By Udan Fernando –
Shyamon Jayasinghe is both bodily and intellectually a colossus. His height and the broad body frame were exceptionally tall and large, respectively, given the average size of Lankan men. Equally, his thoughts and ideas were as bold and strong as his body. In fact, I got to know Shyamon as he used to regularly contribute to the Colombo Telegraph and occasionally lock his horns with the editor! He was indeed a prolific writer.
He was 20 years old when Shyamon played Narrator of the famous musical Maname in 1956. He was studying for a degree in philosophy in Peradeniya during that time. By then, he was bi-lingual and well versed in both Sinhala and English. Hence, he was spared, thankfully, from being a victim of the so-called 1956 change. So, people like Shyamon, Trilicia (Gunawardena) and Ben (Sirimanne) belonged to a different generation who, in my opinion, had the best of both worlds. They rode the 1956 wave but not blindly and foolishly gulping the sugar-coated Sinhala-only capsule prescribed by Bandaranaike.
Upon an illustrious career as a top bureaucrat in Sri Lanka, Shyamon was agile and adaptable to be a book-seller (as he called himself) when he joined his children in Australia in the 1990s. He was anyway a ‘pothey-guraa’, the Sinhala term for Narrator! But Shyamon was never a pothey-guraa (the figurative meaning in Sinhala akin to being dogmatic) in his thoughts and views. He was always open to a good debate with an open mind.
I was to meet him in his domiciled turf in December last year. But sadly, I couldn’t make it. He couldn’t make it either to the screening of my film which was shown in his backyard as he had an urgent medical appointment. My great expectation of having a good long chat face to face is now lost. It’s strange that the demise of a person who I have not seen makes such an impact.
Shayaman enjoyed his life to the hilt till his last breath. Knowing the man, he is, I will offer no RIPs and Nibbanas as that’s an insult to his understanding of life. Thanks for all you’ve offered to us throughout your long and active inning of life, Shayamon! Cheers, Colossus!!