Wanted: Time Bombs of the Mind! My third collection of Ravaya columns

Promo note for my latest Sinhala language book, being released this week at Colombo International Book Fair to be held from 10 – 17 September 2014.

Kaala Bomba One Kara Thibe - by Nalaka Gunawardene (Ravaya Publishers, 2014) book cover

Kaala Bomba One Kara Thibe – by Nalaka Gunawardene (Ravaya Publishers, 2014) book cover

Award winning science writer Nalaka Gunawardene’s latest Sinhala book, Kaala Bomba One Kara Thibe (‘කාල බෝම්බ ඕනෑ කර තිබේ!’ = Wanted: Time Bombs of the Mind!), will be released at the Colombo International Book Fair that starts on 10 September 2014.

A Ravaya Publication, the book compiles 44 of his weekly columns named Sivu Mansala Kolu Getaya published in the Ravaya newspaper during 2013-14.

Launched in 2011, the popular column offers musings of a sceptical inquirer who sits at the intersection (or confluence) of science, development, mass media and information society. The University of Sri Jayawardenapura presented Nalaka a Vidyodaya Literary Award for the best newspaper column of 2012.

Written in an easy, conversational Sinhala rich in metaphor and analogy, Nalaka connects the local with global and also bridges sciences and humanities. The new collection touches on pharmaceuticals, organic farming, tobacco control, rationalism, citizen journalism and social media among many other topics.

“Lankan society today suffers from a major deficiency of critical thinking. Blind faith and sycophancy dominate our social, religious, political and cultural spheres. Whether writing on science, development or social issues, Nalaka Gunawardene comes up with refreshing doses of scepticism,” says Gamini Viyangoda, leading Sinhala writer and political commentator.

In his quest for clarity and reason, Nalaka talks to researchers, activists and officials. He also draws on his many experiences and global travels as a journalist and development communicator.

In his foreword, researcher and university lecturer Dr Udan Fernando says: “At a time when insularity and monoculturalism are being celebrated in Sri Lanka, Nalaka represents the endangered cosmopolitan perspective.”

Nalaka has dedicated this book to two giants of public science in Sri Lanka: late Prof Cyril Ponnamperuma (1923-1994) and late Dr Ray Wijewardene (1924-2010). “They embraced the best of East and West without losing their roots. We urgently need such public intellectuals today,” Nalaka says.

The book includes columns profiling the work of both scientists, including the Sinhala adaptation of a long interview with Dr Wijewardene.

The title is inspired by the words of Swedish economist, Gunnar Myrdal, who once said, “Books are like time bombs. If they contain ideas that are correct, then one day they will explode. And if they don’t, they will be consigned to the dustbin of history.”

The 300-page book is priced at Rs. 490. It will be available from leading bookstores, and at special discounts from the Ravaya booth during the Colombo Book Fair.

Sivu Mansala Kolu Getaya - columnhead in Ravaya newspaper

Sivu Mansala Kolu Getaya – columnhead in Ravaya newspaper

End of the World and Other Conspiracies: Columnist Tackles Inconvenient Truths

Cover of Sivu Mansala Kolu Getaya Book 2 by Nalaka Gunawardene, pub Sep 2013

Cover of Sivu Mansala Kolu Getaya Book 2 by Nalaka Gunawardene, pub Sep 2013

PROMO NOTE FOR MY LATEST BOOK:

Science writer Nalaka Gunawardene’s latest Sinhala book, Wada Kaha Sudiye Sita Loka Winashaya Dakwa, will be released at the Colombo International Book Fair that starts on 14 September 2013.

A Ravaya Publication, the book is a collection of the author’s weekly column Sivu Mansala Kolu Getaya contributed to the Ravaya newspaper during 2012-13.

Through 54 columns, the book offers personalised insights and non-technical analysis related many current issues and topics in science, technology, sustainable development and information society in the Lankan context. It is written in an easy, conversational Sinhala style rich in metaphor and analogy.

In particular, this collection probes how and why Lankan society is increasingly prone to peddling conspiracy theories without critical examination or rational discussion. From astrological hype linked to end of the world in 2012 to claims of mass poisoning via agrochemicals, Nalaka seeks to separate facts from hype, conjecture and myth.

