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Tag Archive | Paris

In Sri Lanka Women May Not Be Allowed To Buy Alcohol, But They Can — And Have Been — President Or Prime Minister.

by Anura Guruge


Click image to access ABC News original.


Click to access the UK “Daily Mail” original.



I did not know about this ban — or its reinstatement — until a friend e-mailed me a link Monday morning. It was all news to I. I never knew that there was such a ban — primarily because I have never tried to buy alcohol in Sri Lanka.

Anywho … anybody who thinks that this ban reflects badly on Sri Lanka’s treatment of women obviously is not familiar with what makes Sri Lanka truly GREAT.

The World’s first democratically elected female Head of State (i.e., Prime Minister)
— in 1960. My aunty Bandaranaike.

Got that. FIRST female Prime Minister in the World.

We have also had a female President.

I am sure Hillary Clinton would have gladly forgone her right to buy alcohol if she could have been President. {Smile}

Something else to consider. This ban is said to have been instituted in 1979 — by Sri Lanka’s increasingly rabid Buddhists.

OK. Since then there have been two female Heads of State (albeit mother and daughter). They obviously did not see this as a major women’s issue — i.e., being precluded from buying alcohol.

Yes, Sri Lankans are funny — real funny — about everything to do with alcohol.

It is a Buddhist thing — though all that Buddhism asks from you is that you TRY and refrain from partaking in intoxicating substances.

Growing up in Ceylon (the prior name of Sri Lanka) in the 1950s and 1960s, alcohol was a taboo subject among middle- and upper-class Sinhala buddhists (such as my adoptive family).

My adoptive parents (and grandparents) were genuine teetotalers. Alcohol was never served at our house — even when my adoptive father was an Ambassador in Paris (France) and Washington D.C. My parents really frowned upon those that drank and had a hard time coming to terms that I was basically a hopeless wino.

Some of my uncles drank — and we all knew of their penchant for drink. But, they drank in private! It was a crazy society.

Yes, women not being allowed to serve or make alcohol is a problem.

But, not being able to buy alcohol should not really be a problem. For all of our faults, Sri Lankan males tend to be a gallant, chivalrous and RANDY bunch of buggers. We would never dream of letting a female buy a drink. We would always get them one. {Smile}

So …

Not good, BUT not the end of the world.

Yes, Sri Lankan Buddhists are a dangerous bunch. I have said that before.

But, do NOT extrapolate this to mean that women are downtrodden in Sri Lanka.

Just remember. Just remember: Sirimavo Bandaranaike — the World’s first female prime minister.


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by Anura Guruge


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Louis Pasteur, As In Pasteurization, Was Born This Day 135-Years Ago, In France.

by Anura Guruge


Click to ENLARGE and read here. Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Pasteur




Yes, of course, he was considered on the greatest scientist of the 19th century.

In addition to pasteurization, which we come across every time we reach for a contained of milk, he paved the way to much of the ‘healthy‘ lifestyle protocols we take for granted today. Without him life expectancy would be 30-years shorter.

As the above image depicts I have a personal connection with Louis Pasteur. My adoptive parents lived in an apartment that was next door to his famous institute, in Paris, from 1978 – 1985. You looked right across, over a well maintained yard, straight at the Institute. Moreover, the address of the building was #10 Rue du Dr. Roux — named after his colleague, Émile Roux.


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Categories ‘Events&Astronomy’.


by Anura Guruge

THE Queen, My Mother & The Queen’s Phone Number.

by Anura Guruge


Click to ENLARGE.




Doing the post on the Queen’s Christmas address yesterday, and then a couple of comments that ensued on Facebook, reminded me of a cute story involving my adoptive mother and the Queen.

My adoptive mother over the years had met the Queen socially on a number of occasions — and there is a possibility that my mother spent some time with the Queen. That would have been in 1954 when the Queen visited Ceylon. My adoptive father was at that time the private secretary to the Prime Minister and as such was heavily involved with the visit and would have been at all the events and receptions — often with my mother. I was but 7 months old at the time and do not remember any of it. But, from what I recall from later snippets, they might have gone to Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa with the Queen — on the official train. ‘They’ (i.e., the ‘government’) would definitely would have wanted my father around. He, though only 25 years old at the time, had a Ph.D. and was an acknowledged scholar and history buff. My mother and the Queen would have been 4 years apart in age, my mother born in 1930.

