Henry Jayasena Column - 180
Goodbye and Thanks
It has been a long time - more than three and a half years being with
you weekly. That is a long time in an old manâ€™s life. May be I could
have gone on with more details of Manelâ€™s illness and our struggle to
save her life.
That is rather recent and also too painful to recount. So let me
conclude my saga, so to say, and take leave of you gratefully. Yes I am
extremely grateful to all my readers for being patient with me, kind and
I must say I have found a fair amount of e-mail friends through my
columns. Their concern and kindness has been an inspiration for me.
A few have written letters and a few more have called. Some of them
such as Savitri Devendra, Ranawana Perera, Shirley Siriwardene,
Charmaine Candappa, Sriyani Perera, Daya Wakista, Jeevanthi Senanayake,
Anusha Atukorale, Indra Dona, Sujeewa Gunaratane, Eroshani de Silva,
Shelagh Gunawardene, Gnanam Rathinam and many more have been very
solicitous about my health.
Only the other day Sriyani Perera called me personally to enquire
after my health. My e-mail friend Daya Wakista has sent me a whole list
of medicines that I should take. He is a Dietician and has even sent me
some medicines such as Balanced B50 and Magnesium Complex through a
courier! I do try my best to follow his instructions as far as possible.
It all shows so much concern and kindness which is very satisfying
and soothing for a lonely old man. It was not only my story but the
story of a whole period of our Theatre, the men and women who peopled
it, other events - not necessarily cultural, and I have written about
memorable men and women I met during my travels.
I have sometimes written about events that took the country by storm
and even changed its history. Men and women of my vintage have lived
through so many crucial events such as the World War II, the bombing of
Colombo during that period, Independence, the great literary flowering
immediately afterwards, the Sinhala Only Act and its repercussions,
changes of Goverments and leaders, deaths of many leaders, assassination
of Mr. Bandaranaike, experiencing the tremendous event of having the
first woman Prime Minister in the world, Coalitions, Coups,
Insurrections, the Black July of 1983, the resultant war, many more
assassinations of some of our finest leaders such as Gamini Dissanayake,
Ranjan Wijeratne, and Lalith Athulathmudali. Men and women of Peace such
as Rajini Thirangama and Neelan Thiruchelvam. Some of the finest
warriors such as Denzil Kobbekaduwa and Vijaya Wimalaratne and many more
useful and honest citizen of the country.
We have experienced the good and the bad of the Open Economy which
may have produced men and women of money at the cost of long treasured
human values. We have witnessed the slow but sure enthronement of money
as the sole objective of a debased society. We have witnessed the
emergence of the â€˜Middlemanâ€™ even in areas as hallowed as Arts and
Theatre. Not only have we witnessed their emergence, we have also been
forced by circumstances to succumb to the change.
We have lost our finest sons in the field of literature such as
Martin Wickramasinghe, and Ediriweera Sarachchndra. The Theatre lost men
such as Chitrasena, Dayananda Gunewardene, Gunasena Galappatty and
Sugathapala de Silva who had made such tremendous contributions to our
Stage and its future.
In the field of Poetry a whole generation of poets whom we called the
Colombo Poets [Kolomba Kaviyo] - P.B. Alwis Perera, Wimalaratne
Kumaragama, Keyas, H.M. Kudaligama and many more have not only gone
away, they seem to have taken the whole â€˜Kolomba Yugayaâ€™ with them.
Two of the finest painters that Asia produced in the 20th century -
George Keyt and Manjusri have left legacies that will last for centuries
to come. Their contributions have enriched not only Sri Lanka and Asia
but the whole world.
In the sports field too we made many strides that we could be proud
of. Winning the World Cup in Cricket in 1996 was a great boost to the
Susanthika Jayasinghe winning a medal in the Olympics is another
memorable event. Our sports teams have had the opportunity of
representing the country in many lands - much more than ever before.
Our Theatre too have had opportunities of taking its stage
productions such as ballet and stage plays to the Middle East, the West
as well as countries such as Australia, Japan and some of the
Scandinavian countries - a new phenomenon.