The book defies easy categorisation, as it covers topics as diverse as alternative histories, agrochemical misuse, disaster management, Internet censorship, Antarctic exploration, asteroid impacts, cricket history and road safety.

“I seem to have outgrown the neat label of science writer,” says Nalaka. “Indeed, the very title of my column suggests how I sit at the intersection (or confluence) of science, development, mass media and information society.  From that point, I explore tensions between modernity and tradition — and ask more questions than I can easily answer!”

In his quest for clarity and reason, Nalaka talks to researchers, activists and officials. He also draws on his many experiences and global travels as a journalist, TV producer and development communicator.

He has twice won the Science Writer of the Year award (in English) from the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science (SLAAS). The University of Sri Jayawardenapura recently presented him a Vidyodaya Literary Award for the best newspaper column of 2012, for his first collection of Ravaya columns.

The 340-page book is priced at Rs. 550. It will be available from leading bookstores, and at special discounts from the Ravaya booth during the Colombo Book Fair.

‘වදකහ සුදියේ සිට ලෝක විනාශය දක්වා’: සිවුමංසල කොලූ ගැටයා දෙවැනි පොත එළි දකියි

Cover of Sivu Mansala Kolu Getaya Book 2 by Nalaka Gunawardene, pub Sep 2013

Cover of Sivu Mansala Kolu Getaya Book 2 by Nalaka Gunawardene, pub Sep 2013

සම්මානලාභී තීරු ලිපි රචක නාලක ගුණවර්ධනගේ අඵත් ම ග‍්‍රන්ථය ‘වදකහ සුදියේ සිට ලෝක විනාශය දක්වා’ නමින් මේ සතියේ එළි දකියි.

2012-13 වකවානුවෙහි රාවය පුවත්පතට ඔහු ලියූ ‘සිවුමංසල කොලූගැටයා’ තීරු ලිපි අතරින් තෝරා ගත් 54ක් මේ පොතෙහි ඇතුළත් ය. මේ පොතට පෙරවදන ලියා ඇත්තේ ප‍්‍රවීණ විද්‍යා ප‍්‍රබන්ධ පරිවර්තක හා හේතුවාදි කි‍්‍රයාකාරික එස්. එම්. බන්දුසීල මහතා ය.

විසි එක්වන සියවසේ වඩාත් සංකීර්ණ වූ ලක් සමාජය මුහුණ දෙන ගැටඵ හා අභියෝග ගැන විවෘත මනසකින් හා සංසන්දනාත්මකව විග‍්‍රහ කිරීමට සමත් නාලක ගුණවර්ධන, දෙස් විදෙස් මාධ්‍ය හා සන්නිවේදන ක්‍ෂෙත‍්‍රයේ වසර 25කට වැඩි පුඵල් අත්දැකීම් ඇති ද්විභාෂික ලේඛකයෙකි.

රාවය ප‍්‍රකාශනයක් වන “වදකහ සුදියේ සිට ලෝක විනාශය දක්වා” මිළ රු. 550කි. එය විශේෂ වට්ටමකට කොළඹ ජාත්‍යන්තර පොත් ප‍්‍රදර්ශනයේදී ලබා ගත හැකි ය.

2012දී සිදු වනවා යයි ඇතැම් දෙනා බියපත් වූ ‘ලෝක විනාශය’ හරහා මෙරට සමාජයේ හා ජන මාධ්‍ය ක්‍ෂෙත‍්‍රයේ ආකල්ප මෙන් ම භීතිකා ගැනත් සාකච්ජා කැරෙන ලිපි කිහිපයක් මේ එකතුවෙහි හමු වෙයි.

නව නිපැයුම්කරුවන් මුහුණ දෙන අභියෝග, ඉන්ටර්නෙට් ප‍්‍රගමනය හරහා මතු වන සමාජ ප‍්‍රවණතා, දේශගුණ විපර්යාසවලට ප‍්‍රතිචාර දැක්වීමේ හොඳම ක‍්‍රමෝපාය හා කෘෂි රසායනිකවලට ඇබ්බැහි වූ අපේ ගොවිතැන වැනි කාලීන මාතෘකා ගැන තුලනාත්මකවත්, සරලවත් විග‍්‍රහ කරන කතුවරයා බොහෝ විට තම වෘත්තීය අත්දැකීම් හා සංචාරයන් එයට පාදක කර ගනියි.

