India and Day 26 – Part 3: The Devastating Indian Ocean Tsunami


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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December 26, 2004 - Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami

On Sunday, December 26, 2004, an undersea megathrust earthquake, known as the Sumatra–Andaman earthquake occurred at 00:58:53 UTC in the Indian Ocean with an epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, between Simeulue in the Aceh province of Indonesia and mainland Indonesia. The earthquake with a magnitude of Mw 9.1–9.3, is the third largest earthquake ever recorded on a seismograph.

The duration of faulting, between 8.3 and 10 minutes, was the longest ever observed. The behemothic quake caused the entire planet to vibrate as much as 1 centimetre (0.4 inches) and triggered other minor earthquakes as far away as Alaska.

The tsunami was then known by various other names such as: “The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami,” “South Asian tsunami,” and “Indonesian tsunami.” Since the tsunami occurred on December 26, it was also known as the “Christmas tsunami” and the “Boxing Day tsunami.”

December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami (Source: all-that-is-interesting.com)

December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. (Source: all-that-is-interesting.com)

The earthquake triggered a tsunami, considered to be one of the deadliest in history, which inundated coastal communities with waves up to 100 feet (30 meters) high and killed over 230,000 people in fourteen countries. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history.

Costlines severely hit by the December 26, 2004 tsunami (Source: academic.evergree.edu)

Coastlines severely hit by the December 26, 2004 tsunami (Source: academic.evergree.edu)

The huge waves racing at the speed of a jet aircraft took fifteen minutes to seven hours to reach the various coastlines. The waves hit the northern regions of the Indonesian island of Sumatra immediately. Thailand was struck about two hours later, despite being closer to the epicentre because the tsunami waves travelled more slowly in the shallow Andaman Sea off its western coast. About an hour and a half to two hours after the quake, Sri Lanka and the east coast of India were hit. The waves then reached the Maldives.

Indonesia was the hardest-hit country, followed by Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand.

The earthquake and resulting tsunami in the Indian Ocean had a devastating effect on India. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs about 18,000 are estimated dead.

The following table compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey shows that a total of 227,898 people died. According to this table, in mainland India and in its territories, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, 12,405 people died in the tsunami, around 5,640 are missing and 647,599 people have been displaced.

Figures compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey

COUNTRY WHERE
DEATHS OCCURRED
CONFIRMED ESTIMATED INJURED MISSING DISPLACED
INDONESIA 130,736 167,799 n/a 37,063 500,000+
SRI LANKA2 35,322 35,322 21,411 n/a 516,150
INDIA 12,405 18,045 n/a 5,640 647,599
THAILAND 5,395 8,212 8,457 2,817 7,000
SOMALIA 78 289 n/a n/a 5,000
MYANMAR (BURMA) 61 400–600 45 200 3,200
MALDIVES 82 108 n/a 26 15,000+
MALAYSIA 68 75 299 6 n/a
TANZANIA 10 13 n/a n/a n/a
SEYCHELLES 3 3 57 n/a 200
BANGLADESH 2 2 n/a n/a n/a
SOUTH AFRICA 2 2 n/a n/a n/a
YEMEN 2 2 n/a n/a n/a
KENYA 1 1 2 n/a n/a
MADAGASCAR n/a n/a n/a n/a 1,000+
TOTAL ~184,167 ~230,273 ~125,000 ~45,752 ~1.69 million

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean were devastated by the tsunami, and by the initial quake and several aftershocks that occurred during the following days. The Great Nicobar and Car Nicobar islands were the worst hit among all the islands due to their proximity to the epicentre of the quake and because of the relatively flat terrain.

One-fifth of the population in Nicobar Islands was reported dead, missing or wounded. Chowra Island lost two-thirds of its population of 1,500. Communication was cut off when many islands submerged. The Trinket Island was bifurcated.

Fishing communities were destroyed and very little is known about the effects of the tsunami on the indigenous tribes of the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

The official death toll in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands was 1,310, with about 5,600 missing from the islands. But the unofficial death toll, including those missing and presumed dead, was estimated to be around 7,000.

Map showing Tsunami Affected Area in India.

Map showing Tsunami Affected Areas in India.

The tsunami hit the southeastern regions of the Indian mainland. It inundated villages and devastated cities along the coast. Around 8,000 deaths were reported from Tamilnadu, and around 200 deaths from Kerala. The district of Nagapattinam was the worst hit in Tamil Nadu, with nearly 5,500 deaths.

The tsunami of December 26, 2004 inundated villages and devastated cities along the coast of southeastern regions of the Indian mainland. Crown. (Source: indyas.hpage.co.in)

The tsunami of December 26, 2004 inundated villages and devastated cities along the coast of southeastern regions of the Indian mainland. Crown. (Source: indyas.hpage.co.in)

Surprisingly, Bangladesh, which lies at the northern end of the Bay of Bengal, had only two confirmed deaths, despite being a low-lying country and located relatively near the epicenter. Also, distance alone does not guarantee a safety since Somalia located in the Horn of Africa on the eastern coast was hit harder than Bangladesh even though it is much farther away.

Coasts, with a landmass between them and the location of origin of a tsunami, are usually deemed safe, but tsunami waves can sometimes steer around such landmasses. Being a relatively small island, the western coast of Sri Lanka suffered substantial damages from the impact of the tsunami; likewise, the Indian state of Kerala too was hit by the tsunami, despite being on the western coast of India.

The government of India announced a financial package of about US$200 million to Andaman and Nicobar islands after the tsunami, but the unbearable living conditions due to rise in sea level, constant aftershocks and fear of another similar tsunami, propelled thousands of settlers on the islands to relocate to the Indian mainland.

According to the World Bank, reconstruction was expected to cost more than US$1.2 billion in India alone.

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 Previous ~ India and Day 26 – Part 2: Turmoil in Gujarat

Next → India and Day 26 – Part 4: Terrorist Attacks in Mumbai – 1

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The Tupamaros, Terrorists of Uruguay – Postlude


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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A giant sculpture of a hand reaching out of the sand at Punta del Este, Uruguay (Source: thetextbiz.com)

A giant sculpture of a hand reaching out of the sand at Punta del Este, Uruguay (Source: thetextbiz.com)

On March 5, 2010, Juan Maria Bordaberry was sentenced to 30 years in prison (the maximum allowed under Uruguayan law) for murder. He was the second former Uruguayan dictator sentenced to a long prison term.

On July 17, 2011, Bordaberry died, aged 83, at his home. He had been suffering from respiratory problems and other illnesses. His remains are buried at Parque Martinelli de Carrasco.

José Mujica, the current president of Uruguay adopts a ruling style closer to center-left administrations of Lula in Brazil and Bachelet in Chile, unlike the harder-left leaders such as the late Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, former president of Venezuela .

In 2012, José Mujica was lauded for a speech at the United Nations’ Rio+20 global sustainability conference in which he called for a fight against the hyper-consumption that is destroying the environment:

The cause is the model of civilization that we have created. And the thing we have to re-examine is our way of life.

Again in 2012, Mujica announced that the presidential palace would be included among the state shelters for the homeless.

In 2013 Mujica’s government pushed the world’s most progressive cannabis legalization bill through the Uruguayan Congress. He says:

This is not about being free and open. It’s a logical step. We want to take users away from clandestine business.

Guerilla warfare of Fidel Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara inspired the Tupamaros in Uruguay. Other Guerrilla outfits around the world while being inspired by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, emulated the Tupamaros of Uruguay.

To a certain extent, the Tupamaros of Uruguay became the role model for urban guerrillas in India and in Sri Lanka.

In India the various Naxalite groups that are mostly associated with the Communist Party of India (Maoist), the Kashmiri ultras funded by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan, and many other worldwide terror outfits have been inspired by the Tupamaros of Uruguay.

In Sri Lanka, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Tamil insurgent outfits such as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), considered the Tupamaros as their role model.

