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The Sunday Observer Golden Jubilee People of Sri Lanka

 From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Dec 7 2008

`Love stands the test of time’

Athula Adikari talks about life with his wife singer Samitha Mudunkotuwa:
 

By Lakmal WELABADA

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Athula Adikari and Samitha Mudunkotuwa are no strangers to the Lankan music audience. Let’s see what Athula has to say about themselves to `Spouse’s Mouth’....

 “We warmly welcome the gossip spread about us. Bollywood people do it by their own selves in order to get more publicity. It is a well organised tactic. But, in our case we’re getting it free,” laughs Athula blending together his usual charm, mischievous and sportive looks.

“I was a bachelor when gossip spread around that I eloped with a young female singer who by that time was on top of the fame list. Another wonderful rumour was spread after I got married to Samitha. My daughter was a baby at that time. It was said that I who was drunk at a party threw my little one up for fun and missed catching her back, and she fell and died. Third rumour cropped up very recently, after a few months my son was born, entangling Samitha with a popular politician. What I believe is that if you can’t live with your spouse or partner, it’s always advisable to separate rather than suffer and live together under one roof. That’s my policy. Samitha too knows about it. So, if she wanted to get away from me, she could have talked about it with me and come to a conclusion. She didn’t need to elope,” explains Athula.

 Question: How does it affect your personal life?

Athula: True enough, at the beginning, it worried us. When you mature, you look at things in a different angle. What Samitha and I thought was, all these happened due to our fame. If we were just an ordinary couple, nothing of that sort would have taken place. Why should we worry about things which are not relevant to us?

Question: But, how would it affect your children as they still live in a society with a traditional frame?

Athula: My daughter is 12 years old and son is 6 years old. They are both studious, and both Samitha and I are really happy about them. We are a friendly family who have nothing to hide. So far my daughter has not inquired about the rumours that go around about her parents. Even though such talk reaches her ears, our girl will not get affected since she, sees for herself what’s happening at home, how her parents live with them. Todays children cannot be fooled easily (smiles).

Question: If you know the parties who are trying to harm your dignity, can’t you take legal action against them?

Athula: Why should we bother? We’ve been keeping quiet. They said I was drunk at a party and missed catching my baby daughter. You see, I’m a teetotaller. Also we have no time to worry about who has spread such `news’. We have more important work. Furthermore I’ve gauged the interests of such people and their mentalities. Some of them are people who have their own personal problems, and are jealous when they see a family living happily. There’s another set in society who love to entangle their names with popular characters in order to get themselves into the lime light. And some live in their own fantasy-world imagining famous characters as their lovers. Such fans who go crazy over the famous personalities try their level best to get at them and then start a love affair with them. Failing that, out of shame, their ‘love’ would changes to `hatred’ and they would go to any extent to hurt the other party. Different persons have different mentalities. What can we do about them? (smiles). Even if people see us chatting for a while with somebody of the opposite sex, soon we’ll hear gossip coupling us with that person. My daughter will soon reach my height, and I would not wonder if they say that `Athula is seen going with a girl in his car’ if they see her with me sitting in the front seat next to me in the car (laughs).

 Adikari Mudiyanselage Pubudu Athula Adikari was born on March 8 in 1966 at Mahawewa in the Chilaw District to A.M. Kumaradasa Adikari and Lalitha Wickremanayaka. Famous singer Nelu Adikari is Athula’s only younger sister. Athula’s was a musical family. Though his father taught English and Science subjects at school, he loved to play music instruments and sing along with Athula’s mother who was a music and dancing teacher. The background his sister and he got since their childhood moulded them to reach the peak as of at present though they never had any intention of choosing music as their profession. Every one born to this world is gifted with some talent to live. To what height they can climb up is decided by their previous Kamma (good deeds). However much you try to divert one’s path of destiny, it won’t change. Athula’s was also a similar story. Athula studied the alphabet first at Ananda Vidyalaya, Chilaw where his mother was a teacher. He then entered Royal College, Colombo through a Grade Five Scholarship. “I was at the hostel. After a few years I had a problem in finding a place to stay. My parents who noticed that it was affecting my studies, took me back to Ananda, Chilaw, when I was in grade 9. And that was how my fate directed me towards music,” recalls Athula.

Athula studied Trinity College piano music upto grade 5. The Guitar was always an attraction. He learnt the Eastern music notes in singing from his mother. Music was his forte, Tennis and Badminton were among his few hobbies. Neil Warnakulasuriya, a guy who was a few years senior to Athula, was also from the same village, Mahawewa. Neil was at Thurstan College, Colombo, and after his exams he decided to form a band of his own. Neil and Athula knew each other since they were kids. As Athula re-entered Ananda Vidyalaya, Neil who was in search of young musicians invited Athula to join them. “My father always backed the idea, but Amma was not that happy and wanted me to concentrate on my studies more. She knew that I would neglect my studies if I started with music. However we, started our band `Sunflower’ in 1981. I was in grade 9 at that time, and joined Neil as the keyboardist,” says Athula.

`Sunflower’ which blossomed in Chilaw spread its popular fragrance all over the island within a short spell of time. Meanwhile Athula managed to sit for A/Ls in 1984, and inevitably strengthened his partnership with the band. `Sunflower’ released their first cassette in 1986. Athula was the keyboardist and had not tried his talents as a singer. But, in 1988, he tried his luck as a singer and released his first solo `Ran Palase’. Out of 12, six songs were hits. Not merely girls, but little ones, middle aged and elders soon became his fans.

If he says he has never had a crush before he met Samitha, it is inaccurate. He has had a few, he accepts. But, Samitha changed his life. “I first met her at `Janakala Centre’ when she came for a record her very first song `Ira Paya’. She had sung the song in her first teledrama where she played the main role in 1988 under the direction of Chandraratne Mapitigama. When she came to record her second song, `Rosa Puranaya’ both of them eventually developed an attraction to each other.

 Samitha Kumari Erandathi Mudunkotuwa was born on January 7 in 1973 at Horana as the only child to the famous music duo, Premadasa Mudunkotuwa, the first Masters holder from Bhathkanda Music College, India and Kumari Bothota, folk singer at the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC).

 Samitha first had her education at Shripali Vidyalaya, Horana and then entered Buddhist Ladies College. She excelled in music under her parents, and learnt dancing under Piyasara Shilpadhipathy. Her father was the `Guru’ of many celebrated singers of today. Samitha being the youngest candidate, passed the Visharada exam at the age of 16 years. Unlike others, she had to face the examination for nearly two hours conducted before the Indian maestros who came to Sri Lanka as examiners. Since she was the daughter of the `Guru’ they took a longer time to come to an impartial decision about her talents.

 In 1988, the famous musician, Rohana Weerasinghe who happened to be one of the judges at an All Island folk singing competition held in Colombo, was quick to recognise the talents of the pretty school going teenager Samitha who won the first prize at the competition. Until Rohana reached her residence at Horana to meet her parents to get permission for her to act and sing the theme song of Mapitigama’s newest teledrama `Ira Paya’ for which he was the music director, he didn’t know who her family was. “No wonder I had an intuition about her, not knowing she is the only offspring of the talented Mudunkotuwa duo,” admitted Rohana when talking about Samitha.

 `Ganga and Nishshanka’ was her second tele drama in which she sang and acted. Lakshman Wijesekara was her music director. In 1995, after her marriage, she took part in the single episode tele `Mudiyanse Mama’ based on Martin Wickeremasinghe’s short story. Her last tele drama was `Dala Rala Pela’ directed by Chandraratne Mapitigama in 1998.

 Samitha released cassettes - `Ira Paya’ (1988), `Rosa Mal Mawathe’ (1991) and `Kolompure’ (1992). `Muthu Kumari’ (1995), `Adara Sulanga’ (1998) and `Sansaranya’ (2002) were her CDs. Her talents have won her acclaim in Sri Lanka as well as abroad. Any Sri Lankan expatriate who lived here at least till the end of 1980s, cannot forget her charming pretty face and her melodious voice.Athula who broke many thousands of hearts of his female fans by tying the knot with Samitha, has also tried his talent not only in singing and music, but before the tele camera as well. Ashoka Handagama’s `Synthetic Sihinaya’ was his first tele in 1988, and Senesh Bandara’s `Arunoda Kalapaya’ (2004) was the second. Roy De Silva’s film `Salamuthu Pinna’ was his first ever experience of the Silver Screen. `Ran Palase’ (1988), `Ran Podak’ (1991) and `Sihine’ (1994) were the cassettes he has released so far. `Surya Nagare’ (1998), `Kale Ne Muthuth’ (2005) and `E-mail Kavi Kariya’ (2005) were among the CDs of his that made a hit.

`Sanda tharu mal mata gena dun’... Athula starts humming the duet he sang with Samitha for their daughter, Kavindya Devindi, composed by Rambukkana Siddhartha Thera and music by Rohana Weerasinghe on the day of her birth. `Sanda sumuduyi mudu sisilayi’, the song they sang for their son, Shane Athula will also be a hit soon.

 “Samitha,” he went on to say, “to me she is just my wife who looks after my children and me. I’m really proud of her talents, and it was she who was behind my success after our marriage. She is a cool cucumber, and rarely looses her temper. I get angry a bit more,” he smiles.

 “Samitha keeps a watchful eye on our children and looks after their studies and so on as I have a little time to spend with them with my busy schedules. She is a wife who never nags. Whatever she does is for the family,” says Athula.

 Question: You with a sporty mischievous outer appearance, you seem to be a deep thinker.

Athula: Yes. I’m totally different from my outward appearance. From the time I was a teenager I got the opportunity to associate with friends who were more older than I. Hence I also used to think like them and eventually became mature before my age. That was why I decided to leave `Sunflower’ after my marriage as I knew it would be difficult to carry on a married life while playing in a band. It was a big risk as I was not sure whether I could survive as a soloist. Also it was a hard decision to leave my friends who were with me for so long. I gave early notice to them to find another keyboardist for the band much to their displeasure. I played with the band, on my wedding day March 25. That was my last day with them. Like that I have made decisions over what I’ve felt right. I dont like to postpone things.

Even having meals I do it on time. I have my breakfast at 6.30 am, lunch at 12.30-1.00 pm and dinner at 6.30-7.00 pm. I take my meals on time even if I’m hungry or not, to finish that session off.

Question: Your future plans?

Athula: Both Samitha and I don’t have intensive plans for the future. To make a better future for our children is our main hope. She helps out in her parents’ music institution.

Whatever the help we can render to the new comers we don’t hesitate to do it. At present I work as the music director of `Derana Dream Star’ programme on Derana TV. I’ve lined up my `A*O2’ band for that. I hope to do a musical concert and release a CD with Samitha next year. Though I have not much time to attend to charity work, both Samitha and I have taken part in many fund raising shows, especially in the campaigns for the Forces.


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer Nov 30 2008

'A man who achieved much success: we are a contended couple'

Thamara talks about life with Minister Bandula Gunewardhana:

 

 

 

Pix: Chinthaka Kumarasinghe

 

Bandula Gunewardhana is the Cabinet Minister of Trade, Marketing Development, Co-operatives and Consumer Affairs; and the man of `Success', one of the famous tutors of Economics and Commerce. Apart from his achievements in his career, what Bandula has achieved in his personal life is no secret. This is what his wife Thamara has to say about him.

 

"He plans his life with targets. So far all his goals have been achieved. He is a man of success," claims Thamara. Homagama was the hometown of Akaravitage Thamara Jayanthi Kusumachandra who was born on October 31. What I (the writer) intends to state about Homagama specifically was the town where the bud of rose of their love blossomed. `Me Nagaraya Ma Oba munagasunu Nagarayayi....' (this is the town that we met) - sung by the famous singer Mervin Perera is the best felicitous verse I could recollect. Though the rest of the song implies a farewell between the two lovers, I quote only the first line of the verse.

 

Apart from being the `Gurupiya' (teacher who rendered a fatherly figure) for many lakhs of students in his Economics and Commerce tutories spread in several main towns in Sri Lanka for 25-30 years, Bandula is a beloved father of five children. His beautiful nest built with Thamara at Nugegoda is full of love and benevolence. Thamara, the captain of the ship who knows to sail `life' smoothly with peace and happiness believes that modesty and simplicity are the two essential ingredients for life. "Bandula always yearned for a big family. We are very happy and proud of all five of them," says the dedicated mother, beginning to recall her past as well.

Akaravitage Kusumachandra, a businessman who owned many shops in the Homagama town, and Pathiravithanalage Dona Premawathie were her parents. Thamara was the youngest to two elder sisters and three elder brothers. "I had my education at Anula Vidyalaya, Nugegoda throughout. I was boarded at a relative's place from grade three to six, as my mother found it difficult to take me to and fro to school. She had to attend to many responsibilities as my father had already passed away by that time," she reminisces.

"Amma was pregnant with me when my father's death occurred. It was a tragical death. I was born on the very day of the third month's death anniversary -`Bana and Dana' (alms-giving). However we didn't face much difficulties since we were a business family. It was our maternal uncle who looked after all our businesses until my brothers reached the age to handle them. After that it was my eldest brother who took control over everything. He even postponed his marriage until all of his siblings got married. He was very strict with us, and looked after us well.

 

Coincidentally his wife also gave birth to their second child (a daughter) on the day of the third month of my brother's death anniversary.

We missed him too," recalls Thamara. Thamara still remembers how she used to talk about her father in her imaginary world when her similar age group kids talked about their fathers. She missed the fatherly love. But, today with great respect, denotes the fulfilment in her life which she gets from her husband, and so she immensely appreciates that.

 

"I was not that much interested in the extracurricular activities at school. Instead, I tended to learn subjects with regard to `home economy', and followed cookery, sewing and other affiliated subjects during my school days," she smiles.

 

Question: He is interested in country and global economy, and you've trained yourself to handle the home economy. Well balanced! Isn't it?

Thamara: Yes (smiles). I try my best to avoid worrying him, and have managed to handle all the household chores and even the children's work. But he never fails to give me the strength in every aspect. He has laid a well planned foundation financially. Also however busy he may be, Bandula never fails to look into the education and other requirements of our children. He is a man who knows how to plan the daily activities economically.

 

Sumithrarachchige Don Bandula Chandrasiri Gunewardane was born on March 16 at `Sumitra Sevena', Rajamalwatta Road, Battaramulla, to Sumithrarachchige Don Charles Albert Gunewardane who worked as a clerk at Golden Fraizer, an English Company in Sri Lanka and Iddamalgodage Dona Wimalawathie as the second of four children.

 

Bandula had his education first at Subhuthi Maha Vidyalaya, Battaramulla. His father's death which occurred when he was 6 or 7 years, made his maternal grandfather, Mabula Ralahamy to takeover their father's role. So, Bandula was sent to Mavalgama Roman Catholic College in his mother's village at Avissawella electorate, where he settled down with his mother and his siblings. Through a Grade Five scholarship, Bandula entered Rajasinghe Vidyalaya, Hanwella, and then Lumbini Vidyalaya, Colombo for his A/Ls.

 

Lumbini did many changes in his life. It was the era in which the Lumbini Theatre Hall was used for many celebrated

 

events including stage dramas, literary seminars and discussions. As a result, the award winning films which marked the history of Lankan film industry, like `Suddilage Kathawa' (directed by Dharmasiri Bandaranayaka in 1983); `Siri Madura' and `Ayoma' (directed by Parakrama Niriella respectively in 1985 and 1989) came out as his productions. Bandula got the Best Producer's Awards for both `Suddilage Kathawa' and `Siri Madura' at the Sarasaviya Film Festival for the respective years.

 

. He knew the importance of earning and saving Cents and Rupees. He began to earn his first Rupee after sitting for O/Ls by giving tuition, and continued it until recently. Bandula entered the campus in 1975, and passed out with a BSc (Business Administration), Special Honours from the University of Sri Jayawardanepura, Nugegoda. After that he qualified for MAT (Member of Accounts Technician Association) of Sri Lanka.

 

Bandula who taught students very early in his life realised that there was a vacuum for reading materials in Commerce and Economics. This young man who had the intuition about the requirement penned his first book in Economics and published it in 1975. Eventually, by the time he passed out from the University he was a publisher of ten books on the subject. Some of his `comrades' who were really `worried' about his succes wrote to the Income Tax Department to look into his income, and as a result he became a taxpayer from his University days. His books were sold in thousands and thousands like hot cakes no sooner they were released to the market. Each time, the first ten thousand copies of the book was snapped up from bookshops, and the printers faced difficulties in supplying the demand. "I have been paying Income Tax since I was an university student. And now even while being in the Government, I still pay Tax and VAT to the Government," once Bandula said. So far he had written about 35-40 books on Commerce and Economy.

 

Question: He has written so many best-selling books on Commerce and Economy. He might have sent you some sweet love notes as well.

 

Thamara : (Blushes and laughs) We did exchange letters. But, ...sorry... I can't remember what he wrote in them (laughs).

 

Question: How did your romance begin?

 

Thamara: He conducted Econ and Commerce tuition classes at `Sivali', Homagama. He has been a long time friend of my brothers as well. He even attended the alms- giving we gave in remembrance of the death of one of my brothers, a Seaman who drowned during a sea bath in Greece. At that time I was doing my O/Ls. Later I joined his A/L classes as I too selected the same stream. I noticed him paying more and special attention to me at the class by giving me books and repeating the lessons until I got grasped it. One day he sent his love proposal through one of my female friends. I was bewildered as it was unexpected. I knew my secured background would not allow me to do a thing like that, and refused. But, he didn't give up. I thought he would change his mind when I kept on ignoring him. But I continued attending the class. After one year, I thought I should give him a bit of a place, and asked him to forward the proposal to my home people. As I expected, they were not that pleased at the beginning as both of us were studying. He was a campus student at that time. But we let our affair continue silently for about two years. We didn't have the opportunity to go out and meet. We both used to bump into each other at our shops at Homagama. As a routine, he paid visits there to meet my brother. After A/Ls, that was the only way we could see each other. We exchanged letters through our friends. However, our horoscopes tallied well, and we got the consent from elders after a seven-year-affair (smiles). We had to wait a bit until my elder sisters got married. We tied the knot on November 17 in 1983.

Apart from `Sussex' at Nugegoda, Bandula conducted classes in Gampaha, Kalutara, Galle and Colombo. During the exam days, he used to have his common examination classes at Sugathadasa Stadium, Colombo for about 10,000 students of his, for ten days annually. From 1975 to 2000, was his target of period for teaching, and then he stepped into full time politics.Bandula got himself into active politics while as a campus student joining with Dinesh Gunewardhana and his MEP (Mahajana Eksath Peramuna). He was one of the chief political orators at the MEP stage when Dinesh

 

contested for Avissawella at the General Election on 1977. Bandula was unanimously elected as the President of the Student Council in his very first year at the Campus. In 1989, Bandula won the Parliamentary Election on the MEP ticket, and became an MP for Colombo District. In 1998, he became a Western Province MP on the MEP ticket. In 2001, MEP joined with President Chandrika's Sri Lanka People's Alliance (PA) Government, and so too Bandula. But, after some time, along with the group who was tired of her reign, Bandula too left the PA and joined with the UNP, under which he was appointed as the Cabinet Minister of Rural Economic Development and Deputy Minister of Finance. He continued to be with the UNP MP in 2004, and re-joined the UPFA to pay his great appreciation towards President Mahinda Rajapaksa's successful endeavour in curing the prevailing wound- the twenty year period of terrorism.

 

At present, Bandula is writing two Sinhala dictionaries for Economics and Commerce; `Aarthika Vidyave Atuwawe' and `Vanija Vidyave Atuvava'. "I really feel sad about the present Parliamentarians as they have a very poor knowledge of the words used in these two subjects. To `respect' their views, sometimes I get up and leave the House when there's a debate. I've noticed my co-Parliamentarians often use wrong words and phrases (without knowing the actual meaning of them) when trying to explain facts in Economics and Commerce. Apart from that some even applaud or oppose things at wrong times. It's a shame for me, after being a teacher of the relevant subjects for nearly 30 years! That's why I've decided to publish these two dictionaries as a duty by myself," once said Bandula in an earlier interview with media.

 

Question: He has targets and plans. I think he had achieved many of them. What's next in line, in your personal life, in politics and business?

 

Thamara: We both want to see our children do well in life. We are very happy about them. They are studying well. Our eldest son, Chathura is in the Greenich University following a Business Management Degree in UK. Our second son, Veranjana is waiting for his A/L results. Both are Royalists. Randula will sit for O/Ls this year. Kumudumali is in Year 11. Both go to Musaeus. The youngest, Hasanjali is in Grade 5 at Visakha. My husband always tells our children that though their father does politics, his children should concentrate in studies as that's their duty. We never use government vehicles for our private use. Sometimes my sons still travel by bus. I too prefer to lie low and lead a humble and peaceful life.What Bandula always says is, Sri Lanka is a place which has a lot of entrepreneurship, but our younger generation are too lazy and they wait until things fall on to their laps, or until the government provides them things. They just are idle taking part in strikes and blaming the prevailing government or constantly being jealous with the affluent society who have come up in life, may be through hardships. There's no use in living like that.

 

Question: Your husband is very popular among Lankan cartoonists, and is often seen in many of the cartoon corners of newspapers.

 

Thamara: (Smiles) Yes! Well, Bandula is planning to hold an exhibition, a collection of the published cartoons delineating himself, early next year. What he assumes through such cartoons is that many don't realise what he tries to imply. Hence, he hopes to title it as `Handunagaththoth Oba Ma...' (if you perceive my true self....). He also hopes to offer Rs. 100,000 for the best cartoon and Rs. 50,000 for the second prize.


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunda Observer Nov 23 2008

She proposed: His answer was a ‘thumb’s- up’ signal!

Fonny talks of life with once stage queen Prema Ganegoda.:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prema Ganegoda was known as the `Queen of the Stage’ in 1960s and 1970s. She won the Best Actress Award in 1966 and in 1971 at the State Drama Festival. Among the thousands of her fans who tried to win her heart and hand, it was `Fonny’ who was the luckiest of them all.

 

Piya Wijaya Fonseka who returned from London on a short holiday with his `queen’, took a walk down his memory lane unwrapping many events and incidents. At one point he stops, silently memorising, the day they put their hidden feelings towards each other into words.....

 

Prema: Aren’t you having a girl friend?

Fonny: No.

Prema: Aren’t you wanting to have one?

Fonny: (in an unaffected attitude) I do, if I meet the right person.

Prema: (After a few seconds, in her usual mischievous tone) What do you think about me? Am I not suitable for you?

 

Fonny looked around. He felt it was not the place and time he could continue a topic like that. He was applying Vaseline cream prescribed by a Homeopathy doctor on Prema’s rash which had spread all over her body making the beauty queen to look like an `ugly duckling’.

 

After being silent a while concentrating a lot on what he was attending on, he spoke. “I’ll tell you in ten minutes,” he said while getting up to go to the well near by to wash his hands. The ten minutes seemed a long time for poor Prema.

 

Fonny was her best friend upto this time. She never felt the gender difference between them as he was so close to her and her family as a friend, a relative, a brother. “Aiyo, what a foolish thing I did? In case he doesn’t have any idea in me I would lose his friendship too. How can I face him now? He’s comes from a good family, and might think I’m trying to get at him by force,” she thought.

 

The so called `ten minutes’ he was taking at the well, for her was like many hours. He was the most loyal friend and the kindest human being she had ever met. Apart from his friendship, often she saw a brother and a father in him. Prema who had been facing a tough and rough life since her childhood felt his assistance like a shower of drizzle on her life.

 

Fonny came in to the house after a shower. He peeped into the sitting room and saw some neighbours and relatives who had come to see the sick, Prema and her paralysed mother. All were having a chit-chat. He knew Prema was waiting for his answer. He had to indicate it to her without letting the others know.

“Prema, what you asked me, is OK,” said Fonny showing the thumps up signal. Prema felt relieved. At least he didn’t think bad about her. And at the same time a strange feeling which she never had towards him before, over came her. Her rosy cheeks looked more blushed. She felt shy. Here after, Fonny was not just going to be her friend, but her fiance. “She says it was the first time she felt shy over me as a male,” smiles Fonny.

 

Prema Ganegoda was born on April 24 in 1947 at Kirindiwela, Gampaha to Simon Ganegoda, paddy farmer and Ensohamy Peiris as the youngest to two elder brothers. Her eldest brother, Gamini Ganegoda took part in Sugathapala Senerath Yapa’s award winning short film `Minisa saha Kaputa’ (The man and the crow).

Prema though born in Gampaha was brought up at her mother’s little house at Kirula Road, Narahenpita. First she had her education at Hinggings College (now Musaeus College), Colombo upto Grade 5, and then was admitted to Parakkramabahu Maha Vidyalaya, Mahawatta, Colombo since she found it was convenient for her to attend to a school that was close to her place. The age gap between her and her two elder brothers were 28 and 21 years respectively.

 

Hence the age difference between Prema and her eldest niece was two years. She faintly remembers her father who was fair and handsome. He rarely paid a visit to their place at Narahenpita, and stayed mostly in his village. It was her mother, Ensohamy who took all the responsibility of looking after her lovely little cute daughter who was born to her after many many years.

 

Ensohamy’s sole income was a catering business. Her tasty lunch that served at her little sitting room was the most popular self service food outlet among all walks of workers at the Labour Department, Survey Department and the CTB which were just opposite to their place.

 

Prema continued to go to school and Sunday School, and took part in many extra curricular events and activities organised, but had paid a little interest in studies. “Actually, with all the work load she had to attend, she had no time to study.

 

When she came home she had to help her Mum and had hardly any time to do her home work,” butts in Fonny. However, the active little Prema was so energetic, that she never felt all that was a harassment. Instead she faced it with her usual benevolent mischievous smile.

 

Meanwhile Heen Baba Dharmasiri, a leading dancing Master came to Prema’s school as the dancing teacher. His meeting was the juncture that laid the foundation for Prema to change her life. Prema started attending his private dancing classes for three days and also a night English class on other two days of the week which was held from 6.00 to 8.00pm.

The Master who recognised Prema’s talents took her to all his dancing shows held everywhere in Colombo and even at foreign High Commissions and Embassies. However, whilst attending to all her busy schedules Ensohamy was protectively behind her daughter.

 

In 1950, Heen Baba arranged a dancing show at Lumbini Hall, Colombo to raise aid for the people who were affected by a cyclone. Popular dramatist Sugathapala de Silva was also among the audience. “Your performance was superb. Would you like to act in a stage drama?” he asked.

 

“I haven’t taken part in any. So, I don’t know what acting is,” she answered innocently. The dramatist looked at the innocent school girl who was fifteen years old. He then turned to her mother whom he managed to convince. It was how Prema Ganegoda was introduced to the popular stage in Sri Lanka.

Ralex Ranasinghe (popular actor Tony Ranasinghe’s elder brother) who was one of the leading photographers during that era zoomed his camera lens to catch the little Barbi queen’s enchanting beauty for the cover page of leading local Magazines.

 

`Thattu Geval’ (The Flats) was her first performance with famous actors and actresses like Tony Ranasinghe, G.W. Surendra, Wickrema Bogoda and Kanthi Weeraratne. The premiere show of the drama was held at the Lumbini Hall in 1963. And it was a great hit which soon went around the island. Since then the teenage stage queen also became a member of Sugathapala de Silva’s `Ape Kattiya’, the famous cream of the performance artistes (lyric composers, musicians, stage decorators and so on) in Sri Lanka.

 

Sugathapala de Silva’s `Bordinkarayo’ (The Boarders- 1963), `Harima Badu Hayak’ (based on a French play -1964) and the Best Actress Award winning stage drama `Hele Nagin Doon Putha’ (based on the English play called `Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ - 1964); Dharmasiri Wickremaratne’s `Handata Banda Iniman’ (1967) and `Onna Babo Athinniya’; Namel Weeramuni’s `Nattukkari’ (The Dancer - 1970); R.R.Samarakoon’s `Ahasin Vatunu Minissu’ (1971) and Simon Navagaththegama’s `Gangavak, Sapaththu Kabalak saha Maranayak’ (1971) which won her the Best Actress of the year award for the second time were the dramas which were staged round the island breaking all Box Office records.

 

Prema Ganegoda was the bubbling star in that golden era of the Lankan stage. Many articles about her inborn talents on the performing stage were well acknowledged by prominent critiques of the country both in Sinhala as well as in the English media. But still Prema was the little mischievous lass of her mother who never broke her routine to get up early in the morning and then to help her out in all her work.

 

After the performance on the stage, she would receive bouquets and bouquets of flowers. Prema who used to accept them with a broad smile, would then run backstage to collect her coconuts and other provisions she had stocked after marketing before the drama started. She would then stuff them into a taxi and take them home. By that time, her mother was too old and feeble to do marketing alone, though she never let her catering business go down.

 

Prema won only two Best Actress’ Awards not because she had any competition with any other actress, but because the State Drama Festival was held only twice in her era, in 1964 and 1971. Until she left the country in 1971, Prema was the only leading actress on the Lankan stage drama.

 

Apart from that Prema took part in a few films as well - `Kinkinipada’ directed by Douglas Kothalawala (1964), Rubi de Mel’s `Pipena Kumudu’ (1966), Yasapalitha Nanayakkara’s `Vasanthi’ (1966) and Dr.Linus Dissanayaka’s `Ves Gaththo’ (1970).

 

Prema’s eldest brother lived in Kelaniya and the other brother lived close to her place at Narahenpita, and with her mother and brother assumed that looking after her brother’s children were also part of her duties. So, going to school became just a routine in her life. However she could only go up to O/Ls. Her father who was separated from her mother died in 1964.

 

Much as she had earned fame, Prema had no idea the importance she gained in this country. She was just the humble and mischievous lass still. Piya Wijaya Fonseka alias Fonny who was boardered in Colombo and studying at Ananda College, Maradana was one of the fans of stage dramas. Fonny was the best artist and decorator at Ananda College at that time.

 

Inheriting the talent through his maternal uncle Bernard Lokuge, a popular Pandol artist in Sri Lanka, Fonny did all the stage decorations and other decor at school functions and festivals. His other forte was not to miss a single drama staged at that time. Among them he felt more inclined to see the dramas of Prema.

Eventually he became a close friend of the backstage crew. Where ever the drama crew went Fonny also went with them. Ensohamy who protected her daughter, didn’t mind sending her alone with Fonny as he had won her trust to the maximum point. It was the time that she fell ill.

The rash she got was a terrible attack both to her career and mentality. Ensohamy who was badly affected over her daughter’s illness ended up becoming paralysed. Both the mother and daughter were taken to Prema’s eldest brother’s home at Kelaniya.

 

By this time, Fonny who finished his A/Ls was offered a job at the same company he was in and out learning things there as a hobby since he was a kid. He was doing well. The faithful `friend’s’ attachment towards Prema never failed even though she looked sick and ugly. Instead it was he who came forward for their help.

“I not only applied medicine on Prema, but also used to apply oils on Prema’s paralysed mother. She was highly worried about Prema. On the same day I declared my love to Prema, I promised her mother that I would marry and look after her daughter. Believe me, within a week, ailments of both of them disappeared.

Then they came back to Narahenpita and even re-started their catering business. I never thought my words could do such a miracle!” laughs Fonny.Hewa Fonsekage Torrington Piya Wijaya alias Fonny was born on November 18 in 1946 to H.F. Lenty Fonseka, School Principal who later became an Inspector of Schools and Lokuge Baby Nona, a school teacher at Ambalangoda.

 

Fonny was the fourth of the five members in his family. He first had his education at Dharmashoka at Ambalangoda and then at Ananda College, Colombo. He was a good athlete who even played for the Ananda College Cricket team for sometime. His two brothers and two sisters went up continued their studies with the guidance of their study oriented father. It was only Fonny who found a job and then decided to settled down with his `stage queen’ heart throb.

“Getting permission from parents of my background for a marriage as a young man of 21 years was not at all an easy thing. None of my elder siblings were married then. But, however, all of them knew my affair with Prema, and since she was an actress, my parents too had common doubts over her. The charming, humble and benevolent ways of Prema didn’t take much time to win her strict in-laws.

 

“It seemed that Prema brought sunshine to my family. Fonny, Prema and their elder son, Vibhava Hasantha went to England in 1971. Fonny had been working as an Aircraft Maintenance Technician at the British Airways until today. Their second son, Thumula Udara was born in 1981 in UK.

 

“Vibhava did a Financial Management Degree in the London School of Economics. Fonny and Prema have been the most popular couple who have been rendering silent service to many Sri Lankans, especially those in the art field, by providing them shelter at their place on many an occasion. Apart from that the service they do through organising the cultural events in UK to maintain the identity of Sri Lankans should be applauded.

 

Once a bubbling actress, Prema continued her hard working capacity even in UK. Since 1976, she first worked as a machine operator at the United Biscuits for 5 years, then as a Care Assistant at an Elders’ Home for 10 years and thirdly owned their own small Super-Market for 12 years.

“Working at the Elders’ Home was the most enjoyable time in her life,” says her husband. “She loves elderly people. Most of her friends in UK were adults. Some of them she really took care of,” he says.

 

“I think,” pauses Fonny...”I think I’m extremely lucky to have a wife like Prema. She is a wonderful woman; excessively kind hearted and humble; clever and apt in any household chores; very clean and perfect whatever she does. Preparing a meal alone for forty or sixty people is not at all a problem for her.

She has got that training by working with her mother since she was a child. We never had a problem in our family life. Helping and entertaining others has been the hobby of both of us, and we will be continuing that, even in the future. We have been in UK for the past 37 years, and hope to settle down in Sri Lanka very soon. We’ve already bought a house at Battaramulla,” says Fonny.

 

“Our two sons are the two jewels in our life. Whatever happening takes place in their lives we will be there for them. We assume it’s the duty by the parents to stand by their children in both the good times and bad times of their life,” he concludes.


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer Nov 16, 2008

'Work has been our passion'

Prof. Kshanika Hirimburegama talks of life with Dr. Kumara Hirimburegama:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"When you work genuinely, you'll have a hundred enemies, but there'll be one powerful person allowing you to do the good work," was her father's theory in life for his five daughters whom he was proud of. The five girls who are equally educated, and outstanding personalities have made history with their exceptional and rewarding services rendered to the country. The Colombo Vice Chancellor, Prof.Kshanika Hirimburegama is the fourth out of the five good `Little Women'.

"My father is a unique person who maintained five files for each of us. He was the best methodical person I've ever seen, who was very conscious that he was a father of five girls. My father, Dr. Punchi Bandara Sannasgala was an academic researcher on Sinhala Language, Sinhala literature, Pali and Sanskrit.. He is the author of `Sinhala Saahithya Wanshaya' in 1960s," says Prof.Kshanika.

Sannas Mudiyanselage Kshanika Kumari Sannasgala was born in 1958 to Dr.Sannasgala of Haputale and Nalini Ratnayaka of Katugastota, Kandy. Nirupamal, Maheshika, Manori, Kshanika and Thushani are the five girls. "Both Nirupamal and Maheshika are in the legal profession and Manori and Thushani have chosen the Medical field for their professions. Maheshika is in Canada and both Manori and Thushani are in the UK now," says Kshanika.

The five were all Visakhians right throughout, and were born and bred at their residence at Lake Crescent, Colombo 2, near Gangarama Temple. Their mother was a housewife who devoted her whole life to providing a secure background for the five daughters. Their father valued all his daughters equally and decided to give his valuable house to all of them. While letting the main mansion remained as the base, he put up two storeys dividing them into four apartments so that all his five daughters could reside with their families.

Kshanika's family history runs far back in the Lankan history line which comprises many prominent personalities who rendered their intellectual services to the betterment of the country. The last President of the Senate of Ceylon, A.Ratnayaka who was among the first Cabinet members before Independence, was her maternal grandpa.

Though in the category of 'highly intellectual,' Dr. Sannasgala, was an extremely modest and simple man who loved his village a lot. "We spent every school holiday at Haputale with our father and his relatives. My father let us be around with the villagers, and we really enjoyed breathing the fresh village breeze running and walking across the muddy `Helmalu' paddy fields and green tea estates. Out of the five, Maheshika and Manori were twins. It was both of them and I who were together always, more than with the eldest who paid little interest to all mischievousness, and the youngest who was seven years younger to me was too small for our company," she smiles. "But even out of the three, it is I who enjoyed the village food most,"recalls Kshanika.

The Sannasgala girls rarely got the chance to go out for a party. The secured background provided for them however made them to get attached more to books. "More than anything else we had all the newspapers and books at home. We read a lot. It was our father's passion too, and it was he who geared us towards reading. He used to get up at 4 O'clock in the morning, get his tea ready by himself and then started reading and writing. It was he who took us to school and dropped us back. I went by bus for the first time when I was in grade 8," she smiles.

Kshanika entered the Colombo University in 1977, and Specialised in Botany. She then entered the Post Graduate Institute of Agriculture (PGIA), Peradeniya and passed out in 1985 with her Masters in Agricultural Sciences. The studious Kshanika who had very little time to think over `falling in love' which was common among campus students, received Cupids arrow during this period. So whilst attending to her higher studies, Kshanika decided to let romance too enter into her life.

Dr. Wijaya Kumara Hirimburegama was born on November 4, 1952 to Simon Hirimburegama, Village Headman of Hirimbure, a village in Galle, and Mrs. T. Amarasinghe Hirimbure, the eldest to two sisters and two brothers. His two brothers are today, a Bank Manager in Galle and a District Judge respectively, while one sister lives in Australia and the other is in Kandy.

Dr. Hirimburegama though the eldest in the family was the most mischievous out of the lot. He had his education at Richmond College, Galle.

Question: What are the special extra curricular activities and sports events you got involved in when you were schooling?

Dr. Hirimburegama: We are from the village. From the time we returned from school, we had enough and more `sports' to do. We worked hard in our paddy fields and so on. We never stayed at home, and could be seen all over the village. Unlike today's children who've got stuck with tuition, we had a carefree life throughout, which later helped me immensely in my career. Still my parents are there, in the village. We were exposed for free thinking, be independent and take up risks. My father was strict, and it was my mother who encouraged us to try out everything, including plucking a fruit or coconut from a tree, chopping fire wood and so on. She always used to tell `Kollek unama hema dema dana ganna ona' (a boy should know to handle anything). All this childhood experiences moulded me to be a man who loves the field and research work. I'm an independent body who also believes in the independence of others as well.

Question: Even of your wife?

Dr. Hirimburegama: Yes, of course! We operate at the same university as two independent bodies. I don't interfere with her work nor she does with mine. But, in case if we need assistance we are there for each other. I think the Asian woman has a bigger say in society than the woman in the Western World however much they say they fight for gender equality. We got the first lady Prime Minister in this country. Aren't our mothers have a say which goes along with respect towards her in our family units? They do. Problems arise between the husband and wife due to lack of understanding cum inferiority compelled and jealousy. We see this even among the educated. But it's all about how you look at life. Both should share equally the responsibilities as well as the leadership in the family unit. Sometimes, both my wife and I too have different flow of opinions, and through that we learn from each other. We have to take things in such a spirit, and should not develop them to an emotional crisis between the spouses.

Dr. Hirimburegama entered the University of Peradeniya for his BSc in 1973. His post graduate study was a mixture of Micro-biology, Agronomy and Soil-biology. He assisted his supervisor Prof. S.A. Kulasuriya, and spent nearly seven years on his PhD, attending the researches at Maha-iluppallama, Ambalantota and Bombugala on several projects on paddy and other food crops, and obtained his PhD from Peradeniya in 1987. He stayed in Vienna, Austria nearly one and half years on a study programme of International Atomic Energy, and his PhD.

Dr. Hirimburegama who has been rendering his untiring services through his research work, claims he is a person who doesn't care about seniorities and promotions. He too joined the Botany Department of Colombo University, and has been in the process of continuing his research work, specialising in Microbial-and Agro Biotechnology, Coil Microbiology and fertility, Nuclear techniques in Agriculture and Biology, Agro-Biotechnology, Plant Virology, Industrial Biotechnology, Academic Management including Bioethics and human Resource Advancement. Since

December, 2005, he has been the Director of the Institute of Human Resource Advancement of University of Colombo. If I have to note down all the designations and the tasks and work he is involved with, I (the writer) might have to hire one whole newspaper! The service oriented gentleman has this to say as his message to the younger generation, "We have been working hard, not in Air Conditioned offices, but in the field, doing researches and so on. We've been doing all that as a service and not money oriented. Work hard with love and not for money. Also study and do something new something not done by others. Our country needs more and more of ardent research workers if we are to reach the target to develop this country."

Question: Give a brief account of the work done by the Institute of Human Resource Advancement?

Prof. Hirimburegama: We offer the Bachelor of Labour Education, a university level education for working people.

When you think `labour', you may get a wrong idea. Not only the `coolies', but the professionals too are `labourers' labouring some task. The new concept for this is `Knowledge Workers'. As an example, the labourers we had at Port are now Crane-Operators as the merchandise is being moved by cranes. So they should have the `knowledge' to operate the cranes.

Question: (Zooming back to Prof.Kshanika) How did your marriage get finalised?

Prof. Kshanika: We both were at Peradeniya doing our Post Graduates courses. We had met once. He went to Vienna after that. Once he came back that he came out with the proposal through his parents to mine. I wanted it to happen like that as my father was very particular about every little detail. We got the consent of both parties, but the very week after they came to see me I had to leave to Belgium for my PhD, at Catholic University in Leuven. Only after one year I came back for two weeks for my wedding in 1986. We got married, and both went back to Belgium. And we never went on wedding visits we are yet to do it and we still look for time for that (laughs).

Question: Life in Belgium?

Prof. Kshanika: We both were in the same university, but two different laboratories. We worked all seven days. Since my Professor was researching on the Banana, I got the exposure to all aspects of this fruit. There was a huge Green House with different types of bananas, in which I felt like I was in Sri Lanka. I loved that place. It was I who watered the plants during the weekends and holidays.

Question: Both of you are a lot into your careers, aren't you?

Prof. Kshanika: We both are career oriented and service oriented couple. My husband is a sober character, but has a different aspect in his thinking. Like my father, his passion is also reading. He is very rational, very co-operative, tolerant, but very tough. If he takes a decision, very rarely would he change it and I never try to do so. He is totally involved in his work. I too got adjusted to this. However, work is my passion as well. As a message I can tell you this, however much you are big in your position, your husband is the `Boss' at home. Generally, a man does not like to be commanded. I'm handling 10,000 students in the Colombo University. I'm the VC only at the University, and not at home (smiles). The simplicity I adopted from my father, has been inculcated in me. We are parents of two sons. Both are Royalists. The oldest is doing A/Ls, and is into Chess. The second is in the O/Ls and is a good Scout. They'll be also very dutiful, but don't know whether they'll be workaholics like us (smiles). They value our work and rarely complain about their parents' busy lives. Though I'm away, I know where they are and what they are up to, may be not totally but mainly...(smiles). They both are School Prefects.

Question: After coming back to Sri Lanka in 1989, how has your life flowed through?

Prof. Kshanika: I joined the Botany Department in Colombo campus as a Senior Lecturer in January, 1990, immediately started the research on Tissue Culture, especially on Bananas. We've managed to develop the Tissue Culture technology for Banana and transferred the technology to the rural sector. I'm happy to work with the farming community and to see them being benefitted by it. We have the potential of importing bananas, and have done experiments at an institution at Weligatta, Hambantota, where the opportunities are given to the young enthusiastic farmers to gain knowledge. They can pursue their higher studies on this following the certificate and diploma courses that we conduct on-line and multi-mode delivery systems. I should mention about General Anuruddha Ratwatte and the present Minister of Irrigation, Water Management and Port and Aviation, Chamal Rajapaksa for their initiation and constant co-operation.

My personal opinion is that this is a country which has intellectual, natural resources and all the other potential which is needed for the development; especially of the agriculture and agro based industry. What we need is good leadership, which I think is in the right direction now. Prof. Kshanika is the fourth lady Vice Chancellor (VC) in Sri Lanka. Prof. Savithri Gunesekara was the VC-Colombo Campus, and both Prof. Uma Kumaraswamy and Prof. Nandani de Silva were the VC at the Open University of Sri Lanka. Prof. Kshanika became the VC, Colombo Campus on January 2, 2008


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer Nov 2 2008

‘Mahela is my first and last love’ Christina speaks of life with Sri Lanka Cricket Captain Mahela Jayawardena:

By Lakmal Welabada

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The very first time, my father saw Mahela on TV in a Cricket Match, he had a premonition. He told my Mum `that’s the guy whom Christina would get married one day.’ I was far away in India at that time, and has not heard of anybody called Mahela at that time,” recalls Christina.

“He pestered me for nearly one year as I was not at all interested in having a serious affair since I had just started to work. Now he says he gets pestered by me,” she laughs revealing her eight year love affair with her husband Mahela Jayawardena, the Captain, Sri Lanka Cricket Team.

Christina, facing her first interview with media exclusively for the Sunday Observer - `From the Spouse’s Mouth’ has many thoughts to share.

Feeding him with delicacies prepared to Eastern, Western style or whatever recipe that comes to her hands is her favourite hobby. “Fortunately he burns them all, otherwise Mahela tends to end up in having high cholesterol level,” she went on with her usual serious cum charming grin, “But, I think he needs energy to bat as well”...

Christina Sirisena was born on February 12 in 1981, to Sri Lankan - Danish parents; Gamini Sirisena, a planter whose home town was Heerassagala, Kandy and Marianne Pertersen of Denmark. “Both my older brother and I were born in Denmark. I was two years when we first came to Sri Lanka with my parents on a holiday. We settled down here permanently in 1990,” she says.

“How my parents met each other is also an interesting story. My paternal family had been planters. When my father was about 19-20 years, he had decided to roam around the world. It was late 1960s. My father was a huge Elvis fan.

Once he was in France and wanted to fly to Las Vegas to see Elvis. But, for some reason he had found out that the particular flight was getting delayed, and decided to take the flight to Denmark. Both my Mum and Dad had worked at the same place, and that was how it ended up in them getting married,” recites Christina.

Her father returned home with his Danish family and settled in Kandy. Christina and her brother’s mother tongue was Danish. The first few years of their schooling was in Denmark.

Since their father wanted to bring up his two children according to the Sri Lankan traditions, he entered them to schools to study in the Sinhala medium; Christina to Holy Cross and her elder brother, Alex to Trinity.

“Dad always used to talk with us either in English or Sinhala since we were in Denmark. He thought it would make us easy to catch up the two languages, though we always answered to him in Danish,” she says.

Question: You speak English extremely well. How’s your Sinhala?

Christina: My Dad’s endeavour to make us study in Sinhala was not a success though he tried to give us tuition and so on. My brother and I then entered Kandy International School and we went up to O/Ls. We could speak Sinhala to a certain limit, but unfortunately unable to write or read.

Alex went to Switzerland to do a Hotel Management Course. He lived there for 5 years, via Germany moved to Denmark and settled down their after getting married to a Czech girl (Czech Republic). Alex is a Dad now. My two-year-old nephew speaks, Danish, English and Czech. My parents though live here, they speak Danish at home.

Question: Did you continue your higher studies?

Christina: I did my A/Ls at Mount Carmel College, Bangalore, India. It was the period when I added experience to my life in abundance. I was in the hostel. I could say, I grew up a lot when I was there. I made my best life long friends there. Both my brother and I have been very close to Mum and Dad.

The hostel life made me mature and quite independent. Got the chance to travel a bit around India. The College which was run by Carmalite nuns was very strict. This taught us discipline and to be more methodical. Unfortunately I didn’t go for the degree. However, I was not that much of a study person. I stayed in India for two years, and I felt that was enough.

One month after Christina returned home, her father who saw an advertisement in a newspaper, asked her to apply for it as an Air Stewardess in Air Lanka (SriLankan Airlines). “I applied and got it. I was under training. It was the end of 1998. And it was the time I met Mahela for the first time,” she recalls.

Denagamage Prabath Mahela de Silva Jayawardena was born on May 27, 1977 at Mulleriyawa to Senerath Jayawardena, a Technical Officer at the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation and Sunila de Silva. The biggest traumatic tragedy in his family occurred in 1994, when Mahela’s one an only sibling, his younger brother, Dishal died due to a brain tumour.

“I’ve heard that both Mahela and his brother were very close to each other as they had only one year difference in age. Mahela says Dishal also played Cricket and would have been much better batsman than him. Both were Nalandians,” butts in Christina.

Mahela entered Nalanda Cricket at the age of 11 in 1988. He did a bit of school athletics until he was 15 years and gave up when he realised his interest was only for Cricket. Mahela captained the school team (under 19) in 1995, and entered the National team in 1997. “And it was this period that I started flying,” breaks in Christina.

“I wanted to enjoy my life at Air Lanka. I love travelling, and have really enjoyed my life there. I wanted to see the world, and not to have serious love affairs which would tie one down. I met him through Cricketer Avishka Gunewardane, whose was my friend as well.

From the day Mahela saw me he was interested in me and kept on calling me and pestering me. It went on for nearly one year. Since the nag was intolerable I thought of giving it a try”, laughs Christina.

“Both our families were very open minded. I must say a word or two about Mahela’s parents. Though they were conservative and old fashioned they were so open and warmly welcoming, and gave us all the freedom we wanted. After I left Air Lanka I worked for a UK travelling company for three and half years.

My job was to arrange holidays between Sri Lanka and Maldives. Since it’s totally net work based company I had time to travel along with Mahela. I gave up that also in 2007, in order to give my full co-operation to him. Mahela and I carried on for so long - nearly eight years. We wanted to know each other first.

We were together and I even travelled with him when he went abroad. I had to travel and stayed separately as only wives and not girl friends were allowed to be with the team. Still we didn’t mind. None of the parents worried us to get married. It was our sole decision to get married, and that was when we thought it was the right time to settle down. We got married on November 3, 2005,” she recalls.

Question: Wow!, Happy Wedding Anniversary, Captain Mahela and Christina for your third year anniversary which falls tomorrow! Accept the wishes from our staff and readers as well. When are you going to think of adding the third member to the family?

Christina: Mahela would have a baby even tomorrow if he could. He loves children. Hmmm... I should think about it too. I sometimes feel that I’m still not prepared for that. However, tell the Sunday Observer readers that we’ll give it a serious thought. (laughs).

Question: You rarely miss his matches, and could be seen at the pavilion giving all your moral support to him. Hope you would be seen soon with a cute bundle, (colour is immaterial, whether it’s `Pink’ or `Light Blue’) cheering him at his future matches. All the Best!

Christina: Thank you! (laughs)

Question: Don’t you miss Denmark?

