When in need of change…

‘Getting by’ can be a daily struggle. Most of us on this island struggle to get by on an everyday basis. What’s the struggle really? What’s causing it? Is there anything that can be done to avoid or ease it?  

The struggle, no matter what the situation, no matter who the individual, is real. The struggle to live; a content and a comfortable life. Take a look around you – from the man who comes to the door every Monday to pick up the garbage to the employee sitting at her office desk waiting for the next paycheck, are dealing with difficulties every single day of their lives. Money; as we know is hard to come by and yet, spent easily.

It isn’t really about bad management. Us Sri Lankans don’t just waste away our money. Okay, maybe a few of us do. Rather on the wider scale of things, it’s the cost of necessities and the laws of this country that are taking it away as it comes. Atop every necessity required, there’s a tax imposed. Atop savings, there’s yet another tax.

Chairman and Founder of Ceylon Solutions, Marion Mariathasan immigrated to Kansas at the age of 9. He may not have spent most of his years in Sri Lanka, but maintains a close connection as the company’s development team overlooked and managed by CEO Sanjeeva Wijaya, is based here. “I’m very much a Sri Lankan at heart, and I understand there are struggles faced by the middle-class in my motherland. There are core fundamentals, ethics and values in order to develop a successful company. At the root of such a company, lies the hardworking employees. If we don’t give in to the notion of keeping them happy, supporting their ideas and investing in their well-being, then what’s the point?”

Marion Mariathasan

“I’ve come to understand that my most valuable experiences over the years have come from traveling, and the people I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with. I’ve learned that humility and kindness are virtues I admire the most, and that no matter the level of education, wealth, power and status, everyone is equal. The depreciating rupee value has made me understand that this creates tough living conditions for our local team based in Sri Lanka. Which is why, as a company, we agreed to increase everyone’s salary from the month of November, 2018,” said Marion.

As the cost of living rises, the daily struggles continue. How much is a 1,000 rupee note worth today? If you step outside your home, is it enough to get by? If you aren’t someone who takes public transport, getting from one place to another will cost you more than a couple of rupees. Your three meals will cost you a few more. There are bills to pay. Rent to settle. Taxes that eat away at your bank balance. Children’s education. Personal expenses. The list goes on.

We fail to understand the notion and similarities of every living human. We fail to understand that along with the rise of the cost of living, a stagnant salary isn’t going to suffice. “As a company, we want our employees to have a work environment that is healthy and uplifting; a life that is just so too. An unchanged salary hereon, isn’t going to make the cut when people struggle to make ends meet. We want our employees to live a happy and content life and in order to do that they must also be happy in their workplace. The most important thing is to help one another, give back to the community and this is certainly one way of doing it,” he added.

Marion and I further discussed how passionate and career-driven Sri Lankans can be, and yet why they continue to struggle and get by in life. “People don’t have an incentive to work harder, to be better and to come up with better or new ideas. There’s a hierarchy when it comes to a working environment – something that does not exist within our company. Creating different levels of standards means a junior employee is afraid to voice his or her opinion and is most often simply told what to do, instead of being allowed to grow and express him or herself. We mustn’t restrict our employees this way; we should be encouraging them to speak out, to voice their thoughts and opinions. Myself along with Sanjeeva and the rest of the team believe we should be making them feel valued and important instead of the other way round.”

Most often, businesses and companies tend to fail, have employee containment and job satisfaction issues due to these very reasons. Ceylon Solutions on the other hand believe in putting their employees first – allowing them to feel valued and thereby creating a healthy work environment. Billionaire philanthropist Richard Branson once said “look after your staff first, the rest will follow” and by all means, this rings true.

It’s about time there was a change in attitudes. A change to support one another, not just as employees of a company but as individuals. A change that allows growth, encourages stability, and also brings about a deeper sense of understanding one another. I find that what is most lacking throughout the struggles that we face every single day is empathy. If we have empathy towards one another, then we’d understand one another, and we’d support one another and grow together. Marion and his team at Ceylon Solutions provide a fine example of what empathy can embody and how it can change the lives of the people of our island. Perhaps their actions would someday drive others to do the same.

Ceylon Solutions was founded in 2005 and is based in Denver, with offices in New York City, Dallas as well as Sri Lanka. It is a software development company committed to delivering high-quality development services. Based on each client’s specific needs, the company handpicks a personalized development team of experienced coders and engineers in Sri Lanka, while still operating under US law.  

http://www.ceylonsolutions.com

Lost in Ceylon 

In a world where blogging and online presence is everything, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanderlust breezing through travel accounts on Instagram. It’s not often however that you’d find a personality (or rather a travel blog) that also highlights current environmental issues and gives its viewers a different perspective on travel. Lost in Ceylon is all that and more to be frank. Owned by Tashiya de Mel, the account visually portrays stories and issues encountered during her travels all over Sri Lanka.