Anywho … my mother met the Queen, at least a few times. starting in 1954.

To say that my mother was a people person would not even get close to the truth. She had an exceptional capability. She has been compared to Mother Teresa and Princess Diana in that respect. There was something about her — it was organic and chemical. People were drawn to her and she to them. She was rarely without a smile and people somehow detected this amazing warmth she had for all — strangers in particular. All her life she had this child-like quality of innocence. She was totally without guile and people recognized that. She, from a young age, collected people’s contact information and birthdays. She had bulging address books and was diligent at sending birthday and Christmas cards. In her 40s she would send out 400 — 600 handwritten Christmas cards per year. She would start in mid-November.

OK … Somewhere during these meetings with the Queen she believes that she got the Queen’s personal contact information. It is possible. She might not have got it directly, but it is likely that it was given to her by one of the Queen’s staff. I never asked, but it is likely that the Queen got birthday and Christmas cards from my mother.

From 1968 when my father joined UNESCO to her death in 1992 she was very much a part of the European diplomatic circle. She socialized with Heads of State on a regular basis and to her they were always friends first and Heads of State second.

In late 1984, when my father was the Sri Lanka Ambassador in Paris, my mother answered the phone, in their official residence, in a fancy apartment block, very early in the morning. A stranger on the line informed her that this was going to be my father’s last day on earth and that he planned to assassinate my father before the day was done. He then hung up. Threats on my father’s life were not new and we had lived with it since the 1960s — given that he was a highly political figure. She did not rush off an and tell my father. Instead she calmly made one phone call — and this was around 7:30 in the morning. My father got out of bed because he could hear a lot of commotion around the building. He looked out. There were armoured cars and military personnel with heavy weaponry. Police cars with sirens followed.

That was when my mother informed him of the call. He asked her if she had called the police — though that is NOT what diplomats are supposed to do. They have a special ‘diplomat protection’ number to call. My mother hadn’t not called that number or the police. She had called President François Mitterrand, at home — on his personal line! I kid you not. She knew him and he had told her to call him if she ever needed anything. She took things like that literally. Appears that Mitterrand, her friend, was cool. Told her not to worry and that he would deal with it himself. Hence the army presence ahead of the police. I gather he called up later to make sure all was OK. Over the next few weeks he would have received a stream of flowers, chocolates and other gifts from my mother. So … my mother did not hesitate about calling Heads of State.

This was 1983. I had finally got fed up of trying to travel on a Sri Lanka passport — especially since I had to make business trips, on no-notice, on a regular basis. So, I decided to apply for British Citizenship. That was not going to be problem. I have lived, full time in the UK for 15 years, had an unlimited work permit and had been married to a British citizen for 9 years. So, I applied. And it dragged on.

One day, in late 1983, my mother, as was her wont, had called from Paris to see how things were.

I happened to mention that I was getting frustrated that I had not heard anything about my citizenship.

And she then says, quite casually: “Do you want me to CALL the Queen?

I kid you not. To her this was nothing. No big deal. She would just call up the Queen. And she would have.

I was mortified. “Amma, NO. NO. It is OK. Don’t call the Queen. That might be overkill”.

She eventually decided to call a MP (i.e., Member of Parliament) she knew. He called me to ask for details!

I did get my citizenship paper, in the mail, shortly afterwards THOUGH I am not sure whether the MP had any hand in that.

But, I still remember: “Do you want me to CALL the Queen?

There is no shadow of a doubt that she thought she could get through to the Queen. But, we will never know.


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by Anura Guruge


U.S. Withdrawal From UNESCO A Travesty — And, Yes, Personal To I.

by Anura Guruge


Click to ENLARGE and read here — along with my comments & highlights. From: state.gov.


Click to ENLARGE and read here. Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UNESCO



I was an UNESCO brat. That is why it is personal. My adoptive father worked for UNESCO from September 1968 to c. 2013 — Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to UNESCO from 1985 to 1992. From 1992 till c. 2013 (or even later) he had honorary (I think) advisory roles with them. During the 18 years he worked for UNESCO itself he was based in Paris (2 terms), New Delhi & Bangkok. When he was Ambassador to UNESCO be was based in Paris and was also the Sri Lankan Ambassador to France.

