Émile Zola, British Council, C Mylvaganam, Charles Dickens, Ediriweera Sarachchandra, Enid Blyton, Esmond Wickremesinghe, Gamini Fonseka, George Eliot, Hope Todd, Jaffna, Lakmahal, Lalitha Sarachchandra, Leo Tolstoy, Matale, Narnia, Philip Gunewardene, Ranil Wickremesinghe, Richard de Zoysa, Shirley Corea, Thomas Hardy, Vanity Fair, W J Fernando, Wijayananda Dahanayake, William Shakespeare
Through his work with the Tourist Board, in those heady days of the mid-sixties, when I was moving into my teens and Sri Lanka seemed full of promise, Hope Todd provided lots of opportunity for travel. Those regular trips down south, that one long drive up to Jaffna, perhaps laid the foundations for the peripatetic existence I have since led, whether for the British Council, or to various Affiliated University Colleges and General English Language Training Centres all over the country.
But Hope was also a companion, if a sleeping one, for the vast reading programme on which I embarked in those years. I had always read voraciously, but one day, when I was nearly twelve, my father commented on the fact that I did not seem to read anything very memorable. That was not entirely true, for I still remember vividly the Enid Blytons and the Narnia books of childhood. But he had a point, in that I knew nothing of the great classics, except through comics. Understandably enough, few young people of those days were interested in the classics even in comic form. One source of what might be termed worthy comics was my cousin Ranil, Esmond’s second son, in a community of interests that I don’t suppose many young people shared. Ironically, I remember thinking then that he was much more civilized than most of the older boys I came across, and I would devour the Iliad and the Black Tulip and lives of American Presidents in a series bound in thick blue board covers which he occasionally allowed me to borrow.