Our singers such as Pandit Amaradeva,, Nanda Malini, Victor Ratnayake
and others have been invited to as many countries to perform, over and
over again - another new phenomenon. Our Amaradeva was honoured with the
PADMASRI award - the highest Award that India offers. Dr. A.T.
Ariyaratne as well as Amaradeva received the prestigious Magsaysay
Award. Many have been our triumphs.
The local Cinema, however poor it is has been was able to make its
mark in the world. Beginning from Rekhawa we have won some of the most
prestigious Awards. The land mark film Gamperaliya won the Golden
Peacock Award in New Delhi.
Titus Thotawatteâ€™s Handaya won another Award in Rome. Our own Lester
James Peries became one of the most respected Directors of the world.
Sumitra Peries, Lesterâ€™s life long partner and helper not only made some
fine films herself, but also was the first film personality to be
appointed an Ambassador of our country in a coveted country such as
France. I believe Lester is the senior-most filmmaker among the world
community today. He was honoured with the Legion de Honour - the highest
Award that France could offer.
Here too he was honoured with the highest Award - â€˜Deshabhimanyaâ€™ in
an investiture ceremony by the President himself.
Younger men such as Tissa Abeysekera, Dharmasena Pathiraja, Vasantha
Obeysekera and Dharmasiri Bandaranayake made some significant
contributions to our Cinema. Men like Somaratne Dissanayake and
Udayakantha Warnasuriya made some very interesting films also winning
many Awards abroad. Child artistes such as Nithyawani Kandsamy, Kumudini
Karunaratne and Sarala Kariyawasam gave sterling performances. I believe
Sarala was the very first child artiste to feature in a major role in a
prestigious foreign film. Among them Nithyawani was adjudged the Best
Actress on more than one occasion.
As much as we have many things to be proud of, sadly we have
witnessed the slow but sure emergence of many aspects of life that we
should be ashamed of.
The good-old and time tested values of society and community living
with respect for each other seem to be fast diminishing if not
disappearing altogether. There is no respect for law and order.
Selfishness seems to be the order of the day. Instances have been
reported where even victims of bombs and victims of the tragic Tsunami
were also robbed of their valuables!
For the first time we experienced a tragedy as massive and
devastating as the Tsunami. Its repercussions are still not over and the
damage it caused has still not been put to right.
As far as human loss is concerned, I believe the numbers would be
larger than the lives we have lost due to the Eelam war and equally
tragic. In the Tsunami, it looked like Nature had lost patience with the
ingratitude of man and displayed its powers, so to say.
It looks like even the Tsunami has been unable to prevent manâ€™s abuse
Men have become so selfish and self centered.
Whatever the world may solemnly declare about development and the
triumphs of Man, to old veterans like me it looks as if the world is
going down an abyss as never before experienced in the history of human
One has only to open a newspaper, turn on a radio or tv to realise
the extent of cruelty, mayhem and the utter disregard of human values by
humans themselves. One could go on endlessly in this vein.
Like many peace loving men and women of the world, I have a dream, a
hope and a prayer. That this world would by some miracle or by Godâ€™s
intervention and the goodness and sanity of all the religions in the
world, be a safer, healthier and less cruel place to live in - at least
for our grandchildren.
Generations have missed the bus very badly. We HAVE to create a NEW
GENERATION of peace-loving men and women in the world. Let us imbibe
that message of goodness at least in our grandchildren.
If one takes the world at large MOST of the people living in this
planet are men, women and children who want to live peacefully within
their means without being a bother to others.
Unfortunately most of the rulers - especially of the super powers -
donâ€™t seem to want a world of PEACE. For some demented reason they want
the world to be in turmoil and the majority have to remain silent. It is
a very strange thing indeed. That right along the history of mankind,
the majority, meaning peace-loving people, have had to bear silently the
war mongering ambitions of their leaders. Let us hope and pray that
things will change in the new millennium, at least for our
So, dear readers, with that fervent wish in my heart let me say
goodbye and THANK YOU. Let that be my Thought of the Week too - nay, the
thought of my entire lifetime.