Koslanda: Land of the Lilliputians
There nestles between the Lipton's Seat at Dambatenne Estate (1650 mts) and Pilikinton Point of Poonagala Estate (1500 mts), a beautiful tranquil valley of Koslanda, adjacent to the Uda Walawe natural reserve. Many a time we have had wild elephants literally at our doorstep.
It is one of the most beautiful valleys in Sri Lanka, being the home for the breathtaking waterfall of Diyaluma at 210 mts being the sixth highest waterfall in the world. This valley with a population of 5000 is the hamlet of Koslanda where the time has stopped and one could see the bus halt boards of the colonial era and a hospital stands as a witness.
This tranquil valley has been the scene of the largest landslide of Asia on 19 November 1997, when whole chunks of earth about one acre were seen floating. It was indeed an awe-inspiring site. One could see only a trickle of water today and one wonders how the water has accumulated to move the mountain.
The main cultivations in this area are pepper, cinnamon and tea, with some rubber at lower elevations.
The aim of this article is to draw attention to a phenomenon where there is preponderance of deformed disabled in the area and it has been estimated to about 30 or approximately 0.6 percent of the population.
Many who had died at birth and the one living have to eke out a very difficult living.
This is Wijesundera who has been deformed since birth who runs a small boutique close to the Koslanda bazaar and he is one of the thirty.
There is also a family of two brothers and a sister of Selvaratnam's family who have all been born deformed (dwarfism). There is dynamic Śrī Kanth who has not been anyway disheartened, dejected or depressed by his physical condition that has blazed a trail for all others who are physically disabled in forming the hill country disabled group. Śrī Kanth has an elder sister Prema and a younger brother Chandra Kanth who are the flagship for those disabled.
At right is Śrī Kanth, Chandra Kanth and Prema. Recently, my wife and I had the pleasure of the company of Chandra Kanth on a journey back from Kalmunai and to Koslanda and we were amazed with the thankful attitude of this person who was born in 1976 whose height is barely three feet. I went inspecting the regional offices of Survivors Associated and Chandra Kanth took part in all activities that we had to do. On our return he even went with us to buy fish and was not bothered by the people who were staring at him.
The success story of the Selvaratnam is so fascinating that a book could be written about them. It was Śrī Kanth that made this possible. He left for Colombo at the age of 16 and worked in Colombo for ten years, till the fragrance of the home town, the beauty of the valley, and moreover the 'Lilliputians' of Koslanda lured him back again. He gave the leadership to the family and the society, inheriting the leadership from his father, who was a principal of a school.
First it was an offset printing press and soon with the guidance of the Information Communication Technology Authority (ICTA), especially Mrs. Chitrangani Mubarak he established the first Nenasala in Koslanda. (www.nanasala.org) The doors to the marginalized forgotten community was opened.
There were hundreds who came to acquire computer literacy from a community that had not seen a computer. He attended the Third Global Knowledge Conference, a unique gathering of 2,000 global visionaries, innovators, practitioners and policy makers, takes place in Kuala Lumpur.
In August 2007 he was honoured in New Delhi as a Fellow of the Jamsetji Tata National Virtual Academy. At present he in India on invitation.
With them came the 'Lilliputians', especially his brother Chandra Kanth who is an expert at hardware and network administration even though he cannot lift one.
The next step of Śrī Kanth was not to wait till the people come to where the computer was but to take the computer to the people.
He started many sub Nenasala centres in Koslanda and Poonagala Estates as well as in the villages.
There are many grateful students of Nenasala who had acquired computer knowledge secured employment, which they could not have done earlier.
He did not stop there, having noted that he was one of the 'Lilliputians" and that there are many in need, he setup the Hill Country Disabled Group (HCDG) (www.hcdg.org). to help those in need.
This is an organisation that has been registered. Here he was fortunate enough to have the support of an American, Patrick Harrigan, who had been in Sri Lanka for about 20 years and had to leave at the end of his term last month.
His departure has left a void that is difficult to fill for I was very impressed by the dedication that he had for the less fortunate.
The Group distributed much needed CDMA telephones to the disabled who are living on the outposts.
There is a long list of children who were born disabled but had not lived long. Here are some of the disabled who are being assisted by the HCDG.
What is required for this unsung group are:
- A study should be done for the reasons for this congenital disability (dwarfism) as to why people of all communities and from all social cultures are predominantly subject to this condition in this area. It is a worthwhile study for an University.
- Corrective action to be taken and educate the residents
- With the departure Patrick Hariggan there is a need for a consultant for the group especially for contacts and correspondence overseas.
- Assistance to expand the gainful employments for the disabled such as computer work, running boutiques, and the like.
- Recognition for the products of the group with market facilities.
I shall be pleased to give any further information and may be contacted on 071-8387895 or 011-2724730 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or 59, Park Road, Ratmalana. You may also contact Śrī Kanth, at Nenasala, Koslanda or 057-2257822 or 0772969666.
Courtesy: The Sunday Observer of Sunday 6 June 2010