Maithri Panagoda spent his early childhood in Wathumulla, a hamlet nestled between Gampaha and Minuwangoda in the Western Province of Sri Lanka .
He was the third of seven children, 4 boys and 3 girls. His father practised medicine in Gampaha, having completed his medical studies in Vienna, Austria. His mother was a teacher in the local school built by Maithri’s grandfather.
After gaining entry to Ananda College, Maithri moved to Colombo, but maintained his strong ties with Wathumulla. He continued to attend Sunday School in the village and spent every weekend and school holidays with the family and enjoyed the benefits of rural life with the village kids.
At the insistence of his father, he studied Pali and Sanskrit at Doranagoda Buddhist temple.
He believes that it was Ananda College, the largest Buddhist boys’ school in Sri Lanka, that shaped his life. He was a prefect , and he edited the College Magazine. In his final year of school, he won a number of prizes including two Gold Medals and entered the Faculty of Law of the University of Ceylon.
After obtaining the degree of Bachelor of Laws, he completed the Advocates’ exams at the College of Law and was admitted as an Attorney at Law.
Maithri started writing poetry, short stories etc in his teenage years, followed by a natural progression to lyrics.
He only recorded a handful of songs, but they became popular, particularly those known as “Prabuddha Gee”.
Around the same time, he also published a collection of poems: “Wasantha Udanayak Nowa”.
He left for England in 1975 to join his two older brothers and sister who were undertaking their tertiary studies in London and Manchester.
England offered many challenges. He pursued post graduate studies at Brunel University and was admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of England.
Maithri met his wife Ramya in England while both were preparing for law exams. They got married in Sri Lanka in 1977. Following the birth of their fist child Gajanath, they migrated to Australia in 1981.
After spending a brief period in Sydney, the family moved to Dubbo, a country town in north west New South Wales. Maithri started working for the Western Aboriginal Legal Service. Not surprisingly, he was consumed by the simplicity of country life. He found the work interesting, and in line with his social conscience. Although the initial plan was to return to Sydney after six months or so, they ended up staying in Dubbo for ten years.
Two other children arrived in that time, Ruvani and Mathisha.
The Panagoda Family moved to Sydney in 1991 when Maithri joined the prominent law firm Carroll & O’Dea, an institution that has been in existence for 115 years. He was soon made an Associate and then a Partner of the firm. In his legal career, Maithri has successfully represented clients in a number of landmark cases in Australia .
While trying to balance the dual commitment of a busy legal practice and raising three children with his wife who was also working fulltime as a lawyer , Maithri completed a Master of Laws degree at the University of Sydney.
He also wrote articles on legal matters and edited certain chapters of the Lawyers Practice Manual. He has presented over 35 seminars on Personal Injury Law to the legal fraternity in New South Wales.
Maithri has taken an active role for the welfare of the Sri Lankan community in Australia. In addition to assisting those confronted with legal problems, he has given radio talks and written to community journals. He is one of the founding members of the Past Anandians Association of New South Wales.
After the boxing day tsunami in 2004, he joined some fellow Sri Lankans to form Australanka Helpline to support the children orphaned by the tragic event.
He is a Director of Lankavision that provides a satellite television service to the Sri Lankans living in Australia and New Zealand. He has also been the Editor-in-Chief of SLE, the first Sri Lankan multimedia web magazine with
Maithri is the Patron of “Muthuhara”, an organisation set up to promote children’s musical attributes, working in association with the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation.
Having completed his “parental duties”, and with Gajanath and Ruvani married, Maithri decided to re-visit his childhood passion for creative writing.
After 35 years, it was a long and hard journey back, but he found it extremely fulfilling.
The birth of “Sudu Weli” was the result.
Maithri will continue his poetical journey, inspired particularly by the arrival of his grand son Ravi and grand daughter Saanti.