Christina: I’ve been in Sri Lanka quite a long time. I do love both countries. My maternal grandma still lives in Denmark. My parents go and stay with her for a few months as an annual routine. I too try to go there every year since my brother lives there.

In their white mansion at Pelawatte, Battaramulla, Christina and Mahela benevolently spend their life in peace. The green garden is marginalised with a small pool, and the wire mesh through which the scenario of the Parliament of Sri Jayawardanepura and the serene city of Battaramulla could be viewed. The big antique hanging in their dinning room depicts `Devas’ (gods) worshipping `Salumina Seya’ adds a bit of colour and a serene mood to the simple spacious atmosphere. “This was found from a temple affected by the Tsunami.

Its a bit damaged, but still has it’s value. Both my father and I love antiques. We moved to this place recently. There’s a lot more to be done,” she says.

Question: What faith or religion you follow?

Christina: I’m a Buddhist. My father even though he was a ardent Buddhist, never restricted me or my brother to follow one religion. When we were in Denmark, we went to the Church. And, here, we go to Buddhist temples and even to the Kovils. I respect all faiths and religions. Also I believe that as long as you don’t harm anybody and lead a good life hat’s a blessing that showers upon you. Even the Buddha has taught it. I don’t think afar, and I take each day as it comes. I live for the moment and enjoy life. I’m a very methodical person, and Mahela thinks sometimes it’s too much.

Question: Your pastimes?

Christina: Both my brother and I were good swimmers. I even swam for the National team representing Sri Lanka in South Asian Games in 1992. Unfortunately I didn’t win, and gave up as the training was in Colombo and we were living in Kandy at that time. It was strenuous. I don’t believe in getting involved in things are not interesting.

I read a lot, anything that comes to my hands, except

science fictions as I don’t exhaust myself thinking about the future predictions. I’m a person who prefers to live only for today. I love photography. My grandma is a good photographer. Apart from that I like shopping, and to organise get togethers with our friends. Actually, we do a lot of entertainment.

Question: You seem to easily give up on things. For example; your studies, jobs and even sports. What do you think about marriage which is based on give and take policy?

Christina: I agree with you. That’s why Mahela and I waited so long to get to know each other. Nothing is perfect in this world. We also have ups and downs, but I believe those make life more interesting, and otherwise it would just flow monotonously. Both husband and wife should be able to give and take equally, and it’s unfair to expect only one party to work for it.

Question: Mahela, as a husband?

Christina: Extremely loyal, honest and very generous. Also lazy, neglectful, and I cannot ever expect him to replace anything what he takes up. Extremely messy (laughs). Those are the things that make me angry. I have got my father’s temperament. My mother is a cool person. Mahela, in that case never gets angry. I hardly see him even raising his voice.

In his sports world, Cricket is his first love, Golf becomes his second love. Oh! sometimes I too walk with him along all the 18 or 19 holes in the Golf Court. He tries to provoke me also to play Golf, but I don’t think it fits with me (laughs). His mother says he has been holding the Cricket bat since he was a two-year-old. He has had no other hobbies (no time actually) other than for Cricket.

Question: You said something about your father’s prediction of Mahela and you.

Christina: He had seen Mahela on the TV first at a match played in Galle. I was in India at that time. His premonition was told to us by my Mum after Mahela and I got involved. Also there’s another interesting story. We were celebrating Mahela’s birthday at his parents’ place. I just sent a SMS to my Grandma in Denmark saying about it. In return, I got one from her saying that co-incidently, it was her grandmother’s (my great great grandmother’s) birthday as well.

And after a few minutes, she sent another SMS saying that she had found that her grandfather’s (my great great grandfather) birthday fell on my birthday. We all were shocked! It was a pleasant surprise I’ve ever had. My great great grandparents were born on the same day that of mine and Mahela.

Question: One can affiliate it to one’s re-birth. Do you believe so?

Christina: Yes, it could be. Mahela is my first and last love.

Hope Cancer Hospital, the dream of Mahela after his brother’s death, is still under construction at Maharagama. “It was started in 2002. I have been helping Mahela’s father in raising funds. It’s a separate body from the Maharagama Cancer Hospital, but comes under Ministry of Health. We hope `Hope’ will be real soon,” hopes Christina.

Question: As the final question, I would like to ask how do Air Stewardesses enchant so many Cricketers like this? A number of Cricketers have married Air Hostesses? What’s the secret?

Christina: (laughs) You better ask them. But Mahela got involved with me only when I was under training and not as an Air Hostess. I loved him not as a Cricketer, but as who he was. We hardly had time to meet each other in our first two years as I was flying and he was fully involved in his matches. I do understand his lifestyle as a Cricketer. That’s the secret that keeps us going.


50 Years...Sunday Times Oct 26 2008

After fifty years....

Nostalgic memories of a surveyor:

By Lionel Siriwardana

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am encouraged to write a few liens regarding the strenuous life we spent when I heard over the radio that Medirigiriya now has a school, a police station, a post office and other Government institutions and is represented in Parliament.

It was in 1957 that we were sent to engage on Kavudulla Extension Engineering Surveys.

Eight of us surveyors were detailed to attend to this work. There were no houses and the whole area was in jungle land. We were provided with tents and my camp was sited in close proximity to Medirigiriya Watadage.

In those days transport facilities were poor. Very often we were forced to walk a distance of about 8-12 miles to visit the nearest town, Hingurakgoda.

During weekends and occasionally on weekdays, pilgrims visit Medirigiriya and if you are lucky you will be able to travel to Medirigiriya or Hingurakgoda as the case may be. The road to Medirigiriya was a gravel one. As you travel from Hingurakgoda, you will have to pass two hamlets, Kaudulla and Diwulankadawala. The latter was a small village with a few families scattered. They were engaged on agriculture and cattle farming.

The entire area beyond Diwulankadawala to Medirigiriya was covered by thick jungle infested with wild animals such as the elephant, wild buffaloes, bear etc.

There was the archaeological overseers quarters near by a well for drinking water and a pond for bathing. My camp was sited in the vicinity.

The duration of our stay was for about 9 to 10 months. Provisions had to be transported from Hingurakgoda weekly either by bullockcart or by some other means depending on the availability of transport.

The technical part of the work assigned to us was the preparation of a plan showing the topographical features and a contour plan of the area which included surveying and levelling required for designing of channels, roads, housing projects and land set out for cultivation.

The work inside the jungle was fascinating, but dangerous at times. To commence this work, the survey assistants and I had to walk within the jungle, a distance of about 1/2 - 1 1/2 miles either along the traces of the paths used by animals or along survey lines cleared in advance. When we walk inside the jungle we come across open patches of jungle where we meet wild elephants, bear, wild buffaloes, jackals etc. Sometimes, these animals walk along our survey lines and obstruct our work.

Besides these difficulties we made every endeavour to complete the work whitin the estimated time. Any delay would have dragged us to work in the rainy season where I was no exception for I had to work for a few weeks during the rainy season.

Then we had to walk along the tank bunds trampled by cattle and along paths covered by water, and streams with knee-deep of water.

Even when I returned after work the life inside the tent was not happy for during daytime, there will be flies and if it is dark you are surrounded by mosquitoes and in addition I noticed that a few ticks were sucking blood from my toes.Although we had to undergo these difficulties, life inside the camps was not dull always for there were get-together parties held during weekend, the participants being surveyors, and their families held in a central camp. The sports activities included softball cricket matches and tennis and indoor games such as carrom, darts and various other games. Very often these parties went on with melodies songs till midnight.

On completion of this work some of us were sent to attend to the work on Mahaweli Ganga Project and we had to lay out the main canal trace from Primrose Hill (Kandy) to Lenadora (Dambulla).

It has to be stressed in this type of work we received the co-operation from those whom it was due and we are thankful to them.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to travel in those areas. I was happy when I saw that the cadjan structures on either side of the road are now replaced with tiled masonry houses and many of the gravel roads are now tarred roads. It is a pity that some of those who participated in these projects have passed away.

We wish them happiness in their long life of Samsara!


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer Oct 19 2008

Blend of love, stardom and business

Upali speaks of life with his scintillating star wife Sabeetha:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

`Hoop Soorath Aakain Vali Sabeetha’ - Sabeetha, the young woman with most beautiful eyes...; when announced in Urdu, Sabeetha got on to the stage amidst a thundering applause to receive the Special Award presented to her for the service she rendered to the Pakistan film industry by taking part in 17 Urdu films.

“At that function, only my mother was with me. I thought if my Sri Lankan fans could also see it how fortuitous I would have been,” said Sabeetha reminiscing on one of the most memorable events in her life. Her fans see her stunning beauty and the versatile talent on celluloid. Who has not got enticed to her mesmerising brown eyes?

The beauty who still could lure and steal male hearts of any age and in any walks of life, at present has diverted her life towards her family.

But, still her classy glamour in an attraction where ever she appears or whenever her name is announced. Sabeetha Perera, the famous `cats eyed’ actress who has won acclaim internationally not merely from `fans’ but also from `fanatics’ who have been charmed and beguiled by her beauty.

Fame and beauty, in many occurrences in world history resulted in failure in personal lives. But what we are going to talk about Sabeetha is quite contrasting.

After being a top Star in the Lankan filmdom for nearly three decades since the age of 13, and facing many ups and downs in life Sabeetha finally found her life partner 12 years back. What does `he’ have to talk about her, who sees her as his `woman’ and not as the scintillating star in the sky?

“She is intelligent, calm and has an answer and solution for every problem that crops up in life,” says Upali getting frank about his wife. Don Upali Jayasinghe, a well known business guy; the present owner of his family business, D.P. Jayasinghe and Company; the luckiest of the luckiest to win one of the most ravishing stars in Sri Lanka begins to unfold his story of life with her.

Don Piyadasa Jayasinghe from Mathugama and Jayasekara Witharanage Leelawathie from Weligama were his parents.

“I was born on September 9 in Colombo, lived at Kotahena, Dehiwala and then at Mount Lavinia. We shifted into our nest at Sri Jayawardanapura after our marriage,” he says cleverly hiding his `year of birth’, but reveals the date of birth as he does not mind receiving a bouquet of flowers on his `birthday’. When an owner has such an enchantingly beauty wife who likes to reveal his real age? Better not!

But, all what we see from one’s outer appearance is not their real life, and could be totally different to what we imagine of them, Sabeetha and Upali; Touch Wood! May not any evil force affect them are living happily a contented life. Their eight year old son, Chandupa who studies at the British School, Colombo has a little idea of his Mum as a star and his father as a top businessman. What he experiences is their extreme love and warmth only.

“I’m the oldest of the four boys in our family. My brothers; Mangala, Ranjan and Pradeep are also running their own businesses,” begins Upali. “I studied at Ananda College, Colombo. Played Cricket for Under 13, and later was a Committee Member of the Sri Lanka Cricket Board from 1996 to 1999,” he says.

Question: We’ve heard you were among the mischievous lot at school?

Upali: (Laughs) I was. With the intention of disciplining me, once I was given the Class Prefectship for a month when in the O/L class. But, that I could keep only for one week. The shot I gave on another brat’s face over an unjustified act, made my Masters to remove my Prefect Badge from my uniform.

The brother next to me was born when I was ten years. So, until then, I was on my Mum’s lap. I relished the fullest love of my parents. My father has been a quiet and calm person. But, my Mum was an out-going benevolent character.

Question: Are you still the same `imp’?

Upali: (Laughs) Mmmm.. I’m a matured guy now. However, we’ve got a Buddhist environment since we were kids. Both my parents were pure vegetarians. They even first met each other at Sri Pada when they went there on a pilgrimage. This background assisted us to lead a charitable life throughout. Though I was the favourite of my Mum, all four of us got equal love and care from our parents.

Question: Do you see `you as a boy’ in your son?

Upali: No. He is quite different. A kind hearted and compassionate child. The first thing he does in the morning is that to find out about all the assistants at home. He goes to the watcher and asks whether he has had his morning tea. Sabeetha’s influence is on him in abundance.

After doing A/Ls in the Commerce stream, Upali followed an Auto-mobile Engineering course in the Colombo Technical College, and then entered to the Hammersmith Technical College in UK to do a higher Diploma.

“My father had come to Colombo from Mathugama with a lump sum of Rs,5000. He was in the transport business, and had bought his first lorry for Rs,1000. I still remember the lorry; `Carbery Ford’ which was a world famous brand during the second world war. We kept it until recently as a souvenir until it got rusted and wrecked down. My father diverted his Tours and Transport company to exclusive government transportation.

At present we deal with Constructions and Property Developments too. We have more than a 300 staff working with us,” says Upali.

Question: How did you first meet Sabeetha?

Upali: I once got involved in a Co-production of a Pakistan film called `Saath Sahiliya’ (Seven Girl Friends). actually, Bangladesh and India were too involved in it. But, I failed to get a copy for the screening in Sri Lanka. It was a loss of one Million. I tried to contact the Pakistani party. For this purpose, somebody asked me to get at Sabeetha as she had been involved in Pakistan films during that time. It was the first time I called her, in 1990.

Warnakulasuriya Oswatta Liyanage Sabeetha Perera was born on December 1 to the famous actor and actress W.O.L.Stanley Perera and Shri Kavilakshana Panditha Koralage Girlie Gunewardane. Sabeetha was the third of the four daughters of the famous duo. Sabeetha’s family first lived in Mount Lavinia, her mother’s home town, during which time she went to Visakha Montessori and then to Visakha Vidyalaya Colombo. Later, they shifted to her father’s home town,

Wennappuwa and Sabeetha continued her studies at Holy Family Convent, Wennappuwa.

Sabeetha’s first and second appearance on the Silver Screen occurred simultaneously, when she was three years old, as the daughter of her own father, Stanley Perera in the film `Ivasana Dana’, and then as the daughter of her Mum, Girlie in the film, `Hathara Kendaraya’. However, Jayavilal Vilegoda in his film critique mentioned that the best acting that he could point out in both films were that of the small actress, and that person was none else, but little Sabeetha.

Her father became a Director with his first film `Tom Pachaya’ which he did with Roy de Silva. Sabeetha who was about 12 - 13 years were among the spectators at the shooting of the film. J.Selvaratnam who saw the charming teenager, determined to get her for his next film which was based on a teenage love. Though she was in her mid teenage, Sabeetha looked quite well built to her age. Her parents who had a hidden desire to see one of their daughters on the Silver Screen encouraged Sabeetha to accept it. After going through a hectic schedule to get permission from her Convent school which had imposed strict rules on its girls, Sabeetha faced the camera with her first lover on the screen, Jagath Rohan. Jagath was the son of veteran actor Prem Jayanth and was his first film as well.

The first shot before the cinematography camera was a nightmare as she still remembered how she heard the `lub dub’ beat of her own heart which she had to control with great endeavour obeying to the command given by the Director. She just did what he asked her to do. However, acting, shooting and films had been in her world ever since she was tiny. The Cat’s eyed teenage school girl’s inborn talents which she inherited from her parents made the film a great success. The Director who instinctively predicted his newest film was going to be a box office breaker named the film by the main actress’ name, `Sabeetha’.... And that was how another star queen was introduced to the Silver Screen. The film which was full of love scenes, however did not affect Sabeetha’s personal life as a school girl. She continued her studies while playing a role in her father’s second direction, `Sanda’. Sabeetha, was a friendly, refined and quiet bookworm who concentrated on her studies. After sitting for the A/Ls in the Commerce stream, she wanted to go for her higher studies. But, it was at this point that fate diverted her to another route. Invitations for Commercial films started flooding. Sabeetha who had learnt dancing ; ballet under Channa Wijewardane, Bharatha dancing from Padmini Dahanaike and Kandyan dancing from Rajini Selvanayagam became the most indispensable actress in the Lankan filmdom during 1980s.

Yasapalitha Nanayakkara’s film `Rosy’ turned a new leaf in her life when a Pakistan film crew who was shooting in Sri Lanka saw her and invited her to do the co-main role meant for a Sri Lankan actress in it. `Sadaakal Randeva’ (Sinhala title with the meaning of `May you live long’) based on the famous novel `Never say Good Bye’ screened in Pakistan as `Kabi Al Vidana Kena’ was the super hit both in Sri Lanka and Pakistan that year. Pakistani Director Nazar Shabab who knew it was the Sri Lankan actress that made his film the success it was almost forced Sabeetha to continue to take part in Pakistan films. This was how she ended up in acting the main roles in 17 Urdu films. Her parents, sisters, fiends and relatives who have been behind her throughout her journey shed tears of joy at her success and lamented with her when she was down and out, especially when she faced failures in her personal life. “No one is perfect. No one’s life is perfect. I’m sensitive, and would weep over the things that would fall out from my hands. But that’s all. The next minute I could stand up, close that chapter completely, and start my life again. That way, I’m a strong character. I accept all such problems as disguised blessings in life,” said Sabeetha.

“What she has said is true. She is a strong personality. I admire that a lot. Apart from that she is very sincere and caring,” approves Upali butting in. “I first met her in 1996, when she advertised her Pajero. We got to know each other for three years and got married on August 4 in 1999. I didn’t fall only for her beauty, but for her intelligence. She reads a lot, especially on Buddhism. She is an ardent Buddhist, and always says that we should not get attached to things too much. More we get attached more we invite suffering. And I too believe in that. She says that there’s a solution to every question and problem as according to the Buddhist Doctrine,” explains Upali.

`Sarasaviya’, Presidential’, `OCIC’ and `Swarna Shanka’; every film award festival has rewarded Sabeetha since the time she stepped into the Cinema. She was awarded with a Merit Award in 1980 for her role in `Aadara Geethaya’ directed by Amaranath Jayathilaka, Best Actress Award for H.D.Premaratne’s `Deveni Gamana’, the Presidential Award for the Up and Coming Actress in mid 1980s, Best Actress Awards for both `Sisila Gini Gani’ and `Podi Wije’. Sabeetha earned fame eminently in her career mainly for her enchanting acting in the Commercial films. But, Tissa Abeysekara’s `Viragaya’, Daya Wimalaweera’s `Sujatha’ and `Chaaya’ are among the films that proved her skills and talents in artistic acting which rewarded her with popular as well as critics’ awards. Apart from over hundred films she acted, Sabeetha won the Best Supporting Actress’ Award for the teledrama `Pitagamkarayo’ in the end of 1990s. In addition to them Sabeetha’s role in `Blending’, bilingual (English and Sinhala) film directed by Mohan Niyas and the two Tamil films, `Nanguram’ (Anchor) and `Isai Payanam’ (A musical Journey) are among the films that still live in the memory lane of film goers.A busy life with films was the only subject with her since she was a teenager. Once, Sabeetha said, when looked back she hadn’t had a normal life which a 15-20 year-old girl would have had. “I missed most of the things I intended to do. Not merely the higher education, but subjects like cookery, dress making, Finishing School and Interior designing which I, as an impassioned young woman liked to do. I had not even had much time to go on a trip with my family. When I see love couples walking on the street holding their hands I tend to think how I’ve missed all that free life. I had some life like that only in films. I had become a bride more than fifty times in films, but in real life only with Upali,” she once said to the Sunday Observer.

Question: After the marriage Sabeetha has been devoting her life and time for herself and family. Is she contented about her life now?

Upali: I think so. She has had all the glamour since she was a teenager. Then she wanted to lead a normal life with a good marriage. Now she is a wife and a mother. She knows her responsibilities and tries her best to devote herself for the family. Her mother is with us now. Sabeetha’s father is mostly with her eldest sister in Matara as she has needed the family support since her husband’s death. Sabeetha accepted the Unmada Chitra’s role in Jackson Anthony’s `Aba’ only after nine years. It was her decision to limit her career and not mine. I have given her freedom (smiles).


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer Oct 12 2008

'Unity in a marriage lies in the woman's hand ... '

Sachi talks of her life with Dr. Athugala, Chairman - SLRC:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunset and evening star
And one clear call for me
Let there be no mourning
In the bar
When I put out to sea....

Sachi still remembers the famous verse her father used to recite sitting beside her in the open garden on starry nights, which gives the connotation; `the sea (death) calls me to come to thee. So, when I go there (when I die), those who are on the shore should not mourn over me.'

Yo Me Haththecha Padecha
Kanna Nasancha Cheda Yee
Chiran Jeevathu So Raja
Nakuth Janthi Ma Disa.....

`Maha Raj' (Great King), let you amputate all my four limbs, ears and nose. But, I would never develop hatred towards you; instead would shower `Maithree' (compassionate kindness) upon you'....

Shanthi Thavusa (hermit - in one birth of Gauthama Bodhisathva before he became The Buddha) who was practising `Shanthi Paaramitha' (extreme loving kindness) uttered the above verse when the King of the country he lived ordered to amputate his limbs, ears and nose to verify whether he was telling the truth. Shanthi Thavusa never had anger or hatred whatever the heinous and monstrous onslaught he had to undergo. "My father used to recite these two verses constantly and practised it till he breathed his last. He was a good Buddhist. He gave that atmosphere to us since we were kids. Except Jaffna we were taken on pilgrimage to every nook and corner of Sri Lanka. My father was the idol in my life. I emulated what he practised. So, automatically, I too absorbed his beliefs and moulded my soul accordingly," she says. "Not only to be a devoted wife and a loving mother the belief has helped me, but also to lead a hatred free, virtuous and serene life. It's difficult and is it like swimming against the flowing waters of a river. But, conquering one's mind is the biggest triumph one could ever achieve in his or her life," explains the wife of Dr. Ariyaratne Athugala, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC).

Question: How do you apply your religious beliefs to lay life?

Sachi: I'm well organised. If one treads a good path, no evil can enter one's life. Thanks to my husband who never asks me what's happening to the monthly pay packet he hands over to me (laughs). He knows I won't waste a cent unnecessarily on clothes, cutex and lipsticks, but only on some charity work. That he silently approves. he's still a very quiet person who uses his words economically (laughs). I've never seen him in a peevish mood. Even if he gets irritated, the best way he shows it, is being in unbearable silence which is like a whiplash of a thousand words (laughs). He used to be a bit radical in his thoughts and fought against injustice. Once this quality of his made him to lose his job too. But, today I see a much different person in him (smiles).

Croupade Swetha Sachi Ratnakara was born on March 26 in 1962 as the youngest to one brother to a genius duo, Professor Thilak Ratnakara and Sriya Ratnakara. Her brother, Pragathi chose his career in Management in the private sector. Sachi, grew up in a well secured environment filled with love and compassion. Her mother's village, the beautiful Heerassagala, Kandy still remains in her memory lane as a mesmerising melody. And never did she miss a single school holiday to spend at her maternal `Maha Gedara'. L.B. Jayasena, her maternal grandpa who was one of the first Senate Members of Sri Lanka played a major role in moulding her character since her childhood. However the most effective influence was her father, Prof. Ratnakara. "He was not only my Pa, but my best companion with whom I could share any thought of mine. He used to recite his poetic thoughts; the prose and quotes he picked up from all kinds of subjects he read, especially of the world literature and economics in which he was excellently versed," says Sachi. "He was from Peradeniya Campus, and was the Professor and the Head of the Department of Economics at the University of Kelaniya. He became the Vice Chancellor of Kelaniya from late 1970s to 1982. Thaththa worked at the Lottery Board for sometime and was then appointed as the Economic Advisor to the Government of Seychelles until his death on December 1, 1990. It's a great loss!", she laments.

Shachi's Mum, Sriya Ratnakara as you all know was the first female Editor in the history of print media in Sri Lanka. "She was the Editor of `Vanitha Viththi', Sinhala women's magazine of the Times publishing group for five years since 1958, and then of the `Shree' monthly magazine of the `Davasa' newspaper group from 1963 to 1990. "`It seemed that you are married to the paper', I still remember how Thaththa used to joke about Amma's extreme devotion towards her work. But we were not neglected, and had the most beautiful childhood, a child could ever expect," she reminisces.

Sachi was a bright student at Visakha Vidyalaya, Colombo who spent her time either at the dancing room, Hewisi (Eastern) Band, choir or sports ground playing tennis or practising for track relay. "She is never at the classroom," was the constant complaint heard by her mother at the Parents-Teacher Meeting. Sachi learnt dancing under Vajira-Chitrasena since she was 7 years, and even did the main role in their ballet `Nirasha'. Today's veterans Ravibandu, Samanthi and Channa Wijewardane were her counterparts.

Prof. Ratnakara who was an art enthusiast urged her beautiful daughter to shine in dancing qualifying herself in all dancing forms as much as she could. As a result she ended holding two `Arangethrams' in Bharatha Dancing under Padmini Dahanaike and then in `Kuchchipudi'

(a rhythmic Indian dancing form) under Ranga Vivekanandan. Sachi was honoured to be the first student of veteran Padmini Dahanaike to hold an `Arangethram', and also was the first Sinhala student of celebrity Ranga Vivekanandan to hold the same event. She even performed at many events at the Indian Cultural Centre. "Thaththa's dream was to send me to India to do higher levels in `Kuchchipudi'. But then during that time, the LTTE problem rose and he didn't want to send me there," she recalls.

As many parents' wish, Mrs.Sriya Ratnakara's intention was also to see her daughter study to be a doctor. Hence, to fulfil her mother's desire, Sachi chose Bio-science for her A/Ls. Her dislike against the subjects was reflects in the result sheet.

This provoked her to take her destiny into her own hands and she got through with flying colours after sitting for the A/Ls in a second shy in the arts stream covering the syllabus in 6 months.

Even at the Colombo University, she had little time to spend on the lectures, but a lot on all sorts of activities involved in the Campus Art Circle (`Vindana Kala Kendraya'). However, she passed out with an Econ-Special Degree.

Question: When did Athugala enter your life?

Sachi: I was in the A/Ls then. My father was the Vice Chancellor at the Kelaniya University. The stage drama he directed with his campus students was a success. I used to go there too and watch the rehearsals. Athugala was one of the cast. He was a friendly guy and pleasant, but looked a bit shy, and rarely joined in with the conversation. It might be due to the fact that I was the daughter of the Vice Chancellor. Amongst the talkative lot, I noticed his silence, but did not pay much attention to it until he paid a visit to see me when I entered the Colombo Campus.

Question: He must have hurried up before someone else tried to get at you?

Sachi: Must be! (laughs)

Ariyaratne Athugala was born on October 22 in 1955 to the Athugala family at Munamale, Bamunakotuwa in Kurunegala District, as the fifth of eight siblings. After having his school education at Munamale Vidyalaya and then at Bamunakotuwa Maha Vidyalaya, Athugala entered the University of Kelaniya. One of his school Masters who recognised Athugala's unusual talent in writing ever since he was a kid, predicted that one day he would be a noble writer in this country.Athugala was a different child who showed some special qualities more than his siblings. "His mother says his was a pick and span character who wanted his room to be clean and dirt free throughout," butts in Sachi. Other than playing `Elle' from the time he came home from school until sunset, reading and writing were his pastime. He had a craze over the late famous singer H.R. Jothipala's songs and if a waft of Jothi's song was in the air from any corner of the house, that indicated young Athugala was around. When he became the Chairman of the SLRC two years ago, one of the first tasks he was involved in was arrange `Jothi Raathriya', a felicitation night to commemorate Jothipala.

"Our affair started when I was a first year student at the Colombo Campus. Ramani Kulasekara, a lecturer and my father's drama assistant at the Kelaniya Campus who instinctively felt that both Athugala and I had a silent attraction between us, arranged the match-making. We went on for six years until I got the consent from my family who were not happy over it at the beginning. We got married on February 21 in 1986," recalls Sachi.

After passing out from the university with a Special degree in Mass Communication, Athugala worked for the Youth Council at Maharagama for a brief period. The injustice he faced constantly at his working place made him bid farewell to the job, and decided to continue his higher studies in Mass Communication.

"By that time we were married. Since he didn't want to go back to his job I didn't force him to. Instead I started working as an Assistant Research Officer at the Family Planning Association for a brief period," she says.

Question: What happened then to all your talents?

Sachi: I've composed songs, even for films, and written many radio dramas along with my father. I had two dreams in life; firstly to go to India and learn dancing, and secondly to be a teacher in a remote village. Even at Visakha all my school friends were those who came from Grade Five Scholarship, studious and with radial thoughts. Though I was born and bred in Colombo, we were connected with the village a lot. Even Athugala came from a village.

Hence, I was so adamant to teach in a poverty stricken area to underprivileged children. But, since I was the only daughter, my father didn't want to send me to such an area. So, I had to give up.

After achieving his PhD Athugala went up in the ladder to be the Head of the Department of the Mass Communication and rendered a valuable service to exhilarate and popularise Mass Communication as a subject at the Kelaniya University. He has written more than 15 books on the subject. Apart from that he has directed four teledramas, `Sittara Gurunnanse', `Ramya Nagaraya', `Sooseta Mayam' and `Samanala Kandavura'. Dr. Ariyaratne Athugala was honoured for his Excellent Contribution to the Media Education in Sri Lanka once from the Hideo Snimizu (Japanese) Foundation, and then by the Mass Communication Association from the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka in 2006, and was given the Vayamba Puthra Prasadini Abhinandana Award at Kurunegala in 2004. He got the appointment as the Chairman of the SLRC in November, 2007.

Question: What are the other special qualities you see in your husband?

Sachi: He was a good photographer. When he was in the campus he even held a photographic exhibition titled `Sudu Saha Kalu' (Black and White). I still remember when he was to publish his first book `Sameepa Roopa', we didn't have money and I pawned my jewellery to fund it. We went through many hardships in life, but were very happy when we look back at it now. Thanks to my parents who have been with us throughout our journey in life. I render my fullest support to Athugala as a wife at all times in our life. He still doesn't know what he is to wear in the morning until his well ironed suit comes into his hands. He has no worries as everything is done for him (laughs). His is an extremely cool personality who takes life very easily. Though we were shaken up and agitated over the issues that took place at the SLRC recently, he was not. `Don't worry, everything will be alright', was his answer.

Question: Your message to the society and your future intentions?

Sachi: We have two sons. Renusha Mandara Vishruka is 19 years now, and his goal is to be an IT specialist. Yashasvi Abhimanyu is still 14 years. He is good at sports and is a bilingual writer. Both are Royalists. To see a successful future for our children is one of my dreams like every parent in this world. My message to the younger generation is do not discard our culture, customs and rites. Unity in a marriage lies in the woman's hand. Whatever happens, treat your husband to the best of your ability. I have little yearning for worldly desires.

I have been a complete vegetarian for the past 15 years. Engaging in Buddhist charity work has been my pastime in life. I've told my sons that once they are settled and there's a time I have to live alone, I will renounce the world and go for the yellow robes (smiles contently).


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer Oct 5 2008

‘I appreciate him as a politician but prefer the journalist in him’

Pradeepa Dharmadasa speaks of life with Minister Dullas Alahapperuma:

By Lakmal WELABADA

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk

 

 

 

 

 


 

“I’ve never cursed anybody in my life, let my sprained voice be normal soon. That was the `Sathyakriya’ I did when I was in trouble a few days before the musical show I was to sing in Sydney, Australia on August 16. I was sick, and my voice was gone. I was at the rehearsal.

The desperate look of the organisers of the show gave me a heart ache. They got me down to sing, and not to have mercy on my sickness. The responsibility I had to bear was too heavy. I `sounded’ that bad. I was becoming depressed, but my inner strength was high. I cannot let things fall like that. I have to fight against the situation.

The only thing I could do was to meditate on the eyes of the Buddha statue at my home which I worship twice a day. I prayed for the Noble Truth of Dhamma. Soon everything was clear. It was unbelievable. I got my voice back,” recalls Pradeepa Dharmadasa, famous singer, teledrama actress and wife of the Minister of Transport, Dullas Alahapperuma.

“He was a journalist,” she diverts the discussion. After spending nearly an hour at the Gym in the morning, and zipping a glass of `Gotukola Kola Kenda’ (herbal drink) Pradeepa begins to unfold her love story.

“He had begun his journalism while he was at school. First he was at `Lakmina’, a weekly tabloid. When I first met him, he was working for `Lakdiva’, another radical tabloid Sinhala weekly. My first CD `Doovillen Saduna Liye’ (a woman who emerged from the dust of the earth) got banned due to the rebellious lyrics that discussed the contemporary social issues of Sri Lanka in 1992.

Unlike at present, when we were to release a CD, we had to get approval from a Board at the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) and the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC).

They censored a few of my songs which later became hits in the private FM Radio and private TV Channels. The private electronics media and tabloid papers went out of the way to help me. I’m still grateful for the backing I got from them,” she explains.

Q: Was it a love at first sight?

Pradeepa: Mmmm! (laughs)... I really don’t know (thinks). Actually, for me he was a `giant’, and I was really enticed to his rebellious writing. Dullas was a man who used his pen against social injustices, even by risking his own life. I too had the similar vision, I suppose. Our first meeting was at `Lakdiva’ to give my `censor’ story. That was all! It was Sudath Mahadivulweva who also worked with him, who came out with Dullas’ proposal. I was surprised!

Pothupitiya Kankanamge Pradeepa Nirmali Hemamali Dharmadasa was born at Rawatawatta, Moratuwa on January 26. “My sister and I’ve had the longest name at school! When we were to fill the forms for O/Ls and A/Ls, we were always in trouble due to lack of space,” smiles Pradeepa who was a `shining star’ as a school girl.

Late P.K.Dharmadasa of Galle who worked at Agriculture and Govi Jana Seva Department, and Meda Gamage Hema Dharmadasa were her parents. Pradeepa was the second in four of her family.

“My youngest brother is nine years younger to me. My older sister, the brother next to me (Loku Malli) and I were close to each other. Hence, Loku Malli’s death when he drowned in the sea, was a great shock to all of us. After that incident we became really depressed and lost,” she reminisces.

Pradeepa who studied first at Princess of Wales, Moratuwa, entered Sujatha Vidyalaya, Nugegoda for her A/Ls as her dream was to become a lawyer. Since Logic was not taught at Princess of Wales, Pradeepa chose Sujatha Vidyalaya as her new school. But, things changed even without her knowledge. Veteran dramatist Somalatha Subasinghe was launching a new venture in drama enroling students at Sujatha Vidyalaya and Ananda Vidyalaya.

“It was `Sandakinduru’ (mermaids) depicting a Buddhist Jathaka story. Many A/L students came for the rehearsals which was held at the school premises. Generally I was known as a mischievous, sporty and an extremely forward student who was ever ready to sing at any school event when at Princess of Wales.

But at Sujatha, since it was a new place for me, I was too shy to come forward. But, I was surprised. Mrs. Somalatha’s choice was me for the main role. And it was this that changed my destiny from a prospective lawyer to a performing artiste at the age of 18 years,” she recalls.

Pradeepa was studying dancing at Vajira-Chitrasena Academy, and later started learning music at `Kala Bhoomi’, Nugegoda. Still she had no intention of being a performing artiste. In a few months `Sandakinduru’ was a success.

After the A/L exam Pradeepa followed a drama course at Somalatha Subasinghe’s Sri Lanka Youth Theatre Foundation, which enhanced her horizons in the performing arts. Meanwhile, Somalatha who has had the instinct for picking one young talent introduced Pradeepa to the popular stage through her dramas, `Vikurthi’ (abnormal) and `Moodu Puththu’ (sons of the sea) earlier directed by Gunasena Galappaththi).

Q: What kind of backing did you get from your home front?

Pradeepa: Very supportive. My father was a very silent character, and it was my mother who ran the show. She knew my talent and always encouraged me to go forward.

From that point onward, many offers for stage dramas flooded. But she picked and chose a few; `Subhasaranagatha’ (Athula Peiris), `Sathyanganavi’ (Vijitha Guneratne), `Nelum Pokuna’ (Kapila Kumara Kalinga), `Sakvithi Nikmana’ (Dr. Salaman Fonseka), `Moonu Dekak’ (Susil Guneratne), `Sinhabahu’ (as Sinha Sivali - Ediriweera Sarathchandra), `Naaga Gurula’ (K.B. Herath), `Doovili’ (R.R. Samarakoon) and `Ukdandu Ginna’ (Nimal Ekanayaka).

“Of them `Sathyanganavi’ came to the limelight among Sri Lankan drama enthusiasts during 1988-1989. It was in the style of an Opera, and we were given an eight-month training under maestro Pemasiri Khemadasa. I got the Best Stage Actress Award for `Ukdandu Ginna’ in 1993,” she recalls.

Q: Your singing career?

Pradeepa: It was a blessing that maestro Khemadasa recognised my talent. Jayantha Chandrasiri was to introduce a new face, Rebeka Nirmali for the main role in the tele `Veda Hamine’. It was the maestro’s suggestion to introduce a new voice as well to the new character. That was how I got the chance to sing its theme song, `Doovili’ which was a hit.

Unlike today, a decade back people rarely view the singers on the TV. So, when `Veda Hamine’ was on telecast, everybody began to look for the gifted nightingale. It rarely that an artiste has both talent for singing and for acting. Rukmani Devi, H.R. Jothypala and Mukesh were a few to name. And it was Pradeepa who grabbed the limelight after them.

From the stage to the small screen; Pradeepa took part in `Samuganime Navathena’ (Kapila Kumara Kalinga), `Yashodara nam Eya’ (Thusitha Jayawardane), `Ava Sanda’ (Somaratne Dissanayaka), `Pin Mada Puthuni’ (Malini Fonseka) and `Dhavala Raathriya’ (Sudath Mahadivulveva).

Many theme songs of the teledramas of that era were sung by her. She sang her first film theme song for Mario Jayathunga’s `Nidi Yahana Kalabuni’, but unfortunately it was never screened due to the political censorship. Mario’s `Savithrige Raathriya’ won her the Best Female Singer Award at both film festivals at Sarasaviya and the President’s in 1996.

`Pradeepa’ which means `light’, had so far been radiating light like a star twinkling in the sky. However, on November 23 in 1993, she decided to give light to the life of only one soul; Dullas Alahapperuma. After two years of being in love she tied the nuptial knot on this day.

Dullas Daham Kumara Alahapperuma was born on May 14 in 1959 at Dikwella, Matara to School Principal parents, Karolis Alahapperuma and Aslin Alahapperuma. Like Pradeepa, Dullas too was the second `commander’ in his family. His older sister, Sujatha Alahapperuma is the Magistrate, Wattala, two brothers are a Custom Officer and an Engineer respectively, and the youngest sister is a school teacher.

Dullas who was a Cricket fanatic studied firstly at St. Servetius College, Matara and then at Ananda College, Colombo. “He still loves Cricket. His pastime is to play Cricket with his sons,” butts in Pradeepa.

Like his beloved wife, Dullas’ intention too was to become a lawyer. Unlike her he climbed the academic ladder until he was dragged to politics. “He was a writer; a journalist who tried to raise a voice against the misrule and injustices in the society. He was doing his finals at the Law College when he entered politics by winning the Provincial Election at Matara in 1993. He was the Provincial Minister of Cultural Affairs as well,” recalls Pradeepa.

For a year I didn’t do anything. But I did a bit of charity work at Elders’ Homes to keep myself occupied once my children went to school. Later, I managed to follow a Diploma in Liberal Arts which included subjects such as American History and Culture, English Literature and Mass Communication,” she says. “I had no voice training at all. There was a Unity Church nearby. I once walked in and

asked the Pastor whether I could join the choir just to keep my voice trained. He was very co-operative, and allowed me to do so.

In the year 2005, President Mahinda Rajapaksa got down Dullas, the long time lost gentleman-politician back on the political stage, and Dullas was appointed to the Parliament through the National List. Dullas came back to Sri Lanka while Pradeepa continued to stay there with the kids.

“I think every woman should go through a tough period like that managing everything of her own as it gives you an enormous strength and confidence to lead a perfect life later on. During Dullas’ absence, I had to manage with our two sons alone in the States for two years. I took every problem as a challenge and successfully faced them with courage.

There was a time I really went down, but my inner spirit never let me off. It was the period when I really experienced the strength of a woman, and the amount of burden she could bear in life,” she recalls. “We too returned to Sri Lanka in 2007, the year Dullas got the appointment as Minister of Transport,” says Pradeepa.

Q: How old are your sons?

Pradeepa: Mahima Induwara was born in 1995 and Kaushika Nalanda was born in 1996. Mahima first went to Royal College and Kaushika at Ananda College. At present both are studying at Lyceum International. Why we’ve named our second son `Nalanda’ is a story. It was the late young Ratnapura MP Nalanda Ellawala who drove us from the hospital to home when he was born. Nalanda was a person with incompatible virtuous humane qualities.

Q: We all see Dullas as a straight forward politician. How do you see him?

Pradeepa: Strong and frank who lives with an extreme self pride. I appreciate him as a politician, but prefer the `journalist’ in him.

To tell the truth I never liked him entering politics. My blessings are with him, but my involvements in his party politics is very low. He is a pure vegetarian and a teetotaller. A loving husband, and a father who adores his two kids like precious jewels in this world (laughs). What else can a wife expect from life? We still have no permanent residence of our own. Once he quits politics we might be in trouble. But, I never think about the future that far, and live only for the present. 


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer Sep 28 2008

Journalist cum actress

Arthur U. Amarasena talks of his life with veteran actress wife Sriyani Amarasena:

By Lakmal WELABADA

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Since my wife and I are both in the same field we have not encountered any difficulty in understanding each other; especially when it concerns our career," opines veteran journalist Arthur Usmiyage Amarasena. Commenting on his 44-year marriage with popular actress cum teledrama directress Sriyani Amarasena.

Arthur, who has spent his entire life with the print media, has many things to say apart from his life with his celebrated wife.

"I was crazy over the cinema since I was a schoolboy. Though I didn't have much material assistance of getting information about the world cinema, I somehow managed to write to all the newspapers and magazines in the country. Firstly it was for the Children's Page, and later for the cinema affairs column. However, every article I wrote appeared. It was a great encouragement at a time there were no newspapers available in our area. The one and only source of information was the library of which I made the maximum use," recalls Arthur.

Usmiyage Arthur Amarasena was born on March 03, 1938 to U. Charles Perera, Railway Guard and Pinie Fransina de Silva. Arthur was the eldest of three brothers who followed in their father's footsteps to the Railway Service.

"My father wanted me also to join the Railway as many of my relatives were in the Railway Service. But, somehow I managed to convince 'Thatha' of my craze to write," he reminisces fondly.

Arthur studied at Sri Rahula Maha Vidyalaya, Katugastota and Ananda Vidyalaya, Kandy. His mother died when he was studying for the Higher School Certificate (HSC). It was the biggest blow in his life.

"She was to give birth to our fourth sibling, but we lost both. It was terrible. All of us felt deserted. I didn't have much desire to continue my higher studies after that. I mourned amma's death for about two weeks. Getting back to normal life was not easy. But my maternal aunty at Panadura decided to take care of us."

Arthur was about 20 years when Somapala Ranaweera started his own cinema magazine `Lanka Chalana Chitra' in 1959. Arthur agreed to work there for a monthly salary of Rs. 50."It was my first job which gave me an all round experience in every aspect of a newspaper office. From a reporter, Sub-editor, peon, clerk to a delivery boy" says Arthur of those early days.

His second job was at `Chitravahini' for a monthly salary of Rs. 75. Meanwhile, M.D. Gunasena launched a newspaper company - `Davasa' in 1961. Working under the Editor-in-Chief, D.B. Dhanapala, was an experience for young Arthur. Robert Jayawardane, Cyril A. Seelawimala and Sirilal Kodikara were his contemporaries who wrote a golden era in the history of local media in Sri Lanka. "We were paid 3 cents for a sentence for what we wrote. I managed to earn about Rs. 60-70. However, unlike todays' generation, we never bothered about the money, but tried to render our service to our maximum ability," he smiles.

`Davasa' was the Sinhala daily and `Rivi Rasa' was the Sinhala Weekly of `Davasa' company. Arthur was promoted as the Editor of `Visithura' Cinema Weekly apart from his reporting work at `Davasa.

"Some days, we had to work until 1-2 am. Sometimes, we used to stay in the office for 3-4 days.

We were very much dedicated to our work. To become a good journalist, one should have this type of dedication and should do news reporting at least for a short period. I covered courts, parliament and so on which gave me a lot of exposure for the society," he points out.

Being the Editor of `Visithura', Arthur did a silent service for the film industry, by giving publicity to many celebrities of today who had just stepped into the field at that time. Everything was functioning smoothly until a trade union was formed. "In 1970s the Chairman of `Davasa', Sepala Gunasena decided to close down the papers to suppress the Union action. We were jobless, but were paid monthly until they re-shuffled and re-arranged the staff. "So, we returned back to `Rivi Rasa' under famous editor, Gunadasa Liyanage. I re-launched `Visithura' while being the deputy editor of `Rivi Rasa, in 1974," he reminisces.

During this era Sirimavo Bandaranaike Government stopped using `Kumarodaya' books printed by M.D. Gunasena Publishers, and began to use the text books printed at the Government Press, which were issued to the market at a cheaper price. Gunasenas, who supported Sirimavo to come to power, got furious over this and started attacking the government. As a result, the Government sealed the Gunasena newspaper company, making the whole staff jobless.

"By this time, I was married and having two kids too. Sriyani was in films, but even she was not having much work during this time. So, I started my own fortnight cinema magazine, `Piyakaru'.

Film Producers whom I'd helped earlier giving publicity to their films assisted me by publishing advertisements in my magazine. I got it printed at the `Maha Bodhi' Press, Colombo. It was a hard time in our life," laments Arthur.

However, after a short period Gunadasa Liyanage became the Chief Editor of `Lankadeepa', Sinhala weekly of the Times Group, and called Arthur and his old group too to join them. There, Arthur launched a new cinema paper, `Sura Thura'. "But, it was the beginning of the problematic period in my career. Our group, which came from `Davasa', had to face many strokes of blades due to enmity at the 'Times.' It became worse with the Government change in 1977, and the UNP came to power. We were considered as SLFPers though we had nothing to do with politics," he recalls.

"Gunadasa Liyanage left the place and Deegoda Piyadasa became the Editor of `Lankadeepa'. Since the situation was unbearable, a group of us decided to join with Camillus Perera at Multipacks Publishers which published a popular series of papers such as the famous cartoon magazines `Siththara' and `Sithsara'. Arthur could re-vitalise his scope by launching another cinema weekly, `Sath Dina'.

`Kalpana', a literary monthly magazine funded by the three banks Bank of Ceylon, National Savings Bank and People's Bank was the next mark of success in Arthur's life. `Kalpana' was launched by the then Minister of Finance, Ronnie de Mel. `Kalpana' was a success until the Minister fell out of grace with the then President R. Premadasa," reminisces Arthur.

Arthur and Sriyani tried a new venture along with this by opening a grocery at Kolonnawa junction.

"It was a failure, since we were not versed in marketing craft", he laughs.

`Suraliya' (Weekly Woman), `Medaperadiga' (monthly magazine catered to the Middle East). `Nidahasa' and `Vishva Tharanga' (Literary) were the other publications Arthur put his hand to Since 2006, he has been working for `Liyathambara' which caters to the Middle East and Europe.

Q: How did you meet Sriyani?

Arthur: I've got many things from the `paper'. So in the case of Sriyani (laughs)... D.B. Dhanapala, editor-in-chief of `Davasa' wanted to launch `Cupid Corner' (marriage proposal column). Since it was going to be the first thing of that kind, he asked us young reporters to give details about ourselves to publish as `grooms' in order to give an idea to the people. So, we complied but without giving all our details. You won't believe that I got 366 letters from all over the island promising to give big dowries with coconut and rubber estates. But the only letter which described a girl who had some similar interests as me (art enthusiasm) was sent by Mrs. Weerakoon who happened to be Sriyani's mother.

Palam Kumbura Herath Mudiyanselage Sriyani Weerakoon Kumarihamy was born on June 14 at Meethotamulla to P.K.H.M. Weerakoon Banda of Ampitiya, Kandy and Emalin Wimalawathie Kodikara of Meethotamulla. Sriyani's father worked at the Colombo Municipality. Since she was the only child she was brought up in a secure background which gave her all the love and care she needed.\She had her education at Meethotamulla Vidyalaya, Musaeus College and Gothami Balika Vidyalaya, Colombo upto the then SSC. Her talents in dancing, singing and art made Sriyani a shining student at school.... This opened the doors to the young lass to the children's programme Siri Aiya at Radio Ceylon when she was 7 or 8 years.

Though she was the only child, Sriyani's parents never obstructed her from enhancing her talents. It was her mum who answered a paper advertisement asking for a young talent for a stage drama called, `Thammanna'. It was for the role of `Kuweni', a `yakka' woman. Sriyani, who was about 15 or 16 years at the time, was too tiny for the role. But, simultaneously she was selected for the role of `Gama Duwa' (village maid) in Dayananda Gunawardane's `Nari Bena' (fox as a son-in-law). That was the stepping stone in Sriyani's career which soared to become a household name.Destiny has its own plans for all of us. With another journalist colleague of his, Arthur went to see his first proposed bride at Meethotamulla. Still they didn't

want to reveal their true identity. But, after seeing such a beautiful damsel who was the fool going to say `no' to her?

Arthur, who was disguising himself under the forged name of `Silva' disclosed himself. After associating for about two years, the two tied the knot on November 11, 1964.

Q: Sriyani entered the cinema after she got married?

Arthur: Yes. But, she had appeared in a short documentary film produced to promote Sri Lanka Air Force `Wings over Ceylon' directed by Pagnasoma Hettiarachci. So, Tissa Abeysekara once brought me a photo of a pretty girl asking whether I knew her. He was looking for Sriyani for Lester's newest film `Delovak Athara'. I couldn't suppress laughing as by that time Sriyani was my wife already and was pregnant. So, we had to reject the offer. She entered the cinema through Lester's `Golu Hadawatha' (Silent Heart) when our daughter was about two and half years old in 1968. She became a full time film actress after she had her second baby.

We were really lucky as everything of our two children was done by Sriyani's parents during our absence.So far Sriyani has acted in 120 films and 15-20 teledramas. Her first screenplay and direction was the teledrama `Maggie' in which she did the main role as well. Sriyani has been involved in Sinhala teledramas made in many foreign countries. `Irabatu Tharuwa', `Hemanthaye Wasanthayak' and `Pushparagaya' were shot in England; `Jayathura Shankaya' Switzerland, `Peraliya' in Australia, `Supiri Tharuwa' in Singapore and `Thusharaye Chaaya' in Canada. `Sakura Mal', which was shot in Japan, which is to be telecast on Rupavahini next month, will be her next tele series. Except `Irabatu Tharuwa' and `Hemanthaye Wasanthayak' all the other teles were her own directions.

Q: In the cinema, she is the `tear drop' and the innocent. How do you see her?

Arthur: A strong woman. Sometimes adamant, but with a kind heart. She loves animals, and her passion is to help the underprivileged. We too have ups and downs as in any family. But, we know how to deal with things.

