A Halo for Sekara
36 years ago on the January 14th, one of the greatest “artists” in our country passed away. I use the term artist not because he was just a painter, but because he created music by his paintings, paintings by his poems and lyrics, symphonies by his novels, short stories, children’s books and translations.
‘A Halo for Mahagama Sekera’ was held at the Mahagama Sekera Vidyalaya, opposite the “Thun man handiya” in Radawana. It was organized by the students following the Media and Mass Communication course at the Sri Lanka Press Council.
One memorable speech was made by Mr. W. A. D. Gunadasa, who recalled how the memorial for Mahagama Sekera built at the Radawana junction had been later demolished to establish a volleyball court. Mr. Gunadasa, the retired railway employee, who had met Sekera every morning on their way to office, lamented this vandalism. Every morning, when they met, Sekera would tell him about his latest literary efforts, and complain that he was unable to have them published. And Gunadasa would encourage him, that someday his efforts would bear fruit. Little would Mr. Gunadasa himself realize then, how prophetic his words were.
The destruction or distortion of the name of such a great person is far worse than destroying a memorial. This was “achieved” by the Postal authorities, who released a stamp in commemoration of Mahagama Sekera, but baptizing him as “Shantha Kumara” Mahagama Sekera. Later the stamp was released by blacking out the words ‘Shantha Kumara”. This stamp must be a bonanza for stamp collectors! But even such humiliations would not touch a great man in any way, because great men are far above such trifles.
Mr. Gunadasa need not grieve about the destruction of the memorial. Mahagama Sekera would never need any additional monuments in his memory, because his creative works themselves stand as the greatest monuments for generations to come.
The halo created on January 14th, at the Mahagama Sekera Vidyalaya consisted of several rings. One ring was lightened by Dr. Pranith Abayasundara, who described the great works, ‘Nomiyemi’, ‘Prabuddha’, ‘Sakvalihini’, and how these works, introduced to him by his late father, and later on by his teachers, had influenced his thinking and his life. Mahagama Sekera had been a teacher only for a short period, but he had moulded the lives of many Sri Lankans, all through his life, and one of them illumined the second ring. It was Karundasa Sooriarachchi, the editor of Silumina, the reputed journalist, columnist and novelist. He recalled how a lecture given by Mahagama Sekera, when he was studying for his A/Levels in science subjects, had changed his life. This was when he got a liking for poetry and literature, finally paving the way for him to end up as the editor of a prestigious newspaper. Then we should also be grateful to Sekera for this influence on Sooriarachchi, because if not for his visit to their school that day, our readers would have been deprived of novels like ‘Ratu Idda’ and ‘Andakara Tharakava’.
Prof. Sunanda Mahendra, created the third halo, reminiscing about his association with Sekera, at the SLBC, about his good fortune to have been able to listen to Sekera reciting his ‘Nomiyemi’, ‘Prabuddha’ and ‘Thunmanhandiya’, and how Sekera designed a cover for one of his books, with just a burnt match-stick.
Kumara Kaviraj from Kivulakele in Kottikachchi, launched his book ‘A letter to Sekara from his village’, on this occasion, a letter written today because Sekera is still with us.
Another silent admirer was K. G. Jinasena, who has collected many of Sekera’s early writings and publications about Sekera, of which he had made several copies to be presented at the ‘Ras Walalla’. He has also published the only collection of short stories written by Sekera, under the title ‘Peethara Saha Thawat Ketikatha’.
It is never too late to introduce Mahagama Sekera to readers beyond our shores. We could begin with translations into Tamil and English as the first step. There are many young people in our country who are fluent in Tamil and Sinhala, who could render good translations of Sekera’s writings, without distorting or harming the original thoughts and rhythm. For this program one of the students, M. S. Suja M Muneer, had translated a poem from Nomiemi into Tamil, and we should encourage him to continue his efforts. By translating into Tamil, his books could reach over 77 million tamil speaking readers around the world.
For a creative genius to make use of all his skills and creative powers, the time, place and his surroundings too play a major role. Had Sekera lived in the United States or England, he could probably have outshone many of the writers held in very high esteem the world over. Had he lived in Sweden or had his books been translated in Swedish, he could have been nominated for the Nobel and won it too.
By translation in to English, Sekera could reach over 500 million readers, and also the children of the Sri Lankan diaspora, who are unable to read Sinhala. By publishing his works in E-book format he could be read by the young generations on their i-Pods, Kindles, Nooks and even their android phones, not only in English, but in Sinhala too.
In between the speeches, the students from the Press Council, entertained the audience with selected songs, written by Sekara. They once again reminded us that Sekera, true to his words in ‘Nomiyemi’ is not dead. He lives among us today, and will live among our children and their children.
One more reason for continuing to publish and translate Mahagama Sekera is because of his own vision, as written by him in his introduction to Prabuddha -
“On a day in the future
When the world becomes a better place
You will appreciate this more”