A Literature and a City without Jean, Carl and Ashley: the Way for Kandy Writing after Three Notable Deaths.

In 2019, on July 31st, eminent Sri Lankan poet Jean Arasanayagam passed on. Barely four months later, on the 2nd of December, Carl Muller – arguably the most influential novelist in the English language the country has produced – breathed his last. In that order, the two writers were 87 and 84 years in age. Both were well-established, highly respected senior writers of international repute. Both shared in the characteristic that no one – perhaps, barring their own selves – knew exactly how many books each one had written and published.

download.jpg
Carl Muller

Both Jean and Carl were Kandy writers. Jean lived and composed at Jansz House, the iconic Arasanayagam residence in Katukelle, along the Kandy-Peradeniya road, while – barely two kilometers off – Carl lived in Bodhiyangana Mawatha, off Heeressagala road. In the often misplaced pride of people, Kandy was quite oblivious to the fact that a generation’s most prolific poet and prose writer both lived within its city limits and the radius of a stone’s throw. Writing in English, perhaps, they were writing in the wrong language to be courted in huge numbers, their trade was unfashionable, or the city had no place for arts and culture. However, with these twin demises within a quarter of a year, the line of Kandy writers and artists has now lost both their front numbers.

Three years before, in November 2016, another literary pillar from Kandy passed on: Professor Ashley Halpe who, for two generations, was the flagship of English at the university of Peradeniya. He had served the university for 42 years, of which 25 were spent as Head of department. He was a translator, promoter of art, and a curriculum developer who had seen through crucial nationalist upheavals in the post-independence nation. Halpe was a poet and an inspiring teacher, but also a dramatist whose guidance helped half a century of Peradeniya and Kandy theater. Of more immediate interest to the essay, Halpe was a key player in Carl Muller’s arrival in the galaxy of writers: in 1992, it had been Halpe who encouraged Muller, then 57, to submit the manuscript of The Jam Fruit Tree for the then newly set up Gratiaen Prize. Muller went on to become the joint winner of the prize and – as the saying goes – the rest became history.

5d41643125573_jeane
Jean Arasanayagam

Between 1993 and 1998 – between The Jam Fruit Tree and Spit and Polish – Carl produced four memorable work as a part of an extending family saga set around a Ceylonese Burgher home, that of the Von Blosses. In a series of early to mid 20th century impressions that also included Colombo (1995), Muller investigated the systematic shifts and changes that overwhelmed Ceylon as it gravitated towards national independence which – following India’s freedom from the British Raj in 1947 – the island nation was granted in 1948. Carl and Halpe were close friends, and I have met the former on several occasions during literary evenings the professor used to organize in his Riverdale Road home. The relationship was mutually satisfying and highly beneficial to Sri Lankan literature, arts and culture as a whole. Carl Muller was later decorated with an honorary ‘Kala Keerthi’ by the state.

In late 2018, seven months prior to her demise, Jean Arasanayagam had written a memorial tribute to Ashley Halpe. A lengthy, epic piece, in it Jean recollects with characteristic emotion the early mentoring and friendship she received from Halpe. The relationship ran back to the 1950s and had been a fountain spring from which her literary and artistic flourishes were nourished. The poem was titled “An Ode in Memory of Ashley Halpe” and, in addition to its nostalgia for an ethic of a collaborative, mutually shared creative culture, the poem also powerfully encapsulates the personal relationship between Halpe and the young artist in Jean:

We staged, in that past, enactment after personal
enactment in our personal dramatic life-
sequences, remember how our rehearsals took
place anywhere at any time in those carefree
days, inserting our own words, our own speech
as each scene took shape, and the plot thickened,
the climactic moment reached with its
dramatic finalé,
river banks, mountain tops, solitary cul-
de-sacs, secret enclaves, summer houses in that
Ornamental Park in our idyllic landscapes
of Academia in that forgotten century were
our venues, scraps of conversation, impromptu
utterance, desultory conversations formed our
unwritten dramas, compounded of romantic,
unreal dreams and illusions.