So, I am no stranger to UNESCO. UNESCO put me through school. Whether that was right or wrong is another matter — BUT such ‘financial support for kids’ is pretty standard with most ‘international’ jobs because there is this belief that the kids have been uprooted from their home country (which is, of course, true).

Yes, I have seen BOTH the good and bad of UNESCO — and in my youth there have been times when I have railed against and ridiculed the extravagance and waste. Yes, ‘senior staff’, especially the diplomats (such as my adoptive father) led a good life, but that again is par for the course for all diplomats.

Yes, UNESCO has done good and the ‘Silk Road Program‘ (and I was actually there for the Sri Lanka chapter of that in 1980) and the World Heritage Sites are but SOME of the examples. No question that, by and large, developing countries get more benefits from UNESCO than the developed ones. But, that was the point of setting up UNESCO. To spread and share the largess.

All that said …

The U.S. has NOT been PAYING its member contribution to UNESCO since 2011 and now owes upwards of $600 MILLION!

That UNESCO did NOT kick-out the U.S. during that time is a disgrace to UNESCO.

I do NOT think that the U.S. or any other country should be able to PICK-AND-CHOSE their membership affiliations with UN Agencies.

It should be ONE-FOR-ALL, & ALL-FOR-ONE.

If the U.S. wants to be a part of the UN it also has to belong to UNESCO and pay its dues!

Anywho …

This is not going to happen till December 31, 2018 and that is a LONG WAY away. Much water will flow under all the bridges in the World prior to that.


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by Anura Guruge

The NEW PBS Masterpiece Theatre “The Collection” Might Not Be Everybody’s Cup Of Tea.

by Anura Guruge


Click to ENLARGE and read here. From PBS.org.


Click to access the PBS page for this new Masterpiece show.



It may be a tad too dark, intense and ‘adult in bits’ for some. Definitely not ‘Downton Abbey‘.

If you like that period, Paris, 1940s photography and some LUSCIOUS 2017 videography with the most vivid reds you are ever likely to see, this will appeal (though there may still be scenes that you might not appreciate).

Given all the time I have spent in Paris (which means that most of the places shown are familiar) and my familiarity with French/Paris history during and after WW II (much of it learnt from the excellent book “Is Paris Burning?“, I found it interesting. All loved the scenes of the American photographer using a Rolleiflex to take black-and-white images.

If you are into this stuff you might want to give it a try.


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by Anura Guruge

The Distinctive, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Died This Day 110-Years Ago; September 9, 1901.

by Anura Guruge



Click to ENLARGE and read here. Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_de_Toulouse-Lautrec



Though his name might not readily come to mind, there is no question that is work is distinctive and widely known. I am sure many people associate Parisian Can-Can with his posters.

I am “OK” with his work. He is not in my top 30, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate and admire his work.

During my 18-year association with Paris I got to know Montmartre, the focus of much of his work, very well. So that is another connection we have.

Until I was doing this post I had no idea that he was physically disabled much of life and died at 36. Wow. 36! Just think how much more he could have done if he lived to be at least 60.


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by Anura Guruge

Paris, ‘City Of Lights’, Was Liberated From The Germans, During WW II, This Day 73-Years Ago! Hurrah! Hurrah!

by Anura Guruge



Yes, yes, yes. The glorious Liberation of Paris in 1944. Paris is dear to me and I knew it well. I lived in Paris for a year, 1968 – 1969, and my adoptive parents lived there again from 1978 to 1992.

Yes, it was spearheaded by U.S. General George Patton’s famed US Third Army. The ‘battle for Paris’ started on August 19, 1944. By the 24th of August there were other divisions including a French division made up mainly of Spanish exiles. The final surrender happened on August 25.

Have YOU read ‘Is Paris Burning?‘ That title comes from a question Hitler asked his commanding officer in Paris as the Germans were ingloriously withdrawing from the city. Hitler had ordered that Paris should be annihilated prior to the German departure. The Germans, to their credit, did not have the heart to do that!

This book, ‘Is Paris Burning?‘, was my adoptive father’s favorite book — which says something since he was a formidable author. He gave away copies of the book to anyone he liked — and he had a penchant for liking most people. So he was in constant need for large supplies of this book. During the time he lived in Paris one of my duties was to keep him supplied with copies of this book from the U.K. You really should read it.

Click to access Amazon listing (or one of the listings) for this great book.


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by Anura Guruge

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