She is a psychology graduate living in Colombo, and has spent the last five years dabbling in different industries; working for start-ups, non-profits and the United Nations, where she has specialized in communications, advocacy, and social media.

A sense of adventure

“My friends and I are very used to getting lost on a lot of our travels. We’ve always enjoyed the sense of adventure and exhilaration that comes with it – so the name seemed fitting at the time!” she said regarding the reason behind her blog being titled ‘Lost in Ceylon’.

Truth be told, it isn’t easy to have a following or get recognition for having a blog on Instagram. And not everyone has the knack to create such a profile either, but de Mel seems to have done just that quite seamlessly. “All of it happened quite spontaneously. I had many friends who would regularly ask me for travel tips and recommendations on places to explore in Sri Lanka. Since I do travel quite extensively, I decided to share some of my adventures with people who wanted to explore unique and off-the-grid locations in Sri Lanka. I don’t really consider myself an ‘influencer’ or ‘blogger’. I began sharing my adventures with the hopes of inspiring other women, and curious individuals to get outside, travel more and discover lesser known parts of the country,” she added.

Having worked as a communications strategist she admits allowed her to gain experience in writing, social media and photography. In return, that experience has helped with bringing ‘Lost in Ceylon’ to life.

Diverse outlook

While there are plenty of websites and blogs relating to travel in Sri Lanka, most of them (except for a few like Lakdasun.org) focus on the popular tourist locations like Galle, Kandy, Sigiirya etc. Instagram is home to plenty of such travel blogs and profiles too. For the most part, many of these accounts simply repost photos taken by other ‘influencers’ and bloggers. The captions beneath these photos are often trivial in comparison to what it could be used for – to spread and create awareness on the beauty of the island, to promote conscious and mindful travels, and of course useful tips to traveling.

Lost in Ceylon highlights ‘pro tips’ on Instagram in an effort to share useful tips about lesser known as well as famous locations in Sri Lanka as well as de Mel’s personal experiences. The entire outlook is certainly refreshing and its quite true when she says she has a way with storytelling, because she does. Her instastories are quite a hit when it comes to sharing images as and when they are captured, wherever she is at the time. There aren’t any pretty stickers, flourishes or filters when it comes to her online feed. It’s real, its raw and it’s a fresh perspective on just how blessed this little island is with all its natural resources and varying sights.

Conscious travels

“I feel that sustainability and sustainable travels are terms that are often misused in Sri Lanka. If done right, sustainable travel can allow us to preserve our natural landscapes and still enjoy them. However, people are only interested in sustainability if they are educated about it, and if its overall importance is effectively communicated. We wont be able to sustain the levels of tourism that the country is promoting if we only keep taking from our environment without giving back — this is why more people need to learn and be educated in ways that they can be more sustainable and mindful when traveling” added de Mel, speaking on the importance of protecting the island’s natural resources and environment.

To her, sustainability is any type of development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It therefore follows that environmental sustainability is about ensuring we don’t cause damage to our environment or deplete resources that we can’t renew.

She had taken a series of small steps to either eliminate or reduce my consumption of harmful products, such as:

– Plastic water bottles/soda (she carries her own refillable water bottle with her and opt for filter water if she’s eating out).

– Plastic straws

– Plastic/polythene food packaging and plastic bags – having reusable bags with you all the time can really help.

It’s important to remember that you can’t eliminate all single-use plastics out of your life immediately. However, it is important to be aware that taking SMALL, ACTIONABLE steps is a start, and understanding WHERE and HOW you can reduce or eliminate these items, and find sustainable alternatives.

The first step is always EDUCATION. Creating awareness. Once you understand why something is harmful, its always easier to take action. It does not have to be a multitude of things all at the same time. Each person embraces sustainability in different ways, and it’s important to remember that there isn’t one right way of achieving this.

 

Lost in Ceylon’s top five experiences in Sri Lanka

1. Trekking through the Knuckles mountain range – the rugged peaks and forests of the knuckles mountains are probably my favourite place in Sri Lanka (and maybe even in the world). The multitude of hiking trails, epic views and hidden waterfalls are nothing like anything else on the island.

2. Camping at Bambarakanda falls, Sri Lanka’s highest waterfall – the top of the falls has a smaller cascade that is sheltered by pine forests and overlook a valley of rolling green hills and mountains. Unfortunately, camping here is not permitted anymore for safety reasons.

3. Talaimannar – home to vast expanses of blue, salty lagoons and mangrove islands. Way out here, the island still feels like a world apart, with desert-like landscapes, dunes, soft, white sand and pristine beaches that stretch out for miles.

4. Aberdeen Falls, Ginigathhena – no matter how many times I visit this waterfall, I cant seem to get enough of it! The base pool here is unlike any other waterfall in Sri Lanka as it has a shallow sand bank that rises from the middle. The upper cascades of Aberdeen falls is a rocky outcrop of large boulders and carved cliff faces with emerald rock pools and a series of smaller waterfalls.

