long ago Nugegoda – and
recalling Linda Saparamadu nee Pieris
by Bona Ekanayaka - Sunday Island Jun 29 2003
Very long ago there was a quiet, peaceful, friendly hamlet named Nugegoda. And
my father brought his family there years ago to a house named "Green
had just one tarred road — Church Street — with only seven house, separated
by cool shady jungle. Church Street went over the railway line to the one big
shopping store — Simmon’s Store. How many of us will remember it now?
only approach to Colombo on tarred roads were from Kohuvela via Pamankade on one
side, and on the other side via Mirihana down the Cotta Road through Kotte.
paths led off Church Street to residences through the jungle, and one gravel
path which we called "the Red Road" developed into the well known High
Level Road devoid of all traces of jungle, and jam-packed with buildings both
residential and commercial, teeming with myriads of facets of human activity.
so, very very long ago, Linda Pieris and I walked down Church Street in a
straggling group of girls and one boy - Linda and her younger sister violet (who
had curls like wire springs) came from just round the corner from their
father’s house — the house in which their father had been born. Our
straggling group was led by my elder sister and her best friend Pansy Ingram who
lived opposite our house with her widowed mother in Mr. and Mrs. Lucas’ house
— their relatives.
youngest Lucas girl, Esme, was one of our Church Street gang. Then Renee
Solomons and her sisters came from across the Kohuvela junction on the
Kalubovila side, Vincent Perera (who in adult years ran a textile mill) and his
small step sister Lily joined us, and further on the road, the tall Pieris
sisters Letty and Beryl stepped by my sister and Pansy. From the Red Road came
my classmate Gnanapooshany and her younger sister Jayapooshani and from a side
lane Mr. and Mrs. Walber Pieris’ daughter Doris joined us. (Lots of Pierises
down Church Street!)
Abraham Pieris had a lovely house with open verandah and tall pillars much
admired in adult life by architect Valentine Gunesekera. So led by my sister and
her friend Pansy walking briskly with their lordly long-stockinged legs, we
younger ones meandered leisurely on a road that was (in those far off days) all
ours, to St. John’s school where Miss. E. Bultjens was the most amiable and
the shady road by the railway line came my cousins the Witanachchi girls —
many of them. From the other side of the railway line came Lend Dissanayaka
whose two elder brothers became I.G.P.s in turn in later years. They said they
Walked to Royal College from Nugegoda!! — over paddy fields and through jungle
— well — at that time Nugegoda had no buses or cars (we walked), no
electricity (we used oil lamps) no pipe water (we had wells) and pits and
buckets for sewage.
younger sister Mildred in later years, came to my sister for piano lessons as
did Linda’s sister Violet Linda learnt the violin from the well known teacher
the Nawala side came Sophie Chrissy and Consy Perera in their buggy cart. Many
children came in buggy carts, and the carters were expert at avoiding accidents.
Many came by train from Udahamulla and walked the short distance from the
station to school, as did my classmate Decima Rabot who played "Springtime
in the Rockies" on our piano.
remember Pansy and my sister in the E.S.I.C. class. I remember the names of some
of them Doreen Weerakkody (who as Doreen Wijewardena was a very efficient clerk
in the school when Mrs. Aldons was principal), Lilian Siriwardena, Sophie
Perera, Olive Nugara, Merlin Wikramanayaka, and two boys Willie Jayasingha and
T. A. D. Alexanader (who naturally was dubbed "Tadpole" by his rude
remember some of my classmates’ names — Agnes Weerasinghe — Edna Perera
(whose children Dr. Nirmala Yahampath, Ruvani Mylvaganum and Tirath Lekamge are
all living and working abroad), Joyce Nugara, Phyllis Bandaratilleke, Vemice
Rozairo (who had an elder brother Malcolm in school and who emigrated to
Australia after school) Sumana Cooray, Glady Witanachchi, twins Merle and Pearl
Perera, Doris Wille, Mary Samaranayaka — boys:- Justin (who memorised chunks
out of textbooks with ease), Trevor Lewis, Ivor Austin (who had two sisters in
school, Phyllis and Gladys) Eustace Ranasinghe, Roland Fonseka — and many more
I can’t remember. The boys were very polite to the girls.
our walk to school we always looked at Miss. Edith Weerasingha’s house. It was
set far back from the road in the middle of a vast neatly cut grass field,
surrounded by jungle, with a large opening in the jungle for entrance and exit.
As far as I remember there was no wire or Wooden fencing — only the jungle,
— and no gate — only that wide entrance — and so very safe in those
also looked in at old Mr. Freddy Ratnayaka’s house to see whether he was up
and about:- his feet swelled for six months of the year, and in those six months
he visited all the people — his friends — down Church Street and in its by
lanes. The residents were glad to see him and listen to his Cheery Chatter. (And
he sometimes proclaimed "the most beautiful girl in Nugegoda is Esme
next six months the swollen feet went back to a normal size, and Mr. Ratnayaka
sat all day silent in his verandah, unconscious of the world around him,
attended devotedly by his quiet shadowy wife.
father took my four brothers to Royal College in his car. He also gave lifts to
the Henricus boys just round the corner (opposite to Linda’s corner) and to
Stanmore Weerasinge from the Malwatta Lane. (The Henricus boys were later famous
boxers and sportsmen).
parents owned acres and acres of jungle land, and their house was in an
enclosure in the middle of the jungle reached by way of the Shady Malwatta lane
Stanmore’s sister Somie Weerasingha was my age and my friend. In much later
years she and her husband Danny Witanachchi helped me with my car when my
daughter and I lost our home people, and were alone in "Green Lodge".
