By Capt Elmo Jayawardena

A & K Literary Festival opens its doors for a full day’s entertainment on 20 October 2019 at 0900. Renowned writer and teacher, Dileepa Abeysekera will be the opening bat doing a workshop on creative writing. The venue, as usual, is the historic Mount Lavinia Hotel, regal and elegant, a hard to beat location for a lit festival. The management of MLH very generously supports A & K by giving the use of the hotel FREE as their sponsorship contribution for the event. That is how the organisers squeeze the limes and lemons to make it affordable to literature lovers who need to pay only 100 rupees to access all the entertainment of the one-day festival.

Set your alarm, rise with the sun on 20 October, come to Mount Lavinia Hotel and buy a ticket for 100 rupees and enjoy the tri-lingual literary feast that awaits you.

Too many events are in the menu for me to elaborate in detail. But, let me highlight one important segment in order to bring it to your attention. ‘Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest’ is straight from Thomas Grey’s Elegy. ‘Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,’ that too is relevant. A & K will have four visually impaired writers, two from each gender, coming to take part in ‘Anduru Lovin Eliyata’ and talk about how they became writers and how they wrote their manuscripts and pleaded and prayed for publication.  This event starts at 1300, and it is going to be literature from a different side of the coin. These veterans wrote in darkness, mostly in braille and had no fancy laptops to do spell and grammar checks and copy and paste. They wrote for the love of writing. If not for anything else come and see ‘Anduru Lovin Eliyata’ and cheer these four musketeers for their sheer perseverance and courage. Our local Miltons and Helen Kellers have set the bar very high for any budding author. Listen to them, learn from them and walk away with your own determination to become a new-born author.

Gamini comes from Meerigama, Padmini from Ambalangoda, Upul from Arawwawala and Susila from Kaduwela. The moderator will be the newly crowned State Literary Award winner Virajini Thennakoon of Makaranandaya fame.

I asked the writer from Ambalangoda how she hopes to travel to the festival? "By bus Captain."  There she was, getting up early to reach Mount Lavinia on time and braving a long bus ride with her impaired eyesight.  That just did not seem right. I needed someone to take care of the transport. The Boss of Vision Care readily agreed that his company will sponsor the travel costs of all four participants. That is kindness in its purest form.

"Do you know the Mount Lavinia Hotel?" I asked another of the four.

"I have never seen it nor have I been there, but I know it well."

I like a fool asked how?

"Sir, sometimes we got a patty or a cutlet with our ‘Kiri-Bath’ piece breakfast when we were at the Ratmalana School for the Blind. We knew that was a gift from the Mount Lavinia Hotel." The voice was soft, but it said it all.

Now you know why it is so important for these Miltons and Helen Kellers to be on the stage at MLH for A and K. 

This is just one story from Annasi and Kadalagotu. Many more await in different locations within the hotel for you to walk about and breathe literature on 20 October. New authors get their baptism on stage to tell the audience how they navigated the pitfall filled path to get their precious books published. The veterans, mostly award winners, will share their thoughts on our Sri Lankan tri-lingual literature and where it is heading. There will be workshops conducted (by  people who know what they are talking about) for children as well as adults, all related to literature. Poets and ‘wanna be’ word-minters  would converse over a coffee listening to modernized folk music played by the black-clad Bambaras. Painters will paint and book sellers will vend, both new and used novels to suit the taste and purse of all comers. Nuwan from Vijitha Yapa’s will be there and so would Deen the Book man, the ultimate expert.

Mount Lavinia Hotel carries a love story starring Governor Maitland and the gypsy dancer Lovina. To commemorate that romance, A and K will have a ‘love letter’ writing competition where participants need to pen approximately 50 words pouring their heart in the language of their choice. The champion love letter writer will be selected. All details about this romantic competition are available in the A and K lit fest Facebook page. Winners will be announced at the festival. The best part of this competition is that there is no age limit.  

Annasi and Kadalagotu will be five years old on October 20. It has survived to serve the common you and me tri-lingual literature, as inheritors of our beautiful land. A and K is a place for lit lovers to meet. Afterall, it is simply literature, simply local.

So, make sure you are there when the inglorious visually impaired writers take the stage.

Make sure you search your soul and coin the words to become a born-again Maitland or Lovina to re-ignite the Mount Lavinia Hotel romance.

Whatever you do, make sure you do not miss A & K on the 20th.

At 100 rupees a ticket, you simply cannot go wrong.

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