5. Jaffna – the sun baked landscapes of the Northern peninsula has a distinct charm. From the culture to the food, landscapes, and people – everything about Jaffna is a cultural and historical explosion of diversity.

Maniumpathy

It’s a rather gloomy and rainy Wednesday. I’d thoughts about canceling my scheduled visit, but on a whim, decided against it and stepped out of the house anyways. I’ve a fascination with old houses – properties that have been home to generations of families, and that are over 100 years of age. There’s something about houses that have history attached to it; there’s an inclination of charm and character unlike any other and there’s plenty of stories behind every crevice and brick.  

I explored Maniumpathy that day. The name alone intrigued me. I’m told it is derived from the city that the current owners’ family of this house came from – Manipay (Manipai), Jaffna. It was known to have been the Colombo 7 of the North, although the area had plenty of greenery and fields of paddy. The people were known to have been a dedicated and hard-working lot, which says a lot to be honest as many of them were health practitioners and doctors who came to Colombo on work.  

  


Dr. Savaranamuttu Hallock was one of them. He passed out as a doctor from the University of Aberdeen, after which he joined the Ceylon Medical Service. Since he had to move to Colombo to practice medicine, the property was bought over from its original owner and renovated to suit his family. The house was said to have been built in the year 1868. Technically therefore, the house is over 150 years of age. The front edifice has the year 1906 stamped across it and I’m guessing that was year the Dr. Hallock took over and it became the beautiful homey abode to him and his wife Annapuranie, and their nine children.

It was a stately house, as were plenty of others along the same street, originally known as Harley Street (currently Kynsey Road) and home to many health practitioners much like Dr. Hallock. Colonial attributes were a common feature – the well balanced structure and design of the house, the lush garden around it along with a back terrace, the wide and open front porch leading to the central living space, dining area and of course the personal living areas. Open ventilation and space was a prominent feature, as were minimalistic decorative motifs around the home; pillars that supported the back veranda area, antique furniture with fleur de lis motifs, and the beautifully carved eaves on the edges of the roof.

The house has turned over five generations and has been passed over to the next generation through the hands of the females. I’m quite surprised that this is so but in the most pleasant way possible. Currently, Adrian and Chrysanthie Basnayake are the home owners and eventually it will be passed over to their daughter, Annapuranie Anithra Basnayake.

Today, the home and has once again been painstakingly renovated to its original form with the aid of Architect Chamika de Alwis. It took over five years to complete, as attention to detail was key and it was important to retain much of its original charm and features. It has humbly since been open to visitors and guests alike as a boutique hotel in the heart of the city; Maniumpathy – the name paying homage to Manipay and the word ‘pathy’ means ‘home’ in Tamil.

The rooms at Maniumpathy pays homage to the strong and beautiful women of the family. The grand Master Suite has been named after Annapuranie, the first lady of the house. The other seven rooms are named after Soundhari, Poornam, Cynthia, Ranee, Vasanthi, Chrysanthie and Anithra. The room named after Chrysanthie was in fact originally Dr. Hallock’s clinic at one time.

Apart from the name concocting a connection to the family’s northern origins, there are strong resemblances and other characteristic features throughout Maniumpathy. Open space and ventilation is still a common feature and adds to the cosy and homey aspect of this colonial home. The garden has obviously been narrowed down as the left section gave rise to a new wing with an upper level to house more rooms.

The terrace opens out to a smaller garden space, flanked by the right and left wings, furnished with chairs and table suitable for enjoying a warm cup of coffee and perhaps even breakfast or an evening snack. Dusk, I’m told, brings about a soft and relaxed ambience. Lamps are lit in keeping with the calm and peaceful atmosphere. This area also overlooks a pool and a statue of the deity Nandi. The name stems from the Tamil word that means ‘ to grow’ or ‘to flourish’ and in Sanskrit means joy or happiness. His statue, I believe, therefore has been strategically placed, overlooking the entire edifice in the hopes of bringing about growth and happiness in the best way.

Decorative motifs are very much a prominent and common feature; apart from the additional northern trinkets that have been placed around the house – there’s also the grand ebony dining table that sits magnificently on the right wing, vintage lamps and Bakelite telephones, the bookshelves are well stocked with an array of best reads, and the classic furnishing combined with the white and grey washed walls add much character to this stately home. The Chrysanthie room includes an old stairway which has been restored finely, the two deluxe rooms named after Soundhari and Poornam include Jaffna style open courtyard bathrooms, and there are plenty of old photographs of the entire family placed in antique frames and scattered about Maniumpathy that give it a very homey effect.

