Ivermectin: A missed opportunity? – The Island – The Island.lk

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By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana
In recent times, no drug has aroused more controversy than Ivermectin, an anti-parasitic discovered in 1975, originally used in veterinary medicine. It was approved for human use in the late 1980s and is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. William Campbell and Satoshi Omura won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for its discovery and applications which include mass administration in the prevention of lymphatic filariasis and river blindness. In addition to anti-parasitic activity, Ivermectin has been shown to have anti-viral activity as well as anti-inflammatory activity.
Laboratory tests showed Ivermectin activity against the Covid-19 virus at high concentrations, and, therefore, it was initially thought that toxicity might be a problem if used in very high dosage. However, as some observational studies showed benefit at normal doses, Ivermectin was promoted as a ‘miracle’ drug through social media, mostly by anti-vaxxers. A big impetus for Ivermectin came from a randomised clinical trial of 400 patients from Egypt, published in early 2021, which showed a 90% reduction of death rates. However, a British medical student who studied the trial in detail found many discrepancies including plagiarism and data manipulation, which led to the retraction of the article in July 2021.
The first step in proving the efficacy of a drug or any other intervention is by observational studies. If they show likely benefit, then Randomised Clinical Trials (RCT) are done, where one group receives the drug and the other gets a placebo of similar appearance. The most rigorous of all are the double-blind RCTs, where neither the patients nor the triallists are aware who is on what unyil the trial is concluded, and this which helps eliminate any form of bias. The validity of the trial increases as the numbers treated increase. In fact, there are instances where a drug that had been shown to be effective in small RCTs were proven to be ineffective when large RCTs were conducted. This has led to the concept of mega-trials, where thousands of patients are included. The earliest and the best known are the ISIS trials conducted by the Oxford Research Group, which showed the efficacy of clot-busters in the treatment of heart attacks.
However, it is not always easy to do large trials which could be expensive and time consuming. Therefore, statisticians have developed a new method of pooling comparable trials and analysing data, which is called meta-analysis. The August issue of the American Journal of Therapeutics carried a meta-analysis of Ivermectin trials by Bryant et al from the UK, which concluded: “Moderate-certainty evidence finds that large reductions in COVID-19 deaths are possible using ivermectin. Using Ivermectin early in the clinical course may reduce numbers progressing to severe disease. The apparent safety and low cost suggest that ivermectin is likely to have a significant impact on the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic globally”. Unfortunately, this meta-analysis included data from the disgraced Egyptian study.
Another meta-analysis, also from the UK by Hill et al, published in ‘Open Forum Infectious Diseases’ initially showed positive results including a 56% reduction in mortality, but a revised publication, after deleting the data from the Egyptian trial, concluded that Ivermectin did not show a statistically significant effect on survival though it displayed a borderline significant effect on duration of hospitalisation in comparison with standard care. This clearly illustrates how the conclusions from a meta-analysis can change due to what is included in the analysis. In fact, statistics can be manipulated to get the desired result!
Perhaps, the important message from these two meta-analyses is that Ivermectin may do some good and does not seem to be doing any harm. Maybe, it was this message that Prof Saroj Jayasinghe wished to convey in his article “Ivermectin and Covid: no time to lose and lives to save” (The Island, 17 September 2021). Although some non-medical scientists were critical that his suggestions were unscientific, it is to his credit that, in a grave situation, he made sensible recommendations, giving good reasons why he was doing so. It may well be that the medical fraternity in Sri Lanka listened to the words of wisdom by a respected senior colleague of the profession, which has resulted in the relatively very low death rate in Sri Lanka. Whereas the average daily deaths are around 20 in Sri Lanka, it is around 182 in the UK: three times the rate when adjusted to the size of the population in spite of having better health care facilities and higher vaccination rates. In fact, on 8 January the UK joined the US, Brazil, India, Russia, Mexico and Peru, as the seventh country to have more than 150,000 Covid-19 deaths during this pandemic.