z_p15-Epitome-05
Ashley Halpe

The times recollected here were the formative days of an illustrious career in literature in which Jean was both poet and painter. At the same time, she was also a teacher and a theater director – an energetic dynamo who, like her husband Thyagarajah Arasanayagam, influenced the lives of thousands of student who came and went to their home. Even to this day, the Arasanayagam residence is known among the sundry Peradeniya road commuters as the ‘house with literature’. Jean’s life as a poet took a decisive turn in the early 1980s with anti-Tamil violence mopping the Sri Lankan socio-political landscape. Her Apocalypse 83 (1984), as a single edition, is perhaps one of the most powerful and consistent efforts by a Sri Lankan composer. Through the 1980s and 1990s, her writing investigated violence against the Sri Lankan Tamil community and the larger dislocations and rupture patterns that stemmed from it. Even to her 80s, Jean continued to be prolific and at her work desk, composing poetry, fiction, memoir and plays. In 2017, her collection The Life of the Poet was awarded the Gratiaen prize.

The destiny and direction of Kandy writers have now arrived at a crucial juncture. The role played by the university in the culture, arts and literature of the post-independence nation resulted in a string of writers and arts practitioners to emerge, live and hobnob around Kandy through the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s. In fact, Ashley Halpe was one of them. Originally from Colombo, he was an emigrant to Peradeniya in the early-1950s, from whereon he set his roots in the hill capital. However, with changing times, the contribution of the university to a sustained arts and literary culture has changed while, in the emergent smart-techno world, literature itself has been re-positioned within the hierarchy of creative expression. The collaborative and sharing cultures among practitioners too has changed while, to begin with, very few academics in English academia today showcase a creative nerve.

Between the generation to which Halpe, Jean and Carl belonged and the generation to which I belong there is a 50 year gap. As a Kandy-based writer who has persisted and been consistent in her output over the years, only the name of Kamala Wijeratne comes to mind. But, Kamala, too, is more 75 than 35. While it needs to be analysed and carefully understood, the chasm that stares back is overwhelming. Throughout the 20th century, Kandy was at a pivotal front of English literary productions. Whether the deaths of the Halpes, Jeans and Carls embody a rupture of this creative lineage is for the future to see. But, from where I view things, it is indeed a curtain call for a certain spirit of creative enterprise – in that sense, indeed, a transition of an age.

Jean Arasanayagam: A Personal Appreciation.

download
Young Jean Arasanayagam

After Jean Arasanayagam’s passing yesterday, as can be expected, people have now begun to leave a note, a memory or an appreciation for who is (was) Sri Lankan’s most widely read poet composing in English. Most of these notes are touching reminiscences of shared moments drawing on some of the signatures – such as her bustling presence, loud warmness, good cheer, healthy advice, encouragement of young writers and so on – for which Jean was known. Including those whom I know to have disapproved of her and thought her “too old” to still be writing, most of them had addressed Jean in these notes as “Aunty Jean”. Death is indeed the great leveler. Jean would have approved of the fact.

Most of my peers in literature had already had an encounter with, if not a glimpse of, Jean long before they had had their first boyfriend. Those who used to visit the Arasanayagam residence for literature classes conducted by Jean’s husband Arasanayagam (Arasa) had, at fifteen-sixteen, already comes across this icon. My first sighting of Jean happened in 2005, at a conference held at the Peradeniya University to which a few of Kandy’s literary bantam and heavyweights had been invited. I was an undergraduate in my second year and Jean’s loud presence demanded the attention of my clique at the time. We (I remember names, but let me conveniently forget) decided to compose a nonsense poem — a poem that was utter balderdash with veiled insults — and present it to Jean, titling it misleadingly as an ode. The poem was of my authorship, and it was given to her by one of us who would never be suspected as a miscreant in the next hundred years.

 

29-1-inheritance.jpg
Identity, inheritance and legacy was one artery that informed Jean’s writing and reflection.

When I first started writing to the papers, I was a naive undergraduate (and then, an idealistic graduate) and a member of the “next generation”. To top it all, I had just been through a four year indoctrination of deconstruction at Peradeniya’s English Department. The full battery power of that composition was unleashed on writers who had come before me, of which Jean happened to be one. I remember writing a pretty mean article where, with tabloid flair, I presented an analysis of her writing which, since, I have learnt to express with more nuance. A few weeks after the article was carried, I happened to walk into Peradeniya’s Arts Theater where the Sri Lanka English Language Teachers’ Association (SLELTA) was having a conference. I wasn’t in SLELTA, but had gone there to meet a friend. For the novice, the Peradeniya Arts Theater is a gladiator pit. You entered at the higher elevation and looked down on rows and rows of seats. When I went, the programme was adjourned for lunch. As I walked in, catching sight of me, someone from the pit exclaimed to another – “Look! Vihanga!”. At the mention of my name, a woman seated within earshot — complete with a pronounced bun, a flowing kaftan-affair the colour of trouble and a voice that boomed across the theater — shot up with a treble: “WHO IS THIS VIHANGA? I WANT TO SPEAK WITH HIM! WHICH ONE IS VIHANGA? “. The hour had arrived.