I find Maniumpathy to be an oasis in the heart of Colombo; as although it is located on one of the most congested streets of the city, it somehow manages to retain an air of softness and charm. There’s something about it, from the moment you walk in; there’s that telltale aura of simplicity although there’s plenty of history and heritage. There’s comfort in sinking into one of the large couches or even sitting outside overlooking the grass and the pool. Nandi silently watches over.

I’m told that many European painters have stayed at the boutique hotel and chosen to find inspiration in its peaceful atmosphere. Older guests have been known to relate tales of how they used to play in this very house as children.

And the charm of generations that have lived before and Manipay lives on.
–Pictures courtesy Manor House Concepts– 

 

Pink Lotus 

  
The Spa Ceylon Royal Indulgence Spa and Store was unveiled a few days ago and I was able to attend the event under the media banner. Every invitee and media personnel were gifted with a limited edition gift pack so here’s a look at mine; 

The gift pack included the Pink Lotus collection which was launched just under a month ago. 

  
As always, the packaging is just as lovely and the gift bag can be reused in multiple ways. 

 
   
    
    
  
I’m not quite sure if I like the fragrance; lotus flowers are a bit hard to get used to and have an extremely strong scent to them. I did give the cleanser, soap bar and liquid silk shine mist a whiff but I kinda sat back with a slight headache. Maybe this isn’t for me but I am willing to give some of the products a go before I pass them into someone who may like it more than I do. 

Xoxo

 

White Sandal Facial Cleansing Oil review

New skin care product!
New skin care product!

 

 

Yes, the tropical heat can be very drying on your skin. Even when it rains heavily in Sri Lanka, the humidity level rises causing a lot of drying so us Lankans have to be extra careful with our face and body.

I’ve been using a sample of the White Sandal Facial Cleansing Oil by Spa Ceylon for a couple of months. I received it along with four other products as a gift after attending an event. Now a cleansing oil was something new to me and for the most part I used it at night to take off my eyeliner and lip colour. It really helped clean my skin and not leave it dry so I thought of investing in a larger sized bottle of the same.

Description – This is an extra-hydrating and deep cleansing formula with 100% pure precious sandalwood oil to help gently lighten, brighten and illuminate skin. Green olive and soya help dissolve impurities and effectively remove make-up, while naturally anti-oxidant virgin coconut and sweet almond nourish and hydrate skin. Sandalwood, rice bran and natural vitamins help improve overall skin health, while avocado help soothe and refresh skin. The invigorating aroma of sandalwood helps warm and brighten the senses.

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Even though I had been using it mostly as a makeup removal product, I noticed how it also hydrated my skin and kept it fresh looking all the time. To use, you need to apply all over face, neck and eye area. Gently massage and wipe off with cotton or warm wet towel. I use cotton pads to do this because I do not like to completely take it off. I like leaving it on my face very lightly for a good half an hour before I finally rinse it off with warm water.

I love the formula because even though it is an oil, it doesn’t look too layered and plastered on my skin. It helps to pat a cotton pad all over and leave it on to do its magic. The fragrance is something I love about it too. The sandalwood isn’t as apparent as you’d think it would be. I’d have to say that the almond fragrance is a much stronger note in this product, which is not a bad thing at all.

This is very easy to use and you don’t need a lot of product either. It’s got a tube like top that works like a mini suction so all you have to do it squeeze the little tube pump. It doesn’t collect a lot of product on to the glass tube but this is a good thing because you do not need a lot of it. I use two light squeezes of product on my face.

Since I’ve got myself a bigger bottle, I use it twice a day when I feel like my skin is too dry and on other days just before going to bed at night.

Would I purchase this again? Oh yeah!

Weekly Snap!

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Earl Grey, Mandarin and Honey Iced Tea

As you all know, I’m a huge tea fan. So here’s presenting my weekly snap – an Earl Grey, Mandarin and Honey iced tea. This fabulous beverage is available at the tlounge by Dilmah on Chatham Street as well as Arcade Independence Square.

Xoxo

Beruwala

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My husband and I took a quick trip down south over the weekend. I know it’s not much to blog about but I actually had a great time and captured a few images I wanted to share. The town of Beruwala is located roughly about an hour away from Colombo. It is actually my hometown in the sense that its my father’s birthplace.

The town area is quite small to be honest and the best part is mainly the beachside and the hotels nearby. Almost every other person you meet would possibly be a gem merchant or trader of sorts because that’s typical of the people living there. My family and I have been also visiting the main grand mosque every year during special occasions – Kechchimalla Mosque

I do not know much about the history of the mosque on a personal note but inside there is a framed copy of an article written about the history so you should check that out if you happen to visit. I should add that you need to be properly dressed to enter the mosque. No outfits that are short and showy and the head must be covered with a shawl or scarf.

There isn’t much to do in this part of the south but you will find plenty of little boutique hotels and resorts lined up one after the other which are often frequented by foreigners and locals too.

Xoxo