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Sunday Times Apr 29 2012

Who can forget a doctor with that special motherly touch

Dr. Stella de Silva

It is with much regret that I read about the demise of Dr. Stella de Silva, the famous Paediatrician. I got to know her in 1963 when my eldest son was born prematurely at St. Michael’s Nursing Home, Colpetty. No one thought he would live, being only 2lbs 14ozs at birth.

As soon as he was born, Dr. Cabraal the resident physician got down Dr. de Silva to see the baby. After seeing the baby when she came to my bedside, I asked, “Doctor, what do you think of the baby?” She saw me reciting the “Holy Rosary”. She said, "Pray to your God, it depends on your luck. I will do my best.” These were her very words and they still echo in my ears.

The baby was kept in an incubator for 45 days and every morning and evening Dr. Stella never failed to visit him. She tended to him with motherly care and special love. Though the baby was born on March 28, we were able to bring him safely home only on May 12.

We would see Dr. Stella on and off and she was very proud of the baby. I am just one individual, how many more lives of premature babies would she have saved? What happiness she would have brought to those parents who saw their children grow to become valuable and useful citizens of Sri Lanka? 
I join those parents and children to express this tribute.

On the day we brought the baby home, Dr. Stella waived off her full fee and said it was medical etiquette as my late husband was attached to the Dental Institute, Colombo the same period that Dr. Stella was Senior Consultant Paediatrician of Lady Ridgeway Children’s Hospital, Borella.

Though she is no more these memories of her will linger on for generations to come.

Assunta Mendis

Distinguished daughter of Southlands healed generations of children

We last saw her four years ago, when she invited a few Southlanders to celebrate her 90th birthday at her residence. She has departed from this world, but memories of her will live on in the minds of all senior Southlanders who are now in the evening of their lives. As schoolchildren, we remember her visiting our alma mater on several occasions.

She joined Southlands as a little girl and left to make her dream of becoming a doctor a reality. In the book, ‘Golden Heart of Southlands – Miss Edith Ridge’, she wrote: “My choice was medicine, an unheard of career for women at that time, certainly for Southlands. I was ill-equipped for medical studies, with no knowledge of physics, chemistry or biology. Yet Miss Ridge and Miss Freethy encouraged me. I entered university at the age of 17 years and qualified as a doctor. … Miss Ridge, you have followed my career closely. You were delighted when I became a Professor of Paediatrics, but you were more proud when you heard of my clinical success. You taught me humility and the joy of healing.”

Through determination and courage she reached the top of the ladder in her career. She served society for more than half a century. She treated the many children and grandchildren of her friends. As Southlanders, we were happy and proud to record her academic excellence and achievements, which brought fame to our alma mater.

Writing in the Southlands Centenary Magazine in 1985, she said: “The important lesson taught at Southlands was to live and work together as responsible and useful members of society, irrespective of race, caste and religion.

“When the Great Scorer comes
To write against your name
He writes not how you won or lost
But how you played the game.”
Her name is written indelibly in the medical history of Sri Lanka as a pioneer lady Paediatrician. Senior Southlanders were very happy when the state awarded her the Vidya Jothi title in 1994 in recognition of her services to the country.

May she attain the Supreme Bliss of Nirvana.

Shantha Manawadu Abeysekera

A spiritual guide to thousands at St. Benedict’s, De Mazenod and St. Sebastian’s

Brother Michael Robert FSC

Some say we are born by chance. Others believe our birth is determined by previous merits or by God’s design. Whatever the truth may be, we are certain that Brother Michael was a gift to his family, to the De La Salle Brothers and to the hundreds of students of St. Benedict’s College, Kotahena, De Mazenod, Kandana, and St. Sebastian’s, Moratuwa. He imparted knowledge, discipline and kindness.

Bishop Maxwell Silva concelebrated the thanksgiving Mass at Mutwal and Brother Michael’s mortal remains were interred in the historic Madampitiya cemetery on March 5.

Brother Michael will be sadly missed by past pupils and boarders who would regularly meet him to recall their school days, celebrate the past and thank him for his guidance. His family members will miss his presence during trips to the national parks, where he enjoyed wildlife and nature.

The Brothers will miss his humour, friendship, writings and spiritual interaction. He also left behind a legacy of eight books, including a three-volume history of the De La Salle Brothers in Ceylon. These books were all written in his retirement.

Brother Michael was born Joseph Pinto on February 23, 1936, in Kandy, to Bastian Santiago Pinto and Maggeline Fernando. He was the great-grandson of Kande Vedamahattaya, who settled in Chilaw a few decades after the British took over Kandy. He had his early education in Kandy and Chilaw. He topped the Junior School Certificate exam conducted by the De La Salle Brothers in their 11 schools. He joined the Brothers and received the Holy Habit in Penang, Malaysia, in 1952 and made Perpetual vows at Mutwal in 1962.

He followed advanced religious studies in India and Rome. From 1957-1959 he studied at the Agricultural Farm School at Gannoruwa. After his graduation, he was to be sent to the Diyagala Boys’ Town, Ragama, to develop an agricultural programme, but his services were needed elsewhere, and he obediently accepted the directives of his superiors.

Brother Michael was a teacher, supervisor, warden, vice-principal and director at St. Benedict’s, De Mazenod and St. Sebastian’s. He also trained aspirants joining the Brothers in Sri Lanka and India. 
Brother Michael held truth and justice in the highest regard. He instilled truth and honesty in his students. He had a knack for sniffing out the trouble-makers who attempted to disrupt school during those years of unrest in the country.

In the line of duty, he was fair to all and especially strict with the children of relatives. He was open-minded and respected alternative views, beliefs and wishes. Disciplinarian though he was, his students referred to him as “dear friend”, “Brother” and “Father”.

He was a spiritual man, which is demonstrated in his books “75 Reflections”, written when he was 75, and “Praying the Rule for the Brothers.”

When he retired, he went to St Mary’s College, Chilaw, so he could be close to his mother. He also revived the hostel and from his savings established a fund for Brothers who were elderly and sick. After his mother died, he said he had achieved all his objectives in Chilaw and returned to De Mazenod, Kandana, where he had spent most of his life.

Brother Michael was indeed a great man, a gift to his family, the Brothers and the students. May he enjoy his eternal reward in Heaven.

Dr. Leonard Pinto (Youngest brother)

Alma mater and friends have lost a rare gem of a Thomian

Sarath Fernando

Despite the tsunami warning and the rush that prevailed on the afternoon of April 11, large numbers gathered at Kanatte to pay their last respects to genial Sarath Fernando, CEO of Bogawantalawa Plantations. He received full Thomian honours at his funeral, as a mark of respect to a true Thomian.

Sarath had his early education at S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia. He was a popular and staunch Thomian to the very end and assisted the school in numerous ways without seeking publicity.

A member of the Old Boys’ Association, he was most supportive at school matches and events. He was a lavish entertainer and enjoyed a good sing-song session. He gladly helped his friends whenever he could. His university and MBA student support was exemplary. He was a devoted husband and father.

After leaving school, he qualified overseas and returned to Sri Lanka to become a leading financial accountant. His contribution to the corporate field, including Ceramics and Bogawantalawa Plantations, was outstanding.

Sarath fought his cancer bravely and even recovered partially to get back to work. He had an extraordinary will to work. At the relatively young age of 58 years, Sarath said farewell to the world in which he excelled. 
We pray that his wife Pushpa and only child Sinithi will have the strength to bear this great loss.

Sarath’s friends have lost a rare gem of a Thomian. Many of his friends did their utmost, through religious offerings and meritorious acts, to save dear Sarath, who will remain in our hearts and minds forever.

Bogawantalawa Plantation owners, Thomians Dr. Sarath Abeykoon, Raj Renganathan, Dhammika Jayasuriya and others, too many to name here, did much for Sarath in his hour of need.

We are grateful to you, Sarath, for being a true friend. We will miss you.
May you attain the Supreme Bliss of Nirvana.

Esto Perpetua !

R. P. M. Hettiarachchi

Thank you, dear Aunt, for the wonderful childhood you gave us

Niaza Sally

It is with great grief in my heart that I pay this tribute to you. The three of us looked on as you gradually faded away. Niaz and I silently prayed for you, and Fahim clasped your hand. Tears dimmed my eyes as I remembered Aunty Zem as well. She must have wanted us to comfort her in her illness and give her solace in her final moments, but it was not to be. She was gone by the time we reached her.

Zem’s death upset you badly, and your health began to deteriorate. Yet you carried on bravely till you collapsed. You were attending to your personal needs, solving crossword puzzles, watching the news on TV, especially cricket, and cheering the Sri Lankan team when they won and sympathising with them when they lost.

Your interests were many and varied. You were a keen gardener and almost all the trees and flowering plants in the garden were grown and cared for by you. I have never seen so many fallen leaves in the garden as on the day of your last journey. Perhaps the trees were weeping for a friend they would never see again.

An excellent cook, you would turn out the tastiest of dishes. You would read through a recipe and know whether it would turn out well. Many were the recipients of your jams and jellies, your exotic pickles and chutneys.

Your skill as a teacher was well-known. The pupils who visited you in hospital and also paid their last respects were sad that you would no longer be there to help them. You were the kind of teacher that Abraham Lincoln desired for his son: “Teach him to close his ears to a howling mob ... and to stand and fight if he thinks he’s right.”

This is what you taught us and the many children who came to you. Mother died when we were young, but you took on the responsibility of looking after us and educating us.