When it was announced in June that Ivermectin is to be investigated as a possible treatment for COVID-19 in Oxford’s PRINCIPLE trial, there was optimism that the issue of effectiveness of Ivermectin would be resolved, at last. This was because of the reputation of the Oxford Group, which has done pioneering research during the pandemic, in addition to producing the most widely used vaccine with the collaboration of AstraZeneca. However, when I searched for an update, I found this disappointing headline in ‘Medpage Today’ website: “Ivermectin Arm of PRINCIPLE Trial Put on Hold — Trial website cites supply issues”. It went on to state:
“The website does not offer any details on what caused the Ivermectin supply difficulties in PRINCIPLE, which is investigating possible treatments for COVID-19 and being led by the University of Oxford in England. A full response from the trial’s press team was promised, but had not reached MedPage Today by press time.
Ivermectin manufacturer Merck did not directly comment on the supply issues affecting PRINCIPLE. However, as part of a longer statement on the drug provided to MedPage Today via email, the company said that it has “concluded that the probability of ivermectin providing a potentially safe and efficacious treatment option for SARS-CoV-2 infection is low and have prioritised internal efforts towards the development of alternate candidates that provide a higher probability of success for the treatment of COVID-19.”
The alternative candidate they refer to, of course, is Molnupiravir which would be hugely profitable for Merck unlike Ivermectin, which is off-patent. Although initial studies suggested a 50% reduction of hospitalisation with a course of Molnupiravir tablets, final data shows only a modest reduction of 30%. Merck has allowed Indian drug firms to manufacture and sell Molnupiravir at low cost in developing countries. Still, a course will cost around Rs. 4,000 whereas a course of Ivermectin costs less than Rs 200!
It seems very surprising that Oxford Group has difficulties in obtaining a cheap drug and I do not know whether they are obliged to obtain their supplies from the original manufacturer. It is even more interesting that no other news channel has highlighted this problem. On 6 October 2021, BBC website printed a lengthy investigative report titled “Ivermectin: How false science created a Covid ‘miracle’ drug”. I would have expected these investigative journalists to follow the progress of Ivermectin studies but they seem to be silent!
Let us hope Oxford Group obtains supplies and concludes the trial. Otherwise, their reputation too will be at stake. It would be interesting if Ivermectin, a repurposed drug, outperforms Molnupiravir, a targeted drug developed specifically for Covd-19. Repurposing is not a new phenomenon. Many drugs introduced for one purpose sometimes become more useful in other conditions. Thalidomide, introduced as a cure for morning-sickness, fell into disrepute as it caused foetal deformities but has found a new life as an anti-cancer drug. Of course, the best known is Sildenafil, a vasodilator that was trialled by Pfizer for angina; it produced an interesting side effect, which led to it being marketed as Viagra, one of the biggest money-spinners for Pfizer!




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by Kumar David
An apocryphal youth inquired from the President “why a referendum couldn’t be conducted to ascertain whether the electorate (would approve) extending his term by two years”, says the front page of the Island of Monday January 10. Presidents don’t float kites like this unless they have intrigue up their sleeve. Soon you will hear a chorus of Ministers and government MPs cheering “Hallelujah! Gotabaya for ever, two years, five years whatever!” Those who decried JR’s referendum to postpone elections in 1982 loudest, will be the cheerleaders this time; I am itching to hear the phonies of the Dead-Left. The point is that this is no casual remark. Gotabaya and his cronies are testing the waters and unless society drowns it pronto, cronies will push the plans forward. A Presidential Media Division does not issue statements confirming the story and patting the mythical brat on the back with the remark that the President quipped “he should be appointed an advisor to the President” unless desperation is driving him to the brink.

