By Carol Aloysius
Sixty-two-years ago, it was the setting for a historic ceremony, when the mightiest of the land rubbed shoulders with royalty, as this country celebrated its first day of Independence from British rule on February 4, 1948.
The impressive grey building with its red canopy, which houses the national Torrington museum in its bowels, now re-named Independence Square, stands opposite the Sports Ministry on the entrance side, and is neighbour to other important landmarks in the city, such as the Western Province Secretariat that is home to the Ministries of Probation & Child Care, Indigenous Medicine and Women’s Affairs among others.
Apart from its historic attraction to visitors, the Square is also the popular hangout for joggers, walkers, cyclists and numerous other keep-fit buffs who converge on the Square at all times of the day, come rain or shine.
From the crack of dawn till late night, an assortment of vehicles, from jeeps, Defenders bringing VIP’s accompanied by their Security personnel, race cars, and the latest model cars to the humble mini vans, trishaws, bicycles and CTB buses, disgorge this motley crowd of joggers and walkers at the historic square. Collectively, they make a colourful and intriguing picture, in their running shoes, track suits or shorts, some of them in sari or traditional Muslim attire, sporting caps on their heads to protect them from the rain, a bottle of water in their hands and mobile strapped onto their side pockets, or strung round their necks.

Of all shapes, sizes and ages, they vary from the very stout and obese, to the lean and hungry: from middling plump to plain anorexic: those who are agile and athletic to the frail and the doddering: old, young and very young. Irrespective of their age or size, they come with one common purpose: to keep fit. No matter that some of them are so feeble they require the assistance of walking sticks, wheel chairs and Carers, while others are so young they need a parent or ayah to accompany them, they share the same determination to achieve their objective, even braving the elements to do so. The more seasoned walkers and joggers prefer to explore narrow trails in semi darkness as twilight creeps in and tread the winding paths where insects and even snakes may lurk. Others less bold and daring prefer to walk around the Independence Building, stopping to admire the reflecting ponds that surround it and the fine architecture, comforted by the reassuring message outside the Police Department nearby, which states, “ The People –friendly Police Department is ready to serve you”.
An imposing larger than life statue of the Father of the Nation, Don Stephen Senanayake towers on a high edifice, closely guarded by four watchful stylized lions looking benignly at the keep-fit buffs on the Square, and the numerous children playing just below.

Walking and jogging are not the only activities that engage this unique tribe, for whom Time stands still. The big clock that hangs atop the Western Provincial Council Secretariat, may be just an ornament, for no one looks at it, except for the odd ball like yours truly, who lately joined the motley crowd of exercise buffs. Exercise is the key word for all those who come here. So, naturally they spend every second of their time at the Square, immersed in various forms of it. When not walking, you will find these exercise maniacs doing their own thing in the oddest of places: some of them hanging from poles, trees or arches, or lying on the ground just outside the Independence building and away from the joggers and walkers, contorting their bodies into various grotesque forms, doing push-ups, bending from side to side, swinging their arms from left to right, squatting on the floor to do knee-dips, standing on their heads, or doing some imaginary cycling with their legs lifted in the air.

These vigorous exercises apart, many who want to get de-stressed or just relax after a hard day’s work, come here merely to enjoy the healthy breeze and watch the world go by. A few of them read, while others come armed with notebooks jotting down their random thoughts, unconcerned by any movement around them. Then there are the Meditators. Yes, Yoga meditation is also practised as a habit by a few in the midst of this frenzy of activity. One woman who sat with her back ramrod and legs crossed, sometimes contorting her body, so that she stood on her arms, told me how to meditate, even when one is assailed by noise and intense activity. “Shut out the noise and sights around you by fixing your eyes on just one thing or one thought. Close your mind to everything else”.

You may have thought that this busy place is strictly off limits for kids. But the place crawls with kids on any day, any time. Kids in prams, strollers, kids barely able to walk trotting with their parents, or darting across the roads in front of cars. Just the other day, I saw a father leisurely walking ahead while his toddler kid left to her own devices, suddenly shot past him, nearly getting knocked by a jogger leaving the Square in his car. It was past 7 pm and you couldn’t blame the jogger, so they traded insults while the kid, who was squirming in the father’s arms by now, managed to break free once again with the father in hot pursuit.
The Square is also a haven for the young would be cricketer, footballer, basketball player, badminton player and roller-skater and regulars who have formed their own kiddies clubs I guess, since the same players can be seen competing with each other at any of these games on an evening at the Square.
The Square has also become a popular tourist site with busloads of tourists being brought for a quick look around the grounds, the building and to view the Museum. I was heartened to see several CTB buses also bringing in school kids from other parts of the island.

A Lion flag, first hoisted just opposite the walk, flanked by twin ponds and a re-creation of the famed Anuradhapura moonstones and guard-stones, now continues to hang proudly blowing in the wind day and night.
The twin ponds which, until this year’s Independence day had been neglected to the extent that weeds had sprouted in their dried up beds and the huge pots had tumbled upside down on the dried bed, while the grass had overgrown on either side, is now thankfully cleaned up and resurrected, and will, hopefully, continue to be maintained by the authorities. It is encouraging to note that the CMC has not forgotten to attempt getting rid of the mosquito menace at the Square, for they have already started fogging operations, with care not to disturb the walkers. Also noteworthy of mention is the absence of the ubiquitous sili sili bag, empty plastic bottles and remnants of food lying around, largely due to a cleaning agency being hired to pick up any garbage. A couple of carts complete with bug sacks and brooms and buckets strung on them, can be seen trundling along the paths trodden by the walkers, picking up any garbage they may have dropped.

