The reader

Retired school principal, S. Thoradeniya, talks about his lifetime goal of translating his favourite childhood read. Photography by Kannan Arunasalam and Menika van der Poorten.

Join the discussion: 11 comments

  • i am jaffna says:

    They say a good teacher is never forgotten. But how many continue to inspire you throughout your life? Father Berrawaerts seemed to crop up a lot in Mr Thoradeniya’s long life. Reverend Fr. Augustin Berrawaerts was a Belgian philanthropist who came to Ceylon in 1893 to start Ampitiya College, Mr Thoradeniya’s old school.

    When we first met Mr Thoradeniya, he had almost completed his lifelong ambition, a dream inspired by his mentor Father Berrawaerts. This was his second attempt. His first manuscript had been destroyed by white ants, along with the rest of Mr Thoradeniya’s library of books.

    It had been Father Berrawaerts who first encouraged Mr Thoradeniya to read as a young boy. Later in life, the books of Leo Tolstoy and Bernard Shaw would inspire him to challenge the caste system in his hometown. And Father Berrawaerts continued to mentor Mr Thoradeniya, to be a better teacher, long after the Belgian’s death in 1963.

    Mr Thoradeniya’s wife, also a teacher, sat and listened as her husband talked about his life as a young boy and when they first met. We laughed whenever Mr Thoradeniya referred to her as “this one”. You could tell they were still very much in love and, for Mr Thoradeniya, she was another source of inspiration.

    You don’t meet many teachers like Mr Thoradeniya. He was a gentle man of the old school. Patient and wise, I wished I had been taught by someone like Mr Thoradeniya. Or Father Berrawaerts.

  • ionuttarcea (Ionut Tarcea) says:

    RT @cezarneaga: an old teacher with a beautiful dream: The reader:

  • Dilkie says:

    This is beautiful! Let us know when it comes out. Thanks Cezar. Kannan the photography is lovely. Made me go back to memories of my grandfather and his study (which was rather a sacred place!).

  • Daminda Udumalagala says:

    This is wonderful, although I live so far away from my country, reading and watching these little clips on your website, take me to my childhood memories.

    Here is a thought: please do a piece on Sinhala/Tamil New Year in April…

  • Danuja Lokuliyana says:

    This character and his way of talking reminds me of my grandfather who also used to be an English teacher. I wish he had lived for many more years so that I could have listened to stories like this.

  • Niranjan Goonewardane says:

    Great to see you both on the web. Wish you all the best with the book!

  • Gama Bandaranaike says:

    Hearing the voice of Mr. Thoradeniya takes me to the day I first met him and his family in 1990. I can still remember his keen and friendly-talking style and that memory only reinforces my continuing respect and admiration for him. Our families were joined together in my marriage to his daughter and ever since, he and my father have become very close and still maintain the same respect for each other this day as they did so many years ago. He is a person of such stature that make him so easily likable and relatable to everyone who meets him, with characteristics like his contentment with his simple living lifestyle and never-ending generosity, which come from his very respectable family background. But it’s his determination that has taken him this far in fulfilling his life-long wishes.

    When thinking about all the times, I’ve gotten to spend with my father-in-law; one story about his past aspirations comes to mind. Although, many might not know this, he once wanted to become a lawyer. It was during a visit to a law office, that according to him, a change of heart took place. It was with this change, that he decided that his effort would be better spent as an English teacher. He believed that as a teacher, he could help more people and share his knowledge with others. As he went on to become a principal, I can’t count how many lives he’s influenced and helped mold into better form and character. He selflessly devoted his time and effort into making sure that every individual was shown the attention and assistance they deserved. He has always enjoyed helping others and this new achievement in his life, is no exception.

    I wish you both a happy, healthy, wonderful life and blessings of Triple Gem.

  • Brian Bandaranaike says:

    I am so proud to have such an amazing grandpa. When I first saw him on this website, I was so happy! I still remember some of those old stories you used to tell us, when we were there. I love you both so much and I wish you both a long life with the blessing of the Triple Gem.

  • Bhagya Bandaranaike says:

    My childhood consists mainly of memories of story-telling, where my dear Aththa would travel with me on adventures only possible for me with his vivid and animated imagery, which was further complimented with his soothing voice. His stories would be one of the things I would look forward to most after a hard day at school. Both my grandparents instilled in me a sense of importance in the words: respect and determination, and never relented in their effort to share with me the wonders of the world, no matter how little. They taught me that the impossible is not improbable and that every person deserves to be treated with the utmost respect, among many other things.

    When I heard, the book was finally being published, my admiration and respect for him only grew stronger. How wonderful is it to have such a person in your life that motivates you to better yourself, even after all these years.

    I care about you both deeply. My only regret is that I could not be there with you to celebrate this amazing achievement. Thank you for everything you’ve done and I love you both very much!

    P.S. (Thank you Mr. Arunasalam, Mr. Neaga and Mrs. van der Poorten for producing this medium to share these wonderful stories and allowing me to see and hear my grandparents after many years).

  • T.W.C.Thoradeniya says:

    I sincerely thank Menika van der Poorten and Kannan Arunasalam for sending an account of myself to this website.

    I read with great enthusiasm, the comments made by everyone and I sincerely thank them from the core of my heart.

  • Kannan Arunasalam says:

    Dear Mr Thoradeniya

    It was wonderful to listen to you tell your stories. I hope your book has come out and is a success!

    Best wishes to you and your wife, Kannan


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