You taught us not only the wonder of books, but also to appreciate the gifts of nature: the stick insect on the withered branches of the lemon tree; the kingfisher that would swoop from the mango tree down into the tank to catch the golden carp; the ladybirds and golden beetles on the “keera” plants. These were sights you made us enjoy.

What a wonderful childhood you gave us! You showered us with love, read us bedtime stories and bought us books, toys and what-not.

As we sprinkled you with rose-water and covered you with earth, we thanked Allah for your sojourn on this earth and for moulding our lives. Wherever I go, I will take with me memories of your good life – harming no one and helping anyone in need.

My dearest Aunt, may you and Aunty Zem be rewarded with eternal peace in the glory of Jennathul Firdaus.

Rihaan Shakoor

Too young to leave a family with three young children

Oriana Fredericks

The vast gathering at the Church of SS Mary & John in Nugegoda was testimony to the essence of the life of Oriana Fredericks.

Oriana was 44 years old when she was called to her Maker. She was doing much for her family, her friends, and society at large, but she knew she had more “promises to keep”. Even in the midst of life we are surrounded by death.

It was far too early for Oriana to go and when she knew she had to, she adhered to the Biblical advice [Isaiah 38:1] wherein she was asked to: “Get thine house in order: for thou shalt die.” Poets have glorified death and some have simplified it, saying, “Death is nothing at all, I have only slipped away into the next room”. But tell that to husband Horace and the three small children and they will, with one voice, plead, “Death, where is thy victory?”

When an uncle told Oriana’s seven-year-old daughter that he would bring her chocolates, she waved the offer aside, saying, “I don’t want you to bring me anything. Bring my Mama back to me.”

With all my power to believe, I know that Oriana has not forsaken her loved ones and that she is with them in spirit and love, to cherish and guide them on life’s tumultuous path.

Sharm de Alwis

Dr. Kumaraswamy Nandakumar

A social and religious personality

The greatness of a man is judged by the powerful and pervasive influence he has exercised for the good of his generation and by the certainty of his enduring impact on generations yet unborn. Judged by this measure, the late Dr. Kumaraswamy Nandakumar, former science teacher at Colombo Royal College and Justice of the Peace (All Island) was indeed one of the great sons of Sri Lanka in modern times. With the passing away of Nandakumar a year ago Nainativu lost a noble son, the Hindu community a great Hindu and his family a devoted patriarch.

Nandakumar hailed from a pre-dominantly orthodox Hindu family in Nainativu. He was born on September 30 1952 in Nainativu which is a very popular village on account of an ancient and historical temple 'Sri Nainativu Nagapooshani Amman Devasthanam' worshipped by Buddhists and Hindus alike.

Nandakumar received his primary education at Nainativu Nagapooshani Vidyalayam and thereafter joined Jaffna Hindu College and completed his G.C.E. (Advanced Level) Examination successfully. Subsequently he was appointed as a teacher and served at Muslim Vidyalayam Hunupitiya. In 1981, he joined the Palaly Training College and completed his training in science in 1983. After his training he joined the same Vidyalayam and served till 1991. Thereafter he joined Colombo Royal College and served as science teacher until he retired from service on account of his sickness in 2008. He was very popular among teachers, students and parents.

Nandakumar was a person of simple habits and hated vain pomp and glory. His hospitality, magnanimities, generosity, his unparalleled enthusiasm and humanitarian gesture towards everyone were highly commendable. He was a man of liberal and progressive views and was a successful science teacher. Above all he was a man of unimpeachable integrity and uncompromising honesty. He was a religious and social minded person who contributed to the propagation, promotion and development of the Hindu religion, education and culture. Further, he was a great devotee of Nainativu Sri Nagapooshani Amman.

He was a livewire and whatever he touched and undertook, he put new life into and made it a living institution. Verily no field of human endeavour was left untouched by the swaying amplitude of his imagination, the encompassing sweep of his thoughts and the indefatigable zeal of his actions. His energy and dedication as a keen social and religious worker was legendary.

Nandakumar was the Boxing master-in-charge at Royal College from 2002 to 2008. In recognition and appreciation of his immense service in the field of science, the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science conferred him with the science poularization award. He was also honoured by the International University for Martial Arts affiliated to the New International Karate organization of Japan. He was presented with the titles Vidyakalamani Samuga Jothy and several other titles for his yeoman service in the spheres of education, social, religious and cultural activities.

Besides, he was appointed as a Member of the Council of the National Authority on Teacher Education by the Human Resources Development, Education and Cultural Affairs Minister.

Indeed, Nandakumar and his wife were an idyllic couple intrinsically blended into one being, finding comfort, solace, happiness in each other through all the hazards and hassles of life. They were supremely blessed with three children, two sons and daughter who are excelling in their respective professions.

Being benevolent and sweet by nature Nandakumar soon found his place in the hearts of every one. 'Love and forgive', 'Live and let live' was his motto. Undoubtedly, he was literally a comet who blazed momentarily across the skies leaving in its trail a luminescence which the passing of time can hardly erase. Indeed, the loss of Nandakumar is irreparable, painful and tearful. The thought of his death is poignant, but his memory is fragrant.

Chelvatamby Maniccavasagar

Noorania Fousal Hassan:

A thorough gentleman and a jewel of a man

I was shocked, dumbfounded, choked, and shattered to hear the sad and untimely death of my lovable, dear Tamil commentator friend Noorania Fousal Hassan, in a car accident recently in Rambawe, Anuradhapura, while travelling in a SLBC vehicle.

At the time of his death, Noorania Hassan was a Director of SLBC. His life was cut short unexpectedly.

The former minister and present parliamentarian A.H.M. Azwer was the first Tamil cricket commentator in Sri Lanka. The two of us commented together for many decades. He was followed by young Noorania Hassan. Under the able guidance of Azwer, he blossomed into a fine commentator.

Noorania was a keen student of the game. He wrote the first book of cricket in Tamil in Sri Lanka. He presented his book to his guru commentator A.H.M. Azwer - the Tamil John Arlott of Sri Lanka, when Azwer was a minister. At this book launching ceremony, I too made a speech.

He was a rare gem in the SLBC. He was always with a smile, full of life, mannerism and courtesy. He was never jealous of anyone. He helped everyone.

With sheer hard work and commitment he rose to the position of Director of the Tamil Service.

He was well versed in all three languages - Sinhala, Tamil and English. He had an abiding passion for cricket. He moved with all communities and was friendly and a true friend in need.

I had the distinction of commentating from the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, Pakistan at the finals of the World Cup 1996 on that historic date of 17th March 1996 when Sri Lanka annexed the title. Noorania Hassan was seated next to me as Tamil commentator.

He was a knowledgeable commentator, who Never Missed the Ball - a golden rule in commentating.

Noorania was a man of honesty and integrity. He was loved by everyone. He was humble, unassuming and a highly respected officer at SLBC. He was a lovable, sincere, grateful, true friend of all communities. Noorania was a dutiful husband and followed his faith as a true Muslim. No doubt, Noorania's death is an irreparable loss to his dear ones, the family. I consider his demise a personal loss for me, and all of his friends. He was a thorough gentleman and a Jewel of a Man.

Noorania, you lived a righteous life. May Allah grant you Jennathul Firdous!

Premasara Epasinghe

A tribute to Dr. Samarakoon Karunaratna on his retirement:

The most delightful of companions

I pay this tribute to Dr. Samarakoon Karunaratna, a legendary figure in Sri Lanka. He retired from government service recently after serving for 34 years as a doctor. Before his retirement, he served as the DMO of the Homagama Base Hospital. He hails from a distinguished family in Gurullawala, Ahangama and studied at Mahinda College, Galle. He had a brilliant school career and entered the Medical Faculty of Peradeniya where he obtained his MBBS degree in December 1977. He also obtained a Diploma in Family Medicine from the University of Colombo. Since 1977, he served as a doctor in the government service until his retirement in 2011.

He married a doctor. His son and daughter also are doctors. Inspite of the prestigious position of this family, this doctor is a very unassuming gentleman, a down-to-earth person who can walk with Kings, yet not lose the common touch.

He is a doctor par excellence, the beloved doctor of everyone. His first love is his profession. He has been so dedicated to his profession that he had taken only three days leave during his whole period of 34 years service as a doctor, and that was for his wedding. Whether rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, influential or otherwise he treats all patients alike. He is popularly known as the 'Doctor with a magical touch', because of his dedication and endearing qualities such as kindness and Metta towards all mankind.

He retired from government service, but serves as a doctor in his private dispensary in the Homagama area. Though he believes that a certain amount of money is needed to lead a decent life. He does not charge any fee from his teachers, nor from his siblings, teachers, the clergy of any religion, his neighbours or from the poor.

He is multi-talented. He is a good singer and loves music. We often hear him singing at his home. The music therapy conducted for heart patients at the Homagama Base Hospital is the brain-child of this doctor. He is a poet and a short story writer. Also a devout Buddhist and a great social worker. We sometimes see him in shorts on the roof top of his village temple helping in Shramadana campaigns. He is also a strict vegetarian.

Apart from being a doctor, he has a special charm of his character and an incomparable humour that makes him the most delightful of companions imaginable.

Dearly beloved doctor, I wish you a happy retirement free from stress and strain, a life of perfect peace filled with good health.

Swarnapalie Amerasekera

Sunday Times Mar 26 2012

Respected economist and model of integrity

F. D. C. (Derek) Wijesinghe

The remains of Mr. Fitzroy Derek Christopher Wijesinghe were laid to rest on March 8, in the presence of a large gathering of fellow Christians, former professionals and officials, friends and relatives.

