Ode to a benevolent wordsmith

Ode to a benevolent wordsmith

z p17-OdeNiroshan Tambavita

Three months have now lapsed since Karunadasa Suriyaarachchi has passed away. He was an extraordinary human among humans - which is why we still miss him. His demise is not simply another one. It is a vacuum that could not be filled. For many, it was as if a closest relative passed away.

Such men are rare in this existence.

We have been blessed with his company. I got to know him personally as he joined the Sri Lanka Press Council Board of Directors. Kasuri, as he is fondly known among close associates, made every moment special.

He offered assistance to Sri Lanka Press Council while he was quite busy in his capacity as Silumina Editor. He always offered assistance in his maximum capacity, at times amid much difficulties. Whenever Press Council held workshops for provincial journalists, Kasuri took part. Sometimes the workshops were held in remote areas for at least three days. But he never refused a single session. He was obliged to help his juniors. The Press Council staff enjoyed his company especially because Kasuri was a sociable and flexible personality.

Once the Press Council held a journalist workshop in a southern district. A brawl arose between the organizers and the provincial journalists, and no one could control the situation. Kasuri rose from his seat, approached the microphone.

He voiced an emotional speech within a short span of one minute, and the brawl subsided. His ability to soothe the human soul was such.

He once read out an article I had written to a paper about a doctor's good conduct before an audience of provincial journalists in Polonnaruwa. He cited that article to emphasize the need of publishing such articles for a society with good conduct.

That extraordinary human being lived in everything he did as a journalist, poet and literary critic.

The 2012 Deyata Kirula programme was held in Ampara. The Sri Lanka Press Council held a workshop for provincial journalists in parallel to the Deyata Kirula programme. One resource person of the workshop informed me that he would not be able to take part in the workshop. It was a short notice, and I was in deep trouble as the workshop coordinator. To find a senior journalist within half a day was a challenge. We were already on our way to Ampara.

I rang Kasuri with a twinge of hope.

"What can I do, Niroshana?" I heard the voice from the other side. I explained the situation to him. He reached Ampara the following day by his own car with family. I was out of words to thank him. This was simply one instance.

He was also the editor of 'Madhya Sameeksha II' published to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Sri Lanka Press Council. In his preface, Kasuri has cited Mahatma Gandhi as a lesson for journalists.

'Think before you start any task what you can do to the most innocent man in your mind. Keep in mind that these words by Mahatma Gandhi apply to you as well."

Whether it is a workshop, or a speech, Kasuri always tried to make use of that moment to convey this message to his junior journalists.

He observed life with such indifference.Issuing a condolence message at his funeral, President Maithripala Sirisena, who was then Health Minister, noted that Kasuri was a rare media personality.

(The writer is Assistant Commissioner of Sri Lanka Press Council)

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