Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Because words and fonts are not enough to say what I want to say, I'd say it in Times New  Roman,
P.S And thanks for putting up with me.

henryblogwalker the Dude.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Every time I pass this downhill slope at Bollagala, on Biyagama Road and I pass Bollagala town, there is this familiar landmark that has etched deep into my mind, now, for several decades.

We get memories etched into out minds for different reasons.

They maybe for both good and bad.

I have never met the person who lived in this house 

who I always wanted to meet and ask

why he did, what he did.

But I never made it.

Well, I know you want to know what he did.

So this is it.

I went to school and then went to work every morning, passing this place, for so many years. And, what I saw every morning filled me with wonder. The occupant of this house had a large lettered calendar exhibited on his balcony wall for the benefit of the people who passed by. It had Day, Date and Month, which the occupant duly changed daily without fail and without a single error for all those years.

Remember, these weren't the days of the digital displays. This was a set of letters and numbers printed on maybe cardboard or plastic sheets. These had to be changed manually every morning.
I have checked this out early mornings when I passed this place around 4.30 am, and and on stormy days when  weather discouraged anyone in his right mind to come out on a balcony to change the digits of a calendar. 

No matter what, the calendar continued to update without a hitch, everyday, for years on end. 

And this was done for the sole benefit of the passerby. 

As I said I was very curious about this person who had this  unwavering dedication, and this unselfish motive to carry on without any publicity over the years. I wanted to know what made him do that and why was he different than the rest of  lazy dudes, selfish dudes, publicity hunter dudes who would do anything to attain their selfish motives.

Well, I didn't see this calendar recently. You would notice in this picture we took the other day, also that the wall is empty. I didn't want to stop and make inquiries as I didn't want look suspicious. Does anyone know what happened to him?

And if you are still there, I want you to know that your act of kindness wasn't unnoticed. Maybe this wouldn't look much to some people. But, to me this is good enough. I was one of the people who were benefited by your calendar. And I want to thank you my unseen friend for what you did. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

61.Yala Adventure - Stuck In An Elephant Crossing!

I swung the wheel to the left to avoid the water-logged potholes on the causeway. Suddenly, without warning, the offside of the van tilted wildly and sank into the earth with a tremendous crash and a thud and explosion. Everyone screamed. When I stepped out, I realized the driver's side was unnaturally higher than normal and the front wheel was jutting out of the wheel bay at an unusual angle.

I walked around the front to have a look. Deepa was already out and examining the damage. The left hand side of the bumper was resting on the concrete. The concrete under the offside wheel had caved in. The vehicle was balanced on the lower suspension arm resting on the concrete. As the wheel crashed through the concrete, the good Bridgestone tire I had on that wheel had burst leaving a gaping hole through which I could push my hand through, which also explained the explosion we heard.

And the crash of the concrete giving way, and the thud as the suspension arm hitting the concrete with the total weight of the fully loaded van plus the forward momentum, and the explosion of the tire all accounted for the blood curdling noise. The van was stuck in the concrete.

And what I saw next brought me out in a cold sweat. I was standing on a steaming heap of elephant dung.

 We were stuck in the middle of an elephant crossing!  And, this was the time they cross!

This incident took place two years back. We were visiting ‘Yala National Wildlife Park’ in the southeastern tip of the island. Actually, we were on one of our ‘road trips’, where we plot plans on the go.  After visiting Kataragama, we had decided to visit Yala as well.

Those who have been to Yala National Park must be aware that only certain classes of vehicles with enough ground clearance are permitted in the Park. Actually the 4X4 are the ideal vehicles for that terrain.  They form convoys of about ten vehicles, which are accompanied by a guide. As it was the end of December, the trails were damaged by the rain. There were huge pools of muddy water in the middles of the rutted tracks.

And we were very much disappointed as that day there weren’t enough wild animals to be seen as we expected.

And, if you have had the experience you would know that driving in the middle of convoy presents certain problems. If you drive alone, over a track with an uneven surface full of potholes, you wouldn’t speed over them. You would use caution when crossing the muddy pools with unknown depths.  However, here the leading 4X4 light vehicle with the Guide onboard would speed over the broken track forcing the normal street vehicles like ours, which are fully loaded also to follow suit at the same speed.

