Source: Sunday Observer
"I have two pastimes; drama and charity,"says Janaki Edirisinghe Hill. She can be introduced as a dancer, dramatist, social worker and one of the best production managers in many fields. More than anything else she is a lover of children. Although she is yet to be a mother, 'aunty Janaki' is adored by many little ones and teens.
Janaki's first appearance on stage was for an uninvited performance when she was about five or six years old.
"Once there was a 'Devaduta Perehera' in our village, Arakawila, Ingiriya. Many dance items took place from time to time, and in the evening, some little girls performed a beautiful 'Pahatharata' dance on stage. When I heard the 'Pahatharata' drum beat I couldn't resist, and somehow got on to the stage and started dancing with them. I was smoothly carried away and handed over to my mother," she giggles.
Janaki's mother was astonished about her youngest and the naughtiest among her nine children. She registered her Tom boy to 'Ruhunu Kala Kavaya' to learn 'Pahatharata' dancing under the renowned dancer Kalinga Obeywanse. Later Janaki mastered her dancing talent under Sedaraman Gurunnanse of Handapangoda. "I still cannot resist the 'Pahatharata' drum beat. My pulse begins to race and my limbs begins to shake as if I have had an electric shock," she laughs.
Janaki comes from a middle class village family. Her father was an ex-army man. The boys took after the father while the girls towed an academical line. But, after passing the O/Ls with flying colours, Janaki took a break from her studies and she made a change.
In 1993, in commemoration of the late celebrated dramatist Dhamma Jagoda, his wife Manel Jagoda and Dharmajith Punarjeewa founded the 'Maayashakthi Foundation'. Janaki joined with them and became one of the 150 drama enthusiasts of the troupe. The drama foundation was an university of life for the village girl.
At one moment she was on the stage rehearsing her dialogues, the next moment she would be designing costumes. And followed it up with drama production and then even cooked a meal for the drama group.
She sold tickets for a drama show while running to the Cultural Ministry to get some approval or to get an advertisement or sponsorship for it. 'Lihini', 'Piriven Piyuma', 'Hiroshima', 'Yerma' and 'Paulina' were the dramas she took part while being with 'Maayashakthi'
Janaki became a freelance journalist when she began contributing to 'Kasaaya', the paper for visual and performing arts issued by 'Maayashakthi'. " 'Kasaaya' was sold on the road by hand by us (the whole group) all over the island. It was really interesting. We gained so much of experience by moving and conversing with people right from the top to the other extreme.
Among many memorable incidents, the most impressive and monumental happening in Janaki's life was, the random meeting she had with Peter Hill, the Chief Executive Officer of the Sri Lankan Airlines who later became her life time partner.
Janaki has been a sports lover too. Netball and high jump were her favourite school day sports. She even won the all island second place for high jump. The days have passed so soon changing her destiny.
She is still a Tom boy! Her active and energetic spirit seems to increase day by day. Yesterday's village girl is today skiing on snow hills at winter sports clubs in France with her husband. Golf is among her other favourite sports.
Janaki did a short drama course in Greek Theatre in Cypress, and had a month's training at the Ballet Dancing School of London. After her hectic schedule with 'Maayashakthi' for twelve years, Janaki has decided to take a brief break.
Her exposure to theatre enabled her to make her first production, 'Expression of Life 2003', a blend of dancing modes of 'Pahatharata' and ballet at the Little Theatre, Borella last year. Her second production will be a play 'Devlova giya Mal Kekulu' with the children of the Noguchi Boys Orphanage at Pepiliyana where she does some charity work as the dancing and drama instructress. "They love me and I adore them. Understanding the mind of a child is a hard yet a simple task.
There are many heart rendering and anguished stories affiliated to the lives of these children. My play is based on a few true stories of theirs. It's hard to believe that this world is so cruel. Parents should be blamed for their idiotic decisions and crude negligence which lead their innocent children to hell," says Janaki who has been a foster mother nursing the orphans with love and care.
Janaki begins her daily routine after meditating a few minutes in the morning. She loves to listen to soft meditative music any time of the day. Reading books on arts is her leisure. Producing a documentary or a short film on child psychology is one of her dreams. Publishing a collection of short stories she has written and producing another musical dancing show next year are also among her hopes.
And social service is the favourite pastime of both Mr. and Mrs. Hill. Simplicity is their faith.
"Take care of your children. Make this world a fearless and beautiful place for the little ones to grow up happily," pleaded Janaki when concluding.