The old Wijeya office. I never had a desk, I just sat across from Pragathi
My old friend and colleague Pragathi Mahilal died this Avurudu. Him and his young daughter were killed in a head-one collision with a CTB bus, on the way to Anuradhapura. I worked with him quite directly on the IT Times / iTimes magazine for the Wijeya Group. It’s a terrible shock to see him go and my heart goes out to his family. It is a great loss to the Wijeya family and the IT community as well.
I would say that I’m generally a failure in publishing and his contribution lies not in connection with me. Pragathi is listed as a computer consultant and now a Sales Manager. What lives on, however, is not the desk but the effort he put in to educate and inform about IT, something which gives great hope and opportunity to all Sri Lankans.
His greatest accomplishment was not his contribution to the English IT magazine we did, but to the Sinhala magazine Pariganaka, which he and Chanuka Wattegama basically started and ran. I think the circulation is over 50,000 now, bigger than Hi, Business Today, LMD, etc.
Pariganaka is mostly tutorials and not especially deep, but it gives information and opportunity for anyone that picks it up to do more with their computer, their phone, and themselves. It’s important.
I mean, I don’t know. That’s how I know him. He made every effort to get the English IT magazine going, even though I was an intolerable prima donna to work with. It ran for about a year in that place at about 3,000 copies per month before the idea went to Dialog for another year, reaching about 300,000 copies a month. But none of that would have started without him.
It seems like a waste sometimes, especially for me who barely reads print anymore, but I still get mails or hear about kids in Kurunegala or Kegalle or Anuradhapura or wherever who do believe in the Internet even though they often access that dream through print.
Perhaps it’s a waste of trees and time, but I like to think that somewhere some kid held a copy of PC Quest (a supplement he worked on) or IT Times or Pariganaka or PC Times (Tamil) or 077 and was inspired to do something better and think something different. I know that magazines like Wired and 2600 had a huge impact on my life and I like to think there’s some kid outstation or in a Colombo Watte that’ll make me look like a Luddite someday.
What I do and what I see the next generation doing simply isn’t possible without people like Pragathi Mathilal. I’m not saying he was the best geek or the best manager or anything. He was just someone willing to try new things, to work hard, and to ultimately help people.
I can’t begin to imagine what this is like for his surviving family. My heart goes out to his young daughter who couldn’t even begin to realize half of these things. I have nothing to offer but my memory. I knew Pragathi Mahilal. He will be missed.