". Another shouted "Perpetual test in Sri Lanka". Participants became restless because the sessions usually start on time and end on time. There was an Indian couple who tried to go and sit in front. It sure was no go for them. Surely, like in other countries the ‘fearless’ PM would have mingled with the visitors. A doctor who was seated next to me said, "What is wrong with Sri Lanka? In any other country they would have started the sessions on time without bothering about politicians. It is also the duty of the politician to tell the organisers to go ahead without waiting for him". The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka walked in 25 minutes late. The gentleman in front shouted, "Learn to be punctual" another whispered, "His popularity just dropped" A PR lady from the festival organisers told the two gentlemen "It’s not nice". The gentlemen told her bluntly "It’s not nice to keep us waiting." Much to my amusement the gentleman next to me said, "Looks like the PR lady has come in tight track bottom like pants, not knowing it’s a literary event. Disgrace for Dharmasoka". I am of the view that Sri Lankan politicians should keep off such events. Organisers should know better not to pander to politicians and insult the participants. It did prove a point to the many foreign participants how subservient the organisers were.

Nirupama no balled

I attended a session where former Indian Ambassador Nirupma Rao and a former Guyanese Ambassador David Dabydeen spoke on China. ‘Their reflections on China’s changing role in the international political and economic landscape, and on what this might mean for the future of their own countries and of ours’. The first question which came to my mind was "Why speak of China without having a Chinese on the panel". Nirupama spoke at length on the Chinese presence in Sri Lanka. She was deeply concerned. She said "When I arrived at the BIA I was greeted by the sound (may be noises) of Chinese children who were running all over the airport". She sure was deeply worried. Many were of the view she was biased. I wouldn't blame her because she represents India and not China. She was fearful of the entry of the dragon all over the world, and more in Sri Lanka. I thought David was more balanced. He said, "Unlike the British, Chinese don’t come with the Bible and a cross. They don’t impose their values on other countries. They mean business and economics." I asked Nirupama during question time, "Nirupama, I understand your concerns about China. But, how come the Indian cricket team is sponsored by a Chinese brand?" The audience applauded. Someone said she had been no balled.

On the food front, I hardly saw anything organic or what you refer to as healthy food. May be the organisers should invite ‘The Good Market’ next year. There were noodles and sausages, and a biriyani place run by a multinational company to promote its soup cubes. That biriyani was tasty, though the service was poor. A University Don said it was the cheapest food available. The silver lining was the Lady Dr who had qualified from SAITM who welcomed us. She had excellent public relations skills. That is another story worth writing. A Group of Muslim ladies living in Galle Fort, sold home cooked food from rice packets to short eats. They had the best lime juice; homemade of course. I saw one humble man away from the literary fellows selling Kola Kenda. That sure was good for the health of the poor men and women. I had breakfast at a small kade and packet of rice, sandwich toast, ulundu vadai and a cup of tea cost me only Rs 210.00. Hurrah for the Poor Man who owned that Kade. His service was excellent!

Who was making waves in Galle? The lasses from Cinnamon promoting The Sound of Music in the old Volkswagen van (sorry it wasn't made in Kurunegala) and Maria Von Trapp wouldn't have liked it either.

What was the best-selling book at the festival? Fire and Fury - Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff. Proud of you my friend Donald Trump. You triumphed even in far away Galle.



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