Prof. Kusuma Karunaratne:
An icon in the literary world
ICONIC FIGURE: Prof. Kusuma Karunaratne
‘Knowledge is power’. Man exploits knowledge to dominate and gain
control over others. Thus it leads to suppression.
But when woman gains power through knowledge, it could not be the
same story. She could be powerful yet create a difference in the
Prof. Kusuma Karunaratne is such a woman who has carved her name in
Sri Lanka’s academic history being the first woman to pass many
cornerstones in her academic discipline.
Her deep rooted love for Sinhala literature fetched many
opportunities and much fame for her. She never rested on her laurels but
strove to reach the zenith.
“From my childhood I grew up in a literary background. My senses
imbibed the essence of stories narrated by my parents and I grew up with
a literary flow,” Prof. Kusuma traces her roots.
Born in Dodampahala, in Dikwella, Matara a bedrock of many eminent
literary figures and literary works she breathed the same breeze that
swept across the region.
Kusuma was the third of the family which had six siblings.
“Affection, protection and good education were assured in our family,”
TRIBUTE: The book released at her felicitation ceremony
She received primary education from the Dodampahala Maha Vidyalaya
and later attended Vijitha Vidyalaya in Dikwella.
Her bright future was predicted at her school itself. “My literature
teacher who read one of my creative essays titled “Padaviyata
Pitathweema” (Leaving to Padaviya) had entered a remark on the left
margin of the paper “You have a bright future”. That was the first
recognition of my literary skills,” Kusuma recalls.
She realised her potential which drove her towards becoming the first
female university lecturer in the Sinhala Department and from there to
be the first female Professor in Sinhala and even further.
Victories lined up from the Peradeniya University where she graduated
with a first class. She was the first female student to reach that level
in her discipline. The university awarded her a gold medal for her
Reading gives lot of strength and enormous knowledge. It penetrates
one’s feelings and adds to the experience. That is how a person gains a
subtle vision to sail smoothly through life and its obstacles, she
“When I entered university it was a both physical and cultural
journey. I grew up in a very peaceful, friendly, well-protected
atmosphere. So I had to traverse from the down South to hill country and
the university. The academic culture was very different. But I adjusted
to that environment and that was the most interesting period of my life.
I moulded myself following the footsteps of my great teachers,” Kusuma
She was a student of a group of lectures of high calibre like Prof.
D.E. Hettiaarachchi, Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra and Prof. Ariya
Rajakaruna. “I followed them and my students follow me. That has been a
tradition,” she remarks.
As she excelled in her academic arena she joined the Colombo
University. During her four decades university career she became the
first ever female Professor in Sinhala, first woman to head the Sinhala
Department and the Dean and the Acting Vice Chancellor in the Colombo
“Today there are many avenues for the younger generation. But
unfortunately most of them lack literary skills as they do not read
much. They are deviating from the arts and moving towards technology.
Technical knowledge is very important but reading creates a full human
being with feelings,” the Professor adds.
“We had a thirst for literature and reading quenched it,” she says.
She holds works of art by Martin Wickremasinghe in high esteem.
“He depicted life in a realistic, genuine and subtle way. It was
applicable to our lines too,” she remarks.
Natsume Soseki, Earnest Hemingway and Tolstoy are among her other
“Classical literature never outdates as literature is not restricted
to fiction or poetry, it is about life and it adds to life,” she
Electronic media is the major force that distracts children from
reading. Parents and teachers should inculcate the reading habit to
create healthy human beings, Professor Kusuma notes.
Prof. Kusuma retired after having served as a professor for over 40
years and imparting knowledge to hundreds of students. Now she is
relaxed and content. Her students held a felicitation ceremony for their
dear teacher on July 19 and launched a book containing research articles
of eminent scholars in the country.
“Now I am fully satisfied as I have moulded many bright students to
carry on with my duties. I believe that if a teacher says that there’s
no one to take over after she or her retires, that teacher has failed
somewhere,” she remarked.
She has received many awards including the prestigious ‘Order of the
Rising Sun-Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon’ by the Japanese Emperor. She was
the first Sri Lankan women to receive that award presented for in
recognition of her long-term efforts in strengthening cultural relations
between Japan and Sri Lanka.
The Ruhunu Putra Award and the ‘Liya Waruna’ Award by ITN on
International Women’s day are among the other awards.
“I am a mother of two sons. Both have reached a high level in
academics. My husband was very cooperative in all my efforts”, Prof.