So, the vehicles suffer a lot beating hurtling over the broken trails. My fiber engine guard underneath the engine dislodged on one side knocking on an edge of a pothole and was being dragged along all the way. I couldn’t warn the guide as honking, stopping or getting out of vehicle is not allowed.  The engine guard had taken quite a beating as I later discovered.

It was after dusk when we returned to the ticketing office where I crept under the vehicle and removed the guard and put it into the back of the vehicle. By the time, we set on our 12 kilometer journey over the rutted track through the wild to the main road, all the other vehicles had left and we were alone. And on this road, there are several causeways.

I swung the wheel to the left to avoid the water-logged potholes on the causeway. Suddenly, without warning, the offside of the van tilted wildly and sank into the earth with a tremendous crash and a thud and explosion. Everyone screamed. When I stepped out, I realized the driver's side was unnaturally higher than normal and the front wheel was jutting out of the wheel bay at an unusual angle.
I walked around the front to have a look. Deepa was already out and examining the damage. The left hand side of the bumper was resting on the concrete. The concrete under the offside wheel had caved in. The vehicle was balanced on the lower suspension arm resting on the concrete. As the wheel crashed through the concrete, the good Bridgestone tire I had on that wheel had burst leaving a gaping hole through which I could push my hand through, which also explained the explosion we heard.

And the crash of the concrete giving way, and the thud as the suspension arm hitting the concrete with the total weight of the fully loaded van plus the forward momentum, and the explosion of the tire all accounted for the blood curdling noise. The van was stuck in the concrete.

And what I saw next brought me out in a cold sweat. I was standing on a steaming heap of elephant dung.
We are stuck in the middle of an elephant crossing!  And, this is the time they cross!

First, I tried to calm everyone down although I didn’t feel so myself.  That day in addition to my family, there were others like my sister’s family, my mother, a cousin, and a friend of our son’s.  So, we had enough manpower and woman power as well!
Though I was asking everyone not to panic, my subconscious mind was screaming that we were stuck in an elephant crossing at the wrong time.

And let me explain, for the benefit of those who know about Sri Lankan causeways and wondering how on Earth could a causeway collapse.  And also for those who don’t know what a Sri Lankan causeway is in the first place.

Causeway is a bridge where a waterway and a highway cross each other at the same level.  In other words, the water flows across the road in the middle of the causeway.  The road descends  downwards a slanting concrete ramp to meet the water flowing across over a flat bed of concrete and then ascends along another upward slanting concrete ramp on the opposite end. The water flows over only when the water level is high in flash floods. In normal dry weather, the water is tunneled across under the flatbed.

So the chances of a flatbed collapsing is very remote as it rests firmly on the earth and not suspended like a normal bridge.
In this special case, the zero maintenance of the ancient concrete, together with decades of constant exposure to the elements had led to structural failure. Not only were there potholes on the flatbed, the flash floods had also carved under the concrete slab leaving it suspended unsupported at certain places. Unfortunately, my front offside wheel was passing over one such weak point when the concrete gave way resulting in a cave in, trapping it there, making us stranded in the middle of an elephant crossing!

After I got everybody to calm down, we thought of the operation at hand.

“First we’ve got to take the vehicle out of the pothole freeing the wheel,” I said.  “It’s dangerous to push it forward. So let’s push it backwards.”

So while some of us heaved the van out of the hole others it  pushed backwards. 

It didn’t work. It was stuck.

Then we changed the strategy.

“Let’s use the engine power, “I said. “Few of you please get into the back of the van to weigh it down for better friction as the back is up.”

“And as I’m all muscle like Schwarzenegger, I’ll try to lift the wheel off the hole, who’s going to reverse the van?” I joked.

Chunji, my brother-in-law said, “You get to the driver’s seat, We’ll do the lifting.”

So Deepa, being the muscle man’s wife, gritted her teeth and went to lift the van. While a few were pushing back slightly, others were heaving the front left side of the van by the edge of the wheel bay, window and door frames and all the surfaces possible to take a grip on. While they rocked and heaved, I shifted into reverse and let in the clutch while stepping smoothly on the accelerator.

