Dr Edwin Ariyadasa, thank you! | Daily News

Dr Edwin Ariyadasa, thank you!

Dr Edwin Ariyadasa has left an indelible mark in our minds as a mentor and associate par excellence. My thoughts go down the memory lane when he was living in Udahamulla closer to the railway station. Sometimes he used to travel by train. I used to drive my car in the morning to his residence to see him and chat on things far and near. I saw the indefatigable prophet in him, who used the pen and paper to express what he gathered over the years.

He had the patience to compile a volume of Dhammapada, the magnum opus he produced with insights into a spiritual sphere. He would never insult a friend or foe. He had a free will that made him move about with all souls small and big weak and strong. Most of the things that we forget he remembered well.

Analyst and interpreter

His words were kind, smooth and sensitive. A prophet by all means hailing from the south, erudite and well-mannered, he travelled far and wide vigilant on matters closer to the heart and mind. He once told me that he is a meditator. All his lifetime, he used to close his eyes in isolation brooding on matters that worried others. He told me that he takes events one by one to analyse and interpret. He told me that the world he knew had taught him lessons, to think and write. Not knowing that we grow old day by day, he used to call us: “How are you, young man?”

He was young in all his ways. He made us feel young in body and mind. He was a great seeker of events around the globe. The hallmark of his identity, as I saw, is the preparation, thinking and writing down to enhance knowledge. He sat with us to write concept papers and key terms related to communication media. His was a penetrative mind that enchanted most of us. He was a tireless drafter of plans and projects, syllabi, modules. A mystic, prophet and a realist all in one, bliss to be with him. Death, be not proud!

The awards ushered on him for lifetime achievements came like peerless gifts. He was honoured at home and abroad for his works over the years spanning over three generations. He had his manners, trials and tribulations. Knowing well what he said and what he did, he knew a lot but expressed a bit. Long live the guru, the pupils said. I’ve lived long, he responded.

I feel happy when I recall the day I invited to take part in one of my radio programmes.

“What do you want me to do?” he asked.

“I want you to narrate a tale of some sort and interpret to evoke a sense of delight and wisdom.”

“Oh, with pleasure! I accept your offer.”

Then he came to me with a volume of Nasreddin tales written in English. He selected one fine tale instantly. Then he began to interpret. This then was Ariyadasa the broadcaster.

Communication scholar

As times changed, we wanted innovations added to our Communication Studies syllabus. I discussed this issue with Ariyadasa. He instantly came out with some new areas or new disciplines. This included, if I remember well, globalisation, environment and profile studies to name a few. The Ariyadasa brand was visible. Some used to call him a walking encyclopaedia. I am not sure if he knew it. Whether he knew it or not, his preoccupation seemed to be fact-finding.

There was no end to it. He was an avid reader of books and periodicals. One of his most favourite magazines happened to be Time and Newsweek. He used to buy the BBC Journal The Listener to keep track of what was happening in the field of broadcasting. He made me feel that he was aware of the latest trends in world affairs. As such, the chief editors of journals commissioned him to write columns on world affairs.

He used a penname Janaka to write most of his contributions. If I am not mistaken, except for Martin Wickramasinghe, the doyen of Sinhala literature, Ariyadasa was the only recipient of the covetous Honoris Causa or the DLitt from a university for the lifetime contributions in the field of journalism and communication that happened to be awarded by the University of Kelaniya.

Since leaving the Lake House from his regular function, a Sinhala journalist, Ariyadasa went on to launch a Sinhala monthly journal titled Tulane while contributing to other newspaper periodicals. He touched upon almost all the aspects of the cultural field in the country. Some of his articles on New Year, Vesak and Christmas have been lasting contributions. Needless to say that if they are to be collected, there would be several volumes. I know for certain that the centre page articles by him that came to be printed in his journal Navayugaya will itself testify to this effect. His image would be remembered by the students of communication and media studies as a teacher who taught them smilingly and cheerfully. It was an Ariyadasa brand, a niche carved for himself.


This is visualised in his last work, a concise history of the world that came out in 2019, recalling a work similar to Nehru's Glimpses of World History. This brings to our mind that he was also interested in the compilation process of world facts. So the fact that Ariyadasa, the communication teacher is no more, may not sound the departure. But a constant reminder of his eternal vigilance as living amidst us.

Before I forget, just allow me to jot one more experience, an unforgotten reminiscence that occurred in the late sixties. When I visited my friend once, he handed over to me a certain printed document culled from The Times Literary Supplement. The paper cutting that he handed over was titled The Journey of the Prophet, a rare poetic vision of Bertolt Brecht, translated into English. The central experience centred around the Chinese prophet Lao Tzu.

This is a good vision in creative communication if you translate this into Sinhala for your students. I was so delighted and went on using the document as a handout. Thanks to Dr Aiyadasa I still use it as teaching material. Thank you once again Dr Ariyadasa, for your kindness vision. You live in our hearts forever.