Jean-pic.jpg
Jean, after being awarded the Gratiaen Prize in 2017

Well, our relationship flourished. Over the years, Jean and I always had a good conversation whenever we met. She was mature enough to see past my schoolboy brashness and early-twenties idealism (which cannot be said of many others) so as to maintain with me a good relationship. I had been to her home a few times, and her wishes were conveyed to me either through Arasa or daughter Paru whenever she heard I had scored an occasional boundary or run a three. She associated me with warmth and generosity. My last meeting with Jean reading was in January 2016. She read poetry at a forum we had organized in Kandy. I visited her in December 2017 and she gave me two of her new books. I was supposed to meet her this January, but it didn’t come through.

I am someone who taught Jean’s poetry at Sri Jayewardenepura university from the day I joined to the day of my last class. For some reason, Jayewardenepura’s external syllabus had a love affair with Jean Arasanayagam’s poetry. As a result, there was a point in my life where I could remember some of those verses — written in Jean’s graphic, verbose style — by heart. Her best poetry stripped to critique what Sri Lankan politics and society had in the 1980s come to be. With structural and politically-motivated violence against the Tamil community in post-independence, the late-70s and early-80s gradually brought the country to a watershed. As if with a harpoon, the artery of a Ceylonese cohesion was finally ripped through. Even today, her 1984 collection “Apocalypse 83” is a powerful expression coming from a woman of Dutch-Burgher roots married to an ethnic Tamil, even as that community was being violated and displaced under state patronage (a reprint of the collection came out a couple of years back). In all, Jean would have had over 40 publications; the number can well be over 50 – I don’t think anyone knows for sure. I always preferred her poetry over her prose, but above both I quite liked the warm good cheer she tagged along with her theatrical presence.

eye5pic1.jpgAll that is now no longer. In a post Liyanage Amarakeerthi had written last night, he reflects on what passed when he had visited Jean’s funeral house to pay his last respects. Arasa and Paru had retired for the night, and by the coffin bearing the writer’s remains there had been an attendant who knew nothing of the body to which he “kept company”. Amarakeerthi had told the man that Jean was a world-renowned poet. Clearly, with Jean ends a phenomenon. The many messages of love and sorrow that flood the circles I move in since yesterday show the depth and reach Jean had touched as a writer, teacher, friend and human being. Her life had been a melody; her message, a legacy for us to interpret.

Thank you for the poetry and the laughter! Thank you for understanding!

Demise of Prins Gunasekara: The End of an Era.

This short essay is written soon after hearing the news of Prins Gunasekara’s demise. The veteran human rights left-activist and lawyer had, since 1990, been living in London after first arriving there as an exile escaping para-military death mobs during the 1987-90 insurgency. Later, between 1990 and 1995, he composed a 778-paged biographical commentary on the insurrection, which was published in 1998 under the title  A Lost Generation: Sri Lanka in Crisis: the Untold Story. As a publication, this is perhaps the first counter-narrative of the Insurgency of that depth, detail and level of analysis. It reads as a rich analysis of the political developments in Sri Lanka from about 1977 to 1990 (with post-script material that reference developments as late as 1994), while fielding a challenge against the government and pro-governmental literature in the characterization of the conflict in question.

a91e881152be13e94ea92cc790af9fea_L

Gunasekara was born and brought up in Kataluwa, a rural coastal village in the South-Western tip of Sri Lanka. In 1990, on the eve of his self-imposed exile, he was a sixty year old human rights activist and a human rights lawyer known for his litigation in the interest of those affected by state violence. Earlier, Gunasekara had been an active politician and a member of parliament from 1960 to 1977, representing the Habaraduwa electorate. His conscientious political career is severally acknowledged for his principle-mindedness which made him a floater from one camp to another. Starting his career in the traditional Left, Gunasekara was last elected as an independent candidate. In the 1980s, in the wake of tension between the government and the fronts led by the JVP, Gunasekara – along with several other social activists and Buddhist monks such as the Rev. Maduluvawe Sobhitha and Rev. Murutthettuwe Ananda – was a frontliner of the Maubima Surekeeme Vyaparaya (the MSV, or the Patriotic People’s Front), which was developed in order to muster together forces against the deteriorating conditions under the Jayewardene regime.

