The things around us - houses,
jobs, cars - they're props. They're settings for love. The things we
own, the places we live, the events of our lives: empty settings.
How easy to chase after settings and forget diamonds!
The only thing that matters at the end
of the stay on earth is how well did we love, what was the quality
- The Bridge Across Forever, Richard
Nimmi Harasgama has certainly got the
'settings' of her favourite quote right. She's always dreamed of
being an actor, and with Ira Mediyama has made it to being an
internationally acclaimed and award winning one. With Adoh! the
magazine she co-edits being a definite success and the new venture
Confetti, a wedding magazine, well on the way to becoming one of the
most sought after in Colombo, Nimmi can be officially termed a
But what of the soul.the 'diamonds?'
That is what we seek to find out in this week's Between The Lines.
Q: If you weren't yourself, who
would you most like to be?
A: Ummm. someone with loads of
Q: Who are you?
A: My profession is my life. I feel
there is so much to learn.I am someone who never gives up. I am very
persevering. My mind is constantly working, planning the next
project, focusing on what I have to do next. I am very passionate
about whatever I do. My friends and family are very important to me.
Basically though, I am just a woman trying to make it.
Q: What was your childhood like?
A: I moved to England at the age
of four. This was absolutely sad. I remember locking myself up in
the bathroom one time we were here on holiday, and refusing to leave
Sri Lanka. I used to hold on to rugs (laughs) and cry in protest
when we were leaving.
My parents were like friends.and I had
a lovely time with them. It was just the three of us, as there's
such a huge age difference between my brother, sister and me. I am
When I first went to England I couldn't
speak English. I used to cry everyday at school until the teacher
finally said I could call her 'Amma' to make it more homely! I went
to three different schools. One was a local village school. That was
so much fun! We hardly did any studying. We were always running
across fields and meadows, playing with animals.
Finally when I went to a proper school
it was an all girls Church of England boarding school - and very
strict and disciplined. We weren't allowed to go out during the
week. I was once made to stand against the wall with a paper to my
nose because I had been caught eating crisps in bed (laughs)! I was
the only Asian when I first joined so it was hard. A choice between
getting bullied or fighting back. I learnt to be tough. The
experience moulded me.
Of course I was also one of the
naughtiest in school. It was a great experience, a mix of Jane Eyre
and Malorie Towers.
There was a mental hospital next door
(laughs) and the nurses quarters used to have a swimming pool. We
had a tennis court. I remember climbing a barbed wire fence in the
middle of the night with my friends to use their pool. We had an
agreement - they could use our courts, we used their pool! Never got
caught for that! But I did get locked in a hot boiler room for an
hour once as punishment. Another one was being made to wear summer
clothes in the middle of the winter in the grounds.
Q: Your teens?
A: Were spent at the same
school. I was never into make up or clothes at the time. It was more
the heavy, long t-shirts, shaved head (I shaved and coloured my hair
underneath and grew the top so my parents wouldn't know). Listened
to very heavy music Three Doors and New Model Army. You know - did
the whole angst ridden teenager thing. The word in England was
'Grunge.' Heavy, depressed.I read Hardy, Crime And Punishment.
Margaret Thatcher was in power.it was the whole Cold War mood - not
happy (laughs). I don't think I was really angst ridden and quite so
depressed though. It was more an image.
My favourite book at the time was
Wuthering Heights and Heathcliffe was the man in my life.
At around this time two of my four
closest friends got expelled. They considered me but my grades were
good and the headmistress absolutely loved me, so. But this had a
lasting effect because there were four of us. All our parents were
abroad so we were like family. Losing two made a lasting impact.
I was into a lot of sports. Played
hockey and netball in winter. Did athletics in Summer. Was also a
I used to study drama. Took part in the
National Youth Day Theatre and experienced London, culture and all,
in a way I never could have with my parents.
Since I was the only Asian I developed
a sense of humour, used it as a tool to make friends. I was popular
because I was funny.
Q: Have you travelled much?
A: At school we were taken
around Europe. They took us for history to Belgium, France and other
places. I remember crying away with the other girls when they
visited sites where their grandfathers and great grandfathers had
come from! (laughs) Was a bit of a drama queen really!
Q: What or who influenced you?
A: My father influenced me a
lot. He was very persevering. Never gave up. He was an achiever I've
seen how much he's striven to look after my mum and me and our
family. I try to be like that.
Q: What were your parents like?