We both get angry, but compromise with each other's ideas, and that what is needed to lead a good married life.

Q: Generally, many husbands force their wives to put a full stop to acting once they get married. But, you followed a different theory.

Arthur: True. I asked her to give up stage dramas as it was a tiring job and had to go all over the island endlessly. But, I'm a person who loves the arts, stage and Cinema. Especially Cinema was my forte. Also I've always trusted her and assumed she would not break that faith. She is my wife and we are happy parents of two children and a grand daughter. I'm proud of her.

Q: We've heard that she is very particular when selecting the cast for her teles.

Arthur: Yes. That is because we take the Sri Lankan cast abroad and we carry their responsibility. Hence, discipline plays a great role more than the talent one has in him or her. If they behave badly they are not only disgracing us but also a disgrace to our country".

Q: About your children?

Arthur: Inoka Nilmini Wickremanayaka is my daughter. Her daughter is now 19 years following a fashion designing diploma in Singapore. Inoka was an air hostess at Air Lanka and also took part in a few films. Our son, Chandana Sampatha is a tea-taster.

Q: What's your message to the younger generation?

Arthur: This is what I have to tell especially for those who are attached to the media. Enhance your knowledge in every subject you undertake.

At least have a rough idea about everything as much as you can. Read and read and read. Education is very important for this profession as unlike a doctor or a lawyer, we, journalists do not deal with one subject. And try to be humble and genuine. Modesty is a key to touch one's heart. When you get information use such techniques. Also never be partial.

Try your best to tread a middle path always. When you hold your pen never put it on the paper with hatred, but with a balanced mind. That's all my theory which I put into practice.

Also, I have to state this as well. There are many prominent personalities in this society (in all fields) who think that journalists are there to report about them and that's our (journalists') duty to go behind them and get information. Some treat journalists with very low esteem.

That's wrong. In other countries, even in India, all walks of people treat journalists with great respect. I think it's high time to change such heinous attitudes in our society.

Journalists are doing a `service'...please remember that (smiles).


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer Sep 14 2008

Reminiscence of life with a musical spouse

Prof. Amara Ranatunga talks of her life with Dr. Dayaratne Ranatunga:

 

By Lakmal Welabada
lakmal@sundayobserver.lk


Pic: Chinthaka Kumarasinghe

Sapumal Suvandak se
Seethala Re yame
Hada kutiyata
Oba himihita aduna
Ma pamanayi dutve...


You slowly stepped into my heart
As a fragrance of a Sapumal flower...
None saw you coming into my mind
In this dark night
It’s only I who heard your footsteps,
My dearly Master....

 

 

 

Prof. Amara Ranatunga was plucking the strings of the Thampura while humming one of her famous songs recalling the happy days in her life when she was studying at Bhathkanda Music College, Lucknow, India in early 1960s.

“When I think of Bhathkanda and Benaras University I dream of heaven. It was both so serene and lively. I feel still happy when I`m recalling it,” says Prof.Amara Ranatunga, beginning to reveal her `musical’ life with her `musical’ spouse, Dr.Dayaratne Ranatunga.

Classical music is the second religion of both Amara and Dayaratne who worship the Buddha and follow the teaching of the Noble Truth to lead a virtuous life. Living with music more than half a century in Sri Lanka is an exquisite, exceptional and extraordinary achievement.

Hence, no matter whether they gain State admiration or not in their own motherland, the singer duo has been venerated greatly in Bharatha Desh (India) and many other lands both in the Eastern and Western worlds.

The `Bharatha Mithra’, awarded to the Professor and Doctor Ranatunga by the Indian Government in connection with the commemoration of the 55th Independence of India was just one such appreciation they were felicitated with, for their esteemed service rendered to the `Bharatha Sangeetha’ (Indian music) for the past half century.

The sweet smell of Sandun oil burning in the lamp lit to offer the Buddha makes anybody’s mind serene to whoever who enters their home at D.M.Kolambage Mawatha, Nawala, Nugegoda. The smooth harmonious North Indian melody that flows through every nook and corner of the house is

sedative and mesmerising. The students who step into their place carrying Sitars, violins, flutes or some other Eastern musical instrument soon become meditative sinking deep into the `Ragas’ played by Amara and Dayaratne. It’s like entering a little Bhathkanda. “Whereever in the world we meet at least one or two students of ours. It’s a pleasure,” smiles Amara.

Dona Amara Kasthuriarachchi was born on August 22 in 1939 at Hanwella to Don Wiyolis Kasthuriarachchi, Head Master of the Hanwella Primary School and Dona Alpinona Meegahapola. Amara was the fifth of the eleven children of their music loving family.

“My father and mother though there didn’t learn music as a subject, loved music passionately. Their keenness and enthusiasm inspired all of us to get into music,” says Amara.

“I studied at Hanwella Central College. My father was from Batuwatta and my mother was from Mathugama. But, since we were staying at Hanwella for long due to my father’s appointment at the school there, Hanwella became our home town. I studied up to SSC.

Played netball and attended other activities at school including learning ballet under maestro Wasantha Kumara and a couple of stage dramas of his and also radio artiste Ananda Sarath Wimalaweera.

But my main intent was learning music. I could remember how I used to return home from school and take my music books and run to the bushalt to come to Colombo. Both Daya and I were really fortunate to be the founder students of the Government College of Fine Arts Heywood (today known as University of Visual and Performing Arts).

It was opened mainly to train teachers. But, during the week days the College started classes for students of under 16 years. The extraordinary talent both Amara and Dayaratne showed in their performances opened them to the gates of the Music College at the age of 12.

Amara first got introduced to music and dancing by watching the performances of her older siblings. Dr. B.S. Wijeratne, and Dr. Lionel Edirisinghe, oldest veteran vocal trainers of Heywood and the great Sitarist Dr. B.S. Wijeratne and K.A. Dayaratne Silva were the maestros.

Generally the music degree course was for three years. Amara and Dayaratne followed it for six years, and when they reached the age of 18 years, their knowledge in `Raagadaari Sangeethaya’ was equivalent to the level of a Masters degree.

“Six years at Heywood; I never missed a single day, and attended to the classes daily, coming to Colombo from Hanwella after the school. It was hard. But, my enthusiasm kept me alive and energetic. Music has been part of my life, my body and my soul.

The Thampura; I don’t feel that it’s just an instrument, but another humanbeing who has been with me throughout this life,” she smiles. The calm streak that across Amara’s face in similar to Mona Lisa or some great Indian beauty of 1960s. With whom shall we compare her? None comes easily to the mind, as she is unique.

The doors of Radio Ceylon were opened to Amara and Dayaratne by Dr.Lionel Edirisinghe and Ananda Sarath Wimalaweera when they were about 10 or 11 years. Hence the `Radio Mahagedara’ is not a strange place to the veteran duo. Both got a lot of chances to perform in many children’s programmes broadcast on the National Radio Service.

In 1961-63, Amara and Dayaratne studied at Bhathkanda, Lucknow studying classical music. Amara entered the Benaras Hindu University in Varanasi, India to do the Masters degree offered by the Indian government through the Indian Cultural Centre of Sri Lanka in 1984.

“Additionally, I started to study `Drupath’ (one of the oldest vocal methods) under Prof.Ritwik Sanyal and `Khyal’ singing, from Dr. Chitta Ranjan Jyothish. Dr. Chitta was a Brahmin and took a long time to test me whether I was suitable to master the subject. Though he taught me, it was only after one year that he accepted me in full force, and after that offered me a glass of water from his place.

From that day onwards he treated me as one of his own family member. Those high caste Indian teachers were from certain `Guru Kulas’ and were very caste conscious. They protected their `Shaasthra’ (school of knowledge) venerating it by offering various Poojas to Hindu gods and goddesses for generations.

So, they were very particular when imparting that reverent knowledge to someone out of their caste or nationality. However I got the blessing of all my Gurus.

I was the student who got 150 out of 150 (the highest score) for both written and practical performances at Benaras University, and it was a record after a period of 20 years. After doing the Masters, I did my doctorate composing my own classical melodies for 34 Hindi lyrics and 10 Sinhala songs. Sinhala verses were also my own creations.” reminisces Amara.

`Gentle lady’ was the title given to Amara by the staff at Benaras University who admired her calm and peaceful nature which matched with the heavenly classical music she immensed herself in.

“I used to get up at 5.00 am and go to get a cup of fresh `garam Dhuth’ (hot buffalo milk). After that I would walk to the Vishvanath Mandir (temple) and read the `Dhammapada’ (Buddhist doctrine) written on the wall in one section there. I used to do this as a routine before I started the performances,” she reminisces.

`Amara Geetha’, `Sarasa Sambhava’, `Saundarya Avabodhaya’ and `Sambhavya Sangeethaya’ were among the high classical books written by Prof. Amara Ranatunga in her great service to the music field.

“I assume, the talent I’ve got for music is something that I’ve been gifted during my journey through this Sansara as it has been part of my life since I was 10 or 11 years. And the other thing that comes along with me was his love,” laughs Amara.

Ranatunga Arachchige Dayaratne Ranatunga was born on October 29 in 1940 to Charles Peter Ranatunga, school principal and Dona Maslin Kolombage of Nawala, Nugegoda. D.M.Kolambage Mawatha which adjoins the Open University of Sri Lanka was named after his maternal uncle, who was the first Sinhala announcer at the Radio Ceylon. Dayaratne was the youngest of the six in his family.

While having the education at Ananda Shahsthralaya, Kotte, Dayaratne too joined Heywood and mastered classical music. After sitting for the SSC, he entered Zahira College, Colombo studied in the Maths stream. Volleyball and Wrestling were his sports.

Like Amara, Dayaratne’s whole family too was a music loving one. His duet `Maha Re yame’ was first sung by him and his elder sister, Somalatha Ranatunga. Dayaratne acquired his London BSc in Maths. After teaching at the Buddhist University College, Rosmead Place for a short time, he too joined Amara to do his Visharada (the first degree in music) at Bhathkanda.

While Amara got the post as a lecturer at Heywood, their second home, Dayaratne was selected to a research officer post at the Tyre Corporation in 1964. However, his soul was with music and not with `tyres’. Hence, he readily accepted the opportunity given to him to work as the first Producer in the Music Unit at the SLBC in 1969. He was promoted as the Head of Department - Controller of Sinhala Music in 1978.

In 1984, he became the Director of Music and Music Research in-charge of all four music units - Sinhala, English, Tamil, Hindi and Muslim, and all the regional services, rendering a golden service to the music field through the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Services until he retired in 1996.

Dr. Dayaratne Ranatunga has written many classical books which will be helpful to the local students who sit for the Bhathkanda classical exams including `Sangeetha Vimarshana’ (Sinhala) and `Sangeethaya’ (English).

Introducing music as a therapy for the first time in Sri Lanka, he has written `Music Mind Therapy’. `Polynesian Music and Dancing’ depicts the culture and performing arts of Australia, New Zealand and Fiji Islands.

`Salmal’ was the children’s book he published. All these publications were ‘in-depth’ research and studies which were unfortunately not acclaimed locally though the books cater to the local students in many ways as a great source of information enhancing their knowledge in classical music.

Amara and Dayaratne reminisce the opportunity they got to lecture on North Indian Classical music in the Ethno Musicology Department at the California University from 1997 to 2001.

“While teaching we too enhanced our knowledge as the scholars and lecturers we were associated with walking universities who had a vast knowledge of so many subjects,” says Amara who today extends her services even after her retirement as a Senior Professor of Music at the University of Visual and Performing Arts (Heywood). Amara is the first ever Professor of Music in Sri Lanka.

Question: A bit about your romance in life?

Amara: (Smiles) We were together since we were about 10 or 11 years, studying music at the same class at Heywood.

There was a competition between the two of us to be the top in the class as there was a prize given annually for the best student. We did the children’s programmes at Radio Ceylon also together.

When we were leaving Heywood, we felt the need of continuing being together. And so we decided to spend our life together. We never had a problem as we knew each other’s family very well. We had a secured background though we were sent out for performances.

There was somebody either my father or my elder brother who accompanied with me whereever I went. I never had an idea of starting a love affair with anybody as my whole soul was engrossed with music. We got registered on August 8 in 1963 and had the wedding on January 30 in 1964.

Question: Marriage between two competitors?

Amara: No competitions after that (laughs).

Question: Your children?

Amara: Two sons and a daughter. Pulasthi Indika was a Producer at ITN and now works in an embassy in Italy. He sang a duet with me when he was a kid. That song is still a hit among kids for generation. Nanditha Sarada worked at the SriLankan Airlines and switched on to the hospitality.

He is married to Visharada Sadana Ranatunga. Our daughter, Kumudumathie Rupashika studied Kathak dancing and vocal music at Benaras University, and at present teaches music at Musaeus College, Colombo. We are proud grand parents of 5 grand children ages ranging from 2 years to 7 years. All our three children learnt music well, but we didn’t want them to choose this field as their sole profession

Up close & Personal - Sunday Observer Aug 24 2008

Melody of life through the flute

 

 

 

 

Kumara Liyanwatte’s music is acclaimed here and abroad as one of the melodious emanating from the flute. Apart form being an academic, Kumara also proved his metal as a performer. Strangely no Sri Lankan newspaper in Sinhala or English has so far not featured him though he had been widely reviewed by the Indian press. his is an indication that Sri Lanka has not recognized talents. Kumara Liyanawatte earned his qualification with flying colours (1st class in his Bachelor’s degree as well as his post-graduate degree).

He is a senior Lecturer in music in the Faculty of Music in the University of Visual and Performing Art.


Kumara Liyanawatte in performance. Flute that draws a golden line in the space of silence.

He is a prominent figure in classical and fusion music scene and performs among classical and fusion musicians. I met him at my alma mater Ananda College when Shri Ram was staged there. It was there that I, in point of fact, witnessed his expertise in playing flute. The divine notes on the flute emerged as fine motifs of originality in a tapestry of fusion music.

Flute did not loose its grasp even amidst diverse traditions of music.

Q: How do you perceive the present status of criticism on music in Sri Lanka both in print and electronic media?

A:The present status of criticism on music in Sri Lanka is at a very low stage. For instance, a fair appreciation of different segments in music such as popular music, creative music, classical music, folk music and studies of music has not been done in a way that recognised merits of these segments and were brought to life.

However, in India persons representing diverse segments of music have been appreciated on almost equal footing.

For instance, Indians respect Rabindranath Tagore who stirred Indian nationalist sentiments, Bhathkhanda (Researcher and educationist on music), Latha Mangshkar as play back singer in popular music and Ravi Shankar as a master Sitarist who brought North Indian classical music to world stage and Ustard Bishmillah Khan and Ustard Allauddeen Khan were popular as teachers. They (Indians) have appreciated all the musicians with assigning distinct values for them.

Here in Sri Lanka, there is a widespread belief that all the musicians should get on to the popular platform in order that they be considered as musicians. Musicians engaged in the Education Section have been rarely mentioned in the media and most of them are unknown to Sri Lankan audience.

Unfortunately in Sri Lanka, we do not find such recognition of musicians among the audience. For instance, pioneers like Lionel Edirisinghe and Victor Perera should be appreciated as educationists in music.

Makuluoluwa and C de S Kulathilaka should be considered as researchers in music. Sunil Shantha, W.D Ameradeva, Victor Ratnayake and Rohana Baddage belong to master vocalists who made a contribution to music in their respective capacities.

Those vocalists in the popular music arena have also contributed to the field. Premasiri Khemadasa and Rohana Weerasinghe are dominant figures in the area of creative music. So, different segments of music ultimately make up the Sri Lankan music scene. In Sri Lanka, there is no proper recognition of persons who made a contribution to different areas of music.

Q: Are you of the view that attitudinal change should be brought about with regard to the public perception of classical music?

A: Another issue that confronts contemporary music is the misperception, on the part of the public, of classical music and researches conducted on music. If a person is to be recognized as a musician he or she should appear on television or render voice to a song. In India, musicians are highly respected even at public spaces like in at a fair.

This, I think, is caused in Sri Lanka by lack of informed criticism on music. For instance, it seems that the only qualification to peak on music is to be a singer on most occasions or else he or she should be a professor.

There are discrepancies on the diverse interpretations of music made by academics who are specialized in subjects such as Sinhala and Sociology.

This approach has caused serious confusion in the terminology used in teaching music. For instance, some are of the view that we can discard ‘Tradition’. I am of the view that there was no person who had not been evolved from a tradition; Beethoven, Yehudi Menuhim, Ravi Shankar or Michael Jackson, have all emerged from their traditions.

However, this does not mean that one should stick to the tradition. One can make creations while preserving the tradition in its purest form. If we confuse both, we, eventually, loose the tradition and would be deprived of a system of education. In India diverse traditions such as Thumri, Drupad have still been preserved and performances were held according to the tradition.

Here, there is a trend that every musician should come to the popular stage. These traditional techniques have been used in composing music for the film “Dev Das”.

The appreciation of teachers of music like Victor Perera has not been done properly in media where music is measured by ratings on different programmes.

If a creation does not make a meaningful contribution to society, such creation would be harmful to the wellbeing of society. For instance, there was a fracas at a recently held concert. People could not fight as it was a place where artist performed. Art should commence in delight and end in wisdom. Characteristics of a work of Art should be studied to find out whether our work of arts contains those characteristics.

Another important point is that creation of music has characteristics that are not confined to music. Fans are attracted to well-dressed fashionable performers. Here it is not the music that plays a vital role in attracting the audience but the make up.

In a piece of music, a larger portion of the work is made up of non-music elements. For instance, I have often heard announcers in television channels saying “Let us watch a song”. Here we look at the visual presentation of the song. However, we tend to forget it easily because there is very little music in it. What is important in a song is not what we can watch but the beauty in the composition of music.

In 1970s we listened to the songs and melodies registered in the mind. Though we watched Victor Ratnayake’s concert “Saa”, there presentation played a minor role. Most of today’s creations, presentation and editing play a much greater role than the music in the song.

Using children for various talent shows in televisions channels, though appreciable attempt, in a way is harmful to their growth. As a tree bears fruit at maturity, talented children should be nurtured instead of socializing or put into the limelight at a tender age.

As little tree could not bear fruits, children will be overburden by such activities. A child’s formal education would be the first victim. This trend will eventually destroy these emerging talents. These children are assets to the nation.

Q: Do you think that inborn talents play a vital role in making a student of music, a truly a talented performer?

A: According to ancient Hindu teaching, talents, knowledge. (Kushalatha, Danuma, Akalpa) and attitudes have been symbolized by idolatry; Brahma, Vishva and Siva. What Doctor and teacher provide is a service though they are professionals.

However, the relationship at the doctor and teacher has been a human relationship rather than a commercial one. Collapse of these relationships would contribute to the gradual destruction of a culture.

In structure of a university, that ancient system of values have been eroded and lecturers are preparing students for examinations and students are also interested in obtaining professional qualifications.

The issue is that ancient values that are associated with music, has not been integrated into the university system. However, this has been effectively done in India.

I believe that there is a crisis in the Sri Lankan education though the passing rates and number of graduates produced each year, is impressive. The objective of education should be character building rather than becoming a professional or earning a lot of money.

One factor which has been neglected is that the inability to recognize a work of art beyond its aesthetic values. For instance, songs like “Sasara Wasanathuru” and “Ratnadeepa Jammabumi”, “Dhanobudunge” represent culture, education and Sri Lankan values and make a lasting contribution to the society.

Though many other songs may surpass “Sasara Wasanathuru” and “ Dhanobudunge” in aesthetic quality, these songs will remain in the heart and mind of people.

Q: Is the system education imparting the knowledge to identify such songs?

A: Now parents are waiting to present their children for a television programme. The motive of the programme is financial. No one thinks of what would happen to these children at the end of the day. In some instances, these programmes would disrupt the education of these children.

Every one is born with talents and these born talents should be developed and sharpened through education.

Then the education will bring about an attitudinal change in an individual, discarding away biases, prejudices and wrong attitudes. In Hindu concept Brahma means the creator.

So the born talents should be developed (Vishva) through education and Mahesvara symbolizes concept of destroying the evils in the world. In other words, Mahesvara means getting rid of evils or biases and unhealthy attitudes.

“Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu and Gure deva Mahesvara “(The teacher is the creator, developer and one who will destroy evil influences). I believe that these Hindu concepts can be integrated into the education.

No appropriate coordination

There is no appropriate coordination among Ministry of Education, Ministry of Cultural Affairs and Ministry of Media and Information. There is no policy with regard to the application of media in education. Media influences the collective conscience is a fact. Some of the best artistic songs were produced in 1970s.

Today the motive of creating songs is solely financial. One should posses born talents (Kushalata) in order to become an accomplished musician. Present Z-score has completely neglected this aspect in selecting students for the University of Visual and Performing Art.

Education is like mining gems. First it is the task of an education to find out hidden talents in children as gems in mud. Then the teacher as a gem-cutter sharpens and polishes the inborn talents in children and finally the gem should be imbedded in a proper place like in a king’s crown. That means the teacher must bring the child to prominent place in the society.

We have such gems hidden in diverse places in society. There are highly talented persons who, for unknown reasons, have not come into the limelight.

The education should be integrated into the culture and into the prevalent ethos of the time.

So the born talents should be considered in selecting students for the University of Visual and Performing Arts. For example, in the Haywood days, students were selected for diverse courses on the basis of their talents and giving due weight to their education qualifications.

Victor Ratnayake, Rohana Weerasinghe, Sarath Dasanayake, Laskman Wijesekara, Bandula Wijeweera, Sanath Nandasiri, who are now leading figures in the Sri Lankan music scene , are products of the Haywood or Government’s Institute of Music.

Education in music should be of practical fervour and though the theory is important, practical aspects cannot be neglected. More and more practical sessions should be conducted in order to produce a generation of talented persons who could contribute to the field of music in Sri Lanka. I urge authorities to devise a mechanism to ensure talented students enter University of Visual and Performing Arts.

From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer Aug 24 2008

Love stood the test of time

Geetha speaks of life with Minister C.B. Ratnayake:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Pix: Chinthaka Kumarasinghe

‘From the Spouse’s Mouth’; hope the series that had ‘a journalist’s eye for detail and a novelist’s sense of character’, appeared here nearly for a year, gave you much entertainment along with some commendable message that would penetrate into your soul to lead somewhat a noble life. Wishing you, the readers very best of everything!

“A first glimpse of him made me feel he was an innocent guy. I still remember the place we met for the first time. It was opposite Mayura Traders at Nuwara Eliya town,” recalls Geetha with a timid smile. Samarakoon Mudiyanselage Geetha Preethi, wife of C.B. Ratnayaka, Minister Livestock Development reveals their Romeo-Juliet love story which never ended up in a tragedy, but a magnificent finale.

Dingiri Banda Samarakoon, a wholesale businessman and Yapa Mudiyanselage Kumari Manike of Padiyapalalla, Walapane in Nuwara Eliya District were Geetha’s parents. She was born on October 14, 1963 as the eldest to one younger brother. After learning the alphabet at Padiyapalalla Junior School, Geetha entered High School, Kandy after sitting an admission exam.

“I was at my maternal uncle’s place and went to school from there. I was under the strict supervision of Mama and Nanda. I was not allowed to go anywhere. They had a daughter. Mama had an Austin car which had sealed rear shutters along with triangular glass windows on either side. Their daughter and I used to sit at the rear seat of the car, and we used these triangular shutters to get some fresh air when moving. But, Mama never allowed us to open them when the car was moving through a crowd.

He might have thought some male admirers of ours would throw an address through the tiny window,” laughs Geetha.

Basketball was her favourite sport. She was in the Oriental Band playing the Thammattama. The seven mates including herself had earned a name as one of the most mischievous groups in the school. “We had so much fun. My school days were wonderful,” she recalls.

After sitting for the A/Ls in Bio-science in two shies, Geetha applied for science teaching. She sat for an exam and got her first appointment in 1982 to Hunwatta Maha Vidyalaya, close to her home.

“My first job was to work with O/L repeaters who looked more matured than me. I was just 18-19 years, but my students were much older than I. Even some sported a beard. I was a bit shaken up, but soon adapted to the situation. However, rural students always were of good behaviour and respected their teachers,” reminisces Geetha.

Question: You said that you met CB on the very day you got your first appointment?

Geetha: Yes. I went to the Education Office, Nuwara Eliya with my Appachchi (my father) to collect the appointment letter. After that we proceeded to the car park which was opposite the Mayura Traders in the town. Appachchi was planning to buy some sarees for me.

CB’s parents and mine were relatives. But, except for CB’s elder sister and his parents I had never met any other sibling in that family. Even if they visited, only three of them used to visit our place. But, my father knew the whole family. So, when CB who also came to the car park to get his vehicle, started to talk with my father.

CB looked at the pretty young woman clad in light pink Kandyan saree with her thick plait from the nape to waist. He wanted to exchange a few glance with her, but most of the time she was looking down covering herself behind her father. She seemed to be having the exact features he had in her dreams.

He thought, the next step would be to find a way to her home. His elder sister was to get married in few months time. Fate seemed to be in his favour. Geetha was selected to be the bride’s maid for CB’s sister.

Ratnayaka Mudiyanselage Chandrasiri Bandara Ratnayaka (alias C.B. Ratnayaka) was born on January 21 in 1958. R.M. Nawarathna Bandara Ratnayaka, a businessman and Gamsabhapathy of the area (who worked closely with Sirimavo Bandaranaike), and Hapuhinne Karunadipathy Divaratne Wasala Mudiyanselage Podi Manike of Elamulla, Hanguranketha (Nuwara-Eliya District) were his parents.

CB was the second of the eight siblings in his family. He had one older sister and a younger sister, and all the others were brothers. He was the oldest son of the family and was the `big hope’ of everybody.

CB first studied in Deegalahinna Maha Vidyalaya upto grade 5 and entered the Vidyartha College, Kandy. He was an outstanding figure in the school Rugby team and enjoyed his hostel life to the fullest. After A/Ls in Bio-Science, CB took over his family’s wholesale business at the age of 20. Later he expanded it and launched his own wholesale business centre in Ragala.

At his sister’s wedding, CB was admiring Geetha’s beauty, but other than a few words he was not in a mood to talk further with her as he and all his brothers were emotionally upset over their beloved sister leaving home.

After the wedding CB began to visit Geetha’s place finding some excuse. Once he dropped in to meet her father to get some advice over the business matter. Secondly, he wanted to see how her mother was getting on as she was down with a slight fever. Geetha knew his ultimate goal.

Her parents and his were relatives and were in good terms. Even he was admired by her parents. He became one of the best friends of her younger brother too. So, when he asked her, she knew nothing to worry about. She felt her family would not go against it.

But, things turned topsy-tervy which she never dreamt of. Her orthodox mother who always had a vision of arranging a marriage to her only daughter through a traditional way of a `Magul Kapuwa’ (match maker) to a highly educated man like of a doctor or a lawyer, was devastated when heard about the love affair of Geetha.

“Amma started a verbal war at home and it became a hell to me. Since she wanted a conservative way of proposing, CB arranged that his Aththamma (Grandma) and his uncle to visit our place,” says Geetha. Though both parties were bumping into each other at every corner at weddings, Dana houses, funerals and other functions, since they were relatives in the same village. But, neither of them uttered a word at such places over their offsprings’ love affair.

“Very sorry, if you are really want, take her and go anytime you want, but my husband nor I would give her in marriage to your boy with a Poruwa ceremony. I decided to tell this to you as my daughter has become adamant over her affair with him,” declared Geetha’s mother, Kumari Manike her final decision.

Geetha could not bear the harassing situations at home any longer. She was wondering why her mother was over reacting to her love affair like this. Even the close relatives of them were advocating her to change her decision. But Kumari Manike was not going to alter her decision. A few months passed. CB and Geetha continued to correspond through letters. Geetha once thought of getting a transfer to another school as she wanted to get rid of the verbal war of her mother that kept stinging her ears from dawn to dusk.

But, it was not possible with her father who was an influential figure both in business and politics of the area. CB was tolerated the situation with a moderate mind. But he couldn’t bear the harassments facing his love, the most precious jewel of his life. Apart from that a slight fear was worrying him. “If her parents arranged a marriage for her. What would happen if they keep her in house, imprisoned to stop me from meeting her,” he thought. He decided to have a plan.

On February 2 in 1984, Geetha set off from home at an auspicious time which CB asked her to follow, pretending she was going for work. A few clothes were secretively in her bag. She was going to take a decisive step in her life. CB who was waiting for her on the way, in the car. She got in. A few relatives of both his and hers, were waiting for the couple to arrive at the Kachcheri (Registrar’s Office). Finally Geetha and CB were married.

Geetha was in tears. She never wanted to go against her mother whose verdict was the final, even surpassing her husband. Geetha looked at her wrist watch. It was half past ten. The Postman would have already delivered two letters she posted to her mother and to her brother on the previous day.

She thought if her brother (who was about 18 years) could come home from his school, St. Anthony’s College hostel, it would give some strength to her parents who would be desolated over her decision to get married. At CB’s home there was a small function at their place at Elamulla with about a hundred relatives present.

“We stayed at CB’s place for sometime and then moved to Ragala as CB’s business was based in that area. I took a transfer to Ragala Sinhala Vidyalaya. We visited our place later on. My father and brother in return visited us continuously, but not my mother. She was ok when we paid a visit at her place, but was very official.

Even when I was pregnant and after having my older son, it was my mother-in-law who took care of me. I’m very happy that I’ve got such supportive in-laws. My school staffers were also helping me a lot,” recalls Geetha.

Question: Didn’t you feel scared over the hasty decision you took?

Geetha: It was a hasty decision. But, at that time the only way I saw to get over the war at home was that. Also I had a great faith in him as all the relatives saw no wrong in him. I loved my parents, but at the same time I loved him too. My mother should have been more sensible. To my friends, I advise them not get jittery over their children’s love affairs. Patience is the best remedy.

Be cool and try to find a solution in a tranquil manner. My mother threw a grand wedding for my brother as he came out from the college. He was just 21 years then. That was arranged exactly how she wanted. After that my mother changed completely. By today, CB is her best son-in-law. Now she loves him more than me. See how things has changed! (laughs)

Question: Did you like him moving into politics?

Geetha: Not at all, as we had a beautiful nest with our three kids. Both of us valued the importance of the family life. I was scared. It was the time of the insurgency (1989-1991). Politics would be a strong storm that would sweep away our nest (pauses). But, my blessings always worked for him.

CB became the Chief SLFP Organiser of the Walapane Electorate of Nuwara-Eliya District in 1991. Geetha’s father who was a strong UNPer changed his colour from green to blue along with his son-in-law’s new appointment. In the General Election of 1994, he entered Parliament. “While he was going for the elections campaigns, it was Geetha who walked every nook and corner of the electorate covering three fourth of the residents of the area.

CB became the Minister of the Estate Infrastructure and Community Development in 2004, and in September of the same year he was appointed as the Minister of the Small and Medium Scale Plantation. In December, 2006, CB was given the Ministry of Estate Infrastructure and Livestock Development. Presently he is handling the Ministry of Livestock Development launching a massive project of educating citizens the importance of the development and consumption of fresh dairy products.

Question: Your children?

Geetha: Blessed with three. Elder son, Nuwan Harsha Nilupul Bandara Ratnayaka is 22 years now. Now he is in the final year of Business Administration and Management in Merryland, USA.

Our second son Abheetha Madhusahn Bandara Ratnayaka is 21 years, following a degree course in Business with IT , affiliated to Monash University. Both our sons first studied at Our Ladies Convent, Nuwara-Eliya and then entered Dharmaraja College, Kandy. They finished their school education at Royal College, Colombo. Our daughter, Buddhimali Eranga Ratnayaka is an A/L student at Visakha Vidyalaya, Colombo

From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer Aug 17 2008

Punya Heendeniya, the evergreen silver screen star

By Lakmal Welabada

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Pix: Nishani Liyanage

As a kid and teenager, she perused many classical literary works of renowned writers both in the Western and Eastern world such as Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Tolstoy, Munidasa Kumaratunga and Martin Wickremasinghe, and enhanced her literary appreciation bilingually.

She was a gifted singer of folk songs as well as a talented pianist of Western music. She was the best dancer when the drum sounds a beat. In the playground, she was the captain of the school Netball team.

At the Sinhala Literary festivals, she was the talented poet. When she holds the needle and thread, there was hardly anybody to beat her needlecraft.

In the kitchen she was the chief chef. When the paint brush was in her fingers, she became the talented artist. She was the imp and the Tom boy who would not let herself get defeated.

Simultaneously she was the `Upasaka Amma’ who would not fail to observe Sil on every Full Moon Poya Day. And she was the `Pancha Kalyani’, the beauty queen who shed the serene village innocence to enter the Sinhala Silver Screen during 1960s.

Punya Heendeniya, the evergreen star of the Silver Screen still holds an unshakable fame, leads a tranquil life today attending more to her literary work. On the other hand an actress becomes a writer, seems not a new thing at all.

Arts, culture, history, crafts and performing art; all are the shiny pearls of the same necklace. Punya is celebrated as `Nanda’ since her incompatible role played in the Internationally acclaimed film `Gamperaliya’, directed by veteran Lester James Peiris which was based on the Sinhala novel by renowned Martin Wickremasinghe. `Brinda’ would be the newest name that should be associated with her name after she put her aesthetic thoughts into a collection of short stories in 2005.

Heendeniya Vidanaralalage Punya Heendeniya was born on a July 31, and grew up in a little villa its boundaries triangular with the village temple, school and an evergreen paddy field in the beautiful village of Meerigama. The triangle nurtured her character providing her atmospheres - spiritual, educational and aesthetical. Punya is a blend of all three.

“I have two birthdays, just like the queen. My Birth Certificate says - I was born on August 1. But, according to my father I came to this world on July 31. I found it only when I tried to get my Passport to go abroad in 1978,” laughs Punya.

Punya was the fifth in her simple folk family which comprised three sisters and three brothers. Her small scale landed proprietor father and mother provided her a blissful and a benevolent childhood which a child could ever expect.

Her close family group consisted of her musical father, religious mother and aesthetic passionate offsprings provided her a well balanced mind which later was nourished under the guiding light of her school dancing teacher famous Panibharatha Master and Siyambalapitiye Osthad David Master (who later became a Professor and Vice Chancellor of Gwalier University, India).

Punya was selected to sing the welcome song for Prime Minister D. S. Senanayaka at the foundation laying ceremony held at Meerigama College which later developed into a National School in the area with its new name D. S. Senanayaka College, Meerigama.

Along with that memorable experience Punya, an adventurous village damsel who used to walk in the mud on the paddy paths (`Niyara’) carrying `Ambula’ (lunch) for her father and the workers during the harvest reaping time, found the first rare opportunity to appear in a dancing sequence choreographed by Panibharatha Master for `Asoka’ film, directed by Sirisena Wimalaweera in 1954-1955. Though she was still a teenage schoolgirl, the rhythm this folk lass had in her soul was being discovered.

“Panibharatha Master always had some instinct that I would be a star one day, though I had not even dreamt of such a thing. Meanwhile, Siri Heendeniya, my cousin who had some connection with the film industry introduced me to S. D. S. Somaratne, producer and to L. S. Ramachandra, director of the film `Deyyange Rate’ (the country of gods) based on a novel of W. A. Silva. It was the beginning of my film career,” she recollects.

Punya’s conservative mother who was tolerating her Chooti Duwa’s exposure to the performing arts, rang the alarming bell when she heard about the offer Punya got to act in `Deyyange Rate’. But her father and her music teaching elder brother, and all the other siblings gave her the utmost support. From school to the Silver Screen, Punya played the main role of Catherin in the film.

“The main location was in the sacred `Sripada’. The story was also based on a pilgrimage to this holy place. We had to climb the `Mahagiridamba’ up and down for 16 times. I think I was really lucky as I got the opportunity to start off my film career at a place like `Sripada’, one of the most venerated spot of Buddhists. (The Buddha paid a visit to this place and determined to imprint his foot print there). The shooting dragged on for about one year. I had just finished my O/Ls. It was in 1958, exactly 50 years back,” recalls Punya.

Deyyange Rate, Suneetha, Shri-296, Gamperaliya, Kurulubadda, Sikuru Tharuwa, Parasathumal, Ransalu, Kaliyugaya and Ranvan Karal were all the films she took part in so far. Martin Wickremasinghe with greatest joy gifted almost all the books he wrote to Punya after he saw her role in `Gamperaliya’ which was just as if she had given life to `Nanda’, the exact character he created in his distinguished novel.

Punya was almost `summoned’ down to Sri Lanka from her residence abroad to take part in `Kaliyugaya’, the second episode of `Gamperaliya’, as there weren’t any substitute for that role. `Ranvan Karal’ was a semi documentary she took part in.

“I was at the peak of fame. My lifestyle was disturbed, though I accepted it with good spirit. Our village home was just adjoining the main road, so that I had to restrict my passion to sit at the open verandah and watch the passing vehicles as everybody who passed used to peep out to have a glance at me.

My house was flooded with fans. Sometimes buses of schoolchildren used to come to see me. Though my mother was not appreciating my films, never hesitated to treat my fans well with meals and tea, and in every way she could. That was because, hosting the guests was an enthusiastic must in our orthodox village culture, and my mother was part of that,” reminisces Punya.

Except for going out for shooting or shopping with her father, elder sister and elder brother, Punya rarely came to Colombo or went outstation. She knew where to retain her identity and lead a humble and down-to-earth role in real life. Hence, the village fragrance filled in her soul never vaporized.

Among the female male, young, old, married, unmarried, folk, urban, illiterate and educated fans she had one special mail fan who constantly wrote to her. Without just satisfying himself only by sending her mails, this fan too decided to pay her a visit at her place.

To avoid him, she once wrote to him and said that she had to go to Kalutara Bodhiya, on the very day he was planning to come. “It’s better as Kalutara is closer to my place than to Meerigama,” was his answer in returning post. Punya knew she had no choice so she decided to tolerate his visit. Dr. Milroy Beverly de Silva Nanayakkara, DMO of Moneragala Hospital, drove all the way from his home in Galle to Meerigama.

Punya was lazily sitting at the verandah expecting her fan who seemed going to be another pain. She saw a car stopping at the gate. The door opened and two cocker spaniel dogs who came out, climbed up the steps and went straight to Punya who was sitting at the verandah, sniffed her feet and legs and hands, and hurried away back to the car.

Then got off a gentleman wearing a pair of sunglasses to reminiscent of a filming. Punya was wondering what was happening. DMO Milroy Nanayakkara stepped into the house introduced himself offered Punya a bouquet of fox-tailed Orchids. The two Spaniels were his best companions who used to go wherever he went. It seemed that he had to wait until they watched, cleared and okeyed the situation.

“My mother who loved to entertain my fans never asked them to come again, as I’d noticed. But, for him she went on to say, `Aye enne Puthe’ (Please come again son). She even called him `Putha’. So, this `Putha’ started his visits regularly, saying `I’m coming to see your mother. She is so kind and nice to me’. And it continued until I too said `Ok’ to him,” laughs Punya, relating her love story.

Dr. Milroy first came to see Punya in 1967. Within a year their love blossomed, and however much `Nanda’ of `Gamperaliya’ had male fanatics, the only fan who could make her heart faster was Milroy. Once she made a strong cup of Coffee for him in order to keep him awake throughout the night until he drove from Meerigama to the DMO office, Moneragala. Though it was bitter like `Kasaaya’, Milroy had to gulp it under her supervision, thinking it was quite a mild sacrifice in comparison for their fiancees in ancient times everywhere in the world.

Milroy and Punya tied the knot on September 9 in 1968. Milroy’s family which belonged to the urban English speaking Down-South upper-class Buddhists was first apprehensive to receive Punya, not knowing who she was. “But, she was the first daughter-in-law to worship my mother offering a sheaf of betel. And they couldn’t believe that. She kept the traditions in fact,” said Milroy.

“It was my decision to leave films,” she sounds firm. “I decided to do that sacrifice for my family. Milroy never wanted me to quit. He didn’t want me to lose my name. We got married and were staying at Moneragala. He was from Mahinda College, Galle and I was from Meerigama. Though we applied, our son didn’t get a Colombo school. That was the turning point that provoked us to leave the country as we, both knew the value of a good education,” reminisces Punya.

Milroy and Punya went to Zambia in 1978. Dr. Milroy served as the Chief Medical Officer of Zambia Consolidates Copper Mines, looking after the medical side of the workers of the institution.

After serving there for 12 years, they shifted to England in 1990. Dr. Milroy has been working as a Consultant Psychiatrist for the National Health Service in Watford in North West London.

“Today, our eldest son, Anupama Dyvupathy is a Consultant Physician. He who played the role of my son in `Kaliyugaya’ when he was 10 years. He is married to a English girl and having two kids. Our second is a daughter, Thapthi Purnami Shashi Prabha. She is also a Consultant Physician. Both my children were born in Sri Lanka.

They were 8 and 5 years when we left the country. We never forgot our traditions, and always spoke in Sinhala at home. Hence, our children are quite fluent in Sinhala in all three areas - reading, writing and talking,” says Punya.

“My favourite films out of the few I’ve done are ‘Kurulubedda’, ‘Sikuru Tharuwa’ and `Gamperaliya’. Unlike today, though our script writers and producers had natural artistic eyes, they lacked the technical knowledge of the film industry. Hence we had to get down South Indian directors.

But, with the script writers like P. K. D. Seneviratne and some eminent directors like Lester James Peiris this deficiency was filled excellently,” she says. Punya was the first to receive the Best Actress Award (for `Gamperaliya’) at the first Sarasaviya Award Festival in 1964. And she got the Medal (the second place) for `Sikuru Tharuwa’ at the same festival. The President’s Award for the Lifetime Achievement was awarded to Punya in 2000.

Punya was on a short holiday in Sri Lanka, when the Sunday Observer wanted an appointment with her. “Now...!” she pauses. “Hmm, I’m leading a very serene and tranquil life, observing Sil and meditating at the Amarawathi Buddhist Monastery in UK. It was a monastery which is run by an English Sangha Trust,” says Punya.

“She is a great lover of animals. There is a small wood adjoining our place, and wild foxes come there looking for food in the night. So, you know what Punya does? Along with the food for birds, cats and other animals, she keeps rice for foxes as well,” butts in Milroy.

“If you are observing Maithree to the `Sathva’ you should be able to do so unconditionally to every human being as well as animals, and even the nature and environment,” points out Punya.

“I believe in Kamma. That’s why I try my best to keep the Five Precepts of Dhamma (Pansil) unbreakable. I never even zip a drop of wine or champagne”, she says. “I read a lot, Classics, English and Sinhala books and journals. I browse the Internet a lot. I know both the English and Sinhala keyboards, and when I wrote `Brinda’, my ability for Sinhala typewriting, really helped me.

I did it all by myself. It comprised 14 Sinhala stories and two English stories,” she claims.

“My husband is the best companion I’ve ever met. I have no regrets in sacrificing my career and fame even at the peak of my success,” she concludes. The name `Punya’ gives the meaning of `fortune or luck’, I (the writer) would emphasise that Punya has been truly one of the luckiest woman born to Sri Lanka.

From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer Aug 10 2008

Opposites attract: destiny played the lead role

Sriya talks of life with popular actor, director and producer Sathischandra Edirisinghe:

Sathischandra Edirisinghe, actor, director and producer of stage dramas, films and teles; what a vital role is he playing at home? “He is a good husband. What else to utter,” laughs Sriya, his wife.

Sitting on the sofa at their residence at Kelaniya, Kariyapperuma Arachchige Sriya Kariyapperuma started recalling the past and the present with her hubby Sathis who has gained fame in all three acting arenas.


Pix: Chinthaka Kumarasinghe

“We were friends. I acted in the stage dramas he directed at school. There was a competition among girls to win him, as he was an active and jovial boy who was always humming a tune even whilst walking. However he turned to me. I still don’t know what that something special he saw in me. Must be my destiny,” she smiles.

Sriya was born on November 7, 1941 to Baron Perera Kariyapperuma who worked as a clerk and Sumanawathie Cooray at Gonawala, Kelaniya. Sriya was the oldest of the ten siblings in her family. She had her education at Dharmaloka Maha Vidyalaya, Kelaniya. Sriya was in the school orchestra and learnt to play the Esraj under Mr.Mudunkotuwa. “I did the first Division of Indian music examination. But, it all stopped after Mr. Mudunkotuwa went to India,” she recalls. “I did sports at school, and was in the school netball team. I was the House Captain too,” she reminisces.

Sriya was brought up in a friendly environment with a happy childhood. “My mother was a bit of a strict character. We were asked to help out in the house chores though we had enough of helping hands to do the work. But, later in life, I realised the value of it. After I got married I got worked in dress making and cake making for about 20 years. It drew me an income while giving me self contentment.

Hence, I’ve never missed not staying at home as my husband was a very busy person with his job, acting career as well as the social service. I believe every girl should be armed with the capabilities of tackling the home front. That makes life easy. Whatever the career you are engaged in, a woman should know her duties by the home and family,” she says.

Patikirige Sathischandra Edirisinghe was born on February 11 in 1941 to a Chief Supervisor of the Department of Cottage Industries, P.Edirisinghe and Elizabeth Perera of Nungamuwa, Kelaniya. Sathis was the sixth in the eight in his family. Running events, Volleyball and drama were among his favourites at school. Sathis did his A/Ls in the Arts stream at St.Mary’s College, Alpitiya and got results to enter to the University. But, his craze over dramas changed his destiny.

Sathis’ first job was as a clerk at the CTB in 1965.

He rose up to be the Public Relations Officer and then to be the Manager of Grade 5 at the same place during his 20 years of service. During Mahaweli Minister the late Gamini Dissanayaka’s era, Sathis joined the Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka, and rendered his invaluable service. By introducing a cultural centre and a team in which many underprivileged village youngsters of the Mahaweli area got the opportunity to rise up in the society through their in-born talents.

Sathis’ first stage drama on the popular stage was Kalashoori J.D.A.Perera’s `Vessanthara’ in 1961. It was a script from John de Silva. Sathis acted in it with the late famous duo Edie Jayamanna and Rukmani Devi. Henry Jayasena’s `Manaranjana Vedavarjana’ (1965) was also one of the memorable plays Sathis was involved in. `Baka Thapas’ was his first production as well as direction which was staged in 1963. So far he has acted in 20 plays, and six of them were his production and direction.

`Sadol Kandulu’ directed by Senator Reggie Perera (1966) took him to the Silver Screen. Sathis who wanted to try his aesthetically talented hands in every field, directed and produced his first film `Mathara Aachchi’ in 1973. `Rajagedara Paraviyo’, `Shri Madara’, `Sathara Diganthaya’, `Adhishtanaya’ and `Vadula’ were the few films Sathis created for the Silver Screen which were with a novel creative and exquisite aesthetic touch one different from the other.

`Sandakada Pahana’, the popular song in Sathis’ first film `Mathara Aachchi’ sung by Sunil Edirisinghe (Sathis’ younger brother) was still a hit. It was the first song composition of Wally Nanayakkara; the first film music direction of Victor Ratnayaka and first film song of Sunil. This was a record that has marked the Sinhala film history.

Sathis’ unique talents in acting coupled with his deep intensive personality attracted the hearts and minds of the tele fans. Every character he played in 30-40 teledramas has imprinted an exquisite memory to the viewers.


(From Left) Udaya (eldest son), Dasanthi (daughter-in-law), Sriya, Udara (youngest son), Nisansala (daughter-in-law), Sathischandra, Shashini (daughter) and Ranil (son-in-law). (Front) Grandchildren (the four out of the five) - Ravindu, Thushani, Neha and Chetha.

Out of the 11 teledramas he has produced, seven were directed by him. Sathis has won many awards to his credit, and some of them were for his roles in the teles `Eka Mavakage Daruvo’ and `Thaara Devi’ (both directed by Lucien Bulathsinghala) in early 1980s, Gamini Fonseka’s film `Koti Valigaya’ (1985) and film `Hima Kathara’ were among the award winning lot.

Sathis was honoured with the `Kalashoori’ title by the late President R. Premadasa in 1990, and bestowed with an honorary doctorate by the Vidyalankara Pirivena, Peliyagoda in 2006.

Question: Sriya, we see Sathis as a strong steadfast personality on the screen. How do you describe him as a husband?

Sriya: He is a nice man (smile). He gets angry, but only for a few seconds. He has been a family man, but had little time to attend to the studies of the children and other work at home. I even shouldered most of the work in that sense, giving him more space for his work. I always thought it was my duty by him. He would not miss a single invitation he gets and prefers to attend to any function; be it a religious, State celebration or a book launch.

He reads a lot and loves to deliver lectures, especially for the youngsters at Buddhist Sunday Schools and schools. Sathis is a very religious person who tries his best to lead a virtuous life. Also if he is given a duty he would do it to the maximum capacity. He loves social service, and has had a vast number of students among the youngsters whom he has helped out to rise up in life. They still respect him whenever they see him. I’ve always admired him for his qualities and his talents.

Question: About your children?

Sriya: We have three children. All are married now. Udaya Shashipriya is our eldest. He studied at St.Thomas College, Guruthalawa. Now he handles his own business, `U and I Ceylon (Pvt) Ltd’, dealers of eye medical products. Sashini is our daughter, studied at St.Paul’s, Kelaniya. She is a B.Com graduate and now living in Australia. The youngest, Udara Asanga was a Royalist. He is in the textile and fashion designing trade in Australia.

Question: Contended life?

Sriya: Yes. We rose up in life day by day. We have been living happily, and our children are also doing well in their lives. We have really nice daughters-in-law and a son-in-law, and we are proud grand parents of five grandchildren. What else can we expect from life?

From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer Aug 3 2008

‘There’s a woman behind every successful man...’

Anoma talks of life with IGP Jayantha Wickremaratne.:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I was obsessed with Gamini Fonseka’s role as a Police Inspector in the film `Velikathara’, and that was what made me encourage him to join the Police,” reveals Anoma Goonetilleke Wickremaratne, wife of Inspector General of Police Jayantha Wickremaratne.

A smiling Anoma recalled the past, exulting in her inspiring decision taken three decades back.

`There’s a woman behind every successful man, and a woman can either ruin or enhance his life.’ says Anoma who has set an example by being his shadow, motivating him to excel his life to acquire utmost success. Anoma despite being the encouraging force behind the new IGP, is the Ex-Secretary of the Bar Association, and presently a Member of its Executive Committee.

“I still feed him,” she exclaims. “You won’t believe me, will you?” she laughs, disclosing quite a rare occasion one can ever expect from a busy working wife who falls into the category of intelligentsia. Fussing, pompous, bombastic inferiority or jealousy; these are unheard words with Anoma, instead its Love, compassion and care.

