14 August 2014

Memories of 'Mihira' and days when life was so much sweeter

The cover page of the maiden copy of 'Mihiri'
Some years ago someone made a suggestion: ‘write about your first love’.  That’s a hard one.  It’s not because writing about love or lovers is difficult.  It’s the ‘first’ part that’s difficult to figure out.  I concluded around that time that the ‘last love’ is also the first.  But I responded to the request. I wrote about my favorite Montessori teacher. 

But there’s love and love.  People and things.  We use the term love loosely and therefore we are always in love with a multiplicity – people, places, things.  Looking back now if there was one relationship that shaped thinking, feeling, life and living from the early days of exploration, it is the mihira paththare

‘Mihira’, literally ‘sweetness’, was a weekly newspaper for children.  Mihira celebrated its 50th anniversary a week ago.  We (i.e. Mihira and I) are roughly of the same age.  There’s a difference though.  I grew up with Mihira but Mihira remained a child.  I lost childhood and child, Mihira didn’t.  It took me decades to understand the wisdom of not growing up and it’s quite a struggle to recover child once that happens, but Mihira didn’t have that problem.  Mihira was allowed to be a child.  Indeed Mihira was not required to ‘grow up’.  No one said ‘It’s time you grew up!’  No one said ‘Grow up and be a man (or woman)’. 

Mihira was not a best friend or rather was never seen as ‘friend’.  However, while ‘best friends’ came and went, Mihira stayed.  Didn’t utter a single word but communicated so much.  Mihira educated me, showed me places I’ve never visited, introduced me to people I had never met and most importantly, entertained me in ways that no adult could.

'Mihira' at 50
It all happened in the early 70s.  I would have been 6 or 7.  It is hard to pin down the true ‘age’ of that kind of newspaper.  At times Mihira seemed to be about 5 years old, at times 12 or 13 and sometimes even older.  Mihira came to me during holidays.  ‘Holidays’ back then was synonymous with ‘Kurunegala’ and my maternal grandparents’ house.  

My grandfather bought the ‘Daily News’ and ‘Observer’.  He was old and his eyesight was poor.  He would get one of his grandchildren to read out the headlines.  If anything sounded interesting it would have to be read out in full.  Once he was through, we got the chance to read what we liked.  The only thing that really interested me was sports.  Sure, I was intrigued, I remember about the Arab-Israel conflict and I remember reading about ‘Munich’.  There were other things too, but nothing like sports.  Anyway, this is how mornings went.  Slow.  Not drudgery by any means, but not too exciting either.  Once that was done, it was the outdoors with a break for lunch until nightfall. 

Mondays were different.  I was conscious of Mondays.  Monday was Mihira Day.  I am not sure if my siblings were as conscious, but I remember watching out for the newspaper delivery man on Mondays.  I wanted the first read.  The first Monday of January was special.  Mihira came with a beautifully decorated school time table.  It was all about who remembered.  Some years, I won and in others my brother did. 

But Mihira was more than all that.  It was about the fascinating cartoon story, Boo Baba Saha ThulsiMihira gave us Batakolaachchi. There was also the crossword puzzle.  Then there were the features.  I’ve never seen schools being featured as comprehensively.  I got to read about events and personalities.  Places and place names were dissected in wonderful ways. 

Someone described Mihira thus: apita kiyavana pissuwa purudu karapu paththare (the newspaper that got us started on this insanity that is reading).  Perfect description.  After encountering Mihira, few would not be fascinated about words, phrases and stories.  It was the beginning of a lifelong love affair, one might say. 

My friend Nilooka Dissanayake said that she used to wait for the newspaper man and used to hum to herself something like the following: ‘pera davase mawetha gena mihira hetath gena aa yuthu ve’ (the mihira that came to me on an earlier day must come to me tomorrow as well).  Again, perfect.

