Hooked on a hobby
collector Mohamed Razeek shares his passion with us…
When do you realise that you have an interest in
something? Is it when you know you’ve got too many
of something in your home? Or when you see what
interests you and there’s a spark in your eye. What
happens 25 years later? As a collector of sorts
myself (from picture frames to sea shells, books to
bangles and yes key chains) I can only answer the
first two questions. Mohamed Razeek, however, has
the answer to all three. As an avid key chain
collector from the 1980s, he’s got over 1,200
currently housed in a shelf at his home, is a chap
who is highly interested in each and every key chain
he’s got and after 25 years, still collecting and
From the moment of initial contact over the phone
Mohamed seemed extremely enthusiastic. In person he
is just that and more; warm, humble and talkative.
It isn’t hard to miss the large shelf that houses
his precious key chain collection for it stands tall
at the entrance of the hallway. I immediately head
towards it and Mohamed opens the case so I can have
a better look. There’s a few of the Holy Kabbah in
Makkah, one of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, a couple
with a picture of Michelin tire, soda bottles with
the likes of Pepsi and Mirinda, a fish bone, name
tags of various countries including Australia,
Dubai, Egypt and Canada – countries and places from
which he has received key chains.
“Truth be told, I have not purchased a single key
chain. I believe it takes away the thrill of
collecting them. For 25 years I was working as the
Sales Executive of Auto Drome located in Union
Place. I was just as talkative then as I am now and
our customers loved that. Whenever someone came
around they would shower me with gifts and
souvenirs. There were pens, caps and most of all,
key chains. I was hooked since then,” said Mohamed.
When colleagues, friends and extended family
members realised that Mohamed was making a hobby out
of collecting key chains, they began to gift him
just as often. If a family member happened to travel
abroad it was a key chain he/she brought back. It
was the same with his colleagues and other clients
at work. It didn’t matter what shape, size or colour
– these shiny objects were Mohamed’s spark in the
eye. “What’s not to like about collecting anything?
It gives me something to do when I hang them
according to my liking and even when I take them out
every three months to have them wiped and dusted
clean. It isn’t as tedious as it sounds; I enjoy
collecting them and will accept anything that is
given to me. People know that whenever they go
someplace, it is a key chain that I will ask for on
their return. 90% of my key chains are from foreign
lands and from all corners of the world including
Canada, Dubai and Australia,” he added.
They’re neatly hung in a shelf that with a
thousand and more hooks to keep them safe and
orderly, instead of cluttered about. Surprisingly
the shelf was made by Mohamed himself! Initially he
had kept his key chains in a glass shelf, placed
with a particular gum which did not last too long.
He noticed a colleague had hooks very much like he
does now, which gave him the idea of building his
own glass shelf to house the key chains. I reach
over and take a few in my hand for a closer look and
Mohamed comes over with a bunch of new key chains in
“I received some of these in the past few days,”
he said, hurriedly opening them so I can have a
look. One in particular was a key chain that could
be separated into two and became two key chains –
this black and yellow ying-yang styled key chain was
sent from Australia. There were also a few colourful
ones with catchy phrases on them, a lighter; a
cigarette shaped one and a Rubik cube amongst the
older collection. He looked at me excitedly and said
that a friend had only recently heard about his vast
collection and had promised to gift him 200 or more
key chains off his own collection. Mohamed probably
needs to widen or build a large shelf for the key
chains at the rate friends and family gift him
“After collecting over 1,000, even my family has
begun to show some interest, including my son who
had some friends gift me some and my daughter who is
currently residing in Dubai. My wife has also shown
a keen interest and supports me very much in what I
Mohamed is the Customer Relations Manager at
Rainbow. On days and time spend at home; he does a
bit of carpentry work, gardening and loves to read.
When I questioned him about other passions in life
he mentioned his pen and sticker collection. “I
started collecting them about the same time I
started with the key chains because they came from
the same people – the clients from my previous
workplace. The collections are not however as large
as my key chain collection. This is what truly gives
me much joy and enjoyment,” he added with a smile on
If anyone would like to gift or send Mohamed Razeek
key chains please feel free to contact him on 0773
Arthur Wamanan and Sarasi Paranamanna
The hands that held on to guns and artillery
launchers barely two years ago showed another side
of their talents when they held onto paint brushes
The Bureau of the Commissioner of Rehabilitation
organised an exhibition where the creations of the
former combatants who were rehabilitated and who are
still being rehabilitated were displayed. The
exhibition “Transformation Through Art” took place
at the Colombo Art Gallery on April 25 and 26.
The effects of a conflict that robbed the ex
combatants of their childhood and their youth have
worn off. The creations clearly depicted hope and
optimism which had blossomed in their hearts. These
people who were once carrying arms have clearly
transformed into artistic beings. The artistry and
skill which were displayed in each painting gave us
an insight of how sensitive and creative they are.
