|Dissension, discontent free
upbringing breeds non-violence
Nabiha Ariff and Dilukshi Thomas
In a small but comfortable room, sits Dr. N. Radhakrishnan.
Wearing a crisp white kurtha, white trousers and a serene
expression on his bearded, bespectacled face, his whole manner
speaks of tolerance and his kind brown eyes hold memories of
battles won and lost in his crusade for non-violence.
Speaking to The Nation, Dr. Radhakrishnan stressed on the
importance of a wholesome healthy upbringing, in creating people
with non violent attitudes.
“The home is a breeding ground for dissension and discontent,”
said Dr. Radhakrishnan, adding that “this is why it is important
to have a healthy home background.”
Leaning back on the armchair, with his legs crossed, Dr.
Radhakrishnan spoke about his passion for social service, which
started way back from when his childhood. He explained that he
had always been involved with social issues, as a part of
student unions and other projects since his school days and
continued to do so in college and university as well. Playing an
active role in these places, he gradually found that he was
going down the same path that his father took, many, many years
“My father worked closely with (Mahathma) Gandhi; I grew up with
socially committed parents,” the scholar smiled.
Dr. Radhakrishnan stressed on the importance of family values
and the value of good teachers in one’s childhood. His mother
was a social activist and a folk- dancer; she trained young
women to dance and he recalls (with laughter) playing a woman’s
role in folk-dancing.
The Gandhian scholar began his career as a journalist, since he
loved writing, however, it wasn’t long before he realised his
true calling towards being a teacher, so that he could reach out
to the youth and voice ideas on the importance of nonviolence.
He continued teaching for 22-years at the Gandhigram Rural
University and was a visiting lecturer at 20 other universities
worldwide, and loved every minute of it. The scholar firmly
believes that it is the youth who can make a difference. He
observes that, after training, students are thrown in the deep
end. Here, they go into villages and adapt to that living,
empathise with the villagers’ way of life, recognise their
drawbacks and then, help them lead better lives.
Having written over 50 books, most of them on Gandhi and his
projects, Dr. Radhakrishnan, is well aware of promoting
nonviolence in problematic areas of the world. He has trained
several youth organisations and groups, including the National
Anti War Front (NAWF) in Sri Lanka, during his recent visit to
Sri Lanka. According to the scholar, the situation in Sri Lanka
would worsen, if both parties refuse to compromise and not come
to a non-violent solution.
Though Dr. Radhakrishnan only intended to promote peace and
harmony, he still faced a great deal of challenges and
oppression, not only in India but, in other parts of the world.
In 1987, he was viciously attacked in the midst of promoting
peace, close to the university at which he taught. He was
camping in the village with 30 young student workers, to settle
a 100-year-old feud between the Christian and Non Christian
community, over a piece of land that lay between a church and a
The activist was also held captive for three days by the Chambal
bandits in the Chambal valley ravines in central India, in 1986,
while he was involved in yet another peace promoting campaign.
In addition to these challenges, he also recalls a time when he
was kidnapped in Columbia, for assisting the Governor of
Antioqia, Dr. Gaviria, in non-violent tactics.
Having faced so many challenges, oppressions and risks, one
would expect this to dampen Dr. Radhakrishnan’s spirits. It
didn’t! He continues to implement his ideas fearlessly and
believes it is all worthwhile.
“Most of us live in a violence accepting culture; it makes it
difficult, in such circumstances, to conduct programmes that
promote peace,” he said. “Violence is evident in almost
everything; even music has violence,” he exclaimed. “Music is
supposed to be soothing and refresh one’s mind,” he said, but
added, “it is not so now.” He added that even films have become
more violent and that such films are what attracts the audience
now. He asserted that disputes can’t be resolved if both parties
react with violence.
He strongly believes that instead of opposing violence with
counter violence, one should be just and peaceful to produce a
peaceful society, where injustice is replaced by justice,
violence by nonviolence and hatred with love. Practising this
will help solve most problems in society, said Dr. Radhakrishnan,
however, adding that he was aware that it is easier said than
done. As for him, nothing is impossible. People should be
optimistic and confident.