­Deceptions

Former President Sirisena has declared his support for SLFP ex General Secretary Susil Premjayantha who was unceremoniously fired from his State Ministership for calling a spade a spade (Ministers Bandula Gunawardane and Mahindananda Aluthgamage, he said, were incompetent nincompoops; this is not news). Ministers Vasudeva, Wimal Weerawansa and Gamanpila have gone to court against Cabinet decisions but shamelessly remain glued to their perks. State Minister Vidura Wickremanayake and MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakse have castigated Cabinet and regime leaders as a bunch of crooks. A flustered GL Peiris in the meantime is trying his darndest to keep the sinking ship afloat. It is in these stormy seas that the Gotabaya presidency is fighting to stay afloat. I find it difficult to understand how the government keeps afloat, how it gets anything done and whether the “new constitution” is going to be dead before birth.
In the meantime there has been other comments about regime’s existential crisis. Why for example would a pro-Gota website distort an Anura Kumara (AKD) interview, or why is falsified economic data splashed by the Central Bank? APF Fact-Check reported a falsified posting on YouTube in a Sinhala pro-Gota channel with a large following which declared that JVP leader AKD had recommended that Sri Lanka produce Spiderman movies as a foreign exchange earner to overcome its disastrous foreign exchange crunch. “How the dollar problem is solved under Anura Kumara’s government”. See:
https://factcheck.afp.com/http%253A%252F%252Fdoc.afp.com%252F9VN4FH-1.
The report, a fabrication, is one of many such canards in circulation. A learned professor remarked in an email to me “Perhaps it is a sign that the NPP is such a danger to the regime that it has no option but to falsify”. The statement attributed to AKD is of course untrue and AKD’s interview in Sinhala is at:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXk3fjD5Tu4.

Exodus

Hitler issued the first anti-Jewish proclamation in April 1933 and stripped all non-Aryan academics of their posts; more than 100 physicists lost their jobs. The fear of fascism and anti-Semitism led to mass migration of physicists, mainly but not only Jews from Eastern, Central and Southern Europe from before 1930; Einstein (NL, German, J), Niels Bohr (NL, Dane), John von Neumann (Hungarian, J), Michael Polanyi (Pole, J), Enrico Fermi (Italian, J-wife), Edward Teller (Hungarian, J), Eugene Wigner (NL, Hungarian, J), Theodor von Karman (Hungarian, J) and Max Born (NL, German, J). [NL stands for Nobel Laureate, the nationality is at birth and J stands for Jewish or part Jewish].
It is arguable whether Hitler lost the war because he opened a second-front by invading the USSR in June 1941, or was it the loss of the finest of Europe’s physicists? There was no truly world class physics lab outside America by mid-1930s except New Zealander Ernst Rutherford’s Cavendish in Cambridge. When one of “Rutherford’s boys” John Chadwick isolated the neutron all hell broke loose since fission of the U235 nucleus by neutron bombardment became possible. The race for the Atom Bomb was on and Hitler lost despite Werner Heisenberg (NL), Otto Han, Walther Bothe and other brilliant theoreticians in Nazi Germany. Unlike the Manhattan Project the Germans could not get the theoretical and experimental sides to merge seamlessly, and organisation, industrial support and carte blanche political backing was inadequate.
There is a reason for this short diversion. This country has suffered from a terrible exodus of talent since 1983. The first deluge was Tamils but able Sinhalese intellectuals too saw and grasped the opportunity. It was not confined to science related disciplines; talented scholars in the humanities and sharp witted business and financial minds too moved because they had lost hope. This was followed by a second exodus, this time skilled craftsmen to the Middle-East, again not only because of greener pastures but also since a stagnant economy had little use for their talents. In the last two years we see the third wave. Tens of thousands of young people queuing for passports and emigrant visas because “the country is going to the dogs”. A simple change of government alone will not address the issue. A much deeper transformation of mind-set and economic direction is needed.

A fork in the road

The outside world didn’t realise that a volcano was smouldering in Kazakhstan. Long standing legitimate grievances were accumulating and a spark set off an explosion. To that extent the background is like Sri Lanka today. Prices have been rising for three years, the income gap had been widening and the population in poorer Eastern Kazakhstan was as badly-off as the majority here. Another similarity is that corruption was running out of control. The spark that ignites an inferno is always unforeseeable and in Kazakhstan it was in the oil rich western part of the country that an uprising broke out first. Large crowds then took over the centre of Almaty the country’s biggest city, occupied the airport and brought governance to a halt. The President, a dictatorial lout panicked, dismissed the Cabinet and sent out the troops.