A: That was my dad, except he's
also extremely shy - like me. My mum's very talented. She writes
fabulous poetry - and stores it all in a big box!
A: My sister is an artist. She
is very talented. She works free lance for agencies and also designs
for Barefoot. I really really look up to her. She recently had a
baby and I think my little niece is absolutely the cutest little
girl in the world! My brother is in Switzerland. He is an
aeronautical design engineer. He has two kids.
Q: Define Love?
A: There are different types of
love. The way I love my family - my sister and mum especially -
In a relationship - I am too young to
define it. It starts in one place, and grows and blossoms and
Q: How important is religion to you?
A: I pray everyday. My mother is
a Hindu (Tamil), father is a Buddhist, I studied at a Christian
school and went to church everyday. I was also sent to 'Daham Pasal.'
I have a copy of the Bible, Bhagavad Geeta.I think I have an
affinity to the teachings of Sri Arabindo. I believe in god, but do
not necessarily conform to a religion per se. I believe in the unity
of all religions.
Q: Do you party a lot?
A: Not at all anymore. I'm bored
with the whole party scene. Now I want to do constructive things
that make me happy. I go home after work and just want a hot meal
and a good book to relax.
Q: Does old age scare you?
A: I haven't thought about it,
but it doesn't. I've watched my grandmother suffer and that gives me
pain. Especially as she was a very active person - used to sneak out
with her sister and watch wrestling matches! Threw parties all the
time! To see her so helpless hurts. But aging does not scare me.
Q: Do you believe in fate?
A: Yes. I don't believe you can
control destiny. I've learnt to go with the flow.I guess that is my
philosophy. I've learnt the hard way that you can't plan.
Q: Are you happy?
A: I am very happy. I feel very
blessed with my lot. To live in Sri Lanka.surrounded by family and
friends. They are the most important thing in the world to me.
Q: Why is Sri Lanka so important to
A: Because I belong here. The
minute you step out of the plane and feel that heat and humidity.you
know you're home.
Q: Your ultimate goal?
A: I am a very stressed person.
I worry a lot. My ultimate goal is to have peace of mind. To be
Minoli Ratnayake, Nimmi's business
partner and best friend said of the latter:
"Nimmi is a brilliant friend and a
great actress. She is very down to earth and grounded."
woman of many talents
Being the only girl and the second
child of the family, Janaki Sooriyarachchi felt
alone as she could not keep company with her two brothers or
accompany them in boys' games such as climbing trees, cricket or
sword fighting. Therefore she started singing to herself, made
stories and drawing pictures on walls, but nobody felt it was
Janaki wrote her first book, a ballade
at the age of eight and published when she was only 14. Since then
she has authored more than 90 story books for children.
The picture illustrations, computer
type setting as well as the music composing and lyrics for her
children's song books have been done by the author herself, single
Becoming an author was never her dream.
"When I was small, I dreamt of
becoming an Astronomer as I loved to watch the night sky with stars
all over. I didn't know what it really meant. I thought it must be
the most interesting job," Janaki said.
She is a woman with diverse interests.
Janaki won the bronze medal for the
Professional Woman of the Year 2000, awarded by the Women's Chamber
of Commerce for her excellent performance in many fields.
Although she writes books for children,
she has other interests and is skilled in beauty culture and bridle
dressing, fabric painting, wood carving, landscaping, designing
house plans, web designing, embroidering and dress making, dress
designing as well as psychology, astrology and palmistry. She has
completed her AIB Sri Lanka (Banking
Examination) too and is following CIMA
examinations. Apart from this she is a Visharad in Bharathanatyam
and is preparing for her Visharad exam in Hindustani music in
Bathkande Sangeeth Vidyapith - Lucknow, India.
She is a past pupil of Visakha
Janaki held her first art exhibition in
2001. She is now preparing for her next exhibition, which will be
held next year. After the 100th book, she is hoping to do a film for
"I am optimistic and never wait
for appreciation. Not that sometimes it doesn't worry me, but still
I continue my work even without any appreciation from anyone. I'd
love to do anything as far as it doesn't harm anyone," Janaki
said adding that had she been discouraged for not being praised by
anyone she would not have made it so far. "My mother and father
were keen on my academic studies and were not very happy about my
interest in art. That may be the reason why they didn't encourage
me. But now they are very happy about my achievements," she
"Serving my country in the best
way I can, using my talents is my ambition," Janaki added.
- Renuka Virgini Perera