Denis Jansz, born in Sri Lanka, a self-confessed womaniser, who never loved any women, but charmed them and seduced them was entrapped in world of his own as a philanderer. Irreparable mistake done by his mother when he was just 12 days old, and worsened it by his foster father, his world turned upside down from a tender age of twelve. His remarkable, explosive and forthright revelations were made public for the first time in 67 years to Tilak S. Fernando in London, who has received the exclusive copyright of his true story for a film script.
The greatest wonder of all is that no body knows himself, no body struggles to know about himself, even among those who spend their lifetime in knowing about others. Once a child is born, parents register the child and a piece of paper called the Certificate of Birth stands as confirmation of the child’s parental link.
Children do not come to this world at their own will or own request but through parents - either planned, accidentally or by promiscuous sexual encounters. In this respect, bastards born to this world are no exception, and it has been the norm from time immemorial – even encompassing the Royals down the history lane.
Conventional morality does not teach or show a child what kind of man he ought to become and why. It is only concerned with imposing a set of rules upon him - arbitrary, incomprehensible. The child grows up with nothing but resentment and fear, for any concept of morality. Ethics appear to him only as a phantom scarecrow demanding the drab performances of dry duty. Mother is the Guardian, Provider, and the Teacher for a child. Mother provides child to progress in every aspect of life with armoury required to overcome the foes on the path and helps the child march towards the final triumphs. Absence of a mother during childhood undoubtedly devastates child’s psychology and the worst would be to inform the child about his mother abandoning him within days of his birth. Denis Raymond Jansz is a ‘Sri Lankan’ ( technically) who has been entrapped in such an indefinable human drama, the consequences of which he is still fighting hard to get rid of. This desolate ‘Sri Lankan’, who grew up in a Colombo petty bourgeois family, has a sentimental maudlin story, which he has compressed in his heart lobes for sixty-seven long years. For the first time in life Denis Raymond Jansz decided to speak out to Tilak S. Fernando, in London, his restrained story to be dramatised on the Silver Screen. The following is a synopsis of how a psychological bullet has remained embedded in his system for such a long time.
An English woman by the name of Miss. Monica Nicholls at the Women’s Industrial Home, No, 10 Regent Street, Colombo, Ceylon, gave birth to a handsome baby on 22nd January 1934, whose father was unknown, named him ‘ Raymond’ and stated his race as “English”. The birth has been registered at the Western Province, Colombo District, and Maradana Division at the Registrar General’s Office on 24th January 1934 under registration No. 8516.
Just twelve days after the birth, on 2nd February 1934, Monica Nicholls, on a Salvation Army headed note paper, wrote: “ This is to certify that I have given my baby to be adopted, I understand to a good home, where the baby will be loved and cared for. I promise that I will have no claim on it in future. On that day, his mother on a Five Cents Ceylon stamp gave ‘Raymond’ away to the Salvation Army.
Providence plays its own rules as much as its tricks in a most mysterious way. At the same time the wife of Rev. Luzian Jansz of the Church of St Paul, Milagiriya, Colombo, who was looking out for a baby for his childless sister approached the Salvation Industrial Home and the baby was arranged for adoption to Paul Dion Jansz, a PWD Engineer.
Although Paul Dion Jansz accepted baby Raymond for adoption in 1934 there was no legal method of adopting children in Ceylon, and it was only in 1941 that the Adoption of Children Ordinance No. 24 of 1941 came into being. Paul Dion Jansz and his wife, Iris Clare Jansz, brought up this child as their own son having given him the name Denis Raymond Jansz at his baptism. With the presence of mind, foster parents obtained a British Passport, to which he was entitled, bearing No.D.111039 to enable him to leave the Island of Ceylon at will. Young Denis grew up in the lap of luxury with servants to galore - Ayah to read nursery rhymes, Kussi Ammas to cook, chauffers to drive him to school and Sunday school etc. Paul Jansz after his retirement from the PWD worked for the Chettinard Corporation as a senior consultant.
