Obeysekera Walauwa saga continues

When hopes collapse…

The Nation EYE featured the historical mansion, Obeysekera Walauwa, Rajagiriya a few weeks ago and invited our readers to share their views, experiences and additional information pertaining to this magnificent walauwa and its many illustrious occupants, with us.
We thank D D C Munasinghe, president of the Boxing Referees and Judges Association, for sharing with us the following account of the walauwa.
We again invite our readers to send us more information pertaining to the same walauwa, or any similar landmark building around the country.
Please send us your views to features@nation.lk

By D D C Munasinghe

I read the article in the Nation EYE feature section on Sunday January 19 and as requested, wish to add the following facts, mostly gathered from the last owner Mr Frederick Wimaladharma Obeysekera (FWO) himself.
He had been a practising lawyer, a barrister from the Cambridge University.
And he had also been the president of the Amateur Boxing Association of Ceylon and also a vice-president of Asian Amateur Boxing Federation.
He died at the age of 89 on July 2, 2001.
FWO had been residing at the Obeysekera Walauwa since his birth, until a few days prior to his death when he was hospitalised.
Being a bachelor, he lived with his old man servant cum cook.
Obeysekera and Rajagiriya village had been synonymous to each other.
Apparently, Mr Donald Obeysekera had bought over the huge bungalow and the land around from the Hewavitharana family, and there had been over 50 acres at that time.
He later built another bungalow further down the sub road.
The main house was called the Maha Walauwa, a two-storey house and the new single-storey house was called the Podi Walauwa.
The youngest son Alexander Indrajith (AIO) inherited the Podi Walauwa and he had been residing there until he died at the age of 84 in 2002.

Post office
I have visited both these houses as both owners had been boxing judges.
My first visit to the famous Maha Walauwa was in 1973, along with some boxing officials.
On that day, FWO took us around the garden and also to the upstairs of the huge bungalow.
There was a crumbling boundary wall around the vast garden of the Maha Walauwa.
Large trees were there in front giving a cool atmosphere.
The entrance to the property was from the side road as one climbs the hill.
The house had been built on top of a hillock at Rajagiriya as the residence for the British Governor Sir Edward Barnes in 1820s.
According to FWO, the governor had not stayed there, but a post office had been installed.
He showed us the GPO emblem cast out with cement on the top of the front wall.
I presume that it is still there, intact.
FWO once told me, I think in 1973, that his house received so much prominence because it was the former GPO and in the past he used to receive letters from England with the address on the envelop as ‘Mr. Obeysekera, Ceylon.’
There was a portico in front of the house under which FWO’s dark green Ford Prefect car was parked.
Like the house, FWO inherited the car from his father.

Peacock cage
On the Western side outside, the long verandah was a gradient.
From here one could get a panoramic view of the landscape beyond. The Bank of Ceylon tower building at Galle Face was quite conspicuous and FWO called it the pittu-bambuwa.’
More towards the north western side in the garden was a huge 20-foot high bell-shaped steel-mesh cage with three grown-up peacocks, two males and a pea-hen.
In our presence, FWO made a cat-call which was similar their cries.
The peacocks responded with their calls.

On the southern side of the house closer to the boundary walls was a row of stables for horses.
The stable roofs had collapsed and there were no horses.
When Mr Donald Obeysekera was living, they had race horses.
FWO showed us broken down parts of a horse carriage which had transported him and his brothers to Royal College during their school days.

Broad verandah
A broad verandah ran around the house.
There were doors on all sides to enter the spacious sitting room which had been filled with antique ebony furniture.
FWO sadly disclosed that most of the furniture went missing during the filming of Lester James Pereis’ Nidhanaya film.
He alleged that a famous actor was responsible for the loss and things that had been transported in large vans which brought film cameras and flood lights.

Large bed room
The broad wooden staircase leads to the spacious upper floor.
The floor was also wooden.
There were wooden balconies on the east and west sides.
There was an antique wooden broad bed with an overhead cloth (viyana) to prevent dust falling.
This bed is shown in the film Nidhanaya.

