Darling we aren't too old, though we pass the Jubilee
Love in a hot climate
A trip to Nagadeepa clinches two hearts
"Writing maketh an exact man" - Bacon
One fine day, three decades ago as a little girl of four years, I was
clinging to my parents' hands as I entered the Sri Lanka Broadcasting
Corporation (SLBC). I was to take part in the popular children's
programme, 'Handa Mama'. Mrs. Sumana Jayathilaka, the presenter and
producer of the program warmly welcomed me.
I was naive and nervous knowing nothing about what was happening in
the studio. I still remember somebody adjusting the microphone for me. I
wanted to run away, but her sweet, soothing voice calmed and subdued me.
Mrs. Jayathilaka started interviewing me. She asked about my school,
my best friend, what I learn at the montessori and even about the blue
dot I had on my forehead which I was very fond of when I was small. 'Raththa
Maage Vahupatiya' (the little calf of mine) was the song I sang.
Mrs. Sumana Jayathilaka's appearance has now faded away from my mind,
but her voice remains in my memory; thanks to my father who recorded the
'Handa Mama' programme on his radio tape recorder. Every time I rewind
and listen to this programme on our tape recorder I had tried to
recollect what she looked like that day. Even after becoming a
journalist, I always had the desire to meet her and interview her.
So after three decades, here I was interviewing somebody who became a
heroine in my little world when I was a kid.
On the other hand it's a great challenge to write about another
writer, for Mr. K. Jayathilaka is a great writer. They celebrated their
52nd wedding anniversary on May 24 last year. So, here is their love
K. Jayathilaka and Sumana Jayathilaka.
PiC: Sujani Kumuduni
The year was 1953. Jayathilaka was invited to join a trip to
Nagadeepa on the request made by his friend. It was arranged by the
Musaeus Teachers' Training College, Colombo. Along with the teachers, a
few Senior Prep students of Musaeus College too got the opportunity to
go on the trip. The young women were looking smart and pretty,
Jayathilaka noticed. But he did not get the chance to talk with any of
them as the bashful maidens were clinging together.
He was eyeing one good looking damsel who had a melodious voice. Once
or twice Jayathilaka somehow managed to exchange a few smiles with her.
She was friendly, he thought. He heard others calling her 'Sumana'.
"That must be her name," he guessed.
At one point they had to cross the lagoon by a Ferry to go to the
Nagadeepa temple. Jayathilaka used this opportunity to somehow stand
beside the girls who were enticed by the enthralling scenery of the sea
and the lagoon.
Sumana pointed a sea gull to her friends. Jayathilaka is a man of
literature.... A string of lovely poetical thoughts embraced his mind.
Suddenly, in the middle of the river the rope that was used to sail the
ferry got disjoined, and the boat got stranded on the lagoon for
Being on a swaying Ferry enjoying the fresh breeze from the sweet sea
in a mesmerising scenario with sea gulls, the clear blue water of the
sea, busy fish who were waiting to swallow the pop corn that the ferry
passengers were throwing for them were altogether providing a romantic
And in a place like this whose mind won't overflow with thoughts of
love?. Jayathilaka almost crept towards Sumana. "Nice scenery?" he
murmured. "Ha! yes," she replied with a fine and friendly tone.
Then the rest of the girls also joined them. They talked for another
Kaluachchige Jayathilaka was born on June 26 in 1926 to Kaluachchige
Arunolis Appuhamy, a landed proprietor and a farmer and Madduma
Amarasekara Arachchige Podi Nona at Kannimahara, Gampaha. Since the two
siblings born before him were dead, Jayathilaka was considered as 'Loku
Putha' (the eldest son). Jayathilaka was blessed with five younger
brothers and one sister.
Jayathilaka first went to Radawana Boys' School (today, Mahagama
Sekara Maha Vidyalaya) at Radawana.
After sitting for the Senior School Certificate (SSC) exam in the
Sinhala medium, Jayathilaka came to Colombo looking for a job. 'Gains
Borough Tutory' at Maradana was the islands best correspondent college
which conducted postal tuition for all the exams (local and London). He
could find a clerical post there. "It was 1944.
My first salary was Rs. 45. Out of that Rs. 30 was deducted for the
boarding house and only Rs. 15 remained in my pocket. Unlike today,
there weren't any labour rules. We didn't have ETF, EPF or overtime. If
the employer wanted to chase an employee away he could do it without any
prior notice," he reminisces.
Jayathilaka was a talented and a courageous young man. He enrolled
himself at Loranze College, Maradana and got through in the SSC in
English medium in 1947. Then he started his own business centre called
London Correspondent College of postal tuition in the same year.
He got through the G.C.E. (A/L) London and then the Bachelor of Arts
(Honours) London in 1956. "I had my initial education in Sinhala and had
got the opportunity to read all the literary books available.
And started the English stream very much later, but was able to
capture and conquer the language within a year. This was not a big deal.
"Those days I used to read detective novels like Sir Arthur Connon
Doyle's 'Sherlock Holmes'. And later cultivated my interests in French
and Russian literature," he says.
Jayathilaka had been writing to the papers since he was a schoolboy.