At the beginning, nothing happened.

But, in a few seconds, the wheel climbed out of the hole. I was careful to hit brakes as soon as I was safely out of the trap as our guys were all over the vehicle body in various postures. After they moved out of the way, I backed the van up over to a safer place.
One major step was over. So far, so good.

Next is to change the wheel. I had recently bought this sporty alloy rim set and to my dismay, the rim of damaged wheel had also suffered some scratches.

I shone the flashlight on the undercarriage and checked for visible damages. The brake hoses and pipes were intact and no visible brake fluid leaks. The sump was not leaking oil. But  the lower suspension arm was dented. The wheel alignment must be shot. So once the wheel is changed we’ll be on the move.

Chunji and I brought the spare wheel, wheel brace and the jack and lever to the front.

Just then, a tractor came rattling along out of the dark and pulled up parallel to us. The driver climbed off.  We were jubilant about this god sent Good Samaritan but this feeling didn’t last long as the dude seemed to be drunk like a skunk and could barely keep standing.

“What’sh the problem shir?” he asked.

I kicked the heap of elephant dung out of the way so that I could kneel down to place the jack underneath and explained the situation to him.

The dude punctuated my speech with his swearing.

“You need any help, shir?”

“Yeah, you could have been a lot of help if you arrived a bit earlier.  We practically lifted the van put of that hole.” I said while Chunji was placing chocks under the wheels. I loosened the wheel nuts.

“Can you shine your headlights on this job?”

“Ooopsh, these lights are not bright enough,” he said.

“Okay. No problem.”

“Holy shit, This is the @$%$#& elephant crossing. You’d better change that fast and get the hell outta here”

“Dude, that’s what I’m trying to do,” I said looking for a suitable spot to place the jack.

“Shtep back shir. I can do it.”

“Don’t worry. I can do it.”

“Shtep back shir. I’m @#$%&^ mechanic.”

So I ‘shtepped back’ because he was supposed to be a mechanic. All I wanted was to get the job done, by hook or crook. However, I was watchful because the dude was stupid drunk. And of course he was trying to jack up the engine sump.

“Dude, don’t jack up the sump.  It’ll be damaged. Jack up the axel.

“There ishn’t enough room under the akshel.

“But don’t jack up the sump. That jack must be lowered. Give it to me”

“I am a @#$%&^ mechanic. Don’t try t o teach me about @#$&^% jacksh!”

He pulled the jack out, clung on to the side of the van for support and climbed on to the jack to weigh it down. The jack didn’t budge. A stream of abuse poured out of his mouth.

“But when you twist this valve and get on to it, it won’t do the trick because this is not a hydraulic jack. It is a mechanical one. You have to twist the handle the opposite way to lower it.”

“Are you bonkers shir?  When you looshen this thingy and get on to this, thish,  it’sh gotta come down. I know my jacksh.”

We persuaded the dude to step back and chunji and I got the wheel changed.

He was becoming more of a hindrance than help by the minute. If it wasn’t for him, we would have been through by this time.

“Where are you from shir? Colombo?”

To dudes from these remote parts anywhere in the Western Province was Colombo. Moreover, it was a convenient answer, too.

I put damaged wheel in the back of the van.

“Cool. Where about in Colombo?”

“Anderson Flats, Narahenpita.”

“Fantabuloush! I’m planning to come to Colombo neksht week.  Gimme your phone number, shir.”

Come on. Gimme a break!

“456123,” I invent these kind of numbers for situations like this for its easily repeatable pattern.

“What the hell kind of number ish that? That’sh a fake number ishn’t it?”

“Why the hell should I do that, when you stopped by and volunteered to help us?”

“Okay, Ish thish Mobitel or Dialog?”

I returned the jack, wheel brace and levers to the back of the van and slammed the door shut.

“That’s Tigo 072.”

The dude pulled his cell phone out and was fumbling with the keys to add it to contacts.

“072… where the@#$% ish thish goddamn zero?”

I was now getting pissed off at this dude for his swearing and cursing, irrespective of the ladies and children. And the kids were broadening their horizons on their vocabulary and language usage.