The Naxalites of India

The Spreading Naxalite Threat (Source: vinay.howtolivewiki.com)

(Source: vinay.howtolivewiki.com)

In India, various Communist guerrilla groups, under the generic term “Naxalites”, were influenced by the Uruguayan Tupamaros.

Kanu Sanyal

Kanu Sanyal (1932 – March 23, 2010)

The first Naxal movement led by Kanu Sanyal, an Indian communist politician, originated in the village of Naxalbari in West Bengal in 1967.

On May 18, 1967, Jangal Santhal, president of the Siliguri Kishan Sabha declared his support for the movement initiated by Kanu Sanyal. The members of the Sabha readily consented to adopt armed struggle for redistribution of land to the landless.

Through the activities of underground groups like the Communist Party of India (Maoist), Kanu Sanyal’s Naxalite ideology spread to less developed regions of rural eastern and southern India, such as Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. Today it has the following of displaced tribal people fighting against exploitation of their land by major Indian corporations and corrupt local officials.

During the 1970s, the original Naxal movement got fragmented into various factions due to internal conflicts among their leaders. In 1980, about 30 Naxalite groups were active in India, with a combined membership of 30,000 cadres.

Terrorists of Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, two terrorist groups involved in guerilla warfare against the governments were very much influenced by the Cuban revolutionists and the Uruguayan Tupamaros.

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) of Sri Lanka

Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna logo

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (People’s Liberation Front) (JVP), a Marxist-Leninist communist political party was led by Rohana Wijeweera (born Patabendi Don Nandasiri Wijeweera).

Rohana Wijeweera

Patabendi Don Nandasiri Wijeweera (14 July 1943 – 13 November 1989)

The JVP involved in two armed insurrections against the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) government in 1971 and against the United National Party (UNP) government in 1987-89.

After 1989, the JVP entered the mainstream of democratic politics. They became popular to a certain extent and participated in the 1994 parliamentary election.

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The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) of Sri Lanka

LTTE Logo

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), was a separatist militant organization based in northern Sri Lanka formed in May 1976 by Velupillai Prabhakaran.

Velupillai Prabhakaran (November 26, 1954 – May 18, 2009)

Velupillai Prabhakaran (November 26, 1954 – May 18, 2009)

The LTTE waged a secessionist nationalist campaign to create an independent and autonomous country for the Tamil people in the north and east of Sri Lanka. Their pursuit to create a mono ethnic Tamil Eelam evolved into the Sri Lankan Civil War (1983-2009).

The LTTE had a well-developed militia and were the first militant group to acquire air power. They carried out many high-profile attacks, including the assassinations of several high-ranking Sri Lankan and Indian politicians. The LTTE was the only militant group to assassinate two world leaders: former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, and Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993.

The LTTE movement is currently proscribed as a terrorist organization by 32 countries, including India. However, it had and still has the support amongst many Tamil political parties in Tamil Nadu in India.

Velupillai Prabhakaran, the founder of the LTTE, was killed on May 18, 2009, by the Sri Lankan army.

Eventually, the LTTE militants were defeated by the Sri Lankan Military in 2009.

Though the Tupamaros movement in Uruguay, the JVP and LTTE movements in Sri Lanka were annihilated by outright military action in both countries, they all have set a standard for an intelligent violence unequaled in modern times. Though there is no doubt about the flair, bravery and genius of those insurgents, there lingers doubts about their politics. The German strategist, Von Clausewitz, much admired by Lenin, wrote:

War is only the violent extension of politics; if the politics are wrong to start with, the war will probably go the same way.”

 

 Previous - Part 9:  Restoration of Democracy in Uruguay

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The Travails of Traveling Abroad on a Sri Lankan Passport


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 Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” ― Blaise PascalPensées

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On April 28, 2014, I wrote an article titled “Is a Passport Necessary for the Queen of England, US President, and the Pope to Travel Abroad?”  After reading it, my friend Joe Croos, a constant reader of my posts, now living in Germantown, Maryland, USA, forwarded me the following hilarious piece of writing sent to him by his friend Tony Rajanayagam.

Neither Tony nor Joe knows who the original author of this article is. Obviously he must be a Sri Lankan.

I enjoyed reading every word of this sarcastic, thought-provoking dissertation, and wish to share it with you.

I have used my editorial discretion, to strike out two phrases in the first paragraph which, though hilarious might seem objectionable to a few. Also, I have added images to spruce up the presentation.

Sri Lanka Passport (Source:  elankanews.com)

Sri Lankan Passport (Source: elankanews.com)

There are three things in the world that are of no use to anyone, viz. a xxx’x xxxxxxt, a xxxxxx’x xxxxx, and a Sri Lankan passport. The uselessness of the third item becomes absolutely clear when one tries to apply for a visa to go abroad.

Today, international travel for a bona fide traveler from Sri Lanka is fraught with unbelievable red-tape, undesirable paperwork and unforeseeable pitfalls. It is, for example, much easier for the proverbial camel to go through the eye of a needle than for an honest Sri Lankan passport holder to enter the United Kingdom. Everything in life has a price.

Ironically, these days, it is relatively easy for a Sri Lankan illegal immigrant to enter any western country of his choice and claim asylum, become a citizen and sponsor his kith and kin. This way, entire villages from Jaffna peninsula have been uprooted and are now relocated to Scarborough in Toronto, Canada.

A Sri Lankan passport is not unique. Israeli passport is the next most useless document as it is not recognized by 23 countries in the Middle East and also by North Korea and Cuba. Presenting an Israeli passport to an immigration officer in a Muslim country would be the equivalent of waving a red flag at a bull in Spain.

Although the Sri Lankan passport clearly states that “The President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka requests and requires all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary” the document is more often than not treated with total disdain while its possessor is regarded with suspicion by almost all countries including Bangladesh, Benin and Bulgaria.

Although the purpose of the Sri Lankan passport is to promote and facilitate international travel, the way in which its owners are treated at foreign embassies makes one wonder if it was instead designed to dissuade and restrict international travel as much as possible.

Applying for a visa to a western country in Sri Lanka has become such a complex, confusing and complicated activity that some people, especially old men and women, come down with the condition known as “visaitis“. This is a relatively new disease which emerged in Sri Lanka at the end of July 1983.

The symptoms include a certain dryness of the mouth, dizziness, and mild dementia. Patients afflicted with this disease also suffer from outrageously watery diarrhea and are in the habit of passing urine frequently, and in rare cases, may be subject to catatonic schizophrenia. They can be nervous, irritable and immune to therapy. The mere thought of going to a western Embassy or High Commission in Sri Lanka is so traumatic that one or two people have in fact died of a broken heart, following the mandatory medical check-up.

There is a particular Hindu place of worship known affectionately as the “Visa Pillayar Temple” (VPT) in Colombo where people go to break a coconut and offer a silent prayer to ensure success prior to their interview (or interrogation) for a visa at the Embassy. Visa aspirants from places as far away as Valluvettithurai (VVT) in the north come to VPT to collect the vipoothi (holy ash), which when applied on the forehead is supposed to confer divine protection during the inquisition at the Embassy.

The insults start at the gate of an Embassy where you experience the taste of what is in store for you in the country you plan to spend your hard-earned money.

French Tricolor Flag - 1803

At the French Embassy in Colombo, rated 9.5 in the “Richter Scale of Rude Shocks,” it is the illiterate gatekeeper who functions as Cerberus, the three-headed dog guarding the entrance to Hades, to whom one must give the sop to slip into the Embassy.

Japanese Flag

At the Japanese Embassy in Colombo, you cannot see the visa officer through the one-way opaque glass window when you submit your application. He can see you, but you cannot see him. The experience can be quite unnerving. It is a bit like speaking to an Oracle in Greece.

Canadian flag

The application for a Canadian tourist visa is 10 pages long and has more than 60 questions, including the names, places and dates of birth of yourself, your wife, your siblings, parents, grandparents, your wife’s relatives, your in-laws and outlaws! All these details have to be submitted first electronically before you are given a date for the interview.