“I’m a career woman, a lawyer only at the Courts. At home I’m his wife and the mother of our two children. What has happened today is that many working women mix the priorities of their lives, and its like catching the snake in a wrong way. One has to climb the ladder in one’s career, but should not disdain one’s family.

Some women earn more than their husbands, and display the power of their money. One should not get swollen headed with one’s perks. It would be too late when you realise that you are hurting and loosing the best companion of yours. You can be the most educated, and drawing millions, but should have a lot of common sense and tolerance to sail the ship smoothly,” explains Anoma.

Habaragamuwa Ralalage Anoma Dilani Peiris Goonetilleke was born on February 26 in 1953 at Kumbuka, off Piliyandala. “My father, H. R. Walter Leonard Peiris Goonetilleke who was popularly known as Wolly Peiris was an Engineer attached to the Ceylon Insurance Corporation during the time of Justin Kotalawala, the founder Chairman.

My mother is Hema. Co-incidentally, my mother’s gay name as well as the surname, both were the same as father’s. They might have got together at some point, but they weren’t known to each other. She was the Registrar of Birth, Deaths and Marriages in Raigam Korale for 47 years,” recalls Anoma.

“I’m the eldest of the family. My brother, Mitra Ranjan is a Gemologist and my sister, Manojini is a designer,” she continues.

Anoma and her sister first went to Kumbuka Central College and then entered Hillwood College, Kandy, while her brother was sent to St. Anthony’s College Katugastota. “Our father wanted to give us the best education in the best environment and climate. So, he thought Kandy is the best location for that. Getting adjusted to the hostel life was not that easy because being the eldest child, I was pampered especially by my father. But, later I found it very interesting.

Miss. Indrani Wijetunga, my class teacher in Grade 6, really helped me to get used to that life,” she reminisces. Elocution and drama were her favourite subjects. Among the number of dramas she took part Anoma recalled the role she has played as the thief in the school drama, `Puhul Hora’ which was staged for repeated shows for the schools of the whole Kandy district.

Anoma still holds the unbroken record of the `Senior Elocution Prize’ for three consecutive years 1967, 1968 and 1969. Though she didn’t represent the school, Anoma took part in many sports activities available at school, like Badminton, Table Tennis and Netball.

“I was the Prefect and the House Captain of `Naish’. School days were the superb time in my life. In addition, I was the Secretary of the Buddhist Society and the leader of the debating team as well,” recalls Anoma.

Anoma did O/Ls in 1970, got through with flying colours, and enroled herself in the A/L class to study Science. But, since her father’s dream was to see his daughter become a lawyer, Anoma changed her academic stream from Science to Arts by selecting Civics, Sinhala, History and English as her subjects. “In that era we could apply for the Law College with O/L results. So, though I was in the A/L class, I managed to sit for the entrance exam and entered Law College in 1973,” says Anoma.

Anoma took oaths in 1977, and became the Junior Apprentice under Mr. Sivaraja Gnanapandithan in 1977. She worked with him till 1983, until he migrated to Canada with his family.

Question: `Velikathara’ drew you to provoke him to join the Police. What drew you towards him?

Anomy: Well, Jayantha was a final year under graduate of Public Administration at Sri Jayawardanapura University, when I first met him. He was boarded at the same place where I too was boarded when I entered Law College.

The house owners were relatives of both of us. The uncle of that house was related to Jayantha and I was related to the aunt. On my 20th birthday, which fell on February 26 in 1973, my father brought a birthday cake for me to the boarding place.

I served cake for everybody, and finally tapped his room for him to come out (laughs). He did. Wished me and took a piece of cake. It was the first time our eyes met with each other. We became very friendly and finally started an affair (smiles).

Hapu Arachchige Jayantha Shantha Kumara Wickremaratne was born on November 3 in 1949, to H. A. Wickremaratne, Director - Education Department, in-charge of Pirivena Section, and Dona Caroline Margaret Balasuriya, school Principal at Vigoda, Bemmulla around Gampaha area.

Jayantha was the youngest in his family. His only elder brother, Captain Palitha Wickremaratne who was a Mechanical Engineer at the Sri Lanka Army died of a heart-attack in 1977.

Jayantha had his primary education at Vigoda Maha Vidyalaya and then entered Thurstan College, Colombo. Hockey and Basket Ball were the favourites among young Jayantha at school, who earned a name as a studious as well as well disciplined student.

He was a Prefect and headed many societies at school. After getting through A/Ls in the Arts stream, Jayantha entered Sri Jayawardanapura University and acquired the B.A. degree in Public Administration.

Jayantha’s first experience at work was at Central Bank where he stayed for a brief period of time until her fiancee expressed her obsession for him to join the Police. “I assume ours was a bond that has been coming down through this Sansara. That was why I knew what was `the best’ for him,” laughs Anoma. “Since his brother was also in the Army, all the encouragement came his way perfectly,” she says.

Yes! certainly she does! Her prediction made as a young fiancee of his came true. He joined the Police as an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) in August, 1974, and rose upto be the present IGP.

Question : Have you ever faced disapprovals from the parents?

Anoma: Not exactly. According to the first horoscope reader consulted by our parents, there was a “small miss-match” in our horoscopes. Fortunately, the second one okayed it. We got married at the Brighton Hotel, Colombo on November 8 in 1982. I don’t know about his, but in my case I didn’t have much room even to associate with anybody else other than him because, I met him as I entered Law College.

Anoma has been holding many positions in her career. At the Colombo Law Society, she went up to the position of President in 1994. Anoma was the first lady Assistant Secretary (1992-1993), first lady Treasurer (1999-2000) and the first lady Secretary (2004-2005) of the Sri Lanka Bar Association. At present she is a member of the Executive Committee of the Bar Association.

Question: Both of you are in the Law field. How do you compromise things with each other?

Anoma: As we married we came to an understanding that I being the lawyer, was not to handle any criminal case in courts as it would directly or indirectly affect him. I have been handling Civil cases only.

Question: How did you manage your home and career?

Anoma: It was really difficult for me to cope up. I was building up the practice and along with house chores and children, I found it terrible. But! (pauses), I’ve never grumbled as I’ve married a person of my choice and my career was something I was doing with pleasure.

So, I was never tired of anything. Instead I treated everything as my duty by everyone, including my husband, children and other family members. Apart from the busy schedules, we faced awful and hazardous situations in life due to the life threats he got from various criminals.

He never took notice of them, but I used to get shaken up a bit. But, nothing has gone wrong in life. I’m a practicing Buddhist, so is Jayantha. I believe that the Triple Gem showers a great blessing on us.

Question: Jayantha as a husband?

 

 

 

 

 

Anoma: I’m a character with a bit of a hot temper. He is the opposite; calm, quiet... Of course, he gets angry, but very rarely, and then I keep quiet until he cools down. But, we never retort in a bad manner. So, it has really helped us to go on. Life is very easy with him.

He is a teetotaller now. I never bother him but attend to every little need of his. You see, your husband can be the ruler of a “continent”, but before his wife he becomes a child.

He looks for mother’s love from his wife. And if you fail to give it then you are pushing your marriage into trouble. You may be having hundreds of domestics, but it’s not like you attending to him, and his children. It’s a must. I’m very close to his family members too.

Question: Your children?

Anoma: Our daughter, Danushka studied at Bishop’s College. She first wanted to be a lawyer, but later chucked up the idea even after doing Law at the Royal Institute for 2 years after seeing my hectic life as a lawyer.

She is following a Fashion Designing Course at present. Anosha, our son studied at S. Thomas’ College, Mount-Lavinia. He will be passing out as an Automobile Engineer from Notingham University, UK shortly.

Question: Contended life?

Anoma: Yes, If you lead a honest and virtuous life, it is not that difficult to achieve a contended life.

 


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer July 27 2008

 ‘Tunes are all I have to take your heart away’

Beatrice talks of life with veteran music composer Rohana Weerasinghe.:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


lakmal@sundayobserver.lk



Pix: Kavindra Perera

“My pride - has been the quality that enticed him. That’s what he says,” smiles Beatrice, wife of veteran musician, Rohana Weerasinghe. Dance and music, the blend of aesthetics turned into a blend of love, grew as a sapling of a tree, under the shelter of Heywood......

“Rohana was an active member of the students’ Union. He has been creative since he was young,” says the `dancer’ wife about her `musician’ hubby who has made a record in the local music history by composing music for about 3000 songs so far.

Batapola Arachchige Leela Beatrice de Silva was born on July 17 in 1953 to B.A. Themanis de Silva and Aslin Silva.

“I was the fifth of the six siblings. My father worked at the CTB, and we have been living at Wattegedara, Maharagama. I studied upto O/Ls at Samudradevi Balika Vidyalaya, and then entered to College of Fine Arts at Heywood in 1971. I was studying dancing and Rohana was studying music there,” she recalls.

Dancing has been her life long passion. Even since she was a kid she tried her steps on the floor of Kandyan dancing sequences.

“I would have been studious if I concentrated more on my studies, but my passion for dancing came first. Concerts and dancing competitions were my preferences when I was at school. My father died the same year when I entered to Heywood. My mother and other siblings were not that happy about me getting into dancing, but later they okayed it,” she says.

Beatrice learnt Kandyan dancing under Edward Lokuliyanage. She got the opportunity to take part in two stage dramas - Pota veradila-Yaka gahala produced by the Kandyan dancing teacher and Sanni daha ata produced by the Heywood dancing faculty.

At Heywood, Beatrice learnt Low Country dancing. The blend made the pretty dignified young woman to be a perfect dancer. In 1973, while at Heywood, Beatrice was selected both for the State Dancing Troupe under the late veteran Panibharatha, and for the Army Dancing Troupe under Captain Delwala. Both provided her the rare opportunity of going abroad, which Sri Lankans of that era were not fortunate to enjoy.

“First my home people were a bit scared of my travelling abroad. But, they always trusted me and that I would not go a wrong way. I’ve travelled many countries,” she smiles.

Her first teaching appointment was at Velimaluwa Vidyalaya for three years and then she came to St. Joseph’s Balika Vidyalaya, Nugegoda where she stayed for 20 years. “I have been at Royal College, Colombo since 2004. I handle the primary classes there,” she says.

Question: Rohana has been known as a veteran musician. But we heard that he handles a different position at present.

Beatrice: Yes, he has been the Advisor to the President for Cultural and Aesthetic Affairs since 2006. Rohana has been working towards the development of the Fine Arts and Cultural Affairs in the country. He is concentrating on the foreign commercials and teledramas that have been telecast in many private channels in Sri Lanka which directly affect the local industry.

Rohana also took the initiative to bring the Bill to the Parliament under the Intellectual Property Act, to pay the lyricist, musician and the singer of the songs telecast in all the channels both in radio and TV.

He also hopes to bring to the limelight the adverse effects of the Court Order banning operations of loudspeakers after 10 pm, which affects singers and others connected with the musical industry.

The Industry of Compact Discs is also in threat due to the underhand fraudulent activities. A CD manufacturer would spend millions to produce a quality CD paying through his nose payment for the lyricists, singers, musicians and other technology. But, the duplicate could be bought from the pavement for about Rs. 50-100 when the origin would cost about Rs. 400-500 or more.

Question: Do you think he would be able to proceed in his intentions?

Beatrice: He is a courageous person. He gets complaints and grievances from artistes everyday. He is trying to find solutions to them. There are things possible as well as difficult. Trying is always better than doing nothing.

Dimadugodage Rohana Chitra Kumara Weerasinghe was born on February 18 in 1949 to Dimadugodage Henry Weerasinghe, the Village Headman of Blackpool, Nuwara-Eliya and Sapalin Weerasinghe as the youngest of nine siblings. Rohana studied at Nuwara-Eliya Convent and entered Welimada Central after achieving a Grade 5-scholarship. He did his A/Ls at Dharmapala Vidyalaya, Pannipitiya, and entered the College of Fine Arts at Heywood.

Music was his forte, but Football was his interest, and played for the school team. His first music composition was for the late celebrated singer Malani Bulathsinghala her popular hit, ‘Ran Tharu Mini Muthu’ which he did while studying at Heywood in 1970-71. The number of songs he composed music so far is innumerable.

Rohana has worked as the music Director of 40 odd films, 3 to 4 stage dramas and more than 300 teledramas so far. The number of awards ; ‘Sarasaviya’ Awards, President’s Awards and ‘Swarnasanka’ Awards would be between 30-40. Rohana has composed music for almost every singer in the local music industry.

By this time, Rohana though he had earned a name in the field sensed the need of a sturdy strength for his personal life as both his parents had passed away, and was looked after by his brothers. With his unbreakable love for Beatrice for seven years, the football player cum musician tied the knot with the pretty dancer at Sea View Hotel, Colombo on December 1 in 1977.

Kalindu Gajaba and Chirath Kanishka are the two children born to them, and Kalindu’s marriage took place last year to Sri Lankan born and Australian brought-up Chalani Thilthi Hettige.

Question: We would like to know about your children?

Beatrice: Kalindu is 27 years now. He studied at Ashoka College and then at Ananda College, Colombo. He is a Management graduate at Monash University, Australia. Though he has the Australian citizenship, his heart and soul is still in Sri Lanka. He is a good singer and musician as well though we encouraged him to select a different career.

Loku Putha could find a job here, but, since his wife has done radiography, it’s bit tough to find a suitable post for her. She has been in Australia since she was two years, but has grown up to a typical Sinhalese girl with all the good qualities we can ever expect from a daughter-in-law.

Question: Oh! you flatter your daughter-in-law?

Beatrice: (Laughs) No, I’m telling the truth. Our youngest also studied at Ananda College, Colombo. He is 21 years now, and following a Diploma in Computer at ACBT. He might also go to Australia for further studies (smiles).

Question: How do you compare Rohana and yourself?

Beatrice: Well, I’m a person who never gets agitated easily, and can apply a lot of patience and self confidence to any difficult situation. Rohana has been a very good husband who has provided everything for me in life. We’ve married for the past 30 years, and I’m very happy that I married him.

Question: Any special qualities you see in him?

Beatrice: He loves to sleep (laughs). Due to his hectic work schedules, he looks for a chance to lie down and relax. He thinks about the family a lot and whenever he gets a holiday he loves to travel to relax with us, his family.

When we go out abroad only can he enjoy a real vacation as he has a 24-hour life of a ringing phone (laughs). He sometimes develops anger, but it diminishes within no time. I have heard him working with his music tunes, but he never sings at home as people generally do.

Question: Rohana has been mingling with female companions, especially in the field. How did you face the gossip that commonly go around a famous personality like him?

Beatrice: I have not heard any thing so far. Thanks! But, however, I believe that every wife should keep an eye on her husband, and it’s her duty. That is my message for the younger generation as well. Be vigilant! (laughs).

Question: Rohana has been one of the most veteran and best music composers we have. What are the favourite tunes or songs of his as well as yours?

Beatrice: He has composed a lot of tunes for the celebrated singer Sunil Edirisinghe.

My favourites are among Sunil Aiya’s, and ‘Nathi Bari Mohothaka Pihitata Enne....’ comes first. Rohana too prefers Sunil Aiya’s songs and his favourite is Sunil’s ‘Sada Kalika Lokayaka....’, the song for which he has composed the melody. He says he likes the words and tune which mix with Sunil Aiya’s melodious voice.

Question: His melodies would become evergreen.

Beatrice: Yes, it is already. The old songs are still in the market. Rohana has been in the field for about 30-35 years rendering his talented service to the local music enthusiasts.

Question: Your future plans?

Beatrice: We are Buddhists, and following a good life. We are running a centre for aesthetic studies `Kala Bhoomi’ at Nugegoda since 1985, which provides youngsters to learn Eastern and Western music and also the vocal training.

We are not getting much profit out of that, but run with the intention of passing the aesthetic education to the younger generation. Both our sons might settle down in Australia. So, both of us might also be with them someday, not immediately, but once we grow little more older (smiles).


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer July 20 2008

 ‘I tolerate my husband’s crazy ways’

Geetha speaks of life with Sunil Perera the much adored musician:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Pix:Chintaka Kumarasinghe

“Oba dutu mul dine...’ (the first day I saw you) is my favourite out of all the songs of Sunil,” says Geetha, wife of Sunil Perera, Gypsies leader and `Baila Chakrawarthi’. Sunil, the man who has hit the whole country with his deep mellifluous voice, once said in an interview that other than his mother, his wife is the most respectable woman in his world.

Mingling Western Cha-Cha, Rock, Hip-Hop or Reggae with local verse, Sunil with his clan of Gypsies have tried to introduce new innovations to his fans. All his songs were hits. For the past 40 years, Gypsies has recorded only about 100 songs.

The quality of the song is their main target while rendering a message or a different perspective in a novel way of their own. There’s no need to give a lengthy introduction about Gypsies, as it would be unusual to find even a kid who hasn’t tapped his toes on the floor when Sunil’s song is on the air.

Music has no barriers so is it for love. Geetha waits patiently to reveal her story with Sunil which has a history of 26 years. “I really respect my wife for tolerating all my nonsense and not leaving me. If it was any other woman, I would have been a divorcee by now,” I (the writer) recall the very words which Sunil once spoke at a similar interview over a TV channel.

The moderate size woman with an extremely pleasant smile when every time she speaks a word, has given a wide margin to her hubby in their lives. “I assume that we, women are born for sacrifice. It is a duty of a woman, and that’s why we are meant to bear children,” she voices in belief.

Geetha Kulatunga was born on March 18 in 1967 to Mahinda Kulatunga, Sub- Inspector of the Police and Dunitha Kulatunga. Geetha was the second of four in the family.

“Since my father was in the Police, we had to go from town to town along with his transfers. Hence I studied in about 7-8 schools and my last school was Mahamaya Balika Vidyalaya. My father was stationed in Colombo and we were staying at Pannipitiya. I was in my O/Ls class, when for the first time I met Sunil,” she reminisces.

Geetha was fond of Kandyan and Bharatha dancing. She started attending dancing classes of Rajini Selvanayagam at the Buddhist Hall, Moratuwa.

“It was 1981. Gypsies were a popular band in the country. I’ve heard about them, but was not that interested as many others did. But, once I got the chance to go for a show by the Gypsies with my sister and cousins.

After the show, we were coming out of the place, when a slight drizzle started. There was a van, and I just leaned against it. Somebody in that van peeped out and looked. It was Sunil!”, she recalls.

Sunil who was an extremely social man by nature thought of having a word with the pretty teenager who had a long hair and was in a simple ankle length dress.

“I too started talking to him, but didn’t have any special fanatic enthusiasm nor did I get excited over this meeting. We talked very casually, and then he asked me to come and meet him at his place like he would ask any other fan of his,” she reminisces.

Geetha met Sunil some other day at his place and was soon in his fan club. “We were good friends, and I was too young to think about Sunil in any other way. He was 15 years older to me and treated me as a younger sister, and that’s all. When it was possible he used to come to Nugegoda to meet me, and used to drop me home.

I never met him alone my sister was always with me. I didn’t see anything wrong in our relationship though he was a popular man, for me he was just like a brother or cousin. He has a great sense of humour, so anyone who has met him would automatically love to have lengthy conversations with him as he knew how to make you laugh,” she smiles.

Sunil was a hero in Geetha’s world. She used to reminisce above his jokes with herself as she rarely had a friend to share them with. Though she was taking things so cool, the eyes around her were taking fire home.

“My mother was an extremely strict person. Somebody who had seen me getting into Sunil’s vehicle with my sister, had given the tip to my mother. She was devastated and started scolding me, and never believed me even when I said I had nothing to do with him. She thought we were carrying on, and asked me stop saying `Sindu kaarayo’ (singers) would not be a good match with our family.

There were days she had hit me. But, somehow or other I didn’t stop phoning Sunil and meeting him, knowing we hadn’t anything between us that would create more problem with my mom,” recalls Geetha.

Geetha was about 15 years and studying for her O/Ls. Her mother who couldn’t endure the gossips she heard over her daughter, decided to stop Geetha going to school. First, it was for three months. Geetha was idling at home sighing, seeing her siblings and neighbouring teens going to school.

After three months her mother said “Ok, you can go back to school, but no nonsense with Sunil again.” Geetha nodded her head, but by that time was quite stubborn in her thoughts. She phoned Sunil again, and met him. His meeting was bringing her a lot of joy.

When her mother got to know about Geetha’s disobedience, she declared war at home, and stopped her going to school completely. Geetha was devastated and wrecked. She was very angry with her mom. Even her father had no say over it. One night, she took a decision, wrote a letter to her mom and eloped from home.

“I went to Boralesgamuwa to one of my friends place. Her sister was planning to take me home with Sunil and explain to my parents that we were not lovers, and to arrange for me to go back to school again as I was to do O/Ls... But, before that my parents had lodged a complaint at the Police saying that Sunil had abducted me and vanished. I was under age, so it was a criminal offence. Homagama police arrested Sunil and I too had to appear there. It was around 3.00 am on October 25 in 1981,” recollects Geetha.

Sunil and Geetha both tried to prove to the parents of both who has come to the police over their arrest that they were friends and nothing else was going on. But, nothing could convince Geetha’s mom.

“Finally, Sunil said he would marry me, and asked my parents to let me continue with my studies first. But, nothing worked with my mother. I was shocked, and didn’t know what was going to happen.

At last, Sunil’s parents took us to a Registrar, a friend of theirs at Moratuwa, woke him up and registered our marriage at 4 o’clock in the morning. Sunil, later told me that after they saw me at the Police, his parents had told him, `Son, the girl looks decent and ok. If you like her, go ahead and marry her. We have no objections’... His parents liked me then and there.

When I think about it now it can be expressed that a great blessing was showered upon us,” smiles Geetha.Ivor Sylvester Sunil Perera was born on September 14 in 1952 to Anton Perera, ex-army person cum businessman and Dorine Perera.

Sunil was the second of the nine children in his family. Nihal, Sunil, Lal, Nimal and Piyal were the five brothers who later started `Gypsies’ musical band which turned the local music upside down with their innovative rebellious lyrics, melodies and singing. Sunil had his education first at St.Sebestian College, Moratuwa and then entered St.Peter’s College, Colombo.

After crashing in his O/Ls his father decided, music would do him best than anything else, and inspired all his sons to start their band `Gypsies’ in 1969. Sunil and his brothers learnt the guitar under Vincent Jayawardane and George Ferdinando arranged the Band for them. They did voice training under Loren Abeysekara, Lily Godridge and Maryanne David.

`Gypsies’ mainly concentrated on Western radio music and songs first. But, since they felt the wider demand for the Sinhala songs, they too decided to opt for it. `Linda Langa Sangamaya’ and `Amma...Amma’ were the first local songs of Gypsies.

Sajith, Rehana, Gayan and Manisha are the four `Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma’ (Eastern music notes) born in Sunil’s nest. Though just 41 years, Geetha is today a grandmother. Her elder son, Sajith who is married to Tahani (popular singer Dalreen Suby’s daughter) is already a father of a two and half year old baby girl. “Sajith was born when I was 16, and others were born each year after that. I was a mother of four when I reached the age of 20,” she laughs.

Question: Why did you think of stopping at four, as there were more notes (Pa, Da, Ni, Sa) in music?

Geetha: (Laughs) Our children and we are like friends. sons studied at St.Peter’s and girls went to St.Bridget’s.

Sajith works for Ceylinco Group and runs his own Advertising business. Gayan has his music band. Rehana is also married, and is a housewife. Our youngest, Manisha is following a Fashion Designing course.

Q: Sunil and you come from two different backgrounds. Did this affect your family life in any stage?

Geetha: He comes from a Catholic background and I’m a Buddhist. I could get on with his family members and haven’t encountered much difficulty though our social status were also different. Racial differences has never be a problem either of us. Even our eldest son, Sajith is married to a Muslim girl and Rehana is married to a Buddhist boy.

Both Gayan and Manisha are also engaged to Buddhists. Sunil is a cool person at home and gets angry rarely. But, there were so many other things that would have destroyed my marriage, if I didn’t act wisely. Like many other famous personalities, Sunil also got into many temptations, especially in the first ten years of our marriage. When I heard of them I used to ask him straight.

He never denied me, and if he had done something wrong, he had always confessed. He had promised me not to repeat the wrong once again, but it took nearly quarter century for him to realise the iniquity he was committing.

Q: How did you face life in difficult situations like that?

Geetha: Other than asking him straight I’ve never discussed them with anybody, even with my parents. Even if somebody asked me I would slip out of the matter saying `that’s all what people gossip about’. I have never ever argued or scolded Sunil over the things that were taking place.

I was a woman who wept silently. I’m a devoted Buddhist and treading the Buddhist way of life was the only remedy for my anguish. I used to recite Gaathas at home and go for Bodhi Poojas seeking relief. I did all my duties my husband. I provided a peaceful healthy home front to my children. I think my sacrifice succeeded, and my endeavour didn’t go in vain.

Today, Sunil is a totally different person. He has started to explore into Buddhism, and has become a great disciple of Buddhist philosophy. We are Sai devotees as well. Sunil reads a lot on Buddhism, and even on Sai Baba’s preaching. My children, though they are Catholics by birth, come to temple and take part in Sai Bajans with me whenever they can. They too read a lot on religion.

Q: With your experience, what message can you give to society?

Geetha: Being women, we have a great responsibility by our family as well as by the society. If you cannot go out of the way and render some service to the society, at least be aware that you are not responsible in breaking others’ marriages. A man cannot clap with one hand, and if there’s an illicit affair, the woman would also be responsible to it. Some say marriage are made in heaven, but many who preach this do wrong, tempt men and cause trouble in another woman’s marriage.

Question: Future plans?

Geetha: Lead a happy and good life with Sunil and my family.

From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday July 13 2008

‘Love has no barriers’

Apsari speaks of life with former SL cricket captain Hashan Thilakaratne:

 

 


Pix:Chinthaka Kumarasinghe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I was not that much of a cricket fan. I had more things to think about. But, I always had a liking to Hashan as he was with a smiling face in all his photographs which appeared in the papers. This made me to think that this cricketer seemed to be a pleasant guy,” recalls Apsari about veteran cricketer cum budding politician, Hashan Thilakaratne.

“It was 1995. I met Hashan at one of my friends, Eshantha’s place. I was working for Emirates and was based in Dubai. The Sri Lanka Cricket team had come there for their Sharjah Tournament, and were invited for a refreshments by Eshantha. It was the first time I met the team. I had a chat with Hashan, it was all about general topics,” says Apsari.

“The pretty Emirates Air Hostess who had an excellent manner carrying herself could not be easily forgotten,” thought the young cricketer who was at his peak during that era. He had seen many girls, beauty queens in all his tours. But, what draws him so much to this young lady, he could not fathom... Finally he decided to call her.

Apsari, a rare model of brains and beauty, first answered to his calls with her usual affable manner. She had no intention of the change that was going to take place in her fate.

“We became friends for sometime and I realised that he was a simple, humble, down-to-earth, caring and loving person. I met him at a few cricket matches played in Sharjah. When he proposed to me, I asked him to meet my family. He was undergoing a series of problems. So, I too thought it was better to get the consent of my parents first,” smiles Apsari.

Ranasinghe Arachchilage Nohoth Sinhabahu Ralalage Deepika Sandamali Apsari Sinhabahu was born on March 8 in 1970 to R.A.S.R. Podi Nilame Sinhabahu and Sheela Fernando at Maharagama. She had her education first at Samudradevi Balika Vidyalaya, Nugegoda and then joined St. Paul’s, Milagiriya from Grade 6.

“I did a bit of swimming and was not keen of sports. Instead I was a very studious student. However, I tried my hand at flower making, cake making and so on while at school,” she smiles.

Apsari was in her A/L class studying Bio-Science when she heard from her friend about the American Field Services which was a students exchange programme. The venue centre was just opposite her school.

“By the time I heard about the programme, it was the closing date for applications. I took an application, filled and handed it over to the centre after school. Since a parent or guardian had to sign there, I got my Principal, Mrs. Pitigala who was always fond of me to sign it. I just applied for it, but never had high hopes about it,” she says.

After three tests including two interviews held by foreign delegates, 30 students including Apsari were selected.

“I was selected to go to Australia. But, this was what happened. My father used to accompany me where ever I went. A lady officer working at this programme centre who noticed me had said this to my father, `Mr. Sinhabahu, I’ve noticed that you are very caring and protective of your daughter. That’s why I’ve thought of telling this to you.

My advice is to send your daughter to Japan as she will come back the same way. Also she can learn the language as an added thing.’ So, my parents and I took her advice, I flew to Japan in 1987,” reminisces Apsari.

“We are loosing another doctor,” laments her Principal when Apsari went to bid farewell to her. Though the programme was for one year, Apsari decided to follow the two year Diploma course.

“Three girls and two boys were selected form Sri Lanka, and altogether there were 300 students at the orientation camp held at Tokyo, which briefed us a basic account of the Japanese culture, language and etiquette. Eating with the two chop sticks was the most difficult thing we encountered,” she recalls.

Every foreign student was given the shelter of foster parents who were to be responsible for their education and other facilities. “We were based in Hiroshima. There were none who knew Sinhala or English. So, we had to learn Japanese somehow. I used to work throughout the night and somehow became fluent in the language with in three months,” she claims.

Her foster parents who didn’t have children of their own became really fond of the courageous pleasant teenager, and didn’t want her to leave.

“Neither did I. But parents wanted me to come back. So, once when my mother phoned and gave me a better idea. She asked me to join Air Lanka, as then I could travel often, and would get the chance to meet my foster parents. Simultaneously I finished my diploma programme and returned back to Sri Lanka,” she says.

Apsari whose dream once was to become a doctor was shipping into a different destiny. While waiting for Air Lanka applications, Apsari joined as a Japanese Guest Relation Officer at Lanka Oberoi in 1989. After six months she accepted the biggest challenge in her fate. Apsari joined the board.

“I have no regrets over leaving higher studies for my job, as everybody go for the education to achieve a better life in the future. I really cherish my life as an Air Hostess. It was a great opportunity as I had more than 50 locations in many countries. It was a great experience. You are like ambassadors of your country, and even at the Airport you have to conduct yourself well,” she says.

Question : Some assume Air Hostesses get a lot of freedom. So, with a well secured background, didn’t you faced objections over becoming an Air Hostess?

Apsari : If you know what you are doing, and how to look after yourself there won’t be any problem. Young women in every field get caught to gossips. So, why only look at Air Hostesses with squint eyes? I assume every girl should

try this opportunity as it gives you many experience. You get opportunity to travel, meet different kind of people, and especially if you are to get married, it would be great, as you get a wonderful chance to shop.

Though looking cheerful and a free bird, a big responsibility was lying on Apsari’s shoulders. “My father worked as a Cinema Hall Manager. He provided us a wonderful and happy childhood. By the time I was in my A/Ls he suffered a terminate illness. He was too feeble to work, so as the eldest of the family, it was I who had to look after my parents and my younger sister. I did it all with great enthusiasm. I could give the best treatment to my father and make him still alive,” claims Apsari. She recalls the first car she bought out of her hard earned money.

Apsari heard of Emirates who was recruiting Sri Lankan girls for Air Hostesses after four years. Among hundreds of applicants, Apsari was the only Sri Lankan selected to Emirates in 1994. “It was a surprise! My mother had delivered the letter sent by Emirates to Katunayake along with the driver who came to pick me up in my car. It changed another leaf in my life,” she smiles. Apsari met Hashan while at Emirates which she had to end within one and half years.

“Hashan wanted to start a happy family life. He was at his peak, and was really busy. It was a deciding point in my life. A big `RISK’ I would say. I had to do the sacrifice, and quit my job. However, I had confidence that Hashan would look after me and my family who were totally depending on my support. Hashan kept his word! And that is the biggest reason for me to respect him,” she recalls.

Question : What was the response you got from your parents over his proposal?

Apsari : My parents had great confidence in me, and they knew I would not take any wrong step. `You have done so much for us. It is your life anyway. But, I know nothing would go wrong in your life. Our blessings are with you, Duwa,’ was my father’s very words uttered to me after Hashan paid a visit to our place.

Question : So.....?

Apsari : So, we came under one roof, and built our own nest (laughs).

Hashan Prashantha Thilakaratne was born on July 14 in 1967 to Raja Thilakaratne, ex-Air Force personnel and Lili Amara Thilakaratne, ex-Central Bank employee. Hashan is the oldest and his younger bother, Yasas Thilakaratne is also a professional cricketer who plays lead cricket for both England and Australia.

Hashan had his primary education at Isipathana College, and then entered D.S.Senanayaka College. He started playing Cricket at the age of nine, and qualified for National level at the age of 19. He first came to prominence with a match-saving century against England B in Galle in 1986 while still at school, and went on to make his first One Day International `Sri Lanka Vs India’ in Sharjah of the same year. He played his first Test match `Sri Lanka Vs Australia’ in Hobart, Australia in 1989.

Wills World Cup in 1996 was a historic victory in Hashan’s Cricket life. He was named the Test captain in April 2003. His last One Day International was with Zimbabwe in Sharjah in 2003, and faced the final Test match with Australia at SSC in Colombo in 2004.

In 2005, The Sri Lankan Cricket Board appointed Hashan as the Executive Director of Cricket Aid, a body formed to provide relief following the Tsunami which occurred in December 2004.

He was bestowed a rare honour when he was conferred with a honourary life membership of the MCC from March 2008. Last May Hashan Thilakaratne was appointed as the President of the Association of Cricket Umpires and Scorers of Sri Lanka (ACUSSL).

Question : Oh! can make a team of your own?

Apsari : Why not? (laughs). Our twins, Duvindu Sachin and Ravindu Sachin were born in 1996, the very day we had our house warming ceremony here at Piliyandala in our newly built house. They are 12 years, studying at S.Thomas College, Mount Lavinia and are very keen in Cricket.

They would relate all the milestones in Thathi’s Cricket career off the bat! Both Hashan and I liked Sachin Tendulkar a lot. That was why we named our twins thus. The third, Rajindu Irvar is two and half years now.

Question : Why do you say `the third’, do you have any idea to add more to your team?

Apsari : Yes (laughs). I love children, and do not mind having even more. But, I prefer a daughter as the fourth.

Question : Hashan is in politics now. How do you see him in his this new role?

Apsari : At first, it did scare me a bit, as both families and friends were quite against it. But, I realised that Hashan has a good vision which he has gained through his experience in sports as a cricketer, captain and an executive member. Some come to politics to earn, but in our case we have enough to live on and have travelled all over the world.

There’s nothing much for us to gain in politics other than self satisfaction by doing social work. Both Hashan and I believe that we have social responsibility to fulfil. That was the very reason he stepped into politics. He will be celebrating his first anniversary today (July 13) as the Chief UNP Organiser of Awissawella Electorate in Colombo District. Co-incidentally his birthday falls tomorrow.

Question : You seem to be giving him the utmost support in all his achievements. At the same time you stated that you have faced many `risks’ and `challenges’ in life.

Apsari : I have faced jealousies and enmity since my childhood. But I have never ever become jealous of anybody as I don’t have to do so. My parents and sister have been with me through out. I’m really happy about my life as everything has fallen perfectly.

I’ve supported my family, and give hundred percent encouragement to my husband in everything he does. I’m gifted with an instinct so that my guesses over things have rarely gone wrong. My next aim is to help Hashan too do something for the people of this country. He has just started, and his aim is not to go to the Parliament tomorrow. There’s a long way for him to tread before that.

Question : In conclusion, what’s your message to the society?

Apsari : Face life with courage and determination. Always have a positive out look while attending to your duties by the family, spouse and society. If you can live according to your conscience, that is the best way to mould your own destiny.


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer July 6 2008

‘Sacrifice is another name for love and marriage’

Somalatha talks of life with maestro Pemasiri Khemadasa:

How does one describe an icon whose influence has shaped and moulded the country’s musical culture for nearly forty five years? Words don’t do justice, to Pemasiri Khemadasa, the Lion who creates exciting melodies for our nightingales, and the giant who fills hearts and ears with a new wave of music, fusing Western classics with local folk tunes.


Pix: Nishani Liyanage

Music composition is a philosophy. The clamour of the ocean, the buzz of the breeze, the drilling at a building constructing site, the eerie sound of a Bulldozer at a road repairing and even the tingling of a dripping water from a roadside tap on to a galvanised tin are equally significant for Khemadasa.

He elaborates his music compositions with all that. But, the best choice he has made in his life is Somalatha, his betterhalf.

“Sacrifice is another name for love and marriage,” believes Somalatha Khemadasa, wife of the veteran musician, Pemasiri Khemadasa. No disagreements or arguments about it if one believes in it. Somalatha is the soul behind the great success of the celebrity who has won nearly hundred awards for his novel invention in music.

Khemadasa, a man who has been adored by Sri Lanka for his incomparable harmonious talents as a musician, is just an imp before her.

This fair, tiny, meek and good looking woman has been looking after him, attentive like a mother for the past 42 years. Her patience and tolerance should be compared with the Indian Ocean or the cool unshakable `Himalaya’ mountains.

Henadeera Arachchige Somalatha Perera was born on April 2 in 1943 to H. A. Simon Perera, a landed proprietor of Rubber estates and Malagalage Roslin Peiris at Bandaragama, Kalutara. Somalatha was the youngest to a brother and a sister.

After having her education first at Medagama Balika Vidyalaya she was admitted to Good Shepherd Convent, Panadura where she studied up to the Senior School Certificate (SSC).

“My brother studied at Cyril Jansz College, Panadura and my sister studied at St. John’s Girls School, Panadura. I took part in many extra-curricular activities at Medagama Balika, but at Good Shepherd, I preferred Maths and knitting a lot. I was really good in Maths, but since those days a girl was rarely sent for higher studies, I couldn’t achieve university level education.

After SSC, I stayed at home until I got the ‘Visa and ticket’ to get on to the `Magul Poruwa’ with Khemadasa Master,” laughs Somalatha.

The unforgettable incident in her life was the Penicillin injection she got for the tiny rash caused by a shoe cut on her leg.

“I got it around 9 o’clock in the morning from a Skin Specialist at Horana Hospital, but fainted soon after. I gained consciousness only around 5 pm that day. It was terrible. I was about 15 years then. Unlike today, those days Penicillin was not given after being tested for allergies,” she recalls.

Question: We would like to know how you met the maestro.

Somalatha: Khemadasa Master was a friend of my Aiya (my elder brother) at Cyril Jansz College. Master was popular student musician with all the schools at Panadura. He used to come to play the piano at our school concerts too.

He paid visits at our place as my brother’s friend, but we rarely had the opportunity to exchange a word. Our father was also very fond of music, and he had a few music instruments like flute, Serapina and Tabla at home.

If we heard Master was to visit our place, Akka (elder sister) and I used to place these instruments on the centre stool of the sitting room before he came and were waited to hear him play. We really enjoyed listening to him.

Guruge Pemasiri Khemadasa is not someone who can be described in a few pithy phrases. The magic of his creativity will be strong as ever, not simply in his music but also in his willingness to reach out to the young, and share his musical proficiency, experience and his genius.

Khemadasa who was born on January 25 in 1937 at Thalpavita, Wadduwa came from a family with a musical background. Khemadasa’s parents, Simon and Allen Perera were dairy farmers, and the family income was derived from selling milk and milk products. The big herd of cattle was often looked after by Khemadasa, who was the youngest of the 13 children in his family.

Khemadasa’s parents wanted their children to have a good education, and sent the boys to Sri Sumangala Boys College, Panadura. Little Khemadasa though was then not having any inclination towards music but was studious. He got his first double promotion when he was in the fifth standard.

But, a discrimination done by the Principal made him dislike both school and studies. The principal did not give five of the students including Khemadasa the due double promotion. Khemadasa was really disheartened and lost interest in everything.

After sitting for his Junior School Certificate (JSC) exam young Khemadasa wanted to quit studies, but he didn’t know what he wanted to do.

Though known as a `Humming bird’ by his family and relatives since he was a child, he didn’t think of music as a career option and didn’t realise he had an enviable talent until he came across a bamboo flute hanging at a shop in Panadura. He felt drawn to it, and for some unknown reason, he felt compelled to buy it. Looking back, the fifty cents worth of `tube’ changed his life.

He started playing the flute to his father’s herd of cattle, and so a great musician was born. Legend has it that flute music played by God Krishna enticed many, including Radha. But the villagers who heard the flute being played by young Khemadasa never thought that a future maestro was evolving in their midst.

Soon young Khemadasa became a popular musician in the area. On the insistence of his friends Khemadasa took part in music events at St. Joseph’s College, Panadura. The Principal of St. Joseph’s astonished by the beauty of the music played by the youngster invited him to join the school which turned a new leaf in his life. Khemadasa did his Senior School Certificate (SSC) at his new school, but did not want to discontinue learning music, which had already become his passion. He did the second part of SSC at Cyril Jansz College, Panadura where he met his future wife’s brother.

While studying for SSC, Khemadasa started studying music, and came to Colombo during the weekend to learn the music art from many veteran teachers. After his SSC he decided to dedicate his whole life to music and came to Colombo at the age of 18. He found life hard, but was determined not to turn back. He played music at weddings and other small functions for a living while studying.

While listening to various `ragas’, Khemadasa felt that he had a creative talent for composition. Whenever he saw a set of lyrics written by a known or unknown poet he created a beautiful tune to suit the words. Before long he established a reputation as a skilful composer. Singers began to come to him for melodies to their songs.

Not a musician restricted to the Eastern melodies Khemadasa’s was also inspired by the Western musical traditions. He never missed a single European symphony played in Colombo.

In 1959, Khemadasa started his own music school, `Sangeetha Manjariya’ at Maradana for which he got support from his intended in-laws. His first musical was `Beri Sil’ based on a priest who later gives up his robes. He followed this up with `Kele Mal’ (wild flowers) and later did `Nawa Rella’ (new wave).

In 1963 he wrote a new year musical symphony based on folk music, probably the first ever symphony in Sri Lanka. `The Sea Symphony’ he created in 1964 added a new dimension to the musical history of this country.

In what was widely perceived was the beginning of the golden era of the Sinhala cinema, film director K.A.W.Perera asked Khemadasa to compose music for his newest film `Senasuma Kothenada’. Khemadasa composed music for `Sulan Kurullo’. The song written by Dharmasiri Gamage and sung by the famous singing duo Harun Kumar Lantra and Angeline Gunathilaka brought a lot of fame to the film which was the hit at that time. Khemadasa walked away with the Journalists and Critics Award in 1966 for his effort.

He won the `Best Musician Award’ at the Sarasaviya Film Awards Festival for his second music direction in Lester James Peris’ film `Golu Hadawatha’ (Silent Heart) in 1967.

Since then Khemadasa’s name has been affiliated with many popular hits in the Sinhala Silver Screen. From Lester’s `Nidhanaya’ (treasure), Dharmasena Pathiraja’s `Bamabaru Awith’, (return of hornets), Tissa Liyansooriya’s `Naari Latha’, Parakrama Niriella’s `Siri Medura’ (mansion), Wasantha Obeysekara’s `Dadayama’ (the hunt), Dharmasiri Bandaranaike’s `Hansa Vilak’ (a lake of swans) and `Thunveni Yamaya’ to recent films like Jayantha Chandrasiri’s `Agni Daahaya’ (fire) and Jayantha Chandrasiri’s `Guerrilla Marketing’, Khemadasa has been winning awards as the best music director.

He has composed music for more than 200 films. Beginning with Dharmasena Pathiraja’s award winning tele drama `Kadulla’, Khemadasa has composed music for nearly 100 tele dramas as well. Jayantha Chandrasiri’s `Weda Hamine’ and `Dandubasnamanaya’ were some of the hits of the small screen that displayed the creative talents of the maestro.

The founder of Sinhala operas in Sri Lanka, Khemadasa’s operas `Manasavila’ (1993), `Doramadalawa’ (1994), `Sondura, Varnadasi’ (2001) and `Agni’ (2007) have been etched in gold letters in the annals of Lankan music history.

Khemadasa’s father died when he was 8 years.

`Mage Kaalaye Mavuni’ (the mother of my era) was the symphony he produced in 1978 to felicitate his mother who was 80 years then. It was to be staged on May 4 at Ladies College Auditorium.

“Amma, you are the chief guest of my symphony which I created for you,” he invited his mother on May 1. His mother was to come to Colombo from Thalpavita on the following day, but instead he got a call from his brother to inform him of her death. It was hard for him.

However he managed to take part in the funeral on May 3 with somewhat tranquil mind and staged his symphony on May 4 as it was arranged. The chair he meant for the chief guest, (his mother) stayed vacant in the first row of the seats.

Lets zoom back to Somalatha who hosts us with her warm pleasing smile with a hot cup of milk coffee which really suited the hour of interview, during a rainy weather. She starts unfolding the other half of her story.

“Master, though became a good friend of my family, asked me my love through a friend of mine,” recalls Somalatha. Other than exchanging a smile, a few words and rolling an eye-ball whenever they meet, Khemadasa and Somalatha had no other opportunity to express themselves to each other. Somalatha’s father was a strict person and even her brother was not happy about her affair with a `musician’.

“My sister got married and it was my brother-in-law who came forward to my rescue, that was also after ten years. However my brother gave his consent. But my father though had a simple wedding ceremony at home for me, he maintained an unusual silence to show his disapproval. He didn’t even visit my place for about two years,” she reminisces.

Question: Master was very sick once due to renal failure.

Somalatha: It was the most difficult time in my life I have ever faced. He had to under go a Kidney transplant at Kandy Hospital in 2005... I really appreciate the support given by the Government, donors, surgeons and the hospital staff and everybody who prayed blessing for him. He is being adored by everybody, and I must say that he is very lucky in that sense,” she smiles.

Question: That is all as a famous figure. Him as a husband...?

Somalatha: Well! (with a broad smile), he is a difficult person to handle. I think I’ve practised and developed patience to the highest level during the past 42 years. Everybody, including my mother, daughters and close associates have been wondering how I have had such tolerance. My daughters sometimes say that `Amma Budu Venna Paaramitha Puranavada?’ (Mother, are you practising to achieve Enlightenment as the Buddha)... (laughs)...

But, I’ve always thought if I do not render service to my husband in that way, he would not be able to do great novel creativity in music. As a wife, I think I’ve done my part to the maximum level.

Question: That’s why you said, sacrifice is another name for love and marriage? Ok. Tell us about your children.

Somalatha: We have two daughters. Both studied at Ladies College, Colombo. Our eldest, Vayantha Anupama is a Computer Engineer in Canada, and plays the Cello at concerts. The youngest, Danesha Gayathri is a pianist in Czechoslovakia. She studied first at Conservatory University in Prague. Presently she is engaged with her Masters at Barno University. `The Prague Post’ carried a newspaper article about her concert with the title `A haunting meeting of Eastern and Western Music’ on June 18, 2008.

Question: Charity?

Somalatha: If we collected what he earned so far we would have built two or three palaces. But, what has happened was he has given away monies to so many of his friends in the field, which we have never got in return (smiles). That’s ok. Whatever that happened we did all that with good intention. Other than that both Master and I have been involved with temples and Buddhist priests. They shower the blessings upon us, we believe.


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer June 29 2008

True love finds a second chance

Pamitha speaks of life with former minister Lakshman Jayakody:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many do not let their first love to be revived once they get adjusted to their second love or to the marital status they enter later in life.


Pix:Chinthaka Kumarasinghe

But, still one’s pulses race if they bump into each other’s old love in any corner of the world. Some turn on the light of the first romance and rejuvenate their lives along with it, but some let it die off not letting the bud re-blossom since it may create discord in life.

Love is like the embers of a dying fire, covered and hidden in the ashes, ready to enkindle two hearts. Hence one should have a high percentage of assurance if one to step forward in such a situation.

“That’s true,” agrees Pamitha with a broad smile.

“If the environment of your life is not ready, it’s a risk to accept it...,”she continues. “I think, I took the correct decision at the right time though it was bit late.

Lakshman Aiya and I were second cousins, and we eventually fell in love. I was in my early teen and he was six years senior to me. We carried on for eight years, until my parents spied and declared war,” recalls Pamitha, wife of Lakshman Jayakody, former Minister and the present Advisor to the President.

Pamitha Wijetilaka was the eldest to a sister and brother, born to Benet Wijetilaka, an Electrical Engineer hailing from Galle, who worked as a Director at Ceylon and Foreign Trades Engineering Company. “All in his family were educated. My mother was Chandra Jayakody from Balagalla, Divulapitiya.

Lakshman Aiya was related from her side,” smiles Pamitha who celebrates her birthday on September 16 with her happy-go-lucky team of cousins while offering a `dana’ (alms giving) to an elders’ home annually. She is still with full of spirit with undying juvenile beauty even with the passing at many decades in her life.

Pamitha has been residing at Polhengoda, Kirullapone, Colombo with her family since her birth, but constantly visited both Divulapitiya where her mother’s land and property were, and also Galle, her father’s native home. Ms.Pulimood was the Principal of Visakha Vidyalaya, Colombo during Pamitha’s time.

Pamitha who was a Tom boy was involved in everything that took place at school whether it was sports, drama or choir, Pamitha’s name was in the list. However, it was only up to the Ordinary Levels that she could reach at school. During that time girls from affluent backgrounds were rarely allowed to go to universities.

“Our elders thought we would elope or marry somebody that would not tally and pally with their class if we, the girls entered campus. So, after O/Ls I started following Home Science courses and continued my piano music lessons,” recalls Pamitha.

Her carefree life erupted in war when the news of her affair with Lakshman leaked to her parents’ ears. “If you want to go with Lakshman, you would get only the frock you are wearing, and nothing else,” stormed her mother in fury. Pamitha was lost. She was immediately kept in the house as a prisoner.

“My parents didn’t like Lakshman Aiya as he was not a professional. His father died on the day he had his University Entrance interview, so that he had to sacrifice his higher studies and look after his family properties. Since being the eldest of the family he had to abided by the family duties,” says Pamitha.

Among the proposals that came to Pamitha, the young beauty with a torn heart with her loss love, said `ok’ to her first cousin, a MBBS doctor, a professional that her parents were seeking for.

Concealing her pain in her heart with the wedding out fit `wrapped’ on her she got on to the `Poruwa’ with her groom. Pamitha who was mistaken for a Parsi girl at school because of her unblemished glowing fair skin didn’t need any make-up even as a bride.

“However, my first husband was a nice person. It was he who taught me to drive saying I should learn to take the wheel to drive our son to school. My first marriage lasted only for three and half years as he died of cancer.

He was 30 years, I was 23 years and our son was one and half years then. It was a great shock! I fainted when I heard about his terminal illness. That shock might have hardened me, whatsoever.