“Hang on a second,” I said to my sister.  “Would you please write this number on a piece of paper for him?”

“Okay tell me,” she said with the pencil poised.

“Why? Write my number will you? 072 456 123.”

She wrote it for him.

“Shir, gimme a ring to check if this is genuine.”

“What the hell is this? Dude, my phone battery is dead.”

“Okay, as shoon as I arrive in Colombo, I’m gonna call you, okay.”

“Sure dude, I’ll be there to pick you up.”

I walked around the van to check if we were leaving anything behind.

I sighed with relief when the engine started.

“Shir, then I’m gonna call you. And when you were shtranded in our territory I helped you, and when I come to your territory, you return the favor, okay?” he screamed.

“Of course, why ever not?  Consider it’s done. Thanks very much dude. Then Bye,”

I shifted into first and let in the clutch. The van started climbing the concrete ramp.

“Oh, my god. The wild elephant would’ve been better.  He was a real pain in the lower regions.”

“That’s what. And the way he was cur…” Chunji’s voice was drowned because everybody started scolding that dude at the same time. Only my mother who was hard of hearing when she is not wearing the hearing aid, and she lacked the technical knowhow to understand what damage the dude was really trying to do said, 

“There are still good Samaritans like that, who would go out of their way to help the needed.”

I realized the van was pulling to s side as soon as we were on the level road.

I later realized it was just because I had mismatching alloy and the normal wheel at the front, though I wanted to mount the spare wheel to the alloy rim, all the tire workshops were closed for the night.

Actually what I should have done was to have exchanged the spare wheel to one of the rear alloy wheels and have matching wheels at the front.  I didn’t have the right mentality to think this up partly because of that wild elephant threat and partly because that dude was driving me nuts.

Finally, we reached home in the small hours of the morning. And I love that vehicle for not letting us down, no matter what.

And this heron must be it!
And what my mother said later, “Tch, even though you underwent all that trouble and spent so much to go to Yala and see the animals, all I saw was a common heron”

This immediately became a hit with my son.

The tire a few hours before the incident
This post is simulblogged in Sinhala @: මගේ ඩෙනිම and මට හිතෙන හැටි

Friday, October 19, 2012


It was one bright Saturday morning. I thought of doing some gardening which I always enjoyed. I started sweeping the compound, as it was covered with  leaves gathered over the week. We rarely had time for this kind of work on the week days. Weekend actually meant more work around the house, which I truly enjoyed.

My small car had no real garage, as this was a rented house. I had made a temporary mobile shed with some galvanized iron pipes and tarp, which gathered leaves and sometimes got waterlogged. I had to clean it periodically. 

 I shook the roof down and  started sweeping around the car when I noticed two wires hanging from behind the front bumper. The wires were muddy from the last trip on the gravel road in the rain. I knew immediately as the exposed wires were still copper colored this was sabotage. Well, it's nothing to get worked up about, 'cos I knew who the saboteur was immediately. I peeped under the car. Yes he was there napping away,  dreaming one of his puppy dreams. This puppy had a nasty habit of chewing through every thing in sight. We hid our footware inside, to protect them from him.

Somehow, he had noticed the hanging wire from the park light, which was mounted on the bumper, together with the turn signal. He had chewed through the wire and severed it. I opened the glove compartment and found the PVC insulation tape I took with me for emergencies. I bend down and spliced the wire ends together and secured it with tape. Then forgot about that.

Those were the days they were showing Jurassic  Park at Liberty Cinema. Three of us planned to see it and thought of taking my mother too with us who had a taste for that genre of movies. So we thought 3.15 pm show would be ideal. So all of us drove to Colombo and watched the movie and enjoyed it thoroughly.

"How did you like that movie, achchi?" my daughter asked.

"Very good. I loved that!" was the answer.

So we were driving back all content when we saw this 'Exotic Plant Exhibition and Sale' at the Viharamahadevi Park. All of us, having green fingers, could never resist passing one of these and we looked for a parking space. Later, several thousand rupees poorer and the trunk of the small car loaded with more shades of greenery, we left the park. It was getting dusky.