The lower levels of the military did not mutiny though every soldier knew how worthless the government was (Anura Kumara please note); the army shot the people. Any Marxist worth his salt knows that the principal purpose of a military is to oppress the grassroots in the interests of ruling classes and corrupt regimes. Armies are trained, drilled and brainwashed over decades to obey orders like robots. It is rarely that an army mutinies and passes over to the side of the people as in October-November 1917. A lesson of today’s international conjuncture that the JVP needs to assimilate is the conduct of the military, including rank-and-file soldiers in Burma, Sudan, many African theatres in 2020-21, and now Kazakhstan. One would have thought the JVP would have learnt this lesson from its experiences in 1971 and 1989.
It is important to analyse events overseas and distil lessons for SL. Furthermore a critical issue in Sri Lanka is that the military is largely a creation of the Rajapaksa-Sinhala Buddhist nationalist ethos. Its response to dissent against the GR Regime needs to be foreseen in that context.
But one still hears some JVPers remark “Isn’t the first principle of a defensive alliance that it is not set up in public?!!!” This is a throwback to the pre-1971 conspiratorial mind-set where the party acted in secrecy hidden from the masses in thoroughly un-Leninist fashion. The JVP it was said would accomplish the revolution and present the finished product to a grateful people!!
Kazakhstan proves that when conditions go beyond a tipping point a spark can set off widespread instability. Likewise with a rout staring him in the face moves by the beleaguered Sri Lankan President to postpone presidential elections, if attempted, could well be that spark. My big concern is that a power grab or coup should be PREVENTED BEFORE IT HAPPENS. For this an open, formidable and coordinated show of force by all opposition entities is essential. After a power grab turning back will take years of anarchy, conflict and even civil war; vide Burma, Sudan and Mali. This is a repeated lesson of history. I have driven myself hoarse repeating it, but it has fallen on stone-deaf ears. “None are so blind as those who have eyes but cannot see”.
A commentator responding to my mid-week Colombo Telegraph mini-column on Wednesday remarked “The summary of Prof Kum’s (Kumar David’s) dissertation is. (1) Where there are shortages of essentials such as food, public unrest can occur. (2) When the military is called upon to quell unrest it will execute the task mercilessly. (3) Prof K expects Anura K & Co (JVP) to make note of (2) in Kazakhstan. The third point is interesting because there are stories afloat that the JVP will work with the military for a takeover and there was a newspaper articles saying this” – Good Sense.
This last observation is most alarming. Even those who cannot accept the rumour reported by Good Sense will have to concede that the JVP itself is to blame. When you, the party that is rocketing up in popularity, refuse to take the lead in mobilising the people against potential coups and election postponements you are sowing the seeds of doubt against yourself.
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by Goolbai Gunasekara
Principals in the early years of the 20th century commanded a kind of respect that was almost adulatory. And why did they do so? For one thing the well-known private schools both in Colombo and the outstations ran their schools themselves Each school was an entity with a Board of Management and was run by a Principal of its choosing. It has been an accepted fact that the schools established by British and American missionaries had excellent standards of education, albeit (and unfortunately) aimed at making Sri Lankans good little Colonials.
During my days as a Girl Guide, we still took the oath with British overtones and that was around the time we were just getting Independence. In that climate Private Schools chose their own Principals. Many of them all over the island were foreigners, mostly English, Scottish or American (as in the case of my own mother.)
Parents trusted Principals and did not dream of contradicting them. Certainly parents did not rush to rescue their offspring, the way they do now, the minute the school exerted any disciplinary action. Parents hardly allowed me (as Head of an International School) to mete out deserved punishments.