But none were published. He was very angry about this. But, one day in
1944, the piece he wrote appeared on the 'Letters to the Editor' page in
the 'Dinamina'. But the 'by line' he wrote under was the bogus name of
"The topic of the letter was on 'the most suitable dress for girls in
a tropical climate like Sri Lanka is the frock'. Since the writer seemed
to be a woman, the piece got an unexpected applaud from all over the
island. As I added my address too along with the article, I got a
tremendous response in letters to my boarding place," he smiles.
'Daivayogaya Vicharaya' was his first book published in 1953. He
printed 1,500 copies, but could not sell even 100 copies out of it. He
reduced the price of the book from Rs. 1.50 to 10 cents and gave the
pavement sellers to deal with them.
After two years he published his second book 'Punaruthpaththiya'
(Reincarnation), a collection of short stories was an extreme success.
So he continued writing. "Sometimes I was an utter failure, but never
got discouraged over anything. 'Parajithayo' (The Losers) was the novel
that was a turning point in my life. It was rejected saying 'not up to
standard' by two publishers - Saman Press and Gunasena.
So I published it with my own money. At this time Prof. Ediriweera
Sarachchandra was considered as the emperor of the Lankan literary
world, and it was he who wrote two criticism to the 'Daily News' and 'Lankadeepa'.
It was an unexpected applaud, and it gave him a firm foundation
thereafter. All three thousand copies he published were sold like hot
cakes and the two publishers who rejected his 'Parajithayo' voluntarily
accepted it for its second and third editions. "And at that point I also
started my own publication called Pradeepa Publication.
So far K. Jayathilaka has written more than 60 books and won more
than ten literary awards. His book 'Charitha Thunak' was later
translated by Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra as Grain and Chaff. He got
a 6 months UNESCO Fellowship to France, England, Scotland, USA and Japan
Nanayakkarage Sumanawathi Cooray was born on April 23, 1937 to
Nanayakkarage Arthur Cooray of Port Commission (today Port Authority)
and Leelawathi. Sumana was the eldest to a younger brother and a younger
Since her mother died when she was small Sumana and her siblings were
brought up by her father and grandmother. "We were staying in Rosmead
Place. I studied at Musaeus College up to the SSC. I was an allrounder
who did sports and concerts throughout my school days," she
smiles.Sumana was gifted with a lovely voice which opened her the doors
"I had won many 'Jana Kavi Gaayana' competitions at school level and
island level. I could even win the Gold and Silver medals in the YMBA
competitions. So Mr. K.G. Perera, a lecturer of the Musaeus Training
College who was conducting radio educational programmes used to fetch me
to sing and give voice cuts. And that made me to choose my career later
on as a radio artiste," she recollects.
'Handa Mama' children's programme is now on the air on the Sinhala
Commercial Service (sponsored by the Bank of Ceylon) on Saturday at 2
pm. Other than that she presents 'Avidda Paya Dahas Vati' a history
program for the children (sponsored by the DSI), 'Kaantha Probodhaya' a
programme with the National Women's Bureau on violence against women and
'Vananthare Kathandare' an environmental programme.
Sumana Jayathilaka is in the process of organising the 43rd
Anniversary of 'Handa Mama' at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute,
Colombo on January 27. The chief guests will be the Speaker, W.J.M.
Lokubandara and the Mass Media and Information Minister, Anura
Lets zoom back to their love story. After the trip, Jayathilaka could
not forget the fair girl he met the other day. After having several
dreams of her both during the day and at night, he decided to write to
her Principal Mrs. R. Attanayaka.
And she handed it over to Sumana's father. And Arthur Cooray started
seeking for the guy who was said to be in the printing business, a
writer and so on... and moreover he had fallen in love with his
daughter.... Meanwhile, Jayathilaka had also started haunting the
Rosmead Place area often in his Morris Minor car.
After spying for several days, one day he managed to catch her. When
he saw his dream princess walking towards him, he forgot his words which
he was ready to utter. But however, he regained his senses and talked to
her. "I promised you to give some notes that would be useful for your
exams. But forgot to ask your address.
So it's a co-incidence that we met here," he said. But, no not at all
it wasn't a co-incidence. The intelligent Sumana knew this. After
politely refusing the lift he offered her in his car, Sumana asked
Jayathilaka to handover the notes to her at her home when her father was
at home. So he did.
Soon Jayathilaka's humble and truthful qualities won Sumana's elders.
And after sitting for the SSC exam Sumana became the bride of K.
Jayathilaka at YMBA, Borella.
Soon they became the parents of two sons (Avanthi and Probodha) and
two daughters (Dr. Karnika Mabotuwa and Sarala Peramunugama). "We are
very proud of our children. We had given them the best education and all
of them had at least obtained even the MSc.
Today we are grandparents of six," they say. When talking about K.
Jayathilaka if we do not talk about the K. Jayathilaka Foundation
Library at Kannimahara it would not be right. He donated his ancestral
home at his birthplace to the government along with a large number of
his collection of books for the children, students and researchers.
"We rarely got an opportunity to get a book to read when we were
small. Abraham Lincoln once said that he had to walk many miles to get a
book to read. And he had gone to school only one year, and that was also
disrupted from time to time.
When I read about the great people like them I feel that I've also
gone through a life like that. So that's why I decided to open up a
library like this for the future generations," he says. "Understanding
and trust were the two most important tools in our lives. We've never
disturbed each other's careers.
If you are faithful to each other you will be rewarded with a long
happy marriage," they conclude.