In 1988 and 1989, three young lawyers working alongside him in habeas corpus cases against the kidnapping and incarceration of youth by para-military mobs and the state military were killed in cold blood, which compelled Gunasekara to flee the country for safety. Both Charitha Lankapura and Kanchana Abeyapala (the latter, Gunasekara’s nephew) had been closely associated in habeas corpus representations in which he played a steering role (their work in this capacity is referred to in detail in pp.629-665). Earlier, in September 1988, lawyer Wijedasa Liyanarachchi — the only lawyer at the time making habeas corpus representations in Sinhala — was killed in Police custody. Ravindra Fernando’s Death of a Lawyer in Police Custody (2015) makes a detailed study of the Wijedasa Liyanarachchi case. In a closely analysed section of his book Gunasekara levels charges against members of the Independent Students Union (ISU) of the Colombo University who, working with the para-military organ PRRA , are accused of playing a close hand in the Lankapura and Abeypala killings (649). In fact, the ISU leader at the time, K.L. Dharmasiri — whom Gunasekara’s junior Ranjith Panamulla insinuates was behind the Lankapura shooting (649) — is found in the vicinity of the Borella Kanatte on the day of the funeral in question:

Among the armed people at the funeral were PRRA activists, who were monitoring the crowd that attended the funeral. Ranjith Panamulla, who was there from morning, had gone to a cornershop nearby the cemetery, a few yards from the Funeral parlour, on the main road to Narahenpita, for a cup of tea. What Ranjith encountered at the tea boutique terrified him. Inside the tea shop, he saw the same Dharmasiri (whom he saw the previous friday, walking towards Charitha’s boarding house, before Charitha was shot) seated with one of ISF/EPRLF stalwarts, Dayan Jayathilaka, chatting to each other over a cup of tea (663).

9789552028267-usGunasekara’s narrative is most crucial in the counter-attack he volleys against writers of the Insurrection such as A.C. Alles, C.A Chandraprema and Rohan Gunaratna who — from an unabashedly pro-state position — had between 1990 and 1991 produced three volumes, each claiming to characterize “an inside story”. Thus, in the immediate context in which Gunasekara develops A Lost Generation, there had been no writer — and that, too, in the English language — who had attempted an immediate counter-attack against the state-sponsored, state-sanctioned scribe. Though considered to this day as quote-worthy documents, the partiality towards the state is easily established in the writings of the Alles-Chandraprema-Gunaratna triumvirate. Sections from Justice Alles’ JVP: 1969-1989, Chandraprema’s The Years of Terror and Gunaratna’s Sri Lanka: A Lost Revolution? are frequently quoted, cross-referenced and rebutted in Gunasekara’s deconstruction of the 1987-90 grand narrative.

In the context of its 1980s development, Gunasekara’s consideration for the JVP is of  mixed reactions. In the early-1980s, on several instances, Gunasekara had had reason to work closely with the JVP – both at a professional and personal capacity. His initial contact with the party had been in the aftermath of the 1971 uprising in which he represented members of the JVP during the post-insurrection inquest. By 1982, with the JVP entering the democratic mainstream Gunasekara had played a ready hand in helping the young party in court matters. His Rosmead Place home had been freely given to the party for election work in 1982 while Gunasekara represented the JVP in petitioning against the undemocratic Referendum through which President Jayewardene prolonged the life of parliament in 1982. However, in spite of an empathy and comradeship (in a loose, non-party sense) Gunasekara extended the JVP, he had his own reservations about the party and was perceptive of its immaturity, parochial mentality and internal confusion.

A palpable section of A Lost Generation — pages 629-736 — reads as a biography of the human rights struggle in Sri Lanka between 1988 and 1990. In this section, going beyond his own establishment of a Human Rights Center and representations made in court for the abductees by Police, military and para-military operations, Gunasekara attempts a collation of views, voices and submissions made by a range of persons from international lobbies such as Amnesty International and human rights groups to lawyers’ and citizen communities’ own efforts to protest for justice and protection. He outlines the work done, half done and abandoned under duress through a series of case studies which he annotates from a personal point of view. His narrative is far from being a clinical and dispassionate study while, on the contrary, it is put together with a lawyer’s sense of the word and the world: one which is rich with witticism, dark humour, measured sarcasm and a refreshing sense of irony.

