Many leaders who wanted to change the world have changed their name imposing a new identity upon them. Most of them have adopted pen names, stage names and whatnot, in their mission to change the world armed with their new identity.
Mayura Bandara wanted a name no one has heard of, something that would not blow his cover. Consequently, he adopted the name Kurulu Niskalanka. He went so far as to get it registered at the Department of Registration of Persons.
“Now it has become my identity. People know me as Kurulu,” said Kurulu who has even been awarded under the name Kurulu Niskalanka. Kurulu is of the opinion that people in general prefer new names, someone they’ve never heard of. When the name is familiar people tend to judge the artiste based on their experience of his or her previous work, says Kurulu. But for him, Kurulu is not a mere name. He wants to promote it as a brand, for which he has even designed a logo that is currently undergoing registration process.
Kurulu, a resident of Kaduwela, originally from Kandy, received his education from D.S. Senanayake College. He followed a course in Media Studies at the National Youth Services Council in 2005. Since then writing became a passion. Although wanted to join a media company and in fact, wrote to newspapers and radio channels. This did not bring him the satisfaction he sought. Kurulu’s passion for poetry predates facebook. He wrote poetry in JPEG format and circulated it in bulk email.
Then there was Anan Manan, a chat room where people could chat with each other on various topics. “I used to share my poetry there and people really loved them. Then in 2009 I started to write on facebook. Facebook won’t be the final platform. If some new trend comes along I’ll write there too,” says Kurulu.
Since 2009 Kurulu has been able to build himself an ever increasing fan base, through his poetic expressions. “No one can publish a book and get it through to a larger audience without having previously published work. Hardly anyone succeeds with the first book. First you have to reach out to the people. Facebook is the finest way of doing it,” Kurulu explained.
Kurulu has already made a place for himself in the field of advertising. Writing poetry is his form of relaxation. “Some argue that poetry should address certain social issues. But for me it is a platform where I can relieve myself of the stress that accumulates throughout the day,” Kurulu said, explaining his reasons for writing poetry. “Poems being brief may be the reason I write them the most, but I prefer writing stories,” Kurulu added.
Kurulu published his first collection of poetry, Kurulu Kawi, in 2015. But selling his book in a bookshop was against his principles. Anyone who is interested in his poetry can personally request Kurulu for a book.
“When someone orders a book I send it with a greeting and my signature. It’s worth more than buying a book from a bookshop,” Kurulu explained. Besides, this is more profitable than selling the book through a bookshop, according to Kurulu. He has already sold the whole 1,000 copies from the first edition and more than 500 from the second.
“Almost all my books were sold through my facebook page. I don’t want to direct my fan base to a certain bookshop,” he added. He has given more than 300 copies to libraries island-wide. “When someone spends Rs 500 on a book they pay Rs 150 as publication cost for another book so it can be donated to a library attributing that person as the contributor,” Kurulu explained.
Kurulu opined that the lack of magical realism and epics are shortcomings of Sri Lankan literature. Consequently Kurulu’s next publication will take the form of one of these genres. He also hopes to launch a website and app where people can read and comment on literary work, for a monthly membership fee.
“There are doctors, lawyer and graphic designers on facebook, who refuse to do anything without getting paid. So why should a writer?” Kurulu questions, drawing attention to the fact that writers on facebook never get paid for what they write. “People believe it’s a writer’s duty to upload something every day so an audience to enjoy it free of charge.”
Kurulu’s intention is to connect writers with his website and app and share the income. “The income will be distributed among the writers so they can use it for their future publications.” He pointed out that a writer’s main problem is lack of money for publication.
“There are people who don’t hesitate to utilize features such as m tunes or daily predictions. There are people who like to read a few pages before they go to bed. This way paying two or three rupees a day will allow them to read something they prefer while benefiting the writer.”
Kurulu wants to change the system where writers are criticized for what they write, but are rarely benefitted or appreciated.
When asked about the challenges faced as a writer Kurulu says that other writers are not a challenge for him as works on the same subject matter by different artistes differ from each other and are unique on to themselves. “Yet protecting your work from being copied is a challenge.”
Lack of money is another challenge Kurulu did not have to bother about. “I had a strong fan base upon which I could totally depend. In fact, I was able to do the book because of them. Some of them paid for the book even before the publication. They encouraged me in all possible ways,” Kurulu said appreciating his fans who remain his strength to this day.
Kurulu opined that proofreading is another writers’ woe. Having studied commerce for ALs, Kurulu had trouble getting his book proofread. “I didn’t want to bother anyone with proofreading, yet I got some help from my facebook contacts. But my book still has mistakes,” Kurulu admitted.
According to Kurulu there is good recognition for poets. “The number of Sri Lankan poets during the past 20 years was very low. But good poets were recognized. Anyone can be a poet and the subject matter is not cast in stone. They can write on almost anything,” says Kurulu.
Today facebook has made becoming a poet an easy task where people are allowed to express even the slightest change in their lives through poetry.