By Nabeela Hussain
Just fourteen when she started to write her novel, Thisuri Wanniarachchi is a young novelist in the making. With an ambition to make films in the future Thisuri has taken the first steps to make a change in the world.
“The experiences in life and knowing how the people I know react made it easy for me for me to write the Colombo Streets,” she said speaking about her book. “Colombo Streets” is about two children Sarah and Indeewari from very different backgrounds and how they deal with the circumstances that life has thrown at them.
Sarah who is from an affluent background is a hard working swimmer with many plans for the future and Indeewari is a war orphan, who is adopted by Sarah’s family. The two at first do not get along too well but their relationship takes a different turn when Sarah is diagnosed with cancer and the story ends with hope for Sarah. The novel ends with the uncertainty of whether Sarah will survive or not. “I leave it to the imagination of the reader; I have to leave something for them to imagine,” said Thisuri.
The book Thisuri says is a mixture of everything that she is interested in and what she wants to talk about. “I love sports, I’m interested in tennis and writing, that’s why I chose one of the main characters to be interested in swimming and cancer is something that I want to talk about,” she said.
The aspect of war has been ever present in Thisuri’s life as her father is in the forces. “It was hard growing up at times, because my father was stationed in the North and we always lived with the risk of loosing him,” she said. The end of the war therefore brought Thisuri and her family relief as her father is now stationed in Colombo and at home much more.
“Sometimes people didn’t take the war seriously because they lived in Colombo but it was always a different for us,” she explained. It was with wining of the National Literary Award for the Best Novel 2009, that Thisuri started at British School in Colombo on the scholarship that she was offered.
Having studied at St. Bridget’s Convent until her O/L’s, Thisuri is now studying a combination of Biology, English Literature, Economics and Business Studies at the British School.
“I want to make films,” she said with a determined smile when asked what she wanted to do in the future. Thisuri says that English in the way forward and therefore she hopes to make the films in English, but also making it understandable to Sri Lankans. This is not the only reason to be making films in English she says, studying and speaking in English it would be easier for her to make the films in English. “I watch and keep in touch with films such as Ira Handa Yata, Suriya Arana,” she said.
Speaking of her experience in Kenyon College, Ohio, Thisuri told of the experience she had at the workshop that she had participated in. Chosen as one of the lucky seventy from over thousand writers from all over the world who applied for the workshop, Thisuri says that she is thankful to be born in a country where the people knew the importance of a second language. “Most Americans don’t speak a second language and they are amazed to see how well we speak and write in our second language, sometimes it’s better than even they do,” she said.
Thisuri also says that it was a learning experience as she learnt so much from her two weeks’ stay and learnt that there was much more to be learnt about writing.
Coming from a background of authors Thisuri says that it is to her mother that she turns to for a critique when she writes something. “My mother is an authour and has published some books. When I write something she reads it over and gives me her opinion,” she said. Having an older brother who is a writer as well, it is to him that she turns to when she needs guidance in her language.
Growing up Thisuri says that she concentrated much more on sports and her school work but as time went by she found the time to write and quite enjoyed it. The first short story that she wrote “The Wind” was the story of a girl who lost her mother in the tsunami and who at the end of the story waits for them to come back with the belief that they are yet alive. Her father’s absence and her family’s continuous fear for his life gave her the experience of knowing what it would be like to lose a parent.
Speaking about her father, she says that he is a prolific reader whom she is happy to have at home and out of danger.
Thisuri says that her friends have been supportive and encouraging, helping her whenever and whereverl they can. “My friends have been very helpful throughout. When I read something that I’ve written to them they agree and nod and tell me how good it was even though they don’t understand it a times,” she said laughing.