Award-winning author writing book inspired Shepparton

By Madi Chwasta

Sri Lankan author Somasiri Habaragamuwa decided to write a book about Australian culture after he witnessed people on the streets of Shepparton stopping and having a chat — something he doesn’t see often in his home country.

“Australian people are really nice and generous,” Somasiri said in Sinhalese, his native language.

He’s from a place called Ratnapura in Sri Lanka, and is in town for the first time to visit his daughter Saku, his son-in-law Sampath, who works at GV Health, and his two grandchildren, 16-year-old Thejan and 12-year-old Vichara.

The 76-year-old has been in Australia since January, and has been closely observing and researching our way of life.

Not only are Australians friendly, but Somasiri says we're also good at following the rules.

“When people cross the road, they stop at the red man, and go when the green man lights up,” he said.

Somasiri says it’s not quite the same in crowded Sri Lanka, an island country off the coast of India.

It’s a country with a land area smaller than Tasmania, but crammed with 21 million people — a population comparable to the whole of Australia.

However, Somasiri says there are similarities between our countries, including our thousands-of-years-old indigenous histories, which he has discovered through reading the Australian Citizenship booklet.

Detailed research is the usual for Somasiri.

A celebrated author in his own country, he is known for spending years investigating an idea before he puts pen to paper. For this reason, he has only written 15 books, but has won six national awards for them.

He “lives and breathes” Buddhism — most of his books are about the religion and leading a simple way of life.

While his book about Australia is at least another two years away, he hopes it will be translated into English so the people who inspired it will be able to read it.

And even though the hustle and bustle of Sri Lanka is worlds away from sleepy Shepparton, there’s one thing that ties us all together.

“We’re all the same — we love one another,” he said with a smile.