At the age of twelve, while living in Maharagama, Denis exhibiting signs of a spoiled brat threw his foster father’s gold toothpick into a disused well. Infuriated ‘ father’ lambasted him calling him an ungrateful ‘guttersnipe’ (street urchin) and asked: “ What the hell have you done to me? I have adopted you bastard and saved you from the gutter”! He then made young Denis go down the well and fetch it back! Rubbing salt to injury his mother called him a ‘sakkiliya’ (a toilet scavenger). That was the moment, which pierced young Denis’s heart with an emotional bullet. How could a child of twelve years of age understand or cope with a barrage of such abuse? That physiological bullet did not pass through his heart and escape from the other side; instead, it was embedded inside him as an ever-growing cancer, for sixty-seven long years! For young Denis, it was a moment ‘ any identity’ was suddenly nullified and the ground literally was taken from under his feet. That was enough for him, it became the last straw, and he took to his heels. The mistake he made, he says, was to leave a note to his foster father saying “ I hate you’. He was later caught near Kirulapone Bridge. Subsequent harsh beatings by his adopted father made matters worse and hardened him, although he was given all the attention, care, and even buying a brand new bicycle from Cargills.
The shock of the disclosure imploded inside young Denis like a nuclear test underground although he did not experience any social ostracism by anyone of his friends. His whole personality was beginning to take shape in a completely different direction, he began to acquire an intense misogyny, which was carried forward throughout, towards his future years with a lifetime of mistreating, and using women like resells. The bullet was penetrating through that gaping wound from the time he heard about his maternal mother giving him away when he was only twelve days old and calling him an IT!
In 1934 Maradana had been a very bleak area, ‘infested with beggars, rich ‘Thambis’, Indian Tamils, taxi drivers and fishermen doing various kinds of business ranging from prostitution, selling Arrak to side gambling’. Dennis has always felt his father was a Sinhalese, developed an affinity towards Sinhalase and resented Burghers. Fundamentally, he developed a repugnance towards the Burghers as they ‘ seemed clanny’ to him. His friends had always been Sinhalese from his school days at St. Thomas’s Mt. Lavinia, St.John’s Nugegoda and Royal College Colombo. In his mind, Denis always had an answer that he was not a Burgher. True, his mother was English but he did not know any English people, he did not like the Burghers and he smiles sarcastically and calls it a “ Bloody Mallun”!
At the age of 18, he joined the Lanka Sama Samaja Party and the late Colvin R. De Silva became a hero to work against bourgeoisie in general. He started to resent the rich sitting comfortably on their lawns, listening to the buzz of the water sprinklers in their gardens, clapping for the servant ‘boy’ to serve a stiff Gin or Tonic, coming back at 11.30 at night and the servants sitting in front of the gate to let the master in, servants having to remove their sandals to follow the master inside the house and he particularly resented the terms, ‘baby mahattaya, podi mahattya, mahattaya and hamu”. Young Denis saw Peter Keunaman once eating with his fingers along side with his driver, without showing any aftermath of class distinction and it inspired him. He never joined the Burgher Recreation Club but admits that he had ‘ of course to pay a lip service’ to all that.
One thing he remembers vividly and hated so much was the Ayah bringing him an egg flip early in the morning at 7 am to ‘baby mahattya’ and says he was more so interested in inspecting ‘ Ayah’s tits’! He also used to sleep alongside with the Ayah on the bed nestling his head in between her breasts. This, he does not attribute to any carnal connotations but may be as a refracted substitution to mother’s warmth and love that he missed so much! Soon he fell prey to bad company of youths who came from equally affluent families and drinking alcohol, going to Havelock Park and paying prostitutes Rs.10 to overcome his curious and innocent adolescent carnality became a novelty. ‘This was a period where no decent Sinhalese, Burgher or Tamil boy could have a civilized relationship with a girl unless it was arranged with a betrothal on the cards’! he admits. His behavioural patterns started to change and decline dramatically, and before long, consequence of which was his having recourse to the Ayah, at such a young age, ‘ a horrible thing to do’, he admits. That occurrence seems to prick his conscience still with no answers or means to repair the damage.
