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24th April, 2005  Volume 11, Issue 41

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    

Arts

Between the lines

By Kumudu Amarasingham 

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 of love.

- The Bridge Across Forever, Richard Bach

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 successful woman!

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 confidence.

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 the youngest.

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 gymnast.

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!

Q: Siblings?

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 - that's unconditional.

In a relationship - I am too young to define it. It starts in one place, and grows and blossoms and evolves.

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 you?

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 calm.

"A brilliant friend..."

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."


A 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 particularly special.

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 handedly.

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 Vidyalaya.

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 children.

"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 said.

"Serving my country in the best way I can, using my talents is my ambition," Janaki added.

- Renuka Virgini Perera


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