Vicum Priya Perera – mathematician, translator and electronic recorder



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Meeting Vicum Perera and family was an inspiring event for me.


The words ‘inspiring’ and ‘event’ connote strong personal experience and an important occasion. Having him and his wife Lilani and their three daughters to tea was most pleasant and inspiring for here was a migrant family doing well in the United States of America. Doing well does not mean merely materially and being wealthy; it means leading lives of value, benefiting by what’s good in the States but retaining cultural norms of Sri Lanka. The three girls are Shani – a first year medical student, Vindya - just embarking on an undergraduate program and Vihanga in high school. They maintain strong ties with family, relatives and friends in the country of birth of Vicum and Lilani.


Vicum graduated with first class honours from the Faculty of Mathematics, University of Colombo, and became an assistant lecturer in math in the same university. He married Lilani Devika Perera who was a lecturer in the School of Nursing. He went to the States to obtain higher qualifications and succeeded in obtaining a PhD in mathematics, with ease. By this time they had three daughters. They decided to settle down in Ohio where he is now Professor of Mathematics in the Kent State University.


Diverse interests


There seems to be some inexplicable connection between math and music, math and computer technology, so soon enough Vicum extended his interest and time to these two fields. He wrote songs, translated songs, brought out CDs and has plenty plans for moving further in these areas. He first wrote a song in English when greatly affected by seeing on TV the 2004 tsunami devastation in Sri Lanka. He translated the song to Sinhala and loaded it on his website. This initial venture into music was in collaboration with Nalin and Rohan Jayawardena who have a recording studio in Australia. He had done no major translation but when approached by Nimal Mendis, he very successfully translated a song of Nimal’s from English to Sinhala. This was followed by twelve songs of Nimal’s which he has translated with sensitivity and accuracy. If you have heard Nimal’s tsunami song in Sinhala you will agree fully with what I write here.


Vicum started writing his own songs which were set to music by Bhadraji Mahinda Jayatilleke resident in California. This collaboration started in 2008, continues with many new ventures successfully undertaken. Vicum is proud of one of his latest achievements – that of uploading the entire Dhammapada to four CDs in collaboration with a Buddhist monk – Beruwela Sirisobhitha Thera - resident in Perth, who chanted and explained the 423 verses in Pali to Sinhala. Four CDs of the Dhammapada in English were then produced with the translator Gil Fronsdal, Director of the Insight Medication Center in California, lending his voice to the chanting and explanation of the gathas.


Vicum has another talent, namely creative writing and more especially composing kavi or poetry. His first book of Sinhala poetry was out in 2001, followed by annual publications of his work since 2008. His 2013 publication titled pa satahan (footprints) was published by Sarasavi Publishers.


Vicum has plenty of plans for the future, which are, one can justifiably say, global. He has recorded digitally his compositions sung by Janaka Wimaladharma, a local singer. He has also brought out a Sinhala audio book in five CDs – a novel by Bhadraji Mahinda Jayatilleke in collaboration with Sarasavi Publishers. He plans on an expatriate album of music and song by people living out of Sri Lanka. This huge project is in collaboration with the Boston Lanka Media Groups. So here is Vicum very busy with his electronic interests while a professor of Mathematics in Kent State University, Ohio.


What about his family? His wife Lilani continues her career in nursing. The daughters, tall and lovely, are very keen on their studies and seem to retain family values we in Sri Lanka promote. They love Sri Lanka and enjoy their visits every four or five years. Frequenter visits are not possible since coordination with school vacations and university semesters is tricky. Lilani says their life in Ohio is very comfortable but insists the kids maintain ties with cousins over here.


Each time they visit they see vast changes in the country. For example they had bought a block of land in Ja-ela which was rural but now is densely populated. They traveled and noticed that roads are excellent. They loved the days spent in Trincomalee this July and were suitably impressed by the Sigiriya Museum, the girls spending hours reading all the printed information and of course watching the electronic presentations. The traffic somewhat bothered them; Vicum saying he is too scared to drive.


There are not many Sri Lankans in the town they live in but a drive of an hour or two brings them to other Sri Lankan families. They lead a good life over in Ohio. Good wishes are extended to this family for success in their various careers, education and choices spread out before them.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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