Sinhala children’s weekly newspaper Mihira has just completed 50 years of publication. The paper holds nostalgic memories for those of us who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s with limited access to reading material.
The tabloid was launched by Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (ANCL, or Lake House) on 27 July 1964. Its founder editor was veteran journalist Srilal Hikkaduwa Liyanage (who was also founder editor of Tharunee women’s newspaper and Navayugaya informative newspaper from the same publishing house).
I wasn’t even born when Mihira came out. Sometime in 1969, when I was a precocious three-year-old, my father bought me my first copy. I was hooked: for the next dozen years, I eagerly awaited the arrival of each week’s issue on Mondays.
In the early years, Mihira carried a mix of stories, comics, articles and verse. While many were produced by talented writers and artists who understood the child’s mind, some were actually children’s own contributions.
In fact, Mihira is where I first got myself into print. As a school boy of 9 years, I submitted several of my (Sinhala) verses to Mihira (at the suggestion of my Grade 3 class teacher). One of them, on my perception of an animated clock, was printed in one issue of October 1975. I was thrilled to bits – that clipping is somewhere at the bottom of my personal archives…
Funnily enough, thousands of printed pieces later, I still get an enormous kick each time a newspaper publishes my writing.
To me (and many others of my generation), the most memorable part of Mihira were extraordinary comics written and drawn by S A Dissanayake. He drew a long-running comic (chitra katha) called Onna Babo (‘ඔන්න බබො’), which chronicled the adventures of three intrepid kids (‘බූ – බබා’, ‘තුල්සි’) and involved a wicked witch (බටකොළ ආච්චි), wizards and other characters. For us entertainment starved kids, ඔන්න බබො was Harry Potter of the 1960s and 70s. All these years later, some sub-plots are still clearly etched in my memory…
S A Dissanayake also drew the more comical Yodaya (‘‘යෝධයා’’) about a good-hearted village giant and a learned but wicked man (‘‘යෝධයා සහ පඬිතුමා”), as well as several other popular comics.
When some teachers and parents condemn all comics as polluting children’s minds, I always remind them of the glorious exceptions created by S A Dissanayake. Some feel his stories paved the way for the enormous popularity of TinTin comics and animations in Sri Lanka later on.
I just read that Dissanayake (who was a school teacher by profession) still draws children’s comics for Mihira – a rare feat (world record?) of a comic artist drawing for the same publication for half a century.
ළමයින්ට දැනුම විනෝදය ගෙන එන ‘මිහිර’ ට 50යි
බුබම්බා, යෝධයා,පඬිතුමා හා බටකොළ ආච්චි ළමා ලෝකයට රැගෙන ආ ඇස්.ඒ.දිසානායක