Her husband Sam Karunaratne is a Professor in electrical engineering.
He held many posts at the Moratuwa University.
“He became my inspiration and mentor after marriage. I managed time
and was methodical in my work which spared time to spend with my
children and family. A mother should be very close to children and
discuss their problems,” she said.
“In today’s society women have entered many disciplines and career
avenues. They have the strength and determination. Only certain evil
forces try to prevent them reaching greater horizons,” she says.
“All women should have freedom. She is given enough freedom by the
social and religious set up but she has to overcome those challenges
created by men with a weird mentality.”
Pictures by Palitha Gunasena
Indulge in healthy munching
When you are with friends or in office you easily tend to munch on
snacks. Try these healthy options to avoid unnecessary munching on junk
Try fruits like apples, pears, grapes, and cherries.
Grams and salads consisting of carrots, cucumbers are other healthy
options. You can also eat fat-free yoghurt.
Drinking green tea is also helps to recharge when you are too bogged
down with work.
A few tips:
* Don’t wait till you are famished. After eating lunch at around 1.30
pm, eat something again at around 4.30/5 pm instead of waiting till
* Carry snacks from home so that you don’t bite into any available
junk like burgers, pizzas and puffs.
* Keep chewing sugar-free gum if you have a sweet tooth to avoid
indulging in sweetmeats.
* When it comes to beverages, drink anti-oxidant rich green tea,
which is good for the heart and helps in weight loss. You can also carry
dip-it-easy tea bags. Also try sugarless tea.
Eat foods low in fat and sugar but high in complex carbohydrates
(fruits, vegetables, grains and pulses).
Don’t skip a meal; eat regular small meals instead of infrequent big
ones -you won’t feel as hungry and your body will use more energy in
Eat slowly, savouring each bite. It takes about 20 minutes for the
feeling of fullness to register; wait that long before eating more.
Note: Exercise regularly. Not only does it burn up calories, but it
can also make you feel temporarily less hungry.
Women to have final say in financial matters
CHANGE: More women than men will make financial decisions in the home
in just over a decade, according to a report.
The fairer sex will have the final say in the majority of financial
decisions in Britain by 2020, if current trends continue, according to
National Savings and Investments.
The savings provider said men currently make key financial decisions
in 20 percent of households, a decline of two percent in the past five
Over the same period, the proportion of women having the final say
has risen from 10 to more than 12 percent.
Women are also predicted to be the main earners in one in four
households by 2030, up from 14 percent today.
Although women continue to earn less than men — an average of 1,080
pounds per month, compared to 1,486 pounds among men — they are catching
up fast, particularly at younger ages.
Women in their 20s earned a wage equivalent to 93 percent of their
male counterparts’ wages in 2000, a figure that has risen to 96 percent
Women in this age group will overtake men in the earning stakes by
2015, if the trend continues, the report says.
William Nelson, deputy head of consultancy services at the Future
Foundation, said: “We are seeing the emergence of a generation of women
who are better educated, more ambitious, and more financially confident
than any before them.
“This generation is already more likely to handle day-to-day
financial matters than their male partners, and demands to have at least
an equal say in the big decisions.”
Corn and Pepper Soup
Corn Kernel - 21/2cup
Red Bell Pepper - 1
Whole Green Chillies - 6-7no
Diced onion (medium size) - 2
Minced Garlic - 5 cloves
Vegetable stock - 2cups
Milk - 2cups
Red Chilli Powder - 3/4tsp
Black Pepper Powder - a pinch
Whipped cream - 1/2cup
Deseed bell pepper and dice it into cubes. Coarsely chop green
Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Saute onions and garlic till
light brown. Add corn kernels, bell pepper, green chillies, vegetable
stock and milk. Bring it to boil and reduce heat. Allow it to simmer for
15-20 minutes. Add red chilli powder, black pepper powder and salt. Mix
them. Remove from heat and stir in cream.
Beetroot - 1/2kg
Big Onion - 1
Potato - 1
Lime - 1/2
Mint Leaves - little
Cream - 1/2cup
Salt, Pepper - to taste
Method of Preparation:
Peel beetroot and potato and cut them into small pieces. Chop the
onion into tiny pieces and saute it in the oil. When it is becomes red
in colour, add the vegetables. Saute for a while and cook it by adding
some water. When it is done add salt and pepper. Remove from fire and
Boil the soup once again adding lime juice. Add cream and mint leaves
before serving the soup.