I chose Biyagama Road as it had comparatively less traffic than Kandy Road or Battharamulla Road. When we passed Kelaniya, it was still light enough to drive without head lights.When I passed Manelwatta Raja Maha Vihara, I switched on the lights. It was a sharp downhill and suddenly the car started to fill with black smoke.

"That goddamn truck!" I said because an overloaded truck that was climbing the hill was belching black smoke. We thought the smoke was from that. Even after driving about one hundred meters, when the smoke didn't recede, I was suspicious. It was becoming worse. I pulled over immediately. As soon as the car stopped the I notice the smoke leaking out of the front of the car. I pulled the hood release and engine cover clicked open. I ran to the front and lifted it. Oops, black smoke with the stench of burning plastic threw me back.

"Get out of the car!" I yelled and everybody did.

There were flames from the general area of the battery.

I ran back and got a piece of rag and started fighting the flames. What I put out reignited sometimes and after the combined effort of Deepa's and mine, we managed to put the fire out completely. I later discovered the paint on the hood had blistered.

Now that the immediate danger of fire was over, I thought of getting home. I just turned the ignition on and checked. Actually the engine started immediately, but to my horror new smoke emitted from the wire harness as soon as the headlights were switched on. I switched off the engine and slapped off the fire which was starting again.

"I shouldn't lose my head. Keep cool. How you work in a crisis is what you really are," I told myself.

There is no mechanical fault.  If there was one, the engine would not start. This is some electrical short circuiting. I checked the wires again. Some of them were melted and exposed and you couldn't say which was which. And the darkness made things worse. Luckily, my mother had a habit of taking a small flashlight in her handbag whenever we went somewhere. It came in handy. With the beam of the flashlight, I inspected the damage. Then I started a systematic search with checklist,
while Deepa, my copilot watched out for smoke signal. I got the all clear sign. I switched everything off and started the engine. Engine started. We watched the engine compartment. It was running without a hitch. No smoke.

Then I switched on the turn signal. No smoke.

Then the wipers. No smoke.

I stepped on the brakes. No smoke.

Then the headlights. Oops. Smoke!

I switched off the lights and the engine off.

I walked over to the Hardware store that was open and bought some fresh PVC insulation tape. With the help of the flashlight, I started taping the exposed wire. After some time I realized this was all I could do. I also discovered that the hazard lights could be switched on without any danger of fire.

Then I asked everybody to climb aboard and I started the engine. Deepa held the flash light on to the road. It shone back on us reflecting on the windshield and then she discovered if she put her hand outside the car and flashed the torch the visibility was better.

So we resumed the dangerous and tough journey home.

It wasn't easy driving a car in the night  with a beam of a flashlight especially when the drivers of the other vehicles both going your way and the opposite way were very inconsiderate. Ones behind you honked and flashed head beams and blinded you. Oncoming ones switched on the head beams to see me better and understand  what the hell I was doing. All these made my predicament worse. One special dude who overtook me slowed down and allowed me to follow him, to my immense relief.

At Biyagama,, near the Fonterra Company, I pulled over and looked for an electrician. Actually there were no auto electricians at that time but there was this resourceful dude who did radio repairing, who offered to help.

He did a systematic check and discovered that wire I had spliced that day to be the culprit.

"Why did you do that?" he asked me.

"Well my dog ate it and I spliced it back together and taped it."

"My God! this is the plus and the minus you have spliced together."

"I thought it was the same wire. Actually I didn't notice the color of the wires as they were covered with mud."

He pushed his hand in and pulled out two more wire ends from the park lights.


"Oops, then why didn't it happen before? I've driven this car so many times after splicing the wires together."

"But that was in broad daylight when you didn't have to use headlights."

So it has been an accident waiting to happen. It has been a time bomb. It was just a matter of time until I switched on the lights someday. If it didn't happen today, it would have happened at a worse time. Actually I was about 10 - 15 km from home now. Just imagine this happening in the middle of nowhere! Long way from home!

The wire harness could be leaking in hidden places. So he disconnected the suspicious circuits. He somehow managed to draw new direct line from the battery to the headlights. At the same time he displayed to me the car engine, once started could run on the alternator, without the battery power. He removed the battery cable and demonstrated this. I thought only motor cycles with magneto could do that and now I was very much impressed.

