Anton Chekhov called Sri Lanka Paradise on Earth
Posted on August 8th, 2010

By Walter Jayawardhana in Los Angeles

Anton Chekhov, whom many regard as the best short story writer in the world called Sri Lanka , ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-A Paradise on Earth.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

Anton Chekhov is quoted so in a biography written of the famous author by his younger brother Mikhail Chekhov, the English translation of which has been just published in the United States.

In the book, ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Anton Chekhv- A BrotherƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s MemoirƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ the famous writer is quoted having said, ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-The island of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) , however made up for all the difficulties, he said. It was Paradise on Earth-an exotic fairy tale setting…ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

In this biography the difficulties referred to are the terrible experiences Chekhov faces during a troublesome trip he made to Sachlin Island, a penal territory belonging to Russia in the Pacific Ocean. He came to Colombo during his return to Russia.

Anton Chekhov had unprecedented experiences while traveling by ship in the Indian Ocean. ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-In order for him to bathe, the crew would throw a line down the shipƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s stern. Anton then had to dive off the bow, grab the line as it came past, and hold onto it while the ship kept moving..ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  As soon as he got into the water to wash off, he saw pilot fish and a shark swimming toward him (this episode made it into his story ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-GusevƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚) .

Elsewhere it is recorded that Anton Chekhov stayed in Colombo in the then famous Grand Oriental Hotel (GOH in front of the Colombo Harbour) and how he fell in love with a beautiful woman and made love to her under a coconut palm during a moonlit night.

From Sri Lanka he took a palm cat and a mongoose. When his family met him on his return December 7 1890 , the two creatures were with him.

They took the animals to Moscow to live in their apartment for some time. Actually , the palm cat had been sold to Chekhov by a Hindu by swindling him since that also looked like a mongoose.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

The palm cat hid itself under the bookshelf and only came out to get food, but the mongoose felt right at home in Moscow and ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-immediately established the master of the house.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Endlessly curious he would stand on its hind legs and poke his pointy nose into every gap and opening, nothing escaped his attention.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Unfortunately living with a mongoose and a palm cat in a small apartment in the winter turned out to be inconvenient. The mongoose launched fierce attacks on the palm cat, scared AntonƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s visitors, and ruined so many things during his hunting expeditions for flies and spiders that none of us could wait for the summer, when we could let the mongoose roam free.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-The palm cat never got used to humans at all. She had constantly, except when the floor polisher came. He worked bare foot and the cat would suddenly jump out from under the shelf and seize his foot. The poor man would drop his broom and wax,grab his foot, and scream, ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Damn cat! I hope you die.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-The mongoose and the palm cat had accompanied us to Bogimovo, and that July the mongoose treated us to a first class show. A large group of us were seated under aƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 
Linden tree in the park when a three foot snake suddenly slithered out of the bushes. The adults were horrified, while Kiseliov children quickly jumped to their feet. ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Bring the mongoose here ! Quickly !ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ Anton cried, and I fetched the animal and set him on the ground. As soon as he saw the snake, he inflated himself into a round ball and froze.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Sensing an unfamiliar enemy the snake coiled up and lifted its head. They silently squared off , almost hypnotized. Suddenly, the mongoose leaped onto the snake, grabbed its head with his teeth, chomped down , and dragged the body into the grass.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

It was becoming more and more difficult to live with these Sri Lankan creatures. ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-The mongoose escaped and got lost; and we had almost forgotten about him when somebody found him in a stone quarry about five miles away. The mongoose was still fat and healthy and went willingly into the hands of the man who found him.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  Our patience lasted until the winter back in Moscow,at which point Anton gave up and wrote a letter to the zoo, asking them to accept our animals as a gift from him. I remember that it was a biting cold day when a young man in gold rimmed spectacles arrived to pick them up. From then on, the mongoose and the palm cat were attractions at the Moscow zoo. My sister Maria Pavlovna visited them there more than once.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚

4 Responses to “Anton Chekhov called Sri Lanka Paradise on Earth”

  1. Kit Athul Says:

    Welcome bacK home, Walter, I knew you did not fit in to Briton. I told this to many. Keep the info flowing from LA, the hub of Sinhala American activity. Kithsiri, Florida, USA

  2. Geeth Says:

    Are you Kithsiri Nimalshantha? If not can anyone tell where about of Kithsiri Nimalshantha, ‘Sooppuwa’ of Titus Thotawatta’s Handaya? I am looking for him for long time. He must be somewhere in the USA.


  3. Geeth Says:

    Sorry, let me correct his name. It was Kithsiri Mevan Jayasena, not Nimal Shantha.

  4. Kit Athul Says:

    Geeth, I am NOT the Kithsiri you are looking for. If you want to locate someone in US there are search tools available for this, at a price. One has to pay for using the tools. Virtually anyone living in US legally or illegally can be found.
    Why I put the greeting publicly is because when Walter left to UK there were many farewell articles published on Lankaweb, but unfortunately my article did not get published. At that time lankaweb did not have a comments addition. I have a very small close circle of friends and Walter is one of them. It goes back to 1980s.

    What Walter did at that time was to put hot Sri Lanka news on to a telephone answering machine, so any one can dial and listen to current SL news. At that time there was no Internet Web sites and as a news man, he did and excellent service. This doesn’t mean that Walter agrees with every nasty comment I put on Lankaweb comments.

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