විශ්වයේ අන්තිම සිංහල වචනය ගැනත්, ශී‍්‍ර ලංකාව හඳ අහිමි කර ගත් සැටි ගැනත් සුවිශේෂී හෙලිදරවු තවත් ලිපි හරහා මතු වෙයි. ඇන්ටාක්ටිකාවට ගිය ශී‍්‍ර ලාංකිකයන් ගැන මුල් වරට සිංහල මාධ්‍ය හරහා කථා කළේ සිවුමංසල කොලූ ගැටයා තීරු ලිපියයි.

“වැඩවසම් මානසිකත්වයකට කොටු වී, විවිධ කුමන්ත‍්‍රණ ගැන බියපත් වෙමින්, පසුගාමීව සිටින ලක් සමාජය ආත්ම විශ්වාසයකින් යුතුව හා විචාරශීලීව විසි එක් වන සියවසේ සංකීර්ණ ප‍්‍රශ්නවලට මුහුණ දෙනු දැකීම මගේ සිහිනයයි,” නාලක ගුණවර්ධන කියයි.

2012දී පළ කෙරුණු සිවුමංසල කොලූ ගැටයා මුල් තීරු ලිපි එකතුවට මෑතදී පැවැති විද්‍යොදය සාහිත්‍ය සම්මාන උළෙලෙහි ගෙවුණු වසරේ හොඳම තීරුලිපි ග‍්‍රන්ථයට පිදෙන සම සම්මානය පිරිනැමුණි.

‘නව තාක්‍ෂණය හා නව මාධ්‍ය හේතු කොට ගෙන විපර්යාසයට ලක්වන ලෝකයත්, තොරතුරුත් දෘෂ්ටිමය අතීතකාමීකමකින් නිදහස්ව දකින්නට වෑයම් කිරීම මෙහි විශෙෂත්වයයි’ යනුවෙන් සම්මාන හේතු පාඨයේ සඳහන් වී ය.

අතීත උරුමයන් රැක ගන්නා අතර නිර්මාණශීලී හා ගවේෂණාත්මක අයුරින් නූතනත්වය අප සමාජයට අදාල කර ගත හැක්කේ කෙසේ ද යන්නට සිවුමංසල කොලූ ගැටයා ප‍්‍රායෝගික අත්වැලක් සපයයි. හීනමානයක් හෝ අධිමානයක් හෝ නොමැතිව තාත්වික මට්ටමින් විශ්ව ගම්මානයේ ගෞරවනීය සාමාජිකයන් ලෙස ලක් අපට හිමි තැන නිරවුල්ව පාදා ගන්නට ඉගි ලබා දෙයි.

Nalaka Gunawardene wins Literary Award for Best Newspaper Column

Report in Ceylon Today,  5 September 2013:

Nalaka Gunawardene wins literary award - Ceylon Today, 5 Sep 2013, page 2

Nalaka Gunawardene wins literary award – Ceylon Today, 5 Sep 2013, page 2

Science writer Nalaka Gunawardene won the Vidyodaya Literary Award for the best newspaper column in Sinhala during 2012.

The award is one of several presented annually by the University of Sri Jayawardenapura to celebrate creative writing and journalism in Sri Lanka. Each September, the University’s faculty members and students announce their selection of the preceding year’s most outstanding published books in the Sinhala language.

The award ceremony, held on 2 September 2013 at the National Library Services Board auditorium in Colombo, recognized the best Sinhala novel, best short story collection, best poetry collection, best lyrics collection and the best newspaper column of 2012.

Nalaka won the award for his Sinhala language column titled Sivu Mansala Kolu Getaya (සිවුමංසල කොලූ ගැටයා), which he has been writing on a weekly basis in the Ravaya Sunday broadsheet newspaper since early 2011. A collection of 44 selected columns was published in September 2012 as a book by the same name. It was a Ravaya Publication.

