Well-known writer Anne Ranasinghe celebrated her 85th birthday recently with an evening of poetry and music, which she shared with friends, colleagues from the community of local writers, and a few family members. The cosy, atmospheric get-together took place on Saturday, October 2 at Mrs. Ranasinghe’s residence in Rosmead Place, Colombo 7.
|Dr. Nihal Ranasinghe dedicates a solo piano recital to his mother, Anne Ranasinghe, on her 85th birthday.
The soirée featured selected poems by Anne Ranasinghe, read by writer Ashok Ferrey, and a performance of classical music. Singer Preshi Navaratnam, accompanied at the piano by Ramya de Livera Perera, performed arias from Mozart and Puccini operas, while Mrs. Ranasinghe’s son, Dr. Nihal Ranasinghe, gave a solo piano recital that included works by Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and Tchaikovsky.
Dr. Ranasinghe and his wife Neila had flown out from England specially for the occasion, and the concert of piano music was Nihal’s birthday gift to his mother.
One of the poems read out was “A Birthday In Autumn”, written when Anne Ranasinghe was surrounded by her family – her husband, the late Professor D. A. Ranasinghe, sons Ananda and Nihal, and daughters Shanthi and Renuka (her children, all professionals, live in the United States, the UK and Australia).
The poem evokes the Europe that Anne Ranasinghe, born Anneliese Katz – a German citizen who was forced to flee Nazi Germany at the age of 13, and who spent the war years in England – left behind to come to Sri Lanka. An unusually chilly October brings back memories of autumns in Europe.
“ We shut all windows / draw the curtains / light a lamp that encloses / me, my husband, children. /
Greeting cards / make a frieze along the bookcase …”
The poem ends thus:
“ It is the coldest season/ since I came to the tropics./ Or maybe I just feel the cold / because time is getting old.”
Mrs. Ranasinghe’s guests would have felt a frisson of immediacy and intimacy, listening to words evoking an October 2 birthday of long ago, sitting in the very drawing room described in the poem, with its lamp-lit ambience, bookcase and frieze of greeting cards, artwork, and photographs and portraits of the poet’s four children, and being in the presence of the poet herself.
And Anne Ranasinghe – looking around a room full of people who over the years have made her feel welcome in her adopted country, at fellow writers and poets, including young artists whom she has encouraged and nurtured (one guest took the opportunity to present her soon-to-be-released volume of poems to the older poet) – may well have said to herself: This wonderful evening is itself a poem.