Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Celebrating Role Models: First Tamil woman journalist to visit the war zone

First Tamil woman journalist to visit the war zone, DUSHIYANTHINI KANAGASABAPATHIPILLAI

 Photograph by Gerald Pereira

Journalism has been my dream job from childhood onwards. I always knew what I wanted to do with my life… But I could never have come as far as I have without my overriding passion for it. I have written many articles and won many awards, right from schooldays till now, but as a Tamil journalist, I have primarily moved in areas previously thought the exclusive preserve of men. It has not been easy to fight my way through or find a place. Citing reasons of my sex and ethnicity, I was not allowed to do the kinds of stories I wanted to do – covering the war through on-the-spot reporting. I was told that it was dangerous for me as a woman and a Tamil to do those stories. When I went ahead and did them on my own initiative, it was difficult to get them published, or when published, have my byline credited. Many of my much lauded exclusive stories in my initial days went without a byline – and were picked up by other media outlets, again without a byline. I have stuck to journalism over the past 20 years only because of a burning zeal for it; it certainly wasn’t the absurd rates of pay that barely covered my expenses for the job that kept me at it. But it was very hard not to be able to make a name for myself and build a reputation with my stories, although the stories themselves were much admired and appreciated by the public.

In addition to the dangers and difficulties of being a Tamil woman journalist in the war zone, I also had to contend with many skirmishes and oppressions back in my air conditioned office in Colombo. Despite this, I managed to cover the kinds of stories I wanted – many of them, I am proud to say, exclusive stories at the time they broke. I was given exclusive access by the LTTE in both the North and the East when they were in control of both those parts of Sri Lanka. I also cultivated contacts within the Army and government to get their sides of the story. My first loyalty has always been to my profession and the audience it served. As such, I have tried at all times to be an objective unbiased reporter. Unfortunately, trying to report the truth from the war zone always meant one party or the other was offended and in the course of my career, I have received several death threats. Despite requests from many of my colleagues and friends to leave, I chose to stay on and continue my work because for me, living my passion was more important than living in exile. It is that dedication and passion that has enabled me to reach out to all communities in the land and report on all their hardships, wherever it is and whoever it is. I am grateful to have been there for them and be able to give them their much needed publicity. Since the media is not always willing to publish my stories, I started my blog in 2005, which has quickly become popular among people interested in knowing about the North and East of the country. I am proud to be a woman and a journalist.

It was originally posted on 3rd April 2012, http://reachoutlk.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/celebrating-role-models-day-9/

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Holi Festival ~ Riot of Colours

Text and pix by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai
Festival-goers getting drenched

Coloured face, colours of joy

 Pouring a bucket of paint

 It's a festival of social merriment

As a symbol of blessing

Holi, the Festival of Colours, is one of the major festivals in India. It signifies the end of winter and welcomes the spring. People smear each other with coloured powder and splash water. The colours are traditionally made of Neem, Kumkum, Haldi and Bilva, and various other medicinal herbs. It is believed that, smearing with coloured powder has medicinal significance. People also believe that the bright colours represent energy, life and joy. It is originally known as “Holika”, an ancient festival of India. This was a festival that is as much a gateway to celebrate the arrival of spring as much as it is a way to celebrate the season of love.

There are many legends on Holi. One among many stories is a story of everlasting love between Lord Krishna and Radha. Krishna, being the mischievous child of Yasotha, was a prankster, and was also the creator of many legends for himself. He once asked his mother, why is Radha fair and he dark in complexion. Mother Yasotha replied to him saying, “If you are jealous of Radha’s colour then go and put dark colours on her and she will also turn dark like you”. Lord Krishna went ahead and smeared colours on Radha. Since then each lover usually puts colour on his or her beloved to pay homage to Lord Krishna.

In the state of Tamil Nadu, people worship Lord Kaamathevan for his supreme sacrifice on the occasion of Holi. People know Holi by three different names - Kaman Pandigai, Kamavilas, and Kama Dahanam. People of Tamil Nadu have great faith in Lord Shiva and Lord Kaamathevan. The story is that, Lord Shiva went into deep meditation after the death of his consort Sati. Due to Lord Shiva’s indifferent attitude, the other gods became tensed and worried. Meanwhile, the daughter of the mountain Goddess Paarvathi started to meditate to get Lord Shiva as her husband.

The gods sought help of Lord Kaamathevan in order to get Lord Shiva back to his original state. Kaamathevan is a god of Love. He was well aware of the repercussions of such an act, but Lord Kaamathevan agreed to help. Lord Kaamathevan shot his powerful arrow on Lord Shiva, while he was meditating. Enraged Lord Shiva opened his third eye and burnt Lord Kaamathevan into ashes. However, the arrow had the desired effect and Lord Shiva agreed to marry Parvathi.

But, Lord Kaamathevan’s wife Rathi felt very sad and she told her sad story to Lord Shiva and requested him to revive her husband Lord Kaamathevan. Lord Shiva listened to her story and agreed to her request.

In Tamil Nadu songs are sung on Holi depicting Rathi’s extreme sorrow. People offer sandalwood to Lord Kaamathevan to ease the pain of burning. People also believe that Lord Kaamathevan was revived on the day of Holi and celebrate the festival in his name.