After passing his SSC examination at the Royal College, he was not keen in seeking further studies and becoming a Civil Servant (CCS). Instead, he joined the Times of Ceylon newspaper as a cub reporter. He had interviewed many a politician during his time and his speciality later became writing poetry. Even to this day in London, he continues to write poetry that has found a permanent slot in the Lanka Viththi newspaper.
His association with the criminal gangs during this period marks another mile stone in his life. Unknown to the society, he had suddenly become a gang master of the notorious Mt. Lavinia mob, rubbing shoulders with Oscar de Alwis, S. N, Fernando, ‘Massa’ Fernando Kalu Abey (Dehiwela), Ralahamy, who became later involved with the Turf Club Robbery and Rajagunatilake, son of the owner of Fireworks Palace. This was the time when the Sunday Observer carried articles under the caption, “ Chicago style blackmail comes to Colombo’! Denis reminisces.
Once, when he returned home at 4 a.m., his foster father bashed him severely. Due to the hardened nature of his character at the time, he looked at his ‘father – eye ball to-eyeball - and warned him that he would kill him, if he (‘father’) were to touch Denis again and immediately he broke down. Old Jansz realised exactly what his adopted son meant but did nothing astounding. Instead, very diplomatically he rented his property to the Maharagama Police Inspector for six months. This meant that young Denis had to find cheap accommodation in shoddy lodgings in a horrible, remote, bug-infested room in Wellawatta. He says, he liked the people there, and they needed the money and his ‘father’ sent them a cheque for the rent regularly making him nothing but the ‘ remittance man’ or the ‘pariah dog’ suddenly. Although this feeling seemed to dominate in his system yet no one else knew about it, except himself. His conscience consistently sent warning messages for him not to become disheartened and to do something positive, but the results were completely negative. He turned to violence and thuggary and ended up picking fights at Maharagama beer stalls and anywhere, until a police inspector friend advised him to restrain from such behaviour for his own safety. For once in his life, this advice seemed to have gone down well with him and he attempted to think rationally. Fortunately and coincidentally, one of his good friends, Shirley Peiris, suddenly left Sri Lanka and settled down Finchley, London, and Denis followed suit by taking a P & O Liner.
When he arrived at Southampton in November 1957 fog in England made him depressed .He was home sick immediately which made him change his mind and to return home. Old Jansz gave him a fatherly advice and persuaded him to be constructive in his deeds and actions. Denis became a confused man yet again, and through such confusion, a debauched encounter with a Welsh divorcee in Finchley flashed through his mind. Once again, he was travelling back to London focusing his mind on the Welsh woman. Denis admits that in all his life, he had not known what romance was and coming back to London for the second time was the biggest mistake he did. When he arrived in London he was disappointed to hear about his friend Shirley Peiris, married a West Indian woman and had migrated to West Indies. He had no option but to seek solace in Finchley divorcee, which did not work out, for more than a night.
Dennis was thrown into the deep end once again. He could now see a clear comparison of his bourgeoisie life which he had been used to for so long in Colombo and that of the ‘greener pastures’ he came searching for in England. He ran short of money in London and had no alternative but to visit pawn shops quite regularly to pledge his shoes, rain coat and even the expensive suit a Colombo tailor at Cargills stitched for him with great care for a ‘ mahattaya’ who was going to England on a big mission. The suit was twisted and wrapped with hundreds of other hangers at the back of a pawnbroker’s shop for about ten shillings! Denis recollects.
