A Poetic Appreciation of GK Haththotuwegama … five years after

Chandra Wickremasinghe


Child of unconventionality Of the Peradeniya fifties, When burgeoning creativity, Made avant- garde waves, With the path breaking Maname And Sophocles’ Theban plays, Under such renowned Gurus non-pareil, Of the ilk of Sarathchandra and Ludowyke.

What a wonderfully esoteric world it was! With idyllic evenings Spent languorously, dreamily, Watching the human tragedies As they unfolded on the stage, To the accompaniment of the wailing flute, The muffled drum note and the sad choral voices, In the grassy amphitheatre Which juxtaposed symmetrically, With the sharply curving ‘oscular bend’, On the familiar Galaha road.

You crested the tumbling adventitious rollers, With your casual grace and ease, And then got lost in academe, Teaching eager undergraduates, Shakespeare, Brecht, Pushkin, Dostoevesky, Along with comparative studies Of Guttila Kavya and Salelihini Sandesaya. What rare versatility!

When alone, You were so alone!

Receding deep, into your mind’s Own dark world, Coming alive only in the company Of loved friends And the street theatre folk.

That’s when you immersed yourself In a new passion for street plays, Where ordinary folk, acted their own lives And parodied the lives of the high and mighty, The bloated and the empty, So earthily and so funnily!

And your beloved students And street theatre friends, Overwhelmed with grief, Carried your mortal remains, shoulder high, Singing fittingly, snatches of song From your own street plays, Ending so poignantly, With the touching valedictory refrain, “Nil ahasa kapagiya pilihuduwaneni, Paavee yanna … paavee yanna.”

Colourful Bird! Soar high and free, In the vast realms of Eternity!

                                                                Chandra Wickramasinghe

 NB: GK De Silva, as he was known those days, was a product of Richmond College in Galle, while Chandra was at Mahinda and I was at St Aloysius, school in competition yet in togetherness.. We came together at Peradeniya University Campus in its most flourishing era — in our separate yet communitarian, amiable and tolerant ways. Michael Roberts

1 Comment

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One response to “A Poetic Appreciation of GK Haththotuwegama … five years after

  1. Nandi Jasentuliyana

    Chandra: What a wonderful tribute to a true genius that walks this earth once in few years! Mike: you may have noted from my memoir ‘Same Sky Different Nights’, that GK was my mentor in debating and acting (person who inculcated an interest in theater which has been a lifelong gift). Speaking of debating, Chandra was on the Mahinda team (Leelananda too), when I think we debated in the 50s subjects such as whether Ceylon needed an army! Your comment also reminds me of our exchange not long back when we had a similar exchange of messages on the death of DH when a St. Aloysius cricket captain and a Richmond captain exchanged messages on the death of a Mahinda captain (these days it seems contemporaries in the past connect only when death is the topic!). Nandi.

    Nandasiri (Nandi) Jasentuliyana
    President Emeritus, International Institute of Space Law and Policy (IISL)
    Former Deputy Director General United Nations Office at Vienna and
    Director U.N. Office for Outer Space Affairs

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