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DateLine Wednesday, 13 June 2007

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Somasiri blends writing and photography

VERSATILE PERSONALITY: Somasiri Kasthuriarachchi Pic: Palitha Gunasena

BOOKS: Books are considered as the doorway to knowledge and fantasy, weaving diversity and experience to the mind of their readers. A good book is worth a thousand words as it inspires you, building up your intelligence and confidence and guiding you through the journey of life. That is why we are encouraged to read books not only as children but also as youths and adults.

Somasiri Kasthuriarachchi, 67, of Wellamptitiya, had begun his career as a publisher in 1970 with the publication of the autobiography of Ven. Kalukondayawae Pannasekara Maha Nayake Thera. This book consisting of 642 pages and 48 pictures is known as the largest book written by the Thera.

Journey of authorship

Inspired by the books that he was publishing, Kasthuriarachchi himself turned to a journey of authorship with Vira Heenen Baya Wela, a story book that he created on behalf of children.

"That was a book about cattle. I created the concept as if cattle live under men; they lead a much more peaceful existence. Humans have no ethical values. They sell their cattle to the butcher after they had made the animals work to the bone," Kasthuarachchi pointed out.

Vira Heenen Baya Wela became so popular that the book is now in its seventh edition. The book has been translated into Tamil and English. It had also been taken to India to be translated into Gujarati, Hindi and Urdu. "The cow is considered as sacred in the Indian context. Therefore they realised the value of the message behind the story.

A Sri Lankan migrant in the UK once told me that her children gave up eating beef after reading this book," he said.

Kasthuriarachchi had also published several books related to Sri Lanka's national heroes. S. Mahinda Thera's. Jathika Thotilla had been published in larger fonts. He had also published several books written by Rev. Fr. Marcelline Jayakody.

"I engaged in cinema advertising. During that period the film named Ajasatta was released. I formed the new idea of releasing a book to go with the story. This story was taken from a popular folk tale. It related the story on how a son mistreats his old father.

The grandson of the old man observes this but he also sees his uncle coming to worship his old man. Then one day the uncle takes his nephew to watch the movie named Ajasatta. At the end the son informs his father that he would give his own plate and his own bed to his grandfather," he explained.

Apart from writing and publishing books, Kasthuriarachchi is also engaged in photography. He has the second largest picture collection of artists, authors and poets.

"I believe Lal Hegoda possesses the largest collection. However I am the owner of the largest photographic collection of the Nayake Theras in Sri Lanka. I have a collection of very rare artifacts such as the 1865 edition of Lakmini Pahana, the first registered newspaper in the island and the four colour print version of the Dinamina printed for one of its anniversaries," he observed.

"Once Purandara Sri Badra Marapana, the owner of three museums of the Pothgul Vihara came to me to get the historical knowledge I possessed. We recorded 22 one hour long tapes which he hopes to put into CDs and present to listeners at museums. I have been requested to present this information in written version too."

Memorable moments

"I was a past student of Gothatuwa Maha Vidyalaya. One of my most memorable moments in my school days was when I caught a glimpse of the Prime Minister, D.S. Senanayake, when I was 10 years old.

"My most cherished moment in my career was at Bogambara where Upali Jayasinghe, the additional superintendent of the jail felicitated me with a musical concert after I helped him to get books for the library.

"It came as a surprise to me and all the prisoners sang and danced for the one and half hour ceremony," he exclaimed.

The author had written 28 books so far and out of those two have been translated into three languages of our country. Most of his books are story books written for children.

His publications have exceeded 5000.

"I get a sense of satisfaction through my work. It is something I enjoy doing and I am able to serve many through it," he said smiling.


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