Many of the artworks displayed at the exhibition
depicted their past and their hopes for the future.
In other words, they had expressed their feelings on
what they had missed out in their lives that were
tarnished due to the 30 year old conflict. Their
creations bore the testimony to their inner selves.
The images they saw through out the years must have
been bloody and dark but today they are filled with
an array of colours.
Bright colours, bold strokes all indicate towards
their positive attitudes. Their dreams to live, love
and enjoy were portrayed through the paintings. The
spiritual upliftment they have received was also
evident. The pure love of Mother Mary, the grace of
Jesus Christ and Lord Bhuddha’s birth and also Hindu
Gods were sketched form their pencils which added a
more optimism for the exhibition.
It was indeed a pleasure to receive an insight to
their dreams. Some dream of a prospered country.
Some dream of having families or meeting the love of
their life. Whatever it was all of those paintings
were embedded with hope which added a greater depth
to their creation.
“The former fighters have been given the
opportunity to express themselves and to live the
lives the way they want,” Commissioner General
Rehabilitation, Brigadier Sudantha Ranasighe said.
Handicrafts and ornaments made by the former
fighters were also on display. Ornaments, key tags
made out of coconut shells, wax ornaments were
exhibited displaying their skills at carving and
The Exhibition was declared open by Senior Minister
of Human Resources, DEW Gunasekera. Minister of
Rehabilitations and Prison Reforms Chandrasiri
Gajadeera and US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Patricia
Butenis were also present.
other side of the coin
Pengal Naattin Kangal, is a Tamil saying, which
describes women as the eyes of a country.
Many women around the world have made a mark for
themselves. Sri Lanka too is no exception when it
comes to women who have made impacts on the national
and international arena.
Sri Lankan women have made a mark in various fields.
The country boasts of the world’s first woman prime
minister in Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Likewise, many
others had also made their mark in the fields of
politics, sports, business and entertainment. You
name it, women are there.
But there is also the other side of the coin. Women
have been suffering silently for decades due to the
war. Many had lost their lives. Thousands of women
who were affected are yet to get back on their feet.
The horrors of the past continue to affect their
present even though there are no more artillery
barrages or gunfire.
Women activists in the North point out that the
affected women still need outside assistance.
Director, Centre for Women and Development, Saroja
Sivachandran pointed out that rough estimates
indicated that more than 8,000 women had been
affected by the war and had to look after their
She said that thousands of women have been put in a
situation where they have to look after their
families on their own, without any support.
“The entire communities in the area have been
affected. Therefore, they are not in a position to
help each other to a great extent. The women have no
other option but to look after themselves and their
families on their own,” Sivachandran pointed out.
S. Gowri is one of those women who had lost her
husband during the final stages of the war. Living
in the outskirts of Kilinochchi, she has now taken
up the responsibility of looking after her children
by doing a small business on her own.
“Life is difficult because I have to look after my
children on my own. I have a few relatives who are
living nearby. But, I cannot go to them all the
time, because they too have been affected and are
trying to get back to normal lives,” she said.
She manages her household with the unstable earnings
she gets through her small business. “I cannot
educate my children like this.”
The other major issue that faced single women was
security. Activists point out that it is still an
issue, as many of the women are vulnerable.
Sivachandran says that the absence of a male in the
household has exposed women to several security
threats. “In most of the cases, they live alone with
their children. Therefore, they are in a helpless
situation when someone forcibly enters their house,”
Gowri, while admitting that this was indeed an issue
for single women, added that women who are
supporting their families single-handedly needed to
be given special attention.
Sivachandran pointed out that there had been
instances where the women had to seek desperate
measures to ensure their safety and security.
Culture and tradition has sidelined women who had
lost their spouses, limiting them within a circle
and not allowing them to break free. She added that
such women can decide for themselves on their lives.
“There have been quite a few instances where women
have married a military person. This is a welcome
sign,” she said.
She also pointed out the importance of a change
in mentality of men in the war affected areas. She
said that women too should be given the freedom to
choose their lives. “This kind of attitude should
come from the men who are from the area as well. If
the men can remarry, why can’t women do it for their
security?” Sivachandran questioned.
Several programmes had been launched by the
government and private organsations on empowering
women who had been affected by the conflict.
Recently, the Girl Guide Movement of Sri Lanka
initiated a programme to assist the affected women
by assisting them in vocational training and
building confidence within them.
The eyes allow us to go the correct way instead of
making us stumble. As the saying goes, women are the
eyes of the nation. The country needs them to be on
the right path.
extend a helping hand
Several programmes have been launched targeting
the women who have been affected by the conflict.
