BUDDING SCRIBER
Posted on March 2nd, 2013

Dr.Tilak Fernando

As a schoolboy I was fascinated with writing Sinhala Kavi and short stories, some of which got published in Sinhala news papers to my surprise! It was D. B. Dhanapala, the veteran journalist and Editor at Independent Newspapers Group, who encouraged me to sharpen my refractive areas in communication when he published five Sinhala verses composed by me in the Savasa evening paper highlighting it was a rare piece of verse without any Ispilla, Pa-Pilla, Ala Pilla or Kombuwa (Akaswara Bandana) under the caption “Agayada Obawa Mata” ( Do I care for you)! Needless to say, it was indeed like winning a lottery ticket at the age of 14!

Hobby

This encouraged me to write to Riviresa, Savasa, Geethanjalie, Evening Observer and The Sun news papers. Just prior to my leaving Sri Lanka I was bowled over by a letter addressed to the Editor (Rex de Silva) at The Sun newspaper was published.

The text of my letter dealt with a proposal (as young as I was) without having had a clue as to what the British National Insurance system constituted of. My humble proposition had been that “ƒ”¹…”if the government (Sri Lanka) made it mandatory to deduct Rs.1 from each employee (both in the Private and Public Sector) Sri Lanka could have strengthened her health care system)!

Upon arriving in London I continued with the practice of filing news and feature articles to four Sri Lankan tabloids published in London, Silvarrow, Patriot, News Lanka and Voice of Lanka. I also contributed to Indian tabloids such as, Asia Times, New Life and Asian Voice along with Sri Lanka Express which was published in Los Angeles.

Radio experience

At a time I searched for various avenues to earn extra pocket money in London, I decided to gather some facts on Mental Diseases, which was a popular topic in the UK and sent a despatch to producer of the BBC (Radio) Sinhala Programme “ƒ”¹…”Sandesaya’. To my surprise I received an invitation to visit the BBC studios at Bush House, Strand, by Sunanda Mahendra de Mel (Prof. Sunanda Mahendra ) where he requested me to edit my article on the spot as the programme had a limited time allocation for broadcasting. Unexpectedly I had the opportunity to read my script live on the programme (a study of Mental Disease) which was written in English.

Inside a sound-proof cubicle I sat alone like a frightened rabbit where a BBC microphone hanged right in front of me and a glass of water on the table stared at me in case my throat ran dry. All I could see was the recording engineer in an adjacent cubicle with the Producer.

Suddenly a voice echoed within my partition: “Watch the green light and get ready; when it goes off and red comes on, start reading the script making sure to place every sheet gently on to a side without making any hissing noises”.

There was no room to feel nervous anymore and I started narrating what I had written on Psychosis, Neurosis, types of Schizophrenia, Dementia, mania etc. I could see from the corner of my eye, the producer walking up and down inside the engineer’s room listening to what I delivered.

Unfortunately, I never had the occasion even listen to my own voice and find out as to how I had performed, but received feedbacks from friends and members of the family subsequently. The strangest aspect of it had been that in Sri Lanka it had made an impact on Psychotherapist Tilak S. Fernando at Dehiwela (Hill Street) to boost up his professional image! Later in the years, of course, I had the opportunity to meet up with Tilak in London, who now lives in the USA and still popular for his professional work.

Once I received a payment of 15 gunnies (for 15 minutes) from the BBC, I kept my eyes open for any such future opportunities. Eventually, when Badra Gunatilake took over as the producer of the Sinhala Programme with its name changed to “ƒ”¹…”Tharanganie’ (as I recollect), I had another opportunity in 1984 where she interviewed me ( in Sinhala ) on the subject of “ƒ”¹…”London Underground (Tube) Railways’.

Ultimately when Wasantha Raja took over the programme as the Producer, with the name changed back to “ƒ”¹…”Sandesaya’, he afforded me an opportunity to interview a Sri Lankan (Ronald Senaratne) on the programme who used to visit the West identifying himself as a psychoanalyst and became popular. It was rather an interesting interview in Sinhala when I dug into his past experiences including the rare opportunity he had with the famous Hollywood Actress Goldie Hawn on his psychoanalytical experiences with her. Wasantha’s Sinhala was conclusive, in fact he taught me a couple of Sinhala words that I was not aware of at the time!

Access to Sri Lankan Press

With regular articles appearing in London tabloids, a special spread on Sri Lanka’s 32nd Independence anniversary celebrations in London appeared in an Indian tabloid when the High Commissioner, Chandra Monerawela, organised an overnight Pirith ceremony at the High Commission building for the first time in its history. The article with a full coverage and photographs had struck a chord in the High Commissioner’s mind about my aptitude.