This is a colourful festival celebrated with much joy and fervour all over North India. The Holi festival is the most carefree festival celebrated by people of all age groups. White colour dresses are the preferred choice on this day. Folk songs and dances are also important features of the festival.

The Indian Council for Cultural relations in association with COLIND (Colombo Indian Expat community) and Mount Lavinia Hotel organized this year’s Holi festival which was recently celebrated on the hotel’s Paradise beach. The beach was turned into a colourful spread while Masaala waffles to Taco Chaats added flavour to the festival.

 Creative welcome to the festival

 Music on the beach

Dance on the beach

Indian High Commissioner Ashok K.Kantha (on left) enjoying the festival

 Time for fun

Festival-goers in the beach

Spicy waffles for the festival

Celebrating the beginning of a new season

Decoration for the festival

Enjoying the festival from a corner

Spraying vibrant colours is part of the festival

Smearing colours during the fun festival

Dressed up for the festival

 Festival that is celebrated widely and wildly

Holi, the most fun filled festival

Celebrating with the waves

Holi, festival brings the society together

Welcoming and wishing each other

Festival-goers under shower

 Festival celebrated across borders

There is no escape from being coloured during the Holi Festival

Holi Festival brings joy and mirth

Dancing (mother and daughter) together

 Non-stop shower to beat the heat

Festival scene on a balmy day


Saturday, June 08, 2013

Sri Lanka - through his curious eyes

Text and pix by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai 

Captured in Pinnawela

 Captured in Yala


Chris Elms, the young Press and Information Officer attached to the US Embassy in Colombo had been doing more than his diplomatic job in Colombo. He has been busy learning about the country he made his temporary home for two years, and busied himself with capturing the beauty and diversity he discovered during his travels throughout the Indian Ocean island on film.

“Connecting the Dots” his solo exhibition that opened on Wednesday at the American Center, Colombo is all about those captured and stored images he wanted to share with his friends and colleagues. There are 25 colour and black and white photographs on display and the exhibition will continue till the end of June. His photographs depict Sri Lanka’s cultural, historical, natural, spiritual and ethnic diversity.

As I explored Sri Lanka throughout my two -year period I was struck by the beauty of this country-its vibrant temples, its profound scenery, and its friendly people. Reflecting on my time here and my photography, it was impossible to identify a unified theme for such a varied place. I connected the dots and realized that Sri Lanka’s strength and beauty lies in her variety and diversity. I feel that the natural beauty of the Pearl of the Indian Ocean comes from its biodiversity, and its rich history reflects the different people who have been drawn here from near and faraway lands” says Elms.

“I’ve always enjoyed photography and taking photographs. But it wasn’t until my senior year of college that I took a photography class for the fun of it to learn about photography as an art.  I’ve been more seriously taking pictures for three years now, when I got my first DSLR camera. I enjoy photos that are aesthetically pleasing while also telling a story.  In particular, I enjoy photojournalism that shows the world from a new perspective and prompts me to view a situation differently” says Elms.
For Elms, a young American diplomat, though not a professional photographer, photography is something he truly enjoys.

The U.S. Government sent me here, and sends all of our diplomats here, to observe Sri Lanka on the ground and reflect on the country. I'm reaching the end of my two year assignment in Colombo, I have travelled extensively for work and pleasure, understanding this island of beauty and diversity” he notes.
Just about everywhere I go I also take my camera. And I'd like to think that I'm a keen observer of Sri Lanka. This interest in observing this country extends beyond my day today assignments as a US Embassy employee. I am driven by curiosity and I really look to capture the essence of Sri Lana – of its culture and its people.

The photographs are recognizable because I think most people can recognize the objects of my photographs – the places I have chosen to capture on film.  You know Dutch Fort in Galle its colonial heritage as well as of its current multi-ethnic mosaic. and current multi-ethnic community.  You know the wide variety of plants and animals found in Yala and the southern coastline which is breathtaking. I also know how  much of happiness is generated in this country, simply through one sport-cricket. These photographs are rich in colour because this country is so incredibly vibrant and colourful and that is seen everywhere in the island and amongst its different people” adds Elms.

There first ever exhibition by Elms, there is every plan in his young mind to hold more exhibition in the future.

Public Affairs Officer of US Embassy Christopher Teal, Press and Information Officer of US Embassy Chris Elms, and US Ambassador Michele J.Sison viewing the exhibition

Nature captured

Press and Information Officer of US Embassy Chris Elms, and US Ambassador Michele J.Sison while viewing the exhibition

 Captured in Jaffna

 During Cricket fever

From the southern coastal belt

Press and Information Officer of US Embassy Chris Elms and Public Affairs Officer of US Embassy Christopher Teal during the opening ceremony

 US Ambassador Michele J.Sison with her fellow diplomats

Press and Information Officer of US Embassy Chris Elms explaining the concept of his exhibiton

Captured in Galle

Traditional sweets and savouries served at the launch of photography exhibition

Captured in Colombo

 Public Affairs Officer of US Embassy Christopher Teal, Press and Information Officer of US Embassy Chris Elms, and US Ambassador Michele J.Sisonat the inauguration

Rituals capture on camera

Capturing nature and arts

Reactions and reflections

Capturing arts and crafts

On Ceylon Today