Denis has been a handsome young man with a passing resemblance to the English actor Rex Harrison and that has had an advantage over women. Even today, on a London street, he could easily be mistaken for Rex Harrison! This very fact had helped him to have many encounters and casual affairs with women in the West who had unhesitatingly supported this dashing young man financially, which in an aristocratic expression could be described as, ‘ living off the wife’! However, in Denis Jansz’s system the unpleasant inferiority tag of being a bastard and being rejected at birth had not helped him to settle down to a steady family life. Today the sitting room and the hallway inside his Marylebone flat resembles a picture gallery containing a collection of photographs of his international sweet hearts with subtle flashes of misogyny. He is happy that he has not subjected any Sri Lankan woman as his prey in his misogyny.
During his second journey back to England, he met with a rich English woman painter, Mrs. Cautaulds (deceased), who had been married to a ‘ homosexual’ but maintained her legal bond with the husband only to safeguard against a possible social stigma if exposed excessively. On board the liner, she sought his permission to paint her ‘exotic’ specimen. The painting job turned into a shipboard romance and Denis ended up living with her at her plush Slone Square apartment thus commencing the second phase of his vicious circle in England. Mrs. Cautaulds loved him dearly, looked after him dotingly, and gave him a luxurious life style, but the venom inside Denis made him cold and callus. Instead of reciprocating her fondly, he started to continue with his usual misogamy because the implosion within him had taken place for the second time in England. The Bullet was still inside him and it was too late for U-turns as he had by then already sold his soul to the devil of debauchery.
When he was looking out for accommodation in London, the signs that displayed openly saying, ‘ No Blacks, No Niggers, No Irish and No Dogs’ shocked him, and he felt a cultural disgust rather than a cultural shock. This repugnance even hardened his heart to take revenge on women whom he met and had casual affairs with. He continued with his past time - misogamy- relentlessly by pretending to be romantic externally but with an ulterior motive of impregnating them and dumping them willy-nilly. It was a great tragedy to an innocent soul where one gross mistake by a single woman, in the shape of a maternal mother done by disowning her child when he was just twelve days old, which had already grown into a cancerous tree with many branches spreading all over Denis’s system.
Denis married twice and divorced both wives within a short period of their marital bliss. He can count eleven bastards but knows only one son, and in his possession he has a certificate of birth of another! He admits, that it was a total tragedy but he says there was no cure for it. For the last twenty years of his life, there were only tears and that has warped his life completely. Fundamentally, the physiological shock caused by rejection made him use women like ‘ pin-pong- balls’. The only time he fell in love with a woman, Denis admits, was with a crippled Swiss girl who, he says, ‘had a soul above Himalayas’! She taught him about classical music and tried her best to discipline him and bring back to reality in life, yet the bullet inside made him abuse her pristine love too, which she was able to give for once to him. He despised any white-collar work and always tried to find some work in factories and ended at latter stages as a Sales Consultant selling Time Share holiday homes.