Gunasekara’s death in London, where he had spent the last twenty eight years of his active life, effectively brings to close the saga of an iconic figure (and, perhaps, even an era) in Left politics. He will be remembered as an activist who began with the Old Left and was actively involved with a host of groups and movements in the 1980s, including the New Left JVP with which he cultivated an empathetic relation. Earlier, in 2018, Asanka Sayakkara had written a biography on Gunasekara in Sinhala titled Prins, which was a long overdue tribute to this man who endured much in the name of the downtrodden and the voiceless in the South’s darkest and most uncertain hour.

The Role of JDS as a Proponent of Multidirectional Memory Among Sinhala Readers.

Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) is an agent that consists of a group of Sri Lankan journalists in exile. It lobbies as a media interface which, as a more concentrated effort, seems to encourage an alternative platform against hegemonic, state-friendly productions and circulations. Its birth pangs are tied up with the last of the war years: a time when the totalitarian tendency of state control was ruthlessly challenging the parameters of a democratic and civil-minded society in Sri Lanka; a time where alternative — if not opposition — views were quite ill-received, and where para-legal removalists were operating freely in both the north-east and the southern regions of the country. Special categories of armed units were deployed under the aegis of the highest commanding avatars to carry out special, nuanced attacks and ambushes on persons who included many alternative-minded intellectuals, activists, journalists and political moderates. Against such a repressive backdrop, Journalists for Democracy emerges in 2009, being energized by a group who had been forced into exile by state persecution.

featureOver the past decade or so, the work collated by JDS is of crucial significance, both as a body of alternative, counter-hegemonic literature, as well as in its encouragement of exploding grand-narratives of mainstream history. JDS contributes to and maintains a web platform which is conversant in both English and Sinhala.  Of the two, the Sinhala forum is perhaps more articulate and myriad in scope and representation; which, perhaps, is fruitful, as the Sinhala-speaking communities in Sri Lanka has much to benefit from the kind of historical and political intervention JDS has chosen to champion. One of the crucial deficiencies in Sri Lanka — and, in turn, among 80% or so of its Sinhala readers / speakers — is its low political and cultural literacy. This paralysis further debilitates the way in which history is framed for the average Sri Lankan, the way she is taught how narratives are to be read, and overall in framing historical and cultural readings in an island of pluralistic cultures, mythologies, histories, and ways of life.

JDS’s main role seems to be to intervene with hegemonic impositions in areas such as ethnic conflict, the reading of history, extra-judicial excesses and matters of human and social rights. It also preoccupies itself with current political and social developments — more in the way of keeping its reader up-to-date on crises of sorts — but, its chief long-term programme is in counter-hegemonic representation. Some of the key such discursive areas in which JDS has invested itself has to do with extra-judicial excesses during the closing stages of the war and the immediate post-war, state-terrorism (intimidation, kidnapping, assault, white-vanning, disappearances), abuse of state resources and power, judicial due processes (or the absence thereof), and day-to-day abuses by law enforcement agents such as the Police. Between 2009 and the present (2018), JDS has consistently provided analytical essays on a range of issues — ongoing and current — within the above-defined broad spectrum.

maxresdefault (1)
In more recent months, JDS is possibly the only Sri Lanka-related platform that consistently and continually cross-referenced the Mannar mass grave site, keeping the debate alive through updates and shares every time a significant development was made.

The work thus tabled has been of immense importance to a community which is overladen by mainstream journalism that often lacks critical depth and politico-historical nuance. They have, in matters of state violence and abuse, often reached far over and above mainstream media discussions in Sri Lanka. Parallel to such critiques on current developments and crises of ongoing interest, JDS has also triggered a discourse that re-investigates passages of violence and abuse that are dated in the public imagination. Among these are incidents investigated with depth that have not captured the imagination of the Sri Lankan south in any significant way. They are localized in the north and the east of the country which, in spite of paranoid protectiveness, the south often has no imagination of whatsoever. JDS has raised questions of violence carried out against communities, individuals and groups in these marginalized terrains, supported by careful reading and cause for representation. The commitment and dedication JDS often shows in the questions of the Tamil-speaking communities stand out for the simple reason that very few journalistic and literature forums (publishing in Sinhala) have volunteered such representational space.

