Friday, June 1, 2012

The ‘Dansala’ – is it a contest or a real attempt at sharing?

The original dansalas were to offer relief to pilgrims on their way to a particular religious site so they could be fed along the way as an act of charity to help them on their pilgrimage, however that is almost forgotten, and they are usually no nearer a place of worship and more likely by the side of a road, where the captive audience is flagged down in a rather dangerous manner and offered some refreshment, sometimes in ways it is hard to refuse.

The really serious types organize annual Dansalas as if it is a right of passage from this world to the next and make a big deal of the fact that they have been doing this for so many years. Others decide on the spur of the moment and gather a few friends round them and organize a smaller affair with whatever resources they can pool together. They on the other hand are the more genuine, but usually shortlived ones that last as long as the food!

This year we see an added spoke, namely in the cost of food, and also requirement of a license. The latter is so that the food hygiene inspectors are able to inspect the way the food is prepared and determine if it is done properly. It must be remembered that improperly prepared food fed to many can cause a potentially catastrophic scare, which they try to avoid by this sort of regulation.

I have given Vesak dansalas both at Godagama on the farm many years ago, and at my Hingurakgoda property subsequently, but I have funded it all by myself as I do not much approve of this collection of food or money from people in principal. Mine have been roaring successes both for an unusual ambiance with lights and the type of food served and the method by which they were served. The Polonnaruwa one was where one sat on the ground and ate on Nelum Kola surrounded by over 1000 coconut oil lamps and lit king coconut on the river whilst the river was flowing giving a very unusual twist.

I have seen wish lists for dansalas this year and the organizers seem to only organize and arrange for the preparation, considering their effort as their contribution, and others who are pressed to fund it are those usually who are their closest friends associates and politicians who get sucked into this as a captive audience. I feel for them as usually they are not local to the area and are asked to pump not a small amount and then invited to participate!

I was in Polonnaruwa during Vesak and I will also be there over Poson, as I have a wedding in Polonnaruwa that I will attend and then stay on for the long weekend as I came by the good old public bus leaving the private bus stand in Pettah before 5 and was in Minneriya 230 rupees lighter as that is the fare for the whole trip, and will hopefully return by train on Poson Poya night! That way I will not be delayed by the dansalas on the road all day all the way, for next day’s work.

Just for the record, the taxi fare at that time of the morning to the Pettah bus stand was Rs300 and the three wheeler fare from Minneriya to Ratmale where I have my home was Rs500.

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