On a sunny summer afternoon I received a telephone call from the late Premaratne Abeysekera (1st Secretary) conveying a request from Chandra Monerawela for me to visit the Mission immediately. As I entered HC’s room, I was introduced to Dr. Sivali Ratwatte, the Chairman of Upali Newspaper Group by the High Commissioner who had already briefed the Chairman about me.

Dr. Sivali Ratwatte surprised me by saying: “I say, I want you to write to The Island, we have no correspondent in London; I would like you to write a couple of articles on Privatisation”!

I became rather benumbed and muttered, “Sir I am not a professional journalist and more over not yet qualified to write about complex issues such as Privatisation”!

To be frank, it was an era where Londoners had not much contact with Sri Lanka like at present in the absence of modern facilities while Fax machine being the only magical instrument for fast communication.

Persuasion

Expatriates living in England did not have access to Sri Lankan newspapers till very late, nor did they have access to any e-facilities like now.

In such a back drop and not even having seen the format of The Island Newspaper (except during a flight to Sri Lanka or on holiday in Sri Lanka, which was also done rarely) I thought it was going to be an arduous job. However, brushing aside my “ƒ”¹…”tupence’ worth of pleading, Dr. Ratwatte said, “Go to any Bank men, cull some information, and you can do it”!

It took me some time though to write on privatisation, but I made a desperate attempt to learn fast and to be “ƒ”¹…”with it ‘.

On the job, as it were, I managed to pick up some journalistic tools which gave me adequate “ƒ”¹…”power’ and access to many areas after been accredited as the London Correspondent to The Island through the Commonwealth Press Union in London . Finally I ended up with my own column in The Island “”…” The London Diary.

With the help of the CPU Press Card, which was linked to the Scotland Yard, I became somewhat privileged having access to many a place restricted to the general public, including the Sri Lanka High Commission, despite the fact that my job was done more or less as a hobby as opposed to any other professional London Correspondent who made a career out of journalism.

“ƒ”¹…””ƒ”¹…”You don’t become a journalist to be rich, but because you know it’s the fullest expression you can contribute as a human being”.

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3 Responses to “BUDDING SCRIBER”

  1. Amarasiri Says:

    ‘‘You don’t become a journalist to be rich, but because you know it’s the fullest expression you can contribute as a human being”.

    ******8

    Well Said.

    This is the Second Gutenberg Revolution, with the advent of the Internet Age. Still content is needed. That is where journalists and others come in.

    The distribution of information becomes rapid and very transparent. The reason why some countries were successful with the Arab Spring and over throwing dictators was because of this second Gutenberg Revolution. The first Gutenberg Revolution gave the translation of the Bible to German, the Protestant Reformation, the Enlightenment, the Scientific Revolution and the Index of Banned Books.

    However, you as a Journalist need to expose the current Ethno-religious discrimination happening in Sri Lanka, that lead to the separatist war in the first place, and still being promoted by Sinhala Buddhists like Budu Bala Sena and others. Need to cultivate the Sri Lankan, like others have done, and make religion a personal thing.

    This is in the intestate of Buddhists and Sinhala as well in today’s world.

    My be you can express in Sinhala Kavi and Sinhala Short Stories, like little Jataka Katha.

  2. Senevirath Says:

    AMARASIRI
    BODUBALASENA IS REMINDING THE SLEEPING SINHALESE THAT WE WERE WRONG IN HELPINGAND SETTLING THEM IN SINHALA AREAS WHEN THEY WERE CHASED AWAY BY OTHER INVADERS.
    WE SHOULD HAVE KNOWN WHAT THEY DID TO NALANDA AND TO OTHER BUDDHIST COUNTRIES
    NOW B B S IS REMINDING US NOT TO REPEAT THAT WE CANT TRUST OUR POLITICIANS .THEY WILL BETRAY US IF THEY WANTS TO BEIN POWER
    SO SOME ONE HAS TO DO YHIS JOB. OTHERWISE SINHHALESE WIL L HAVE PROBLEMS

    SINHALE BECAME CEYLON, THEN SRILANKA AND LARER IT MIGHT CHANGE TO “”” muslinka””

    AHAKAYANA NAI REDDA ASSE DAAGENEEME VARADA MATHAK KIREEMAI

    HOW CAN THIS BE WRONG THERE WILL BE NO PROBLEM IF THEY DONT DO UNNESSARY THINGS.. AMARASIRI U KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING NOW IF NOT … WAKE UP.. TO B B S ..””handa””””

  3. Amarasiri Says:

    Helaputha and Senevi

    MOKKAKDA ATTA? ATTA THITTAI? MOKADDA BUDU HAMUDURUVO KIVWEE? EKADA BUDU BALA SENA KARANNE?