In a simultaneous trajectory, JDS also re-investigates and re-centers narratives from the late-1980s: narratives within which the role of state terrorism is revised in the run up to and in the duration of the Second Insurrection by the JVP (1987-1990). Specially, being read in 2018, some of the re-narrations of events that took place in 1987, 1988 and 1989 contribute to the somewhat younger readers’ nuanced understanding of that past. To be fair by chroniclers of the 1987-90 insurgency, a palpable body of literature — both pro-establishment and of an alternative nature — has been collected over the past twenty years or so. Apart from memoirs written by the likes of Prins Gunasekara (A Lost Generation: Sri Lanka in Crisis: the Untold Story), Rohitha Munasinghe (එලියකන්ද වඳ කඳවුර, ජවිපෙ සැඟවුනු ඉතිහාසයෙන් බිදක් I & II etc) and Victor Gunathilake (71-89 මතකයන්), the insurrection has also brought into the mainstream a ‘popularized’ imagination based on several work which were initially carried out in serialized form by newspapers. This includes ඇඹිලිපිටිය මිනීමරුවෝ by Kularatne Kurukulasuriya and Prasanna Sanjeewa Tennakoon’s රෝහණ විජේවීර . But, quite often, the rhetoric of journalistic story-telling undermine the objectivity and critical distance in these latter narratives. Of a parallel line to these inquiries is the forensic analysis by Ravindra Fernando who re-investigates the death of Wijedasa Liyanarachchi in The Death of a Lawyer in Police Custody.

Collectively, this body deviates from the ideological and political stance — albeit, an open and unabashedly state-friendly one — adopted by writers who, to this day, are considered  authorities on the Insurrection as a subject: A.C Alles (The JVP 1969-1989), C.A Chandraprema (J.V.P: The Years of Terror) and Rohan Gunaratna (Sri Lanka: A Lost Revolution?).

SRI LANKA-BRITAIN-UNREST-MEDIA-UN
JDS’ commitment as a protester against state-engineered violence has been consistent across conflict zones.

Perhaps, the most comprehensive collation of material on the insurrection in question to date is tabled through Dharman Wickremeretne who, in 2016, published ජ.වි.පෙ දෙවන කැරැල්ල (with a promise of a second volume which is yet to come). In many ways, JDS’ concern with the insurrection years complements with — yet, easily overrides — Wickremeretne’s submission. While Wickremeretne writes as a journalist-reporter — an aspect often seen in his penchant for lists, details, meticulous records etc — JDS anchors on the depth of analysis and the consciousness of working within an ideological frame. Thus, its reading and intervention with the conflict years of 1987-90 is energized by a politics of representation and an analysed defense of human and social rights.

Positions taken by multi-directional memory identify the role of memory as an energy that can be invested across conflicts and situations of violence/trauma, as an inter-sectional fluid that accommodates better understanding of situations of displacement. In the broader Sri Lankan context marred by a catastrophic human and political rights record throughout the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and 2010s — which were fueled by near-totalitarian manias by any state leader who possessed large parliamentary majorities:  Presidents Jayewardene and Rajapaksa — the literature and the framing strategies proposed by JDS can play a pivotal role in awakening the nation to reading conflict anew. Their writing often defuses extremes and promotes conversation across marginalized histories and narratives. Its vision of centering such dislocated spaces is a necessary first step for any kind of national reintegration or reconciliation.

 

අජිත් තිලකසේන හා ධර්මසේන පතිරාජ මුනගැසීම.

ධර්මසේන පතිරාජ මා මුලින් හඳුනාගන්නේ 7 හෝ 8 වසරේදී කියවන්නට ලැබුනු මගේ මාමාගේ පොතක් හරහා ය. පතිරාජ සමගම හඳුනගන්නට ලැබෙන තවත් නමක් වන්නේ අජිත් තිලකසේනගේ නම වන අතර තිලකසේනත්, එතුමා ප්‍රගුණ කල සමරූපී අක්ෂර කලාවත් ගැන 8 වසරේ සිංහල සමිතියේ කතා කලා අද මෙන් මතකය. සිංහල සමිතියේ අනුශාසක වූ සීලවතී කුමාරිහාමි මැඩම් වචනයේ ඉහලම අර්ථයෙන් මවු ගුණයන් පිහිටි කෙනෙක් වූ නිසාම, තිලකසේන ගැන කතාව නිමවා පන්තියේ අසුන් ගන්නටත්, තවදුරටත් පන්තියේ රැඳී සිටීමටත් අවස්ථාව ලදිමි.