Further down the road was an Anglican chapel, built by the family to attend services on Sundays which they never missed. They were constant donors to this chapel.
Obeysekera Puraya
Earlier, most the land around Rajagiriya belonged to the Obeysekara family.
Part of their land was subsequently acquired by the government and given to the destitute and that area given was called the Obeysekera Puraya.

History of Rajagiriya
When the Portuguese invaders came to Ceylon in 1505, the Sinhalese kingdom was at Kotte. The King was old and was known as ‘Mahalu Vijayaba.’ The Portuguese were trouble-makers. Their ships were anchored at Colombo port. In order to prevent them from coming to Kotte, the King installed a heavily guarded check-point mid-way between Colombo and Kotte. It was on a hillock, a vantage point from where the surrounding area and beyond, could be seen well. This hill was called, ‘Rajagiriya,’ or the King’s Hill.

Last visit
My last visit was in year 2000 along with two other boxing officials.
We were shocked to find that there had been barbwires around the house leaving a narrow path for the owner to go out. Part of the house had collapsed.
The entire land had been forcibly and illegally grabbed by a well-known thug with the assistance of some others.
FWO was seated on the edge of an old arm chair with most of the rattan broken.
He once lived like a prince and the next year he died, perhaps heart-broken.


Music therapy for the mind

Dinesh Subasinghe is the much talked about young composer within the musical circle today.
He stepped into the limelight about two months ago with the release of his first ever Buddhist oratorio which is said to be the first philosophic piece of musical work since Master Khemadsa’s cantata on Buddha’s Pari Nirvana.

This talented composer is ranked at high levels with some of the greatest Western composers whose oratorios seem to have no competitive advantage over that of Dinesh’s.
This piece is said to be his first exclusive composition since coming down for holidays from the A R Rahman Academy in India.

Dinesh has titled his oratorio CD as The Buddha – River of Kindness.
The CD includes music of many genres, such as Western classical, Sri Lankan folk, Japanese and Chinese styles, Buddhist chanting, Tibet music, pop music and Indian classical music.
Dinesh considers himself to be a rare musician who follows and appreciates ‘real art.’ He travels his journey at his own pace and hence neither follows trend nor sets it. Dinesh only wants to create genuine heartfelt music which he can relate to and in turn make it acceptable to the rest of the world. He, therefore, hopes to enhance his music as a language which can be expressed and communicated by anyone at a universal level. By doing this he hopes to establish a good musical reputation for his motherland, Sri Lanka.

The Oratorio is based on the life story of Gauthama Buddha. Just listening to the masterpiece is said to be a good form of relieving stress. Dinesh calls this ‘Music Therapy’ which makes people calm and make them positive. The composer’s dream is to take this unique piece to a universal level where soon world famous orchestras will play it finally commemorating Sri Lankan music. However, Dinesh feels this to be a challenge as Sri Lanka is still at the very inception of creating good universal texture through its own authentic music.
Dinesh wishes to acknowledge the following talented musical personnel who made his Buddhist oratorio a successful reality. John Anthony – a great Bollywood guitarist who has accompanied more than 3,000 Indian movies, the main cellist who played for A R Rahman movie solos Eilidh Catherine Martin, Asrhitha Arockiam, Sahil Jeeth, Singh Rachinthan, Trivedi, Pranoi Praveen and others.

Further acknowledgements go out to Rev B Mahanama and Pragash Bosco who assisted in bringing versatility in the tracks recorded. Dinesh takes this opportunity to mention some upcoming Sri Lankan Vocalists namely ‘Pabasara Shashyamali, Dinesh Tharanga, Raveen Kanishka and a few others who he feels have a bright future within the industry.

Speaking of Dinesh’s accomplishments thus far, this young composer finished the first year foundation programme with an A Grade and received his certificate from living legend A R Rahman himself.
Thereafter, he worked for A R Rahman in his nursery rhymes Audio CD narrated by Bollywood actress Katrina Kaiff. He played violin, Rawan Hatta, Kingiri and Ekthar in the CD and also worked within a string orchestra in Mani Rathnam’s movie Rawan.
He is the first Sri Lankan to study at the Rahman Academy and the first Sri Lankan musician to participate in Rahman’s music projects. Dinesh is also a member of the Indian cine musicians union.