Bangladesh flag

Once I went to the Bangladesh Embassy in Colombo to apply for a visa. The Embassy looked more like a tuck shop and I was the only applicant. Even then that bored consular officer rudely told me that it would take five working days to issue a visa!

Indian Tri-Colour flag

In the Indian Embassy, one would witness the death of common sense. However, much you gather the required documents you need to substantiate your application for a visa, the officer will ask for the one that you forgot to bring.

US flag

By contrast, the US Embassy in Colombo offers one of the best services in the world. The US staff are extremely kind, helpful and patient and they genuinely try to assist the potential visa applicant to the best of their ability. The US evaluation process is very fair, thorough and proper. If you are a genuine visitor to the USA, you need not worry. You will get a fair hearing. All the US immigration officers are trained well to be civil and polite to the visitor. They would often engage you in small talk just to find out if you were a genuine visitor or not to the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.

Today, many embassies have subcontracted the TT Services to deal with the initial stages of processing the visa.

New Zealand flag

More recently, on arrival in Christchurch, New Zealand (the Land of the Long White Cloud), the immigration officer asked me, very politely and with a pleasant smile, what the purpose of my visit was? When I told him that I had come to deliver a talk on elephants at the University of Canterbury, the bewildered officer exclaimed, “But we do not have elephants!” and stamped my passport and wished me a pleasant stay. It spoke so well about the country of just 4.5 million people and 60 million sheep.

WWF

Once when I worked for WWF-International, I was a member of a small working committee planning the next International Theriological (= Mammal) Congress. Two countries, Australia and Colombia, were interested in hosting the event. The Australian delegate was interested in moving the Congress to Sydney, but cautioned us that the only requirement for the visa was that none of the foreign participants had any criminal record. On hearing this, the Colombian delegate jumped up in sheer joy and informed us that on the contrary, his Government would welcome delegates with a criminal record! The Congress was held in Sydney.

In the unlikely event of a visa being issued, it does not automatically guarantee that you’d be allowed to enter the country at the other end. That depends on the mood and the maturity of the immigration officer.

United Kingdom flag

One of the most traumatic experiences one could have on arrival is at the Heathrow airport in London. You had been travelling 16 hours from Colombo and the flight lands at 9 am. It is supposed to be summer, but the sun is nowhere to be seen in the Land of Ceaseless Fog and Drizzle. Thus, even before the plane comes to a complete stop, you would get an idea of the weather that awaits you on arrival. Sometimes it appears that the plane had been taxiing through ginger beer or syrup. That’s the colour of the atmosphere outside.

Heathrow airport inside

On arrival I have to join the cattle class and then go to the queue reserved for aliens. No wonder I am often treated as if I am an extraterrestrial phenomenon!

Almost all British immigration officers are most unfriendly to non-Caucasian visitors, and often act like tinpot Hitlers. They are as hard as nails and bored as the people who serve you at McDonalds. They look miserable knowing they are stuck in dead end jobs.

Welcome at Heathrow Airport (Photo: Steve Parsons – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Welcome at Heathrow Airport (Photo: Steve Parsons – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Right behind his shoulder you can read in letters big, bright and bold, the banner that reads, “Welcome to Heathrow”. The welcome you receive is frostier than the weather outside.

The first question the bored and grumpy immigration officer with a smirk on his face asks the hapless visitor is: “When are you getting back?”

If you ask for a three-month stay in England, you are more likely to be given just a month. On the other hand, if you were to request for only a week, just to attend a conference and get back home, you may be granted a stay for six months. More disturbing is the recent news from the UK that in the future, visitors to Britain from ‘high risk’ countries such as Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Ghana coming to Britain on a six-month visit visa will have to put up a 3,000 pound (equivalent to Rs. 594,000 in Sri Lankan currency) bond as security, according to the Home Secretary Theresa May.

Australian flag

Sometimes things can go wrong. During my first visit to Australia in 1990, I flew into Sydney from Jakarta. Before the plane landed, we were given immigration forms to be filled. There was an additional yellow card that had to be filled as well, and one of the questions on it was: “Are you carrying live semen?” to which I promptly ticked the yes box, given that I had already fathered two kids.

As I cleared the immigration and moved to the customs, I was stopped and taken to a small room where I was interrogated by a big, bespectacled, Wagnerian white woman with a pair of enormous Bristols and a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp. She waved a yellow card at me and exploded, “Is this a joke?”

I was genuinely clueless as to why she blew her top and asked her what was it all about, to which she pointed the box I had ticked off to say that I was indeed carrying live semen. I told her that I believed so, to which the human volcano erupted once more and thundered in no uncertain terms that it referred to livestock and warned me not to make a joke of it ever again! It was literally a seminal experience for me. The yellow card is no longer issued.

Sri Lanka flag

In the 1960s, we had a Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) member from the United States who became friends with us while we were doing research on wildlife in Wilpattu national park with Dr. John F. Eisenberg from the Smithsonian Institution and his assistant Melvyn Lockhart. The VSO chap was a hippie who loved smoking ganja (marijuana). In his lucid moments he managed to learn a few words in Sinhala which Melvyn taught. 

When he left Colombo, he was in fact carrying some ganja with him, and given his long hair and hippie demeanor, he was promptly stopped by a vigilant customs officer who wanted to see the contents of his handbag. In a flash of brilliance, despite the perspiration which had commenced its journey down his spine, he began to engage the customs officer in small talk, and told him that he had lived in Ceylon for a month and that he could even speak the local language a bit. 

When the customs officer asked him to say something in Sinhala, he promptly remembered what Melvyn had taught him, and blurted out in a loud voice “මගේ පුක්කෙ මයිල් නෑ” (Transliterated: “Magey pukkay mayil naa“) meaning “my arse has no hair” in his native Texan drawl.

All the customs officers who heard him burst out in uncontrollable laughter and began to dance (a few even had tears of joy streaming down their cheeks). They complimented him on his language skill and wished him “bon voyage“. It was the hippie who had the last laugh.

Melvyn later received a “Thank you” note from Amarillo, TX.

As a Sri Lankan, I feel that we are treated abroad as if we do not matter, despite our education, ancient culture and proud heritage. We may be short on geography, but we are long on history. We deserve better treatment in the western countries. Unlike the ASEAN countries where citizens of the member states enjoy a 14-day visa free entry to each other’s country, we who belong to the SAARC cannot go to India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, or Bhutan even for a short stay without a visa!

In the final analysis, given the limitations of our Sri Lankan passport, it is far better for us to enjoy a local holiday than be subject to untold indignities and interrogations at the hands of immigration officers. As Blaise Pascal once remarked, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

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A contemporary ordinary Sri Lankan passport (Author - Chamath237)

A contemporary ordinary Sri Lankan passport (Author: Chamath237)

 

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A Shortcut to Learn French


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj
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Learn French

THE COMMONEST WORDS IN FRENCH

In 1958, I opted for French as second language for my Bachelors degree, at St. Xavier’s College, Palayamkottai, Tamilnadu, India.

Rev. Fr. Moumas, S.J. (Photo taken in 1979 by T.V. Antony Raj)

Rev. Fr. Moumas, S.J. (Photo taken in 1979 by T.V. Antony Raj)

It was the late Rev. Fr. Moumas S.J., a saintly jovial Jesuit priest from Gascony, who taught me French.

Learning the language was never an easy task. I used to spend a lot of time reading French novels borrowed from the well-stocked college library. In the 1960s and 70s, after graduating, while being employed in Sri Lanka, I used to visit the Library at the Alliance Française in Colombo often, trying to brush up and augment the French I learned in college. During this time, I took down notes and found an easy method to learn French.

Recently, while browsing through my old papers and books, I came across four pages of French words I had picked about 50 years ago. Since I feel that this list would provide a shortcut to you and your children to learn French, I have presented them below. Please pass it on to your friends and their children.

