The inherent danger of immersion in the occult and the propitiation of gods and mediums – The Island
CONFESSIONS OF A WORLD GITANE
By Dr Chandana (Chandi) Jayawardena DPhil
President – Chandi J. Associates Inc. Consulting, Canada
Founder & Administrator – Global Hospitality Forum
As a child, I practically grew up on stage. My father was an award-winning playwright, director, director and actor. His other artistic talents such as set and costume design improved the overall quality of his productions. In 1956, his play ‘Janma Bhumi’ was chosen by the government to celebrate 2,500 years of recorded history of Sri Lanka, as part of the celebrations of Buddha Jayanthi. With the opening of this play, he became the first to use the now famous Lumbini Theater in Colombo. Growing up in a culturally rich environment meant frequent visits from our family to art galleries, theaters, cinemas and traditional cultural events. My parents also sent my older sister and I to learn Kandyan dance. I sucked and gave up after a few sessions.
During my student years at Ceylon Hotel School (CHS) my favorite show was the very first solo concert by a Sri Lankan singer – Victor Ratnayake. His concert known as “Sa” (the root or root note in the scale of Indian music) was first performed in 1973. I have seen “Sa” four times in four decades. I had mixed feelings when Victor finally ended ‘Sa’ in 2012, with the 1450th concert. For the final show, he chose the Lumbini Theater where the first “Sa” took place 39 years ago.
I never had the privilege of speaking with Victor, but I had the opportunity to work with the other two greatest classical musicians of Sri Lanka – Amaradeva and Nanda Malini. They occasionally entertained the guests of the Ceysands Hotel, during the oriental food events that I organized. I was the executive chef and food and beverage manager of this hotel in the late 1970s. Organizing such high caliber classical musicians to entertain tourists was not common in Sri Lanka hotels.
I also enjoyed the western music shows. Those days we called these “Beat Shows”. In addition, my neighborhood friends were hosting large-scale street dances in the Bambalapitiya plains, which had a diverse and refreshing population. A few days ago, I met up with a pioneer of Western music performances in Sri Lanka, now living in the United States – Kumar Navaratnam. Kumar was hosting popular beat shows in Colombo in the late 1960s and early 1970s. When Kumar saw iconic performances by Jimmy Hendrix, Carlos Santana, The Who, etc. in a documentary film about Woodstock, Kumar was inspired to do something different in Colombo.
After introducing rock and hard rock to Sri Lankan audiences, Kumar planned to organize something big. His ambition was to organize the very first Rock Festival from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. at Havelock Park in Colombo, in the manner of Woodstock. Once his friend, turned rival, Gabo Peiris had the same idea. Finally, a week apart, two competing rock festivals organized by Gabo and Kumar took place at the same location. Most of my CHS teammates accompanied me to both events. I was wearing a tie-dye tee, a chain with a large peace sign, and a pair of old ripped jeans with the widest possible bell bottoms (36 inches!).
There was heavy rain during Gabo’s Rock Festival and it improved the Woodstock-like atmosphere and mood of the attendees. As the rock music continued nonstop, we danced in the rain and jumped through small mud puddles, until dawn. When I asked Kumar last week if he had pictures from his rock festival, he said, “Machang, I was too drugged to remember or organize pictures from this festival!” Kumar’s departure for the United States at the height of his popularity in the 1970s created a vacuum in the Western music scene in Sri Lanka that lasted for some time. These two festivals have yet to be matched by contemporary rock groups on the island. Kumar is still considered a pioneer of Western Sri Lankan music.
Meeting with Mark Bostock
In 1973, as tournament secretary, I again headed the organizing committee for the Nationalized Services Rugby Football Club’s annual tournament. I also played for the CHS seven-a-side, which was one of the fourteen teams that competed for the prestigious trophy. CHS lost to Bank of Ceylan in the quarter-finals. The main guest of the tournament was an Englishman well known in Sri Lanka as a sportsman and entrepreneur, Mr. Mark Bostock. He was chairman of the Ceylon Rugby Football Union and chairman of John Keells, the largest business group in Sri Lanka. We shook hands and spoke briefly. I felt he was impressed with the organization of the tournament.
This brief introduction from Mr. Bostock led me to find employment with John Keells twice during my mid-career career in the hospitality industry. When I was twenty-five, I ran one of the John Keells Hotels and befriended Mr. Bostock. He arranged for me to be formed in London with the biggest British hotel company – Trust House Forte in the late 1970s. He was the witness when I got married. In the mid-1980s my family were invited to visit the Bostock family at their home in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England and spend the night with them. We had a great time there. Later his daughter Clare, who studied hotel management in the UK, worked at Le Galadari Meridien, where I worked in the mid-1980s.