We were brought up like flowers in our family background, and I was scared to move even from this room to the other. Children should not be brought up in such a way, because if things go wrong in life they would not be able to face life with courage. Thanks! I have had the spirit to convert myself to the changed conditions,” she reminisces.

After a period of mourning, Pamitha turned on to a new leaf of life. “I went to learn Ballroom dancing, Tennis and swimming. But, wherever I went I took my little son and my cousins. I really enjoyed my `lonely’ life that way,” she smiles. Though she was surrounded and followed by many suitors asking for her hand, Pamitha had a strong will in her life.

“I have lost two loves. So, I was feeling repulsive over having `partners’,” she recalls. BUT! the fate of people is like a wheel of a cart which rotates constantly towards unexpected directions. Pamitha was a widow for 14 years when destiny, knocked on her door. Her first love was at her door step once again. Lakshman Aiya was asking for her hand.

Lakshman Jayakody was born on August 24 in 1930 as the eldest to two sisters and a brother to a landed proprietor, Lionel Jayakody and Gwendoline Jayakody. Lakshman’s maternal grand father was the famous stage play writer and a founder of Tower Hall, Charles Dias.

After studying at Trinity College up to the University Entrance, Lakshman was in-charge of the family properties. His first marriage took place a few months after Pamitha’s wedding, and he had a daughter and a son.

There were two things that enticed him in his life; Pamitha and Politics. Both were his first love like the `pair of scales’. He had lost Pamitha temporary, so he decided to continue with politics. Lakshman joined the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) on November 1, 1954, and stepped into active politics in July 1960.

He became the General Secretary of the SLFP Trade Union under S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike in 1959. He was elected as a Member of Parliament (MP) from his ancestral home town, Divulapitiya in July 1960 election and continued to be since 1977 when he lost with a few votes with the UNP crash.

Under Premier, Mrs.Sirimavo Bandaranaike, he was the Deputy Minister of Defence and Foreign Affairs and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister. Lakshman contested Attanagalla seat and returned to the Parliament in 1980, and continued until 1989.

He was the District MP for Meerigama Electorate in the Gampaha District from 1989 to 1994. He became the Minister of Buddhasasana, Cultural Affairs and Religious Affairs in 1994, and rendered a memorable service to the country.

He gave up his 40 years of Parliamentary politics in 2000, and has been giving his finest support as an Advisor, firstly to President Chandrika Kumaratunga and presently to President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Under the present Government, agriculture, land, irrigation, power and cultural affairs are the areas Lakshman Jayakody has been concentrating on. `Lakshman Jayakody Foundation’ founded by him with his own funds in 2006, is working along with the projects and new researches done by the Agricultural Ministry, heading the agricultural development of the Northern Gampaha District - Divulapitiya, Meerigama and Attanagalla.

The Foundation gives support to food and field crop agriculture like paddy, coconut, rubber, tea, pepper, cinnamon and various other acrotic fruit cultivation like Kilo-guava (huge Malaysian guava), Dragon fruit, yellow varieties of Bananas, local yellow papaya and edible bamboo, aiming both the local market as well as the export market such as in Middle East and Japan.

After a stormy and turbulent period of his personal life, Lakshman was zooming back to his lost love. Pamitha was already a widow by then, living with her parents and only son. Her father who was down with a stroke was looked after by her for eight years. Once in a way she used to tease her Dad, `Thatha, you know a bit of astrology. So, hadn’t you noticed that I would be a widow one day?’

“As soon as he got the verdict of divorce from his first marriage, Lakshman Aiya came to my mother proposing marriage to me. My mother who was once a `Hitler’ and didn’t like the sight of him, had a cooler attitude towards him, and told him to speak to me straight,” she laughs. Pamitha was surprised, but asked for two months as she had to discuss it with her son who was about 16 years then.

“I kept my promise to my late husband to guide our only son Prasad Nanayakkara to become a doctor. I’ve already done it. He studied both at Ananda and Royal College, and practises at the General Hospital at present. He is happily married and I’m a grandmother of two boys,” she smiles.

“My son was a very quiet person, and didn’t mind me getting married to Lakshman.” she smiles.

Though Pamitha had eradicated her painful past completely, Lakshman’s plea softened her stern attitudes. “Actually I felt sorry for him as like me he was also alone and without a companion in life,” she recalls. Pamitha and Lakshman finally came under a one roof turning a new leaf in life on June 30 in 1976. Love, happiness and tranquillity began to shower on the old lovers once again.

“We didn’t hold a function, and only got registered. So, sorry, I have no wedding picture of ours to give you for your readers. He was the Deputy Minister of Defence and Foreign Affairs at that time,” blushes Pamitha.

Question: You might have lead a cool life as a widow, whatsoever. How was it with a politician?

Pamitha: Ah! terribly busy, and enjoying both the benevolent as well as the malevolent experiences. It was like entering a second life of the same birth. Completely different chapters. Lakshman Aiya is a good person who has a great capacity of tolerance. He rarely raises his voice to somebody, if he finds a fraudulent act by his subordinate.

He loves old Sinhala Tower Hall classical songs, music and stage plays. He underwent several serious operations, and I was with him both during his ailments and his election campaigns. So I think I’ve done my duties by him, and are quite happy and proud about it. We’ll be celebrating our 32nd Wedding Anniversary tomorrow (laughs).

Question: What are your future plans?

Pamitha: Both of us are in to the charity work helping the poor. It has been our hobby as well. I have been working for the Mallika Home, Colombo for the past 9 years. Presently I’m in-charge of the `Sethsevana’ ward there.

In addition, I’m a committee member of both the Eye Hospital and Divulapitiya Hospital. So, my message is to lead a good life fulfilling your duties to your family; your husband and your children, mainly, and then to the society.


From the Spouse's Mouth Sunday Observer Jun 22 2008

Music and sport, a winning combination

Sharmini talks about life with veteran cricketer Sidath Wettimuny:

By Lakmal Welabada

Cricket and Symphony Orchestra, a blend of two extremes, has been `rhyming well in the field’ for the past 20 years for Sidath and Sharmini Wettimuny who have a lot to talk about.


Pix:Chinthaka Kumarasinghe

Sidath, one time Romeo or the dream suitor of many young princesses both the Cricket lovers as well as non-lovers, has been steady with his love for Sharmini. “After a seven year affair we got married on June 4 in 1988,” says Sharmini beginning her life story with Sidath.

“I’ve heard about him a lot from my friends. Though I was also a Cricket fan, I had a little interest in him as a cricketer when I as a teenager,” she continues.

Sharmini Tara de Silva was born on November 1 in 1961 to Charitha Prasanna de Silva, a top pioneer figure in the business management in Sri Lanka and Shusheela Paul at Nawala.

“I was the middle among two brothers. My parents led a wonderful married life and gave us a lot of comfort, love, security and happiness. My mother was a Masters graduate of Smith College, USA, and taught earlier. She sacrificed her job in order to give us, her children the fullest attention which was followed by me as well, when I quit my Banking job after my son’s birth,” she smiles.

Sharmini’s father who was honoured with `Deshamanya’ recently has rendered an immense service to the country by being the pioneer to introduce many new business ventures. He was the Chairman of Aitken Spence group for many years, and pioneered the leasing business by forming LOLC.

His service was appreciated by the Japanese government who honored him with the `Order of the Rising Sun’ - Gold and Silver stars from Emperor Hirohito in 1998, the highest honour given to any foreigner. Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Helmut Kohl were the other foreign recipients who received this honor that year.

And my father was the only Asian who received this that year and has been the only Sri Lankan to receive it so far,” says Sharmini proudly.

 

 

 

 

 

 year.

 

Question:You seem to be really proud of your father?

Sharmini: Why not? I grew up with him as my role model.

Sharmini had her education at Ladies’ College, Colombo and was one of the brightest stars in the school. She was the Head Prefect and House Captain in 1980.

The same year she was the Leader of the Choir and Leader of the Debating Society. Except Cricket, Sharmini did many other sports including Tennis and Swimming. “We hadn’t heard of women cricket at that time,” she laughs.

Sharmini was a much involved and active student at school. Music was her forte though she excelled in the Maths and Economic stream. Following her mother’s footsteps, Sharmini entered Smith College, Massachusetts, USA and graduated in Magna Cum Laude degree.

“There too I was involved in the university Choir. My stay at Smith College was memorable as those three and half years were really enjoyable. The course was four years, and we were allowed to do one year of it in an university in UK. So, I entered University College, London, and did my third year where I also got the opportunity to take part in an operetta - `Gwendoline’ by Chabriere,” she recalls.

Sharmini returned to Sri Lanka in 1984, and commenced work at Citibank N.A. as the first female Sri Lankan Executive Officer in which she handled and headed many responsible sections while getting training in Singapore, India, Philippines and Malaysia on Financial Institution and other banking affairs. Sharmini was the first Sri Lankan Citibanker to be sent to New York for training at the Citibank Centre in 1986.

Question:After holding that sort of lucrative post with many of such rare opportunities, how did you feel when you quitted it?

Sharmini: Hmm... I had everything to the fullest. I saw how my Mom sacrificed her job for us. And it was my turn to take the same decision. I wanted to be a good mother to my children.

Since 2006, Sharmini has been the (Honorary) Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka, the only Orchestra that performs regularly in this whole SAARC region.

“There are 300 permanent members of Sri Lanka. We do a lot for the prevalence of the Western classical music. We all perform with love for music and not for money. We are trying to publicise it among schoolchildren within suburbs and outstations as well. Our next concert, `Young Soloist’ will be held at Ladies College in August,” she says.

In addition Sharmini was the Choir Director (Honorary) from 1998 to 2000, and accompanist for the Ladies’ College Choir.

Question:Your meeting with him?

Sharmini: Interesting...(laughs)

Sidath Wettimuny was born on August 12 in 1956 as the fourth of five boys to Ramsay Gregory de silva Wettimuny, (Wettimuny Senior) Mechanical Engineer cum a Buddhist Scholar and Indrani de Silva at Park Road, Colombo. Sunil, Mitra, Ranjan, Sidath and Nimal, the five sons of Wettimuny family marked Sri Lankan history in many ways.

Except Ranjan all the others played Cricket, and among them Sunil, Mitra and Sidath were Opening Batsmen for Sri Lanka while Nimal was restricted to Club Cricket. Sunil chose his career as a pilot while the other brothers got involved in the lucrative garment industry.

Sidath’s father who was an enthusiastic cricketer encouraged his sons a lot in taking up with sports, though he didn’t live to see his sons excellent performances. Sidath was 17 years when his father passed away. Wettimuny Senior was the engineer who constructed the train for the foreign film `Bridge over the river Kwai’ shot here at Kithulgala in 1960s.

He was a learned figure who had a versatile knowledge of all the religions and philosophies. He wrote many books introducing the relationship between Science and Buddhism. Seated at his father’s feet Sidath was used to listen to his long Dhamma discussions with his learned colleagues since he was a small boy.

Ananda College, Colombo taught Sidath Cricket and gave the Buddhist background and discipline. He did his A/Ls in the Commerce stream, but opted to a career as a professional Cricketer. He first represented his school, at the age of 10 and held the captaincy for Ananda College in 1975.

He won the All Island Best Batsman of the Year Award (school cricket) in 1974-75. Sidath represented Sri Lanka in Cricket from 1977 to 1987. Some of his cricketing highlights are that he scored the first test century for Sri Lanka in Faisalabad, Pakistan in 1982, scoring 157.

He was the first Sri Lankan to carry his bat through in both a Test match in New Zealand, and a One Day International in Sri Lanka against England. His highest Test score of 190 is a record even today, as the highest score made by a batsman in his country’s first Test appearance at Lords, the Mecca of Cricket.

He was also the first Sri Lankan to be named Wisden Cricketer for the Year in 1984-1985. His highest First Class score was 227 not out for Sri Lanka against India in 1987. Sidath was honoured by the Jaycees in 1985 as one of the Ten Top personalities of the Year. No doubt about that as it was stated above, he was one of the most adored dream princes who stole many hearts.

Sidath has served on three past Interim Committees for Cricket and he held the membership at the ICC Cricket Committee and ICC Board representing Sri Lanka. He has been both a selector and Chairman of Selectors for Cricket and an ICC Match Referee after retiring from Cricket. He was made an Honorary Life Member of two of the most prestigious cricket clubs in the world - the MCC in London the Cricket Club of India in Bombay, for his past cricketing achievements.

Sidath is currently the President of the Sri Lanka Cricketers Association and a member of the current Interim Committee at Sri Lanka Cricket.

Question:That was all about him. Why not reveal your romance with him?

Sharmini: I first heard about him when I was attending Oosha’s class of ballet. I was about 13 years then. It was just some information. But, I first met him at the Grindlay’s Bank Manager’s place at Queen’s Road in 1977. My father was invited attend to this function where both England and Sri Lankan Cricket teams were also graced.

Though the invitation was for my parents, I jumped to the idea as I was a Cricket fanatic at that time, but didn’t have any `enthusiastic hero’ as such in my mind. So, my mother `donated’ her invitation to me(laughs). I attended to it with my father, and Sidath was introduced to me there for the first time.

Question:What was your first impression about him?

Sharmini: Hmmm.... he was handsome and looking good (laughs). Very impressive, I have to be honest. Also he seemed to be very shy. I just shook hands with him as I did with other Cricketers.

Question:Your second meeting?

Sharmini: Oh! you need all that (laughs)? Well we were residing at Nawala, we had an informal friends’ club called `Nawala Lane Friends’ which included all our playmates residing at the lane we stayed. Thushantha has been a mutual friend of mine since I was a kid.

His birthday falls on November 4. He and Sidath were schoolmates at Ananda. So, both Sidath and I were invited to his birthday party, and it was the second time I met him. We introduced ourselves and started to talk. Sidath had found my phone number and called me after two days.

He was good looking, and I was excited to receive a call from him. So, that was it. I had a very strong interest in Cricket. That was something common between us. We had a month to talk to each other as he had to go to India with his Cricket, and before he returned I flew to USA for my higher studies.

We used to write and phone each other once a week as we didn’t have SMS facilities and Chatting Computer facilities as today’s lovers. All his Cricket money might have been spent on our massive phone bills (laughs).

Question:Both of you have been coming from two different backgrounds. How did it affect your relationship?

Sharmini: It did affect at the beginning. He was from a strong Buddhist background while mine was a devoted Anglican set up. Both were influential families, so that we had to face a lot of obstacles and disturbances. Even Sidath was not sure whether I would fit in with his culture.

However, I would frankly state about his mother who has always been ready to accept me since she first met me. Her love and care played a vital role in the relationship of Sidath and mine. Seven years...(pauses) quite a long time. We don’t regret as we got the opportunity to know each other well. We tied the knot at lavish wedding at Hotel Hilton finally (smiles).

Question:Married life with a famous personality?

Sharmini: Never been problem as we have had good communication skills since the very inception. Thanks to the mobile phone facilities, we are in touch with each other throughout. He is the Vice Chairman of his own family business, the Nobles Group of Companies.

He could spend a lot of time at home as he manages his factory managerial work through the phone. That’s relaxing. Sidath is a person who is very particular about his physical fitness. Very calm and revered personality. He meditates a lot. It was he who taught me the importance of being mindful. He is very special. In his thoughts and actions - he is extraordinary generous. He is very good with people, and maintains an excellent PR with anybody. He rarely holds anything against anybody, and is unusually good. Sidath practises what he believes in wholeheartedly.

Question:Rumours?

Sharmini: I might have been told, but I couldn’t remember anything that bothered me. We have a good understanding. Music is our common subject. I play the piano and he is an excellent singer. In fact he released a VCD of Buddhist songs recently. I practise my religion and he does his. Apart from that we are both involved in charity work a lot.

Both our children are Buddhists. Our son, Sanjay is 18 years now, and is doing a degree in Aviation in New South Wales for a commercial pilot licence. He wants to be a pilot. Sanjay was a Junior National Golf player and represented Sri Lanka junior golf. He played Cricket and swam for the school. Our daughter Shamara is 17 years, and is very versatile. She is extremely good in sports, dancing and singing. She is the current football captain and Prefect of the school. Both my children are at the Colombo International School.

Question:Future plans?

Sharmini: To lead a good life while doing my best to promote the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka.


Up close & personal Sunday Observer June 15

The golden touch that elevated Sitar to its divine height



Chandrarathne rangac@sundayobserver.lk

Dr. Nirmala Kumari Rodrigo is a Senior Lecturer in Music at the University of Visual and Performing Arts and an avid proponent of classical music in Sri Lanka.

She strongly believes, like in India, that Government should sponsor the classical music and should also be responsible for creating an audience for classical music by allocating air time in radio and television as well as allocating substantial funds at national and provincial level for the propagation of classical music.

Referring to her student days in India, she recalled with vivid memories of the Lucknow


Dr.Nirmala Kumari performed in honour of Ludowig Van Beethovan at Beethovan hall in Bonn, Germany with Pt. Paban Borduloi on May 05, 1986.

Festival of Music which lasts for seven days. The annual festival (it is also held in other cities) was fully sponsored by the Government which also bore the accommodation and travelling expenses of the visiting artists.

However, the festival did not confine itself to music but also happened to be one of the biggest trade fairs. Traders from neighbouring provinces set up stalls at the fair. The Music Festival which was free of charge would commence at 6.00 p.m. and would continue till the next day morning.

Dr. Nirmala Kumari pointed out that the Indian government and provincial governments have allocated substantial funds for the propagation of classical music. For instance, the Indian audience has been exposed to classical music as government had run large number of programmes in radio and television. People can watch classical music recital throughout the day on television as there is a dedicated channel for classical music.

Indian Government, a trial product

Dr. Nirmala Kumari is of the view that compared to India; Government sponsorship for classical music is almost zero and government had even stopped the little space that classical music enjoyed in *Rupavahini and SLBC. * The programme which was dedicated to classical music has been cancelled though the classical musicians were willing to make their contribution to the programme free of charge.


Performed with Pt.Ishwarlal Mishra,Concert at Thulsi Ghat , Benares at the Seven Day Music Festival

It is pathetic that in Sri Lanka the artists have to organise their own concerts at their own expense and that the response from the public is also not encouraging. She attributed the total apathy on the part of audience to classical music to the lack of exposure of Sri Lankan audience to classical music and general tendency to associate classical music with funerals of political leaders.

This practice has created a negative perception on the part of listeners of classical music in general and Sitar recital in particular.


Sarwa Shreshta Vadak Shield awarded for the best instrumentalist at Bhathkande College of Music Lucknow in 1980

It is imperative that aesthetic subjects should be made a mandatory in *syllabi* in order to make an informed audience who would be able to appreciate Sri Lankan as well as Hindustani and Western classical music rather than producing an uprooted generation who will embrace cheap forms of entertainment such as clubbing and attending social dance classes.

Currently, the aesthetic subject is not a compulsory subject. On the other hand students do not like to choose Music as it would not lead to lucrative career. Parents also are not happy about children studying music.

She is of the view that in order to reverse this negative attitude that it is necessary for the government to make a platform for classical music by allocating sufficient air time in national channels as well as offering its patronage for classical music.

In 2006 in the month of July she with some academics and music lovers formed the structure Shawathi with the intention of promoting classical music in Sri Lanka. Shawathi conducts classical music recitals at 544/10 Hena road, Rammuthugala, Kadawatha, free of charge and music lovers could contact 011-2973658.


Delicate hand that stirred the strings of heart

Perhaps, the singular characteristic of Dr. Nirmala Kumari’s Sitar recital is her innate ability to infuse divine notes into it. She exploits every string of Sitar to render it a divine tone, spell bounding the audience. It is indeed the amalgamation of the human touch with divine music in its varied manifestations.

Her performance is an embodiment of the purest version of classical music, a mixture of academic excellence and perfect application. It is this technical perfection and deep knowledge of classical music that make her Sitar truly an instrument which can address the inner temple of heart and creates a sublime happiness in the listeners.

The soothing notes that emanates from her Sitar is like a cadence of crystal clear water flapping onto a placid lake. It is indeed the purest Hindustani tradition that she wants to preserve in Sri Lanka.


Mockery of awards

Although she is the only classical Sitarist in Sri Lanka who had earned a name for herself in India and other parts of the world, she has still not been considered for most of the so called awards in Sri Lanka. When I questioned about it, her answer was a vacant smile.

It is obvious that some award committees are, perhaps, being dominated by gangsterism and personalities with fake credentials. Is this the way that Sri Lanka treats the genuinity of talents which undoubted is the forte of Dr. Nirmala Kumari? Some of the awards given away in Sri Lanka is dubious of their worth.

The opinionated judges distributed the lion share, perhaps on the basis of their affiliation for the cheap fantasies rather than on the basis of merit, originality and genuinity. Their social outlook too is not dynamic which has become miserably static and ‘dud’.

It has no urge, no inspiring saga of its own like ‘the Lady of Shallot’ waiting in vain for Sir Lancelot. Though some present themselves as academics and claim that they have visited countries like Japan. They are worse than peasants because peasants are not wicked. We need modern men and women to develop our society and make our motherland, a cultural paradise.

She is not awarded the Bunka award yet. She completed her Doctorate in Music in 1984 and since then is contributing to the field of art. It is pertinent to mention here that a modern woman Benazir Bhutto in her speech ‘Asian Countries must work together’ delivered in Colombo, emphasised the fact that not recognising talents is the main factor for the present degeneration in South Asian societies.


Milestone in her life

Nirmala fell in love with Sitar ever since she was shown the picture of goddess Saraswathi with Sitar by her mother Merlyn Rodrigo who was a pupil of the first batch of music students of Heywood College Colombo (now the University of Visual and Performing Arts) established by late Dr. Lionel Edirisinghe.

On completion of GCE O/L Nirmala left for India in 1973 and joined, as a residential student, at Bhatkhande College of Music Lucknow, India.

During the first 5 years of her stay at the university, she learned sitar under Shri Naveen Chandra Pant and vocals under Shri Lele and Prof. Premsing Kinot.

In 1978 she passed both Vadya Visharad (Sitar) and Sangeet Visharad (Vocal) Bhathkande Degrees.

>From 1978 to 1981 she continued her study at the same College under the highly reputed sitar guru of Lucknow tradition, Ustad Illiyas Khan and completed the Bhatkande post-graduate degree course in sitar and passed the Bhathkande Degree Vadya Nipun in Sitar and then left for Benaras for further studies.

Nirmala holds the record for obtaining the highest marks at examinations during the entire period of 9 years of study at Bathkhande College of Music and won the Best Results Award continuously. As a hard working student from Sri Lanka, she received special attention and blessings from her teachers.

In 1982 she was enroled as a research scholar at the Faculty of Music of the Benaras Hindu University. Taking the study of Indian ragas and compositions as her subjects, she worked under the guidance of Prof. K.O.

Gangarade, a fountain of knowledge and experience in Indian music.

In 1984 she obtained the Degree of the Doctor of Music, Performances and Compositions. She is the first Sri Lankan to have obtained this qualification from the Benares Hindu University.

She also studied Music at the University of Cologne, Germany and attended seminars on Music Ethnology under Prof. R. Gunther. At the same time she held lecture demonstrations in Indian music to the students of the said University and held many classical sitar concerts in Germany.Since 1978 she has been presenting sitar recitals on All India Radio and Indian television and various music festivals in India.

She has won several trophies and medals including the Award “Sarva Shreshta Vadak” which was awarded to the Best Instrumentalist in 1980 at the Bhatkhande Music Competition, Lucknow.

She has performed with great Indian tabla masters such as Ustad Afaqe Hussain Khan, Ustad Ahmed Miyan, Pt. Choote Lal Misra, Prakash Maharaj, Pt. Ram Kumar, Pt. Paban Borduloli of Lucknow and Benares.

After returning to Sri Lanka in 1987 she held solo performances in sitar at Lucknow, India at the Umanath Bali Music Festival in 1988 and in 2002, at the Faculty of Music of the Benaras Hindu University as an invited artiste from Sri Lanka with great musicians of India, on the same stage.

This she recalls was a great achievement in her life. In 1991 Nirmala was appointed as a Lecturer of the University of Visual and Performing Arts. Since then she has held many solo sitar concerts and recitals in Sri Lanka. She is a Super Grade Artiste of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation and Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation. She works as the Sitar Teacher at the Indian Cultural Center.

The National Award for Instrumental Music from the Government of Sri Lanka and International Women’s Day Award were also conferred on her.


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer June 1 2008

Female genius behind the camera

Sumitra speaks of life with doyen of Sri Lankan cinema Lester James Peries:

By Lakmal Welabada

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk


http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2008/06/01/z_p27-Feamale1.jpg
Pic: Chinthaka Kumarasinghe

“Some think I should retire from cinema saying, `Sumitra haven’t you done enough’. I would say `no’ because cinema is our life,” says Sumitra Peries, prominent wife of a famous husband, Lester James Peries, the God Father of the Sinhala Cinema screen.

“Many think that I entered the cinema following Lester, after our marriage, a few know the exact story,” she smiles unfolding her engrossing past which she has faced with courage and enthusiasm.

The Peries’ couple are no strangers to us; and have been acclaimed and applauded by local as well as the international audience for their tremendous and scintillating creations on celluloid tape. Like a painter’s best companion is his paint brush, the cinematograph camera still stands beside them reminding them of the ups and downs of their interesting past which has been dedicated totally to a novel evolution of the Sinhala cinema screen.

“Sip a soft drink. You might be feeling thirsty,” she offers me a glass of lime juice which was served by her old faithful domestic. Sumitra while answering my questions fired at her, gave little attention to her niece and nephew who have come down from England for a short tour. “They are my elder brother’s children. My elder brother, Karu Gunewardane was everything to me. We were so attached to each other,” she smiles.

Sumithra Rupasinghe Gunewardane was born on March 24 in 1935 in Avissawella to a well-known Proctor and Justice of the Peace, Henry Rupasinghe Gunewardane (alias Harry) and Harriet Cornelia Wickremasinghe as the third of four children.

http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2008/06/01/z_p27-Feamale2.jpg“Gamini alias Karu Gunewardane was my elder brother. He is dead now. My younger brother is Ranjith. My elder sister Chandralatha lives in the house close to Visakha Vidyalaya which my mother bought for us to stay with her. We first went to St. Mary’s College, Awissawella. And later entered Visakha. My sister and I had to stay in the school hostel for a short period. I was about 9 years then. So, my mother wanted us to be with her and bought this house for that purpose. But sadly she couldn’t live to see our success and passed away within a year after we shifted to that house,” she recalls.

“It was a big blow. My father was fairly a detached person, and it was my mother even though a housewife handled everything including the property matters, etc. She was a strong character,” she says.

The short Hostel life was not an interesting episode for little Sumitra who sought parental affection. Her mother’s arrival to Colombo was a short lived delightful dream which left memorable benevolence.

“Along with her death we lost the motherly care and also the sense of security was eruded. My elder brother felt this terribly as he was the most pampered child. So, once he completed his higher studies, decided to go off abroad. He was a qualified lawyer who never practised in his life. He divided all his property amongst us and sailed off. After mother’s death, we who relied on him found it was a double tragedy,” recalls Sumitra.

Her brother who was a wander lust was living in a yatch sailing from one point to the other end of the world. After a lapse of 4-5 years, Sumitra got a pleasant surprise from her brother.

“I did science for my A/Ls and was studying at Aquinas to do the Withdrawal test. My aim was to go to England. I had a few more years ahead to complete my course, but when I wrote to my brother he asked me to come and stay with him without wasting time here. My sister was just married, and my father was at Awissawella most of the time,” she says.

Sumitra was not yet 21 years and was waiting to get her passport and the claim she was entitled as a beneficiary from her mother’s insurance. Sumitra’s inborn courage never let her down in whatever she stepped in to.

“After my mother’s death all four of us and three of our cousins lived at our Colombo residence. We had servants to do the house chores and somebody else paid our bills. We grew up without adult supervision, but never had even a glimpse of thought to take a wrong step, never frivolous and were serious in attitudes.

http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2008/06/01/z_p27-Feamale3.jpgSince my father’s brother, Philip Gunewardane was a strong `Samasamaja’ figure, we had the exposure to the Left movement a lot. We were taken to see the rallies and were exposed to literature with ideas of social responsibility and so on. So we were treated as Leftists even at school which had a conventional Sinhala Buddhist cultural background.

May be due to this fact that I had a few friends at school, but had a strong sense of family bond with my siblings and cousins. However, since we didn’t have much of an adult guidance we gradually became independent which later supported me in my life and career immensely,” she says with a charming smile.

It was 1956, and Sumitra was just 20 years old. Prior to two weeks of her birthday she got into a Steamer and sailed in search of her lost brother. She celebrated her 21st birthday in the ship.

“I met my brother at Naples, Italy. He was living in a 34 feet yacht with a Frenchman and his American wife,” she recalls. It was momentous. Her brother, Karu Gunewardane was a good looking, clever and sociable young man. Instead she saw a long beared seaman with open arms waiting at the jetty to welcome his long time unseen adorable sister. “We cried and cried embracing each other,” she sighs.

Sumitra went all over in the yacht the whole of summer. Though her aim was to go to England her brother wanted her to go to Switzerland which was a calm and quite place. Sumitra entered the University of Lauzanne in Switzerland and started learning French first.

“When I was sailing, I had a lot of thoughts flowing through my head. Unlike my br other, I was not that good at literary work, so I could not record and report my feelings. The camera which I carried along with me was the only medium of reporting. That would have been the first inspiration,” she says.

“Since I was a science student I didn’t have the scope of expressing skills. I was not word oriented, but was good at art when at school. Everybody thought I would take up Architecture. I was good at athletics and was Under 14 Junior Champ. We loved to go for films. But we didn’t have a film industry as such in Sri Lanka during that era. However, while sailing when I started clicking the camera, some idea to study cinema struck in my mind,” she says.

Psychology was the other subject Sumitra was interested in. “I read all the books in Psychology available including what Freud had written even before I did my A/Ls. This knowledge helped me in my creative work as through Psychology you try to understand a human being. And even upto now I’m still discovering human nature,” she says.

Meanwhile her brother left for Sri Lanka. Sumitra was left in Switzerland. “I was searching for a cinema. So after learning French in Lauzanne I took a train and went to France. My aim was to enter the Idec Film School in France. During this time, in Sri Lanka, my brother had met Lester who was about to sail to France with his film `Rekhawa’. My brother had asked Lester to meet me there. That’s how we met for the first time, “smiles Sumitra.

It was 1957, and Philip Gunewardane was the Minister of Land and Agriculture. Vernon Mendis, Head of Legation in France and his wife were quite generous and accepted to take care of Sumitra. “Lester came there to take part in the famous Cannes Film Festival. It was he who asked me to go to London if I was really interested in learning about films,” she says.

Question: How did you feel about him?

Sumitra: Neither of us had any especial feelings towards each other, but were friendly. So taking his word, after summer I went to London and entered the London School of Film Techniques to follow a two year Diploma course in Film Making.

Lester James Peries was born on April 5 in 1919 to Dr. James Peries and Winifred Jayasooriya at Dehiwala as the second of their four children. Lester had one sister, and one of his brothers, Ivan Peries made a name as a famous painter.

His mother who studied at St. Bridget’s Convent, Colombo was the first lady to pass the London Matriculation examination in Sri Lanka, and the school had a half day holiday to celebrate it on the day when the results were out. Lester had his education at St. Peter’s College, Colombo, and dropped out from school early as his main ambition was to become a writer.

“He had gone to England to work as a journalist. Unlike me, he was totally a self taught film maker,” she says. Lester’s father was a County Cricketer when he was studying medicine in London. He had a great desire to see his kids becoming cricketers, but to his greatest disappointment none of them ever played Cricket. Instead they opted to their mother’s enthusiasm and bent more towards education. “Unlike a dramatic life of mine, Lester had fairly a good childhood and youth,” smiled Sumitra.

Sumitra was not job oriented. Before she came to Sri Lanka she worked with Mai Harris in her sub-titling work.

When Sumitra’s brother heard Lester was going to do his newest film, `Sandeshaya’ he asked his sister to come down to Sri Lanka. She returned in 1959 and joined Lester in his films. “That’s how I joined the Sinhala Cinema screen,” she recalls.

“Lester might have had faced difficulty in persuading the Producers to take me to his film crew as then everything was with male dominance. But, he managed to take me as an Assistant Director,” she says.

Question: How was your first experience working with Lester?

Sumitra: I would call it `Baptism of fire’ (laughs). `Sandeshaya’ was shot at Beli Hul Oya. Today we could finish a film in less than a month. But, at that time we had to spend about six months. All the male crew stayed in huts, but I was given accommodation in a village home. It was bit terrible as I just landed from abroad after enjoying much comforts. However, since I was a radical explorer, took everything as novel experience (laughs). .

Question: How did your working relationship end up in a love affair?

Sumitra: We became good friends and then gradually realised that we have had a lot of things in common. We carried on for a few years. Some of my family members opposed it as status wise Lester’s was totally different from ours. Our age gap was 16 years. He came from a strong Catholic background and ours was Buddhist. And even there was a caste difference too. He didn’t have a proper job. Though he had recognition some of his films were failure. We have never been lucky with money. He was once married to an English woman when he was in England which ended up in a divorce after two years. But, it was only I had confidence that he was the Mr.Right for me.

Question: Was that the first ever affair for you?

Sumitra: No. I too had two boy friends when I was abroad, firstly with a English boy, a writer and secondly with a Latin American poet. Though I was a free floating feather enjoying a permissive bohemian life, I never attempted to step out of the limits. I was confident in everything I was doing.

Some Karmic force might have guided me. I lost my mother when I was small, so I was looking for a strong emotional anchor for me. And I found it with Lester. He was a man of patience with a lot of versatility. He is well read, and so am I. We have had a good understanding. After a year of our marriage he was invited to the Mexico Film Festival for the film `Gamperaliya’.

He gave that opportunity to me and I roamed all around in USA and Japan for about a month. I hardly contacted him as the communication facility was poor at that time even abroad. He never grumbled over it. Gamini Fonseka who was waiting for me to get his film `Parasathumal’ edited had asked Lester when I was due to return.

`I don’t know which part of the world she is’ was his answer to Gamini (laughs). Lester has never been jealous, and that was one of the main secrets that helped me to go up in my career. Also again I went to France in 1969 on one-year scholarship to the Conservitoire Independente du Cinema in Paris. Lester never felt insecured and never discouraged me. I too never abused his trust.

Question: When did you get married?

Sumitra: On June 19 in 1964 at All Saints Church, Borella. I informed my father that I was getting married only on the previous day. We had a small number of a gathering with 10-15 family members and friends. We had our small wedding function at Anton Wickremasinghe’s home, Chairman of Cine Lanka Ltd who produced `Gamperaliya’.

Question: You mentioned that you have never been lucky with money. So, what made you to remain in Cinema this long?

Sumitra: Yes, as I mentioned earlier cinema is our life. Lester has created 21 films. He did his last film `Ammavarune’ in 2005 when he was 85 years-old. Now he is 89 years. He did some teledramas as well. We had sold many of our ancestral properties to find money for the films. Though they were acclaimed even Internationally this is the story behind the scene (smiles). But, we cannot make films which the popular audience ask for. We are satisfied with what we have done.

Question: What are the special qualities you see in Lester?

Sumitra: He is frank, but cool; and rarely loses his temper, but that also for a worthy reason, but never lingers angry very long. His food forbia has been the biggest problem I’ve seen in him. He looks for cleanliness and very fussy over food. He basically avoids food with chilies. Other than that Lester is a self sufficient person.


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer May 25 2008

There lives are lost in ‘simplicity’

Malathi speaks of life with Speaker Wi. Ja. Mu. Lokubandara:

“He is a closed book,” says Malathi, wife of the third citizen of Sri Lanka; the Speaker of the House of Parliament, Wi. Ja. Mu. Lokubandara.

http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2008/05/25/z_p27-WJM1.jpg
Pic: Chinthaka Kumarasinghe

In their private residence at Gangodavila, Nugegoda Malathi relaxed on the sofa with a cup of Coriander. “I’m after election `duty’ in Ampara. Bit hectic, but a good experience,” she smiles. Simplicity is part of their life. When compared to the Speaker’s mansion, their private residence has no luxury at all.

“I prefer this place as it’s so compact and easy to move about, and also a big relief when it comes to handling my youngest. There I have to look for him all over the place,” she smiles.

Question: People zealously wait to enjoy this type of luxury, and you prefer your good old place.

Malathi: Everything is impermanent. We do have all the functions there, but `live’ here. This is the place which we built up with our hard earned money. We value and maintain this place as once we have to move off from politics this would be the only shelter we have. So, why not treat it with respect? (smiles)

Question: The Speaker says you would be in active politics in the very next coming up election. Is it so?

Malathi: No, never! But my second son, Udith is mad over active politics. He hopes to contest in the next Provincial Council.

Question: It’s news for us. Do you prefer it?

Malathi: To be frank, I’m not that keen in him entering politics. He is having a good job and also having ‘educational qualifications which would give him more opportunities. But, he is so adamant about it.

http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2008/05/25/z_p27-WJM2.jpgHe is a Director at ABS and working in the Marketing Division at IBM. Udith is 23 years old and reading for his PhD in Marketing. However, I’ll give my blessings and all the support, if that is his only dream (smiles).

Question: Your other children?

Malathi: My eldest, Rashmin is 25 years old and works at Standard Chartered Bank. He is doing his Masters in Chartered Financial Analysis. Damith, the youngest, the most mischievous is still 14 years old, and in grade 9 at Royal Institute, Nugegoda. Both my elder sons studied at Belvoir International, Colombo.

However, we’ve managed to provide them a good Buddhist religious and cultural background through out.

Malathi Priyadarshani Weerasekara was born on October 26 in 1950 in Meethotamulla to Buddhadasa Weerasekara, Chief Superintendent of Educational Publications Department and Stella Weerasekara, a teacher. Malathi was the eldest to two sisters and a brother.

http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2008/05/25/z_p27-WJM3.jpg“We had an educational base childhood as both our parents were very much into education,” she recalls. “I was born at Meethotamulla, but grew up in this area, Gangodavila, Nugegoda,” she continues.

Malathi had a secured and a benevolent childhood. Her father was in-charge of the English Department of English Department of Educational Publications and was the chief examiner of the O/L English paper.

“His guidance was immense. Even our two older sons got his backing and were able to win the annual school English prize for many years,” she says. Malathi was a bright student at Anula Balika Vidyalaya, Nugegoda. While doing A/Ls in Arts stream she decided to select her favourite pastime as well as her much appealing subject, Western Music as her profession.

“I did the Licentiate of Royal Schools of Music, London, and got the appointment as a Western music teacher under the Pre-vocational subjects category in 1973. Though we had a good educational background my father who was a English lecturer at the University of Colombo, was not that keen in sending me to campus,” she says.

Malathi represented the school debating team and was a good athlete too. She was in the Anula Cricket Team in 1970.

“Most probably we would have been the first women cricketers in Sri Lanka. We were coached by Mrs. Indra Wijeratne, our Maths teacher and Mrs. Jayaratne, our game mistress,” says Malathi.

Question: Does the training you got in sports help you later when assisting your husband in politics?

Malathi: Yes, I suppose so. Politics is also a game. Tolerance, target, team work and ability to take the correct decision at the right time are the main features required in all the games.

Malathi got her first appointment as a music teacher at Kingswood, Kandy and then at CMS (Jayawardanapura Balika), Kotte. “I worked at Sirimavo Bandaranaike Balika, Colombo until my eldest was born, and got a secondment as the Private Secretary to my husband in 1983,” she says.

Question: How did you meet him?

Malathi: It was a proposal which came through a parent of my student.

Wijesinghe Jayaweera Mudiyanselage Lokubandara was born in Haputale. Out of the seven children ‘Wi-Ja-Mu’ seemed more special and precious to his parents, W. J. M. Gunesekara Bandara and R. M. Loku Manike. That was why he was given the name ‘Loku Bandara’ by joining the two parts from the names of his parents - ‘Loku’ from ‘Loku Manike’ and ‘Bandara’ from ‘Gunesekara Bandara’.... The Sinhala scholar who follows Munidasa Kumaratunga’s school of thought prefers his initials to go as Wi-Ja-Mu instead W. J. M. which the English media has used often.

Reading and meditation are the greatest hobbies of the Speaker who believes in sharpening one’s tongue and brain from childhood which would help one immensely later in life, as it has helped out for him. The Buddhist religious and cultural background he grew up in, helped to mould himself into a versatile person. When he was a kid, his father never let him to have dinner before chanting Pirith. Wi-Ja-Mu knew `Jina Panjaraya’ and `Seevali Dehena’ by heart since very early in his life.

`Paanaduravaadaya’ (the great religious debate raised over the teaching in Buddhism and Christianity in 1873) between Migettuwatte Gunananda Thero and Father Don Daniel, and the biography of `Sir Don Baron Jayathilaka’ were the two books that made a huge impact in his life.

D. B. Jayathilaka became the idol in his life, and even planned his future also according to his. Jayathilaka was a Barrister and a Scholar of Thripitaka. So is Wi-Ja-Mu. He held a top position in the House. So is Wi-Ja-Mu. He was an uncrowned king under the British rule. So does Wi-Ja-Mu who has become the third citizen of Sri Lanka. The self confidence of this small man is immense and marvellous.

Amidst huge commotions in the Parliament House Wi-Ja-Mu tends never to loose his composure. The Speaker remembers the `Thripitakaya’ almost by heart, and face any situation according to The Buddha’s teaching.

Wi-Ja-Mu had his secondary education at Bandarawela Central College in English medium, and then sat for the London College degree mastering Sanskrit. After doing the Sinhala Special degree at Peradeniya University, he joined the Law College and later sat for the L. L. B. degree and became an Advocate. In 1977, he joined politics with the influence of late Minister Lalith Athulathmudali who was his lecturer of `Juris Prudence’ at the Law College.

“I had many proposals before his,” blushes Malathi. She was extremely careful over all that came her way. The high officials and wealthy businessmen with six feet handsome appealing structures never enticed the charming Kandyan beauty.

“I didn’t want a partner who came for my background, dowry and appearance,” she stresses. Her staff and other associates assumed her as a friendly yet self dignified lady. Mr. Pahalawatta was a parent of her student at CMC. It was he who thought his comrade Wi-Ja-Mu should get married to a charming yet esteemed young beauty like Malathi.

“Mr. Pahalawatta and my husband were at the Official Languages Department. Until Mr. Pahalawatta stepped into our home he didn’t know that my father and he had met before. It was a coincidence. That’s why people say `Marriages are made in Heaven’!” she laughs.

Malathi used to be with literature a lot. Authors like Jane Austin and Pearl Buck were her favourite. “When he came to see me I felt some familiarity in him. I never felt uncomfortable to talk to him even at the very inception. It might have been due to some attraction which we had had in this Sansara,” she pauses.

“He was different from others though he was a Member of Parliament even during that era. Ours is a ten-year age gap. I admired his simplicity and down to earth qualities. We both liked literature. We had a lot in common,” she recalls. Malathi was happy. She was used to having lengthy discussions in literature with her learned father since she was a little girl.

Finally she found the consort she was looking for. She had no regrets though she had to wait so long while all her mates entered wedded life early. She was 27 years when she became a bride. “We have also had disagreements which is quite common with every couple, but I think we are made for each other,” she smiles.

Malathi and Wi-Ja-Mu got married on February 1 in 1979 after two years he entered politics. Leading a simple and virtuous life giving priority to Sri Lankan culture and Buddhism balancing everything with politics, the Lokubandara couple has set a great example to every Sri Lankan.

If there is a place where a sacred sapling of Sri Maha Bodhiya, Anuradhapura and a holy sapling of original Sri Maha Bodhiya of Bodgaya it is no where else, but at the Speaker’s Residence. When Wi-Ja-Mu became the Speaker both sacred saplings were gifted to him with blessings.

“Whenever we get a chance all five of us get together and attend Buddhist rituals, and recite ‘Dhammachakkappavaththana Sutta’ (the first sermon of The Buddha). The blessing we have acquired from all this is stupendous,” she claims.

Question: Apart from politics, how do you see him?

Malathi: We have a good understanding between us. He is a competitive debater in politics, but talks less at home. But now I’ve noticed he converses a lot with our eldest son who is a deep thinker and also quite matured for his age. He loves to play Checkers with his sons. Indoor games are in his favour, but enjoys watching Cricket matches too. He is a versatile character who has a lot of self control. It’s incompatible.

He fulfilled his duties to his siblings just as a father to them. I really appreciate his mother, a simple and silent person who toiled her whole life for her six children since her husband’s death.I remember the lady in `Dragon’s seat’ written by Pearl Buck whenever I saw her.

Question: Your future plans?

Malathi: We have enough and more, having a satisfied life. To lead a virtuous life through out is our main hope. We have to educate our youngest too. Annually we organise a Sil campaign for more than thousand observants for Vesak.

After my husband became the Speaker, he changed the year end Budget Party which meant only for the Parliamentarians to a grand Christmas Party which is open from Minister to the labourer of the Parliament and their families at the Speaker’s House. We think it’s a great thing. In addition, I’ll be involved in politics until my husband returns back to his Seat as we cannot forget our voters in Haputale.


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer May 4 2008

Sprint king and queen on the fast track

K.G. Badra speaks about life with Sunil Gunewardane:

 

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“One doesn’t have to be your own child to stretch a helping hand for them to come up in life,” believes K.G. Badra alias Badra Gunewardane, the first ever and unbeatable Queen Sprinter in 1970s.

“Sunil and I both love children. Though we don’t have children, we treat all the youngsters in the track field as our own,” says Badra beginning the conversation about her life with her beloved hubby, Sunil Gunewardane, King Sprinter in the same era.

Kahanda Gamage Badra was born on January 17 in Madawalamulla, Galle, to K.G. Francis Appuhamy, a leading businessman who was known as ‘King of Galle’ and Ciciliana Munasinghe as the youngest of five children.

Badra had her education first at Sangamitta Balika Maha Vidyalaya, Galle and entered Buddhist Ladies College, Colombo in Grade 6. “I was a Tom boy,” laughs Badra recalling her mischievous and splendid childhood.

http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2008/05/04/z_p27-Sprnt2.jpgScience was her favourite subject which she successfully did for her O/Ls. The active girl soon found out that her future lay on the sports track when she started becoming the athletic Champ at school meets as well as in the District level and then Island wide. Trixy Jayasooriya, Sports Mistress-in-Charge of Holy Family Convent who recognised her sports skills opened the gates at Holy Family for her.

“I eventually gave up my higher studies, but entered Holy Family Convent to follow a finishing Home Science course. The back up I got from there to enhance my sports skills was immense. Since then I have been with sports,” she smiles.

The running tracks she excelled in were 100m, 200m and 400m. Badra was the All Island Champion in the athletic meet in 1969. “I was qualified to represent Sri Lanka at the Thailand International Meet in all three sprints in the same year. But, since I was still a school girl, I was not given perks in National level... But, luckily my father was able to sponsor me, and I got my first exposure in an international meet,” reminisces Badra.

Badra was the only Spawned woman who could excel in this field and was the luckiest out of them all. She got a three months training course at Munich Sports University in 1970, which simultaneously laid a great training opportunity for her to take part in the Asian Games and Common Wealth Games in the same year. “I kept my best personal timing of 11.9 seconds at one of the training meets in Munich,” she recalls.

The Common Wealth Games she took part in also opened up the colossal doors of the Queen’s palace in Scotland for her. “Only one representative was invited from each country, and since I was the only one from Sri Lanka, I got that rare opportunity to dine with Queen Elizabeth II,” she recalls.

Badra kept her best timing; 100m in 11.9 seconds at a meet in Munich University, Germany in 1970, and 200m in 24.9 seconds and 400m in 56.8 seconds, both at Asian Games in 1971. All these three Sri Lankan records prevailed unbroken for 20 years.

http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2008/05/04/z_p27-Sprnt3.jpgAlong with sports the time for Badra to think about her future was important. She got her first appointment at the CTB in 1971, on Sunil’s invitation. But, she thought she could render better service if she would accept the post offered to her at the Sports Ministry.

Badra joined the Sports Ministry in 1971 as a Sports Officer. She got her promotions one after the other as the Athletic Coach, Athletic Project Officer upto her present post as the Assistant Director rendering a ‘versatile’ service to the athletics in the country. She did her one-year Sports Diploma in Minz Sports University in Germany in 1986.

Badra, Sunil and S.L.B. Rosa were selected to take part at the pre-Olympics, affiliated with a six months training at the Munich Sports University in Germany in 1971. There she beat the Asian Games 400m Gold Medallist by breaking her record with her timing of 56.8 seconds.

1972 was the year Germany held its Olympics. Before the Games, again three athletics were invited to under go training at the Munich University. “People cannot enjoy the previledges they encounter all the time. That opportunity I had to give up as I was down with Hepatitis. W. Wimalasena went to Germany along with Sunil and Rosa that year,” she recalls.

Badra had no challenger as there was nobody to beat her speed in Sri Lanka. “So.... I eventually lost interest in it as I thought it’s time to leave the chance for the other up and coming buddies,” laughs Badra. Of course, that’s what she still does. Many national champions she made through the Ministry and also along with her hubby have put Sri Lanka in golden letters on the world sports map.

“Sunil and I both rose up in the sports field together. Both his and my brothers were best of friends. So, my brother, K.G. Karunasena who was right behind me backing me up in sports always expected Sunil to look after me.

Sunil was right behind me looking into my well being through out. We were good friends first, but eventually, I would say automatically fell for each other. And it ended up in marriage. I gave up athletics in 1974 and we got married on June 1, 1978,” reminisces Badra.

“Well, we had to wait for my father’s consent for 8 years as the difference in religion was between us. Sunil is a Roman Catholic and my father was the chief ‘Dayaka’ of our village temple. But, entered the wedded life under everybody’s shower of blessings,” she says.

Sunil Benedict Gunewardane was born on October 6, to Joseph Gunewardane, a landed proprietor and Harriot Gunewardane at Bandarawatta, Kaakkapalliya, Chilaw as the second of six in the family.

Sunil had his education at St. Mary’s College, Chilaw. Athletics was his craze as well. He became all Island champ in 1968, and simultaneously joined Badra in the trip to the Thailand meet. Sunil created history with his first record in 1968, by being the first Sri Lankan school boy who finished 100m event in less than 11 seconds......

His 100m school record of 10.9 seconds and 200m school record of 21.65 seconds prevailed unbreakable respectively for 32 years and 37 years.

His Sri Lankan records both in 100m (in 10.5 seconds) and 200m (in 21.7 seconds) he kept on his 21st birthday on October 6 in 1970. His 100m record was unbroken for 25 years.

