I rarely or almost never write on politics, especially Sri Lankan politics.
My late father did ; from his heady days as a lobby reporter for the Daily News until much later, when he left the newspaper world to work for a Ministry and then the overseas mission in Bonn, Germany.
As a child, I remember joining him to visit the old parliament, the one by the sea at Galle Face. It used to be such a pleasant visit – I remember the dignified men and women in the chambers although I don’t remember what they spoke about. Whatever it was, it was decent and perfectly safe for a child to listen in on. What a contrast to today’s one. I remember the sand coloured building so well, facing the sea majestically as it still does. I used to wonder who the serious looking statutes around its court yard were – until my father explained them patiently to me,one by one.
Most of all, what I remember were the cheesecakes and the rolls of the parliament canteen, which the press room had aplenty. These were the lean years before 1977 – cheesecakes and fat rolls were a big deal back then. Apples and imported cheese were a big deal too, back then. I still remember my father bringing home apples, much treasured, from an occasional visit to a ship at the harbour.
As a child, I also was a regular visitor to the house by the lake, Lake House. I would hold on to my father’s hand and climb its many steps and stare in wonder at the men and women who manned the desks and typed away. They looked very serious. Back at home, I would sit at my father’s old type writer and type, letter by letter , word by word. I wanted to be a writer even back then.
My father never liked the computer – until he passed away in 2013, which still feels like yesterday, he preferred to use the typewriter. When the typewriter broke, he started to type on the computer at my insistence but never liked it. He didn’t like the way it corrected itself and kept asking whether to save a file. His generation probably was not good at being guided by a machine. It was alien to him have the machine issue commands. If the typewriter was out of commission, he preferred to write – with pen and paper.
I wrote my first article for the Mihira children’s newspaper in 1973. I was in Grade 3 and had just discovered my passion – which came alive when typing away at the keys of my father’s typewriter. It was more than a passion ; it was the way I saw the world around me. My thought patterns were and still are formed around words. My brain understands best the words, the nuances, the meaning and yes, the pleasure of finding just the right word to explain something.
To be a wordsmith, I later learnt, you are most likely to be right brained. Myth or otherwise, those of us who find ourselves best explained in words and sentences are perhaps set apart from those who crunch numbers, in more ways than one.
Not that the writing types cannot be analytical either. Running a business involves analytical skills although not necessarily those crunching numbers. Thathi was a maths genius while being a wordsmith par excellence. Somehow, I didn’t quite get around numbers that well and still find it easier to use the calculator which is now easily available on the smartphone.
Today, we are told that not many young people like to read. Or write. Which is why I am fixed on a mission to get my kids to write and read. Write and read ; that’s their daily mantra.
We are told by the experts that Instagram styled pictures and videos (vids, to be sure) , are more popular than blog posts such as the one I am writing. We are constantly told to stick to more pictures, less words formula on the websites. With http://www.satyn.lk and http://www.yahaloo.com which are two of the websites we manage, it is a tough call, managing just the right content and the right pictures.
Call me old fashioned but I still like to believe that there are many out there who still want to read a good story. They could be my generation now on the threshold of a fast approaching half a century, or the millennials but they are definitely there. A photo may always tell a thousand words but the story is even better when it sets the right mood.
Smartphones and tabs are excellent sources to encourage reading too – from The Bible to the magazines and the books, they can be packed with tons of reading material when you are on the move. The optimum mix happens when you can blend technology with writing and reading.
“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” – Benjamin Franklin