The award citation, read by Professor Dammika Ganganath Dissanayeke,  Head of the Department of Sinhala and Mass communication at the University, described Sivu Mansala Kolu Getaya as being in a league of its own, engaging twenty first century Lankans.

It noted the broad range of the column’s topics and subjects – such as information society, innovation, climate change, disaster management, HIV/AIDs, energy crisis and censorship – and commended the colloquial language in which it is written.

Copies of the book, priced at Rs 450, are still available from all leading bookstores. The second book of columns, also a Ravaya Publication, will be released later this month during Colombo International Book Fair.

As a bilingual writer, Nalaka Gunawardene also writes a weekly English column (When Worlds Collide) in Ceylon Today every Sunday.

Sivu Mansala Kolu Getaya column: Vidyodaya Literary award citation

Professor Dammika Ganganath Dissanayeke reads award citation for best newspaper column 2012 at Vidyodaya Lit Award ceremony, 2 Sep 2013. Photo by Janaka Sri Jayalath

Professor Dammika Ganganath Dissanayeke reads award citation for best newspaper column 2012 at Vidyodaya Lit Award ceremony, 2 Sep 2013. Photo by Janaka Sri Jayalath

I just won the Vidyodaya Literary Award for the best newspaper column in Sinhala during 2012.

This is the relevant extract from the award citation, read by Professor Dammika Ganganath Dissanayeke, Head of the Department of Sinhala and Mass communication at the University of Sri Jayawardenapura:

නාලක ගුණවර්ධනගේ  “සිවුමංසල කොලූගැටයා” රාවය පුවත්පතේ පළවූ තීරු ලිපිවල එකතුවක්. කතුවරයාගේ වස්තු විෂය බෙහෙවින් විරල අත්දැකීමක්. නූතන ලෝකයේ අප හිටගෙන සිටින මහපොළොව ගැන කතුවරයා කතා කරනවා. ඒවා කාටුන්, විකිලීක්ස්, න්‍යෂ්ටික කාන්දු, දේශගුණික විපර්යාස, පරිසර දුෂණය,විකිපීඩියා, AIDS, ස්ටීව් ජොබ්ස් වැනි නූතන පරම්පරාවේ මොළයට වද දෙන විෂය පථ දිගේ දුවනවා.

නව තාක්ෂණය හා නව මාධ්‍ය හේතුකොටගෙන විපර්සායකට ලක්වන ලෝකයත් තොරතුරුත් දෘෂ්ටිමය අතීතකාමීකමකින් නිදහස්ව දකින්නට වෑයම් කිරීම මෙහි විශේෂත්වයයි.

ආතර් සී.ක්ලාක් සමග කතුවරයා කළ සාකච්ඡාවක් දැක්වුනු ලිපියත් ගැටලූ විසඳන අසමම්මත චින්තනයට ඉඩ දෙන්න යන ලිපියත් මේ කෘතියේ දෘෂ්ටි පථය හා විෂය ක්ෂේත‍්‍රය පිළිබඳ සංකේතයක් ලෙස මා දකිනවා.

කතුවරයා ලියන්නේ අපට නොවේ. අපෙන් පසු ආ ආගන්තුක අයි ටී අතපතගාන පරම්පරාවටත් නොවේ. ඊළඟට එන්න ඇඟ හිරි අරින සයිබර් පරම්පරාවටයි. ඊට උචිත වේගවත් බස් වහරක් ද ආකෘතියක් ද කතුවරයා යොදාගෙන තිබෙනවා. එය වක‍්‍රාකාර නැත. මට සිලිටි ද නැත. එහෙත් එය කදිමට ගැලපෙනව කියල මට හිතෙනවා.

‘Sivu Mansala Kolu Getaya’ wins Vidyodaya Literary Award for Best Newspaper Column 2012

Nalaka Gunawardene receives Vidyodaya Literary Award for Best Column of 2012 from Ms Nayayani Widanapathirana, 2nd year student of University of Sri Jayawardenapura [Photo courtesy J'pura flames/Facebook]

Nalaka Gunawardene receives Vidyodaya Literary Award for Best Column of 2012 from Ms Nayayani Widanapathirana, 2nd year student of University of Sri Jayawardenapura [Photo courtesy J’pura flames/Facebook]

I just received a totally unexpected award from an unlikely source. Vidyodaya Literary Award for best newspaper column in Sinhala during 2012.