He made the Asia’s fastest timing for 200m in 21.31 seconds at Munich Olympics in 1972 which prevailed for 18 years. He won the Gold Medal by finishing 4 x 400m in 3 minutes and 7 seconds at the Asian Games held in Teheran in 1974.

A two week’s course in Sprinting and Hurdles in Indonesia in 1987, a Sprinting and Hurdles course with British coach, Charles Taylor in UK in 1991 and a two week’s special course in Beijing with World Record holder Jackey Joiner and his coach in 2007 enhanced shed his knowledge in track events.

Sunil is too versatile a champ not only in the track field, but also in administration. He held the positions with Sri Lankan Athletic Team, as Coach to the Manager. He was Chef-De-Mission in the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

Sunil Gunewardane was the President of Sri Lanka Athletic Association and the Vice President of the National Olympic Committee in 2001.

The CTB was his first appointment where he continued as the Welfare Officer from 1970 to 1984. During the time when Minister S.B. Dissanayaka headed the Ministry of Sports which marked a golden era in Sri Lankan athletics, Sunil was the Co-ordinating Secretary rendering immense service to the country.

Sports was not the only field he could excel in, but also in other areas. Fresh milk available in the market was his

idea which he launched when he was the Deputy Chairman of the National Livestock Development Board in 2002-2004. Simultaneously he was the Working Director of the Fertilizer Corporation.

“He is a perfectionist,” says Badra. “And would complete each and every duty to the point. Also he is a very creative person. A well read writer and a speaker who can converse in any subject. He is a punctualist as well. He would do anything in no time. So quick! I’m of course, compared to him the opposite, and often get pulled up by him,” laughs Badra.

Question: What are the special qualities you see in him?

Badra: Short tempered, but could diminish his anger in no time, and also could win anybody at first glance. He eats little, but prefers good tasty stuff. He prefers to dress well and neat. Though he has plenty of friends at all levels, most of the time he spends his time with me. Sunil loves to help people. If somebody comes asking for his assistance, he would never say ‘no’. He loves his parents and looks after them well.

Question: Him as your husband?

Badra: I think I’m very lucky to have a husband like him. I’ve heard him saying to his friend that if he is to born again, it is me whom he will be marrying again (laughs). He is a caring husband.

Question: Future plans?

Badra: Sunil has made many national champs. Olympic champs Damayanthi Darsha, Rohan Pradeep Kumara, Mahesh Perera, Tania Wanhier and Ranga Wimalawansha; Common Wealth and Asian Games Champs Prasanna Amarasekara, Nayanthi Kumari, Ashoka Jayasundara, Rohitha Pushpakumara, Shivantha Weerasuriya, Pradeepa Herath and Sujani Buddhika are a few of whom he proudly acclaims as his own children.

At a count, there would be more than 1000 athletes (from outstation) whom he assisted in every aspect including economically and coaching for the past 40 years of his life. If he seeks out a clever athlete at school level he would go out of his way to stretch his hand to him/her to come up in life. That is Sunil. In order to extend his service, he is planning to start the first ever athletic academy in Sri Lanka, `The Sprint Academy’ next month.


From the Spouse's Mouth: Sunday Apr 27 2008

Her face was her fortune

Devika Mihirani talks about life with popular actor Wijaya Nandasiri:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Senerath and his wife are employees at the same institution. The company regulations require them not to disclose their marriage. Though their superiors are unaware, it is not a secret to their colleagues.

Senerath is a popular character among his fellow workers, but soon falls into trouble as his boss becomes infatuated over his wife. However, Senerath, a born shrewd craftsman uses his own agenda to protect his wife from the superior.

Question:Has he ever faced a similar problem in real life?

“No, no, not in the real life,” says Devika Mihirani laughing. Devika, not the wife of `Senerath’ of `Yes Boss’ that comes on `Sirasa TV’ every weekend, but of Wijaya Nandasiri and she gives life to this, the main role.

Wijaya was Prince Maname in `Maname’, the king in `Mahasara’ and Singhabahu at `Singhabahu’; all three celebrated dramas of veteran Dr. Ediriweera Sarathchandra, for more than 20 years continuously. He is the Minister at `Ethuma’ and Premachandra at `Nonavaruni-Mahathvaruni’, another two popular comedies on TV.

In the film `Sikuru Hathe’, he is the famous marriage match maker, Mangala Jaya. A well acclaimed actor, Wijaya Nandasiri has turned a new leaf in life from a serious actor to the “local Mr. Bean”, who apparently has become the present hero in all walks and age of life.

Question:How do you see him?

Devika: The best person in the world (laughs).

Devika, on the other hand claims to hold the record to be the main actress in the first TV teledrama telecast in Sri Lanka, and probably in Asia as well, the cherished soap opera, `Dimuthu Muthu’. Dr. D. B. Nihalsinghe’s first tele saw Devika appear with her charming face which will enthral viewers’ for many more decades.

`Nanda’, the role of the innocent pretty lass she played in this tele has been quite similar to her ownself in real life, which has not been changed even after two decades. Today though mature, Devika is still the charming, gorgeous, healthy and virtuous `Nanda’ whom we used to appreciate quite a lot.

Naullage Devika Mihirani Perera was born on March 21 to N. William Perera, a Jockey and a Steward and Kusum Perera of Kohuwala, Nugegoda. “I’m the third of the eight siblings. We have one brother and all the others are girls,” she says. Devika studied at Anula College, Nugegoda where she laid the foundation for her `Kala’ (arts) field.

“I learnt Kandyan dancing first with Mrs. Daya Nellampitiya and joined the dancing class conducted by Mr. Somadasa Niththavela at Sudarshi, Bullers Lane. It was the place I first met Wijaya. He was practising a drama in the adjoining hall. Our dancing hall was fully covered other than a few window holes. So, he and the other young actors used to look at us, the girls dancing, through these holes without our knowledge,” she laughs.

The pretty dancer who was in her eighteen stole his heart. But he decided not to jump the gun as he believed in following her up for sometime to find out who she really was. However the two got the opportunity to talk with each other during the interval at the canteen. “He was the one who suggested that I join the `Maname’ drama. I didn’t say a word as I intended to get the consent of my parents,” recalls Devika.

“I had a lovely childhood. All my family members were well united. Since our father was a jockey, we, the children got a rare opportunity of riding on horse back to school. He used to go for training in the morning and gave us a chance to come with him everyday. So, we used to get off near the school proudly. Other than that we were sent to school by a Buggy-cart.

Our parents were really protective. But, we enjoyed life. Even when we go for a film or to see `Vesak’ or anywhere else we used to go in a queue as there were ten members in the family including our parents. My father worked as a Steward in a ship as well. So, most of the time he was at sea. We were looked after well and were provided with everything. Ours was really a lovely childhood,” reminisces Devika.

Devika was just eighteen when she first joined the chorus in `Maname’. The offer for `Dimuthu Muthu’ came when she was about 21 years. Though she became the dream girl of so many young hearts through the tele which unfolded weekly, it was still a secret to many that her heart had already been stolen by Wijaya. Devika has been in the tele field for the past 20 years.

“After `Dimuthu Muthu’, I took part in `Rekha’, `Sulanga’ and `Sudu saha Kalu’. All of them were directed by D. B. Nihalsinghe and the screen play was by the late Dharmasri Munasinghe. All these were hits. `Sudu saha Kalu’ was the first and the last tele in which the celebrated actor and the King of the Sinhala filmdom, Gamini Fonseka took part. He played the role of my father.

It was a rare experience to work with a gigantic actor like him. We expected him to be uppish and haughty, but were really surprised over Gamini Aiya’s simplicity,” says Devika.

Devika won the best actress award and the Popular actress awards for her role in `Dimuthu Muthu’. In addition she was the Popular actress for three consequent years for her teles in 1980s.

Iluppitiya Mudiyanselage Wijaya Nandasiri was born on May 5 to Simon Silva, a Supervisor at the Food Control Department and Mable Senadira at Maharagama as the third of their seven children. Wijaya studied at Vidyakara Maha Vidyalaya, Maharagama.

Since the school days, Wijaya’s main forte has been for drama. When he took part in his first drama, `Viduru Diva’ directed by Amaradasa Jayatunga, Wijaya was just 14 years. He took part in Dayananda Gunewardene’s `Nari Bena’, `Jasaya saha Lenchina’ and `Kaamare Pore’ when he was 19 years old, and just out of school. “Wijaya is an all rounder in the field who has excelled in all three areas; acting, singing and dancing. You rarely find actors in this calibre. He has studied Kandyan, Bharatha and Western dancing and can get himself involved into any role. It’s a gift,” claims Devika. Wijaya learnt dancing under Shesha Palihakkara, Wasantha Kumara, Basil Mihiripenna, Chitrasena-Vajira, Somadasa Niththavela and Kamal Ratnasiri. Lionel Algama and Jayantha Aravinda were his music masters.

After his A/Ls in the Arts stream, Wijaya joined AirLanka as a Catering Officer, but simultaneously was involved in dramas. But, after five years he quit his job at AirLanka as he decided to dedicate his whole life to the performing arts. Wijaya won a few awards so far. But, the people’s award he has won, he says is the best even more than of the critics’ awards. The Government gifted him a plot of land at Mount Lavinia for the service he rendered to the drama field, for playing the Prince Maname in the stage drama `Maname’ for the past 27 years. Wijaya got the opportunity to take part in dramas under almost all the directors during the 1980s and 1990s. So far he has done 30-35 stage dramas, 30 films and 30-35 teles. `Kusa Pabavathi’, `Haaratha Rajina’, `Vrushabha Raaja’ and `Shri Gajabha’ have been the stage dramas he has produced, and they are still on the stage both in Sri Lanka as well as abroad.

Question:Is he the same jovial character in his normal life as well?

Devika: No. He is very silent and simple. It’s like two sides of the same coin. He maintains a moderate lifestyle. Very religious and never forgets to take `Gilanpasa Pooja’ to Abeysingharamaya, Maradana every Poya Day. Both he and I like to partake in meritorious deeds. That’s our passion.

Question:Your children?

Devika: Our daughter, Navaranjana Mihirani (18) and our son, Rasanjana Suchithra (14) are the two great gifts we have got. It’s a blessing to have children like them as they are really good. Our daughter is studying at Visakha Vidyalaya and our son is at Royal College. My son is a good drummer. Both my children can play music (organ and drums), sing, dance and act, just like their talented father (smiles). When we go for shows abroad, we take only six persons with us, so one person has to play two to three roles simultaneously. We have to do our own set, lighting, sound operating and make-up. It is our two children who help us in all this. They have a versatile knowledge and energy for all that even though they are still very young. It’s a blessing. We are really proud of them.

Question:Wijaya as a husband?

Devika: I cannot expect him to do anything at home as he cannot do even his own things without my help (smiles). We have no jealousy between us, and trust each other whole heatedly. We have a good family life and I believe it’s the greatest blessing I’ve got as a woman. I have been with my children since their birth and have never neglected my part as a mother. Ours is an united and loving family unit. We try to stick together whenever we could. Wijaya tries his best to come home whenever he gets time in between shooting. Acting is our job, but we have not complicated our personal lives with that. I believe, anyone can do wrong in silence, but your conscience will never let you be in peace. So, why do we have to suffer? It’s better to avoid doing wrong (smiles).

Question:Future dreams?

Devika: I’m a person who can get satisfied very easily. I like to help others, especially in sickness. My childhood dream was to become a doctor though my fate changed my path. But, I worked with the Red Cross for nearly 6 years doing a lot of hospital service and so on. So, still if somebody asks me I can find remedies for mild ailments. It’s an inborn gift I’ve got. I love to cook and enjoy others relishing my dishes. Wijaya has got a few offers to direct films. Since he is a hero of little children as well, he hopes to make a film which can be enjoyed by both the kids and adults. As a policy he doesn’t use double phrases or obscene language his dialogues whatever the role he plays. He believes that a comedy is for the whole family, and everybody including the smallest child of a family must be able to enjoy.


From the Spouse's Mouth = Sunday April 20 2008

 ‘His simplicity stole my heart’

Nuha talks of life with veteran men’s wear specialist Fauzul Hameed:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“His simplicity made me say `yes’ to him,” says Nuha, the smiling wife of Fauzul Hameed who still maintains his simplicity despite b RIZA SALIE, Son of late Usuff and Rahma Salie, beloved husband of Shereen, father of Ryhaana, Muhammadh, late Fathima and Sharmila, brother of Khair-un-nisa, Ameena, Farida, Tilly, Ysuff, late Khyre and Ahamed, expired on 8th April 2008. The Janaza took place at the Dehiwala Burial Ground on the same day. The family wishes to thank all those who extended their help and support. SO Apr 20 2008

eing the most popular and veteran men’s fashion designer in Sri Lanka cum Managing Director of the famous `Hameedias’.

Clad in his uniquely branded `FH’ shirt which was creaseless, and done exclusively for `him’, and a pair of black Denims, Fauzul posed for a photograph with his family for the `From the Spouse’s Mouth’ column.

The celebrated fashion consultant had to be advised to get himself into a more formal wear which he followed quite obediently thus proving his flexibility to adjust to any walk of situation in life.

The village boy who was born in Aluthgama, still feels the `pulse of the common people’ which has adequately helped him to cater to exclusive brands, with his unique talents, business instinct and vast cognizance that has streamed from his soul to international fashions.

`Le Bond’, `envoy’ and `Signature’ , the three brands introduced to the fashion market by this lilliputian designer managed to prove his colossal vision and the fortitude to battle with any fight in fashion both at local and international level.

His unquenching thirst to do something exquisite is the secret formula that has been adding to his success, elevating his family business to men’s top textile business in Sri Lanka. The Superbrands International rewarded `Hameedia’ with its best awards for the excellent performance in business in 2006, much to the pride to Mother Lanka.

Marikkar Raffeedeen Fauzul Hameed was born on March 26 as the third of three sons and three daughters of Alhaj Raffeedeen and Sithy Johoara Raffeedeen in Aluthgama. Fauzul who was a born mischievous lad, however showed his talents in fashions since he was a kid.

His never ending mischievousness made his Baba (his father) to decide to enter him to the Zahira College hostel in Colombo thinking it would help his second son to get disciplined. However, little Fauzul never let his in born energy to be shifted. Sports; soon became part of his life.

The school hostel life was providing him more opportunity to excel in sports. Cricket, Football and Hockey; all three sports he excelled and captained.

“He played Cricket for Moors Sports Club earlier. Football has been his passion and still is,” says Nuha recalling how Fauzul could end up playing one sport even for the National team. But, his Baba’s wish was to see all his sons to be in his family business. So, Fauzul let his Baba’s dream come true.

Fauzul entered Isipathana College for A/Ls in the Commerce stream. But, more than into studies Fauzul’s interest was moving into fashions. The trousers he wore with many strings, buckles and belts hanging won the highest surprising `crazy vote’ of his friends.

Fauzul was wondering what had happened to his four- five newly stitched trousers which he got done for himself especially for the `Big Match’ season. Once the Match was over the trousers were gone, too.

“Aney Machchan, those trousers are fantastic. You can get a new set stitched at your father’s tailor shop. Let us keep them,” would be the plea of his somewhat affluent school mates. In an era where uncommon fashionable clothes were rare the trousers which Fauzul got his tailor to sew for him were considered really unique.

Fauzul made friends with both Muslims and non Muslims. Some of his very close buddies are either Sinhalese or Hindus. He has been everybody’s `Machchaan’ since he was a teenager.

“He is quite liberal,” smiles Nuha zooming back to the past. “I first met him at Hotel Oberoi, at a function arranged for the models and fashion designers, somewhere in 1985. I was doing a bit of modelling at that time,” she laughs.

Fathima Nuha Navavi Hameed was born on August 9, as the second of two daughters and two sons of Sayed Navavi and Zoor Jahan. Nuha was an athlete and an extremely energetic teen who had leadership scopes in every aspect.

“I was in the A/L arts stream when I got the chance to join Air Lanka. It was my childhood dream as well. I modelled for Senaka Senanayaka for a short period. Later I joined Gulf Air and was based in Bahrain,” she continues.

Question: Is it somewhat surprising to hear that a pretty lass like you urged from an extremely orthodox community moved into such challenging professions?

Nuha: Hmmm... It was a challenge. Thanks to Allah for giving me the strength and providing me the chance, and thanks to my parents who were really broad minded over it. My mother once told that she would not have fear even to send me in the midst of thousand men.

She trusted me that much, and so I worked according to her wish. I was a Tom Boy, I would say, as I used to ride my Scooter as well. I was an Air Hostess from 1989 to 1994, until I got married (laughs).

Question: How long were you friendly with him?

Nuha: Believe me, nine and half years (laughs). We too faced the common problem from families as I was working as an Air Hostess. He had to struggle that long to get his parents’ consent. I’m proud to say that, by now I’m the best `daughter’ of my mother-in-law (laughs), and she is a gem of a person too.

The long episode of love in her life began hurting her so that she told Fauzul’s family to find a better bride for him as she thought she was not the correct partner they were seeking for him. Though sobbing deeply in her heart Nuha continued her work at Gulf Air in Bahrain.

She was going to end her nine and half years love... But, suddenly a telephone message from home was a turning point in her life. “Nuha, It seems your father’s condition is very critical. They expect you to go back to Sri Lanka soon as possible,” said her room mate. Nuha after confirming it with her mother, immediately took a flight down to Sri Lanka.

She was surprised to see Fauzul at the Air Port. He had come to fetch her home. Everything and everybody seemed calm and normal. And no `halu bulu’ was taking place as she expected. Even her Baba who was sneezing with a slight cold, looked perfectly alright.

“Nuha, darling, we’ve already arranged your wedding. This has dragged on too much. In three days time you’ll be a beautiful bride,” her Mama declared Nuha became stunned. Her bridal wardrobe including jewellery and wedding cards were lying beside her. “Why didn’t you inform me?” she asked. She wanted to plan her wedding with Fauzul. Then she made up her mind only to focus on to her profession. And now, all of a sudden something unexpected was taking place. Her dejection had made a great impact on both families. Everything was arranged even before she was asked to return home.

Cladd in an ill-fitting saree jacket and a off-white Kanjipuram saree which were stitched without her measurements, Nuha sat beside her ever green lover Fauzul on January 27 in 1994, and let her relatives carry on the wedding ceremony customs. “Other than pretty Nuha, Allah had no other `maid made’ for Fauzul,” thought Fauzul’s mother when giving her blessings to the new couple while wiping off a tear.

Two daughters, Najath (14) and Habiba (11) and the son Mikail (9) are the three angels Allah has blessed them with. “Fauzul was an extreme workaholic from 1985 to 1995. He was dedicated to his business and worked for 12 to 15 hours per day,” reminisces Nuha. Fauzul follows the foot steps of his ancestors. `Hameedia’ was first found by a paternal uncle of his father in 1924. Fauzul’s father who hailed from Beruwela took it over in 1949. (His mother is from Aluthgama). `Hameedia’s first shop on eight hundred Square Feet at No.58, Galle Road, Wellawatte, a property belongs to the Dutch Reformed Church at Wellawatte now stands as a place with historical value to their business. `Hameedia’ has now expanded to 15 branches Islandwide with a foreign branch at Spency Plaza, Chennai. The small outlet in UK is yet to be revived. So, `Hameedia’ is catching up not only the locals, but also in International fashion market as well. In addition, `Wrangler’, `adidas’, `Rugby’, `Lee’, Raymond’, VanHeusen’, `Arrow’ and `Louis Phillippe’ are the few affiliated international brands Hameedia deals with.

Poverty was the only qualification required to get a job under Fauzul’s Baba (father) whose generation still carrys the family custom by treating their subordinates well and with respect. Today the business consists the strength of 900 employees at their tailoring factories, sales outlets, designing and marketing divisions.

“He is confident of his local business. We have been the suppliers for the Sri Lankan Cricket Team over the past 20 years. Apart from that we had sponsored many clubs, Air Lines, shows, National leaders, top diplomats and film actors in tremendous numbers. We generally produce 200 coats per day. Fauzul has taken measurements of the First Citizen of this country from President Premadasa to the present President Mahinda Rajapaksa for their attire. He has given full suits free of charge to many National sports teams from time to time. In that way he has been rendering a great service to this country. But, he does not just take the credit only to himself, but to his whole team,” explains Nuha.

“Fauzul is a perfectionist with sharp eyes so that even a tiny dot would not escape from his `magnifying eyes’. Around 5,000-10,000 customers go for his unique designs done exclusively for each individual,” she claims. “Fauzul has divided his diary into many sections; Production, Designing, Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations cum Charity. He is very methodical and a perfectionist. He has a lot of creative ideas that gushes over,” says Nuha.

Fauzul who has done a few fashion designing courses, has been following many International workshops. His next step would be to follow a month course in `Fashion Architecture’ in the States. Fauzul would change any personality with his attire. He would make a man 10 years younger in his appearance. `Everything for men under one roof’ is his theme. `Clothes and True Gentleman’ would be the process, Fauzul hopes to get going next. “Most probably this service would be rendered as a package with his top buddie beauticians in the field. He believes that it’s a must at present, as many grooms spend through their nose for the wedding attire, but neglect their appearance. Unlike a bride who would be having facials one after the other from the day she is engaged, a groom rarely thinks about how he would look,” explains Nuha.

Question: Fauzul as a husband?

Nuha: Great! I’m very happy to be his wife. He is very tolerant and far thinking. But, business is his first wife and I’m the second wife (laughs). He is very concerned about our children, and it is his wish to bring them up in a moderate family background which we have come from. He let them move about with commoners as he believes the root of life lies there. Both charity and sports are his forte. He is the Chairman both at the Board of Governors and the OBA of Zahira College, Colombo.

Question: Hopes for the future?

Nuha: He is worried about our country. As top businessman he feels the devastation cause in the economical development due to 20-year-old on-going war. Like India, Fauzul wishes one day we would all get together and rise up as `one nation’, and would call ourselves not as Muslims, Hindus and Sinhalese, but only as `Sri Lankans’. He loves this country, and that’s why he tries his best to promote our own Sri Lankan brands in the international textile market.


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer Mar 30 3008

He stole her heart with A Kavi

Hemanthi talks of life with CDF Chief Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara:

"The `Verse' he writes for me is the most valuable gift my heart awaits to receive. More than the expensive gift he presents I value the few thoughts he pens for me which he has never fails to do for my birthday," says Hemanthi, the beloved wife of Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara, Director General of Civil Defence Force (CDF).

http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2008/03/30/z_p27-He0.jpg"I'm scared of his safety, and sometimes feel it would be better if he could be at home with me through out. But I know he is not only mine, but an asset to the whole nation. So, as every Service wife of this country I too pray for my husband, day and night," says Hemanthi.

Yes, indeed! The tremendous service that the servicemen like Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara has rendered to this country in many facets, is just tremendous. The dauntless steps Sarath has taken both as a Naval officer and an exceptional writer makes him unique.

While launching many incomparable Naval operations against the enemy- the LTTE; Sarath has done an extraordinary service as an acute critic of many issues affiliated with cinema. He has managed to obliterate many such lewd presentations which has been forwarded as `prodigious creations'.

"Sarath believes that strong steps should be taken to demolish the false attitudes of certain film directors and their supporters for trying to devastate the great name of our soldiers who sacrifice their lives for this country.

They even try to screen such films abroad. Once we happened to be in India and were invited for a special show of a certain Sinhala film subtitled in English. We were shocked to see what inaccurate things were featured.

The wife of a soldier also equally sacrifices her life, but in many of these films she has been degraded. In addition, there are some films which present unethical norms and values of the Sri Lankan culture.

There are things that we can talk about freely, but there are things we should not. Sarath believes that the destruction done by such so called 'great' film makers is greater than that of the LTTE, as through a film the reputation of a country could be slaughtered within a few hours when it is screened before an international audience," implies Hemanthi.

A soldier's life is always in danger and so as of a writer's. Especially a critic like Sarath who pens his bold thoughts frankly. Sarath has been trailing and sailing through both routes facing typhoons blowing in many directions. "Well, I'm a wife of a brave man who plays two dangerous games on behalf of the mother Lanka. I'm worried, but at the same time really proud for being the wife of such a man. He is a king and a god to me," says Hemanthi stirring with emotions.

http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2008/03/30/z_p27-He1.jpgRajapakse Mudiyanselage Hemanthi Ekanayaka was born on July 19 in 1956 to R.M. Podi Appuhamy Ekanayaka, a building constructor and Don Wijesekarage Seelawathi Dissanayaka. Hemanthi was one before the last of nine children of the Ekanayakas.

"I had three sisters and five brothers. We lived in Battaramulla which was a village area though close to Colombo. I first studied at Ananda Balika, Colombo and then entered Gothami for my A/Levels," she says.

Hemanthi grew up in a secured background full of affection and care in a Buddhist cultural atmosphere.

"The religious background I had during my childhood really helped me to mould my character and also to face life challenges including life threats with 'Upekka' (moderate thoughts). I was not into sports, but used to take part in school dramas. More than my father, my brothers were strict with us. So, as my love affair with Sarath grew since I was a teenager, I had to be very careful," she laughs.

Hemanthi was about fifteen years then. Once she was playing Badminton with her younger sister in her home compound when the shuttlecock flew on to the house roof. Since none of her brothers were available at that time, Hemanthi got on to the roof and threw the shuttlecock down.

http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2008/03/30/z_p27-He3.jpgThe house was adjoining a road, and she was shocked to see her timid classmate, Ramya with a tall guy walking along. Hemanthi laughed to herself imagining how Ramya could be caught for a `tasty bite' at school next day. So, on the following day, Hemanthi began the 'teasing' session. "No, he is not my boy friend, but my cousin brother, Sarath, an Anandian," said Ramya. However, Sarath who saw Hemanthi on the roof was ignited with the spark of love in his heart.

"It was my classmate, Manel who brought his love message to me. Manel, the matchmaker was our Bridesmaid too," laughs Hemanthi. The love message was wrapped and decorated with many 'Kavis' (verses) of his. Who would not get enticed to such flattery? So, this has been her first and will be her last love.

Both used go to the same school bus (Ananda- Ananda Balika) from Battaramulla to Maradana, and used to converse with their eyes. "He was a handsome guy. I felt so tiny before him, and was really shy. We used to 'see' each other at the temple, but rarely got a chance to exchange a word. When at the temple, he would come near, utter a word and quickly disappear as my people were all around me," she recalls.

Before the `love news' reached Hemanthi's place, Sarath's mother got it. Hemanthi was at Gothami when she got caught by her intended mother-in-law at the school premises. Mrs. Sumana Weerasekara was also a popular parent at Gothami as her daughters too studied at the same school.

She called Hemanthi under a Nuga tree, and inquired about the love affair with her son. Hemanthi who got cold feet denied at once. But, her mother-in-law was too smart. "I have spied on you a bit followed you to the bus halts to find out how you behave and so on," she said. However, Mrs.Weerasekara sounded quite positive about her to-be-daughter-in-law who was still a 'kid'.

Sarath Piyananda Weerasekara was born on October 29 in 1951 to a Chief Jailer, Mendis Weerasekara and Sumana Weerasekara, as the fourth of their six children (two sons and three daughters). The Weerasekara brothers were shining stars at Ananda College.

Major General Ananda Weerasekara who rendered a great service to the country with the Sri Lanka Army was a social worker for so many years, before he was ordained as Buddhangala Ananda Thera in May last year.

Sarath was a School Prefect, Cadet Sergeant, athlete (under 17- champion) and a representative of the National Youth Soccer team. Apart from that he excelled himself as a poet, writer, singer, musician and painter.

Sarath got through his A/Ls in the Maths stream, and was selected to the University in Physical Science. His desire to join the Forces became more intense as his elder brother (Ananda Weerasekara) was in the Army.

Sarath decided to join the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN). So, on August 1 in 1971, young Sarath Weerasekara signed at SLN to give his life for the gallant services to protect the sea border of mother Lanka. He got his first training at Naval and Maritime Academy, Trincomalee, and had gained training abroad including the Staff Course at the Naval Staff College in Rhode Island, USA and the National Defence Course at the National Defence College in New Delhi, India.

In 1990, Sarath was 'Sri Lanka Navy Ship Edithara' at sea at Velvatithurai, Jaffna when the vessel was attacked by three LTTE suicide boats. It was the first suicide attack a Navy vessel has ever faced in the history, which was vanquished successfully. Sarath was awarded the 'Rana Wiru Padakkama' Gallantry Medal for volunteering and landing troops at Pooneryn under heavy enemy resistance, who subsequently rescued his own men in 1993.

He was promoted to Rear Admiral on January 1, 2001. The biggest controversy he got himself involved was when he was the Commander Eastern Naval area in April, 2005. The incident was affiliated with the newly positioned Buddha statue in Trincomalee town which was being attacked by the LTTE terrorists.

The LTTE also launched a protest forcibly in the Trinco town by bringing down everything to standstill - closing down the shops, banks, schools, fuel stations and so on. The scenario continued for two days.

On the third day, though the area was not under his purview, Sarath took a drastic step to protect the Buddha statue by positioning Naval guard and then awakening the whole terrified dozing town back. If not for these actions the Buddha statue would have been destroyed and it could have led to another communal violence.

Immediately after this incident, Sarath was called back to Colombo and was appointed as the Deputy Chief of Staff of the SLN. He retired after serving the country for 35 years as the Chief of Staff of the SLN on October 29 in 2006.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara as the Director General of the CDF on May 4 in 2006. The CDF was earlier known as `Gramarakshaka Force' (started in 1985), and needed immediate revitalisation.

Captainising his novel vessel of duty, Sarath sailed his heart and soul strengthening the Civil Defence Force from 19,000 to 41,500. The new Captain encouraged his sailors by introducing a new uniform (that goes par with the other Forces) and gave them good weapons and training.

His vessel does not sail in the sea like when with the Navy, but around every nook and corner of the civil set up - remote villages, border villages, suburb and city. His cadre has been guarding the innocent civilians - Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims protecting them from heinous and monstrous attacks by the LTTE.

Apart from that the CDF is heading towards social and economic security of the threatened villages. With the advice of the Archaeological Department steps taken to protect archaeological sites of those areas.

Question: It seems he has no time for the family at all?

Hemanthi: Yes, of course! I really feel that as both our children are abroad at present. But I really appreciate his work.

Question: Let's zoom back to your love story.

Hemanthi: We got married on November 17 in 1978. Our function was held at Hotel Samudra (Taj Samudra). Sulochana, our daughter is now 28 years. She studied first at Sirimavo Bandaranaike and then at Visakha. Sulochana is a Speech Pathologist in the States, and studying for the PhD at California State University.

Our son, Sachithra became a Thabla Visharada at quite early age when at Ananda College. He is a third year medical student in Nepal. I miss my children, and prefer if they are near me, but console myself thinking of the betterment of their future. I love cooking and interior decor.

Apart from that I read a lot about Buddhism and believe in 'Kamma' and fate, and try my best to lead a virtuous life. I was an active member at the Navy Seva Vanitha from 1981 to 2006 and involved in social work fairly a lot. I hope to revive the CDF Seva Vanitha as well in the future.

Question: You accept Sarath is a national asset. How is he as a husband?

Hemanthi: Gentle giant, I would say. He is 5' 8" and I'm like a Liliput beside him. He has published three books so far (Noothana Paravi Sandeshaya, Sagaraya saha Gahaniya and Ven. Thotagamuwe Siri Rahula). He has included a lot of verses he has written for me in 'Sagaraya saha Gahaniya'. Anybody who reads them can get a good picture of how he feels about me (laughs).

We stayed in the Navy Bases in Trincomalee, Jaffna and Welisara. The best period we had when were in Trinco.

It was really enjoyable. Apart from that like other Service husbands, Sarath has also been away serving outstations and operational areas. Even now he is at home rarely. I still remember when our children were small, how he used to feed them reciting so many stories.


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer Mar 16, 2008

‘I was mesmerised with the music he played’

Malkanthi speaks of life with veteran musician Sanath Nandasiri:

Love sacrifices
Love is patient
Love gives in...

“Money, beauty and fame fade away. But not love. It would stay forever,” says singer Malkanthi. “We cannot say everybody is blessed to gain true love. But, if you can give in a lot and expect a little, then, one day you would win,” she hopes.


Pix: Kavindra Perera

“My love for him was not one at first sight; it was a respect in abundance; a grand feeling; enthralling. I was mesmerised with the music he played. And I thought he was an Indian. He looked like an Indian and spoke in Hindi with the others around him. I felt he was even pronouncing Sinhala words differently.

I was almost worshipping him. He was a giant and I was like a Liliput before him,” reminisces Malkanthi as she unwinds her love story and life with Prof.Sanath Nandasiri, veteran singer and musician who has been rendering a great service in the field of Aesthetic studies of the country.

Muthuthanthirige Ranjani Malkanthi Carmel Peiris was born on August 27 to Harrison and Regina Peiris at Nugegoda. Malkanthi was the oldest to a set of famous ‘singer-musician’ siblings; Kumar, Nirmala, Niranjala, Sakunthala and Manoj.

“My father, Harrison Peiris was a veteran journalist, famous writer and poet, and was the Chief Editor of the ‘Catholic Messenger’ for 35 years. Though Mummy was little strict with us, Daddy was like a saint. He was a brainy man with a lot of writing skills.

‘Selected Poems’, Boatman serenade of Kelani Ganga’ and ‘Serene Madona’ were some of the books he published. Lester James Peris, Chiththampalam and Cyril Gardiner of ‘Ceylon Theatres’, A. S. Machado and D.B.Dhanapala were some of his close acquaintances I remember,” she says.

“My maternal grand mother is a Persian lady. She was an English speaking Roman Catholic woman. My grandpa who was a ‘Maha Kalu Sinhalaya’ was working at an oil company in Persia. My mother was born in Baghdad. She said to be three months pregnant when she came down to Sri Lanka with her parents,” claims Malkanthi.

“Ours was a beautiful and adorable family with a strong Roman Catholic middle class background. Every evening we all used to go to the home altar and pray. After that Daddy would play his Accordion while Mummy played her Japanese Mandolin, and we used to sing hymns,” recalls Malkanthi.

“I studied at St.Joseph’s Convent, Nugegoda which was a branch of Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya. Since I wanted to do higher studies in the science stream Daddy enrolled me at St.Thomas’ College, Kotte, a mix school. After sitting for the HSC I was asked to teach at the school,” she says.

“I had a happy childhood. My teenage years were wonderful. And we too celebrated ‘Valentine’s Day’. On that day we used to pray for St.Valentine and go to bed without having dinner. We believed that this practice would let us give an opportunity to dream of our future partner. We even prayed to the saint for that. I too did it once. But you know what I dreamt of; a ‘Bothal Paththara Karaya’ (vendor who collects old and used stuff like bottles and newspapers),” she laughs.

“I could remember having a Kerosene oil fridge, Radiogram and Radio-Fusion at home..... Radiogram was placed at the Sitting room, covered with a cloth and we the children was not allowed to touch it. It was so luxurious at that time. The Radio-Fusion was fixed at the kitchen. We had to pay Rs,10 per month for its service given by Radio Ceylon (today, Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation -SLBC).

So, Mummy was a great fan of Sinhala music and was used to listen to this radio service from dawn to night. She knew my talent for singing, and when the Commercial Service was going to hold a singing completion - ‘Aadunika Peya’ (Amateur Hour), she encouraged me to apply for it. I was just 11 years old then,” recollects Malkanthi.

‘Oba Mage Suda’, a famous song of Rukmani Devi was the winning song of little Malkanthi. She won the competition. This opened her more opportunities at Radio Ceylon. ‘Jayagrahi Pelapaliya’ (Winning Parade) was held for those who won the competition, and they were expected to put new words to an old tune.

“Mummy composed a new song of the goodness of the mother to a famous tune. After I did the recording, Karunaratne Abeysekara and Sarath Wimalaweera who were there watching me asked my Mummy to send me to take part in the ‘Lama Mandapaya’ (children’s program). And that was the turning point in my life. Since then I took part in the children’s radio programs; dramas, songs and announcing until I was 17 years old. D.D.Danny and Thilakasiri Fernando were the music directors of these programs and I’m really grateful to all of them,” harks back Malkanthi.

Teenager Malkanthi entered the adults’ audition and became Super-grade artiste in radio drama and a Grade B singer (later she gained the Grade A category). Her talents in radio dramas drew the attention of Sarath Wimalaweera who was as well producing stage dramas. Malkanthi’s first performance on the stage was ‘Ulkapatha Daval Heena’. Along with that she got offers for ten dramas. “I went right around the country with our drama team. My brother Kumar used to go along with me,” she recollects.

Malkanthi’s siblings too followed her footsteps. Nirmala Ranatunga and Niranjala Sarojini earned fame as singers. Sakunthala works at Veritas Radio in Manila and Manoj Peiris is one of the best Thabla players in Sri Lanka. Kumar has taken a separate line and is a painter.

Meanwhile Sarath Wimalaweera arranged a Vesak stage drama, and Malkanthi was asked to take part in dubbing and to sing four Buddhist songs. “I was told that an Indian had come for music direction. I went for practices. I was enticed... I would say....the music I heard from him was very different. I was a teen who loved Elvis Presley, Jim Reeves, Cliff Rishard and Natking Code. I, a crazy cow used to light a candle to Elvis’ portrait on his birthday after his death. But, the moment I heard ‘his’ music something drastically happened....and I wanted to live with that music the rest of my life,” she recollects enthusiastically. And so she did.

Sanath Nandasiri had just returned from Bhathkanda Music College, Lucknow, India after six years, with double degrees - two ‘Visharadas’ in vocal and Thabla. He has been the third and the most junior to hold it in Sri Lanka. W.D.Amaradeva and P.V.Nandasiri were the other two of the same. And the record of these three is still unbreakable.

Sanath was really happy about the performance of the teenage beauty who later became the Industrial Queen at the Industrial Exhibition held at the Race Course. However, the two got the opportunity to meet each other often as Sanath was the Music Director of many of Sarath Wimalaweera’s stage dramas in which Malkanthi took part playing many roles. “I was a heavy reader; mainly love stories, and was dying to know what was happening in other countries. This drew me close to Sanath Aiya as he began to recite a lot of his experiences in India. I used to sit beside him when we were travelling and listened to him as a little girl. And after a few weeks he got his first appointment as a music teacher at Uhana Maha Vidyalaya, Ampara. So, when he came to Colombo during the weekend we used to meet at the SLBC. He used to talk a lot. I was a good listener. First he talked about his six years’ stay in India, and later all about himself, his family, his first love affair which was a failure. But, still I did not realise what was happening between us,” she smiles.

One day, Malkanthi returned home after a picnic. The Tom Boy who was clad in a pair of Jeans and a hat and humming a tune, got astonished and devastated when she read the Telegram that was sent from Ampara; ‘Sanath met with accident. Now at hospital’... Malkanthi flung her hat and ran behind the almirah and started howling and crying. Her mother who was shocked started reprimanding her. “Why are you worried so much?” asked her mother. “But, Daddy was understanding and consoling, and asked me to call and find out from Sanath Aiya’s cousin next morning,” she smiles.

After a long sleepless night Malkanthi ran out to ring the cousin. But, none of his family members seemed to be known about it. When Malkanthi returned from the telephone booth, she was amazed to see Sanath at her doorstep beaming.

Malkanthi started to howl again as she couldn’t bear up the pleasant surprise. It was Sanath’s room mate’s joke on April First.

However, this incident opened the doors wide in her heart. She was troubled when she her colleagues at the SLBC teased her coupling she and Sanath. “Aiya, I feel embarrassed over it,” one day she said to Sanath. “So, what? How would it really happen?” he looked into her eyes.

Herath Mudiyanselage Sanath Nandasiri was the third of five in the family was born to a popular building contractor family of H.M.W.Perera and Amalin Katugampala at Gothatuwa. Sanath studied in the Sinhala medium at Gothatuwa Maha Vidyalaya at morning hours and in English medium at St.Mathews’s College in the afternoon simultaneously. After his HSC, Sanath wanted either to join the Police or go to India to learn music. His parents who never wanted their son in the security forces permitted him to go to India.

His childhood dream came true. “He believes, ‘India mean music’ and nothing else. When he first saw the board of ‘Lucknow Music College’ he had worshipped it with great respect before he entered. He was a great fan of Ustad Ahmed Thirakva, the great Tablist. When he first saw him in India he had felt as if he had seen the God,” says Malkanthi.

The news of his love affair with a Roman Catholic radio artiste reached his home in a very short time. “His younger sister and brother were my fans of the children’s radio programs and were very helpful.

But we had to wait patiently for three to four years until his parents and older siblings gave their consent. But, we won our ‘Prema Tharangaya’ finally. However, that few years helped us to get mature and we learnt a lot about each other,” she laughs. Sanath and Malkanthi tied the knot on December 18 in 1971. “We had three Receptions; wedding at Hotel Taj Samudra, Home Coming at his place and another function at our place. This is because under Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s Government there was a rule that only 250-275 guests could be invited per function. That was why we had to break ours to three functions for our nearly 1000 guests,” she smiles.

Prof. Sanath Nandasiri has been in the University of Aesthetic Studies for the past 35 years. He was the Dean of the faculty for sometime.

At present he is the Senior Professor of the place contributing a great service for the younger generation. He contested Kotte under the UNP ticket in year 2001. It added a new experience to our lives as we could meet and move with different set of people,” says Malkanthi.

Question: Sanath Nandasiri has earned fame both in Sri Lanka and abroad. How’s married life with him?

Malkanthi: He is a perfectionist. He used to be very silent, and I used to love his ‘silence’. But now I’ve noticed a change in him as he talks a bit more than before. Sometimes a bit harsh as well (smiles). He is loved by his students as he is dedicated in his duties. He declares music his life. He gives me all what I want, and I assume I’m a blessed wife in many ways. But sometimes there were times I had to give in especially when at decision making.

Question: At the end tell us about your future plans.

Malkanthi: We are hoping to release a CD with Buddhist songs in May. And waiting to see our two children (daughter and son-in-law) back with us.


From the Spouse's Mouth Sunday Observer Mar 9 2008

'We were made for each other'

Mela speaks of life with parliamentarian Ravi Karunanayake

Love doesn't boast

Love doesn't hurt

Love doesn't possess

* * *

Love is humble

Love is polite

Love is patient

And such love is beautiful....

And that was why Ravi and Mela could tie the knot even after 19 years, which seemed to be the longest love affair of a Parliamentarian in Sri Lankan history. Some give a maximum period of three years only for a relationship as they assume it gets stale and stagnated once it goes beyond that, time.

"I met him at a cricket match. He was the Wicket Keeper," laughs Mela. Well, he knows the game and that's how he has managed to save all his wickets; his MP ticket, his business and his love for her. Leaning against a cosy sofa at their residence which is radiates elegance, love and happiness; and situated at the Rajamalwatte Mawatha adjoining the road that runs to the Parliament at Sri Jayawardenapura, Mela begins to reveal her life with her hubby, former Minister and present MP of Kotte, Ravi Karunanayake.

"My intended brother-in-law (who was then the boy friend of my sister) was playing cricket for Royal College. She wanted to see him playing at a match at Kotmale. My mother who didn't want to send my sister alone sent me as well with her. Even before, this had been a practice. Ravi and I used to bump into each other, and were quite friendly. However, he says he was determined to carry on our friendship at the cricket match," she says.

Question: You two might have been quite young?

Mela: Yes, in our teens....Oh! don't write all that (says with embarrassment).

Question: Why not? It's a rare occasion in the life of a distinguished personality.

Mela: Oh...Ok..! I don't know....(smiles). I had a long hair. And he says he fell for that (laughs). We just exchanged our telephone numbers and that was all.

Merene Wiranthi Akbar (Mela) was born on October 20 to her Malay parents Ilfan and Bistia, the second of their four daughters. Mela had her education at St. Lawrence Convent, Wellawatte and then at Milagiriya St. Pauls, Colombo.

Question: Tell us a bit about your school activities and childhood.

Mela: Onella (calling her daughter), what does grandma say about your mom darling?

Onella: Grandma says my mom was the naughtiest of all the four.

Mela: You've already got the answer, haven't you? (laughs). Well, we were residing at Dehiwala and Kohuwela. I was engaged in a lot of sports. I was playing athletics and basketball, and anything that was sports connected I was involved in. I was known to be one of the most mischievous one at school..

Mela comes from a closely knit family especially with her sisters. She claims they are still together. "It's a blessing. Once a brother gets married he tends to move a away, but sisters are not. That's why I always wanted daughters. Even when I've asked Ravi about it he says the same. I'm happy to be gifted with three daughters," claims Mela.

The young mischievous beauty who stole the heart of the young cricketer developed another major interest. And that was for hairdressing. All her sisters and cousins enjoyed free hairstyles from her. Knowing her flamboyant gifted talent, Mela's home people arranged her to follow a Diploma in hairdressing in Hongkong. After O/Ls, hairdressing became her pastime as well as her career. Her 'Mela's' Salon at Flower Road, Colombo was a famous spot with many.

To win a man, the first attraction in a woman is beauty or pleasantness. Secondly the good qualities should par with his. The third and the most important thing is that to maintain the relationship the her ability to fill his tummy with delicacies. And so, she has this all. "Not only me, all my sisters too can cook well," says Mela smiling and blushing all the time.

Ravindra Sandresh Karunanayake was born on February 19 to his planter parents Tissa and Carmi Karunanayake.

Ravi had his education, first at St.Thomas' Prep, Kollupitiya and then entered Royal College, Colombo. "That's why he doesn't cheer neither of the sides at the Big Match as he is an Old Boy of both schools," butts in Mela.

After his father's death which occurred when he was 12 years, it was his mother who took the burden of bringing up him and his brother, Saliya. She worked for the President's Secretariat and was Incharge of the House Keeping of the President's House during the time of both Presidents J.R. Jayawardene and R. Premadasa.

Ravi was doing his A/L in the Commerce stream. The subjects he was studying were Economics, Geography, Commerce and Finance and Accounts through which he began to explore the world. His distant relative, late politician Lalith Athulathmudali was the main inspiration that drew him to Sri Lankan politics. Eventually, Lalith Athulathmudali became his idol, and. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher are among his icons. Since then young Ravi got involved in many political campaigns of Lalith. In 1988 and 1989, Ravi was in active politics and helped Lalith to win his seat in Colombo District. In 1991, ten MPs including Lalith and Gamini Dissanayake left the UNP (United National Party) Government headed by President R. Premadasa and formed the DUNF (Democratic United National Front).

When Lalith was assassinated in April 1993, his wife Srimani Athulathmudali took over. And then Gamini Dissanayake re-joined the UNP. Srimani along with the

'DUNF-Lalith Front' joined the People's Alliance under Chandrika Kumaratunga at the General Election in 1994.

In the election two MPs in the national lists were given to the DUNF, and that was the time buoyant young Ravi Karunanayake received his ticket to enter the Parliament of Sri Lanka. Kesaralal Gunesekara was the other DUNF MP who got appointed along with Ravi.

In 1996, Srimani was removed from the Cabinet by President Chandrika Kumaratunga, and simultaneously Srimani and her party had a dispute over the affiliation to the Government. Ravi was more towards the UNP, and as a result Srimani sacked him from the DUNF-Lalith Front. However, through a court order, Ravi was able to became an Independent MP in 1998-1999. With the dissolution of Parliament in 1999, he joined the UNP, and became the organiser of Kotte. He won the Kotte seat with 425,000 votes. In the General Election held in the year 2001, Ravi became the Minister of Trade, Commerce and Consumer Affairs. Along with the fall of the government in the year 2004, the UNP lost the portfolio, but Ravi has remained as a Member of Parliamentarian till today. His radiant personality as a politician won him the 'Young Politician of the Year' awarded by the Jaycees International in the year 2000.

Question: Having an affair continuously with a guy for nearly twenty years is a record.

Mela: We were together through out. Though we had minor differences, we postponed getting married to see whether we are made for each other and also to find out whether we need each other really. I was there with him even when he went to Delmege. He is a Chartered Accountant by profession. And later, we started our own Freight Forwarding business. Finally, we got engaged in January 16 in 1988, and had our wedding on January 20 the next year.

Co-incidentally, both Ravi's mother and grand mother also had their weddings on the same day at the same venue - Galle Face Hotel, Colombo.

Question: You were very careful when commenting on things.

Mela: Well, once we had to go through a gruesome period due to his politics. The harassments were immense. They might have indirectly affected our children as well. I would like to say something, all what we've earned (including this house) we earned before he was actively involved in politics.

Question: Do you fear for him in active politics?

Mela: That's the nature of politics. Now I have him more at home. When he was the Minister it was an unending rat -race, one after the other, and we hardly had time to breathe. And all the business matters were on me. At present I feel bit relaxed as he has time for them as well. However, Ravi is not a person who drinks or smokes. That is the greatest thing I admire in him. He has not got in to any illicit involvements either. Politics is his only passion. So, how can I ask him not to do politics, it's quite unfair by him. But, at the beginning, yes, I did oppose. But, later I knew his passion to work for people. He loves this country, and always wants to do some kind of service. And he thinks politics would provide him a good stage for that.

Question: Ravi, as a hubby?

Mela: Generous and virtuous. He does get angry, but that is for few seconds. Neither of us can stay without talking to each other. He never keeps anger with him. (laughs). He is a good husband and a good father as well. An extremely a family man I would say. He loves to cuddle his daughters and would play with them the whole day if time permits. He would be there at every Parents' Day Meeting, sports meet, athlete meet and any school function of our daughters. Even during his busy schedules when he was a Minister he never missed them. The Principal of the school also has commented on that. He loves his children, and would go to town with them. Also he is a father with orthodox ideas. It was all my idea to send our children to an International school, and not his. He is jovial and friendly, and would help anybody that would tread his path asking for help. And there were times that this quality has given him trouble as well (laughs).

Question: Any possessive attitudes?

Mela: We were quite possessive over each other before. But, once you get mature you tend to think differently, don't you? We don't hide anything from each other and would openly discuss it if there's a problem. If you are honest with each other you don't have to be scared. You get married to a person because you love him/her, don't you? We move around as a family and we maintain the family bond. I also work hard at home, looking after the business during his absence and back up work connected with his politics. I do all that with great enthusiasm. We love to go abroad and that would be the time I see him really relaxing, as otherwise if he is at home most of the time he would be on the phone. He is a perfectionist, and likes to be extremely prim and proper. Even when we are going abroad it is he who packs the bags. And I agree with my family people who say I'm spoilt by him (laughs). He too helps out at the house chores, by giving his ideas in decorating the house and even doing marketing with me.

Question: Tell us a bit about your children?

Mela: We have three daughters; Onella(16), Shenella (9) and Minella (7). Their father wanted their names also to rhyme as their mother's ,'Mela' (laughs). All my girls go to the Colombo International School and are quite studious and good at sports.