In 1986, I organized a little farewell to Mr. and Mrs. Mark Bostock, just before his retirement, in Habarana. At the time, as General Manager, I managed the two largest hotels built by John Keells, the Lodge and the Village, Habarana, as well as their farm and the food distribution of Keells in the north-central province of Sri Lanka.
Towards the end of our second year at the CHS, we were very busy organizing the second CHS Graduation Ball. With the experience gained in 1972, my lot had become more efficient in planning and organizing events. We raised more funds through souvenir ads and were able to secure the most prestigious and expensive venue in the country – the ballroom at the Ceylon Inter.Continential hotel. Dance tickets sold out quickly and the dance was an overall success in terms of attendance, profit as well as finding partners.
Scrape coconuts to
Five of my lot mates and I were able to organize highly sought after summer internships in one of the best known multinational companies operating in Sri Lanka. This was at Lever Brothers, affectionately known to many generations of Sri Lankans as “The Sunlight Company” since 1938. In this Anglo-Dutch company, Lever Brothers (now Uni-Lever), we were exposed to new orientations, training and development as well as employee benefits. These standards were far superior to what the hospitality industry offered at the time.
My main job was to scrape coconuts and peel sweet potatoes for meals for their 1,000 employees. As four meals a day (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midnight meal) all included curries, they needed a large amount of grated coconut and coconut milk. Having served in the same role throughout the summer of 1973, I became an expert at coconut scraping using the motorized kitchen scraper in the Lever Brothers staff kitchen. This machine was my friend, whom I called “NUTS”. We also had to work shifts. The morning and afternoon shifts were good. However, we didn’t like doing the night shift and delivering midnight snacks to different factories.
Although we worked as intern cooks; we received additional benefits. We ate our meals in the Junior Executive Dining Room. We also received excellent training on supervision techniques with documents developed in Europe. I also learned for the first time the concepts of sales, public relations and union relations. During one of our trainings, the personnel manager asked us: “What is best for management – negotiating with a union or several unions?” I quickly raised my hand and said, âSeveral! When the manager asked me for the rationale for the answer, I replied: “Because with several unions, management can divide and conquer.” He disagreed and explained how management could have better and mutually beneficial industrial relations by dealing with just one union. We learned a lot at Lever Brothers, besides scratching coconuts.
Meeting with Stanley Jayawardena
During this seventh part-time job, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to briefly meet Mr. Stanley Jayawardena, who later became the first Sri Lankan President of Unilever Sri Lanka. He told interesting and inspiring stories about his remarkable career. He had joined Lever Brothers as a sales manager in 1955 with little sales knowledge. However, during the decades he worked at Unilever, he became a highly respected marketing guru.
He played a leading role in shaping the destiny of Unilever Sri Lanka. Nine years after this brief meeting, I learned Marketing from this expert. In 1982 and 1983 I graduated with an Executive Diploma in Business Administration from the University of Colombo and Mr. Stanley Jayawardena taught his Marketing course. He arranged for the former marketing executives of Unilever Sri Lanka, such as Upali Mahanama, Sri Sangabo Corea, to give talks to us. This inspired me to continue my studies in Marketing with the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) in the UK and eventually become a CIM graduate.
Master the concept of marketing
The seeds of marketing knowledge and practical marketing advice shared by Mr. Stanley Jayawardena have had a significant impact on my career. Most of the things I did mid-career in hotel management – food festivals, theater productions, restaurant operations, banquet sales, were influenced by the basics of marketing. Identifying market segments and customer needs, and then meeting those needs while making a profit, is a simple but powerful concept.
Seeing the benefit of marketing knowledge in most of the things I did, I continued my education and practiced marketing. In 1990 I started a Masters / Doctorate in Hotel Marketing at the University of Surrey, UK. Over the next 17 years as a full and part-time visiting professor / keynote speaker / professor, I taught marketing at 13 post-secondary institutions in eight countries (Schiller International University in the UK , International Hotel School in Sri Lanka, Ceylan Hotel School, International Hotel Management Institute in Switzerland, Pegasus Hotel School in Guyana, University of Guyana, The University of the West Indies in Jamaica, Private Hotel School of Aruba, Mona School of Business in Jamaica , Ryerson University in Canada, Canadian School of Management, Ravens University in the United States and Niagara College in Canada).
Thirty years after my first meeting with my marketing guru, I worked for the Canadian School of Management as Senior Vice President of Market Development. Thanks for the insight and inspiration, Mr. Stanley Jayawardena!