Mihira was a friend. A teacher too. A loku aiya. A memory cherished by so many across several generations that I am persuaded to believe that if there is a community of readers in this country, a collective that loves stories, a group that writes, they are ‘one’ because they all lived in a fascinating world made especially for them by a single newspaper.  Mihira.  If success in life is about recovering innocence and if innocence-recovery is about rediscovering childhood, then all we need to do is revisit our individual Mihira-days.  We are lucky.   

M.S.
Reactions:

13 comments:

දේශක යා said...

Oh. My God Malinda.. It is unbearable, I mean the feeling. If you can please write this in Sinhala for uttermost satisfaction.. Please...

Anonymous said...

Yes indeed, say it to all people who got something to do with newspapers. But my memories are fonder with Nawayugaya...

Harsha

Anonymous said...

Malinda, reading the words "I grew up with Mihira but Mihira remained a child. I lost childhood and child, Mihira didn’t," brought gooseflesh- Only a person who cherished Mihira would feel the same way. Our children are poor today without the wisdom of Mihira and also I remember 'Bindu'. Beautiful and yes, I agree with the other person's suggestion to have it done in Sinhala. Beautiful

Charitha Dissanayake said...

Machan , no need to publish this.

'It was about the fascinating cartoon story, Boo Baba Saha Thulsi. Mihira gave us Batakolaachchi.'- That's my Thaththa.
I told him about your comment and you. He was delighted as felt done something for the society. He is very old now (Me too). But he is still drawing to 'Mihira'. 50 not out at the same newspaper. Never heard such achievement.
Thanks a lot for your appreciation.
Cheers!
Charitha Dissanayake

Malinda Seneviratne said...

want to meet him and interview him. pls email me his contact info.

Parakrama said...

Thanks for the post Malinda. I have a BIG collection of Mihira of my childhood, biginning from mid 1960's to, may be early (or even mid)1970's.

සුදීක said...

Came here with the directions of Deshakaya and found my art teacher's son(Charitha) also commented. It is like "Tree & Skin" Mr. SA Dissanayake to Mihira Paper. He did immense services to the paper, in other means development of our childhood. I was privileged not only to learn art from him, but also get enough guidance on other matters as my class teacher. I have dedicated my words to appreciate him. If you have time read it

Sunset

meantime remove word verification from your blogger dashboard.
Settings > Comments > Show Word Verification ---- > Turn this to "No"

සුදීක said...

Came here with the directions of Deshakaya and found my art teacher's son(Charitha) also commented. It is like "Tree & Skin" Mr. SA Dissanayake to Mihira Paper. He did immense services to the paper, in other means development of our childhood. I was privileged not only to learn art from him, but also get enough guidance on other matters as my class teacher. I have dedicated my words to appreciate him. If you have time read it

Sunset

meantime remove word verification from your blogger dashboard.
Settings > Comments > Show Word Verification ---- > Turn this to "No"

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, I feel as if I have read this before as a Morning inspection article.
Me and my siblings, we too were privileged to have ‘mihira day’s in our childhood. Our ‘mihira days’ started in early 80' when we were in Thisssamaharama. my sister, me and my brother; we were 5, 6 and 7 at the time, I remember boo baba and thulsi, the colourful time tables we got with the paper, and thanks to batakolaachchi, I was called ‘pankadacchchi’ by my cousins. I remember the newspaper deliver person, our ‘patthara uncle’, his smile and friendly ways too…

Charitha Dissanayake, please convey our heartfelt love to your father: Mr. S A Dissanayake... we are much grateful to him for his beautiful work!

Malinda Seneviratne said...

there were lots of 'morning inspection' pieces like this. but this was not part of that series. it was written very recently.

Anonymous said...

OK, Thank you. :)

Nilooka Dissanayake said...

Malinda, that "pera dawase mawetha gena..." bit used to be a part of a love song... Not sure who the singer is though. May be someone knows. Anyone?
Nilooka

ලිඛිතා said...

Nilooka : It was sung by 'Priya Sooriyasena' - Lyrics by Premakirthi