Beauty beyond mere makeup

By Shabna Cader
From his mannerisms to the way he spoke, one could tell that for Cory Wallia, the makeup artiste who hails from the glamorous and glitzy world of Bollywood, it is all about perfection and sheer dedication.
One little glitch in the foundation or the way the eyeliner is done and he needs to correct it; “Where is the liner I was just using” – “Isn’t she glowing” – “She’s got beautiful skin” are the constantly heard liners while he is diligently working on a model

“Most women tend to forget that beyond all the makeup products that are available on the market are your natural good looks! At the end of the day, what all makeup does is accentuate that beauty; makeup can only enhance features and beauty that is already there. One needs to take great care of the skin on the face and moisturise as often as you cleanse. It is only afterwards that you can start on adding the base that is a combination of a foundation and concealer,” he said.

When it comes to Asian woman there is a complexity about skin tones. Yes, we all have a variant of light to dark skin but for some, or rather many of us, having dark skin can be an issue. We all want to look confident and if you take a look at the advertisement on television, looking good and being confident are always imparted with being fair. “Where is all this coming from? I can quite honestly tell you that even though whitening products are the ones that sell the most, they really cannot make you fair. My goal is not to make ‘fair beauties’ out of the women I apply makeup on; there really isn’t a philosophy of how to be confident, but if natural beauty with a bit of makeup to highlight features can do that, then there you go!” he added.

On principle, Cory does not work with skin whitening products and does not endorse them either. All the Bollywood beauties he has worked on including Bipasha Basu, Rani Mukerji and Amrita Rao are those with olive skin, not ‘fair’ skin. He explained that whenever he sees someone he is always thinking of how he can transform particular features of the face, from adding a touch of mascara to the eyes or ooze to the lips. He does not even like the use of the word ‘makeover’. “Whenever I hear that word it feels like something associated with redecorating a room or something,” he declared. Cory believes that he can give his clients the best out of what is already there (natural features). “I make use of the raw products available like a person’s natural beauty along with my skills and certain products to bring out what is already there. There really isn’t a formula to it; it all depends on each individual because makeup trends are always evolving and changing. My specialty lies in seeing something special and working towards bringing out their features with the minimalist amount of makeup.”

Cory’s visit to Sri Lanka was to coincide with the release of the IHB handbook on hairdressing and barbering. The event was organised by SLAHAB (Sri Lanka Association of Hairdressers and Beauticians).
“There is a lot of dedication, cohesiveness and passion to give this profession dignity in Sri Lanka. Your country is so advanced in many ways compared to India and I am so proud and happy to be associated with SLAHAB,” added Cory commenting on the work done by Nayana Karunanayake and her team.


A concert not to be missed

On February 12 the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka, will join with some exceptional musical personalities to perform the New World Concert at the Ladies’ College Hall.
Gregory Rose, the British Conductor, will conduct the SOSL in the New World Concert which will feature international flute soloist Celine Charlier from Brazil, who will perform a Flute Concerto with a distinct Latin American flavour composed by Brazil’s foremost living composer, Villani-Cortes. Charlier has premiered many flute compositions written for her and is certain to use her considerable experience and skill to make this vibrant composition come alive.

The New World Concert will also present the outstanding soprano, Tharanga Goonetilleke, an old girl of Ladies’ College, who has thrilled many audiences with her fabulous singing. Tharanga is currently performing with the New York City Opera Company.

“Tharanga Goonetilleke was a particular standout” (Washinton Post), “Tharanga Goonetilleke sang gracefully,” “Appealing rich tone” (New York Times), “Winning performance filled with emotional truth” (Opera News), are some of the glowing terms in which her performances have been described by critics in recent times. The grand finale will be a performance of Dvorak’s much loved Symphony No.9 in E Minor “From the New World Symphony.” It is a favourite with the musicians and audience love it.