පතිරාජ මිය ගිය පුවත මම දැනගත්තේ මිතුරන් කණ්ඩායමක් සමග ගාල්ලේ සිට නුවර බලා පැමිණෙමින් සිටි අතරතුර ය. අඹේපුස්සේ දී තේ බොන්න කියා අප පැමිණිමෙන් සිටි වාහනය නැවැත්වූ අතර ඒ තේ බිවු කඩයේ සන්නස්ගල මෙන්ම නිර්මාල් රංජිත් දේවසිරි ද සිටියේ, අවමගුල් කටයුතු සඳහා යමින් හෝ එසේ ගොස් එමින් සිටි අතරවාරයේ විය යුතුය. නිතරම ෆේස්බුක් හි තම අත්දැකීම් බෙදාගන්නා මගේ පාසල් සගයෙකු වූ චමින්ද මුරමුදලි පතිරාජගේ අවසන් කටයුතු සිදුවන මල් ශාලාව වෙත ගොස් තිබූ අතර ඡායාරූප කීපයක් ද බෙදා ගෙන තිබුණි. මා ඇත්තටම පතිරාජ අවසන් කටයුතු ගැන යම් දෘෂ්‍ය සටහනක් ලෙස නැරඹුවේ මුරමුදලිගේ ඡායාරූප හා වීඩියෝ ක්ලිප් එකකි (මට මතක හැටියට වීඩියෝ ක්ලිප් එකත් ඔහුගේ එකතුවකි). මම තිලකසේන ගැන කතා කල සමිතිය දවසේ මුරමුදලි සිටියේ අපට යාබද අල්ලපු පන්තියේ ය.

2071 Ajith Thilakasena
තිලකසේන

පතිරාජගේ සිනමාව ගැන මා මුලින්ම සමීප වන්නේ තිර පිටපත් හරහා ය. අන්තර්ජාලය නොතිබූ යුගයක උස් මහත් වූවන් ලෙස මහජන පුස්තකාලය හරහා පතිරාජගේ තිරපිටපත් හා ඒවා ගැන විචාර අඩංගු කුඩා පොත් බැහැර ගෙන ගොස් කියවනවා මතක ය. සාමාන්‍ය පෙල කර උසස් පෙල ට සමත් වූ කාලයේත්, ඒ අතරතුර කාලයේත් ඇමරිකානු නාට්‍ය දෙසට දැඩි නැඹුරුවක් තිබුණි. මහනුවර මහජන පුස්තකාලයේ බැහැර දෙන අංශයේ වෙළුම්ගත කල ඇමරිකානු නාට්‍ය හා සම්බන්ධ පන්සිය පනස් ජාතකය තරම් වන පොත් රාශියක් විය. මේවා බැහැරට ගෙන යනු දුටු පාඨකයින් වැඩිදෙනෙක් නොසිටි බැවින් මට රිසිසේ පොත් පරිශීලනය කිරීමේ අවස්ථාව උදා වී තිබුණි. නීල් සයිමන්, ටෙනසි විලියම්ස්, වුඩී ඇලන් ආදී රචකයන් මුල්වරට හමුවූයේ මේ යුගයේදීයි.

පතිරාජගේ ‘පාර දිගේ’ මා කියවූ මුල්ම පතිරාජ තිර පිටපත විය යුතුය. මෙම පිටපත අජිත් තිලකසේන ලියුවක් ලෙස මතකයේ තිබේ. පසු කාලයක යූ-ටියුබ් එකට ඇබ්බැහි වූවෙක් ලෙසත්, ඩීවීඩී-ගත කල චිත්‍රපට බහුල වූ නිසාත්, අතරින් පතර රූපවාහිනියේ විකාශය වූ නිසාත් ‘අහස් ගව්ව’ (මා නැරඹූ මුල්ම පතිරාජ චිත්‍රපටය), ‘බඹරු ඇවිත්’, ‘සොල්දාදු උන්නැහේ’ මෙන්ම කලින් කී ‘පාර දිගේ’ ද නැරඹීමට හැකි විය. එදා මෙදා තුර අතහැරුනු චිත්‍රපටය වූයේ ‘එයා දැන් ලොකු ලමයෙක්’ ය.

