Sunday, 22 May 2011

Tales from Elsewhere – The Psychic

Sandy wrote about people with psychic abilities some weeks ago, and since then I’ve been meaning to tell you this story, as told to me by my partner John.  It happened to him in 1980, before I knew him.

Colombo, Sri Lanka

Before he retired John was a civil engineer specialising in dams.  This took him all over the world during his working life and he met many interesting people, but Mrs Ponraja was special.

In the late 1970s the government of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka commenced the Kirindi Oya Irrigation and Settlement Project near Kataragama in the Southern Province, at the south east end of the island, to develop under-utilised land in the dry zone of the country.  The objectives were to increase food and fibre production, and to provide employment for Sri Lankans.  The first phase was to construct an earthfill dam with a gated spillway and irrigation canals, and loans were secured from various overseas sources, among which was the Asian Development Bank (ADB) based in Manila, Philippines.  Subsequent phases continue to this day.

The function of ADB was to finance development projects and provide consultants when required.  John was registered with ADB as one of their external consultants.  In 1980 ADB had appointed Indian consultants to supervise the scheme designed by the Department of Irrigation of Sri Lanka, which organisation was under the leadership of Engineer A J P Ponraja, a knowledgeable Sri Lankan professional who was greatly respected in his field.

Indians and Sri Lankans have at times had an uneasy relationship, and at the beginning of this project there had been disagreement between the Indian consultants and Sri Lankan engineers.  ADB sent a team out to Colombo to investigate the matter and report back on the progress of the scheme.  The team consisted of a Japanese irrigation engineer, a Cambodian economist and a British dam specialist.  John was the latter. 

The timing was good for John.  He had been divorced for some years although was still on good terms with his ex wife, but was in a relationship which was not going anywhere; consequently he was confused and sad as well as worried about his three children.  This visit promised a release from his troubled thoughts for a while.

They stopped in Delhi on the way to talk to the Indian consulting firm first, and then travelled on to the Kirindi Oya site in southern Sri Lanka.  The main problem appeared to be that the Indian consultants had required tests to be carried out by the Sri Lankan engineers on a model of the dam spillway and had complained that they had seen no results of any such test. 

In Colombo John put this point to the Sri Lankans, who showed him the test results, which were satisfactory.  They explained that these had been sent by their engineer to his Indian counterpart – however the two had had a minor squabble and the Indian had refused to accept or even acknowledge the test results.  This was just one of several examples discovered by the team, who were agreed that regrettably the problem seemed to stem from the patronising attitude of the Indians towards the Sri Lankans, reinforced on their way home when they stopped off again in Delhi and met with the senior partner of the firm of consultants, who was of the opinion that the Sri Lankans were ‘not sufficiently humble’.  The Indian consultant who was supposed to be monitoring site supervision told John that he had not in fact actually visited the site yet. 

While in Colombo, Mr A J P Ponraja did his best to ensure that the team were comfortable, and one evening invited them round to his home for a dinner party, together with one of the  Indians.   The evening proved to be full of surprises. 

After introducing them to his wife and family, one of his young sons, Anton, sat down at the piano and played Chopin’s Minute Waltz with perfect accuracy and flair – and at full speed.  Afterwards, while still clapping enthusiastically, they were told that he had been taught by his mother, herself a piano teacher, and that although he had been offered a scholarship to Moscow, he had turned it down because he didn’t want to leave home.

After an excellent dinner John observed Mrs Ponraja talking quietly with each guest in turn, and that from their reactions she clearly had some sort of insight into the family lives of each one, without there having been any discussion of families during the evening.  She astonished the Cambodian by expressing the hope that his son was now getting over his school problems – which had not been referred to at all.

As she went on round the room producing metaphorical rabbits out of the hat in this way, noticing John’s amazement Mr Ponraja smiled and said proudly “My wife has the Gift”.  As she was within earshot, John laughed uneasily – “I don’t think you’ll have much to say about my family, will you Mrs Ponraja?”  Kindly and sadly she replied “I don’t think you would want me to talk about your problems in public, would you Mr Humphreys?”

Some time later it became clear that she was taking the guests, one at a time, to a quiet corner of the lounge, where she was telling them her vision of their future.  When it was John’s turn, he was reluctant to take part, but not wishing to be impolite he agreed to do so and took a seat facing her, grateful that at least nobody else would hear what passed between them.

His awkwardness prompted him to say somewhat foolishly “What will you do, read my palms?”

“No Mr Humphreys, there’s no need – it’s written all over your face”…

She then told him quietly and sympathetically what had been on his mind for the past few weeks, and how torn apart he felt between his ex wife and his newer fragile relationship.

“You know”, she said, “you have a good brain but you’re not using it.  You’re following your heart, and you really should use your brain.  Anyway,” she continued, “you needn’t bother about either lady; you will end up with someone else altogether, who comes from a surprising distance away from England.”

She added “Now, you have three children, haven’t you?  Two girls and a boy”.  He nodded, dumbfounded.  She spoke with sudden gravity and concern – “I’m afraid one of them is going to have the most terrible medical problems.”

At the time there was nothing physically wrong with any of his children, except that his elder daughter Alison had suffered from polio as a small child, a traumatic and painfully sad time for her and her parents, but she had long since recovered and was now 27 years of age and happily living in Crete as an English teacher.  He put it out of his mind, though could not forget the extraordinary accuracy of her assessment of his emotional problems. 

Some days later the team had finished its work and the men travelled on to Manila to report to ADB, carrying with them good memories of the kind people they had met.