Mr. Wijesinghe, fondly known as Derek to all who knew him, was born on April 9, 1922, the eldest child of the late Francis Daniel and the late Gladys Wijesinghe, both of whom I remember from my childhood as devout and highly regarded persons.

Derek was a bright student at Royal College, where his father was a teacher. He obtained an external degree from the University of London in Economics and proceeded to serve his motherland in various capacities. He was a teacher at St. John’s College, Nugegoda; a Divisional Road Transport Officer in the Department of Motor Traffic, and a Research Officer in the Department of National Planning.

At the Department of National Planning, he worked under the eminent economist Dr. Gamani Corea, whom he held in high regard. Dr. Corea nominated Derek for a Rees Jeffreys Studentship in Transport Economics at the London School of Economics (LSE). This resulted in Derek’s postgraduate work on Transport Economics at LSE, under the doyen of British transport economists of that era, Gilbert J. Ponsonby.

He then obtained his master’s degree, M.Sc. (Econ.). Dr. Corea sent Derek as an economic advisor with the Ceylon delegation to the 21st session of the UN General Assembly in New York in 1966.

He held two executive positions in the private sector in Sri Lanka and served as a consultant economist at the World Bank, Washington DC, and continued as senior economist, specialising in commodities at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London.

Having served in two international organizations, he retired from active service and returned to Sri Lanka, where he continued his interest in economics and transport by serving as a member of the Fair Trading Commission.

More recently, he took a great interest in Health Economics and was instrumental in obtaining funding for the special care baby unit of the Castle Street Maternity Hospital. He was the second chairman of the Chartered Institute of Transport (CIT), UK (Sri Lanka section). During the formative period of the CIT (SL section), I had the privilege of associating with him in its establishment.

The institute, renamed the Chartered Institute of Transport and Logistics, is among the prestigious professional bodies in Sri Lanka. With his guidance, I became its chairman during the conflict period in Sri Lanka in the late 1980s, when transport was a high-risk commodity.

In fact, the day I was inducted as chairman there was a threat to public transport, and Derek was among the handful who attended the induction ceremony, along with the then Minister of Transport. Derek was a soft-spoken, articulate and focused contributor. He believed that “being on time for a meeting is actually being five minutes late.” This he manifested in his professional, official and spiritual obligations.

He was a practising, God-fearing Christian. His sincerity, integrity and honesty were recognised by his peers and subordinates. On a personal note, I owe him a debt of gratitude, as officer at the Registry of the Maradana Technical College. The day after my GCE 0/Level results in 1959, he gave me an application form to enrol as a Junior Technical Officer (JTO), and this laid the foundation for my career in tertiary education.

In his latter years, when I would visit him in his home and meet him at gatherings, he would recall the early days. On my last visit a few months ago, he was very concerned about me and kept asking, “Now where are you?” When I visited him in hospital to say goodbye, before going on an overseas trip, he had his usual gentle smile. He opened his eyes and acknowledged my presence. I am consoled that he breathed his last just when I returned to our motherland, which we both valued, and I was able to pay my last respects.

May his spiritual and exemplary life, unique characteristics, integrity remain with all of us who valued and respected him.

Dayantha Wijeysekera

He gracefully trod the minefield of politics

Rupa Karunatilleke

"I think my innings is coming to an end. I have a few singles to score before I wind up. That's not to say I have scored heavily in sixes and fours. An occasional boundary or a six may have graced my innings but essentially I was content taking the singles and doubles." That's how he summed up his life choosing to draw the similes from the game of cricket which he loved so much. And he said this about three months before his death in such a cheerful manner, it forced a smile on the faces of all who were beside him.

At Elpitiya, his home town, hundreds gathered to pay their respects to the man they loved very much. He had finished his innings gracefully a few days ago. Many observed a noticeable feature in this crowd. That they belonged to all sections of the political divide and were present to show how much they loved and respected the man. Perhaps the best tribute paid to a life lived without malice towards none.

At his Elpitiya residence along the corridor where people lined up, hung some vintage photographs of Rupasena Karunatilleke, better known as Rupa. I casually asked some schoolchildren if they knew the famous personalities who were in those photographs with Rupa. They did not. Only a few adults managed to identify Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru. The brilliance of Dr. Sarwapalli Radhakrishnan, the highly respected Rajendra Prasad and the well known charisma of Nehru appeared to have lost their value in a society beset with the veneration of the filthy lucre and pettiness in all its aspects. Had Rupa been there, I am sure he would have said, “Don't complain, Time passes by and so does everything including values".

At the funeral ceremony, speaker after speaker, both from the clergy and other, and from both sides of the political divide, spoke vehemently stressing on one quality Rupa possessed. That he was a gentleman to the core and gracefully trod on minefield of politics mindful of two important elements - decency and honesty. Dr. Sarath Amunugama delivering his eulogy quoted a famous sloka in Sanskrit that extols the virtues of being a gentleman and what it takes to be a gentleman. Rev Baddegama Samitha addressing the vast gathering, went to the extent of saying that he saw a similarity between Rupa's conduct in politics and that of what the great Dr. Ambedkar wanted a politician to be. Sadly both the Sanskrit soloka and the very name Dr. Ambedkar were lost on the majority of the gathering.

Rupa came from a very distinguished and wealthy family in Niyagama, Elpitiya. He had his early education at Mahinda College and later at Nalanda College. Though he did not quite make the academic grade or excel in any sport, he had been the self-appointed first eleven cricket team manager at Nalanda, accompanying the team almost in all of its matches. This used to be recounted by Stanley Jayasinghe, whenever the two met. Rupa took to business and as a kind of a vocation went into politics as was customary then. Dudley Senanayake was impressed by his oratorical capacity and had offered him the post of organizer for the UNP at Bentara Elpitiya.

His close relative and friend the late Rev. Mapalagama Vipulasara introduced him to the famous Indian political giants and the photographs mentioned above were taken in those moments. I asked him what it was like meeting the great philosopher and the second president of India, Dr. Sarwapalli Radhakrishnan. His reply was that he had a feeling of awe posing with the great man but he felt virtually magnetized in the presence of Shri Jawaharlal Nehru. His enthusiasm to discuss these very nostalgic moments showed very clearly his respect for greatness.

He successfully continued and expanded his family business whilst engaging in politics. He never got the priorities and ethics of the two mixed up. Always mindful that his reputation and that of his family was at stake, he very carefully negotiated the difficult terrain of political power. He was not corrupt and never allowed anyone under him to be corrupt either. He always said that the administration of public funds is sacred as much as the handling of income from religious institutions.

A lover of cinema and theatre, he could almost describe by rote the various songs and scenes of famous Hindi films and the names of actors who took part. Maname and Sinhabahu were his chosen best in the Sinhala theatre. However, his interest in aesthetic works took a backseat after his involvement in politics. 
He liked to indulge in the luxury of a good cigar. I have heard him saying very often that it was the late President J.R. Jayawardene who gave him the best of cigars from his stock until he died. There was a regular set of friends who visited him in his retirement and the meetings were always joyful.

Rupa never spoke bitterly or in some degree of anger against anyone. A great human quality that kept him very relaxed. To grow old gracefully is a remarkable gift and Rupa was a splendid example of it. Those born on the dates that add up to number six are almost always very endearing and charismatic people, numerologists say. Rupa was born on the 15th of March.

All good things must come to an end. Strangely, in the present day, it seems that only the good things are coming to an end almost perceptibly. The bad things just take a brief break and continue with added vigour. Dr. Ranjith Atapattu, Health Minister of the late President Jayawardene's cabinet summed up the whole scenario quite humorously when he addressed the funeral gathering. It was a poignant speech, perhaps the most sincere goodbye Rupa got from a political associate.

Rupa had a mission to complete when he was born into this world like any other. I can say he fulfilled it to the best. That he did it in style is the crowning factor. President Jayawardene said at the end of his term that he did it his way, repeating the words of Frank Sinatra. I guess Rupa did it in his own way too. 
Goodbye, Sir. You were a lovely man. The kind of man I would walk miles to meet up with should I get another chance. You were not a great politician or even a great entrepreneur. There were no airs and graces about you. You were a very lovable man and sincerity was written all over you. We will miss you. Your immediate family will miss you immensely. We could only offer to share their grief in the vain hope that the grief will wear out soon.

Parakrama Jayasinghe

Champion of the wronged, he was admired for his balanced thinking and integrity

Deepal Wijeratne

One feels a sense of hopelessness when confronted with the sudden loss of a friend who appeared one moment to be in good health, and was gone the next. This was how we felt when we heard of the sudden death of Deepal.

Just a few days before, Deepal was consoling me on the loss of my mother. We had a brief chat. He gave no indication that the next funeral I would attend would be his. At the Galkissa Cemetery, our sorrow knew no bounds when we saw Deepal’s little child playing by himself, oblivious of the funeral rites going on and the devastating blow that had been dealt to him.

The many mourners were all in a state of shock. Deepal was an energetic young man who was respected for his scholarly approach to work and the splendid results he produced, both in court and in relation to the disputes he handled for member companies of the Employers Federation.

He joined the Employers Federation of Ceylon (EFC) in 2001. He was a vital part of its legal and industrial relations service to the nation, and in particular the business community. He joined the EFC from the Attorney General’s Department, where he had established his name and shown his talent for advocacy, meticulous preparation and clarity of thinking.

So dedicated was he to his work that he neglected to seek medical attention for the headaches that were bothering him, and which turned out to be ominous warnings of a fatal illness. He was the third professional to die in harness at the EFC. The first was Mahadeva, the chief executive many years ago, and more recently, Diyanesh Rajaratnam.