In 1964 January, Denis set off to go for the Royal Opera House. The time was around 6 0`Clock. The weather had turned nasty with sleet and the wind was bitter. Lights at Battersea Park were scarcely visible and the river Thames was wrapped up with fog. When Denis was about to cross the north end of Chelsea Bridge he caught sight of Rosemary only about 100 yards away from him, who was about to jump in a suicidal attempt. He shouted, ‘stop…! stop …!!’ However, the shouts were in vain. She did not respond to his call and just vanished silently in the mist. Due to fog muffling the visibility Denis could hardly see yet, he heard her body impact on the icy-cold water beneath. Within seconds, Denis removed his jacket and shoes and dived into the river risking his own life to rescue her. Denis is a good swimmer and he swam towards her who was already half fighting, half forcing herself to sink. When he reached her, she was pale as a sheet and her eyes were closed. He gripped the collar of her coat, rested her limp body against his, and swam slowly dragging both their bodies to a stretch of shingle. He pulled her through the shallows then turning her body facedown felt her pulse. Lo and behold, she was still alive! He cried out for help and heard an ambulance and paramedics arrive. (This was highlighted in a British journal at the time)
Few hours later, he was sitting in St. Stephen’s Hospital and a doctor told him that he could go home. Denis made one request, just to see her, out of curiosity, and Rosemary Scheck’s pained, pale face fixed itself firmly in his mind. When she opened her eyes she whispered, ‘ hello’, you must be Denis? the nurse told me….” Denis was desperate to know her story as to what had dragged her to the depths of River Thames. However, that could wait. They sat in silence. They were total strangers but there was already closeness between them. “ Will you see me tomorrow? ” Rosemary asked, hopefully. Denis had already decided to do so anyway. He visited the following day and everyday until she was released and at every meeting, they filled in more gaps. Rosemary was Swiss, and had been in London for a few more months. Rosemary and Denis made the most of her stay in London together. For the first time ever, this self-confessed womaniser who never loved, only used, the women he charmed and then seduced` enjoyed somebody needing him. He even started to need her. Rosemary returned to Switzerland and when she invited him, he didn’t hesitate. He continued her friendship for twenty years but never gave a thought of marrying her. Although it made him learn what it meant when someone mattered and cared for him, the bullet inside him did not help him even at such a late stage in life as the ‘ psychological cancer’ caused by his mother’s rejection had grown into clusters all over his system already. He lived in 32 addresses in Kensington and Earls Court areas alone entrapped in a world of his own and as a philanderer for 44 years in Europe - like a male prostitute soliciting women of every nationality. Out of the eleven known off springs he has had, he is only in contact with a son Alvin who, now lives in Germany who is 33 years old.
His foster parents wrote never-ending letters to him, addressing, ‘Darling Denis’, which he ignored wilfully. When he was in dire straits once, he wrote to his foster father to remit £100. Old Mr. Jansz was a pensioner at the time and he wrote back to Denis saying it was an impossibility being a pensioner and, moreover, due to Sri Lankan Exchange Control restrictions which prevailed. He wrote a letter back demanding the money and that was the last of the communications between Denis and his foster parents. He does not know what has happened to them ever since. He is not aware whether they are still alive or dead, presumably dead! he exclaims. Denis remembers their last address as 19 Taxila Place, Kirulapone.
Denis says Sri Lanka is his country but cannot help feeling like a Dracula without a home. He often asks himself: ‘ What have I done? I can’t even know whether I am Tamil or Sinhalese, leave alone being Burgher or English! I could be a chauffeur’s son or the son of an Appu!, but I prefer to be a Sinhalese. All I know is that I am half English,” he laments. He has a clear message to the world, through his personal experience: “ No way should any foster parent suffer from that most damaging syndrome of revealing to an adopted child that: “ YOU HAVE BEEN ADOPTED.”
He certainly has developed a guilty conscience for his adopted parents now, who did so much for him and gave him everything he wanted, but the damage done to him in Nugegoda at the age of 12 has remained as a festered wound for sixty-seven long years. It is natural for him, at times, to raise the question: ‘ what have I done to the Sri Lankan society and what has the society done to me?” He was born a Christian, forced and sent to Sunday school but has rejected Christianity. From the little understanding of Buddhism which he knows - ‘ don’t dwell on it - it passes – try to be better” - he is trying to reconcile himself with the help of the remnants of his middle class upbringing in Sri Lanka which still prevails.
Dennis Raymond Jansz is now 67 years old. He has mellowed considerably and is taking an interest in Buddhism. He is also engaged in writing poetry and contemplating on a semi-autobiographical novel and most importantly, he has called a halt to his lifetime philandering. Although he became rigid, animated and eloquent at various moments of his past revelations, I could see yet another different, mellow, humanistic and a generous elevation to this soul. The tremendous amount of pain and sorrow he is now fighting hard to conceal within him was evident from his wet eyes he had to excuse himself and wipe, whenever he thought of his foster parents. In no uncertain terms, the dire repentance was trying to force out of those sharp eyeballs.