Question: Many have crossed over from the UNP to the Government. What would be your husband's agenda?

Mela: (Pause and thought for a while) We have friends of both parties. Some are personal friends. But, politics is politics. Ravi thinks our people should believe in credible policies and not in incredible policies. And he always says he is a principle politician. I would approve and assist whatever the decision he takes (smiles).

Pix: Kavindra Perera


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer Mar 2 2008

Sports 'sported' their love affair

Badra speaks of life with athlete Sriyani Dhammika Menike:

It was around 5.00 a.m. of a day in mid or late 1980s. A teenager was jogging along a by-road of Walahanduwa behind a push-cycle proceeding before her. Sometime the stray dogs who used to wake up with the dawn would follow the two figures that were moving briskly. So the cyclist had an extra duty of chasing them away as well.


Badra Seneviratne
Pix: Chinthaka Kumarasinghe

The teenager was on practice for a forth coming inter-school running event. The cyclist was her father. He was proceeding along with his daughter as the sun had not risen and the darkness prevailed.

Many years later, that father with his wife (her mother) shed tears when their daughter broke the Sri Lankan record for 1500m at the SAF Games in 1991, and 800m at Barcelona Olympics held in Spain in 1992.

The record of 1500m belonged to her until last November. But, she still holds the 800m record which has not been beaten nor broken for the past 16 years. Sriyani Dhammika Menike is the Lotus flower that bloomed in the sports field from an under-privileged background and spread its fragrance all over. Badra Seneviratne, her husband discloses a few events in her life which were not mentioned before but yet are memorable.

"It was 1991. I met Sriyani first at the International Grounds, Galle. I was captaining Nomads Cricket Club and was at a match. It was the time for warming up, a few moments before the match.

Somebody brought me a newspaper and showed me an article of Sriyani Dhammika Menike who had received a sum of money to repair her house from the then Prime Minister, R. Premadasa. The person who brought the paper article pointed at a girl there and said,' 'Badie, she is the girl,' begins Badra.

"Dhammi was there at the same ground at running practices. I thought of having a word with her. She was a pleasant girl. She said she would be coming to the Torrington sports complex hostel to further her practises within a few days time. I told her to call me if she needs any help as I was also in and out of the premises," says Badra.


On their wedding day

So, the duo used to bump into each other often at the Torrington grounds. After about two weeks Dhammika went to Malaysia to attend a meet. "I gave a few dollars and asked her to bring something from Malaysia if possible. So, as she got off from her flight on her return, she gave me a call from the Katunayake Air Port. That time I felt she was developing some interest in me," reminisces Badra.

Question: How do you feel about her?

Badra: I thought it's always better to have a girl who knows the bitter side of life. Dhammi has come up in life through hardships and difficulties. So, did I. My father died when I was 14 years.

There are four in my family including my elder brother, my twin brother and younger sister. And it was my mother who looked after us facing many difficulties.

Badra de Silva Seneviratne was born on September 5 in 1964 at Hirimbura, Galle, to Henry de Silva Seneviratne, Rubber Surveyor and Mallika Luvina. Though his mother first worked as an English teacher, she later quit as she decided to be a full-time mother and housewife. Bad fortune fell on their nest with his father's death.

Their lives which were once full of benevolence seemed fallen apart. "My mother decided to work as a supervisor at a Garment Factory as she had no other choice. I can remember paddling the push cycle keeping her on the front bar of the cycle around 5.00 am, and then bringing her back late in the night after her shift duties.

We all faced difficulties. But my mother never got discouraged, and was a pillar that stood tall giving shelter under her umbrella. She lived according to the Dhamma, and was a very kind-hearted person. Her qualities might have made us also to follow the correct path," he says.

"My eldest brother and sister realised that destiny was in our own hands and so we went into higher education. My eldest brother is an Electronic Engineer and my sister is a Computer Analyst. Both live in Australia with our mother.

We are very happy to see her doing well now. Even at present she is involved in religious activities in Australia. Every year, she goes to India with her friends on pilgrimage," says Badra with a lot of emotions that was pouring out from his soul emerged with gratitude towards his mother.

"But however, my twin brother (who is today a Quality Controller in a prominent private company), and I were very mischievous, and always lent towards the sports. I was an athlete and took part in many circuit meets when I was in school both at St.Aloysius College, Galle, Methodist High School, Moratuwa and Prince of Wales, Moratuwa. Cricket was my forte out of all, and continued it through out up to club level. I captained Nomads from 1991 to 1996," says Badra.


Dhammika with the kids

"After O/Ls I decided to find a job and for a short time I worked at Amico Industries, and then got an appointment as a Sports Officer at the Colombo Municipality in 1988. I worked as a District Coach as well. I was very happy as I could help many schoolchildren who needed help in the sports line through my appointments in the sports field.

So, in 2002, Bandula Warnapura asked me to take up an appointment as the Venue Co-ordinator of the Cricket Board. So I did, and have been continuing it to date," says Badra.

Muhandiramlage Don Sriyani Dhammika Menike was born on February 3 in 1970, the eldest child of M.D.Premasiri and P.K.Nandani. She has a younger brother and a sister.

Dhammika had her education at Upananda Maha Vidyalaya, Walahanduwa. She has captained every sport event that took place at school; Swimming, Netball, Volleyball, Elle and even the village cricket team... After sitting for the A/Ls in the Commerce stream she devoted herself full time to sports.

She has participated in over 30 International meets including the 800m event at Barcelona in 1992, for which she still holds the unbeaten record. In recognition of her talents, the Sri Lankan Government offered her with an honorary title of 'Deshashakthi' last year.

Question: Both of you are in sports associated. I think it's wonderful when both are in the same field?

Badra: Yes, we know everybody connected in the sports field since I moved into club cricket. We have common friends.

We got married on July 28 in 1993. And now we are parents of four kids - two sons; Nadun(11) and Senuda(9) and twin daughters(5); Methara and Sethara. Our eldest son is already in the under 13 cricket team at St.Sebestian College, Moratuwa. Dhammika is now retired from active sports, and is working as a Banking Assistant in the Hatton National Bank for the past 10 years.

Question: Especial qualities you see in her?

Badra: She is extremely courageous and frank. She has a good command of the language is able give relevant speeches when she attend functions as the chief guest and so on.

I'm very happy that I married her as she is the best suitable woman for me (laughs). It's not a joke because I always believe that it's easy to get along with a partner who has common interests and a similar background.

Both she and I faced hardships when we were youngsters, but we were brought up with love and kindness. So, we both raise our children also according to that theory though our kids are luckier with many privileges than when we were of that age.

Badra who is nicknamed as Badhie, can be seen attending to all the in-house matters once a Cricket match is on.

A Venue-Coordinator's duty is immense though the spectators not the viewers who see Cricket through the TV camera eye would never realise it. People like Badie play a great role in that way behind the screens to keep our Cricket on international standard.

Charity is Badra's forte, and would strech a helping hand to anybody at any hour.

Question: Let me ask something as a final question. Well, what are the pastimes of both of you?

Badra: I like singing. My favourite song is Milton Mallawarachchi's...

'Oba dan keewath Kandulu sala

Mata Aadarai kiya..

Hitha giya thanakata thuruluwela

Manike novenu mula...'

Question: Oh! your wife name is also 'Manike', is that right? So ....?

Badra: You want to know whether the song and she have any connection? (laughs) ..No...No.. I just like it. I like Milton's and Jothi's songs a lot.Dhammi likes gardening, swimming and designing handicrafts.

We both love to go for a jogging early in the morning at the Tyronne Fernando Grounds, Moratuwa. We do it at least four days in the week as it keep us healthy.

Question: Hope you have no problems from stray dogs as it happened when Dhammika was practising at her village when she was a teenager.

Badra: Certainly not (laughs)... But, sometimes when jogging, she reminisces, the hard times she went through. But all that have turned to happy memories in her life. If you have the will and devotion, the victory is not that far.


 

From the Spouse's Mouth: Sunday Observer Feb 24 2008

 'A long and contended life'

Preethi speaks of life with veteran actor Ravindra Randeniya:

"Things never went wrong!" declares Preethi. "I never thought he would marry me," she continues. "Even after he came to my place and proposed, my mother thought he would leave me and go soon.


Pix: Chinthaka Kumarasinghe

She used to give me examples from the society where handsome playful rich young men had dumped damsels like hot potatoes when they found another. My mother had little faith in him. She thought he would leave me sometime after the marriage.

She never had any personal grudge with him and always liked him, but was really scared about it as he came from a popular rich business high class background, and we, compared to them were lower middle class family with little means. But, things never went wrong!" she repeats enthusiastically.

"A woman might stay with her parents a few years more than twenty, and would spend rest of her life with her husband. So, eventually when you stay that long together, you tend to strengthen your bond with that party.

People have ups and downs in their lives, and assess their past years as 'good', 'ok' , 'bad' or 'worst'. I stayed with my parents only for twenty years, and have been with 'Ravi' for thirty three years, and I will declare that I've have had a wonderful time.

I'm proud to be his wife," Preethi laughs continuously. Living with a popular actor or actress for that long leading a contended life is 'not that easy'. But we rarely find such spouses; like Preethi, the proud and happy wife of one of our popular and leading actors, Ravindra Randeniya.

Preethi Pramila Seneviratne was born on June 2 in 1954. When I (the writer) asked whether it was ok to publish their age, she went on to say, "Never mind, many know our age. We are adults with three grown up children."

Question: But, generally actors and actresses hide their age.

Preethi: Why hide now? (laughs continuously)

Preethi was the 'Lucky Seventh' of the nine children in her family. Her mother Enid was a housewife and her father Leonard Seneviratne was working at 'Ceylon Theatres'. And that means she has had some connection to the cinema.

"Our family consisted of six brothers and three sisters. We were living down Dharmarama Road, Ratmalana, and had our education at Dharmarama Vidyalaya, Ratmalana.

We had an extremely free life during our childhood. The environment of that area was soothing and we used to be part of it quite often. The sea was just down about 50 yards away.

There was a coconut grove along the beach and we used to play hide and seek there. Today, after 20-30 years when we pass that area, it is shocking to see the change; as it's all packed with buildings. The whole area has become a concrete jungle.

Now, none of our family members live there. And I feel really sad when I recall the happy past memories," reminisces Preethi.

Question: Tell us about your school days.

Preethi: Hmm... I was more on the studious side, and rarely attended to any extra activity when I was schooling. Since ours was a big family we had a lot of things to do at home. We used to have dramas and musical concerts at home.

Our mother was a very fair and pretty lady full of energy and benevolence. She was so active until her last breath. She spent her autumn of her life with me and died three years back (says Preethi with tears in her eyes).

It was she who kept all of us, the siblings together. And we are still the same, living as one family. Even Ravindra's sisters and brothers are also very united. I'm very happy and fortunate to be part of two such families.

Preethi had just finished her O/Ls when her cousin, popular singer, Lakshman Wijesekara spotted her talent. "Lakshman Aiya who saw me staging dramas at home asked me to take up the role of the 'Gama Duwa' (village damsel) in 'Nari Bena', the stage drama.

So I went for the interview with the director Dayananda Gunewardane, along with my mother and Lakshman Aiya. The rehearsals of 'Sailasana' had been taking place at the same venue. Popular actress, Chandra Kaluarachchi who saw me there asked Lakshman Aiya to ask me to join me their drama troupe as there was a vacancy for the role of the daughter of 'Shakkra' (the king of heaven).

And I stepped as the Shakkraya's daughter (laughs). It was my first performance," she recalls. However, since the production of 'Nari Bena' got delayed and by the time it was on stage Preethi had already bid farewell to acting.

Tissa Abeysekara's documentary, 'Sahan Eliya' was her second appearance. Mean while, Sumithra Peris selected her for her famous film, 'Gehenu Lamai'. Simultaneously, Lester James Peris was directing 'Desa Nisa' film at Galigamuwa.

So he asked Preethi to act a small role in it as a rehearsal to face the cameras. Even at the auspicious time it was Preethi's face that was taken as the first shot of the film. The famous director might have assumed that the 17 year old damsel would bring luck to his newest film. Yes, it did. And not only to him but also to the main actor of the film, Ravindra Randeniya.

"It was Ravi's second film. (His first film was 'Kalu Diya Dahara'). Shriyani Amarasena and Joe Abeywickrema played the other two main roles. I read an article which appeared in 'Sarasaviya', the film weekly, of an interview with Lester who had praised Ravindra, his newest introduction to the cinema.

So I was wanting to see this new guy. I finished my part in the film and was to go back home in another days' time. When I told Shriyani Akka that I like to see the new actor, she said 'Aiyo, Nangi, you are going to miss his as he would reach here in two three days time. You would be already gone by that time.'

So, I just thought ok. But, unexpectedly, after ten minutes Ravi reached the location. He was scheduled to come later, but something had made him to come early. So, Shriyani Akka at once announced him aloud to me. I was so embarrassed and didn't come out of the room the whole day even for meals.

The following day, Ravindra, himself peeped into our room and inquired about the new girl who was waiting to see him. I was so shy at first, but later began to talk to him," she recalls.

Though Ravindra promised to visit her place, Preethi never dreamt to see him at her doorstep. She didn't even bother to give him her address. His arrival was a sheer surprise! 'Duhulu Malak' was the very next film in which both Ravindra and Preethi got the chance to take part.

Preethi played the role of the private secretary of Ravindra. She had to paly the role of the girl who was interested in her boss (Ravindra) and was spying the clandestine affair between him and his mistress (Nita Fernando).

While Ravindra was playing a love scene with Nita Fernando before the film camera, the real love scene of Ravindra-Preethi was building up behind the camera. Ravindra and Preethi tied the knot at All Saints' Church, Borella on October 31, 1974.

Boniface Perera was born on June 5 in 1954. Kelaniya, Dalugama is his home town. Popular businessman, L.P.Perera at Dalugama, Kelaniya and Caroline were his parents. Boniface was the second of the six in his family.

Though he studied in the science stream at St. Benedicts' College, Kotahena his heart and soul was with arts. His father always wanted his studious son, to be a doctor. After sitting for the A/Ls, Boniface just joined the drama workshop of Dhamma Jagoda for fun, but it changed his life completely. And that was how the to-be 'Doctor' became an 'Actor'...

Now, who is this Boniface Perera? A few veterans including Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra decided to change his name to suit the Sinhala cinema screen. And since then, Boniface Perera became 'Ravindra Randeniya', whose name has made a mark in history not only in cinema, but also in politics.

The number of awards Ravindra had won for his talented performances in the silver screen are countless. More than anything the award he won from the public is exceptionally exorbitant. Ravindra is a well versed person who would talk about many subjects including art and culture, cinema and international politics.

He was first invited to compete for the Mahara seat under the UNP ticket during President R. Premadasa's era. "He didn't accept it as the late Vijaya Kumaratunga was also competing for the same seat from the People's Front party.

Vijaya and Ravi had been very good friends since their school days. They were class mates at St.Benedict's. Both of them stepped into the cinema also together, and both came to politics simultaneously," says Preethi. Ravindra accepted the same offer and won the Mahara seat during Ranil Wickremesinghe's Prime Ministership in the beginning of this Millennium. Ravindra was a MP for a period of four years.

Question: Did you like him entering politics?

Preethi: Actually, no.. Even our children didn't like the idea as we all thought the fame he built up through his talent in the cinema is more valuable than being in politics. In fact we thought it would harm his identity as an actor too.

But he wanted to be in politics. So, all of us including our families, and even everybody in the cinema helped him to acquire what he wanted. But, later he decided on his own to move out from active politics a bit. But he has always said that if he is given a duty he would render his utmost service. He wants to work for people.

Question: Last week he was appointed as the President's Advisor for Cinema by the President Mahinda Rajapaksa. So, he has scope for the future in this sense?

Preethi: Yes. He is very happy about it. And I personally think he got the right subject to handle as he is well versatile in it, both by his own experience and by reading.

Question: You revealed to us your romance which is also like a film. How is he as a husband, and what is it like being a wife of a popular actor?

Preethi: He asked me to quit from cinema. I had to do it. I never cried over it as when both of us were busy going out for filming for months it would have been a hell at home, with no proper family life. He was very protective, and he never took his eyes off me when we went out for functions.

I was just out of my 'teenage', and he was nine years older than me. So, I was scared of him (laughs).. Also I've never heard bad rumours about him. Ravi has a personality which many tend to interpret as being proud.

At the beginning I used to get bored and really jealous when he was out from home for months. It was terrible as I came from a large family, and I felt caged in all of a sudden.

Also I missed him so much, so I used to nag him often. But later realised the mode of his busy job. And both his and my families have been there for us through out. Even his absence didn't affect me that much, especially when looking after our three children.

Ravi came from a strict Catholic background, and I was a Buddhist. I never thought his mother and family would give their consent to our marriage. And Ravi's only request for me was to convert myself to his religion. And his family did like me. How all these happened I don't know. I think it's fate.

Today, he worships in his shrine room upstairs, and I do my religious activities according to Buddhism in my shrine area downstairs. We celebrate both festivals; the Feast, Christmas, Aluth Avurudu .... All the members of both families love to gather at our place.

Question: Your children..?

Preethi: My husband is a very lucky person, I would say... I've noticed that if he needs something he would somehow get it. He is a policy man and self disciplinarian. He was strict with his children when they were small which was a great help for me. Our two sons Suchindra Rishi and Sameera Marawarana were born in 1975 and 1980 respectively, and our daughter, Umayangana Indrachapa was born in 1982.

Our elder son got married last year, and all our children are in Australia. The second and the third are still studying. All three mastered in Management. So we are very proud of them (smiles with tears).

When she talks about something sensitive, Preethi gets really emotional. This might have helped her to develop her poetic talent. She has published nearly 15 books, mainly for children of poems.

"I used to recite stories to my children when I was feeding them when they were small. So they used to ask me to write and keep them to read when they were big. That is why later I put my stories in print (smiles).

Question: Your future hopes?

Preethi: Quite contended. And no sky browsing hopes. Would like to see our children doing well, and also to live happily and in harmony with everybody.


 

From the Spouse's Mouth: Sunday Observer Feb 17 2008

Music and drama brought them together

Charitha talks about life with singer Edward Jayakody:

****

'Ahas gange tharu keta gane
Polothale weli keta gane
Nilsayure rala pela gane
Aadarai man aadarai.....'

The number of stars in the sky,
The number of sand molecules in the earth
And the number of waves that emerge in the ocean
Are uncountable...
Likewise, my darling,
I have no words to express my love to you,
As it is so great, grand and wonderful ......

****

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk



Charitha Priyadarshini Peiris

Many readers know it's all about Edward and Charitha, not merely seeing their pictures on the page, but when your eyes catch the beautiful verse, which expresses her benevolent, worldly love and compassion towards her husband.

So much to talk about Edward and Charitha... "Well?" begins Charitha leaning against a cosy chair in her spacious living room which is occupied by her students who come to learn music during the weekends. "Little busy these days as I'm registering new students to my 'Seri Sara' music monastery which is for those who want to learn music and do exams.

The 'Rasa Vindana' class which I conduct for music enthusiasts in any walk of life has no age limit. Anybody who likes to have voice training is welcomed," says Charitha who got through her 'Visharada' exam last year.

Charitha begins to talk. People are blessed with many things. And most of them are gifted with one single thing. But Charitha's story is different as she is blessed with many; beauty and brains, wit and a melodious voice.

"I'm Charitha Priyadarshini Peiris," she laughs. "And I was born on October 19 in 1967;" she has no intention of hiding her age. "I'm getting grey. But I'm not worried. It's a sign of maturity," she says. But I (the writer) personally feels she still leads. "No...no... both Edward and I lead a very normal, simple and down-to-earth life," she smiles.

Charitha still lives at her birth place at Mirihana, Nugegoda adjoining the Mirihana Police Grounds, which is the ancestral home of her mother Pushpa Wijeratne. "My mother died in 2001 after a brief illness. It's a great void," she sighs. Charitha's father, Ariyadasa Peiris was also one time a famous radio artiste who had introduced many young, up and coming singers to the nation. And Edward Jayakody was also one such young singer who stepped into the field through these programmes.

Charitha is the youngest of the family. Her sister, Malika was never interested in stepping into the field of arts. Nor did their father Ariyadasa like the idea when Charitha showed interest in becoming an announcer.

But even when she was at school at Anula Vidyalaya, Nugegoda, not a single school ceremony passed without it been compered by Charitha. "Hmm... school days were fabulous. Our class was one of the best classes in the grade comprising nine senior prefects and students with aesthetic talent.

Even Deepika Priyadarshani Peiris who has been among the top singers in Sri Lanka was also in our class. Ours was a very united class. Even if we saw somebody in a bad mood, we would crack a joke to make her smile. I studied Kandyan dancing under Mrs. Daya Nellampitiya and Christine Dissanayake at school. But I took part in musical programmes through out. I was in the Eastern band and played almost all the instruments. I did guiding and netball..hmm.. that's all," she says.

"The biggest mistake I did in my life was deciding to do Bio science for my A/Ls. My father wanted me to become a doctor and never liked me stepping into the field of art. But since 1984, I have been getting involved with programmes the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation.

It was my father's younger brother, Jayantha Peiris who gave me a helping hand to enter SLBC. And my mother was also with me through out encouraging me. So after A/Ls I joined SLBC full time. 'Sonduru Sevena' in 1985, was my first programme.

I lent a voice cut for. It was a live programme. I became a Relief Announcer in 1994, a News Reader in 1995 and then a Drama Artiste after a few years. I studied music under Edward and then under late Victor B. Perera and passed the SLBC test as a 'Grade A' singer as well," she reminisces.

Charitha has been conducting the lottery programme 'Shanida Vaasanava' for the Development Lotteries Board and has been at ITN for the past 21 years. "When I started it I was just 19 years old. Apart from that I presented 'Kala Rasanga', a weekly news in the arts field with Francis Wanniarachchi on ITN. At present I present 'Mathakaye Randunu Gee' on Saturday from 3.00 to 4.00 pm, and 'Eda Api Dutu Chithrapatayakin' on Sunday at 4.30 pm.," she says.

"Dalmalamu Api Eka Iti Pahanak" composed by Pushpa Ramlani and the melody by Charitha was sung by more than 100 popular female singers in Sri Lanka - both young and old on the International Women's Day in 1998. And since then this song is the theme song of the International Women's Day up to day.

Question: How did you meet Edward?

Charitha: He is from Hettimulla, Kegalle. His first music teacher Mr.H. Samarapala at Bandaranaike Central College, Hettimulla was known to my father. So they used to visit our place, and my father used to help Edward to sing in his radio programmes and we became family friends in no time. So, I don't know how it happened, we fell in love even without our knowledge.

Edward Thimothi Jayakody was born to Victoria and Don Rafial Jayakody at Hettimulla. There were seven in his family. Edward studied at Bandaranaike Central College, Nugawela Central College and St. Mary's College, Kegalle.

He did Commerce for his A/Ls although he was studying music privately. Edward entered the Aesthetic University attached to the University of Kelaniya and passed out with Honours. He obtained a 'Visharada' in music. With all this Edward has mastered many modes of music including Indian classics, western and local Sinhala village folk, which is an extremely rare opportunity a musician would get.

Edward's elder sister, Charlotte and her husband helped him in a great way to up in music. He was just 14 years when he first stepped in to Radio Ceylon (SLBC). Since then Edward took part in numerous musical programmes at the SLBC and subsequently became a 'Grade A' singer.

He worked as the music teacher at Nalanda Vidyalaya,Colombo, Gurukula Vidyalaya, Kelaniya and as a Circuit Education Officer attached to the Education Ministry. Today, he is the Education Director-Music at the Ministry of Education. Apart from that he is the member of the National Music Council and the Intellectual Property Council. He was the President of the All Ceylon Singers' Association for a long time.

Though many do not know both Edward and Charitha are into acting. Charitha had taken part in small roles in a few tele-drama while Edward had taken part in about ten stage dramas like 'Angara ganga gala basi', 'Sekkuwa' and 'Nari Bena'... He won the Best Supporting Actor Award at the Youth Drama Festival for his role in the stage drama 'Muhandiram Haamuduruwo' directed by Premalal Gange in 1977. He had also won the best music director awards at many State Drama Festivals.

Question: Edward as a husband?

Charitha: Sober and quiet personality. He rarely gets angry, but once he gets it , he takes time to cool down. He has come from the village, and is very contended about his present position.

One way that's a weak point as well, because he rarely initiates a thing of his own. Even when he loses an award after being nominated, he would just ignore it. He is self content. Edward always says he has been helped by everybody whom he has encountered in his life. He is very grateful to everyone of them.

Question: What do you look forward to in the future?

Charitha: We don't have very high aspirations. Our son Chandeepa is in Grade -9 and daughter Sharanya is in Grade 3 at the Lyceum International School, Nugegoda. Our son was the Best Supporting Actor at Jerome de Silva's 'Oliver Twist' stage drama staged at Lionel Wendt in 2006.

Our daughter took part in Somaratne Dissanayaka's newest film 'Siri Raja Siri' which will be released shortly. Both of them took part in Udayakantha Warnakulasuriya's film 'Hiri Poda Vessa'. Both are talented, and we would help and bless them to choose whatever path they want to excel in life.

Apart from that we are quite content with what we have. I'm a Buddhist and he is a Catholic, hailing from a very orthodox and flexible family background. All his siblings got married to Buddhists.

At first, though my mother liked him, my father took time to give his consent to our marriage due to religious differences, but later everything went on well. My children mainly follow Buddhism, but we all go to the temple and church, and celebrate both Wesak and Christmas.

If I'm told to ask for something from God, I would say 'I would not' as I am, blessed with many things. What else should I ask for. We are not very rich people, but a family who loves yet happy. That's all that matters.


From the Spouse's Mouth: Sunday Observer Feb 10 2008

A star studded career

From the spouse's mouth  by Lakmal Welabada Sprint queen Damayanthi Darsha speaks of life with Eranda:

Medals and trophies stand in a corner
PT tracks and sneakers
are having a rest at last...
A rack of baby clothes - tiny nappies and frocks
swaying in the breeze, which also carries
the sweet smell of baby cologne across the place.
A cry of a baby that blends with her 'milky' smell
gives evidence of someone's motherhood...
See, how she's enjoying all this,
'Ampara Express' is relishing a break from sprints...
Coz she has become a mother
of a cute baby girl
the best trophy or the medal
she has ever got throughout her life...

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk

Damayanthi Darsha alias 'Ampara Express' bid fare well to one episode of her life, athletics. It was almost a year since she decided to retire from active sports. How is she?

Her fans would like to know the latest news of Darsha. Her newly built house at Battaramulla was once filled only with trophies and medals.

The rack filled with nappies and tiny pink frocks, and the baby smell that spread all over gave evidence that Darsha has become a mom.... While she was busy attending to her one month old baby daughter, her hubby Eranda welcomed us. "Darsha would render her assistance in many other ways in the sports field as possibly as she could," Eranda opens the discussion.

Sixteen years in sports marks her athletic history in Sri Lanka. Darsha came to the field when she was about 14-15 years winning school level trophies, and proceeded to international level bringing fame and honour to Sri Lanka.

One cannot continue sports for a very long time as strength and energy is decided by age as well. Darsha also had a slight ailment in her knee and ankle from time to time. "But she could have continued. She is a person who wants to give her best to what she does.

Even during the time when she was afflicted with limb ailments, and happened to be at an event abroad she never failed to 'run'. She knew she would lose, but self boycotting was something that she hated. She always tried to do the best she could do," explains Eranda. "Sports was her life.

And I was part of it too, as I considered it was my duty. We were married for four and half years, and after sometime, more than me it was she who wanted to start a family soon. All these reasons made her to quit," explains Eranda.

Darsha, in many of her interviews she had gave a lot of credit to her mom for being the wind behind her through out her life. And after her marriage, her hubby, Eranda Heshan Siriwardhana no doubt has been part and parcel of her life.

Eranda was born on February 28 (he refrained from revealing the year) to Gratien Sririwardhana, a post master and Rupa Siriwardhana, a teacher as the youngest to a sister. "We are from Badulla. I first went to Meegaha Kivula Junior School up to grade 5 and then entered the Central College, Badulla," says Eranda.

Though he didn't pursue sports as well, like his wife, Eranda earned a name for sports during his school days. Volleyball, the National game of Sri Lanka was his forte and he took part in the all island running events in 200m and so on. "Cricket was my favourite," he butts in.

Of course, it's extremely rare to find a Sri Lankan boy who has not played cricket even with his neighbours.. "I was quite boisterous when I was small. Once when I was about 14 years we were playing cricket at the school play ground we lost the tennis ball.

My friend and I decided to get one. But on our way we met with an accident. I fell down on my face and my teeth dislodged from my gums. It was horrible. The biggest misfortune I've ever had.

My parents were very upset, and I had to be treated for about one year to get my teeth back to its proper place in the gums," he laughs. Eranda's cute smile no doubt has enthraled Darsha, out of all her fans and admirers.

Question: How did you first meet Darsha?

Eranda: A bit of a long story. After sitting for A/Ls in the Commerce stream I came to Colombo to stay with my elder sister who was then married to Harijan Ratnayaka, the 400m Hurdle... record breaker of Sri Lanka in 1994-2003. I started following an IT course and an English Diploma. It was somewhere in 1999-2000.

My sister was working at the Ministry of Public Administration which was at Torrington. And simultaneously my brother-in-law was either practicing or coaching athletes at the Torrington Grounds. When I had free time, the only thing I did was to be at the grounds watching them practising. Not merely Darsha, but almost everybody who was in track events became my friends. Darsha and I were good friends for a long time.

Eranda after following the particular courses decided to start a small motor spare parts business in 2003. Darsha and many of his other track field pals started phoning him to get his advice over spare parts for their vehicles. Darsha was also among them. "We were just friends and later became lovers," he laughs.

"It just happened," he emphasises. Komala Vithanage Damayanthi Darsha was born in Panadura, her mother's home town. But when she was about 4-5 years, her whole family went to stay at Ampara as her father found work there. There she started her sports skills. And that's how Darsha was named 'Ampara Express'. Her father, K. V. Ananda was a heavy vehicle driver and her mother Shriyalatha was the unshaken pillar of Darsha success and her younger sister and younger brother.

Darsha came back to Panadura and entered Panadura Balika Vidyalaya in which she started shinning as a sports star. Her PT teacher Mrs. Sangha Jayasekara was the first to recognise Darsha's inborn talent for sports.

"Mr. Sunil Gunewardhane was Dharsha's coach ever since she stepped into the field until she bid farewell. Former Minister, S. B. Dissanayaka gave his heart and soul for sports when he was the Sports Minister and introduced the method for sportsmen and women to continue their sports activities while attending to their job.

It's a sort of sponsorship for them as then they do get a lot of free time to pursue their sports career while getting a monthly salary. It's a great help also when they retire from sports.

They have a path to pursue without any hinderance," says Eranda. Darsha was first attached to Yashoda Enterprises and then joined PanAsia. At present she is the Human Resources Executive of Unischela of Mass Holdings. "We should give the credit line to Dian Gomez, Managing Director of Mass Holdings for giving a helping hand to many sportsmen and women in Sri Lanka," claims Eranda.

Ladies College, Colombo was seeking students good in sports during that time opened its doors to Darsha when she was in grade 9 in 1990. And this was a great help for Darsha as she could attend to her practices easily.

Ladies College rendered a great support for her by letting her going for practices in time. She was excused from the first two periods of the Time Table and was given leave for her meets. Darsha was just 16 years when she won her first new record in 100 m gaining the Gold Medal at 1st SAF Games in 1991. In the same year she won the Asian Junior Championship in 100m.

To date her records in SAF Games in 100m, 200m and 400m, and in Asian Games in 200m and 400m have not been broken. She created history as the only Sri Lankan athlete who took part in the highest number of National as well as International level sports events. Her own records were broken and re-recorded continuously more than 60 times through out her life with sports.

Question: Is that all about her career? Would like to know a bit about her personal life as well?

Eranda: Darsha is extremely courageous woman. She rarely gets upset. Also she is very punctual and would finish a job then and there. I have never seen her postponing her work to another day. She never grumbles of tiredness or laziness, and is energetic and active, like a queen bee.

Question: How is life with a sportswoman?

Eranda: Great! But, it's full of sacrifices. People see an athlete only when she or he is on the track. But a few know the sweat and tears they shed to gain that energy and speed. If one neglects one day practice that pushes him/her backward for a week. It's a matter of constant practice. You have to away from everything.

Darsha couldn't even attend her grand mother's funeral as she had a meet on that day. So simultaneously the athlete cannot pursue a full time married life along with his/her full time career.

Being their spouses we have to understand this situation otherwise we won't be able to sustain a good marriage. We got married on June 28 in 2003. It was a small function with only 30-40 guests. The relatives on both sides were invited.

Both of us love entertainment. But do not like big functions. We thought on the one hand it was a waste of money, and on the other hand we had so many to invite. So, we decided to have a simple wedding on a very low key.

But, whenever we get a chance we throw small get-togethers with our friends, and would relax playing a bit of music and singing songs. Darsha's farewell function held last year was grand, as we invited everybody connected in her sports life. It was memorable.

Question: The best quality you see in her?

Eranda: She never gets angry! She's as cool as a cucumber.

Question: Your future hopes and ambitions?

Eranda: Our daughter, Esandi Mihansa is our biggest hope. And to lead a peaceful and contented married life.


From the Spouse's Mouth: Sat  Feb 16, 2008

Happy 60th B'day 16th February 1948
Fazli Sameer The King Of My Heart

 
As you touch 60!!! my feelings as you can see,
Is, and will always be the one and only man for me.
And looking back through the decades,
Oh those wonderful days, I am really amazed
at you my shiny angelic of just past nineteen.
And I was well past a marvel seventeen.
I gaze into the years that our hearts did dwell,
Which still lingers on into our lives that is swell.
Through the clouded days that we did brave,
Bright shoots of everlasting love did engrave.
You cast the flower of peace and sweet love,
Glorified my life a precious gift from heaven above.
My shinning armor to my hearts delight,
Filling my memory with a world of starlight.
Your my living golden lamps by whose light,
Victory I saw and still see in your sight.
Wondrous life we and many wholesome hours,
A love that cannot be measured by any tall towers.
And with tears of pleasure I now do resign,
With the Silvery hair on your head that I proudly find.
The strong love which does deliciously bind,
Keeps echoing your love for me in my ageing mind.
Richer than all the kings of the world, oh yes indeed!
You crown my life with all what I have and ever did need!!

Fathima Shirani Sameer nee Ibrahim


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer Jan 27 2008

'He is unique, that's why I love him'

Samadara speaks of life with Thilanga Sumathipala:

'Sri Lanka Cricket', 'Telecom', 'Mobitel', Sumathi Group of Companies, Remand Prison and now in Politics ....oops...what a web, all woven around one man...? Exciting, as people like him, of course quite rare and unique. "He is unique.

That's why I love him. Marrying Thilanga is the best thing that happened to me," claims Samadara Samamala Wimalaratne Sumathipala, wife of Thilanga Sumathipala, one of the most dynamic men in the business field, the cricket board and politics.

Helping myself to a delicious piece of butter cake made by her, I began my interview at their residence at Punchi Borella. Samadara began to recollect the past. "It was a proposal. And I was just 18 years. He was eight years senior.

Well, when I saw him, I thought he was the right man though my parents didn't insist on it," she smiles. "It was the first proposal brought for both of us," she claims. "I wanted to get to know him. So we did for about two years and then got married on June 11 in 1992," says Samadara.

Samadara is the youngest of two brothers and the daughter of Victor and Chandra Wimalaratne, a third generation of famous 'ice cream businessmen' - Alerics. "Aleric Wimalaratne was my paternal grand father. My brothers are abroad since their early twenties, and now the business is run by my father's younger brother," she says.

"My father died three years ago of a stroke. Thatha held on until Thilanga came home from the Remand prison. He loved his son-in-law that much. Everybody was shocked and Thatha couldn't bear Thilanga's situation which occurred as a result of internal politics.

When Thilanga was in the Remand prison we used to hide the newspapers in order to keep Thatha away from gathering news about Thilanga. He died two weeks after Thilanga came home. Thilanga returned after a five and half month term in the Remand Prison. During this time he was admitted to the National Hospital twice for treatment for a back pain ailment," she recollects.

Samadara studied at the Overseas Children's School up to Grade 6, as her parents were planning to settle down abroad. But, they changed their mind and decided to stay back. Along with that Samadara had to change schools too. Her conservative parents wanted her to grow up in a more orthodox background. "I was sent to Visakha Vidyalaya.


Pix : Chinthaka Kumarasinghe

Changing the medium of studies put me in trouble, but I managed somehow as I was a quick learner. However, I was not allowed to do any extra circular activities at school as most of it was held after school. It was a great set back for me as Visakha had many extra curricular activities. Though I protested about this to my mother at that time, today looking back I think it was 'o.k.' Parents do things in the best interest of their children," she says.

After O/Ls Samadara did a one year Diploma Course in Home Science. The delicious pieces of cakes she served me was evidence of her expertise in the field. And then it was a case of getting married. Her new life with Thilanga has been full of excitement as she is married to a dynamic man.

Uduwatuwage Janapriya Thilanga Sumathipala was born on May 3, 1964 to U.W.Sumathipala and Milina Sumathipala whose family business was first in jewellery and secondly in sporting race.

His closely knitted family consists of five sisters and two brothers including himself. "His family has been a blessing to us in good times and in bad. His brother has been like a father especially during the crisis we went through," says Samadara.

Thilanga was the most boisterous of the Sumathipala children. His mother didn't know that her 14-year-old son had been pushing the car (parked in the garage) out into the corner of the lane in order to avoid her hearing him start it. And then he would drive off which he later mischievously confessed after many years. "That was Thilanga," laughs Samadara.

Cricket, chess and swimming were Thilanga's forte. Out of them cricket gave him the highest scores. He was the Vice Captain of the Nalanda Cricket team from 1981 to 1983. The team was selected as the Best School's Cricket team in 1983.

Though Thilanga fared well at school cricket he had little intention of pursuing it. Instead, he stepped into family business. Roshan Mahanama, Asanka Gurusinghe and Gamini Wickramasinghe were his school team mates who later represented national cricket.

Thilanga was the President of the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka from 1997-1998, 2000-2001 and 2003-2004; Director of the International Cricket Council in 1998-2000; President of the Asian Cricket Council in 1997-1998 and Chairman of the Asian Cricket Committee in 2000-2001.

Thilanga headed the launch of the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka's new logo and name change as 'Sri Lanka Cricket' in 2004. Leading the development of the Rangiri Dambulla International Cricket Stadium and completing the stadium in 167 days were some of the targets he achieved.

"Cricket was his life. He put his heart and soul to it. But....," pauses Samadara. "I feel peaceful now as the phase he went through due to his passion for cricket was too much. He even ended up in Remand for an alleged racket over sending somebody abroad through the Cricket Board.

I personally feel everything was set through jealousy to sabotage his success. It was not only he who suffered, but the whole family. He never let his mother, sisters, kids or me see him in jail. It was only his brother and brother-in-law who visited him. We only saw him when he was admitted to the National Hospital, Colombo," stresses Samadara.

After sitting for the A/Ls in the Commerce stream at Nalanda College, Colombo, Thilanga went to UK to follow a Diploma in printing. Later, he enhanced his horizons entering many institutions of higher studies in Sri Lanka, USA and Japan.

Thilanga has put all that with his inborn talent into business intuitions and thus became the Managing Director of the Sumathi Group of Companies, one of the largest private corporate groups in Sri Lanka - Sumathi Global Consolidated, Sumathi Book Printing, Sumathi Publishers, Sumathi Films, Great Wall Restaurant, ISP Lanka, Sumathi Trading, Sumathi Sports and Lifeserve.... Thilanga is the Chairman of Napco, a company specialising in large scale printing operations with an emphasis on telephone directories, BPO Services, a company specialising in medical transcription as well as a call centre.

He is one of the Directors of the Ingrin Institute of Printing and Graphics and Hotel Hilltop, Kandy. Thilanga chaired two telecommunication companies, Sri Lanka Telecom and Mobitel (Pvt) Ltd from 2002 to 2004.

Question: He has been handling many positions. The above stated were the most prominent jobs among many others. How did he find time and energy for all that?

Samadara: He is a very enthusiastic person. He loves to work. He has faith in his ability and is over confident by nature.

Question: What kind of support does he expect from you, and how is he as a husband?

Samadara: I mainly look after the home front. Our three boys keep me occupied through out the day. Udantha is 14 years, Dulantha and Sajantha are 10 and 8. They go to Royal College. Thilanga wants the boys to mingle with people of all walks of life. He is worried about our security. He is cautious. He doesn't like to see me even driving.

If I take the wheel in an emergency, he would remain silent. He knows I cannot be without talking all the time. That's how he shows his anger. He does get angry when things are not in order.

With the boys he is strict when required. Unlike with me, they just want the father to say whether something should be done or not. They are very obedient. Thilanga is very close to the children. Amidst his busy schedule he makes it a point to spend time with the family too. He stays in his office upstairs at home two days of the week.

The other two days he goes to the office at Sumathi Court, Bambalapitiya (Great Wall Restaurant). He spends another day at Sumathi Publishers at Grandpas. He is available at Napco during the weekend.

However, neither he nor any other family member misses the lunch at their mother's place on Sunday. I don't physically get involved in his business. But, I give him my fullest support as I believe, a wife should back her husband always.

Question: Your mother-in-law, Milina Sumathipala is a prominent figure in society who has been in business and social service work. If we talk about your family life she too plays a great role.

Samadara: Very true. She is a straight forward woman, and I like that quality a lot. Thilanga was 14 years when his father died. Since then, it was his mother who had raised the family and the business.

This is their ancestral home. Amma was with us quite for sometime, and there she built another place close by and decided to move. I didn't like the idea, but she insisted that she should have her own place. She has been instrumental in the children's success and the pillar of success of the family business.

She is quite an open minded person. A lot of people have asked me how I get on with her as she looks tough. I say 'I have never had so called 'problems' with her though we stayed under one roof for a long time'.

Question: Is there any other especial quality you would like to highlight? Samadara: Thilanga is really good in the spoken word, which I'm not (laughs). He can express himself very well. I have a strong belief that he won't do wrong. Even if he makes a mistake he takes others' advice. He handles things very well.

He is far sighted. A lot of people in many walks society seek his advice and opinion all the time. He is really good at it. He is target-oriented and works hard until he achieves his goals.

Even when Muralitharan was sidelined over his bowling technique while Arjuna was the Captain of the Sri Lanka team, it was Thilanga who fought back with the Australians and arranged medical tests and certificates for Murali and even got the lawyers to handle the case. He gets devoted to whatever he does. But I feel sad when he is pushed around.

Question: Him getting into politics?

Samadara: Hmmm.... that's the very thing I'm not that keen on him doing. But whatever he does he gets my blessings and support. I respects his views. Also I think he has good leadership qualities, so whatever he puts his hands to he will be successful especially politics. But, still it's a risk to be a politician nowadays.

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk


From the Spouse's Mouth - Jan 20 2008

True love lasts forever

From the Spouse's mouth by Lakmal Welabada Chrishanthi speaks of life with STF Commandant DIG Nimal Lewke:

"He was a Sub Inspector under my father who was In-Charge of the Police Field Force Headquarters, Bambalapititya. He was a Rugby player, and we used to go to see him playing. I was just a young teen girl then," Chrishanthi recalls the sweet memory lane of her romance with her hubby DIG Nimal Lewke, Commandant, Special Task Force (STF).

 


Pix: Chinthaka Kumarasinghe

"He just joined the Police and was about 22 years. Both he and we were living in the same quarters complex. So I used to cut across the complex and would pass through the Police Mess every morning to go to school. Sometimes it was a case of him standing at the balcony and looking at us. Also when I used to go to play netball at the Police grounds, he used to come and practise somewhere around there. I knew he was interested in me," smiles Chrishanthi.

Nimal would have already known about Chrishanthi. But still he had not exchanged a word with her. However much the desire prompting him he was a bit away since her father was the top man in the place. But one day, he caught an opportunity and managed to talk to her outside the Mess.

It was about something in general. Both his and her friends were around. But those few words lead them to a long journey inclusive of an eight and half years of a love affair and a 25-years of married life.

Chrishanthi Valerie Silva was born on August 21 in 1961 to the Chief Inspector of Police S.L.Silva and Pamela Valerie, Administrative Secretary at GTZ. Chrishanthi was the eldest to two brothers and two sisters. "My mother was from Kandy. So I studied at Hillwood College, Kandy both as a hosteller and a day scholar.

My grandfather, Dr. Ferdinand was an eye surgeon in Kandy. For schooling purposes I had to stay behind in Kandy with my grandparents. I was there up to grade 6. I studied in the English medium and with Bandaranaike's Government's policy, all the schools were converted only into Sinhala.

With my father's transfer we came down to Colombo in 1971. At that time, only St. Paul's, Milagiriya and Lindsay School were allowed to teach in the English medium. So, I entered to St. Paul's," she says.

At school, Chrishanthi showed her leadership and monitoring capabilities by being the Senior Prefect and the House Game Captain excelling in Netball, athletics and Hockey. "I was never into art and drama, but into music a lot. I learnt the piano and organ and also was in the school choir. I had a beautiful care free life," she recollects.

Chrishanthi was a studious. Her ambition was to join the Law College and be a top lawyer. She had all the mental and physical strength and capability. But most of everything lies on one's fate. Just after the A/Ls Chrishanthi's mother was keen in sending her to Finco Group of Companies owned by a relative of hers.

Though her mother intended her to stay there until she got her A/L results, destiny changed everything. Chrishanthi who started her life as a trainee at Personal and Administration decided to continue there going against the wishes of her parents.

"I stayed there over 5 to 6 years. I didn't want to leave the job because by that time I was independent. And then got married on December 29 in 1982," she says. Nimal Saddatissa Lewke was born on October 15 in 1951 in Kandy to Dr. Syrus Gurusinghe Lewke, General Medical Practitioner and Leeladevi Bandaranaike.

Nimal was one before the last in his family of three daughters and three sons. After completing his studies at St. Sylvesters College, Kandy, Nimal joined the Police as a Sub Inspector.

Nimal was a good boxer who had boxed for the school as well as at the National level. He started playing Rugby after he joined the Police. Nimal captained the Police Rugby team and was a Sri Lankan player as well until 1981. Presently he is the President of the Sri Lanka Rugby Union.

"I married him when he was an Inspector of Police (IP). He had to wait for that long as I was too young to get married. Ours was a 10 year gap. My parents who were really disheartened over my adamant decision to continue to work without taking up higher studies, tried many excuses in order to put Nimal off.

Not that they had anything against him, but they had better ideas for me," says Chrishanthi. "Nimal also had a lot of problems as he was from a Kandyan family. My father was a Sinhala Buddhist and my mother was a Burger.

All Nimal's family were arranged marriages and his was the only love affair in the family. His father was dead and his sisters and mother were bringing various proposals for him," she smiles. "He was his mother's pet. And I must tell you something that my mother-in-law was very nice to me," she recalls.

The outside world sees only the glamour that sometimes surrounds Forces' families. Rarely does one observe the plight and the struggle a Forces' wife goes through. Chrishanthi too had her share of problems.

"When the North and East War started Ravi Jayewardene (son of the former President J. R. Jayewardene) decided to form the Special Task Force. Since Nimal was a Champion Pistol shot, Ravi Jayewardene insisted on him joining the STF. Though I was thoroughly against it Nimal was very adamant and determined to join the STF.

Later I consented it very well knowing the risk involved," recollects Chrishanthi. "There was a time I used to jump from the bed when I heard the door bell, a knock on the door or a ring in the mid night. Every second brought an nightmare.

I used too get nuisance calls with death threats to Nimal as well. I was in constance fear as he was serving in the N-E throughout. While he was in the war front I was struggling alone at the home front.

I rarely took my problems to my parents as I married him against their wish. But they were there for me with a great helping hand. When both my kids were born Nimal was not there. He had to go to UK for the training at the British Special Air Force Service in 1983. I delivered our son seven days after he left.

When he returned back, our son was six months. I didn't want to have a second baby as I went through a lot of difficulties. I had our daughter after six years. Even at that time he was not present. My gynaecologist, Dr. N. T. Kurukulasuriya told me, 'You stayed for six years to have the second one, but still your hubby has not come'.. And that's the life of a soldier's wife," smiles Chrishanthi.

Nimal served in the STF for 10 years, and was politically victimised and transferred to Vavunia in 1994. But once again he was brought back to the STF as the Deputy Commandant in 2001. Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Nimal Lewke was appointed as the Commandant of the STF in 2003. He was installed with additional responsibility as the Security Co-ordinator for the Western Province from January 10 this year.

Question: It's a risky job. How do you feel about it?

Chrishanthi: I know it is risky. But I've gone through worst situations. Once he went missing as his troop had come under severe attack at Kokkadicholai in 1980s in which 13 died of a Land mine.

No one knew whether he was living or not. Our son was very small then. I didn't know how I lived those five days. When I heard him saying 'Hello' over the phone, I just banged the phone down as I had no strength to react in anyway.

I was sad; I was angry; I was confused....Oh! ....just terrible. Once he got caught to blast and still with a problem with one ear.

Question: He is a brave and skilled soldier. Nimal as a husband?

Chrishanthi: Very loving, understanding and patient. His only short coming was that he was not around with me and children due to his work. He would get me the 'sun' or 'moon' if I asked him. In that way he has spoilt me too (laughs). But through the past years I've learnt to be independent. But he has recognised that I sacrificed myself for him.

So he would do anything to please me.

After working at Finco Group for 6 years, Chrishanthi decided to change her profession and joined the Colombo International School's administrative division. This helped her to get into the environment of working with children. She then became the Manager, Administration and Finance at the college of World Education.

After her daughter was born Chrishanthi followed a Diploma in AMI Montessori method of education and child psychology. She is a graduate in Education Management as well.

Being a Police officer's wife Chrishanthi has being involved in many welfare and charity work in the Police Seva Vanitha and Police Families' Welfare Organisation. She started a Pre-School for the Police personnel at Maradana and was in-charge until she got the appointment as the Principal of Visakha Montessori, Bambalapitiya on August 1 last year.

"I have scope. Since the English medium is much sought after in the country, I've already started the English medium at the Visakha Nursery as well. There are 250 little ones in the day school and 50 can be accommodated in the Day Care. I love children and children take to me very quickly," explains Chrishanthi.

Question: Tell us about your children?