I mention all this as most people do not realise how stressful a job the professional staff of the EFC have. When an an employee is dismissed, he has lost his means of living; strikes mean that disputes have reached proportions of hatred and violent behaviour; and disciplinary issues affect people and their futures. What the EFC professionals do is take on the headaches of others. Sometimes this turns out to be a thankless job.

Deepal did his demanding job with great acceptance and fairness. His death is a loss not only to the EFC and its members but to the whole community. Balanced thinking and integrity are hard to come by.

Franklyn Amerasinghe

Ammi, we cherish fond memories of you

Ramani Rupesinghe

It’s one year, since you passed away to glory darling Ammi. We know you are in our God’s Kingdom and may a thousand Angels sing praises to you for the wonderful life you gave us, especially your loving care to me your husband and our two daughters Sirani and Sriyanga.

Inspite of your sickness you prepared delicious meals, sewed and kept a beautiful home in addition to taking care of all of us. You were an inspiration and a teacher to all the young children in the vicinity of our home in Kotte, teaching them English from 2 p.m. till as late as 8.30 p.m.

You charged a nominal fee but for most it was free of charge. You even took them on educational tours to Kandy to visit the Dalada Maligawa, the Botanical Gardens and other places of interest, always preparing patties, cultlets, and sandwiches and providing drink for the children on these trips.

No one will forget your mouth-watering chocolate cake. Your equally tasty lamprais and Buriyani will also not be forgotten. Ammi you were a great seamstress too and infact a few days prior to passing away had started on some clothes for our two daughtersaying, “Thaththi I will finish these frocks when I am feeling better.”

You were not only an inspiration but also a blessing to our family in addition to your mother, brothers and sisters who were far away in Matale. Whenever you went there you used to prepare your delicious chocolate cake and other food varieties to take with you.

We miss you a lot and words cannot express the void we feel. But we find comfort that God has taken you to his Glorious Kingdom without any suffering or pain. I will never forget your last moments as you lay on my lap gazing at me with a smile while on the way to Sri Jayewardanapura Hospital.

You were a person who had immense faith in our Lord Jesus and I write these following words that were written and kept inside your Bible. “Lord Jesus, what you did for Lazarus, you can do for me too, if it is your will you can heal me?”’

Yes Lord Jesus you have healed our darling Ammi and taken her to your heavenly kingdom. 
We thank our Lord each time we think of you and when we pray for you.

Nimal Rupesinghe

DN Monday Mar 5 2012

Lakshimi Segarajasingam - a tribute:

A warm and kind hearted lady

The demise of Lakshimi Segarajasingam from this world is a sad loss to her family and friends. I had known her from my school days. She was a regular visitor to our house and a very close friend of my parents, family members, aunts, and uncles. She was residing with her family in a quiet residential area in Colombo not far from where I live. We treated her like a family member.

I have come to know Lakshimi Segarajasingam as a warm and kind hearted lady. She was sincere in her disposition. She was an animal lover with a natural tendency to help the less fortunate. Her strength of character was a great asset to her husband who passed away in 1980. These qualities enabled her to accept the challenge and singularly bring up her children Kamini, Arjun and Vijayan over a period of thirty years. This is no mean feat. Her accomplishment in this regard was due largely to her will power and determination which has now passed on to her children. Her daughters-in-law, are Dr Samanthi and Dr Anusha, with three adorable grand children Akshyan, Akshodhini and Artheeshayan. The boys are at S Thomas' College Mt Lavinia and the daughter is at Ladies College, Colombo.

Lakshimi belonged to a respectable family in Nawally. She was the daughter of Thampoo, PWD engineer and the youngest in her family. She studied at Good Shepherd Convent at Kandy. She was a music lover and highly appreciative of music by Gentleman Jim Reeves and Daniel O' Donnell, an Irish singer and performer. She was full of enthusiasm, and a charming entertainer with a broad outlook in life.

I have also known her husband the late Mr Rajanathan Segarajasingam, who was from Arally South in Jaffna who came from a family steeped in traditional Hindu culture. He held a respectable post as the District Manager, Bank of Ceylon, City Office Branch. He was a renowned Banker and owed much of his success in his professional career to the unfailing support and encouragement that he received from his devoted wife, Lakshimi. Sad as we are by the absence of Lakshimi among the living today, we are consoled by the fact that her good qualities such as kindness, tolerance, generosity, and concern for the deprived including innocent animals continue to be reflected and shine in the conduct of her affectionate children. No one is immortal. We all have to take leave of this world one day. That is the harsh reality. Lakshimi Segarajasingam will be remembered for leading a harmless and inoffensive life, winning the friendship and respect of all those that she came into contact with. May she attain the supreme bliss of Moksha.

Dr Senaka Weeraratne , Colombo 5

Nalanda Ellawala

Fifteenth death anniversary on Feb 11th 2012

A fragrance doth remain 
In the folds where it hath lain 
The thoughts of you 
Deeply folded in our hearts 
will not leave 
Many things leave 
You remain 
A beautiful memory 
Sweet familiar fragrance 
May your journey 
Be safe 
Precious pilgrim 
May your shack never be too cold 
Your sack too heavy to hold 
May you be our cellestial bond 
When the rustic journey ends 
When we together see the 
golden door 
May you be there. 
Amma and Akka

Sunday Times Mar 4 2012

His kind heart reached out to whoever was in need, in all parts of the country

Charles Henry de Soysa

Charles Henry de Soysa whose birthday is marked on March 3 each year, is remembered by his descendants, representatives of the hospitals he built, past and present students of Prince and Princess of Wales Colleges, with gratitude, appreciation and pride. Philanthropists come and go, but his name stands out as one who gave unstintingly; with sincerity, whose word was his bond and who possessed a vision which was far ahead of his time.

In retrospect, from what I have heard about his life from my father, his grandson and what I have read, I am aware, that his was a life filled with the joy of giving. But what is extraordinary, is his thinking, proved by the fields which benefited by his largesse. Religion, Agriculture, Education and Health were the main avenues in his unmatched and unprecedented philanthropy.

Although a Christian, there is proof that Charles Henry donated to and built temples, kovils and mosques, as well as churches. Although agriculture is most important in a country like ours, where we should long have been self-sufficient in our needs, education is, to my mind, the most important investment for our children.

Today, we see more than ever before, the need for educated thinking which reaches far beyond the barriers of race, class or creed. Dedication and commitment to whatever our individual choice of education or religion may be, can take us to unbelievable heights.

The combination of religion and education is unbeatable, and quite naturally transcends our thinking, beyond violence and intimidation. Health again, is an integral part of our wellbeing. To have good health starts with the family and ultimately benefits the nation as a whole.

The late Charles Henry had all this and probably much more on his mind, when he sought, through his philanthropy; to endow these four fields so abundantly. He also reached out to the landless, the homeless and gifted land, paddy fields and houses to a hundred poverty stricken farmers in Walapane, far away from his hometown Moratuwa. This deed in itself shows that even in those days, when bias and prejudice dominated most minds, narrow peripheries were simply non-existent with him. His kind heart reached out to whoever was in need, to all parts of the country; irrespective of differences in attitude, perspective, race, class, political slant or social standing.

He was reputed to be the wealthiest Ceylonese of his time. He lived in an era of peace and prosperity, gracious living, and contentment. He could have lived in an ivory tower; involved only with his kith and kin, inviolable and unconcerned about his fellow men. There is no doubt that he inherited wealth from his father, but his business acumen, good sense and astuteness, made him venture into new fields of enterprise and development; which increased his wealth more than triple-fold, which he shared with others. Although he was a Ceylonese pioneer in tea and coffee planting, his inherent wisdom prevented him from investing his entire wealth in these ventures, thus he was untouched by the coffee crisis. He owned 74 plantations, several valuable residential properties in Colombo, its suburbs and other areas. He shipped his own tea to markets abroad, was the first Ceylonese banker and a founder member of the Ceylon National Congress.

The late Charles Henry’s statue stands tall at De Soysa Circus. Whenever I pass it, I say a silent prayer of blessing for his soul, as we, his descendants and the nation too, owe him so much. Every mother, whose child was born at The De Soysa Hospital for women, has him to thank for what undoubtedly is a national treasure.

While talking to an educated, cultured friend the other day, she told me that her father, when she was a child; would take them to all the statues, monuments and places of historic interest, in our country. He would insist that they read the inscriptions and question them on these later on. That perhaps is how interest in history and in those who have given much to our nation is born. It is a good example for parents of today to practise. There are many roads named after Charles Henry, as they are all part of property, once owned by him. Alfred Place, Alfred House Gardens, Charles Place, Charles Way, Charles Circus are among them. Some of the beautiful old family homes built by him, or his sons, are also living monuments to his memory.

He was a rare Ceylonese, in the fact that his philanthropy reached far beyond our shores. The Great Ormond Street Hospital for children in London, Brompton Hospital, The Royal Free hospital, Victoria Chest Hospital, The Hospital for accidents to Dock labourers, were all richly endowed with donations by him and some of these carry plaques with his name as a benefactor.

Service to God and man seems to have been his motto. He was said to be a modest man who loved his fellowmen and loved animals too.

As Christians we are told to give till it hurts and Charles Henry, as an obedient and faithful servant of God, fulfilled this command to the letter.
‘His grandeur he derived from Heaven alone,
For he was great, ere fortune made him so.’
John Dryden

Ilica Malkanthi Karunaratne

He was never ashamed of his humble beginnings, even after achieving great success

Gabo Peiris

'Gabo', the name synonymous with the travel trade, is no more. My association with this magnanimous human being goes far back to our childhood and school days when we happened to live down the same lane and attended rival schools. His parents and my mother too had a very cordial friendship as neighbours and the next generation of our children too seem to maintain the same relationship.
Gabo began his career in life as part of the cabin crew in Air Ceylon at the same time pursuing his love for music. He displayed his talent as an excellent drummer.