Though the majority of the women are from the
war-torn areas in the North and East, there are
those who are living in other parts of the country.
These women have lost their husbands and sons in the
battlefield and are now fighting a daily battle to
Recently, the Sri Lanka Girl Guide Movement (SLGGM)
initiated programme, War Affected Women Empowerment
(WAWE), to assist the women affected by war. The
first phase of the project is scheduled to kick off
in June and expected to go on till December or
The main goal of the project is to develop the
skills women who were affected by the war and to
enable them to get back on their feet through their
own abilities and perseverance. The project will be
targeting three categories of women who have been
directly or indirectly involved with the conflict.
They are the wives of disabled soldiers, former
women combatants, and women who were not involved
with the conflict but whose lives were affected.
Director Communications, SLGGA, Dilmini Peiris, said
the initial phase of the programme would deal with
empowerment of the wives of disabled soldiers. The
women will be given training on dressmaking,
home-gardening and handcrafts.
The women will be trained in workshops at Matara,
Anuradhapura and Homagama
Peiris added that ex-combatants too had joined the
organisation and would assist the training
their own canal after 300 years!
The system of canals and waterways has been in
existence from the reign of King Vira Parakrama Bahu
VIII of Kotte. Original canals existed on the
Western coast of Sri Lanka, owing to the ease of
transporting goods from inland to the nearby
harbours, ready to be shipped to countries including
China, Burma and Rome. There is ample evidence in
historic scriptures to prove that the tiny island of
Serendib was indeed an ideal country located on the
Western Trade Route and often large ships docked in
the harbours before leaving for longer journeys.
Although most of the canals and waterways have
not been conserved, preserved and maintained to the
standards of the yesteryears, they continue to exist
even today; blocked by solid waste and overgrown
vegetation. The canals today are in a degenerating
state, stench that is unbearable and home to
thousands of mosquito breeding sites that are
heavily affecting the lives of the people who live
in the precinct.
The Vystwyke Canal in Crow Island is a classic
example of a neglected and degenerated canal. It is
roughly two metres deep, two and half kilometres
long and was built by the Dutch over 300 years ago.
The canal begins from the Kelani River and is
connected to sea near a Kovil in the very area.
Today the canal is greenish black in colour, thick
and oily, with rubbish and garbage thrown in,
mosquito larvae and tree branches floating about.
C. A. Wijeweera former NHDA Chairman and resident
of Crow Island decided to take matters into his own
hands when multiple government institutions like the
Department of Irrigation refused to acknowledge that
the canals is part of their concern and in keeping
with their line of work. “I have made plenty of
attempts to see that something in the name of good
will be done but whoever I contacted has flatly
refused to take responsibility,” said Wijeweera.
“Quite rightly it should be the responsibility of
the Department of Irrigation but even they have
denied and refused to make a difference. Even after
letters to the President it was doubtful anything
good will come out of it so I decided to take
matters into my own hands. This isn’t for me
however, it is for the people in the area, the
community and the country,” he added.
October 2010 brought Crow Island an unexpected
visitor; Leoni Cuelenaere, the Ambassador for the
Netherlands visited the Vystwyke Canal. Wijeweera
has submitted a letter to her, regarding the
conservation, preservation and maintenance of the
canal in the month of September. After inspecting
the canal, she agreed to financially support the
reconstruction phase of the canal through her
heritage fund. “It was ironic that the canal was
originally built by a Dutch and we still have the
Dutch people’s support even today when we’re
planning to conserve and preserve 300 years later,”
The construction work began over three months ago
– the proposed plan is to dredge the entire canal,
to construct a barrage at the river end to divert
water to the canal, construct an outlet to the sea
end, build gabion walls along the two canal banks
and construct a tall chain link fence on the gabion
walls. “Since the Lady Ambassador has come forward
to support our cause, the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation
and Development Corporation has also shown interest
in this matter,” added Wijeweera. Phase I of the
project will be complete and inspected by the Lady
Ambassador and Secretary to the Minister of Defence
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa will also be present at the
event on May 7.
Over 15,000 people live in the peripheral
surroundings of the Vystwyke Canal. Wijeweera
highlighted that plenty often fall ill and over 75%
of the population are exposed to the polluted water.
It is a known fact that organic and wastage from
factories, companies, homes, industrial emissions,
etc., often end up in these canals. Starting with
the canal that seeps through Crow Island, Wijeweera
hopes that attention will be given to the other
canals and waterways in the country.
“These waterways are ideal mosquito breeding
grounds and the people in the areas are those who
fall victim. With regard to the Vystwyke Canal, we
are indeed deeply grateful to the Lady Ambassador of
the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands who
have willingly reached out to support us. Completing
most of the construction work has been a great
challenge and we couldn’t have done it without the
embassy’s support,” he added.