The words in the list occur most frequently in ordinary French, as determined by a word count of 400,000 running words of French prose. The figures after each word indicate its average number of occurrences per 1,000 words. It will be seen that the total is 446.1; in other words, learn these,  and you will know 44.6% of the words of French.

LEARN THEM NOW.

The meanings given are the common English translations.  Others are possible.

à , au, aux, à l’ = to, at, in, to, the, at the, in the, to the = 21.4
aller (v.) = to go = 2.1
autre = other = 1.7
avec = with = 3.4
1avoir (v.) = to have = 13.7
bien (adv.) = well, very = 2.8
bon = good = 1.2
ce, cet, cette, ces = this, that, these, those = 12.0
comme = as, like = 2.5
dans = in, within = 6.7
de, du, de l’, de la, des = of, from, of the, from the = 54.9
deux = two = 1.8
dire = to say, tell = 4.2
1donner (v.) = to give = 1.4
elle; elles = she, it, her; they, them = 8.0
en (prep.) = in, while = 6.3
en (pron.) = of it, of them, some, in the matter = 2.6
enfant = child = 1.1
et = and = 19.1
1etre (v.) = to be = 20.6
1faire (v.) = to make, do, have (something done) = 4.5
femme = woman, wife = 1.2
grand = tall, big = 2.0
homme = man, husband = 2.4
il; ils = he, it, him; they them = 13.7
jour = day = 1.2
le, la, l’, les (art.) = the = 69.4
le, la, l’, les (pron.) = him, her, it them
leur (pron.) = to them, them = 2.6
leur, leurs (adj.) = their
lui (pron.) = (to) him, her, it = 3.8
mais = but = 3.7
2je = I = 15.0
2me = me, to me
2moi = me, I
mon, ma, mes (adj.) = my = 4.5
ne … pas = not = 10.5
notre, nos = our = 1.2
nous = we, us, to us = 4.1
on = one, they, we = 3.9
ou = or = 1.9
Ou … ou,  soit … soit = either …. or
= where = 1.1
par = by = 3.7
pas (neg. adv.) = not, no = 5.6
petit = little, small, insignificant, petty = 1.7
plus (adv.) = more = 4.3
pour = for, in order to = 3.2
1pouvoir (v.) = to be able, can = 1.9
1prendre (v.) = to take = 1.2
que (conj.) = as, than = 12.8
que? (interr.) = what? = 3.0
que (rel. pron.) = who, whom, which, that
qui? (interr.) = who? = 7.6
qui (rel. pron.) = who, whom, which, that
sans = without = 1.8
1savoir (v.) = to know = 1.4
se = himself, herself, itself, oneself, themselves, each other = 8.7
si = If, even, if so = 2.5
son, sa, ses = his, her, its = 8.9
sur (prep.) = on, atop, about, in, on top, over = 3.4
tout = all, every = 6.1
tu, te, toi = you = 1.8
un, une (art.) = a, an = 18.5
un (num.) = one
1venir (v.) = to come =

1.3

1voir (v.) = to see =

2.1

votre, vos = your =

1.3

1vouloir (v.) = to want, wish =

1.5

vous = you, to you =

5.2

y = To it, to them, in it, in them, there =

2.4

Total

=

446.1

 

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Taprobane Island: Part 6 – Does the Dead Count Haunt Taprobane Island?


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Does the dead Count Maurice de Mauny-Talvande haunt Taprobane Island ?

Sir Philip Christopher Ondaatje (born February 22, 1933), a Sri Lankan born Canadian-English businessman, philanthropist, adventurer, and writer thinks so.

Sir Christopher Ondaatje

Sir Christopher Ondaatje

Christopher Ondaatje was born in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to a Burgher family of Dutch and Indian origin. His name comes from an Indian ancestor called Ondaatchi from Thanjavur, South India.

In the early 18th Century, a physician to the King of Tanjore from the clan of Ondaatchi, was summoned to Ceylon by Adrian Van der Meyden, the Governor-General of the Dutch East-India Company, to treat his ailing wife. The physician arrived in Ceylon on June 9, 1659 from Tanjore. He treated the sick woman with a bath of water in which 23 jungle herbs were boiled. She recovered fully. The physician’s success in curing the lady led to the Governor to become his friend. In appreciation, the Governor appointed him as the First Doctor of the Town of Colombo.

In 1660, the physician got converted to Christianity. He adopted the name ‘Michael Jurgen Ondaatch’. He married Magdalene de Cruz (1640-1688), a Portuguese woman. Michael Jurgen Ondaatch died in 1714.

After Christopher Ondaatje’s alcoholic father lost the family fortune, Christopher had to leave school a year from graduation. In 1956, at the age of 33, he emigrated to Canada, arriving in Toronto with almost no money. He quickly became a wealthy stockbroker, and was one of the three founding members of Loewen Ondaatje McCutcheon. He became a multi-millionaire in the publishing industry by founding the Pagurian Press, which he later sold to the Bronfman family.

Christopher Ondaatje represented Canada in the four-man bobsled at the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck. He is the author of 11 books including The Man-Eater of Punanai and Woolf in Ceylon.

I have reproduced below an article, wherein Sir Christopher Ondaatje gives an account of his tryst with the dead Count Maurice de Mauny-Talvande at about three o’clock in the afternoon on November 27 in the 1940s.

The Count haunts Taprobane
By Sir Christopher Ondaatje

I first heard the scream in 1946. Actually it was more like a repeated plaintive gasp than a scream, and this was followed by a long low hissing noise, somewhat like air being released through someone’s teeth. I was only twelve years old and holidaying with my parents, two sisters and my brother Michael on Taprobane Island off the coast of Weligama, a fishing village on the south coast of what was then Ceylon.

It was about three o’clock in the afternoon and we children had been sent to our rooms for an afternoon nap – quite a normal thing to do in the tropics. It was a very hot November afternoon. We had been playing and swimming most of the morning on the long crescent shaped Weligama beach only a few yards from the tiny Taprobane Island on which Count de Mauny Talvande had built a unique and magnificent house on the red granite rock covered with palms and jungle scrub. He bought the Island in 1925 and it remained in his possession until he died.

I didn’t know it then, but the Count had died in 1941, only five years before we rented the Island from the subsequent owners who had bought the extraordinary island for Rs.12,000 at an auction in 1942. It really is a magical island, only about two acres in area, and the Count christened it Taprobane because its original pear shape looked a little like a miniature Ceylon. He ignored its local name which had always been Galduwa. The first stones were laid out in 1927 and despite the fact that the island had been used by locals as a cobra dump (he eventually got rid of them) he set about building an enormous octagonal central hall which was thirty feet high and twenty feet at its widest point. The so-called Hall of the Lotus was lined with eight panels of inlaid wood which were dyed a dull gold and eau de nil, and bore a design of lotus buds and flowers.

The dome is supported by eight square pillars of Wedgwood blue, 24 feet in height, and on either side of these two light columns, 12 feet in height making sixteen in all – terra-cotta with gilded capitals support a white stone traverse which join the pillars with an arch of 10-feet span. This is hung with curtains of soft eau de nil silk, a deep brocaded border of art nouveau design at the bottom, black and gold on a cream ground. These curtains are kept open during the day, drawn only at night.

All the rooms converge in to the hall through eight arches; nothing interferes with the full view of the interior, nor with that of the terraces and gardens which are seen
through the carved mullions of doors and windows. A frieze inspired by the Sigiriya frescoes runs along the white stone walls. After Count de Mauny had finished
building and decorating his building one could look from the centre of the hall through wrought iron and brass gates northwards to the entrance through towering palms and a vast array of tropical foliage. To the east one could see the Italian gardens the Count had created. The land sloped down to a well fed by a spring below sea level. East, and overlooking this garden, was the Count’s own bedroom.

