Gagana: The Sky is His Limit
By Priyangwada Perera
You could not have missed that beautiful photograph of a splendid green parrot, feeding its little ones. The earnest hungry beaks are popping out of the hollow in a tree trunk. It is the perfect capture of an exquisite moment. It is no wonder that the photograph recently got selected in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021 list. The photograph is chosen to be awarded as Highly Commended in the category of 10 years and under. Yes, you read it correctly. It is our very own little Sri Lankan, Gagana Mendis Wickramasinghe who was internationally acclaimed for his brilliant capture.
It was such a precious moment to speak to our little star who made it to this prestigious Category, competing with contenders from 95 countries and 50,000 photographs. Just as his name Gagana implies, the little boy is all about boundless freedom. Talking to him, you wonder whether you are speaking to one of the happiest children on earth. He is now 11 years old and brimming with enthusiasm. “I feel so happy!” a chirpy Gagana told us. “This photograph was taken from our home. Aiya and I both saw the parrots in the hollow of this particular areca nut tree which was struck by lightning.
Both aiya and I took photographs of the parrots. Both of us applied. Aiya’s photograph also reached the finals. Mine got awarded,” Gagana explained, his older brother, Amatha Mendis Wickramasinghe competed too. Both of them are photographers, very comfortable with using their cameras. Explaining further, Gagana said that it actually was his brother, who took the first good photograph of the parakeets which is the name for this parrot species. “We kept observing and clicking. We took photographs for three to four days in a row. Finally, I clicked this one at around 5.30 in the morning and it turned out great! That was when we applied for the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year,” Gagana reminisced.
Even though this is Gagana’s first time appearing in a photography competition, he has been taking photographs since he was much younger. Gagana loves to swim and he competes. Apart from swimming, Gagana also loves music. He loves to play the piano. Like a true professional, Gagana explained the process of capturing the parrots in action. “We waited on the balcony of the house next door. One has to patiently wait until the parrot comes to feed. You have to be as quiet as quiet can be. You also must make sure to be calm and still. If we hustle and bustle, the chance of capturing a precious moment in its most natural setup is doubtful. I waited patiently for the arrival of the parrot and clicked away, immediately,” Gagana gave his secrets away. Gagana’s mother, Nethu told us that both Amatha and Gagana were totally absorbed in capturing the parrot and the babies being fed. “Gagana had woken up early in the morning and gone and clicked this particular shot, without even telling aiya.” Their areca nut tree where the parrots were photographed was struck by lightning on a stormy night.
However, instead of cutting it off, the family chose to preserve it. They put ropes and did many things to restore it. The award for their love towards nature was making it a cosy home for the parrots. This tree became the home for six generations of parrots. A bunch of nature lovers of a family, the mother told us that by preserving the tree they were privileged to witness six generations- 24 parrot babies to be precise flying from this nest. Gagana and his brother are living a dream of a life. Both the boys are homeschooled. Their father being a scientist and mother an educationist, they believe in the holistic way of learning.
Exploring the philosophy behind the whole concept behind education, the parents did not want to make their children a part of this havoc, the exam oriented race called education. Even at this tender age, the boys know what they want to do in life. They enjoy their learning. They plan their day, they decide what they will be learning during the day. If they need help, if they need material, they ask their parents. If not, they find their answers. To think, to create and to have their own way is the freedom they are bestowed. Their former teacher and mother knows that examinations are held to assess, instead of giving a qualification. “A mass or a bulk production of assessment is not real education. Being independent they already know what they want to do in life and that is what we want,” their happy, content mother said. The prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year is in its 57th year. Wildlife Photographer of the Year is the Natural History Museum’s showcase for the world’s best nature photography.