If I recall right, he played with the band 'Thunderbirds' and 'Sam the Man and The Gaylords' but blossomed out and became the most sought after when he formed his own group - 'Gabo and the Breakaways'. They played for almost all the big dances and beat shows. A hallmark of his repertoire was the Santana music which was very popular at the time where he took charge of the percussion, playing a variety of drums, including the conga drums. I remember how once the stage got burnt accidentally, with fire that was lit in containers to release smoke and incense to add effect to the Santana sounds, compelling the authorities thereafter to charge a massive refundable deposit whenever a hall was booked for a musical performance.

Gabo recalled how he sorted out my fan mail and postcards for request programmes I voiced at Radio Ceylon while I had the joy of recording and presenting him on radio as a member of the 'Thunderbirds' and later introducing Gabo and his musicians - 'The Breakaways' as the foremost and extremely popular band, at various musical events and dances. He gave up his successful musical career, literally overnight, at the pinnacle of his success when he and his band played at a dance on a Saturday night and disbanded by Monday.

Gabo was a down to earth, humble human being who stood with his friends in good times and not so good times. I know of instances where he took great risks to help a friend. He never hesitated or thought it infradig to recall his simple beginnings. I remember him saying: "Machang our children go to 5-star hotels to enjoy dessert, whereas you and I considered it a treat to have a five cent toffee after meals. It made me realise that both of us had to work hard, often keeping up the whole night and burning the candle at both ends, to get to where we were”.

Gabo also related how another of our wonderful neighbours, Adam, who predeceased him in a motor accident, was his classmate and came from a more affluent home and was privileged to travel to Royal College on a motor bike. Adam would dash home for lunch, and return in time to lend his bike to Gabo to get home for lunch to travel the 5 cent distance by bus and get back, thus saving 10 cents with which he bought a cigarette and shared a few puffs with Adam.

That was Gabo- who was never ashamed of his simple beginnings and remained simple even after achieving great success.Fortunately for him, his capable wife Savi is competent enough to carry on what he started and I have no doubt she will take the business to greater heights in the future. Gabo was blessed to see his three lovely children settled in life and also to enjoy his grandchildren.

When Gabo slowed down after sickness a few years back, I made it a point to walk down and see him whenever I found the time. I was moved to see that he was no longer the lively, flamboyant personality he had been, but was not lacking in hospitality.

I share the grief of Savi, his children and only sister Chaturani whom he has left behind and can say, together with my family, that we will truly miss a good friend and neighbour.

Vijaya Corea

Too young to die, you will remain an inspiration to your Devi Balika friends

Thilini Dinushika Silva

News of the demise of my good friend Thilini Dinushika Silva – Thilini Akki, as she was affectionately called – was received with shock and tears. Diagnosed with dengue, she suffered a sudden and brief illness. She was 19 years old. Fond memories of her will remain in the hearts of all who had known her.
My association with Thilini dates back to 2004, when we both entered Devi Balika as Grade 6 students. 
Thilini had an extraordinary character. She was confident yet polite and intelligent, humble and strong yet gentle. She led a simple life, but never failed to achieve what she was born to achieve. As president of the Senior English Literary Association 2010/2011, she organized two English Days on a grand scale. Hard work, determination and dedication paved the way for her success.

The eldest in the family, she fulfilled her responsibility towards her two siblings. She took good care of her younger sister and brother. They were an ideal and happy family, with Thilini as a central figure. She moved in close harmony with her peers at Devi. Her hospitality knew no bounds.

Thilini was an active member of the drama circle, and appeared on stage portraying characters such as Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice”. She always had a prominent place in drama, recitation, singing and dancing, at zonal and provincial levels.

With Thilini, there was never a dull moment. She always acted with impeccable integrity. Thilini, your life was perfect and well lived. Devi Balika will never find anyone quite like you.

May you attain Nibbana.

Senuri Suriarachchi

Sunday Times Jan 29 2012

He brooked no nonsense and worked truly for the people

Ratne Deshapriya Senanayake

Ratne Deshapriya Senanayake was a popular name of the 70s which slowly faded away from the political scenario after 1977. But, his political character would not fade away similarly. He was a man of many facets; a committed family man and humane political revolutionary with Marxist origins, who mixed Marxist ideologies with the aspirations of the common man, woven into a democratic focus. He was feared as a vehement politician, but in proximity, this was never observable.

He was the Deputy Minister of Planning and Employment under Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike. He in his gruff voice would swear punishment seeing fault, but it was nA leading light in social activitiesever executed. Instead, he showered advice on the defaulter.

He was a journalist who was a Deputy Editor of Lankadeepa and the Secretary General of the Afro Asian Writers’ Bureau; a live wire of the editorial team of Dinakara. He was our ambassador in China; a lawyer who did not fleece clients and a speaker who could address issues to be heard by everyone.

My first meeting with him was during the Dedigama by-election when his brother Dharmasiri Senanayake contested against Rukman Senanayke. Later I had the good fortune of working with him in Polonnaruwa from 1975 to 1977, as the Additional Government Agent. Our experiences with him are memorable; especially, when political character in society has now deteriorated to Kelaniya or Kolonnawa or Siri Kotha levels.

We the public officials had two wonderful MPs in Polonnaruwa- Leelaratne Wijesinghe and Deshapriya Senanayake. The two were different in certain aspects such as dress, language capabilities, firmness etc but had common attributes such as being humane, friendly, people-oriented etc. These commonalities and differences have remained as mixed attitudinal hallmarks of successor politicians from Polonnaruwa.

In retrospect I reminisce a few episodes among many. Deshapriya Senanayake [who was the final authority for the Decentralized Budget then] monitored it with GAs to ensure efficiency, effectiveness and economy of fund management for the wellbeing of the people, not only in Minneriya, but everywhere. His coordinating it at the District Coordinating Committee was so pleasant it gave us a great satisfaction to be working with a political leader like him.

He always had a personal approach in dealing with issues. Once he summoned me to Giritale circuit bungalow when Government Agent (GA) Amaradasa Gunawardena was away in India and asked me how the water shortfall in Parakrama Samudra could be resolved, irrespective of irrigation authorities’ rigid stipulations from Colombo. There was only one way; it was to become “terrorists” in water management by breaking the spills at Radavige Oya and “stealing” water. He wanted it done and repairs made afterwards for which I had the concurrence of an obliging Engineer.

I obliged. Deshapriya Senanayake did not mind breaking rules and regulations or spills for the greater good of the farmers.

The next week he thanked me for resolving the problem. I was told by his Private Secretary and journalist late Karunaratne Saputhanthri, who was killed by terrorists when the plane he was travelling in was blown up, that a certain SLFP supporter from Medirigiriya had complained against me as I was taking action against him for underhand disposal of state land reservations in Kaudulu Weva Stage II. He was angered when Deshapriya Senanayake refused to take action against me and said “Sir, you can do politics with the Additional GA and not with us.” Deshapriya Senanayake had reportedly said, “For heavens sake get lost. He (meaning me) does more valuable service than you do in colonization in Stage II and in providing water, which are more important to the people than illegally disposing reservations!” He had his evaluation of everyone.

Were these good turns to the people and public officers what defeated him at the 1977 elections, or the wave of defeat against the incumbent government?

We felt that the Sirimavo Bandaranaike government would be defeated at the 1977 elections, which was proved when the UNP won with a 5/6ths majority. After completing the count of Polonnaruwa where H.G.P. Nelson won, I met Deshapriya Senanayake seated opposite the GA, vehemently insisting that he should proceed to Colombo through Minneriya. But we had information that his good work and humane qualities were to be ‘rewarded’ with physical assault at Minneriya.

The GA, as a last move told Deshapriya Senanayake, “Sir, for several years as District Political Authority you ordered me. But today I order you to go through Bakamuna for your own safety.” Though he was unwilling we had late Major (later Brigadier) Tissa Jayatunga who ensured with Police assistance that Deshapriya Senanayake proceeded to Colombo safely via Bakamuna. It was history repeated with the more or less comparable fate faced in 1970 by the late Minister C.P. de Silva who “created the new Polonnaruwa District,” when ‘outsider’ Deshapriya Senanayake won.

I was GA Polonnaruwa for two years. In those two years he telephoned me only once –to tell me that a very qualified candidate was being discriminated in the appointment of Marriage Registrars and request justice be done. I did what he wished, as it was a rightful demand. He understood the difficulties faced by public officers in standing against a very strong government and was not a bother at any moment- when in power and out. Personally speaking I remember him as an extremely sociable personality.

There was always a dinner or lunch invitation when he was around. Of course, Leelaratne Wijesinghe went a step further and always had some delicious dish or two prepared to add to the cuisine, especially on circuits to places like Yakkure, where the Maduru Oya Scheme stands now. Those added to satisfying our taste buds especially in Yakkure when we had Mudiyanse Iskolemahattaya’s kurakkan pittu and curd, which Deshapriya Senanayake relished.

Once I was hosting him and some officers from the Kachcheri for dinner at home and we were in high spirits by about 10 p.m. when a man walked into my house and sought his intervention in a land dispute. Deshapriya Senanayake verbally ‘blasted’ him. “This is not the time to discuss land matters though I am with DLOs, the GA and Additional GA. They too should relax at home. Go to the Kachcheri tomorrow and make representations.” As soon as the man left, he said “Please look after that fellow’s case. But he shouldn’t have come here to tell his grievances. He should have come to Giritale.” I am confident the intruder heard him. That was Deshapriya Senanayake. No wonder we loved him; people loved him.