He loved the sunrise and, looking southwards, there was nothing between the small triangular lawn outside his bedroom window and the South Pole. Every morning the Count would lie in bed and listen to the gardener raking the leaves off the gravel path with an ekel broom. Everything, the house, the garden, and furniture of his
own design and making, was in perfect harmony. There was a marvellous view up the palm-fringed Weligama bay to the north-east, and at low tide one could easily
walk the few yards to and from the shore. However, at high tide the water was chest high and women and children used to be carried by servants to the small pier that
led to the entrance steps. After a restless and turbulent life in France and England the Count spent many happy years in his unique island home – less a fortress than a pavilion.

As I said, I first heard the scream in 1946. It was late in November and I was having a nap in the room next to the Count’s old bedroom. In those days there were no
doors to the bedrooms – only the thin silk curtains which we pushed open and shut along solid brass curtain rings. I knew no one was in the Count’s bedroom because
my mother and father, who had been sleeping there, had driven to Galle with a tea-planter friend of theirs, H.L. ‘Tank’ Roche who was also staying on the island. We
were left in the charge of our ayah or nanny. The others were still asleep, and I heard the gasping cry very clearly so I got up and looked into the Count’s bedroom, only to see his large empty ebony bed. And then I heard it again – a long plaintive repeated gasp. A sudden queer sensation passed over me and I felt a little faint. But this disappeared quickly. Far from being terrified I entered the room and looked on either side of the bed for something or someone who could have made the anguished sound. I saw nothing so returned to my own room next door to wait for the others to wake up.

I told no one anything about the scream until two evenings later when we waded across the water to the Weligama Rest House for an early evening dinner of fried
prawns and fish curry – my father’s favourite. In those days the main road ran behind the Weligama Rest House and not in front of it. At low tide one could run down the front steps of Taprobane and literally run across the shallow surf in bare feet, over the wide sandy beach and across a little bit of scrub grass to the Rest House. The food was marvellous and the Rest House keeper, Jayakody, was very kind to all of us. While we were having dinner – in fact we had almost finished and were having a second helping of buffalo curd and kitul panni or honey, that Jayakody jokingly said to me, “Did you hear it?”

“What?” I said, not even remembering the scream.

“You heard nothing? Nothing at all? What bedroom are you in?”

I told him. And then I remembered my experience and told him that I had indeed heard rather a horrible scream or groan a couple of days earlier. My father was actually quite annoyed that I hadn’t told him anything about it.

“Ah yes,” Jayakody said. “That’s the Count. He died two days ago, you know, on November 27, 1941, of a heart attack. Angina pectoris. He was visiting a friend in
Jaffna on the Chelvarayan Estate in Nawatkuli. And then they buried him up there in St. Mary’s Burial Ground which is a Catholic cemetery. It was a real shame. He
always wanted to be buried on his island. He came here with practically nothing, but he built this fabulous house. It was the only place he was really happy. He was
deeply in debt, which is why his island was sold. But he wrote a remarkable book about it, “The Gardens of Taprobane” which is very difficult to get. None of his family went to the funeral which was organised by an English solicitor whom he didn’t even know. He often comes back but usually at this time of the year. And his awful gasping for breath and his last sounds are usually heard by the gardener outside his open bedroom windows. It is quite a usual occurrence and no one pays any attention anymore. He was seventy five years old and died a little after 3 o’clock in the afternoon.”

During the early part of the night we made our way back to Taprobane Island with flares and torches. We children were still in high spirits and enjoyed being carried
over the high tide by the servants who made several trips to and from the Weligama beach to collect us. My father and mother were unusually quiet. Not surprisingly
they didn’t sleep in the Count’s bed and bedroom that night or on any subsequent night. They simply collected their bags and clothes from the Count’s bedroom and
moved to the spare guest room over the servants’ quarters facing the Weligama beach.

Source: The Sri Lankan Anchorman, Toronto, Canada.

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Taprobane Island: Part 5 – Succeeding Owners of The Island Paradise


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Count Maurice de Mauny-Talvande died suddenly from a heart attack at 3 o’clock in the afternoon on November 27, 1941, while visiting a friend at the Chelvarayan Estate, Navatkuli, 3.73 miles (6 km) south of Jaffna in Ceylon.

John Lambert, an English solicitor at the Chelvarayan Estate, is registered as the person who buried the body of Count Maurice de Mauny-Talvande at St Mary’s Burial Grounds in Jaffna, Ceylon, with none of his family members present.

The Ceylon Daily News, in its edition of Friday November 28 1941, printed the following in its obituary column:

“The death has occurred in Jaffna yesterday of the Count de Mauny, who had resided in Ceylon for over twenty years, making his island home, Taprobane, off Weligama, one of the most attractive show pieces of the kind. A French Catholic, the count became a naturalized Englishman.

He was married to a daughter of the 4th Earl of Strafford and had one son, Mr. V A de Mauny, who served with the British Navy in the last Great War and rejoined when the present hostilities broke out.

The late Count de Mauny’s principal hobbies, in which he was himself an adept, were the laying out of beautiful gardens and furniture craftmanship, which he turned into an art. Besides his own at Taprobane, many of Colombo’s most pleasing gardens owe their inspiration to him. His book The Gardens of Taprobane published in London some years ago, met with a good reception.

Count de Mauny who was nominated to the Weligama Urban Council, took a keen interest in public affairs and there was a time when he was a prolific writer to the newspapers. At one period he was even a member of the Labour Union.

The funeral takes place this morning.”

While the above obituary states that Maurice “… had one son, Mr. V A de Mauny, … “, it does not mention anywhere anything about his daughter Alexandra.

Count Maurice de Mauny-Talvande’s son, Victor Alexander, passed away in 1978, and his daughter Alexandra died in 1989. They were both childless. Seweryn Chomet mentions a rumour that Victor Alexander had an illegitimate son in Ceylon who eventually emigrated to New Zealand.

Even after the Count died, Taprobane Island continued to draw new generations of romantics.

Taprobane Island remained in Victor Alexander’s ownership until it was sold by public auction in 1942 for Rupees 12,000.

In 1946, when Sir Philip Christopher Ondaatje (born February 22, 1933) was 12 years old his father had rented the island from the owners who had bought it at the auction.

The island changed hands to various people, and none of them lived there long as the Count did.

Paul Bowles (December 30, 1910 – November 18, 1999). An American expatriate composer, author, and translator.

Paul Bowles (December 30, 1910 – November 18, 1999). An American expatriate composer, author, and translator.

Paul Bowles (December 30, 1910 – November 18, 1999), an American expatriate composer, author, and translator was a child prodigy. He could read by the time he was three, and within the year he was writing stories. Soon, he started writing surrealistic poetry and music. In 1922, at age seventeen one of his poems, “Spire Song”, was accepted for publication in the twelfth volume of Transition, a literary journal based in Paris that served as a forum for some of the greatest proponents of modernism – Djuna Barnes, James Joyce, Paul Éluard, Gertrude Stein and others.

In 1947, Bowles settled in Tangier, Morocco, and his wife, Jane Bowles followed him in 1948.

Bowles visited Ceylon for the first time in 1949. He wrote:

Like most people, I have always been certain there was a place somewhere on this planet that could provide the necessary respite from all reminders of present-day chaos and noise, a place to which one could escape and, having escaped, shut the figurative door, there to breathe pure air and hear only the sounds provided by natural forces. So it was with tremulous excitement that I first saw the little island of Taprobane, in Weligama Bay off the south coast of Sri Lanka. Here was a site that seemed to have all the requisite qualities: It was scarcely more than a hummock of black basalt rising above the waves of the Indian Ocean, yet was heavily covered with high trees that left visible only a glimpse of the house at its summit. I had never seen a place that looked so obviously like what I was searching for. And I felt that it was aware of me, that it silently beckoned, sending forth a wordless message that meant: Come. You’ll like it here.

Three years later, I signed the necessary documents and became the owner of this tiny parcel of paradise. The erstwhile proprietor, a rubber planter named Mr.
Jinadasa, also bred racehorses and bet on them. When a horse in which he has great confidence failed to justify his hopes, he found himself in immediate need of
cash. My informant in Sri Lanka wired me in Madrid, and as soon as the news arrived I rushed out to cable the money.

