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How this couple's drunken decision to buy a hotel in Sri Lanka paid off

For most of us, our drunken decisions tend to extend to a dodgy takeaway or regrettable text. But for one British couple, it was life-changing as they decided to buy an entire hotel in Sri Lanka.

Gina Lyons and Mark Lee got married last year and decided to backpack around Sri Lanka for three weeks for their honeymoon in December 2017. While in the little beach town of Tangalle, they stayed in a cheap, slightly rundown hotel. On the first night while drinking several bottles of rum with Isuru, the hotel’s bartender, they discovered the lease was coming up for sale. 

gina and mark 1Gina and Mark made one of the biggest decisions of their lives over a copious amount of rum. 

The couple drunkenly started to work out the calculations and went so far as to get Isuru to contact the landowners with their offer of £30,000. Surprisingly, they accepted and when they woke with a hangover the next morning, the realities of what they had agreed to set in.

They brokered the deal wearing their beachwear and promptly hired Isuru as the front-of-house manager and another local, Milinda, as their general manager. Then a fresh set of challenges presented themselves. 

gina and mark 2They refurbished the beach-side hotel with the help of some locals. 

Gina told Lonely Planet about the most difficult part of the sale. “Being based in England was the hardest challenge, the lack of Sinhalese, the unknown laws.” They were also given plenty of conflicting advice but ultimately had to make their own choices. “Everyone had told us to be careful trusting people but the truth is, we trusted Milinda and Isuru – and I am glad, because they are friends for life. I would trust them with my life.”

Gina remembers the refurbishment as being their favourite part of the process. “It was physically exhausting but so rewarding. We hired all locals, we played music loud, ate takeout, and all painted and made furniture all together. It was a really special time.”
gina and mark 3
The result is Lucky Beach Tangalle. Describing itself as a place for ‘flashpackers’, it opened in July this year with just seven sea view rooms and an on-site restaurant and it’s already been getting rave reviews from guests.

With the refurbishment complete, the guests leaving satisfied and the couple continuing to successfully juggle their Sri Lankan business and their British careers, their drunken decision appears to have paid off. With a new baby in the home too though, they’ve declared that all their future big decisions will be made sober.

(The Lonely Planet)

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Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas confirm they are engaged

Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra have confirmed they are engaged after just a few months together.

The Texan singer, formerly part of the Jonas Brothers, and the Bollywood superstar held a private engagement ceremony in Mumbai on Saturday. Both wore traditional Indian clothes.

The pair's engagement has been rumoured for about three weeks but they had not confirmed it until now.

No date has yet been announced for the wedding.

The couple shared identical photos from the ceremony on their respective Instagram pages, with Jonas calling Chopra the "future Mrs Jonas".

Source : BBC

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Meghan Markle pregnant: Royal baby due in Spring, Kensington Palace says

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are expecting a baby in the spring of 2019, Kensington Palace said. Meghan told The Queen and the rest of the Royal Family the happy news at Princess Eugenie's wedding, it was revealed.Kensington Palace said in a statement: "Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are very pleased to announce that The Duchess of Sussex is expecting a baby in the Spring of 2019.

"Their Royal Highnesses have appreciated all of the support they have received from people around the world since their wedding in May and are delighted to be able to share this happy news with the public."

The exciting news comes just hours after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex touched down in Sydney for their first international tour.

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Searching for Mum 'Sri Lanka'Searching for Mum 'Sri Lanka'

Over 11,000 people who were born in Sri Lanka have been adopted overseas.

Many of them have grown with little knowledge of the people or culture they left behind.

This film on BBC 2 (Episode 1 on16 August) follows two women - both adopted as babies - as they return to Sri Lanka to try and find their birth families. They are searching not just for their relatives, but also for a lost identity.

Thirty-eight-year-old Rebecca was adopted from Sri Lanka when she was three months old. Her adoptive parents were a Sri Lankan couple living in London. 

They brought her up as an only child and worked hard to give her every opportunity they could. She went to the best schools, had lavish birthday parties, and excelled in music and the arts. But they also kept one important fact from her - they never told her that she was adopted. For the first nine years of her life, Rebecca thought her adoptive family was her birth family. 

One evening after school, Rebecca found the adoption papers in the airing cupboard. It was devastating and broke a bond between her and her adoptive family. Since then she has been trying to find the truth about her birth and the family who brought her into the world.
The film follows Rebecca as she returns to Sri Lanka for her third search. She is accompanied by her husband Anton - who is also Sri Lankan - and their youngest daughter Shannon. Over two weeks, they investigate the government ministries, shantytowns and hospitals that might offer up some clue as to her mother's whereabouts. 