Weerasingha property was loaded with fruit trees — Mangos, Olives,
"indi" Guava, "ugurassa", Ambarella, magnetic jungle fruits
which the Weerasinghas so generously gave us. And the well — we simply bent
down and scooped up buckets of clean fresh water for an outdoor bath — Lovely
lovely jungle is no more. Malwatta Avenue became a tarred road chock-a-block
with houses — houses with Tall gates and high boundary walls like prisons.
day my sister’s class was "Kept in" — most unusual behaviour for
kindly Miss. Bultjens; they must have been very rowdy indeed. As I hung around
the half wall of her class room, waiting to go home for my rice and curry, Esme
came along and asked my sister "Shall I take her home?" My sister
gladly gave me over to her after that, all four trips to school and back were
done in Esme’s and Linda’s company as they were classmates and friends. They
were only a ten years older than me, (Esme emigrated to Canada with her children
after her husband’s death and died only a couple of years ago. Until then we
were in touch with her as she sometimes visited Sri Lanka).
had innumerable relatives who were always busy with something or other, and her
anecdotes kept Esme and me interested all the way to and from school. And
through a lot of my years I have been listening to Linda especially in the last
years when I lived alone in my father’s house.
was very knowledgeable on all matters, and very reasonable and matter of fact.
She and her husband were personal friends of S. de S. Jayasingha and staunch
UNPers, but when Chandrika Kumaratunga won an election she told me "If
Chandrika listens to her mother she will do well".
Dehiwela-Mt. Lavinia was voting for a mayor, she told me "vote for
Jayaratna Perera, he is a good man" — and I did, and he proved a good man
in a matter which perhaps an important man would have ignored:- a student boy,
living in my daughter’s annexe, adopted stray puppy (a poor thrown away female
puppy). One day the Municipality garbage truck driver saw the pretty puppy
running about, came into the garden and scooped away the puppy. The student was
very upset. He almost wept and said "that’s my puppy and I love
her"!! He gave me lots of telephone numbers to call and one number was the
Mayor’s!! You know, the Mayor did not like his employees stealing puppies —
looked into the matter and hey presto! the puppy was brought back the next day.
The driver made a profit anyway as my daughter tipped him generously for
returning the animal!!
passed after our days at St. John’s. We lost parents, family members and
friends. People took various paths, local and abroad. Linda and Violet took up
interesting hobbies — flower making and dressmaking — Linda’s flower
making turned into a great venture and she had pupils learning the art. Violet
too started dressmaking classes. Whatever Linda and Violet did was done
perfectly. Her flowers and Violet’s sewing for my daughter’s wedding outfit
were a kindly gift from them.
Time was passing —
only doctor 77 years ago was Dr. Roy Dias whose son Eardley practised Ayurvedic
medicine. After him was Dr. Guy Paranavitana, a typical beloved G. P. of
fiction. Then to Church Street (later given two long names) came the popular Dr.
Olegesekeram — clever and kindly.
very very long ago Nugegoda was full of simple friendly people, Church and
Temple played an important part in social life. My parents were much involved in
St. John’s church, As organist my father was supposed to be paid — but he
refused a salary. The church committee told him they had to put it down as
"paid" for the auditor’s scrutiny. So he took it — signed a
receipt — and gave it back to the church as a donation. We learnt to
"give" to church and temple — not "take". Nugegoda was
full of "dear hearts and gentle people" with simple, plain, contented
living. The atmosphere I recall was serene and friendly.
Time relentlessly passed.
eldest brother (later Director of Meteorology) gave me permission to start a
Nursery in our home. He and my mother took a great interest in the babies’
activities and the end of year concert. A friend, Catherine Mahanama’s husband
gave the class a name — "Kalindu Bilindu Pasala".
old Church Street school going gang rallied round magnificently. Linda’s
daughter came, violet’s grand children came, so did Letty’s youngest
daughter and two grand-children, Vincent’s niece, Esme’s nephew and niece
from just opposite my house, and Weerasingha little ones and others from other
roads. My brother taped the children’s singing and played it back to them
after the concert and they were so amused to hear themselves! My mother was
happy to talk to parents. My sister, by then Mrs. N. J. A. Cooray, supervised
jungle had vanished. Nugegoda was a twin of the Pettah. The quiet and peace and
fresh air had turned into noise, rush, restlessness and pollution. When my
sister, brothers and I were very young, my father’s car was the only one on
the road, but soon strings of traffic developed and vehicles, nose to tail, jam
all movement today.
time again took away family and friends and I was alone at "Green
Lodge" — my only surving brother in Kandy with his family, my daughter in
Ganemulla with her family and Linda just round the corner as of old — with her
daughter Ranita and her family.
would visit me weekly — sometimes twice. Sometimes on her way to see Violet
she would step in for a few minutes.
did not use her car, but walked. She would sometimes bring me cake or snacks
made by her family retainer. Alice and I would make us tea, and we would talk
— Linda telling me of radio programmes of people being interviewed, what was
said and done by politicians — she was knowledgeable, and I listened. She
would say "How can poor people live?" and she cut down expenditure and
donated more to charity, especially saving cattle from slaughter. She would tell
me how her Buddhist friends went on pilgrimages especially to a place called
"Meethirigala". As Esme and I were interested years ago, I was as
then old age claimed us — stowed our foot steps, dimmed our eye sight, flawed
our memory, and dizzyed our balance. We needed props, we had to be very cautious
in our walking, so we cut out visiting. Linda who used to telephone me about
T.V. interviews of people brought down her calls, She missed her independence
— she had always been active. Now she said "we have lived too long".
Walking from Nugegoda to the Thimbirigasyaya temple as she and her family had
done in her schooldays, now seemed an unbelievable feat.