In my extensive dealing with rural youth I have come to some conclusions on what happened and what can be done to change their outlook on life! This is due to the fact that I live part of my month in Ratmale, Minneriya, a puranagama, that existed before Polonnaruwa was rediscovered during the British Rule, and regenerated and revived by DS Senanayake under the Minneriya Colony Resettlements after the Tanks were restored and rebuilt along with the rebuilding of gravity driven, irrigation canals.
From the discussions with the elderly, Malaria was NOT a big problem then, perhaps because the people having lived here for generations, were immune, but life was fulfilling with agriculture and animal husbandry being he thriving sources of income, along with collecting bees honey to exchange for other items not available locally. The adjoining village was Rotawewa who were hunters!
The quality of life was good, and the village was clustered in such a way, that the intrusion of wild elephants could be minimized. Only, when the village was abandoned when the new roads were built and electricity supplied there, did the people move out of their traditional abode near the wewa and dagaba (pansala) by squatting on land on either side of the road, and building their homes.
Thus when I acquired this property, it was covered in thick forest, and there were hardly traces of the Coconut, Mango, and Jack Trees there were supposedly here abundantly, in the past, along with the clustered houses in a semicircle to protect internal land from Elephants! People were apparently taller, and stronger, and more healthy living longer, all of which I find hard to believe but in hindsight know it was possible.
There were herds of cattle then, and both fresh milk, meat and hunting of animals resulted in strong people, well fed on protein. Now the youth don’t have fresh milk, there are NO cattle to speak of, and they don’t eat meat and occasionally some game is caught and eaten, most of it being sold due to the demand by local hotels instead. This is called progress in the era of education.
The turn off to my house was called the Goma Handiya due to the fact that at that point, it was knee deep in cow manure, due to the cattle, and this was used in the paddy fields, that supposedly gave higher yields, and the paddy was of organic varieties of high nutrition. This added to the Kurakkan (Millet) which was also a staple, gave a level of nutrition that none of today’s diet can match.
This then is the tragedy of our unhealthy diet of refined foods and sugars, and lack of protein in all its forms, that have stunted both the brain and brawn of our youth. Now let’s go and look into their minds and mindsets in the next entry!