I remember a case at Asian International School when a class of 12-year olds left school for the day with their desks overturned, the floor littered with paper and left- over food. They had celebrated a friend’s birthday after class and the whole room was a total mess. The maid doing the cleaning came to me and told me it would take her an entire afternoon to bring the class back to its usual state of order.
I told her to leave the room as it was, and I locked the door. The next morning no one could get into the room and the class was milling around anxiously. They sent me worried emissaries. “Mrs. GG we can’t get into our class.” “Some idiot has locked us out…..The maid has lost the key I think.”
Their Form teacher, the maid and I had brooms, dusters and sponges ready. Before the little miscreants could have their usual classes, they had to clean every corner of that room so that it literally sparkled.
I must say the punishment was well taken. Parents were amused that their sons actually wielded brooms. But it sent a lesson to others too. Classes could not be left messy. Untidy, dusty perhaps but not dirty and smelly. No parent complained.
While I was a schoolgirl, we feared the parental fall-out far more than we feared the Principal herself. NEVER did parents take the side of us wrongdoers. They had little faith in our ability to behave with circumspection. In fact, if we had any rights as students, we did not know of them. Parents had an infinite, almost childlike trust in our Principals and Teachers and phone calls to the School’s Head trying to get us off punishments were unheard of. It was often felt that the school Principal had been quite lenient with us given the sorry state of our behaviour in general.
It is with considerable alarm that anyone involved in Education reads the daily papers these days. Principals of outstation school are being interdicted, assaulted, arrested and even remanded for all sorts of ‘crimes’ ranging from abuse of power to rape. One must wonder, therefore, how these Principals get to such high office if so, clearly unsuited for the responsibility of running a school. How are they chosen?
All Government school Principals are selected by the Department of Education I suppose. I have been told that the process of selection does not depend on ‘suitability’ and ‘capability’ and definitely not on reputation. Principals get to run schools if they have been teachers long enough and have somehow been classified as being in the A Grade.
Schools have no say in the matter and once Principals are put in place, they have very little real authority. That resides in the Department of Education.
For instance, I must wonder what control can a Principal exert over teachers under him when he does not have the right to either hire or fire them? A really bad teacher cannot even be fired by the Department of Education unless he/she has broken the law or has done something so reprehensible there is public castigation.
This happens oftener than it should. Papers again are full of stories of child abuse by those who actually have no talent for teaching but are there at the will and pleasure of a Department in Colombo.
Coming back to Principals – is there any training for these Government posts or is the policy to keep them in office until retirement age deems it necessary? Is there no better way, to ensure that our children do not have a fairer deal than what they now receive? (I am speaking mainly of out- station schools).
My own suggestion has been that parents could be given a greater say in school affairs. Perhaps they should interview prospective Principals who are now arbitrarily foisted on them and see whether the candidate is suitable or not for their school. Parents are well able to judge, and I feel a certain input from them would be very useful to all concerned.
Principals could also be given a greater say in how curriculums are taught. I believe it is now done on a day by day ordering by the Department of Education. Principals cannot deviate from this. They cannot make use of any innovative methods they may have. They cannot introduce anything new into the daily routine. In short, they might as well be automata.
I recall that about 12 years ago a Principal was severely reprimanded because he had allowed Drill periods at a time which was not officially laid down. Such stifling of initiative does not bode well for the education of our children.
Sri Lanka has just lost a great educationist. Dr. Ralph Alles had vision and imagination and he put both to brilliant use. I was privileged to have worked with him on several projects in his schools and through sheer force of personality he was able to found D.S. Senanayake College and turn this new school into one of the best in Colombo.
Parents of that school will never forget that he was dismissed for his pains on a technicality! You can see what I mean about Principals not being encouraged to show versatility or to have any visionary ideas. He later built his own school that is today a roaring success. He also won the case against his unfair dismissal.
To be a successful Principal requires so much more than simply being an A Grade teacher in Government service. It is time the Government took serious notice of the type of person to whom they are handing out these positions of control especially when they are dealing with the youngsters of our country.