Finally, we were roadworthy again. He advised me to disconnect the battery wire as soon I got home and get a proper auto electrician to do the job ASAP. We thanked him profusely and paid him for his trouble. Actually he didn't try to rob me blind. He didn't even accept the extra notes I tried to give him. And this was a guy who went out of his way to help someone in trouble and did not make a big show out of that either. This resourcefulness in a person is very rare.

When we arrived home, our puppy who did this all and hadn't the slightest idea what he had done to us,was wagging his little tail as faithfully as ever, in the bright headlights of our car.

Is there any message for you in this true story I marveled. The I listed them as follows:

  • Never splice wires carelessly without checking there origin. I had peeped further I'd have discovered  the hidden wire stubs.
  • A flashlight is a must.
  • You never know when A PVC Electrical Insulation Tape comes in handy.
  • A small fire extinguisher is invaluable.
  • Have extra fuses of various values on-board, but check for the fault and correct it before replacing them.
  • Have a butterfly nut at the battery terminal that can be easily disconnected. A kill switch is the best.
  • A tow rope/ cable and a jumper cable were suggested by my Sinhala blog readers who read this in Sinhala.
  • I take two spare wheels when I'm on long haul drives. One in the bracket. Other in the trunk. Just imagine you are on your spare wheel 300 kilometer from home in the middle of the night.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Don’t you always hear the fairytale that the new generation is cleverer and smarter than the previous? Well, I won’t be much popular when I say this, but in my long years of being with children, I was always wondering where this smartness, that they warn us to be prepared for, even at teachers’ seminars, exist. 

Maybe you see a lot of adults who hand over the mystery of handling even the TV remote control to one of his kids, let alone the computer, thinking that the kid is smarter than them. What he forgets is this is totally a matter of under estimating oneself and over estimating the kids. It is not a matter of smartness, but a bad case of laziness and stubbornness of the adults.

What I notice in most of youngsters is that they have one-track minds and won’t think beyond their noses, even when under guidance. The creativity is missing, in most cases. The logic is absent.

This is the popular story that I’d like to believe and witness myself.

One truck got stuck in a steel bridge with overhead girders because the driver overlooked the warning about Max Height.  It was a tight squeeze and the truck couldn’t either move forward nor back out. So, it’s needless to say, the traffic was blocked and emergency units were called.

There were lot of strategies discussed to save the situation. Some suggested cutting off the steel girder using oxyacetylene cutters to free the truck while others suggested hacking off the truck roof.  Finally, one schoolboy, who was watching this, suggested simply letting the air out of the truck tires which they did and worked like magic.

But unfortunately following  is the kind of stories I do witness.

There was one question in my English lessons, where they had to write an essay on ‘What futuristic gadget would you likely to have in your bedroom in 10 years time?’

Actually, I discussed the advances in technology beforehand, to prevent any disaster. However, the result was what I feared.

This was the tops, which I use as an example of illogical thinking, ever since.

‘I would have a touch screen TV on my bedroom wall so that I can watch TV from bed…’

I read this to the class without revealing whose writing this was to protect privacy.

“Do you find anything awkward here?” I asked.

None of them did, and most of them were now impressed by the ingenuity of the idea.

“Well, you are talking about a time 10 years from now,”  I said.

Now I got their attention. Eyes rounded.

“Even the camera I bought in 2006 had touch screen. Do you think in ten years time it would still be the state-of-the-art technology?” I added.

Many said,

“Okay,” I said. “Forget about the technology. Talk about the convenience and practicality. Do you think it is convenient to have a touch screen TV than a normal old-fashioned remote controlled one on the bedroom wall?”


They were gaping incredulously at me for the stupidity of my question.

“But, why?”

“Because touch screen is easy. All you do is touch. No buttons.”  They explained patiently.

“Okay, but you have to get off the bed and walk over to the opposite wall each time you want to change the channel or adjust the volume. How do you like that!”

Then there were chuckles all over as the realization dawned on them.

“Do you still want to have a state-of-the-art touch screen TV on your bedroom wall?”


“Why? “

“Because it’s stupid!”

Well?  Where did all the logical thinking go?