The award is one of several presented annually by the University of Sri Jayawardenapura to celebrate creative writing and journalism in Sri Lanka. Each September, the University’s faculty members and students announce their selection of the preceding year’s most outstanding published books in the Sinhala language.

The award ceremony, held on 2 September 2013 at the National Library Services Board auditorium in Colombo, recognized the best Sinhala novel, best short story collection, best poetry collection, best lyrics collection and the best newspaper column of 2012.

My award, for the best newspaper column collection of 2012, is for Sivu Mansala Kolu Getaya (සිවුමංසල කොලූ ගැටයා), which came out in September 2012.

A Ravaya Publication, the book comprises a selection of my weekly Sinhala columns by the same name, contributed to the Ravaya Sunday broadsheet newspaper during 2011-12.

Beginning in February 2011, I have sustained the weekly column that touches on many and varied topics related to popular science, human development, mass media and information society. The book compiled 44 of these columns.

The award citation, read by Professor Dammika Ganganath Dissanayeke, Head of the Department of Sinhala and Mass communication at the University, described Sivu Mansala Kolu Getaya  as being in a league of its own, engaging twenty first century Lankans.

The citation noted the broad range of the column’s topics and subjects – such as information society, innovation, climate change, disaster management, HIV/AIDs, energy crisis and censorship – and commended the colloquial language in which it is written.

Vidyodaya Literary Award winners for 2012 - L to R - Rathna Shri Wijesinghe, Liyanage Amarakeerthi, Buddhadasa Galappaththi, Mahinda Prasad Mashibula & Nalaka Gunawardene [Photo courtesy: J'pura flames/Facebook]

Vidyodaya Literary Award winners for 2012 – L to R – Rathna Shri Wijesinghe, Liyanage Amarakeerthi, Buddhadasa Galappaththi, Mahinda Prasad Mashibula & Nalaka Gunawardene
[Photo courtesy: J’pura flames/Facebook]

My last awards were nearly two decades ago (and all for my English writing). These days, I’m much more involved in judging and giving awards to others – ranging from global Digital Emmys to national integrity awards.

The columns and the book are a personalised exploration of how Sri Lanka can cope with many challenges of globalisation and modernisation. Or, if you like more lofty words (ugh!), how a low middle income nation of 20 million can define its identity in turbulent times of rapid change.

The title is of my column puzzles some readers. It’s derived from the angle it offers, and a reflection of my own career and interests: I stand at the intersection (or confluence) of science, sustainable development, media and popular culture. From there, I often play the role of that cheeky lad who asked difficult questions, and once pointed out the Emperor(s) had nothing on when all others were either too polite — or too scared — to say so.

I write in conversational Sinhala mostly because that’s the only command of the language I can muster! Having studied the language only in primary and secondary school, I have no particular literary skill and certainly no artistic pretensions. I just write to express, not impress.

It looks as if others appreciate this simplicity. I use plenty of metaphor and analogy, and also draw on my own wide experiences as a journalist, filmmaker and development communicator.

I like to ‘zoom in’ and ‘zoom out’ when discussing diverse topics. I do so with an open mind and sense of wonder. I have no political ideology to promote — and also no sacred cows to protect or defend!

As a journalist, I was trained to look for what’s New, True and Interesting (‘NTI Test’). Early on in my career, I went beyond simply reporting events, and probed the underlying causes and processes. With those insights, I can now offer my readers perspectives and seasoned opinion. These are much needed today as we swim through massive volumes of information, trying to stay afloat and make sense of it all.

As I said when the book was launched: “In a sense, with this column I have come back home. The last time I wrote in Sinhala was in another century, and in what now feels like another country!”

So it’s nice to be recognized — in the very different land and time where I find myself both a native and an immigrant…

Sivu Mansala Kolu Getaya book cover: A Ravaya Publication