I inherited a couple who were resident gardener and maid, and who continued their work as if they were still in the employ of Mr. Jinadasa. In aspects they had worked for several owners, scarcely knowing them apart, and were aware only that their employer must be addressed as Master.The island had belonged to various people in the recent past, and none of them had kept in very long. It was a pleasure dome, a place they used for weekend  parties. The only person who had actually lived there was the Comte de Mauny Talvande, who had built the house and furnished it after reclaiming the island from its former status as the local cobra-dump. (All cobras found in the region were put into sacks, carried across to the island and left there, since in Sri Lanka one doesn’t kill snakes). In order to settle in, I needed to buy only new mattresses for the beds, and lamps and kitchenware. The furniture, made of the heaviest kinds of tropical wood, was well-nigh immovable.

In 1951, Bowles purchased the island from its owner, Mr. Jinadasa, for English Pounds 5,000. He lived there for many years, alternating seasonally with his better known home in Morocco.

In 1952, during a three-year self-internment on the island, Bowles wrote his most successful novel, “The Spider’s House.” He incorporated the villa as one of the principal settings in the book. In his diary, he wrote of early-morning tours of the garden:

“the sun, although scarcely risen above the headlands to the east, is already giving off an intimate, powerful heat, and the distant flotillas of fishing boats later slip past the white line of the reefs into the open sea, their furled sails like the dorsal fins of giant sharks”.

The American art collector, bohemian and socialite, Peggy Guggenheim, the Moroccan artist Ahmed Yakoubi, and British science fiction writer, science writer, and undersea explorer, Arthur C. Clarke were among those who visited Taprobane Island during Paul Bowles’ tenure.

In 1956, at his wife’s insistence Bowles sold the island to the Irish writer Shaun Mandy and moved back to Morocco.

Frederick Lorensz de Silva

Shaun Mandy sold the Island in late 1950s to Sri Lankan lawyer and politician Edmund Frederick Lorensz de Silva, MBE, who was once the Mayor of Kandy, Member
of Parliament and Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to France and Switzerland, and a former Chancellor of the University of Peradeniya from 1990 to 1993.

Frederick de Silva was known to the residents of Kandy and outside as ‘Fred’, and his colleagues and litigants called him ‘Lion of the Kandy Bar’ as he dominated the Criminal Bar for 58 years with a lucrative practice like his father late Mr. George E. de Silva who dominated the Criminal Bar for well over 30 years.

‘Fred’ was the second son of veteran politician and statesman late Mr. George E. de Silva who fought to achieve Independence and Adult Franchise for his country along with national leaders like late D. S. Senanayake, Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, Sir Baron Jayatilleke, E. W. Perera, A. E. Goonesinghe and S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike.

Sir Desmond Lorenz de Silva, QC, KStJ

Sir Desmond de Silva and Princess Katarina of Yugoslavia.

Sir Desmond de Silva and Princess Katarina of Yugoslavia.

Sir Desmond Lorenz de Silva, QC, KStJ (born December 31, 1939), a prominent British lawyer, and former United Nations Chief War Crimes Prosecutor in Sierra Leone
inherited Taprobane Island from his father Frederick Lorensz de Silva.

Sir Desmond married Princess Katharina of Yugoslavia, cousin of Queen Elizabeth and one of Queen Victoria’s great granddaughters. They divorced on May 6, 2010.

Thasseus Klossowski de Rola and his wife Loulou de la Falaise at a holiday in 1977. (Copyright: Roger Viollet | Nisberg Jack, Keystone)

Thasseus Klossowski de Rola and his wife Loulou de la Falaise at a holiday in 1977. (Copyright: Roger Viollet | Nisberg Jack, Keystone)

The island became neglected for many years until a brief period in the 1970s when writer Thadée Klossowski de Rola, the younger son of the Polish-French modern artist Balthus, held court there and captivated many a young visitor!

Geoffrey Dobbs

Geoffrey Dobbs

Geoffrey Dobbs

In the 1970s, the Hong Kong based entrepreneur Geoffrey Dobbs, a very successful Anglo-Australian hotelier, first saw the Taprobane Island in an airline magazine. Struck by the beauty of the place he fell in love with it. He patiently negotiated with the de Silva family and obtained it on a long lease. Eventually, he bought the Island from them. In 1995, Geoffrey Dobbs moved in, and restored the island to its heyday.

A resident of Sri Lanka for the last 18 years, Geoffrey Dobbs is one of the key players in the tourist renaissance of Sri Lanka. He opened the first boutique hotels in Sri Lanka’s south-west, restoring two colonial mansions in Galle: the Sun House and the Dutch House. He has another beach retreat at Tangalla, and more recently restored Lunuganga, the jungle retreat near Bentota.

Dobbs was one of the key figures in raising money and awareness for the tsunami relief for Sri Lanka and founded the charity “Adopt Sri Lanka” in 2001 with the objective to assist rebuilding and rehabilitating local communities on the coastline of Sri Lanka and to get their lives back to normal as quickly as possible. Having originally worked with other NGOs, Adopt Sri Lanka is now principally operating in the Weligama and Tangalle areas on long-term projects, rebuilding the fishing industry, restoring small businesses for widows and helping with education and housing.

He runs a “twinning” program which connects Sri Lankan schools with schools around the world.

He is the founder and president of the Ceylon Elephant Polo Association, Hong Kong. Every February he plays host to the world’s only beach elephant polo tournament held in front of his idyllic island of Taprobane on Sri Lanka’s south coast.

In 2007, he set up the Galle Literary Festival, which has now become a well recognised annual event.

Dobbs has a natural love for water and spends as much time as he can in or near the sea. He is a keen enthusiast for traditional boats and said:

I have had a Chinese Junk in Hong Kong for over 25 years and was a member of the 1995 expedition sailing a bamboo raft across the Pacific Ocean to prove the Chinese reached America before Columbus.

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Taprobane Island: Part 4 – Victor Alexander Christian Henry George de Mauny


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Victor Alexander Christian Henry George de Mauny

Victor Alexander Christian Henry George de Mauny (Source: christies.com)

Count Maurice de Mauny-Talvande had named his son as Victor Alexander Christian Henry George de Mauny who was born on April 19, 1899.

HMS London

HMS London

In 1912, Victor Alexander joined the British Royal Navy as a cadet. When First World War broke out in August 1914, he was appointed to the battleship HMS London, a Formidable-class battleship in the Royal Navy.

Anzac Beach:  4th Battalion landing at 8 am on April 25, 1915

Anzac Beach: 4th Battalion landing at 8 am on April 25, 1915

He assisted in landing the Australians at Anzac Cove as part of the amphibious invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey by predominantly Australian and New Zealand forces on April 25, 1915, and himself spent several days at Anzac Cove.

In 1919, he resigned his commission. He was placed on the Emergency List on March 8, 1919. He went back to Ceylon to work for the Rosehough Tea Company, first as an Assistant and then as an under-manager.

While his father, Count Maurice de Mauny-Talvande, was residing at Weligama in 1931, Victor Alexander resided at “Boxmead”, Turret Road (now Dharmapala Mawatha), Colombo – 7.

On September 8, 1939, mobilised by the Royal Navy, he was appointed to Ramsgate’s naval shore base HMS Fervent as a midshipman.

British troops evacuating Dunkirk's beaches.

British troops evacuating Dunkirk’s beaches.

Victor Alexander was engaged in the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk, code-named Operation Dynamo, also known as the Miracle of Dunkirk, France, between May 27 and June 4, 1940. He served on this ship up to June 21, 1940.