J.K. Rowling outs
NEW YORK - Harry Potter fans, the rumors are true:
Albus Dumbledore, master wizard and Headmaster of Hogwarts, is
gay. J.K. Rowling, author of the mega-selling fantasy series
that ended last summer, outed the beloved character Friday night
while appearing before a full house at Carnegie Hall.
After reading briefly from the final book, “Harry Potter and the
Deathly Hallows,” she took questions from audience members.
She was asked by one young fan whether Dumbledore finds “true
“Dumbledore is gay,” the author responded to gasps and applause.
She then explained that Dumbledore was smitten with rival
Gellert Grindelwald, whom he defeated long ago in a battle
between good and bad wizards. “Falling in love can blind us to
an extent,” Rowling said of Dumbledore’s feelings, adding that
Dumbledore was “horribly, terribly let down.”
Dumbledore’s love, she observed, was his “great tragedy.”
“Oh, my god,” Rowling concluded with a laugh, “the fan fiction.”
Potter readers on fan sites and elsewhere on the Internet have
speculated on the sexuality of Dumbledore, noting that he has no
close relationship with women and a mysterious, troubled past.
And explicit scenes with Dumbledore already have appeared in fan
Rowling told the audience that while working on the planned
sixth Potter film, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” she
spotted a reference in the script to a girl who once was of
interest to Dumbledore. A note was duly passed to director David
Yates, revealing the truth about her character.
Rowling, finishing a brief “Open Book Tour” of the United
States, her first tour here since 2000, also said that she
regarded her Potter books as a “prolonged argument for
tolerance” and urged her fans to “question authority.”
Not everyone likes her work, Rowling said, likely referring to
Christian groups that have alleged the books promote witchcraft.
Her news about Dumbledore, she said, will give them one more
“I’ll be safer in the conflict areas” –
Light brown eyes, dark hair with streaks of white just above
the forehead, clad in a simple kurtha and a pair of pants with
her backpack slung over one shoulder, and a constant warm smile
on her friendly face. Sunila Abeysekera, former actress turned
human rights activist spoke to The Nation about her journey from
being an actress, singer, a member of Janatha Vimukti Peramuna (JVP)
and now an award winning human rights activist.
She, along with a few others, won the UN Award for Human Rights
in recognition of her work highlighting the rights of women and
communities displaced by the conflict in Sri Lanka.
Since 1992, Sunila has been working with the Global Campaign for
Women’s Rights and is also actively involved in lobbying at all
the UN Conferences since then – 1993 in Vienna and 1995 in
Beijing – focusing on the issue of mainstreaming women’s rights
concerns within the international human rights arena. In Sri
Lanka, Sunila works with the Women and Media Collective, which
conducts national level organising to rally on women’s issues.
Long before she ventured into the human rights field, Sunila
started off her career as an actress and singer. “My father
directed plays and that’s how I got introduced to the industry,”
she said. Her first movie was with Henry Jayasena, a renowned
director at that time.
Sunila is also the Executive Director of INFORM, a leading Sri
Lankan human rights organisation set up in 1989. In 1988, when
she was several months pregnant, death threats forced her to
flee the country. This was because of her persistent demand for
accountability for human rights abuses and action against
perpetrators of human rights abuse, regardless of their rank or
“Working with the JVP taught me how ordinary Sri Lankans live,”
Sunila said referring to the times she was affiliated to the JVP.
Most of us in Colombo find it easy to discuss peace and have
opinions on the on-going war. However, it is the victims, who
understand the actual situation and yet do not have the freedom
to express their concern, Sunila explained. People in these
conflict driven areas live in constant fear and consider
violence and injustice a norm, she added.
Recalling one of the many incidents she has witnessed, Sunila
recalled some of the stories she finds difficult to forget.
Returning from one of her visits to the north-east, she halted
at a checkpoint where she saw three young boys, not more than 13
years of age, all in tears and shock, being shoved into a truck
by the Thamil Makkal Viduthalai Pullikal (TMVP) paramilitary
group. “I just sat in my vehicle staring at the scene in front
of my eyes and couldn’t do anything to help, even though I am
supposed to be this big award winning activist,” Sunila said
with a glint of amazement still in her eyes.