(Excerpted from The ‘Principal’ Factor first published in Lanka Market Digest)
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By Dr. Chandana (Chandi) Jayawardena DPhil
President – Chandi J. Associates Inc. Consulting, Canada
Founder & Administrator – Global Hospitality Forum
chandij@sympatico.ca

End of the Hotel Union
The Manager of the Coral Gardens Hotel, Major Siri Samarakoon was convinced that the results of the general election in 1977 indicated the end of socialist unions in Sri Lanka. Leftist parties which controlled these unions had lost all their seats in the parliament. He was determined to bring the number of members in the hotel union to zero by the end of July, 1977. Sabinus Fernando, a member of the management team with the longest experience in handling tough unions, was entrusted with specific tasks to reach Major’s goal.
az mobile notarySabinus was successful in choreographing mass resignations of full-time employees from the union. Losing the political power of the union plus the fear of Major’s ‘bull in a china shop’ attitude, actions and reputation, coupled with Sabinus’ attractive incentives, helped to increase resignations from the union. After a week, only a handful of employees were still members of the union. During his rounds Major kept on asking employees he met if they had resigned from the union. Most employees avoided meeting Major and kept their distance from him. During this hostile period, as the Assistant Manager, I kept a low profile.
By early-August, 1977, when Major was checking the monthly accounts, he became angry to note that one employee was still paying union fees. He asked the secretary, “Ganeshalingam, check with the accounts department, and get me the name of the single employee still paying fees to the bloody union!” He was informed that it was Van Dort, the person in charge of the changing room, with whom Major had a confrontation on his first day at the hotel, five months earlier.
Major became angrier, and screamed. “Summon Van Dort, now!” When a nervous looking Van Dort came to our office, Major asked, “How come that you have not resigned from the union?” “Sir, I am not able to read or to write” Van Dort sheepishly confessed in a very low voice. Major immediately dictated a letter of resignation from the union and told Van Dort, “Here sign on this dotted line, you uneducated idiot!” That was the end of the Coral Gardens Hotel union.

End of the Village Problems
Soon after that Major focused on the village problems which included beach boys, touts and vendors who appeared in large numbers during each tourist season. Fisherman leaving their boats on the beach right in front of the hotel, in spite of security guards requesting them not to do so, was a year around issue. On hearing about this problem, Major said, “Chandana, get ready quickly, we are going to the Boossa Army camp to meet the commanding officer, a good friend of mine.” On our way Major explained to me that this army camp is where the 61 Infantry Division Headquarters was established in 1971, during the insurgency.
During our visit to the camp, Major told the Commander there, “Colonel Wickremanayake, Chandana will be a good candidate to become a volunteer Second Lieutenant. He held the rank of Corporal of the National Cadet Corps when he was at Ananda College. Chandana is a sportsman and was also one of the four House Captains for athletics when he was in grade 12 at Ananda”, Major boasted. The Colonel was impressed and said, “Sure, I will recommend you to the Commanding Officer of the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force.” He then introduced to me his son, Roshan, who also had studied at the same school.
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After socializing at the army camp with its top brass, we returned to the hotel with two tough-looking Sergeant Majors in their army uniforms. They hardly spoke during the short drive. Major and I took them to the beach and showed where the defiant fishermen kept their boats, obstructing the beach entrance to the hotel. “Sir, leave this in our hands. We will find the culprits and solve the issue, immediately” one Sergeant Major told Major, and saluted standing at attention.
We returned to the office while two of them went to the town inquiring for the names of the owners of those boats. An hour later the two Sergeant Majors returned to our office and reported the good news. They found and warned the fisherman responsible and the boats were immediately relocated elsewhere further away from the hotel. After that incident the village problems were reduced drastically.
The only continuing occasional problem was a loud noise made within the hotel premises by a powerful local thug, whenever he was under the influence of liquor. Security Guards were scared of this individual who was armed. Soon after Major heard about this challenge, he came out of his apartment carrying a pistol and at point-blank shot one of the earlobes of this thug. Soon after that Major called the Inspector of Police for Hikkaduwa and made an official complaint that the thug threatened to kill him. The Major’s action was justified as self-defence. That was the last problem the hotel faced from the locals. Major commenced boasting to everyone he met. He described in detail how during his first five months at Coral Gardens Hotel he single handed solved the two key challenges the management of the hotel had faced over a period of ten years – the union and the village problems.