He was mentioned in dispatches (The London Gazette of Friday, the 16th of August, 1940). The recommendation states:

Between Noon on 30 May and 0815 Hours on 4 June 1940, Lieutenant De Mauny was continuously engaged under way on evacuation duties without any intermission. He commanded in succession Ocean Breeze, Haig and then as Navigator in a group of Skoots, in Pascholl. He brought back more than 300 troops from Dunkirk beach in surf conditions on two separate occasions and was notably more successful than other small craft working in the same areas. On 31 May, when he was eight hours off the coast, his ship was subjected to continuous air attack. He displayed great devotion to duty under fire, and marked initiative, and was favourably reported upon by his Senior Officers on more than one occasion.

Next, he commanded the drifter Ocean Breeze, and the launch Haig.

Pascholl, a Dutch schuyt

Pascholl, a Dutch schuyt

He served as a navigator in Pascholl, for a group of Dutch schuyts (flat-bottomed sailboat, broad in the beam, with a square stern; usually equipped with leeboards to serve for a keel) that were used to ferry combat soldiers from the shore to the ships.

Promoted Lieutenant Commander on October 1, 1940, Victor Alexander served in HMS Brighton from October 1940 to August 1941.

He then commanded HMS Saltburn, a Hunt-class minesweeper built for the Royal Navy during First World War, but deployed as Royal Navy Signal School’s tender, for training.

At the end of March 1943, he commanded the patrol sloop HMS Mallard, deployed in the North Sea. While serving in this vessel, he was mentioned in The London Gazette of Tuesday, the 11th of December, 1945 and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, G.VI.R., “For distinguished service during the War in Europe.

HMS Impulsive

HMS Impulsive

Later in the war he served in the battle cruiser HMS Renown, and then the destroyer HMS Midge. He took command of HMS Impulsive in July 1945.

WARSHIP COMMANDS LISTED FOR VICTOR ALEXANDER CHRISTIAN HENRY GEORGE DE MAUNY, RN

Ship Rank Type From To
HMS Saltburn (J 58) Lt.Cdr. (emergency) Minesweeper 25 Aug 1941 1 Jan 1942
HMS Saltburn (J 58) Lt.Cdr. (emergency) Minesweeper 5 Feb 1942 30 Mar 1943
HMS Mallard (L 42 / K 42) Lt.Cdr. (emergency) Patrol vessel 30 Mar 1943 1 Jul 1945
HMS Impulsive (D 11) A/Cdr. (emergency) Destroyer 1 Jul 1945 24 Oct 1945

After the World War II ended, Victor Alexander Christian Henry George de Mauny, DSC, RN, returned to Ceylon and became Chairman of the Rosehough Tea Company.

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Taprobane Island: Part 3 – Count Maurice de Mauny-Talvande’s Island Home in Ceylon


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Count Maurice de Mauny-Talvande traveled several times between Hampshire and Colombo during and after the Great War.

When the First World War ended, he came to Ceylon on a mission to find the spot which, by its sublime beauty, would fulfill his dreams and hold him there for life.

His skills as an expert furniture maker and a gardener in Ceylon, and, later on, his writings, may have provided him with the necessary finances to supplement his travel and living. There are accounts from people who knew him in Ceylon that he also used to receive remittances from overseas, probably sent by his wife, Lady Mary, from time to time for his upkeep and living.

Ferguson’s Ceylon Directory for 1920-21 listed him as residing with his 21-year-old son Victor Alexander at ‘Ascot’, Albert Crescent, Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo 7; the very élite and high-society area of Colombo.

Maurice had a furniture factory and workshop in Colombo. The furniture crafted most admirably, had the designs of French styles of that period. A number of de Mauny-Talvande furniture pieces that survived in the hands of private owners are now highly valued and cherished in Sri Lanka.

In 1925, Maurice launched the “Weligama Local Industries” in Weligama. He claimed that he gave employment to over 200 carpenters, carvers and inlayers. By 1930, the enterprise succumbed to depression. However, Maurice restarted it in 1936.

Taprobane Island (Source: taprobaneisland.com)

Taprobane Island (Source: taprobaneisland.com)

Though Maurice had first visited Ceylon in 1912 it was in September 1927 that he saw for the first time and quite by chance, the rocky outcrop covered with lush foliage rising out of the sea, just beyond a broad sandy beach, at the center of the arc of the Weligama Bay. It was the Galduwa islet. Ten years later, he recalled: “a red granite rock, covered with palms and jungle shrub, rising from the Indian Ocean - an emerald in a setting of pink coral.”

Entranced by the site, he waded across the sparkling clear waters to the islet. Ten years later, he recalled: “There was nothing between me and the South Pole … I sat for a long while on a boulder overlooking the sea wishing that this island lost in the Indian Ocean were mine; picturing and planning what I should do with it. … I felt my heart beating with the overwhelming desire to find in it peace, the nearest thing to happiness. Yes, it must be the home which I had dreamt of so many years past.”

Having found his own island paradise, he chose to build his house on the islet and live his dream of peace and tranquility, close to nature.

Local records show that Count Maurice de Mauny-Talvande purchased the island in 1925 for a sum of Rupees 250 in the name of his son, Victor Alexander. It remained in Victor’s ownership until it was sold by public auction, in 1942, for Rupees 12,000.

Maurice named his private island “Taprobane” based on the ancient name for Ceylon given by the Greeks and also because of the island’s similarity in shape to Ceylon.

The foundation stone was laid on February 1, 1927, for an octagonal fantasy stone mansion in pseudo-Pompeian style with five en-suite bedrooms, and verandahs in every direction. Small gardens extending through the foliage to the overhanging edges, fully occupied the crest of the island.

Infinity Pool at Tabrobane Island

Infinity Pool at Taprobane Island

The spilling out verandahs that embrace the landscaped garden, stepped terraces hovering over the ocean, and a stunningly clear ‘infinity pool’ create a sensation of living on a landscaped cruise boat.

Maurice encouraged people to visit his islet. He received a constant stream of visitors. He has hosted heads of state, famous authors, and many business elites. His historical visitor’s book was filled with names of Kings, Princes, Dukes, Duchesses, aristocrats, Prime Ministers, and other famous personalities who visited Taprobane Island.

In the 1930s, Count Maurice de Mauny-Talvande served as a member of the Weligama Urban Council. Though he possessed a natural skill to cultivate the friendship of the rich and famous, his penchant for grandiose, as well as his conscience-free disposition to marshall the financial resources of other people, whether morally acceptable or otherwise surfaced very often. Writer Joe Duncan wrote about his negative trait:

During a visit to Sri Lanka last year (2002), I came across a reference to ‘Count de Mauny’ in an as-yet-unpublished family memoir. The late writer, a prominent Ceylon civil servant during the 1930s and 1940s, mentions encountering the 73-year-old Maurice in his bathing shorts at Weligama early in 1940, and recalls having ‘fallen out’ with him on an earlier occasion. The memoirist had refused permission to the local Government Headman to decorate the Weligama beach with lighted coconut shells and to hold a procession of dancers and fireworks, all at government expense, to entertain Governor Caldecott on a private visit to ‘Taprobane’. If Count de Mauny had himself offered to pay the villagers to put on such a display, comments the memoirist, there could have been no objection, but instead he had expected the local taxpayers (in effect) to cover the cost of what was strictly a private visit.

The above anecdote certainly ties in with certain less attractive characteristics mentioned in Count de Mauny – Friend of Royalty, by Seweryn Chomet.

In 1931, the Count was residing at Weligama, and his son, Victor Alexander, was residing at “Boxmead”, Turret Road (now Dharmapala Mawatha), Colombo.

The book, “The Gardens of Taprobane” by The Count de Mauny, edited by Bernard Miall, was published in London in 1937 by Williams and Norgate. This book is all about his Taprobane Island home, and includes several black and white photos of the villa and the gardens. He has also the authored two other books titled “The Peace of Suffering 1914-1918” and “Gardening in Ceylon.”

Many renowned writers such as Paul Bowles, Robin Maugham, Shaun Mandy and Norah Burke have also given a graphical accounts of the Taprobane Island.

