Peradeniya University Alumni Association Annual Weekend Outing – April 2024

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By Janaka Seneviratne and Neil Horadagoda – Peradeniya University Alumni Association – NSW

Peradeniya University Alumni Association – NSW Chapter (PUAAN) had the annual family weekend gathering from Friday 19 April to Sunday 21 April at the Hunter Valley Retreat (HVR). Over the years this event, which is open only to members, their families and close friends, has been generating so much interest that all the available accommodation is filled up within a few days of announcing the event.

The restaurant at the HVR was a hive of activity from 2.00pm with Chitrani Wijewardena and Lal Peiris busy preparing guest welcome packs and Chitramala  Herath and Shanthi Peris organising the mini “World University Canteen (WUS)” set up to provide mouth watering finger food and drinks to the many hungry guests who would be arriving shortly.

The evening’s entertainment activities commenced at 7:15pm with our young and energetic MC Piumali Gunawardena welcoming the guests and announcing the housekeeping requirements. Thereafter the sing along session started with Cecil Fonseka, the two LRs (Lucky Randeniya and Lal Rankothge), Thushara Gunawardena and the guest artist Ruvee taking the lead. Before long this became a free for all swinging session with a short break for President Neil Horadagoda’s welcome speech.

Guests were provided with a delicious dinner consisting of string hoppers and numerous curries followed by dessert.

Embedded into the programme were a trivia formulated by quiz champion couple Satya and Mallika Rajapakse and some hilarious anecdotes from Peradeniya University in the late sixties by Palitha Manchanayake. Both these items generated a lot of interest from the audience.

The baila session that followed had almost everyone on the floor taking the evening’s activities to well past mid-night.

Saturday morning’s events commenced with Wijaya Hapukotuwa as MC performing the traditional Sinhala and Tamil New Year rituals. To begin with Wijaya explained the significance of the New Year followed by the singing of the Gayathri manthram and Jayamangala gatha and lighting of the traditional oil lamp, in sequence, by the presidents of PUAAN starting with the founder president and ending with the current president. The ritual ended with a traditional breakfast.

The subsequent activities of the morning were somewhat hampered by the pouring rain but it was no major impedimentas the committee quickly got into the creative mode and formulated games that suited the indoor environment.

This indoor environment also provided the ideal atmosphere for fellowship and camaraderie for some to just chat in groups over WUS canteen goodies while the more energetic and enthusiastic took part in the quickly formulated indoor games.

Starting with Tai Chi our charming Guru, former president Malini Arumugam demonstrated the various body movements and techniques that had to be followed for muscle loosening and breathing. The 50 odd participants who took part in this exercise were highly appreciative of Malini’s physical ability.

Bandhu Ratnayake and Nalin Karunatilake also introduced games that generated a lot of fun and innovation. While all this was happening, Cecil Fonseka was gazing at hands and predicting the future of some people.

The morning session ended with a bbq spicily prepared by Wasantha Wickremanayake and Yuvi Rasiah.

As night spread its mysterious wings, the formal part of the weekend’s enjoyment was scheduled to commence.  The tables were adorned with vases of beautiful flowers and complimentary bottles of wine.  At 7.00 p m, MC for the evening Piumi welcomed the guests in customary style and made reference to housekeeping requirements.

The evening’s entertainment got underway with Bonny and Redemption providing music for ballroom dancing. The entertainment activities consisted of a song by Dilmi Wickramasuriya, a video presentation titled “PUAAN- Walk Down Memory Lane” very professionally put together by Lucky R with support from Lal R, a dance titled Kara Kare performed by a group of enthusiastic ladies beautifully clad in colourful sarees and also a song compiled comparing activities at Peradeniya University to the activities at Colombo University in addition to music for the occasion by Bonny and Redemption. Dancing began in earnest without any signal – a sure sign of great spirits!

The entertainment programme was interspersed with an address by PUAAN President Neil Horadagoda who reflected on the past annual visits to the HVR and mentioned that the Retreat was very much a part of the PUAAN journey of 17 years. He alluded to the collections of photographs and videos embedded in PUAAN- Walk Down Memory Lane” that brought back fond memories of the many visits and reminded everyone of those who have sadly passed away over the years. Neil briefly spoke of the activities of the Association, particularly the monthly BBQs at Bunnings which has helped to raise funds for the Association’s projects and support charities in Australia. He then went on to thank those who helped to host the Gala evening – starting with Bonny and Redemption for the foot tapping music, the caterer Dale Mendis for the great entrée and dinner, Katrina and HVR management team for providing the facilities at the Retreat at our disposal. He gratefully acknowledged the wonderful support received from members of the executive committee, their spouses and members of the Association who worked as a close-knit team to organise the Gala dinner and the many events that characterised the weekend outing. A special token of appreciation of PUAAN was presented to Cecil Fonseka for the yeoman services he has provided to the Association, especially during the annual visits to the HVR.

After the sumptuous Sri Lankan buffet dinner, the night went on to its conclusion at mid-night swinging to the exhilarating music provided by Bonny and Redemption only to be interrupted by the raffle draw. Saturday night activities culminated with a group photograph of all those present at mid-night.

Sunday morning saw hazy eyed individuals trickle into the restaurant to join in the hot buffet breakfast. Afterwards, some attended a feedback session whilst others continued with their own interests. From the feedback received it was obvious that all have had a fabulous weekend and were looking forward to next year’s event.

Janaka Seneviratne and Neil Horadagoda

The photos from the event are below – please enjoy!

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