Prof Sarachchandra enriched my literary career– A.M.P. Padeniya | Sunday Observer

Prof Sarachchandra enriched my literary career– A.M.P. Padeniya

11 April, 2021

Veteran writer A.M.P. Padeniya’s autobiography in Sinhala, Neerawwa (The Pond which hasn’t seen the rays of sunlight), published by Grantha was launched recently at Paradise Rest in Uthuwankanda, Mawanella. It mainly deals with his struggle to enter the University of Peradeniya and struggles in life thereafter.

Padeniya is a student of Professor Ediriweera Sarachchandra. He featured in the chorus of Sarachchandra’s opretic drama Pematho Jayathi Soko. His young adult novel Lokottarayek Noweemi won the State Literary Prize in 2005. The Sunday Observer spoke to him to discuss his autobiography and his life at large.


Q: Your name is A.M.P. Padeniya. What do those initials stand for?

A: It means Arachchiralalage gedara Mudalihamige Piyadasa Padeniya. There are 12 members in our family, but I am the only one who uses this type of surname.

For instance, my eldest brother used Wanasingha Atapatturalalage Gedara Thilakaratne Padeniya. One of my younger brother used Wanasingha Atapatturalalage Gedara Dharmadasa Padeniya.

My parents named me as Wanasingha Atapatturalalage Gedara Palitha Padeniya. But I changed it to earlier name. There is a story behind it. In my younger days, I taught Mathematics to a boy in our village called Piyadasa who was of low caste. My parents who were of caste prejudice didn’t agree my action. They always attacked me towards my teaching. I thought I should change my name. I renamed me as Arachchiralalage Gedara Mudalihamige Piyadasa Padeniya or A.M.P. Padeniya.

Q: How did your autobiography Neerawwa come about?

A: Once I and my wife visited my guru Prof. Sarachchandra who lived at Epitamulla road, Pitakotte after retiring. When I went there, I saw three people were in a conversation with Prof. Sarachchandra -Those were Sucharitha Gamlath, Thissa Kariyawasam and Simon Nawagattegama. However, when Sarachchandra saw me, he at once came towards me. We went to the town and came back with some home stuffs. By this sudden change in the situation, Prof. Sucharitha asked Sarachchandra, “Is there anything special in Padeniya more than any of us do?”

Sarachandra said them, “Padeniya hasn’t written as many books as you have written. He is not a person who did things like you to the country, but I admire him as a naïve village boy who has been disciplined by the values of village.” This incident was over after that, but I was affected by Sarachchandra’s comment on me. I began to think myself, why I can’t write books. Thereafter, I started to write a book in 1990s. It was a memoir written as a fictional form. This is how my first novel, young adult novel Dadabbaraya appeared in 1998. Then, I wrote two more novels which were Lokottarayek Noweemi and Wasawarthiyekda Noweemi. This autobiography Neerawwa is another part of my early novels.

Q: When we talk about your books in general, there is always a child protagonist?

A: I worked as a school teacher and a Zonal Education Director for a long time. In those years I saw many children who were struggling to learn with their poor family conditions. Most of them came to school without having any food. When I saw them I remembered my childhood too, because my situation was also not different from theirs. You know, I had a big family, I had 12 siblings. So I had to undergo so many hardships when I was schooling. When I passed the University entrance, I did not have money to pay the hostel charges. I begged money along the road to continue the university education. With this background when I started to write, invariably a poor child in me comes forward. Still I see the world with a poor child’s point of view.

Q: In your autobiography, Neerawwa, you mainly relates your experiences in the university, especially your relationship with Prof. Sarachchandra?

A: Yes. My other three books focused on my childhood days. But through this book I wanted to write my experiences in the university and struggles in life thereafter. In fact, my biggest achievement in my life is to meet Prof. Sarachchandra. He was a father to me and always escorted me on a correct path when I was confused. So I owe to him if I come to some position in my life today.

Q: You were the President of the Drama Society in the University?

A: Yes, I was the president of the university drama society. I came to that position after I was selected by Prof. Sarachchandra to his operatic drama Pematho Jayathi Soko. My colleagues were then Jayalath Manorathne and Nishshanka Diddeniya. They helped me a lot to carry out my tasks in society.

I have many memorable experiences working with Prof. Sarachchandra in his dramas which I narrate here in this book. For instance, we launched an oriental musical group called La Padeniyas in the university. We held many musical concerts with the participation of Amaradewa and other classical singers. Sarachchandra wholeheartedly supported these functions.

Q: Is there any writer who influenced you?

A: In my younger days I collected photos of Sarachchandra, Martin Wickramasinghe and Gunadasa Amarasekara from the newspapers. I love them so much that I read most of the books written by them. I think they invariably influenced me.

I still enjoy Sarachchandra’s novels as Malagiya Attho, Malawunge Awurudu Daa. World literature didn’t influence me. There is a reason for that. In our childhood days, we hadn’t any translation book to read. And we didn’t have the enough English knowledge to read English books too. Russian or any other foreign writer didn’t influence me.

Q: You always focus on the actual experiences when you are writing. One can say you don’t imagine things, you just write things as it is.

A: You are right. There is no fictional world in my writing. I try to depict the reality as truly as possible. I have so many life experiences. I don’t want to create a fictional world with them to entertain the reader. I just want to motivate the reader to face the life bravely. For instance, through my young adult novels, I wanted to encourage children to challenge the life. When I recall my life, I always see sad scenes, bitter pictures. So I cannot ignore them and write a fictional world with them.

Q: What is your next book?

A: On March 31, my autobiography Neerawwa was launched at the Paradise hotel in Mawanella. I didn’t know about the book launching until I came to that place. It was organised by my children without informing me anything.

My 50th marriage anniversary also fell on that day. However, there were so many close friends who couldn’t come to this book launching. Without some of them, this book wouldn’t have been a reality. However, I thought to write another book when I participated in the book launching, because the people there talked about me highly.