තිලකසේන මෙන්ම පතිරාජ ද මෙසේ අපගේ ජීවිතවලට අඩු වයසකදීම යම් බලපෑමක් එල්ල කල අපටත් කලාවේ දිශාව තීරණය වීමට ඉදිරිගාමී තල්ලුවක් දුන් මහා චරිත වේ. මොවුන්ගෙන් ඒ නොදන්න කාලයේ අප මහා බලපෑම් නොලැබුවත්, යනින් එන ගමන් අප හා වුනු හමුවීම් හරහා දැනෙන ආකාරයේ කම්පනයක් අපගේ අභ්‍යන්තරයේ වන්නට ඇතැයි මට සිතේ. සභ්‍ය සිංහලයෙන් කතා පවත්වන්නට ඉඳුරාම අසමත් මා පන්තියක් ඉදිරියේ තිලකසේන ගැන කතා කිරීමට පෙලඹීමම මීට සාක්ෂියකි.

Dharmasena-Pathiraja-768x447
පතිරාජ

තිලකසේන ගේ නිර්මාණ ආඛ්‍යානය සරල රේඛීය විකාශයක් හරහා හසුකර ගැනීමට නොහැකි ය. රේඛීය ව සිතන්නට පුරුදු වූ ලෝකයට කරන සවිඥානික ඇද කිරීමක් වැනි ඔහුගේ සාහිත්‍යකරණය ඒ ආඛ්‍යානයේ ම වන නීති රීති වලින් හඳුනාගෙන ආශ්‍රය කල යුත්තකි. මම තිලකසේනගේ පොත් කියවා තේරුම් ගෙන ඇත්තෙමි යැයි කියන්නා පවසන්නේ බොරුවකි. තිලකසේන කියවීමට උත්සාහ දරා යා හැකි දුරෙන් ඔබ්බට යන්නට බැරිවී, කෙටි කතා පසෙක ලා ඔහුගේ කවි පොතක් අතට ගත්ත ද ප්‍රශ්ණය නිමවන්නේ නැත, එය වෙනත් මානයකට යැවෙනවා පමණි. මෙම තිලකසේන ම 2010 දී පමණ ‘පස් වසරක්’ නැමැති පොතක් ප්‍රකාශය කල අවස්ථාවේ රේඛීය රාමුවකට නිරායාසයෙන් හසුවන්නට මෙන් ලියවී තිබුණු එම නර්-තිලකසේනමය කෙටි කතා කියවා යම් තෘප්තියක් ලද හැකි වුවත් ඔහුගේ පනස් වසරක නිර්මාණ දිවියේ ලියවුනු සමස්තයම කියවා අවසන් වන විට ඇති වන අසම්පූර්ණබවේ භාවය නැතිවීමේ මහා දෙගිඩියාවක් ද, වසර පනහක කතිකාවකින් පසුව තිලකසේන මා පාවාදුන්නා වැනි හැඟීමක් ද ඇති විය.

පතිරාජ මෙන් අපගේ නව යොවුන් වියේදී කලාව ගැන හැඟීම් පිබිදි එන යුගයේදී අප ඇසුරු කල හා එසේ කරන්නට ලැබූවන් බොහෝ දෙනා ඉදිරියේදී අපෙන් සමුගනු ඇත. මගේ පරිකල්පනයට එකල ආමන්ත්‍රණය කල එච්. ඒ පෙරේරා, දයා අල්විස් වැන්නන් මේ වන විටත් මියගොස් ය. ඒ ඇතැම් අය මිය ගියේ තම නිර්මාණ ප්‍රතිභාව ගැන සමාජයක් හෝ රාජ්‍යයක් ලෙස අපත් අප මෙහෙයවන සංස්ථාවෙනුත් ලැබිය යුතු කලගුණ සැලකීමක් වත් නොමැතිව ය. පතිරාජ නම් තමාගේ අවසන් කටයුතු තමා ම අධ්‍යක්ෂණය කරගෙන තිබිණි. ඒ ද අප සැමට අවසන් වරටත් ඉතාම නිරවුල් හා වැදගත් පාඩමක් ශේෂ කරමිනි.