Quite recently I dreamt of him and I called Gloria Senanayake, his amiable wife and told her that I dreamt of him and promised to visit him, which I could not fulfil. But I do not regret it much because had I gone he would have revisited old memories that could not have been communicated, and he would have been sad since he was not communicating with visitors during the last days of his life, as I learnt from Gloria. It would have been equally painful for me to see a great communicator silent, as I experienced on January 22, seeing his lifeless body laid in a coffin.

His life was full of lessons to everyone in humane politics and if learnt and practised by present day and future politicians it would be the best tribute paid to a great gentleman politician. Due to a change in the political environment this may be a tough challenge.

May Ratne Deshapriya Senanayake attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana.

Austin Fernando

A leading light in social activities

Gilbert Jayawardana

Gilbert Jayawardana of Bogahawatha Road, Pannipitiya passed away recently. He was a prominent figure who took part in many social activities in the area. As a Buddhist he lent a helping hand to the Buddhist temples of the area.

He hailed from Induruwa, down South and built a home close to my residence. Mrs. Jayawardana also passed away recently. Mr. Jayawardana was a kind-hearted person who led a simple life. We were saddened by his sudden death. May he attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana.

M.G. Asoka Karunaratne

A husband who cannot be forgotten

Victor Fernando

Three years have passed since that sad day. My husband passed away on January 22, 2009. It is difficult to express my sadness without him. He was my companion and friend whom I looked upto for advice and assistance. He fulfilled his duties towards the family. He was such a loving father to our three daughters. He fully accomplished his mission in life.

He loved music so much that he wanted the three daughters to learn music. Our eldest daughter is at present the music teacher of St. John’s Balika at Panadura. He always wanted me to be with him. I cannot understand how he left me. He left us all for God’s call cannot be ignored. I am sure that he is still looking after us from heaven above.

May you rest in peace

Your wife, Josephine Fernando

Sunday Times Jan 22 2012

To my favourite sister

Daisybelle de Mel

(On her 90th Birth Anniversary) 
The picture of you holding me in your arm
Suggests your wish to protect me from harm
You were a young maiden of thirteen years then
And I just an infant of three months and ten

You tended me throughout my growing years
Saved me from canings and consequent tears
Reminding me allotted tasks to do 
For this and your loyalty, I loved you.

Sometimes we shared our secrets at night
You and I, we never, ever would fight.
It was joy your special sister to be
It helped you too, as it did to me.
You searched with loving eyes what I read,
New friends I found and those whom I shed.
You seemed to be like a "little mummy" 
It's no wonder I trusted you totally.

You were always there when I needed you most
When after a "Caesar",a cancer I'd host!
Overnight with prayer, a touch of the hand
You spurred my spirit and I'd understand!

As you lay unconscious in the cold I.C.U.
Softly I sang hymns and prayed as you'd do;
Siblings urged "Rest" reluctantly I kissed 
A "send-off" on wings of a hymn I missed!

-Noelyn Fernando

A principled man who shone in the field of accountancy

N.G. P. Panditharatne

With sincere grief I went to Galle Face Terrace to pay my last respects to N.G.P. Panditharatne who passed away recently. It was hard to say goodbye to a man I respected and admired. People of his stature are hard to comeby nowadays. A gentleman to his fingertips, he was just and fair in his dealings. An efficient administrator, he could be firm and strict, but these qualities were tempered with empathy and compassion. Those who worked under him have nothing but praise for this humane, warm- hearted boss.

Sri Lanka has produced thousands of chartered, certified, management, cost and other accountants, with a sprinkling of brilliant men who have held high-ranking positions in the public and private sectors. Mr. Panditharatne was a man of rare calibre who stood head and shoulders above the members of his profession. Accountancy is a lucrative profession which attracts many who wish to make money and more money. But Mr. Panditharatne was more interested in serving his beloved motherland and her people than in worshipping mammon.

Like accountancy, politics too is a lucrative business. Many take to politics to gain fame, power and wealth. Mr. Panditharatne, a diehard UNPer was involved in politics, but he shunned the limelight and worked behind the scenes, always maintaining a low profile. He did not get his hands tainted with filthy lucre earned from commissions and kick-backs on contracts and tenders or political patronage extended to rapacious, corrupt men. He was more of a statesman then a politician.

A Buddhist by birth, he was married to Reenie, a Catholic. The disparity of faiths was no obstacle to the deep love they had for each other. The bliss of a happy marriage was clearly evident to any guest or visitor who enjoyed their warm, lavish hospitality. Whenever I was invited to lunch or dinner they made me feel at home and treated me like a family member. Blessed with a trained, melodious voice, Reenie would love to sing old favourites, and get me to accompany her on the piano, with a chilled beer by my side.

As a young newly – qualified Chartered Accountant, I worked at Associated Management Services (AMS) Management Consultants, a subsidiary of Ford Rhodes and Thornton (FRT). At that time, Mr. Panditharatne was the chief partner of FRT and a director of AMS. When he heard that I wanted to resign from my job and enter a seminary to study for the priesthood, he called me to his room and said, “We are sorry to lose you, but I know that you wish to respond to a noble calling.

Although I am a Buddhist, I fully appreciate the valuable, selfless service Catholic priests and nuns render to our people and country. I wish you success in your ministry. If ever you need any money for books or training; or later as a priest, if you need a vehicle for your work, please do not hesitate to contact me. I shall be glad to help you”. These words of encouragement remain etched in my memory.

Derrick Mendis S.J

Warm-hearted lady with that radiant smile

Sushila Wijayaratna

Be they family, friends or mere acquaintances, all those who knew Sushila, feel as if a beacon of light has gone out of our lives. Sushila schooled at Good Shepherd Convent, Kotahena, but didn’t finish her schooling, as Cupid intervened when Donald fell in love with her and married her when she was just 13 years old. For those of us who knew her for several decades, it is necessary to take a journey down memory lane to retrace our steps and reflect on the wonderful gift of her friendship.

I first met her when I was a schoolgirl and a friend of her niece, Indrani Rutnam. The cynosure of all eyes, at Indrani’s parties was her exquisite aunt, Sushila. Just a few years older than us, she always had a radiant smile and a kind word for everyone present. She was the embodiment of all that was good, kind and beautiful. Her beauty shone from within and was not a mere facial beauty.

Later on, through the years we met her at the races, where again both her beauty and good taste in clothes, usually designed and made by her, attracted media attention and her picture was in all the fashion pages. She was a great strength and of steadfast support to her husband, when he built up his business , Donald’s Photography Studio, which soon became a household word.

It was about 20 years ago, that I really got to know her well, through my friendship with her youngest daughter, Rohini. After that I was always included as a guest at her parties, at her table at the Lady Hilton and other family celebrations My late husband Chandra, hated going to parties, but one of the few he attended, was the golden wedding of Sushila and Donald in 1994, hosted by their children at the Colombo Hilton. Donald and she were always a joy to watch on the dance floor; both of them loved music.

There were so many celebrations that I recall with nostalgia, now that she is gone. On her 70th birthday Lilamani hosted a grand celebration and we were shown pictures of her life through childhood, marriage, motherhood and as a grandmother. The 75th birthday celebration was a lunch at a five star hotel. Images of a radiant Sushila, on all these occasions, keep flashing through my mind and will live forever, in the recesses of my mind. She was one of God’s gifts, a truly wonderful person. A friend who was always concerned, I recall whenever I took part in campaigning at elections, she was always worried about my safety, would call asking me to be careful whereever I went, making sure that I was accompanied.

She has four daughter; Manel, Lilamani, Chandra and Rohini and two sons, Prins and Shehan. As mothers, we love all our children equally, this is a natural tendency of motherhood and we wear our motherhood like badges of honour. But sometimes, one is closer to us than others, it may be as kindred spirits, soulmates or simply being on the same wavelength. Lilamani, a doctor, lives in England but spoke to her mother five times a day and paid frequent visits to see her parents.

Prins a doctor too, and the eldest son and Shehan, the baby of the family, were also particularly close to Sushila in spirit. She delighted in all her grandchildren and was equally proud of them all. She was always glad to see them and loved nothing more than having all her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren round her, sitting down together at meals or merely enjoying their company and youthful exuberance.

It was only last month, on December 19 that we joined with her in a post birthday celebration of her 80th birthday and on December 28, I sat at her table at a charity dance organized by Lilamani. She looked beautiful that night and Lilamani repeatedly told her so, at which she smiled her radiant smile and said ‘Thank You, darling’.

On her birthday,, words composed in her honour, by her children and grandchildren were as follows;
‘You are the rock we built our lives on. You have always been there for us, no matter what. We are indeed lucky to have been blessed with one as good, caring and generous as you. Your patience and optimism are two of your greatest qualities. Open Heart and Open House…all are welcome---that’s how you have lived, doing your very best for everyone, always caring and sharing.

Perhaps overworked and possibly under appreciated
Yet undaunted you happily continue to do your best. So this is to say
Have a wonderful birthday and Thank you for being you..’
I shall miss you Sushila, your comfort, your friendship and your radiant smile.
‘She walks in beauty like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes’ (Lord Byron)

Ilica Malkanthi Karunaratne

Daily News Sat Jan 14 2012

Dr. Priyanka Prasad Jayasinghe:

Irreparable loss

Dr. Priyanka Prasad Jayasinghe, a highly respected medical professional in the Karandeniya area was brutally gunned down on September 29. Thanks to the timely action of the Criminal Investigation Department and the Karandeniya police, the killers were brought to book within a few weeks. Yet, I can not understand how they made up their mind to kill a harmless person like Dr. Jayasinghe.

