Behind The Lyrics Of Rathna Sri Wijesinghe – I.

Poets are not always born, nor are lyricists. Therefore, it's quite rare to come across someone who is a poet and a lyricist, especially with the ability to convey a powerful message to the society, inspire the readers and paint a picture in their minds with his/her words.
 
An award-winning lyrical poet in Sri Lanka, Rathna Sri Wijesinghe has gifted many beautiful creations to enrich our local literature for over 5 decades now. Behind every piece of lyrics he has written, there's an interesting story, which makes them truly special, and relatable to the readers. 
 
So in this series of articles, we look at some of the real-life stories behind his lyrics.

"Chandra Mandale Sangawunu Punchi Saawiye"

The young Rathna Sri Wijesinghe studied at a school in Galle town, which was about 20 miles away from his home. He was staying at the school hostel, and came home every two/ four weeks.
 
On the side of the road to his home, there was this small carpenter's shed, which he used to stop by to seek shade from the sun, escape the rain, and sometimes, even to rest for a bit. The carpenter and his young daughter lived in a cottage right next to the shed.
 
Over time, Rathna Sri Wijesinghe developed a good friendship with the carpenter. He used to tell stories about his youth, to Rathna Sri – including how he lost his wife and raised his daughter all by himself. 
 

One day, Rathna Sri noticed that the carpenter is in an off mood. Out of curiosity, he asked about it, and tears welled up in this father's eyes as he told the reason why. His daughter, whom he raised through many struggles, had eloped with a boy from the city.

This story and all the feelings behind it took deep roots within Ratha Sri's mind. Years after this encounter, he got to read the story "The Station Master" by Alexander Pushkin, which tells a similar story. Uniting both of these stories, Rathna Sri wrote the above song. With the voice of Sunil Edirisinghe, this song lets us step into the thoughts of a weeping father who just lost his daughter.

"Sinhala Sindu Kiyana Nalale Thilaka Thiyana Kirilli"

It was the early 80s. Born into a Sinhala, Buddhist family in the South, Vineetha Samarasinghe Gunasekara fell in love with Balasingham Nadesan, a handsome, young Tamil man from the North. Both of them were police officers who reported to Kirulapone and Mirihana police stations.

This was during the ’83 Black July riots, so both families were strongly opposed to their love affair. Nonetheless, they got married and moved to Nadesan's hometown in the North. The flames of war were already on the rise, which led Nadesan and Vineetha to join the LTTE army. 

Rathna Sri Wijesinghe read this love story on Siwdesa paper, as per the encouragement of Gunadasa Kapuge, who later poured life into the song written by Rathna Sri Wijesinghe. The song was released in 1998 and the couple actually got the opportunity to hear it, and love it. In fact, their daughter learnt this song words by heart.

"Sudu Neluma Ko Sorabora Wawe"

The story behind this song goes all the way back to 1981, when Rathna Sri Wijesinghe was a teacher at Okkampitiya Janapada Vidyalaya. Surrounded by poverty, the students of this school were victimised by its poor infrastructure. Nonetheless, there were many intelligent students in this school, learning their way through poverty, for a better future.

The main character of this story is one such bright young mind. She was in 7th grade, and Rathna Sri Wijesinghe was her teacher. After noticing her absence in class for a few days, Mr Rathna Sri Wijesinghe asked around for her whereabouts and discovered the unfortunate news. She has died by drowning. 

Every day after school, she used to pick flowers from the lake near her home and sell them at the Dematamal Vihara next to it. She used the money she earned to buy the stationery she needed for school and the rest was given to her family. 

It was a rainy day in November. She left home as usual, but never returned home. Some elders of the village, including her father, looked for her all throughout the night, but still, they had no clue about where she is.

Sadly, her lifeless body was found floating on the shore of the lake the next day. She was still carrying some of the lotus flowers she picked the day before. It was such a heartbreaking sight. 

According to Rathna Sri Wijesinghe, the tiny house she lived in, barely had any space to keep her casket. She was dressed in the old, faded school uniform that she used to wear to school every day.

The name of the temple and the lake were changed to preserve the rhythm of the song, but there's much grief behind it, especially with the emotional voice of Pandit Amaradeva. 

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