24 October 2020

The address of ‘The Nation'


What is a nation and how do we recognize it? On the face of it, these are easy questions to answer. We can talk of name, location on a map, a history, physical attributes, demographic details and such. However, if it is a notion, a sensibility, a relationship even, then it is hard to pin it down.

Like love, one might say. Hard to define but eminently recognized in the unspeakable sorrow and in the indescribable bliss it generates or is made of.  One knows it, but cannot really define it or fully describe it.

‘The Nation,’ is also the name of a newspaper. This is about THAT. Every newspaper has a story or rather a newspaper or even a media house is made of many stories. I am not referring to the content that is produced but the institution itself. Many stories because there are so many parts to that ‘building.’ Many stories, also, because there can be more than one narrative. Many stories because not everyone is associated with such an organization from Day One to Day Now, if you will.

At first, like a new born baby, it had no name. It was merely the English paper that Rivira Media Corporation was planning to produce. ‘Rivira’ of course was the name chosen for the Sinhala newspaper and once the newspaper’s name was decided upon it was also adopted as the name of the organization, which was a subsidiary of the Arpico Group.  

Krishantha Cooray was the founder CEO. Upali Tennekoon was the founder Editor of ‘Rivira.’ My association began with Upali, who recommended me to Krishantha. Krishantha wanted me to be the founder editor of the English newspaper. I declined citing lack of experience and was duly appointed as Deputy Editor (Features).

The paper didn’t have a name. I remembered a by-then-defunct newspaper. The Nation. The name was at the time owned by Azath Salley. It was purchased. The editor, I believe, came up with a tagline: ‘fiercely independent.’ Phoenix O&M was tasked to come up with a publicity campaign. Irvin Weerackody adopted the line I suggested, ‘The Nation above all.’

And so, in mid 2006, both newspapers were launched. I was tasked to write the weekly editorial and this I did unit things soured (that story will have to wait). I handed over my resignation to Krishantha in late December that year. My friends in the Rivira editorial staff organized a farewell party for me. Speeches were made. Among the observations made, was the following. In Sinhala of course [I believe towards the end of the function Keith Noyahr (Associate Editor) and Pushpakumara Mathugama (Photo Editor) turned up and Krishantha of course was present, but the rest were from ‘Rivira’].

‘One leaves a  building, a post. Friendships remain. Sometimes if one stays, it is as though one has left, and sometimes in order to remain, one has to leave. Time will tell if I left or remained.’

Things happened. People left. A few years later, I returned to ‘The Nation’ as its Editor-in-Chief. And a few years after that, again in controversial circumstances, I left. That story will also have to wait.

October 22, 2015. That was my last day at ‘The Nation.’ Said my goodbyes, took my belongings, left. That day I remembered something I had said almost 8 years before. Yes, at that farewell party.

‘There’s a nation I lived before I joined “The Nation.” That nation existed long before I was born and it will remain long after I’ve gone. I lived in that nation even as I worked at this nation. And I shall continue to live in that nation after I leave this nation.’

Here’s an address: No.742 Maradana Road, Colombo 10. That’s where Rivira Media Corporation was. It was the address of ‘The Nation.’ That address changed not long after I left. Now there’s no company, no ‘Rivira’ and no ‘The Nation.’  Except in the memories of those who were associated with these entities and those who read the publications. Vije is a good friend of mine

This nation, on the other hand, is not reducible to an address. It’s about belonging. That’s not an address that can be written. 

NOTE: If you want to read 'The Nation' that I inhabited, you might find it in the stories of the people whose lives made that paper:  

Thushara's Vesak,

U.L. Ranjith's Christmas   

Vije is a good friend of mine, 


Fahad and Dilina are word-robbers

People who do have-to-do things

Other articles in the series 'In Passing...':  [published in the 'Daily News']  
Eyes that watch the world and cannot be forgotten   Let's start with the credits, shall we? 
The 'We' that 'I' forgot 
'Duwapang Askey,' screamed a legend, almost 40 years ago
Dances with daughters
Reflections on shameless writing

Is the old house still standing?
 Magic doesn't make its way into the classifieds

Small is beautiful and is a consolation  
Distance is a product of the will
Akalanka Athukorala, at 13+ alre
ady a hurricane hunter
Did the mountain move, and if so why?
Ever been out of Colombo?
Anya Raux educated me about Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
Wicky's Story You can always go to GOAT Mountain
Let's learn the art of embracing damage
Kandy Lake is lined with poetry
There's never a 'right moment' for love
A love note to an unknown address in Los Ange
A dusk song for Rasika
How about creating some history?
How far away are the faraway places?
There ARE good people!
Re-placing people in the story of schooldays  
When we stop, we can begin to learn
Routine and pattern can checkmate poetry

Janani Amanda Umandi threw a b'day party for her father 
Sriyani and her serendipity shop
Forget constellations and the names of oceans
Where's your 'One, Galle Face'?

Maps as wrapping paper, roads as ribbons
Yasaratne, the gentle giant of Divulgane  
Katharagama and Athara Maga
Victories are made by assists
Lost and found between weaver and weave
The Dhammapada and word-intricacies
S.A. Dissanayake taught children to walk in the clouds
White is a color we forget too often  
The most beautiful road is yet to meet a cartographer