Dr. Jayasinghe was a very amiable person who was kind and sympathetic not only towards his patients but also to everybody who associated him.

He was born in 1971 as the eldest child in a family of three sons. Dharmadasa Jayasinghe, his father who was a graduate and a principal was a highly respected person in the Karandeniya area. He resigned from the public service to engage in politics. Subsequently, he became a district development council member of JVP for Galle district.

Having passed the year five scholarship examination, Priyanka Jayasinghe was admitted to Ananda Collage, Colombo to pursue his secondary education. There he excelled in both studies and extra-curricular activities. On completion of his school education, he gained admission to the Medical College, Colombo fulfilling his childhood dream to become a doctor. After he completed the final examination of the medical college, he did his internship at Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital.

After a short stint there, he decided to come back to his native place Karandeniya to serve the people whom he loved, which is a very rare occurrence nowadays since most of the professionals prefer to settle down in cities for better prospects. In contrast, Dr. Jayasinghe served in his native village quite contently. He was a doctor who listened to the patients patiently and attended them irrespective of cast, creed, religion and class. When he started a private practice to extend his services he became popular. He did not charge a fee from members of the clergy, security forces personnel and poor patients. He sometimes gave money to them to buy medicines. When there was a patient who was invalid, he used to visit them at their residences without charging an additional fee.

He was my father's doctor until my father's death. When he saw the difficulties that my father had to undergo to visit his dispensary, he advised us not to bother to take my father to him. Instead he visited him at our residence. He did no charge a cent for consultation or travelling.

Recently, he had opened a channelling service to provide services of reputed medical specialists and consultants paving the way to have those facilities to the patients at their doorsteps. Otherwise, they were to go either to Colombo or Galle.

Dr. Jayasinghe shunned politics. That would have been due to the difficulties experienced by his family due to his father's politics. Dr. Jayasinghe's family has inherited a large acreage of cinnamon and paddy lands from his maternal side.

His father's politics has left him with only about one acre of land where his house now stands.

Dr. Jayasinghe's demise is an irreparable loss not only to his family members, friends and patients but also to the entire country as well.

May he attain Nibbana.

Jayantha Jayaweera, Attorney-at-law 

Sunday Times Jan 8 2012

The unsung leader of the voiceless

W.P.P. Abeydeera

For the past 30 years or more, Abeydeera worked hard to make a difference to the life of the “plain people”. His sensitivity and concern towards the less privileged was such that he made maximum use of the Sri Lanka Canada Development Fund, which later came to be known as Sri Lanka Centre for Development Fund, to set individuals and communities on the path of self -reliance.

Throughout his tenure as Executive Director of the SLCDF, he did what he enjoyed doing best -- working for the people. He did not care about the battering his ‘physical being’ was taking in the process; he continued regardless of the physical wear to his system which was to soon become irreparable.

One moment he was there and the next he was gone. The firm hand of death took him away and left a number of people ‘destitute’ and sad. The one phrase heard with unmitigated poignancy amongst those who came to pay their last respects to Abey at the funeral was – “Oh! He was a good man”. That sufficed to be the epitaph for a man who wanted no recognition from anyone and no return for the work he did either from his beneficiaries or from his benefactors.

Ever polite and humble in his demeanour, he was as those of his ilk are wont to be. He made no attempt to cultivate or to look for patronage from politicians, the elite or the powerful. He cared not for the rich; nor did he bother to amass wealth for himself. He remained to the end, the simple man that he was when he started the long march of his life in this job.

Yet no part of his fund was ever moved to please anyone except those that came within the project criteria laid out for the management of the fund. Had he wanted he could have made the connection with the rich and the powerful with the finances he ‘controlled’. What better tribute can one offer to a man who remained steadfast to his principles to the end.

Ethnic differentiation was not a note he played on. To him the Sinhalese, the Tamils and the Muslims were all a part of the human race to be treated with equal respect and consideration. He knew no other cause except those of the downtrodden who came into his orbit. The Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and the Muslims had no special resonance with him. They too were just a part of the whole and his interest was with the whole and not with the differentiated segments in society.

I think his early leanings towards left politics made him attuned to empathize with the disadvantaged within the Sri Lankan system, a credo that guided him throughout his life. He, however, kept his political leanings to himself to maintain neutrality. Abey was above all, a man of integrity and in his convictions no man could cross swords and succeed. He was also a very private man who therefore kept social interactions to what was absolutely essential to his work. A man of few words but a man of his word, Abey will be missed by all those who knew him, understood his nature and appreciated his worth.

His smile, when it came, spread to his face in sincerity and made you aware of his friendship for you. The smile is gone and the man is gone. But the memories of him will remain with his associates. 
Our hope is that time will bring solace to his wife Nina and their two sons. May they have consolation in the thought that in the small space he occupied he was a giant amongst men. He remained and died an independent man.

May he rest in peace!

Gnana Moonasinghe

Looking back on a dear friendship of almost 80 years


The first death anniversary of M. S. Ranatunga (Rane) of Thimbirigasyaya Road, Colombo 5, was commemorated with a sermon (bana) delivered by a Buddhist monk on November 19, 2011, and an almsgiving (dhaana) offered to a representative group of Buddhist monks the following day. 
Even after one year, I cannot reconcile myself to the fact that a dear friend for nearly 80 years has passed away, although the Dhamma teaches us that everything in this universe is impermanent, not excepting life.

We studied at Mahinda College, Galle. Except for a couple of years during the infant stages of our school career, we were classmates throughout. We remained loyal friends until death took him away last year.

Rane hailed from a remote hamlet in Galle, while I was from the town. He spent most of his spare time with books, while I used mine for activities, such as playing games, cricket especially. We had one thing in common – we both came from large families, not less than a dozen members in each family!Rane got excellent results at the senior school certificate examination in 1945, and was exempted from the London Matriculation.

He entered the University of Ceylon from the Pembroke Academy of Colombo, offering an unusual combination of subjects: Botany, Chemistry, Physics and Geography. In 1951, he obtained a second class honours degree in Botany, which earned him the prestigious appointment as a Deputy Conservator in the Forest Department.

By a strange coincidence, we both proceeded to the UK in 1951 for further education. Rane studied at the Commonwealth Institute of Forestry, affiliated to the University of Oxford, with collegiate status at Balliol College. He obtained a Bachelor of Science, leading up to a Masters later on. I studied at the University of Durham Dental Faculty.

During our years in the UK we kept in touch. In the late summer of 1952, I met him in London on his return from Paris, where he had attended a seminar arranged by the University of Oxford. Again, one weekend in 1953, he made his first ever dental appointment with me at the New Castle-upon-Tyne Dental Hospital. Eventually, he and his family would become my loyal patients. Also, we shared a few memorable days sightseeing as far north as Edinburgh.

Rane was always mindful of the welfare of his family – both nuclear and extended. So much so that family life left him with little time for his friends and other social obligations. Rane and Swarna (who died in 1998) brought up their children and grandchild in exemplary fashion. The children received a sound professional education, and they and their spouses hold highly responsible posts in corporate bodies. His getting through the difficult months following his wife’s demise and his illness in his last few years was possible because of the unstinting care of his children and their spouses.

This appreciation would be incomplete without reference to the multitude of services Rane rendered. Had he remained in the Forest Department, he would have ended up as Conservator of Forests. However, necessity demanded that he be appointed General Manager of the Timber Corporation. One thing led to another, and before you knew it the Food and Agriculture Organisation had appointed him as a consultant, and stationed him in Nepal.

A whole year has passed since Rane left us. Writing this appreciation wasn’t easy. My wife and our four children share my grief. Battling the vicissitudes of life, eventually we fail – all of us. Your beloved friend Wimal has only one last wish for you, sweet prince:

Rane, may you attain Nibbane.

Dr. W. G. Wimaladharma

Honourable brother-in-law was a model of integrity, hard work and pragmatism


S. Mahalingam, my only brother-in-law, is no more. He passed away in his sleep at his home in Karaveddi on Saturday, December 17, 2011. On hearing the news of his demise, our hearts skipped a beat and the blood rushed to our heads. The reaction of my wife, his only sister, cannot be described in words.

My association with Mahalingam goes back to our boyhood days. He was a close relative. My father and his father were bosom buddies from childhood and kept up their healthy relationship till the end of their lives.

Out of an abundance of love and affection for his sister, Mahalingam readily agreed to an exchange marriage, although he had not seen my sister, who was living in Jaffna. My marriage to Mahalingam’s sister took place on May 12, 1961, and his marriage to my sister took place a year later, on August 19, 1962. Defying the common belief that exchange marriages seldom work out, both our marriages blossomed. My wife and I have four children, three boys and a girl. Mahalingam had five children, three girls and two boys, and all the children are living overseas and doing well. My children too are doing well.

Mahalingam had vast knowledge, and industry and energy were embedded in his personality, making him a master of word and deed. He was a voracious reader. He was a good writer, with a compelling style – modern, vigorous, dynamic. He wielded the pen as if it were a sword. He was reputed for his appreciations and letters to the editor on matters of public interest. I was expecting him to write an appreciation of me, but fate has decreed that I should write an appreciation of him.