Her story is a powerful insight into the question a lot of adopted people ask, 'Can I find out who I really am, by finding my family?'
Twenty-seven-year-old Ria had a very different upbringing. 

She was adopted by a couple living in northern Scotland and had a very happy childhood. But Ria has always wondered what her life would have been if she had stayed in Sri Lanka, and what has happened to her mother? Unlike Rebecca, Ria has a lot of information about her birth mother - she even has a photo. But within the documentation is a paragraph saying her birth mother wanted no contact after the adoption.
 This has had a big impact on Ria's self-esteem and she has always felt rejected by her birth family.

As she travels to Sri Lanka to search for the first time, Ria wants to find out what really happened. 

Her journey takes her to the heart of the adoption industry, where agencies and lawyers made millions of pounds from the fees they charged adoptive parents. Corruption and extortion were rife. What Ria will discover is a truth that will change her life forever.

This series examines one of the great questions we all ask ourselves - who are we really? 

By following two brave women on the most important journey of their lives, it explores how ideas of family and roots - that so many of us take for granted - can become so confused when you have no idea who brought you into this world and why they gave you away.

Searching for Mum: airs at 9pm on Thursday August 16 on BBC 2

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Bill Cosby, comic legend,  sentenced to 3 to 10 years in prison for sexual assault

Bill Cosby was sentenced to three to 10 years in state prison at a Norristown, Pennsylvania, court on Tuesday.

The 81-year-old comedian faced up to 10 years in prison after he was convicted in April of drugging and sexually assaulting Temple University women's-basketball administrator Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia estate in 2004.

Montgomery County Judge Steven O'Neill made the decision after declaring Cosby a "sexually violent predator" ahead of his sentencing, requiring the comic to appear on a sex-offender registry and undergo monthly counseling for the rest of his life.

"It is time for justice," O'Neill said in his sentencing decision. "Mr. Cosby, this has all circled back to you. The time has come."

Cosby's lawyers had asked that he be allowed to remain free on bail while he appealed his conviction, but the judge denied the bail request and ordered Cosby to be imprisoned immediately. Cosby was led away in handcuffs.

Before the sentencing, Cosby's lawyers had also asked for house arrest, arguing that Cosby — who's legally blind — was too old and vulnerable to do time in prison. Prosecutors had asked for five to 10 years behind bars, saying the comic could still be a threat to women. He will serve his time in state prison.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele rejected the notion that "age, infirmity, should somehow equate to mercy."

"He was good at hiding this for a long time," Steele said. "Good at suppressing this for a long time. So it's taken a long time to get there."

Cosby's lawyers had fought the "sexually violent predator" designation, arguing that Pennsylvania's sex-offender law is unconstitutional and that he was no threat to the public at his age. But O'Neill said prosecutors had met their burden of proof by "clear and convincing" evidence.
When the ruling came down, a woman in courtroom shot her fist into the air and said "Yes!"

Constand said in a statement submitted to the court and released Tuesday that she's had to cope with years of anxiety and self-doubt that had left her "stuck in a holding pattern."

Constand, 45, said her training as a professional basketball player had led her to think she could handle anything, but "life as I knew it" ended on the night she said Cosby knocked her out with pills and penetrated her with his fingers as she lay nearly paralyzed on a couch.
Constand said she now lives alone with her two dogs but has trouble trusting people.

"When the sexual assault happened, I was a young woman brimming with confidence and looking forward to a future bright with possibilities," she wrote in her five-page statement. "Now, almost 15 years later, I'm a middle-aged woman who's been stuck in a holding pattern for most of her adult life, unable to heal fully or to move forward."

She added, "We may never know the full extent of his double life as a sexual predator but his decades-long reign of terror as a serial rapist is over."

In the years since Constand first went to authorities in 2005, more than 60 women have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct, though none of those claims have led to criminal charges.

Cosby was smiling and joking with his spokesman and sheriff's deputies as he settled into the courtroom Tuesday. On day one of the sentencing, the comic laughed at times as the psychologist for the state testified.

Cameras were not allowed in the courtroom; they're generally banned in Pennsylvania.

Cosby became the first black actor to star in a prime-time TV show, "I Spy," in 1965. He remained a Hollywood A-lister for much of the next half-century.

Associated Press writers Maryclaire Dale, Michael R. Sisak, and Claudia Lauer contributed to this report.

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Handagama's ‘Mama Donkarayayi’ (I am Echo) to be launched

Ceremonial launch of the music video ‘Mama Donkarayayi’ (  I am Echo ), based on a song written by Asoka Handagama and composed by Chitral Somapala and sung by Indika Upamali will be held at the NFC’s - Tharangani Cinema on at 4:00 p.m. on the 1st of August, 2018.  