The situation in the country has become such that, she added, “I
couldn’t get down and ask them what was going on, because I
would definitely be shot at the next check point.”
“Yes, I am afraid,” she admitted, human rights activists are
always the target since they indirectly or directly, affect any
Surprisingly, she believes that it is safer to be in the
conflict affected areas where all three groups, army, the TMVP
and the LTTE are present, “because they know I don’t take sides
and am critical of each of them, equally,” she laughed.
However, here in Colombo, she explained that it is more likely
for her to be in danger and soberly added that former Foreign
Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was murdered two years ago and
investigations are still underway.
“If I die too, it will simply be taken as a bad joke!” she
exclaimed. (NA and DT)
Pay teachers on merit for best results
By Shenali Waduge
The role of any teacher we would all agree is an
arduous one. Handling over 20 to 30 children is likely to test
any person’s patience, and one can imagine how it must be to
teach children with different absorption levels. Therefore, we
should never undermine the service rendered by teachers anywhere
across the globe. But there are many teachers who can stand
above these challenges to perform under trying circumstances,
and produce excellent students who would always marvel at the
manner in which these teachers handled them. Then there are also
teachers who prefer to meekly attend to the chore of teaching
and only try to complete the school curriculum, without creating
a love for learning amongst the students. Would it then be fair
to reward both type of teachers in the same manner? No one would
or should grudge any recommendations for teachers to be rewarded
according to a ‘merit pay programme’.
A merit pay programme would differentiate good teachers from
others, and would also serve as an inducement for other teachers
to seriously review their approach to teaching, and perhaps
consider changing the way they teach. It is not impossible for
all teachers to fall under a merit pay program. Just imagine how
great a feat that would be to have all school going children of
Sri Lanka doing extremely well in their studies, and journeying
towards becoming good citizens of the country. The gratitude to
all these teachers from their pupils in the North, East, South
or West of Sri Lanka, who are able to do well in life because of
them, would be overwhelming. So too would be the satisfaction of
the teachers themselves in having done their job well.
Presently, the calls to end corruption, violence, discrimination
etc, all boil down to the need for a change in perceptions. The
best way we can create that change is to influence the children
to think differently from the older generation, who are finding
it extremely difficult to compromise on their ideologies. Thus,
it falls upon schools and the teachers, to take on this task, so
that the correct message is given to these children during their
years of formal education. One can imagine how easy it would be
to misguide these children. We already have evidence of such
misguidance when we consider the present higher education
system, where youth use only violence to demand and obtain by
force and violence, what they feel is right, irrespective of
whether it is right or wrong.
Returning to the topic of merit pay, we should take note of what
was described as a ‘historic’ deal in New York recently, when
the Teachers’ Unions agreed to introduce the merit pay
programmes for teachers, on their classroom performance rather
than seniority or academic degrees. This was heralded as a much
looked forward to move, by all the States of America.
It is time that the Ministry of Education initiates immediate
action to resolve those issues that have been long ignored and
therefore aggravated over the years, instead of turning a blind
eye to them, or blaming the political party in power, or the
minister in charge of education.
bitter-sweet memoirs of a fractured family
By Christopher Ondaatje
I have just read my brother’s book Divisadero for the
second time. He has brought his fiction writing to a new level.
All his books are fractured and, being a poet, he tends to
create a mosaic by putting the pieces of his poetic literature
together. Part of the secret of understanding Divisadero may lie
in his bitter-sweet 1982 memoir
Running in the Family about our own family in colonial Ceylon.
Like the characters
in Divisadero we too are a fractured family, at one time reduced
to penury, and now living in different corners of the world.
There is forgiveness but there is no forgetting.
The genius of my brother is that he has managed to weave a
fragile thread of
compassion through the emotionally scarred characters in his new
novel set in Northern California and in the Gers region of
Source: The Sri Lankan Anchorman, Toronto, Canada