He was a stickler for accuracy, and he had a gift for lucid expression. His life was a model of integrity, hard work and pragmatism. He was strictly honest and he never minced words. He never swerved from the path of duty. He could be quick tempered, but he was lucky to have a good wife (my sister) who used the “remote control” within her to calm him down.

Behind every successful man stands a woman. An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, the Bible says. Mahalingam was a very happy family man – a devoted husband, a loving father, a loving brother, and an understanding relative.

He was very fond of his sister (my wife). He had a family photograph of my family in his room. After his funeral, my sister gave the photograph to my wife, who was pleasantly surprised. She cried out, saying “What a great man my Anna was!"

The younger generation is often indifferent to ageing parents and consider them a burden. Mahalingam’s children came from Canada and the UK and performed the funeral rites. They are grateful children.

Mahalingam was extremely religious. He was always visiting the two Pillayar temples in Karaveddi. He observed the most sacred Kanthasaddy fast every year for 35 years. He lived a full life, exceeding the Biblical span. He enjoyed being with his 10 grandchildren.

Mahalingam’s life and work can be best summed up in a line from Horace:
“Justum et tenacem propositi virum” – A man upright and tenacious of purpose.
Om. Shanthi! Shanthi!

V. Vimalarajah

Touched by a kind mother-in-law


As I sit down in a distant land and think of you I can't believe 15 years have lapsed since you left us. You are never far away from our thoughts. I got to know and love Aunty Norma when I first joined the family by marrying her second son. I will never forget how she cried at our wedding and I suppose she thought she was going to lose her son but what happened was quite different.

She warmly welcomed me to her family and from that moment a friendship and affection grew between us. We were always there for each other in good times and bad. We had such great times. Fond memories of those days will never be forgotten. They never fade away.

Aunty Norma had a personality that touched everyone who knew her. She was kind and caring and had time to listen to everyone. Although she had a busy social life, she found time to talk to the green leaves seller who would come to her door, the vendor and butcher at the market.

She was a good wife who was always there for Uncle Joe. She was also a loving mother and wonderful grandmother who loved her family. Many are the little things she did with her grandchildren which will be cherished by them forever. She was always full of fun and laughter.

One striking quality about Aunty Norma was her faith. Her faith gave her the strength even in troubled times. During her illness when she suffered so much of pain her faith gave her the strength to go on. 
Fifteen years have gone by and many things have changed. Many are the success your children and grandchildren have achieved through the years.

You would have been truly proud of them. My only regret is that you are not with us to share these moments but I guess God knew best. He saw you in so much of pain and took you home. You will always live vividly in the minds and hearts of those you have touched by your rare and special qualities.

Time and tides change but our beautiful memories will last forever. As Tagore says "Death is not extinguishing the light, it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come."


Sunday Times Jan 1 2012

Daddy was genial and generous, his life like the soft petal of a flower


It is hard to believe that 15 years have elapsed since the passing away of my dearly beloved father, Alhaj Sabjoo Abdul Careem, chairman of the Careem Group of Companies and Elite Washing Soap. Fond memories of him live on.

My Daddy’s life was like the soft petal of a flower, a life lived in submission and praise to Almighty Allah. He was genial, generous and gentle in all he did. He won the hearts and minds of all. His counsel and words of wisdom won him many friends (and foes as well).

He was a fond father and a loving husband. He cared greatly for his dearly beloved wife Jennath, and his lovely family of eight. All those who knew my Daddy had praise for him, referring to the exemplary way he brought up his family and the love and affection he showered on them. He was certainly a special kind of person.

The final moments of darling Daddy are still vivid in our memories. On that fateful day he woke up from his sick bed, looked hard at me and said, “Please give me time to do the Amal [prayers].” Such was his strong belief, and the devotion and dedication to his Islamic faith.

May Almighty Allah grant him Jennathul Firdouse, Ameen. This is the sincere prayer and the greatest wish of a grateful daughter.

In my heart
I will never forget you.
My heart still aches
As I whisper
I love you, Daddy,
And I miss you so terribly.
To the world you were just one
To us you were all the world.
You made us great and proud
To own you as our Darling Daddy.

Sakina Mansoor Asgerally (Careema Careem)

Father figure, beloved brother will live on in the hearts of the Malay community


I scrambled out of bed when my mobile rang early in the morning on Saturday, September 24. I sensed I was in for some bad news, and sure enough the call was to inform me of the passing away of dear Alhaj Nizam Samath. Just two days earlier, he had celebrated his 68th birthday.

I felt bad that I was not present to shoulder Alhaj Nizam Samath’s janaza on his final journey. Nevertheless, from beyond the oceans, here Down Under, Was-salam, dear Uncle, childhood friend, playmate and brother at the Kandy Malay Association. May you attain Jennathul Firdhous.

Alhaj Nizam Samath was educated at St. Sylvester’s College, Kandy, where he excelled at hockey. After completing a course in technical education, he served for a short period in the Police Department as a personal assistant to a police officer. He later joined the Commercial Bank of Ceylon, where he served until his retirement. He was a pioneer in the then active Kandy District Hockey Association, and was much sought after to officiate at sports events and promote sports in the district.

To us members of the Kandy Malay Association, we have lost a brother who inspired us with his knowledge of the history of the Malays in Ceylon. He helped those who sought his assistance in these subjects for their postgraduate studies in foreign universities, and he was happy to share his knowledge in order to spread the Malay language, attire, and culture.

He was recently reappointed editor of the revived “Terang”, the quarterly news publication sponsored by the Kandy Malays. At the time of his death, he was collecting information from me about the Sri Lanka Malays living in Australia for the first edition of the new “Terang”.

He was an inspiration to the Malays and a livewire at the association. He never failed to don the Malay songkok at a janaza or Malay function. He served as general secretary of the association and later as president. Drawing on his banking experience and penchant for figures, he served as treasurer for many years. He was appointed a vice-president at this year’s annual general meeting.

When he was transferred to the Commercial Bank’s head office in Colombo, he would join me at Dimo for the drive back home for the weekend. We enjoyed a great many jokes on the way, and made plans for the welfare of the Kandy Malays.

Alhaj Nizam Samath’s name will live on in the annals of the Kandy Malay Association. Good-bye, Sweet Prince. May the Angels guide you in your journeys in Ahira, where we shall all meet again. Inna Lillahi Wainna Ilaihi Rajioon. Ameen.

Feizal Dole

‘His living will not be in vain’

Yohan de Silva

It is hard to believe that over three months have passed since you left us. The death of my nephew was a shock to all those who loved him. He was always full of life, taking charge of people and situations.
My recollections of Yohan are fond ones. I still remember having a sea bath with him a few years ago- that was the last time I met him. The times he spent with us were memorable and joyous and life has never been the same for his parents and sister after he left them.

Yohan excelled in basketball, football and maths in High School and always wanted to play professional football in the US. He was the epitome of a bright high school student, hardworking, disciplined and loving.

Like other members of his family who grieve for him, my sorrow is mellowed by the consolation that he was always loved by his parents, grandparents Ralph and Dorothy, family and his friends. While wishing his parents the strength to carry on, let me conclude with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King:
“ If I can help somebody as I pass along, if I can cheer somebody with a word or song, if I can show somebody he is travelling wrong, then my living will not be in vain.”

Y. Nalin de Silva

A beautiful life and remarkable personality – gone from our midst too soon


December 24 marked the third month since the tragic and untimely death of my niece, Srini Vasana. A valuable life was snatched away, causing immeasurable sadness and loss to her husband, her eleven-year-old daughter, and her pupils. She was 34 years old.

Srini Vasana was born to a family of three, and at the time of her death she had been a teacher for 14 years at Loyola College, Negombo.

Lovable character that she was, always a smile on her face, she was the most sought after in the family circle. To all her demise is still agonizing, a pain too great to cope with. Yes, death is a great mystery, and every death is heart-breaking for the loved ones. And when it is an untimely death, the pain is twice as great.

As a professional, Srini Vasana had an immense impact on her associates. The great honour accorded her by Loyola College reflected the school’s deep appreciation and admiration of her life and contribution to the school. The thousands who came to her home to pay their last respects showed the love she had won during her short life – love from her pupils, her fellow teachers at Loyola, and her friends.

I witnessed the great personal concern the teaching staff showed when the news came that Vasana had gone missing after leaving home that morning, on her way to Negombo. No doubt her faith influenced her way of life. Other sources of inspiration that guided her life would have been the traditions she inherited from her parents and grandparents, also teachers.

I confess that until her death I was largely ignorant of the depth of her beautiful life and the remarkable personality she had become. Now, when I recall my own memories of her, I realise that she showed from childhood the potential to become a great personality.

She exhibited her skills as a group activist by organising the “Lama Samajaya” for all her cousins, during the Christmas get-together at our parental home. As a teenager, she had strong views on current issues, in the church and in society. She always discussed these from the perspective of justice.

It is a hard truth reflecting the sad state of contemporary society that most of us consider money the first priority in life. We crave it and value it even more than the life of another human being. However, Srini Vasana had her own order of values. Her dedication and commitment to a higher cause, her fidelity to the calling she received from above, were the remarkable features of her life.

She had a great sensitivity to the needs of others, and she happily and readily served those entrusted in her care. I was told that whenever the school staff went on an outing, she would be the last to take her meal, once she had satisfied herself that everyone else has been adequately served.

Vasana’s exemplary life should be a source of comfort and strength to her grieving family. 
We should all rejoice that Srini Vasana lived her life to the full and that she will enjoy the reward that was prepared for her even before she was in her mother’s womb. The Good Lord may have already said, “Come, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

To those of us grieving, only faith and hope can comfort.

Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda