I return after ten posts about travels with Kithsiri, now from well into the 21st century, to travels about the time when I first started working with him. So as noted these posts are edited to leave out travels with him in these long ago days.

This post looks at a problem that arose in the College at Rahangala, which had been shaky after the death of the excellent Director Arjuna Aluvihare had first appointed, a priest in the area with a selfless dedication to Education. But then the bulk of this is about the first Gratiaen award, vitiated by human feeling, which had also affected me in suggesting the judge who had got carried away by it. The pictures are of the two books that won, and their writers, and of Arjuna Parakrama.

The first Gratiaen Award

I took classes that day and on the Wednesday, when I spoke too to the Dean and Gunasinghe about the Special Degree before a Faculty meeting, at which I believe it was becoming clear that Wilson was on his way out.

On the Monday I had another problem in that Nirmala Ranasinghe told me she had resigned from Rahangala, The Director who had taken over from the priest had not supported her or the also able Sumanaarachchi whom I had known from Pasdunrata, and when students complained that they were too strict he had taken their side. Suman also left soon after, a tragedy for the College.

That night Gillian had hosted a dinner for Michael and the judges for the first Gratiaen Award, and on Tuesday I had dinner with the Bakers who were visiting from Mumbi. Then the following evening we had the party for the announcement of the Gratiaen Award which was given on the Wednesday to Carl Muller and Lalitha Witaanachchi jointly. The former’s Jam Fruit Tree certainly deserved the prize but the latter’s was a very slight collection of stories. Later we heard that one of the judges knew her and that she needed money for medical attention for her son and was determined that she get some money – the prize was the very handsome sum in those days of Rs 100,000 and half of that was plenty for what was needed.

I was the more upset by this for it was I who had recommended that judge. We had decided that of the three judges one should be an academic, one a writer and one an intelligent reader. We had asked Arjuna Parakrama, who had stood out for Muller whose risqué style and substance might have suffered without him, and Punyakante who was a tolerant and perceptive writer. Bu for the third person I had suggested Ben Fonseka, a former diplomat whom I knew through my father and through Nihal Fernando with whom we had both gone to Horton Plains. I had been told he had cancer and thought this responsibility would serve to distract him. So it did, and I suppose I should be glad too that Lalitha’s difficulties were resolved, and that Carl whose book did well as did its sequels suffered no great hardhip in getting only half the prize.

And perhaps too there was no great problem since afterwards that first Gratiaen Prize was remembered as Carl Muller’s. But I still felt a bit of an idiot, registering too that it had been what motivated me that had in turn motivated Ben.