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Taprobane Island: Part 2 – Count Maurice de Mauny-Talvande


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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Comte Maurice de Mauny-Talvande

Comte Maurice de Mauny-Talvande

Count Maurice de Mauny-Talvande, whose real name was Maurice Maria, was born on March 21, 1866, in Le Mans, France. His father Felix Talvande worked as a banker at Portet-Lavigierie et Talvande which became the Banque Talvande in 1882. The bank, and Talvande himself, went bankrupt in 1889. The following year, his mother Margeruite de Mauny applied for legal separation from her husband, and thereafter she resided with her mother at Domaine du Bourg in Pontvallain, their family home, which had been in the possession and ownership of the de Mauny family since 1859.

On the death of his mother, Maurice inherited the family home. He then sold it and shared the proceeds of 17,000 francs with his brother Roger and sister Suzanne-Marie.

He self-styled himself as a Count and went by the name of “Comte Maurice de Mauny-Talvande”. He adopted the prefix of “de Mauny” from his mother, Mme Marguerite de Mauny, and the suffix from his father, Felix Talvande. Later he anglicized his name to “Count Maurice de Mauny-Talvande.”

On June 24, 1898, Count Maurice de Mauny-Talvande married Lady Mary Elizabeth Agnes Bynge, daughter of the fourth Earl of Strafford, Henry William John Byng. Seweryn Chomet suggests that Maurice may have met Lady Mary through his friendship with her brother, George Byng, with whom Maurice briefly attended the same fashionable Jesuit-run school in Canterbury in the early 1880s. Lady Mary was 33 years old, and Maurice was 32.

It was a glamorous ‘high society’ wedding in London, attended by the Princess of Wales, Princess Christian and Prince and Princess Saxe-Weimer. It was followed by a dazzling reception at Wrotham Park, in Hertfordshire, the bride’s family’s 18th century mansion.

After their wedding, the new couple lived at the historic Châteaux d’Azay-le-Rideau, let by the Marquis de Biencourt.

Chateau Azay-le-Rideau

Chateau Azay-le-Rideau

After their marriage, the new couple lived at the historic Châteaux d’Azay-le-Rideau, let by the Marquis de Biencourt.

Châteaux d’Azay-le-Rideau is built on an island in the Indre, a part of the current region of Centre (Val de Loire). Built on the foundations of a medieval fortress in the heart of Touraine, the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau is the creation of Gilles de Berthelot, a wealthy financier of François I. Standing in the centre of a romantic park, this masterpiece of 16th-century architecture has preserved, with the passing years, all the refinement, elegance and grace of an exceptional Renaissance châteaux. It is now on the UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

Maurice turned the castle into a kind of academy or “university” for young Englishmen (teenage boys) from “good” English families.

In late 1898, a leading New York newspaper published a vituperative article criticising Châteaux d’Azay-lle-Rideau for being “not a university, but a mere boarding house” where the main subjects taught were “cricket, polo and football”. The locals resented the “English takeover” of the historic castle.

Maurice turned the château into a kind of academy or “university” for young Englishmen (teenage boys) from “good” English families.

In late 1898, a leading New York newspaper published a vituperative article criticising Châteaux d’Azay-le-Rideau for being “not a university, but a mere boarding house” where the main subjects taught were “cricket, polo and football”. The locals resented the “English take-over” of the historic castle.

The book Count de Mauny – Friend of Royalty written by Seweryn Chomet, a Physicist and Visiting Research Fellow at King’s College, London, reveals that there were rumours of homosexuality and sexual advances made by Maurice to some of the aristocratic adolescents entrusted into his care. Eventually, Maurice had ‘owned up that it is so’.

By late 1898, the owners of the château, alarmed by mounting local dissent and the dark rumours of (then considered) criminal activities, precipitously cancelled the lease.

The de Maunys moved on to Cannes where on April 19, 1899, their first child, Victor Alexander was born. Later they moved to San Remo, and finally landed in England.

Count Maurice de Mauny-Talvande possessed charm, intelligence, natural style and an uncanny skill to cultivate the friendship of the rich and famous people. His aspiration to mingle with the élite of the society; his fondness for grandiose, wining and dining; as well as his conscience-free disposition to deploy the financial resources of other people, whether morally acceptable or otherwise, surfaced in the early stages in his marriage and drove him into a financial difficulties. But it seems that he never mended his ways even after his downfall and bankruptcy.

Author William Warren has suggested in his book “Tropical Asian Style,” which showcases contemporary residences throughout Southeast Asia, that Count Maurice de Mauny Talvande’s dwindling financial status, along with the many marital problems he was facing, must have forced him to move to Ceylon.

It was Sir Thomas Lipton, the tea magnate, who first invited the Count to Ceylon in 1912. During that visit Maurice was deeply impressed by his first experience of the tropics and the serenity and beauty of the country. He vowed to return to the Island nation.

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Taprobane Island: Part 1 – Tambapanni the Island Paradise


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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The ancient historical poem Mahavamsa or the ‘Great Chronicle’ of Sri Lanka, tells that the cruel and callous Prince-regent, Vijaya, and his unruly companions, after being banished from Sinhapura in India, landed on the shores of an island. After disembarking from the ship they sat down, wearied, on the ground. They found their hands and bodies coloured by the red dust that lay there. So, they called the place Tambapanni (“copper-colored sand”). Later on, Vijaya founded his capital in Tambapanni, and the island came to bear the same name.

As time wore on, the exact location of Tambapanni as described in Mahavamsa became obscured to the world.

Ancient Greek texts describe an island nation of perfect beauty where people lived in communal peace and in perfect harmony with nature, amid tropical gardens and idyllic
seas. Around 290 BC, the Greek geographer Megasthenes reported first about this island to the Europeans.

Map of Taprobana- 1588

Ptolemy’s Map of Taprobana

The Alexandrian geographer, Claudius Ptolemy (c. 90 AD – c. 168 AD) drafted a map of the island. He identified it as ‘Taprobana’, derived obviously from the then prevailing name Tambapanni. His map carried an elaborately ornamented sketch of a wild elephant and a legend in Latin set inside a decorative frame. The map only had a vague resemblance to the Island’s broad base and tapering top.

The whereabouts of this mythical island nation was fiercely debated for centuries. Adventurous seafarers chased the dream of finding this fabled land, and a few landed at Bali islands, Madagascar and the Maldives.

Eventually, the long-sought Taprobana was identified with the exotic tropical paradise, the island of Sri Lanka, a pearl in the Indian Ocean, lying southeast of India.

Weligama

Stilt Fishing in Weligama, Sri Lanka

Stilts fishermen, Sri Lanka (Source – Написал Fergan_Trop)

Weligama is a town in the southern coast of Sri Lanka in Matara District, 89.48 miles (144 km) from Colombo. In Sinhala the term ‘Weligama’ literally means “sandy village” derived after the area’s sandy sweep bay. Fishing is the main occupation of the region. It is most famous for its distinct stilt fishermen.

The Taprobane Island

Tabrobane Island on the shore of Weligama. (Source: Google Maps)

Tabrobane Island on the shore of Weligama. (Source: Google Maps)

A hundred yards off shore in the Weligama Bay is an islet whose traditional name is “Galduwa” meaning “Rock Island” in Sinhalese language. In ancient times, the islet may have been a part of the mainland as it is not shown in maps of the Portuguese Colonial era. This Islet comprises 2½ acres of sheer tropical fantasy with nothing between it and the South Pole.

A hunt for an earthly paradise inspired a self-styled French aristocrat, Count Maurice de Mauny-Talvande (1866-1941), a gentleman of leisure, and furniture maker, to transform Galduwa into a privately owned islet called “Taprobane Island,” which is now one of Sri Lanka’s most renowned luxury destinations.

Tabrobane Island

Tabrobane Island

While travelling on the Weligama By Pass road a partly hidden octagonal villa could be seen through the dense foliage atop the rocky island.

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Next → Taprobane Island: Part 2

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