Major loved to hear various rumours were spreading about his unusual behaviour pattern, including raising a leopard cub as a pet in his apartment. As a result, room boys who cleaned our apartments were petrified in coming to Major’s apartment. Some of these rumours were not true, but he did not mind as long as people feared him. Major gave me the impression that he had been given licence for violence by the head office!
A couple of years later when I watched Francis Ford Coppola’s classic motion picture – ‘Apocalypse Now’, I could not stop thinking of Major Siri Samarakoon. Marlon Brando’s brilliant portrayal of Colonel Kurtz, once a promising military officer turned in to something else, was simply mesmerising and shocking at the same time.
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More than a Pen Pal
Everything soon became calm at the Coral Gardens Hotel. Low occupancy, no union, no village problems and Major being away from the hotel frequently all contributed to a quiet summer. One day, I received a long letter from Sweden. It was from Miss Marie Blom (Blondie), a friend I met for two short days in Negombo in 1974, just after graduating from the Ceylon Hotel School. She was 19 then and one year younger to me.
After that brief romance, Blondie and I became pen pals. Soon after her holiday in Sri Lanka she joined the crew of a Scandinavian cruise liner. Around twice a month, I received a postcard from Blondie from a different port in Europe. I promptly responded to her with my news in brief on aerograms. I was surprised to receive a long letter from her for the first time.
Blondie explained in her letter that she wanted to get to know me better. Now 22, she had decided to visit Sri Lanka again after three years. Her intention was to spend three weeks with me. She wanted to do a round trip in Sri Lanka and requested me to do a nice travel itinerary. I was happy to hear that she planned to arrive in Sri Lanka from the second week of August. I was able to take my annual leave during that period as it was a low occupancy period. I called a few of my good friends working as executives at hotels in different cities and towns and made well-discounted hotel bookings for Blondie and myself. My friends were eager to meet my long-distance girlfriend.
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Blondie Returns
Blondie landed in Colombo after a night flight from Malmö. It was a happy meeting after three long years of anticipation. On our way to Colombo, we chatted a lot trying to catch up. We spoke about Blondie’s travels and my eventful first three years as an executive. We laughed about our casual meeting at Blue Oceanic Hotel in Negombo, when I was visiting two of my friends managing that hotel in 1974. Blondie remembered every detail of our memorable and care-free, barefoot walk on the beach, while counting the fishing boats and the stars, on a beautiful moon-lit night.
Blondie was happy about the arrangements I had made for our round trip. After travelling around Sri Lanka, we ended up in Hikkaduwa. With a view of not mixing my leisure time with work, Blondie and I stayed in a small inn near Coral Gardens Hotel. She also met some of my friends and made everybody laugh with her jokes.
One day I took her for a walk to my work place. “Who is this interesting fellow?” Blondie asked when she saw my pet monkey, Dudumskie. She found him to be simply hilarious and entertaining. After her regular sea baths, Blondie loved to drop in at the Coral Gardens to tease Dudumskie.
Towards the end of Blondie’s holiday in Sri Lanka we had some serious chats about our future. She enjoyed Sri Lanka, but when she told me that she cannot settle down on the island, I was somewhat disappointed. “Why don’t you come to Sweden to live with me?” she asked. “What type of a job position could I get in Sweden?” I was curious to find out. When Blondie told me that I could start as a cook, I was not interested. I was very career-minded and Blondie was a free spirit. Unlike in Sri Lanka, as a well-developed nation, in Sweden not many people cared about what level of position one had.
During her departure at the Colombo airport, we had an emotional parting. We agreed to keep in touch and consider options to meet again. Blondie was my first ‘serious’ girlfriend. We continued our pen-pal connection for some time, but sadly we never met again.
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