The song, based on two mythical characters, Narcissus and Echo from Greek-Latin mythology, is set in the contemporary society. The discussion around the song will be triggered by two speeches by Saman Wickramaarchchi and Deepthi Kumara Gunarathne.  Mama Donkarayayi is written and directed by Asoka Handagama. 

The organizers extend an open invitation to all those who are interested in experiencing this great evening.

Handagama 1

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Sydney Town Hall to become 'a little Sri Lanka'

Sydney Town Hall will be transformed into a "little Sri Lanka" for three weeks next year when Belvoir takes over the city landmark with a new play.

Counting and Cracking, described as "an epic story of love and political strife, of home and exile, of parents and children", is Liverpool-based S. Shakthidharan's debut full-length play.

Town Hall 1
Eamon Flack: 'You can't get that from Netflix'. 

The epic production features 16 actors from five countries, performing in five languages.

Belvoir artistic director Eamon Flack said the world premiere, which will be accompanied by a Sri Lankan food festival, had been five years in the making.

"The big discovery in that time was that it was bigger than Belvoir St Theatre," he said. "We love the idea of taking over the civic heart of Sydney to do something about what this city is and what this country is.

"It really is an Australian story as much as it is a Sri Lankan story."

Flack was speaking as the Surry Hills theatre launched its 2019 season, which includes Every Brilliant Thing, a one-woman "uplifting" play about depression starring Kate Mulvany.

The popular show Barbara and the Camp Dogs also returns in April, while in October Paige Rattray directs Fangirls, a musical about teenage girls' obsessions with pop music.

"What we are looking for is a collective mix of surprising, unlikely, generous plays that maybe no one else would do and that might bring in to the theatre surprising new audiences," Flack said.

"Our stage is a very particular place. That dictates to some extent what we can do. We have to do works that are playful and inventive because we don't have the budgets or the wing space or the fly space to do big, epic works."

Flack says live theatre can serve an optimistic antidote to the "bizarre times" in which we live.

"It's so easy to feel miserable at the moment," he says. "It's pretty nuts out there. But theatre can very directly – like a sports game – kick the spirit alive. That doesn't mean it has to be glibly colourful. It can still be very serious. You can't get that from Netflix." 

(Sydney Morning Herald)

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Man with world's longest nails cuts them after 66 years

Shridhar Chillal, the Pune-based man, who holds the Guinness World Record for having the longest fingernails, has cut them after 66 years.

Chillal clipped his nails, which had a combined length of 909.6 cm during a nail clipping ceremony in Times Square. The 82-year-old had been growing his left hand's fingernails since 1952, when he was 14.

Chillal's longest single nail was his thumbnail, measuring 197.8 centimeters, while the measurement of his index fingernails was 164.5 cm, middle fingernails was 186.6 cm, ring fingernails was 181.6 cm and little fingernails was 179.1 cm.

He had made it to the Guinness Book of World Records in 2015 for having the 'Longest Fingernails on a Single Hand Ever'.

Shridhar's nails will now be displayed at Ripley's Believe It or Not! in Times Square in New York.

nail 2

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'ER' Hollywood actress killed by Police

Vanessa Marquez, an actress best known for her recurring role as a nurse on the NBC drama "ER," was shot and killed by police in South Pasadena, California on Thursday, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Police were called to the 1100 Block of Fremont Avenue in South Pasadena just before 2 p.m. local time on Thursday to perform a welfare check. Upon arrival, Marquez, 49, was having seizures and appeared to be suffering from mental issues, officials told CNN.

After about 90-minutes of trying to offer Marquez medical help, police said she armed herself with what appeared to be a handgun and police opened fire.

The weapon turned out to be a BB gun, investigators said.

Marquez played nurse Wendy Goldman on "ER" for three seasons, from 1994-97. Though her character never had major storylines, she was sometimes involved in episode subplots, some of which had a light-hearted bent.

Marquez's other credits included 1988's "Stand and Deliver" and "Seinfeld."

Source : CNN

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Novel on Rajani Thiranagama gets ready for English readers

Twenty-nine years after the brutal murder of Tamil human rights activist and feminist Rajani Thiranagama in Jaffna by an assassin allegedly deputed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a powerful Malayalam literary work chronicling her struggle is breaking the language barrier to reach readers across the globe.

T.D. Ramakrishnan’s Malayalam work Sugandhi Enna Andal Devanayaki created a sensation when it was published three years ago. Now, HarperCollins is bringing out its English version on July 25, targeting a wider audience outside Kerala.

The novel is a powerful account of the life and times of the then head of the department of anatomy at the University of Jaffna, who broke religious and ethnic barriers to marry a social activist with Sinhala Buddhist background, and dared to become a distinct human rights activist in Sri Lanka by criticising both Sinhala chauvinism and the narrow nationalism of the LTTE as well as the alleged brutalities of the Indian Peace Keeping Force.

“Most of the fiction written in Malayalam is located in Kerala. Very rarely are narratives placed outside this space. But Mr. Ramakrishnan’s narrative spaces are never confined to the geographical terrain of Kerala. Sugandhi, though set in Sri Lanka, brings the world into its ambit. The author uses a large canvas to depict his fictional narratives and, in so doing, he often challenges cartography, implying that borders are abstract and cannot be reduced to mere lines that exist to exclude,” said Priya K. Nair, a teacher of English at St. Theresa’s College in Ernakulam, who translated the work to English.

“I felt that this novel is extremely relevant in contemporary times as it is a powerful articulation against authoritarian power structures. This novel should not be confined to the readers in Kerala, rather it is relevant to any culture that has experienced the horrors of war,” she added. She had previously translated Ramakrishnan’s works Alpha and Francis Itty Cora into English.

A retired senior official with Southern Railway, Ramakrishnan had translated a number of Tamil literary works to Malayalam and had constantly followed the ethnic strife in Sri Lanka for several years.

“Sri Lanka’s contemporary history is the background of my novel. I have taken a different approach in the novel with historical facts as solid background for weaving fantasy,” he said when asked about the novel.

“It was Rajani’s assassination that forced me to look into the complexities of the ethnic divide in Sri Lanka. Inspired by her elder sister Nirmala, a LTTE member, Rajani also got involved with the ultra nationalist group mainly by administering care to those wounded in action,’’ he said.

“In 1983, Rajani travelled to England under a Commonwealth scholarship for postgraduate studies in anatomy at Liverpool Medical School. Even that shifting from the troubled nation to a far better living atmosphere had not deterred her from raising her voice against injustice.’’

She was sympathetic to the LTTE but she later realised the futility of armed struggle and became a critic of the Tigers’ atrocities.

“What really moved me was her return to war-torn Jaffna to rebuild the university and work there for her own people. I am not sure it was the LTTE who killed her. But it was her sincerity to the cause and boldness to say the truth that resulted in her murder and had inspired my novel,’’ says Ramakrishnan.

Source : The Hindu

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The Big Bang Theory final season to end in 2019

US series The Big Bang Theory will air its final episode in 2019, ending one of the longest-running sitcoms in US history.

The programme's 12th and final season will premiere on 24 September and is expected to conclude in May.

Set in Pasadena, California, the series originally focused on two physicists and their aspiring actress neighbour.

The Big Bang Theory has attracted more than 18 million viewers every year since its sixth season aired in 2012.

It reportedly averaged 18.6 million viewers per episode in its 11th season, more than any other show on US television.

The production teams and CBS said in a joint statement they were "forever grateful" to the fans.

"We, along with the cast, writers and crew, are extremely appreciative of the show's success and aim to deliver a final season, and series finale, that will bring The Big Bang Theory to an epic creative close," it read.

The series has won seven Emmys from 46 nominations, including four Outstanding Lead Actor wins for Jim Parsons, who plays the socially inept character Sheldon Cooper.

Source : BBC

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Sri Lankan born author Michael Ondaatje wins best Man Booker in 50 years

Twenty six years ago, the panel of judges was so unsure who should win the Man Booker in 1992 that they ended up with a tie: Michael Ondaatje and Barry Unsworth. But on Sunday evening Ondaatje edged ahead, with his bestselling novel The English Patient being named the best winner of the Booker prize of the last 50 years, in a public vote.

The Golden Booker was held this year to mark a half-century of the prize. A panel of judges read all 52 former winners of the award, with each assigned a decade from Booker’s history. The Observer’s Robert McCrum, taking on the 1970s, chose VS Naipaul’s In a Free State; poet Lemn Sissay, reading the titles from the 1980s, went for Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger; The English Patient was novelist Kamila Shamsie’s selection from the 1990s; Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall was nominated as the best of the 2000s by broadcaster Simon Mayo, and George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo topped poet Hollie McNish’s reading of the 2010s Booker winners. The five books were then put to a public vote.

Speaking at the close of the Man Booker 50 festival in the Southbank Centre, London, on Sunday, Ondaatje said he had not reread The English Patient, which moves between a nurse tending a horribly burned man in an Italian villa at the end of the second world war and a tragic love affair from his past, since 1992.

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