Professor Carlo Fonseka is one of the few, witty, interesting speakers around these days. Another is Sam Wijesinha, the grand old former Secretary-General of Parliament. Both have wonderful stories to relate and are never boring.
I had missed a recent off-the-cuff speech that Carlo F had made at the book launch at the Sapumal Foundation of sculptor Sarath Chandrajeewa’s 'Scrapbook', about which I wrote in my last column but received a report of it. Carlo had mentioned three persons born after 1950 in the second half of the 20th century who have made their names in public life whom he counts as "embodiments of genius".
One is musician Rohana Weerasinghe. "I have seen him at work churning out melodies almost to order. As of now, he has composed over 3500 melodies and, of course, not all of them are memorable. But about a 100 of them will be part of our musical tradition. I think forever," he said.
The second is master batsman Sanath Jayasuriya. "Again here is an artist at work. I think Aravinda de Silva is more accomplished and solid but Sanath Jayasuriya is the artist. When you see him batting it's like magic."
The third is Sarath Chandrajeewa. "I have seen him at work," he said and went on to comment on the reference made to Sarath C as ‘the most fastest sculptor in the world’. "Notice the double superlative -‘The Most Fastest’. It’s like Mark Anthony referring to the cut that Brutus, Julius Caesar’s trusted friend made in his chest, ‘this was the most unkindest cut of all’ – 'The most unkindest cut of all' - that’s double superlative. The grammarians don’t approve of that kind of phraseology. But who cares for grammarians! These are artists at work."
Confessing that he is now a general practitioner,- "a GP having retired from the university service,” he said that in recent times he has begun to call himself " a WPGP - wala payai goda payai.(one foot in the grave and the other outside) meaning he is growing old. Statistically it may be so, but certainly not when one sees him at functions like these. He is so active and lively. No 'ess vaha,kata vaha' meant!
He then related his personal experience of seeing Sarath C at work. "Very recently, hardly four weeks ago, he invited me to his set up studio in Lunuwila, a little before Lunuwila. He decided to make an image of me and he just asked me to sit down and he was kind enough to provide lunch but he didn’t allow me to eat while he was at work. Food was waiting, but in half an hour he produced an image of me, warts and all. It was such a likeness that I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Is this real, is this possible? May be this is how as in the Biblical story how God created Adam. It was really unbelievable, incredible and then all the hundreds of, well not hundreds, at least a hundred very solid sculptures of various famous people."
Carlo F then spoke of the days when he was acting director of the Institute of Aesthetic Studies - now the University of Visual and Performing Arts. "When I was the acting director, I decided that this Institute will really take root only when a student who studied there becomes its head. I backed Chandrajeewa very strongly and he became the director. Alas, he didn’t last long and then there were posters all over the country, and that was the first really adverse poster that I got in my life - the first one about appointing this man to this post."
Reminding that there are enough and more competitors in the artistic field who are "intensely, enviously jealous", he said one must not worry about that. "If you don’t see that there is something wrong. The man can’t be very good if there were no enemies."