19th October 1997


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Punchi Singho's problem

Preserving his cartoons running to a couple of thousands has become a big problem for Wijesoma. In all good faith, in 1990 he presented the collection to Sri Jayewardenapura University. They were opening a section in the library to preserve them. Several months later Wijesoma went there to see how they were conserved. "They were just lying there in a couple of boxes. I brought them back," Wijesoma told me when I met him at his recent-exhibition at the BMICH.

Wijesoma is now discussing the problem with the Director of National Archives who has shown interest in having the collection.

It's such a fine record of the political history of our times that preservation is a MUST.

Wijesoma's cartoons are now available in two publications - the first (with text in English) was released in 1985 and the second is just out in Sinhala. The latter is dedicated to his wife, Mallika (she is no more) who, he said in his first book "had so carefully dated and filed the cartoons with the hope that some day it would help me bring out a book of cartoons." For Wijesoma to be personally there at the exhibition for a chat and get the books autographed was a bonus to the visitors.

"Don't the politicians ask for the originals?" I asked him. "At least there is one who does - Anura Bandaranaike," he said. Possibly others are collecting the newspaper cuttings.

Simple and unassuming, Wijesoma hasn't changed over the years - whether in books or his ways. He is the same old Punchi Singho in his white open collar, short sleeved shirt and light trousers. We wish him many more years of health and strength "to entertain many (first thing in the morning), anger not a few and puncture the pomposities of all those who have inflated themselves beyond their own worth," as Ajith Samaranayake says in Wijesoma's first book.

Fitting tribute

The auditorium at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute was packed.

Quite unusual for a book launch. Politicians, artistes, sportsmen, mercantile types, mediamen - they had all gathered to pay tribute to a grey haired man of sixty who has devoted his entire life to cricket - first as opening bat and wicket keeper of Nalanda, then coach and master-in-charge, later cricket commentator. The occasion was the launch of his book 'Ma dutu cricket lova' (The world of cricket I saw). The man: Premasara Epasinghe. Epa gave life to cricket in Sinhala.

He made cricket a household word. From 1960 onwards he was responsible for millions of listeners tuning in to the Sinhala service of the SLBC whenever there was a cricket match. Even after TV appeared on the scene, there were many who watched the game on TV, knocked off the volume and listened to Epa's radio commentary. His beginning as a media man was when he joined the 'Dinamina' as a part-time sports reporter.

The book covers several aspects of the game - a little bit of its history, a few hints to players and a pick of great players both at home and abroad. At a time when cricket in Sri Lanka has become a money spinner (in the words of Sports Minister S.B. Dissanayake at the function) Epa's book fills a void - reading matter on cricket in Sinhala.

World Record

Book launches are a common occurrence today. Obviously the reading habit is very much on in spite of the electronic media explosion. And hitting the Guinness Book of Records is our own publisher Sirisumana Godage for recording the highest number of new titles in a Sinhala year for the past 18 years.

At the State Literary Festival, the publisher with the largest number of titles to his credit gets an award. Every year the award goes to S. Godage & Brothers. Last year he had put out over 350 titles on a variety of subjects.

Many are the new authors introduced by Godage. Premasara Epasinghe is the latest addition to his list.

The Odyssey

Much has been written already of ace photographer and environmentalist Nihal Fernando's Sri Lanka: A Personal Odyssey. His friends and well wishers recently gathered at the Lionel Wendt for the launch of the book which coincided with an excellent exhibition of photographs.

The invitees were first welcomed to an evening's entertainment prior to the opening of the exhibition. Ravi Bandu's troupe presented a ballet sequence from 'Maga Salakunu', Iranganie Serasinghe read 'Dreams from Six Worlds Apart' by Pradeep Prabha and Ian Goonetileke (just turned 75) gave a short talk.

And then everyone moved over to the Gallery to see some of the finest photographs on Sri Lanka seen through the lens of the Studio Times-Nihal Fernando, Luxshman Nadaraja, Udaya Wijesoma, Samantha Jayatilake and Charith Pelpola.

While admiring the unique collection of photographs, they all enjoyed the vade, murukku and iced tea which were served in place of champagne and caviar.

Continue to Plus page 12 * Buddhist ideology: an emphatic reflection * Commemoration of Brahms and Schubert * Reconstructions and readings of plays * The Secretary Bird

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