    See if what Budu Bala Sena and their so-called supporters are doing is Buddhism ?

    They are innovating and twisting the teachings of Lord Buddha, to their own advantage, just the same way politicians have been doing. Remember a Prime Minister was killed by a Sinhala Buddhist Monk in 1959 and subsequent fallout resulted in a 30 year separatist war.

    Where is the middle path of Buddha?

    The question to ask is is Bodu Bala Sena helping or hurting

    1. Buddhism
    2. Sinhala
    3. Sinhala Buddhism
    4. Sri Lanka

    My take, and the take of many Buddhists who know what Buddhism is ashamed of it, and want to distance from Budu Bala Sena. It will destroy Buddhism from within like Al Queda and Wahhabisam is doing to Muslims.

    Bodu Bala Sena was compared to Al Queda of Buddhism or Wahhabisam of Buddhism,, and even to Nazi Buddhism, but those labels are sextreme.

    What Bodu Bala Sena needs to do is teach the Dharma to the Buddhists and to anybody who would listen to like what Lord Buddha did.. See how many people are not following the Dharma. Blaming others is NOT the Buddha’s way.

    In fact the Budu Bala Sena seem to be listening to Mara.. Too sad.

    See what Buddhism is all about.

    http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/5minbud.htm

    To many, Buddhism goes beyond religion and is more of a philosophy or ‘way of life’. It is a philosophy because philosophy ‘means love of wisdom’ and the Buddhist path can be summed up as:

    (1) to lead a moral life,
    (2) to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions, and
    (3) to develop wisdom and understanding.

    Buddhism explains a purpose to life, it explains apparent injustice and inequality around the world, and it provides a code of practice or way of life that leads to true happiness.

    He was not, nor did he claim to be God. He was a man who taught a path to enlightenment from his own experience.

    The Buddha taught many things, but the basic concepts in Buddhism can be summed up by the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.

    The first truth is that life is suffering i.e., life includes pain, getting old, disease, and ultimately death.
    Buddhism explains how suffering can be avoided and how we can be truly happy.

    The second truth is that suffering is caused by craving and aversion. We will suffer if we expect other people to conform to our expectation, if we want others to like us, if we do not get something we want, etc.
    So craving leads to physical suffering because it causes us to be reborn.

    The third truth is that suffering can be overcome and happiness can be attained; that true happiness and contentment are possible. lf we give up useless craving and learn to live each day at a time (not dwelling in the past or the imagined future) then we can become happy and free. We then have more time and energy to help others. This is Nirvana.

    The fourth truth is that the Noble 8-fold Path is the path which leads to the end of suffering.

    In summary, the Noble 8-fold Path is being moral (through what we say, do and our livelihood), focusing the mind on being fully aware of our thoughts and actions, and developing wisdom by understanding the Four Noble Truths and by developing compassion for others.

    The moral code within Buddhism is the precepts, of which the main five are: not to take the life of anything living, not to take anything not freely given, to abstain from sexual misconduct and sensual overindulgence, to refrain from untrue speech, and to avoid intoxication, that is, losing mindfulness.

    Buddhism teaches that wisdom should be developed with compassion. At one extreme, you could be a goodhearted fool and at the other extreme, you could attain knowledge without any emotion. Buddhism uses the middle path to develop both. The highest wisdom is seeing that in reality, all phenomena are incomplete, impermanent and do no constitute a fixed entity. True wisdom is not simply believing what we are told but instead experiencing and understanding truth and reality. Wisdom requires an open, objective, unbigoted mind. The Buddhist path requires courage, patience, flexibility and intelligence.

    If you look at Al Queda, it has really hurt the Muslims. Muslims hate Al Qeida because they have distorted the Religion. Even the Wahabbis are called the Satans Religion, and is being promoted by Saudi Arabia by petrodollars.

    In Saudi Arabia, the young are rebelling and they are drinking, taking drugs, going abroad to get drunk and turning away from Strict Wahhabism and tuning to be atheists..

    The same thing will happens to Sinhala Buddhism. That is where Budu Bala Sena is taking Sri Lanka Buddhism, where Mara wants.

    Most decent Buddhists who are following the middle path are ashamed.

    Remember, the Romans persecuted Christians, but it grew. Are you trying to persecute the other religions? Just teach your religion just like Lord Buddha did 2,500 years ago.

    Remember, at that time, Sri Lanka was Hindu and Native Religions. Mahasiva and Tissa all were Hindus. Both Hinduism and Buddhism were imported to Sri Lanka, and as such are foreign religions, including the current inhabitants of Lanka.

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