With Galle Face now becoming very overcrowded, Torrington Square is the next best option for people like us who want to shed their excess fat and get fit. The fact that there is a police post, and the Sports Ministry just across, and the place being well lit are plus points. With no food vendors except for the single ice cream cart and the pineapple vendor, the place is relatively clean.
Let’s hope it stays that way.
Welcome to the world of Walkers & Joggers.



By Dinidu Karunanayake
Kalasuri Jayasiri Semage, the world renowned Sri Lankan ‘art-ambassador’ is holding his 31st solo exhibition of the latest paintings at the Lionel Wendt Art Gallery from August 6 to 8. Deviating from his usual thematic area of Sri Lankan rural life, this time, Semage is engaged with a new theme: “Love and Peace”.
“Now the war is over, and it is the time of love and peace,” the veteran artist starts, speaking to The Nation. “No more fighting among the races; no blasts. Peace has embraced the nation eventually and we are one nation in one island. It is time for our dots, lines and shapes to dance to the song of peace.”

Semage has held many exhibitions in various parts of the world; in Europe, Middle East and South East Asia in particular. His unique painting style has mesmerised the West to such an extent that one of his paintings is on display in the permanent collection of the UN head quarters in Geneva. The cheery art guru is more than willing to look retrospectively at his childhood where he finds roots for his unique style.

Born in Ambalangoda, Semage was blessed with a childhood closely linked with Sinhala Buddhist culture. He was immensely inspired by ancient wall paintings in temples. Subsequently, he started developing a style of his own, based on the Sigiri and Ajanta paintings. Simultaneously, he is also influenced by modernist European painters such as Picasso. Interestingly, Semage has ‘Sri Lankanized’ the Picasso style, by dressing some of the nude figures in the Picasso paintings. The skillful amalgamation of Eastern and Western flavours can be a main reason for the world to embrace the Semage style wholeheartedly.

The forthcoming exhibition will feature paintings made with oil painting, acrylic, line-drawing and water colours. This is a must-go event for all art-lovers as well as peace-lovers, to share the expression of the legendary painter who is equally concerned about the social role of an artist. Sharing beautiful and peaceful thoughts is “the greatest service an artist can render to the nation at a time like this”, the art guru notes.


The Nation EYE - Ceylon Continental Competition

Expansion of Banquet Venues

By Sarasi Paranamanna
The prestigious five star hotel; The Ceylon Continental is going to expand their banquet venues which includes five indoor settings and three outdoor settings. The Ceylon Continental is eager to offer their customers a luxurious setting together with a personalised customer service and luscious food catered with the skill and elegance of international chefs. Poised along the Indian Ocean, the hotel inherits a natural setting to attract travellers both local and international and with the new expansion plans, the Tharanga Terrace, Pool Terrace and the BBQ Garden will offer a picturesque view of the placid ocean and a relaxed outdoor feeling adding colour to your memorable moments.

The Tharanga Terrace will have the capacity to accommodate 200 guests while the Pool Terrace will accommodate a total of 400 guests and offers easy access through the entrance to the car park. The BBQ Garden with its green turf and tiled terrace could accommodate 800 guests with ease.

Ceylon Continental Hotel has five indoor settings as banquet venues to provide their customers a classy elegant atmosphere during their special occasions. The Sapphire Ballroom which could accommodate 500 guests with a portable dance floor, carpeted black and gold floor and golden chandeliers and as a venue for cocktail the capacity will be 1000. The magnificent venue is the largest banquet hall with three entrances and has the advantage of the adjoining Garnet Room for the expansion of venue. The Moonstone Ballroom which is conveniently located at the lower lobby level can hole around 250 guests and if it is used as venue for cocktails, the number of guests could be increased up to 400.

The vista of the Indian Ocean, the Colombo Harbour and the City of Colombo could be sighted and enjoyed from the Cat’s Eye Ballroom which is located on the 10th floor. With a decorative setting of brass chandeliers and black and gold carpets the capacity could be increased up to 300 guests. The Pearl Banquet Hall with an additional open- air terrace facility can accommodate 100 guests providing a breathtaking view of the ocean and the poolside. With the adjoining Emerald Ballroom which has a separate entrance through the pool terrace, the guest capacity could be increased up to 350.
Visit the Ceylon Continental Hotel to experience their excellent hospitality services in these luxurious settings.


The Nation EYE, together with the Ceylon Continental Hotel is holding a competition for our readers. Answer a simple question from the write-up about the hotel and stand a chance to win a dinner voucher for two from the Ceylon Continental Hotel each week. Please fill in the coupon below with the correct answer and send it to: The Nation EYE, 742, Maradana Road, Colombo 10.
One person can send any number of coupons but the photocopies of the coupon are not accepted.