While compiling the report over the next couple of days he took time off to have a swim in the hotel pool, when he met an English lady sitting by herself on a sun lounger reading a book.  He had just been reading a book himself by the same author and they got talking; he offered to lend her his book and when she returned it a few days later they had dinner.  She was returning to her job in Hong Kong the following day. 

Coincidentally, ADB asked him to stay on to write a report on a different project, offering as compensation an all expenses paid weekend in Hong Kong en route home to Britain.  It was as if it had been pre-ordained.  She was to be his partner for the next seven years – she was indeed far from England when he met her.

A few months’ later that same year, while living in Crete his older daughter Alison was cruelly struck down by a stroke and had to be flown home in an air ambulance.  Over the next 16 years this was followed by a terrible chain of medical misfortunes involving several brain and heart tumours, which taken together with other symptoms was discovered to be a previously unidentified condition.  She eventually died of it in October 1996.


While preparing to write this story I did some searching on the internet, and was pleased to find that Mr A J P Ponraja had a very successful career in the Irrigation Department of the Sri Lankan Government, and wrote several papers.  Mrs T R K Ponraja presumably continued to teach the piano, and they both must have been justly proud of their three successful sons. 

While two of them emigrated to different parts of the globe when they grew up, to go to university and pursue their careers, Anton the piano player stayed in Colombo, for as his father had told John all those years before, he was reluctant to leave his home town.  He studied medicine and became a dedicated doctor and was described as an exceptionally kind man. 

If the story I have read on the internet is true, in July 2004 he was helping a Sinhalese member of his staff build his house and was travelling between Colombo and his home town of Badulla in a three-wheeler (a cross between a scooter and a car, with the passenger behind the driver in a canopied seat) when it was crushed by a van being driven by a man many times over the alcohol limit. 

Although he was rushed to the nearest hospital, the doctors were on strike and there was no one in the Emergency Room on duty.  There was no doctor to help the doctor, and he died as a result of the delayed medical attention. 

For legal reasons his funeral had to be held in Colombo, but thousands attended from Badulla to pay their last respects to a much loved community doctor.  His wife, also in the same profession, has been trying to seek justice for her husband ever since.  His parents had died some years before and fortunately never knew what happened to him, though I do wonder whether Mrs Ponraja's gift could have given her an inkling of what was to come.  I hope not.


John has told me this story of Mrs Ponraja’s psychic powers several times over the years, and I could not help but remark to him once that the lady had told him he would “end up with…someone from a surprising distance away”, and I am after all from Argentina, and he has – well, ended up with me…


Photo Finish -
from Lonicera's non-digital archive



Bunny said...

How very fantastic. I love these little stories/articles. I loved Sri Lanka. Hot and Humid but lush and the people very endearing.

x bunny x

Lonicera said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lonicera said...

(Sorry, my deleted comment was full of mistakes!)

Thanks Bunny! I notice my 'traffic' has increased - doubled - with these stories, but I haven't much feedback in comments (apart from the lovely Joyful), so I don't really know if they work or not.

I need to take a page out of your book and get motivated again into losing weight, but for now my storytelling is my great escape...

Sara said...

An amazing and interesting story. Thank you so much for sharing it.

Joyful said...

Another interesting story. Amazing how some of these readers are so accurate.

I'm sorry more people don't leave comments on your stories but I find that sometimes people don't quite know what to say about a story, other than they read it and enjoyed it. I'm sure they are enjoying yours.

Lonicera said...

Thanks Sarah and Joyful, much appreciated. If people just enjoy the story without leaving comments, then that's absolutely great - I'm delighted there are more people visiting the blog.

Lonicera said...

...and apologies to Sara for not taking the trouble to check that you spell your name without the h at the end...

OneStonedCrow said...

A great story, well told, Caroline ...

... Mrs Ponraja’s 'Gift' is truly amazing - I wonder if she was able to 'see' aspects of her own life too?

... talking about mistakes, since installing the new Firefox I've lost my spell checker and don't always pick up my errors ...

Enjoyed the images too.

Lonicera said...

Thank you Graham, much appreciated. John's often told me this story, so what surprised me this time round was that by changing a couple of letters in the surname to how he said it was spelt, I was able to find out on the internet a bit about their lives and the tragic end for their son. I know his mother would have died first, but I can't help wondering if she had any intimations of it herself.
Thanks for the comment.

Debi said...

Very interesting, and spooky. I often wonder if those with the sight can indeed see things in their own future....

I too was given information on my next, and LAST husband to be!! I will post on it some day. LOL

So glad to hear that you met such a wonderful man.

And I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your photos!!! They are truly remarkable! If only I could paint as well as you take photos!!

Sorry I don't usually make a comment, but I do enjoy your stories and I just had to comment on this one...

Lonicera said...

Thanks Debi! Your comment much appreciated. It's lovely to know that people are reading the stories, even if they don't have time to leave comments. I'm also pleased you like the pictures - I enjoy both sides to my blogging.

Keith said...

I found this interesting story while searching for information on my former piano teacher Mrs Ponrajah. This is a side to her that I never knew existed. She was my teacher from 1985 to 1988. A wonderful, amusing and talented woman. I wish I had a photo of her. I also knew her son Naushad. May they both RIP

Lonicera said...

Keith - what an amazing coincidence! John has told this story so many times, and it always sounded as though she was famous for this great gift. I've just read this out to him, and sadly he has no photos of that family - it was a very brief meeting. It took a long time to find anything further on the internet as John spelt the surname a different way, and I hope there is nothing incorrect in what I have said. I never found out any other names of the children, for example.
This evening he spent with them made a very profound impression on him - how interesting to hear another viewpoint. I'm delighted you wrote, thank you.

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