Chrishanthi: (laughs) Ok.... Dushanth, our son was a Royalist. Now he is 23 years old, and a National Rugby player. He graduated in Business Management in Australia. And at present he is working at the Union Bank.

He has inherited Nimal's qualities; quiet, shy and to himself. Even since he was a baby he was never a problem to us. Our daughter, Anushka is still 19 years; studied at Musaeus and the World Education; and is now following a LLB degree.

Unlike our son, Anushka is really vociferous and is the boss of the family who would go after nagging each family member to find out whether we had eaten, had our medicines and rest and so on. She is very concerned and affectionate.

Also unlike earlier I don't have to worry a lot about Nimal as now I have a company now. Both our children do it for me. They are more worried about his safety than me. Dushanth always says 'Thathi, don't try to be another Ranbo'....

Question: As a Forces wife what kind of a message would you like to give to society?

Chrishanthi: When you are woman getting married to a soldier, you should know that you are getting into the kind of a responsibility you have to shoulder. Try not to bring undue pressure on your husband as the life they lead is risky.

The wife has to be strong, independent and should be able to handle responsibilities on your own. Also you have to be very very understanding. When Nimal comes home I let him relax and have a normal life. Unless he talks I rarely ask about the war front or the work he handles.

We celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary last December. And when both of us look back we couldn't imagine all that went through in the long time of our married life. My hubby is a man who still loves to take risks. And that is part and parcel of him (laughs)...

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk


From the Spouse's Mouth - Jan 13 2008

Patience and tolerance - Two remedies for marital problems

From the spouse's mouth by Lakmal Welabada


Pix: Vipula Amarasinghe

How many hearts have Marlon Brando and Tom Cruise broken so far? If you really tap their hearts, they might murmur one name... Whatever happens a man or a woman experiences real love only once in life. If it becomes successful, then there's nothing to worry. But if it fails, surely it will definitely remain as a scar in your heart.

"Falling in love with an actor is natural. But to continue a marriage with him is the biggest challenge out of all," says Gayathri Irosha Dias, wife of Channa Perera.

"He is busy. And unlike me he is a person who cannot endure pressure too much as he is extremely sensitive. So he needs freedom to get on with his work. I've realised this and however much I have to struggle I make it a point not to disturb him," smiles Gayathri.

A woman is said to be the shadow behind every successful man. Gayathri has sacrificed her career in acting for her family life. "It was solely my decision. But I take part in small roles here and there. But my main commitment is now towards my family and my salon," she smiles. 'Salon Gayathri' on Pagoda Road, Nugegoda with a big placard of the duo - the 'star couple' just in front of it, is her kingdom which caters to unisex, both adults and kids. "He supports me whole heartedly though he has little time for everything," says Gayathri.

After the era of the likes of K.A.W.Perera, Channa has been one of the few directors who has rejuvenated the present commercial film industry with his very first direction, 'Anjalika', a commercial film which won many awards.

The children's teledrama, 'Punchi Weerayo' which went up to 78 episodes on Rupavahini was his first tele direction. After that Channa had done three teledramas including 'Wassanaye Hiru Evidin', 'Sanda Diya Arana' and 'Tikiri Hapannu'. At present he is fully engaged with his second direction 'Sanda Diya Salu', a joint venture with Gemini Studio, South India. The main role would be done by Pooja Umashankar, Kerala actress who was introduced to the Sinhala cinema screen by Channa in his first hit 'Anjalika'. The joint venture, 'Sanda Diya Salu' will be screened simultaneously in Sri Lanka and India dubbed in Tamil and Thelingu.

Question: He seems to be quite apt in working with children as out of his four teledramas two ('Punchi Weerayo' and 'Tikiri Hapannu') are for children.

Gayathri: Yes, of course, he is a person who can get on with children very well. It's a skill a person rarely inherits. Unlike with adults handling a child in front of a camera is a challenge. Channa is a person who has overcome this challenge successfully. He has patience and his kind compassion might have been the secret behind his success.


Channa, Malisha, Duasha and Gayathri

Deepanath Channa Perera was born as the eldest of four sons of Piyasena Perera who pioneered special education in Sri Lanka. His mother was a teachers' instructress. Channa studied first at Sri Sumangala Boys' School, Panadura and later at Royal College, Colombo. Since his childhood though Channa was pushed into studying, his forte was for singing and acting. The school stage became the most adored place at school for him. Cricket was his favourite sport. With all that he sat for his A/L s in bio-science, and then took over a Banking job. His life at the bank was a most difficult period as it was a subject he never ever liked to handle. And after a period of four years, he was able to escape from it to the cinema. 'Acting and directing' would be the only path ahead for him, he decided.

His very first tele, 'Sujatha' directed by Daya Wimalaweera, telecast in 1989 brought Channa to the limelight. His second tele was 'Golu Hadawatha' directed by Lester James and Sumithra Peris. Both were supporting characters. So far Channa has done more than 100 teles and out of these most were main roles.

Gayathri was born to Ranjith Henry Dias and Eujin Alahpperuma as the second child of their family. Gayathri has an elder brother and a younger sister. "My father worked at the Czechoslovakian Embassy until he retired. Since we were living in many rented places, I had to attend many schools. Methodist College, Samudradevi and Karunaratne Bauddhaloka Maha Vidyalaya were among a few of them," says Gayathri.

"I was in the A/L class when I got an appointment as the Receptionist at the TNL TV. I was just 17 years then. Though I had been quite active in all the extra curricular activities at school, I got the chance to come into the lime light during this period of time. I took part in 'Miss Sri Lanka Contest' in 1992 and won the 'Miss Photogenic' title. In 1994, I was the first 'Sirasa Ru Rajina' (Sirasa Beauty Queen, conducted by Sirasa TV and Sirasa FM)," she recalls.

The New Year teledrama, 'Udaara Geethaya' was Gayathri's first tele. Since then she got main roles of nearly ten teles. "I also took part in a few supporting characters about five films," she says.

Question: What is the most memorable tele role you have done?

Gayathri: There are many. But, K.Wijeratne's 'Nayanamina' became popular. Apart from that 'Makara Vijithaya' directed by Benet Ratnayaka was the most memorable for both of us (smiles).

Both Channa and I did the main roles in it and we became quite close by the time we finished shooting. We had met once earlier at the restaurant at Noris Canal Road which belonged to my father. Channa came there with a set of his tele friends to have meals. I just barged in and talked to him casually. But while at shooting of 'Makara Vijithaya' in Nuwara Eliya and Watawala area we had a lot of time to get to know each other. We became good friends, and he started visiting my place quite often. But, I treated him as a good friend, and actually was a bit shocked when he came out with his proposal. But he was really serious. He had got the consent of his parents even before he asked me.

Question: Did your parents give their consent?

Gayathri: Well, certainly yes, there wasn't any reason for them to reject him. I didn't want to lose him. He had a good name in the industry. And I knew he likes me a lot (laughs), so we went on, and got married within a year, on September 26 in 1996.

Question: When did you decide to give up acting?

Gayathri: Hmm... After we started the affair. I thought if both of us become busy going out for shooting there won't be a family life. I think I took the correct decision.

Question: How is life with an actor-husband?

Gayathri: I think if you are a wife of a busy husband, you have to take up something that keeps you really occupied. Otherwise you would keep thinking of him which gradually lead to a state of suspicion. And that would be the start of many problems. I personally know cases which have propped up on baseless reasons. Why do you want to destroy your life like that? Which man likes to come to a wife who nags him throughout? So when he thinks of his home, would he get a pleasant feeling? It was Channa, who encouraged me in taking up beauty culture. And I'm very happy I own two branches - at Pagoda and Malabe so far.

Question: How do you manage all your work with your two children?

Gayathri: My eldest daughter, Malisha Parindya is nine years and attending Musaeus College. My youngest daughter, Duasha Adithya is just one and half years old now. So, I can't get late in the evening however much work I have. Channa loves our daughters, but has little time for them as he's quite occupied with his work.

Question: How do you deal with rumours?

Gayathri: Naturally, when your man is a famous guy, you tend to hear a lot of rumours. I do not get confused over them as almost all the actresses who work with him are friendlier with me than they are with him. Even if I have a problem I know how to handle it without getting agitated.

Some bring you rumours out of love, some with hatred and jealousy and some to have fun to see how we would dance according to them. So why should we get disturbed? (smiles).

Anybody would like to look at a beautiful woman. Don't we, even being women turn and look if we see a good looking girl on the road? You cannot stop your man from looking at her either. But that doesn't mean that you are going to lose him forever? (laughs).... Patience and tolerance are the remedies for many problems..

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk


From the Spouse's Mouth Jan 6 2008

'True love is great'

Senani speaks of life with Minister Duminda Dissanayake:

From the spouse's mouth by Lakmal Welabada True love is great for true lovers like the young couple whom we are featuring in this column this week. Senani Lanka Jayaratne speaks about her hubby, Duminda Dissanayake, Minister of Petroleum Resources.

A revolutionist in Sri Lankan politics who fosees much promise for the future of the country, Duminda has created history by being the youngest Parliamentarian by breaking the record held by the President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Duminda became a Member of Parliament at the age of 21 years, while President Rajapaksa stepped into the Parliament when he was 24 years.

Though still 28 years of age, the young revolutionist has a wide scope for the future. He has been really fortunate as he has handled three Ministries since he came to power. "He became a MP in year 2000 in the Anuradhapura District.

He was appointed as the Deputy Minister of Vocational Training in 2004-2005, and then the Deputy Minister of Port and Aviation in 2006. He became the Minister of Petroleum Resources last year. Apart from that, he is the Deputy President of the SLFP Youth Organisation which is directly under President Rajapaksa," smiles Senani humbly.

"But I never liked him entering politics," she laughs.

"I imposed three conditions to him before I gave him my consent 'no politics, no drinks and no beard'.... But ultimately I had to sacrifice," she says.

Question: Liquor?

Senani: Aiya has become a social drinker, but has promised to stop it in the future. Question: You call him 'Aiya'?

Senani: Yes, because I got to know him as his our brothers are friends. They were batch mates and best of friends.


Pix: Vipula Amarasinghe

I call him 'Aiya'. And if I call him by his name when I really get irritated with him. And he knows that(laughs). He calls me 'Baba' but when amongst others 'Senani' (laughs).

Though shouldering many responsibilities the duo is still a newly married couple. Senani is just 25 years and the young Minister is still 28 years. Amidst the never ending work in the Directorate the two spend quite a few moments with each other.

"Well, at the beginning I used to get annoyed, especially when I heard my friends were going out with their husbands and having a gala time. But later I realised that I have to accept my situation. Luckily I come from a political background too and that has helped me a great extent to understand his position," she says.

Senani is the eldest daughter of the Minister of Plantation Industries, D. M. Jayaratne and Anula Yapa Jayaratne. "I have a younger sister and a brother. I learnt the alphabet at Doluwa Maha Vidyalaya and then entered Mahamaya Balika Vidyalaya, Kandy, and then from Grade 8, I was at Visakha Vidyalaya," she says.

"All five members in our family have been very close to each other. We were brought up in a strict secured background. I was 10 years when my father became a MP. So, unlike our friends we rarely had a carefree life. While our friends were talking about the trips they went on during the vacation, we had nothing very specific to talk about.

Even when we go either to Anuradhapura or Dalada Maligawa, it was also amidst strict security and we couldn't even see the road properly due to the speed of the vehicle we were in. We couldn't get off to go to the bathroom! Our mother used to fill the vehicle with food so that we didn't have to stop.

That was the fate of most of the children of politicians. And that was why I didn't want to get married to a politician. But I did," she smiles.

Duminda Dissanayake is the eldest son of the present Chief Minister of the North Central Province (NCP) Berty Premalal Dissanayake and the former NCP Chief Minister Jayani Thisera Dissanayake.

Apart from former President Chandrika Kumaratunga and MP Anura Bandaranaike whose parents (S.W.R.D. and Sirimavo Bandaranaike) who were appointed Premiers of Sri Lanka, Duminda was the only politician whose parents were in politics and appointed to the same post in the same electorate.

"Aiya has three younger bothers and since both his parents were in active politics, it was he who looked after them. So all three brothers have a great respect for him, and the also scared of him. And that was the very fact that provoked me to give him a phone call," she begins her love story.

"I had seen him only once when I was about 14 years at Ratmalana Air Port when he had come to pick his father back home. Both our families were friends. It was 1995, we just returned from Anuradhapura to Colombo by a Chopper. He looked haughty and swollen headed and didn't even look at us. And my cousins and I were so annoyed. We thought he was proud," she recalls.

"It was December 3, 1998. I was at home after O/Ls. Some of my friends had a crush on Duminda Aiya. But nobody knew that I too had a major crush on him after I saw him at Ratmalana. I couldn't reveal it to anybody as they too were crazy over him.

However, since both his younger brother, Kasun and my younger brother were best of friends, they used to come to our place to play. But Duminda Aiya had imposed a law that his brothers should return home before 6.00 pm. So, Kasun had forgotten about it and was really scared that Aiya would scold him.

He asked me to call him and shape it up saying that I cooked a dish and asked him also to stay for dinner. So I did. But, Duminda Aiya at once said, 'Don't lie. I was there a few minutes ago and saw them playing'. He had come to the gate and was watching," she laughs.

Exactly after a month Senani had a get together with her friends. Giving nuisance calls to known boys was fun at that time for many gals. So they too were up to mischief. When it was the turn of Duminda, however, it was story different. He was serious and it was the beginning of the 'love story. But they kept it as a secret.

On January 30, of the same year he confessed his love for her. He visited their place disguising himself as a computer repairer. Fortunately none of Senani's parents were at home and she was under the care of her Nanny. The very first gift she got from him was a beautiful Rose, perfume and a gold pendent. "But I had to sell that pendent", she says.

"Both of us went to Australia soon after. He was following an IT degree course in Melbourne and I was following a degree in Business Administration in Sydney. Since I was with my aunt's family I rarely had a chance to meet him. But we exchanged letters everyday.

The minimum number of pages of his letters were between 8 and 10. I was became famous among my batch mates as the girl who got the longest love letters in the University.

We phoned each other everyday. But both of us had to spend heavily for telephone calls. I only had pocket money, and when I heard about my O/L results from Sri Lanka, I wanted to call him and inform it to him. That day I had no other choice, but to sell the pendent to find money for the phone call," she sighs.

Question: What are the best qualities you see in him?

Senani: A lot. Duminda Aiya was quite matured for his age. He and his family is hundred percent with people. His mission is to work for the country. And drilling out oil from the Sri Lankan shores is the biggest venture ahead for him. I'm sure he will be a great success, and make a strong and rich the economy in this country. Because of all this he rarely has a personal life.

Fortunately I am from a similar political background, so I could do any sacrifice in the name of politics. Sometimes, a day we attend 13-15 funerals in the Anuradhapura area. Whatever the occasion they have, to name a few, wedding, grown-up party, Dana, Bana, Aiya is invited. Those people think it's a big healthy omen to see him around. And also they are really grateful to all that. Aiya and Berty uncle have launched many projects in the area to uplift the life of the people.

Fifty thousand acres of land were given to people to grow maize on a foreign business venture along with seeds and fertilizer. And people get Rs. 30,000 per acre. And also they provided over 1000 jobs in the newly made garment factory in Mihintale.

At present they are concentrating on developing the standards of the schools in the area. They were also able to close down the illicit liquor dens at Rajanganaya by providing them shops in the town. That was the biggest venture I personally admired of all of their work.

Question: All that as a politician. How is he as a husband?

Senani: Most lovable and adorable, I would say (laughs). He handles everything. He treats me like a child. We have a good understanding for in the nine years of our love affair we talked, fought and got to know each other to the maximum level.

So we have a really good understanding between us. Since our marriage took place on September 27 in 2006, except for a few days I was never apart from him. I always say that though you are a Minister to the world, to me you are just my husband.

We don't have helpers at our Colombo residence still. So he helps me in all the work at home - cooking, sweeping, cleaning, washing and the garden is managed by him. I'm really lucky to have him as my hubby.

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Dec 23 2007

'He has a fine sense of wit and humour'

Jalani speaks of life with parliamentarian Sajith:

"It was May 1, 1998. My mother wanted to attend the Bana session of former President R. Premadasa which commemorated his fifth death anniversary. Well, I met Sajith there. I never knew him nor had seen him anywhere before. It was his sense of humour that attracted me," says Jalani Premadasa.

"I was to go to my best friend's birthday dinner at 8.00 p.m. and my mum wanted me to attend the 'Bana' session at 7.00 p.m. Since it was difficult to make two trips she asked me also to come with her, and after the 'Bana' she would drop me at my friend's place. I thought, 'O.K.' just one hour won't matter and I went with her," she recalls.

"When the 'Bana' was over I was amidst a group of people, talking. It was then that Sajith approached us cracking a joke. And before anybody came out with something, I quickly used my wit to reply him. He really looked amused and we began chatting. He pretended that he joined the discussion with the whole group, but I sensed that he joined in the conversation deliberately to talk to me," she smiles.

"I got really late to attend the dinner as we spoke for a long time. I didn't feel the time pass. I really enjoyed his wit and sense of humour. On the following day he called me. He had gone through a great length of pains to find my telephone number... He said, 'I'm Sajith here' and I said, 'O.K. can I help you?'.

Then he said, 'It was nice chatting with you yesterday. Can I call you?'. I said, 'Ok'... Believe me after two days he appeared at our doorstep. He told my mum, 'I like your daughter'.. So my mum said, 'Don't ask me ask her.'

So I told him since we had known each other only for two days, I couldn't give him an exact word; but let us be good friends and see how it works out for us, and except for the two families and a few close friends of ours no one knew about us.

I never went out with him in public. And even when we started going about together I used to hide myself as much as possible because I didn't want to be in the lime light before marriage," she smiles.


Pix: Vipula Amarasinghe

Six months passed by which time Sajith and Jalani realised that were meant for each other, and also the fact that life was not a 'joke' though both loved to joke. The responsibilities that lay ahead for them, especially as the only son of a President who had a different vision towards his Politics, Sajith had to step forward. It was not going to be easy for then. However, on July 23 in 1999 the two tied the knot.

Jalani Daithya Jayawardane was born to a business oriented family Nimal Jayawardane and Hemani Kehelpannala. "My father did all kinds of business. We owned many big business in tea export, import of Aluminium fabricators and so on. And since I was 5 years, our whole family stayed in London. My sister Saroshika was just one month then. We stayed there until I was about 12 years," she recalls.

"Once we returned to Sri Lanka I was enrolled at Bishop's College. Initially we studied in the English medium and once we returned to Sri Lanka we entered the local medium and found it devastating.

Since my father was a patriotic who believed his children should be brought up according to Sinhala culture and customs, we had to learn the language and study in the Sinhala medium. My mother was right behind us. Guiding us she got a Sinhalese teacher and translated all the difficult 'Kavi' into simple Sinhala.

However, I managed to get through the O/Ls in the Sinhala medium with good results. I even got a 'S' pass for Sinhala language," she smiles.

During the insurgence in 1988-99, Jalani's father decided to pack his daughter off to Australia for her higher studies. After three years Jalani returned to Sri Lanka with a Masters Degree in Accounting. "I was living with my father's brother.

So it was almost home for me. But I really missed my parents and sister as we were so close and were like friends. Once I came back I started working at Amadeus Computer Reservations which was just installed in Sri Lanka.

I joined them as an Accountant, but was an all-rounder. I worked there for two years and resigned when I got married to Sajith. And they had to hire five people to do the work I did," she laughs. Her friendly and witty sense of humour would win the hearts of many. Jalani is an open hearted, active and energetic person who could get along with any person.

"I enjoy a clean sense of humour. I think I'm not a boring character as my friends love me around them. I talk a lot. That's true," she laughs. Yes, 'laughing' purifies the blood circulation. 'Laughter' makes you fat. But Jalani knows how to be fit and healthy while keeping a perfect figure.

"I never though I would marry a Sri Lankan as I have seen how Asian women are suppressed. I wouldn't have married a man who would not let me be myself. I have my own way and independent opinion for each and everything. And fortunately, Sajith is a different kettle of fish. He respects my independence," she claims.

Question: The world sees him as the former President's son. How do you see him?

Jalani: I've never looked at him as 'President's son'. I was abroad and never met his father though my mother was very much into active UNP politics. To me, Sajith is 'still a child', with a soft heart towards the poor. He loses his temper only when things are not in order. He is a perfectionist like his father, and would pin point every little error that would never cross your mind. He is simple and down to earth.

Since his birth, politics has been in his blood. Late President Ranasinghe Premadasa and Hema Premadasa were his parents. Sajith has one sister, Dulanjali. He studied at St.Thomas College and Royal College, Colombo, and then entered Mill Hill School, London.

After staying abroad for 13 years Sajith returned to Sri Lanka as an Economist. "I have heard that he and his father became quite close during the last two years of his life. To Sajith, his father's assassination is still a nightmare.

Unlike anybody else's parent's death, President Premadasa's death is something that will be remembered all the time, specially on May 1. At least people are reminded of the late President Premadasa when they meet Sajith. It's hard. It hurts. It's heart breaking. But he has to live with, it is irreversible," points out Jalani.

Sajith Premadasa entered active politics, won the Hambantota seat in 2000 and has been a Member of Parliament continuously. He held the post of Deputy Minister of Health in 2002 - 2003.

Question: As a wife of a politician, what kind of a role do you play?

Jalani: I do appreciate all the good work he does at Hambantota. Even I have also been part and parcel of such work through out. I like country life, the polos embula, kiri kos and Kekulu rice which I can enjoy under a hatched hut while being among those villagers.

Question: He loves wildlife?

Jalani: Ah! he is a wildlife fanatic (looking at the three big pictures of Sajith clicking his camera to capture a wild elephant in the jungle at Anuradhapura, framed and hung in their sitting room.) After getting married to him I too have developed a love for wildlife. I have had a lot of exposure too.

Actually human beings have a lot to learn from elephants. I mean the four legged ones (laughs). It is so amazing to see how they become so protective, stand together and the respect they have for each other. The unity they maintain as a herd is marvellous. They also have a very good memory power.

Question: The common question about starting a family?

Jalani: I believe if you are to have a child both parents should be mentally prepared for that. And I want to be a 'hands on mother'. And with my work at Hambantota and the business I carry on I do not think I'm ready for that. There's a time for everything. Question: What kind of business you are engaged in?

Jalani: My mother is an interior designer. Since she is abroad her company 'Hemdecor' is run by me. Apart from that I will be starting a salon and spa in Colombo next month.

Question: What is your opinion about women in Sri Lanka?

Jalani: Very much better than when compared to other Asian countries. Now we see a lot of women coming into politics. That's really good. But, no, no, don't get me wrong.

I have no intention of coming into politics. But we must remember this. A woman has a lot of strength in her. No body taps on women's talents properly. Our society expects the women to be a doormats. I have personal experience in my women's team of work which we have launched in the rural areas. It's amazing to see how we can develop their confidence.

Question: You are a happy go lucky couple? Apart from wildlife what are your other pastimes?

Jalani: (laughs) We have our trivial ups and downs, but on silly issues. One never can be with a long face with Sajith's sense of humour.

Other than that, yes, we are happy. I'm a Tennis player. In fact, I once played for the National team as well. And Sajith loves to sing. Gypsies is his favourite group.

Question: What kind of attitude do you have towards rumours?

Jalani: Our society has an opinion that there's no smoke with out fire. But I'm against that as I believe that such sayings are propped up by those who cannot stand another's 'happiness'.

Also if a man goes away from his married wife that is because he lacks something in his marriage. I know that and don't leave room for it (laughs). Also I've told him that in case he wants to find somebody else, he should find someone better than me.

Otherwise it would make me more embarrassed (laughs).. Marriage should be a mutual understanding. We respect and support each other's work. And I'm a devout and practical Buddhist. I've really got into it after my father's death.

On the 20th of every month (the day my father died) I offer a dana (alms giving) or give a donation to an orphanage without fail.

I did a 'Katina Pooja' at Thissamaharamaya last year and this year too. Sajith is not a lot into religious activities, but respects all religions.

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Dec 16 2007

'Absolutely down-to-earth and simple'

Madimalan talks about life with Murali:

"Amma cricket," little Naren would demand when his mother turns the TV on to her favourite channel 'Star World'. "Naren," his mother would call him to put another mouth full of cereal.

"Amma, Naren no, Baby Murali," he demands. "That's what he wants. He doesn't like being called Naren, but 'Baby Murali'. Hopefully he would also play good cricket like his father.

Wherever I go I have to chuck his bat and ball in his baby bag along with his milk bottle and baby stuff. Playing and watching cricket was his only hobby," says his Mum, Madimalan Muralitharan. Madimalan (Madi) has a lot to talk about her two-year-old, as he has also already got 'cricket fever' from his Cricketing father, our Dusra bowler, Muttiah Muralitharan.

While being jubilant over her hubby's victory and his world record 709 wickets which was held by Shane Warne (708 wickets) of Australia during the first Test against England at Asgiriya International Cricket Stadium on December 3, the young pretty wife of Cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan began to reveal her life story.

"It was great to achieve this feat at his own home town in the presence of his people," she says. The 27-year-old small made mother of one still looks as if she is a teenage. Believe me, Madi is one of the great happy-go-lucky.

Question: Unlike the wives of the other Sri Lankan cricketers, you have broken the hearts of the girl fans of your hubby not merely in Sri Lanka, but many of Indians as well.

Madi : Am I? Oh! but I really appreciate his fans here because unlike Indians who would treat the cricketers as Gods and would touch their feet where ever they go, Sri Lankans know their limits. They would say 'Hi! Murali' and leave us alone.

This is really important when my son Naren and I are together with Murali. We rarely get little time to be together. Girl fans do come to him, get his autographs signed and would ask him to pose for a photograph with them. But I think they are quite decent (smiles).

Madimalan Ramamurthi was born as the second twin daughter of late Dr. S. Ramamurthi, General Physician and founder of Malar Hospital, Adyar, Chennai and Dr. Nithya Ramamurthi, gynaecologist and the present Managing Director of the Malar Hospital.

"My twin sister, Radhimalan who was ten minutes older to me and Divya who was six years younger to us comprise my family. Our teachers used to get confused over us, the identical twins. So, we were the only students who had name tags on us. I have a birth mark on my right side of the upper lip. And that was another small sign to identify us separately. It was fun.

All three of us could dance any folk step though we have never got any formal training. We used to take part in many culturals; inter school competitions and have won many certificates and prizes. I had a benevolent childhood and fun filled school days," she recalls.

"It was my father who took me to Europe first. And I have travelled to eight countries with my parents. But with Murali, I've gone to three countries only - West Indies, Australia and England. I always tell that to Murali. But actually what has happened was that I got pregnant soon after the marriage, and now Naren has restricted my movements," she says.

"My parents really worked hard to raise the hospital to today's standard. My mother is a popular gynaecologist. She is my idol as well. She has always told us, a woman should always be able to stand on her own feet. She was right behind us emphasising the importance of the education," says Madi.

Madi has had her education first at Rosary Matriculation

Higher Secondary School, Chennai and then entered Stella Maris College, Chennai for under graduate studies in B.Com. She did her Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Sathyabama University, Chennai in 2002.

Her father's terminal illness was the first ever shock that struck in her life. "Amma had to take Appa to Singapore. He was to under go a Liver transplant. But he died before the operation due to a heart attack. Actually it was he who had been handling everything at the hospital.

When he was gone, my mother decided to hand over a certain administrative sections to me. I was nervous, but she put her foot down and insisted on it. I took over, and oh! it was a great challenge, but I faced it. It was the best training I have ever had," she reminisces.

Madi's twin sister got married when her father was alive. "He threw a lavish wedding for her. We were happy to think that, at least he saw one wedding out of the three. You won't believe if I say something.

He was a great fan of Cricket. Even on the sick bed at his last stage he was watching Cricket on TV. 'Ah! here comes the dangerous man,' once he said, and when I turned to the TV to see whom he was referring to, it was Murali who had come to ball.

I was not at all a Cricket fan and it was the first time I noticed Murali. And that was all," she smiles. Dr. Ramamurthi might not have ever thought that the 'dangerous bowler' would be one of his sons-in-law one day. "If he was alive, oh! he would have gone to town," sighs Madi.

Muttiah Muralitharan was born in Kandy on April 17, 1972. He is the eldest son of Sinnathambi Muttiah and Lakshmi Muttiah, the owners of Luckyland Biscuits in Kandy. Sridaran, Shashidaran and Prabagaran are the three younger brothers of Murali.

His mother decided to send him to the hostel of St. Anthony's College, Katugastota since he was the naughtiest of the four. Murali was just six years when he first spent the night at the hostel. When he saw Amma during the weekend he clung on to her and started howling. But when the time passed Murali adopted to the new set up gradually.

He started playing Cricket at the age of twelve. Murali who was a brilliant student in studies started showing a bit of a set back when he was playing for Under 15. It was an alarming sign to his Mum. "You better stop Cricket.

It seems that you are neglecting your studies. See, Mahan (son), you have been the first in the class through out. But this time you have gone a bit down," said Murali's Mum. But his class teacher came to his rescue. "Mrs. Muttiah, Murali is a good player.

Don't stop him. I have a prediction for him. One day, he will be a shining star in Sri Lankan Cricket," said the teacher. Murali's mother still recalls these words with tears.

Question: Madi, How did the marriage of both of you get arranged?

Madi : Mr. Chandrashekar, a South indian actor was a family friend of both families. It was he who match-made ours. I was not at all interested in marriage as I was very much engulfed in the work at our hospital.

So was Murali who was dedicated to his Cricket career. I have heard that he had been flooding with proposals from India through his uncle who was residing there. This uncle of his used to E-mail Murali's home the pictures of the girls he knew, and it was his three younger brothers who had been selecting brides to him out of the lot. Murali's mother had been insisting that he get married to a Tamil girl. So, Murali had left things in their hands. It was his brothers who had selected my photo, and asked him to go Chennai and see me (laughs).

The traditionally dressed Madi was the very first proposal the Dusra bowler had gone to see. It was the first ever experience of Madi as well. "If you like me I would like to marry you soon," he said. Madi was little shocked to observe his extreme nature of down-to-earth and simplicity. "Murali never acted as a 'super star'. Even his dress code and food habits were simple.

Even now I don't have any problem with him. He would eat a simple diet with rice and curry. That was the best part of him," she recalls. "Murali came to see me on a day like today, December 16 in 2004 (laughs). And our marriage took place on March 21, 2005," she reminisces.

"Appa two Wickets," the two-year-old Naren seemed to have no other language known other than the Cricket language. "He's very naughty. When his Appa (father) is around, he doesn't want anybody. He really misses him when he goes for practices," smiles Madi.

Question: Murali seems to be a good father and a husband. What are the especial qualities you see in him?

Madi : Well, he has never neglected his family, not till today. His simplicity is gold. He never goes for branded items. And if he has a target in Cricket he would never compromise it for anything. He is a real hard worker.

That is the success behind him. He is short tempered, but cool down with in five minutes. Murali minds her own business and never gets involve in internal politics of Cricket. He even never discusses Cricket at home, and neither do I. Once he is at home he is my hubby and Naren's Appa only. I should also appreciate his parents and brothers.

I'm away from my home, and because of them I've never felt home sick. My mother-in-law has been a great asset to me. She is great. Murali does a lot of charity work. A large lump sum of his personal account goes for the education of many poor children. I also do charity by not disturbing him doing all that (laughs).

Question: When there's a match between Sri Lanka and India, which side would you support?

Madi : Ooops! India was the country I was born and bred. But, my Murali and my son are both Sri Lankans. So now this is my country too. So I want Murali to play well, and Sri Lanka to win. There's no two words about it. But when India plays with another country, I would be backing up India, definitely.

Murali and Madi, a great cultural integration between Sri Lanka and India, which has marked the history, likewise it happened during the time of ancient kingdoms. Murali is a National asset. When would he decide to retire? "He thinks if he would be able to play well this year, he would continue to the following year. And he would go on like that until he feels tired.

That day is far away ahead," predicts Madi. Yes, of course! Murali will play good Cricket and win many more matches for Sri Lanka so many years in the future.

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Dec 9 2007

'Jeevan is a ray of light'

From the Spouses's mouth by Lakmal Welabada "I neither see him as a film star nor as a politician. He is my Jeevan," says Shereen, wife of the Cabinet Minister - Land and Land Development.

Jeevan Kumaratunga is not just a star on the Silver screen but a ray of light in Sri Lankan politics too. Following in the foot steps of his paternal uncle, the late film star cum politician Vijaya Kumaratunga whose resemblance is very much like his, Jeevan has also earned much fame.

Film stars often hide their birthdays in order to cover up their age. Some go for facial treatment and even plastic surgery sometimes. But for Jeevan and Shereen, no probs, they still don't need any of it. The lucky couple are proud parents of two young daughters.

"They are in UK studying Law. We miss them a lot. We are looking forward to seeing them during the December vacation," says Shereen.

Shereen Priyanka Senaratne was born in Colombo, Wellawatte and the second of six siblings. Her father Piyasena Senaratne was the Ex-Chairman of the Fertilizer Corporation, and mother Beatrice Senaratne was always there providing her with all the comforts any one could expect.

Though her elder brother had many friends, she never fell in love with any of them. "Since I was about 12 years, I had, had a vision that I should be careful when selecting a partner for me. This was because I grew up among a lot of cousins, and had seen the family problems propped up among them. Meeting Jeevan was unexpected," she still feels excited about it.


Pix: Vipula Amarasinghe

"My father was promoted from the Working-Director post to the post of Chairman, and threw a party.

My elder brother also invited a few friends of his to this party. When he was inviting a friend, Jeevan too happened to be there with his friend, and so my brother had invited him too. It was the first time Jeevan stepped into my place. We did not know each other. I had only seen him in a few films," says Shereen.

Shereen was just a 15-year-old school girl at St. Paul's Girls School, Milagiriya. When her father introduced her to his guests at the party, Shereen felt something especial for Jeevan not merely because he was a young actor, but it was some special attraction which she cannot quite explain.

"Actually I never liked the roles he played. In one of his films, 'Nevatha Hamuvemu' he stabbed uncle Vijaya (Vijaya Kumaratunga). I was so upset to see that scene as Uncle Vijaya was my favourite. Likewise many roles he played at that time were that of villain's," she reminisces.

"My family and uncle Vijaya were involved in different party politics. But uncle Vijaya was a very good friend of my father, and was loved by all of us. Jeevan was introduced to me as uncle Vijaya's nephew.

So, at the party however, I looked at him and hmmm... I can't remember if I smiled with him... After the party Jeevan somehow made it a point to visit our place on account of his friendship with my brother. His warm friendly nature won the hearts of every body at home," she smiles.

This was the peak of Jeevan's acting career. Among all his fans he fell only for this school girl who of course had a very little knowledge of cinema. Her orthodox back ground left him with very little opportunity for him to meet her.

Finally he decided to talk to her father. "I appreciate your straight forwardness. But, Putha, we have to wait until Shereen finishes her studies," said Mr.Senaratne, Shereen's father.

Jeevan was allowed to visit her only on Sundays. Later it extended to the weekends. "When our horoscopes were tallied in India, the astrologers had told my father that Jeevan and I had been together for many past births. And even in the next birth we would be together.

This prediction made my parents really happy, so just after my A/Ls my father decided to give me in marriage to Jeevan," smiles Shereen.

The wedding of Shereen and Jeevan took place at the Inter Continental Hotel on June 18, 1986. "Even before marriage he took pains to explain to me about the work his roles in films.

He wanted me to understand that they were mere performances in front of a camera and not a reality in life. So, later after the marriage he even took me along when he went shooting. I began to realise things, but was a little possessive at the beginning," she laughed.

"But then many of the actors and actresses who worked with him later became very good family friends of ours. Many actresses who played the main roles with him are now my personal friends," she says.

"He got married when he was at the height of career. So, whenever we went out for a film or a function, his fans would surround him, most were girls of course who used to simply grow crazy. A big Fan Club, every where we went. Sometimes I used to get pushed away, and Jeevan had a time trying to hold me and keep me beside him," she laughs.

Question: Did you feel uncomfortable?

Shereen: When seeing him playing a love scene used to make me a bit possessive at the beginning as I told you earlier. But later I realised it was just an 'act'. I began to admire him; my husband Jeevan was becoming so famous after all. The bond between us began to grow stronger as time went on. Later all his fans became my fans as well. I don't know how it happened. But, it happened (laughs).

Jeevan Kumaratunga was born and bred in Seeduwa. He was the youngest in the family. Jeevan has a brother and sister. His father Sydney Kumaratunga was a Draughtsman at the Municipal Council and his mother, Therese was a house wife. Jeevan studied at Carey College Colombo.

Though he had earned a name as a sportsman while at school, the six footer with his good looks helped him qualify to become a film star. Apparently he became the shadow of Uncle Vijaya who was a star both in the Sinhala film industry and politics as well.

Vijaya's tragical death was the greatest blow to Jeevan, but it made him stronger to carry on his plans for the future. "I never liked Jeevan getting into politics. Even his mother was quite against it.

But since it was aunt Chandrika's (Ex-President Chandrika Kumaratunga's) special request he contested for the Provincial Council election and secured the highest votes in Colombo in 1994. After that he has been contesting the Moratuwa seat successfully," claims Shereen.

Jeevan became the Deputy Minister and then the Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs before he was appointed to the present post as the Land and Land Development (Cabinet) Minister.

Question: From time to time there has been a few allegations against Jeevan and his Ministries.

Shereen: Yes, once there was a talk that he has many connections with the under world and then a rumour went on of his involvement with a foreign job agency racket. He trusted people too much. He was confident that the truth will set him free some day. So it happened.

Question: Trusting people a lot seems to be his weak point. What are the special qualities you see in him?

Shereen: His patience and goodness on the whole. And also his ability to see any problem positively. Even when it comes to little things that prop up over the children; he handles matters very well.

He has a charismatic leadership. Even at the Ministry, he never let anger over rule things. If he gets angry he remains silent. Though he is a Minister her prefers to be called 'Jeevan Aiya'.....

Question: He is a man with two busy careers. How did you manage the home front alone?

Shereen: I think I'm very lucky in that sense. Soon after marriage the other siblings of mine decided to come and stay with me. Both of them are really fond of our two daughters, Malsha and Malisha. Malsha is now 20 years and Malisha is 18 years.

Both have inherited their father's height. At present both girls are in UK, so more than us the grand parents actually miss them a lot. I was a house wife through out, so with the help of my parents I never had a problem in raising my daughters.

Question: At present what are you engaged in?

Shereen: I helped out with the charity work Jeevan is involved in, and get engaged in a lot of religious activities. At least once a week I never fail to do a 'Bodhi Pooja' in the temple. Jeevan and our daughters too join me if they are in the country or not busy.

When schooling our father never allowed us, the girls to stay after school, so I rarely had a chance to do any extra curricular activities. The only hobby I engaged in was 'reading'.

And I still do it. These days I'm very much involved in reading books on Buddhism as I want to enhance my knowledge in Dhamma. Sunday is a day that we spend with Jeevan's mother. His father is dead, but his mother is still living at Seeduwa. His family is very united.

Question: What are your future plans?

Shereen: I'm quite content with my life. Jeevan has a good character certificate. He is a person who knows how to adjust his life. Both our two daughters studied in an International School, but grew up with a sense of cultural belonging. Both Jeevan and I are really proud of them. I want to spend the rest of my life as I've done.

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Dec 2 2007

'It was our destiny to be together'

Dhammika talks about his life with actress Semini:



Pix: Vipula Amarasinghe

"The best role she played so far was Punni in Irabatu Tharuwa, a teledrama. It was of a village low caste damsel who sacrificed her love for the happiness of her Walawwa (high caste) boy friend," says IP Dhammika Jayalal Keerthi Iddamalgoda, the 'real' husband of 'Roshini', Mrs. 'Yes Boss', the comedy-teledrama is now a hit on Swarnavahini.

However, although much she gained much fame in her acting world, Semini is still a little princess in Dhammika's world. "Yes, that's true," he smiles. "When I first saw her she was around 15 years. She was with her grand mother, and had come to see a film. I too went to the cinema with my batch mates. We were at the Police Training College at Kalutara at that time," he reminisces.

More than Dhammika, it was one of his batch mates that was interested in getting involved with the pretty lass. But the school girl did not show any interest. "She was proud," laughs Dhammika.

After the training period was over my batch mates got their first appointments. Dhammika's fate was such that he got an appointment as a Sub Inspector at Kalutara Police. So he had to continue staying at Kalutara.

Semini Dinusha Palihawadana was the eldest child of K.M.P. Bandara and Nesta. Their residence was just in front of the Police Training College, and their business properties were in the Kalutara town in close proximity to the Kalutara Police station.

Semini's father was a popular figure among the business clan and Police officers in the Kalutara area. Of all the police officers the six footer SI Dhammika Iddamalgoda had also earned a name in the area by that time.

The handsome young police officer, the 'dream prince' would no doubt have got the glad eye of many princesses. But nothing mattered to him except the slightest glimpse of Semini; which would instantly make his heartbeat faster.

Dhammika used to visit Bandara's shops. One day when he stepped in, the Barbie princess was at the cashier. "Where is Bandara Mahattaya he asked in a deep haughty tone. Semini looked at his face.

His haughty looks annoyed her. "Thatha is not in," she snarled in a similar tone and looked the other way. Dhammika knew she was pretending. Suppressing his laughter with great difficulty he turned away saying, "Tell your father that SI Iddamalgoda came."

Semini thought a while. She had heard her father talking about him at home.

Semini was in the Musaeus College hostel, but managed to come home every weekend. She was everybody's pet till she was 21 years. The best gift she received from her parents was her younger brother Gihan Menaka.

Semini attended dancing class at Sausiripaya on Saturdays. Though at the beginning her mother or grand mother accompanied her, later on when she had an instinct that the young handsome six footer Sub Inspector was giving her the glad eye she persuaged the home front and managed to get permission to go for the class alone.

When their romance began she had not even sat for the O/Ls. They were having an innocent teenage love affair when Semini's father passed a hint to Dhammika one fine day. "Dhammika Mahattaya, even if a pin falls down here, in the Kalutara area it won't happen without my knowledge," he said.

Dhammika was bewildered by his girl friend's father's remark. But when Semini informed him that there were no restrictions on her movement Dhammika knew that they were already aware of the affair.

"She is still a child. So we'll wait until she finishes her A/Ls," was what Semini's father had to tell Dhammika when he made his proposal about Semini.

Both decided to take it easy for sometime. Semini continued to attend to her A/L classes, and Dhammika was carrying on with his duties. Afterall, Semini was still a school girl and was concentrating on her studies. But Dhammika was very agitated and wanted to accomplish his dream.

He was getting rather impatient after a couple of months, he decided to meet her and have a few words with her. He knew she used to get off at Bambalapitiya. He decided to meet her there. His heartbeat pounding he stood still at the bus halt waiting expectedly for the fair pretty face to turn up. He was nervous.

Many buses passed and finally Semini got off. She was looking prettier than ever that day. When she saw him she stood still, astonished, and then remembered the promise she made to her parents; not to have anything to do with him before completing the exam.

She made up her mind not to talk to him, and walked off. But spontaneously she turned and looked back of him. "Only once," she thought. So she turned. Something unexpected happened. His eyes were full of tears. The young police officer who was so strong had become emotional. This was the magic moment, there was no turning back for her... She realised she was madly in love with this young man.

Dhammika Jayalal Keerthi Iddamalgoda was born on April 27, 1967 to Weerasiri Kularatne Iddamalgoda a Co-operative Inspector and Internal Auditor, and Fransisca Jayawardane of Weralupa, Ratnapura. Dhammika was the youngest of three, and studied at Sivali Central College, Ratnapura. "I played football at school," he recalls.

"One of my uncles was in the Police and retired as a Senior DIG. He was the greatest inspiration which made me join the Police. Not only me, but his own sons too joined the Police. All three cousins joined the Police together in 1988. I was about 21 years then," says Dhammika.

Dhammika and Semini tied the knot on December 15, 1994. "I was 27 years, and Semini was just after her A/Ls," he smiles.

"Semini and I didn't have babies for quite some time. So we raised her younger brother as our own. We had our daughter, Kumali Aseka in 2001," says Dhammika.

Question: Semini took up to acting after getting married?

Dhammika: Yes, it had been her dream, but her parents didn't allow her to, when she was with them. In 2001, actress, Sriyani Amarasena had seen a photograph of Semini taken by Dayan Witharana.

She was looking for a suitable girl to play the role of the young girl in her tele production Irabatu Tharuwa. So Semini was asked if she would like to and she agreed.

Since it was her compassionate desire I agreed. I was posted at Hungama Police then. So far Semini has acted in 19 teledramas and about five films. She won the Up-and-Coming Actress award at the Sumathi Tele Awards for her very first teledrama, and a Merit Award for the film, 'Yakada Pihatu' at the Sarasaviya Film Festival in 2001.

'Punchi Aadara Bala Kirimak' was her first stage production which won her the Best Actress award in 2005. Hansa Geethaya directed by V. Sivadasan will be her first teledrama production and it is being televised.

Semini will be playing a main role in a film for the first time in 'Sudu Hansi' directed by Mohomad Shafraz. At present she is playing a role of Podi Hamy in the tele drama Kaluwara Gedara based on Martin Wickremasinghe's novel.

"Semini says that Podi Hamy is a role that unfolds the life of a woman from the age of 25 to 75 years. She is elated to portray this character as it's a rare opportunity an actress would get," says Dhammika.

Question: Being an actress she must be having a very busy schedule. How does it affect your family life?

Dhammika: She is as busy as a bee (laughs), but tries her best to fulfil her duties in the home front as well. We are very much concerned about our daughter's welfare. But I have to understand, that being an actress, she should not miss the opportunities that are offered to her as well.

Question: She was once a beauty queen, wasn't she?

Dhammika: She was the Second-Runner-Up of the 'Mrs. Sri Lanka' pageant in 1999. Question: How do you feel when she plays love scenes?

Dhammika: (Pauses) Well, sometimes I point out when she doesn't play her role properly. What I believe is that if you do something, you should do it properly.

Question: Her good and bad points?

Dhammika: She trusts people at once and would go to extremes to help them. She has no boundaries when it comes to social work. She is sensitive and gets irritated and nervous for the slightest issue.

Question: Both of you are in different fields. How do you cope with that?

Dhammika: I'm attached to the Crimes Division of the Police, and at home I'm a husband and a father. She is an actress before a camera or an audience as well as a mother and wife.

Question: How do you tolerate rumours?

Dhammika: After all, trust and patience are the two ingredients for a happy family life, no matter what professions one is in.

Question: What are your future plans?

Dhammika: To lead a good family life and educate our daughter well.

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday November 25 2007

Love at first sight

Thamara speaks of life with parliamentarian S. B. Dissanayake:


by Lakmal Welabada



On their Wedding day

Some say his power of speech hypnotises listeners and viewers. His wit and high pitched voice that emanates with his knowledge and experience have helped him break many heaty contentions over two to three decades in Sri Lankan political arena. "He has been like that since I met him in the campus.

His speeches were inspiring. We used to become so impatient when we heard that he was coming to address the Student Council.

He was the President of the Student Council of Vidyodaya (University of Sri Jayawardenapura) since he was in the Second Year for three consecutive years, and the President of the Inter University Students' Council for two years, which has still had such a rare opportunity in the students' unions in the campus," says his best friend and the best critique, Thamara, who begins to recall her campus day love affair with S.B.Dissanayaka.

"Living with a husband who was deprived of his civic rights has never been a problem to me. This is because still when he steps out of the house he gets a "salute from people'. Still many people call him 'Amathithuma' (Minister). His vehicle is given priority wherever he goes. S.B. has worked for the people. He is a people's man," smiles Thamara.

At present S.B. has no official titles in politics. Hence, after many years the Dissanayaka couple is enjoying a break in life, at their newly built residence at Battaramulla and in their elegant country home at Hanguranketha in a farm plant-nurseries where lovely roses, lilies and green vegetables grow, and herds of cattle enjoy the green grass and the freshness of open land.

But, still one thing draws him to politics; that is the general public who flock around him wherever he goes as well as his sheer determination. A bit about the past and present of this conspicuous figure, S. B. Disssanayake.


The whole family on their eldest son, Narada’s Home-Coming. (From Left) Tharaka, Thamara, Narada, Lakshi and S.B.

"I was at the Fine Arts College, Colombo. S.B. is two years senior to us and was doing a Degree in Public Administration at the Sri Jayewardenepura Campus. Being the students' Union leader he fought for the rights of the campus students. He was one of the pioneers who fought to promote the Fine Arts College to what it is today, a University.

And we were the first batch to get the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree affiliated to the University of Kelaniya. I'm happy to hear that today it is operated as a separate body as the University of Visual and Performing Arts," says Thamara.

"Everybody liked him, even the female students. His personality and wit made him a great man. I was the Secretary of the dancing section of the College. So we used to move a lot together, but never had any close relationship as such, as we were very much engrossed in the work of the unions," Thamara says.

"That was not true as I already had a crush on her since I first saw her. She was a beauty," butts in S.B. and Thamara begins to blush. "Since I was a Union Leader, it was not accepted to 'carry on' with another student. So had to keep it under cover," he laughs.

However, it was a matter of being patient for a few years and I got her finally. Thamara Abeysiridara Samarakoon was born on March 6, 1953 to a landed proprietor, Don Davit Abeysiridara Samarakoon and Somawathie Darlina, a school Principal who lived in Ratmale, Matara. Thamara was the third in the family of five.

After completing her studies at Vijitha Central College, Dikwella, Thamara entered the Fine Arts College in 1969. "Since my cousin brother, R. K. W. Ratnayaka and other relatives had been very much into politics with Dr. S. A. Wickremasinghe of the Communist Party, we had been quite familiar with politics since we were young.

That provoked me also to get involved in the Students' Union in the campus," she recalls.

"My first appointment as a dancing teacher was to Morawaka Maha Vidyalaya. But within a short period I was able to get a transfer to Matara town and stayed at Ratnayaka Aiya's place," recalls Thamara.

Meanwhile, S.B. got his first appointment as the General Manager of the Land Reforms Corporation at Kamburupitiya. He was looking for a place to stay. He had known Ratnayaka since he was also following a diploma course at the Jayawardenapura University. But S.B. was unaware that Ratnayaka was Thamara's cousin.

One day S.B. visited Ratnayaka at Matara. After a brief discussion Ratnayake and his wife agreed to provide food and lodging to S.B. at their house. It was a big relief, S.B. sighed. He was excited at the idea "My! what are you doing here?" he almost stood from his chair when Thamara walked into the sitting room. "I'm here too," she laughed.

Dissanayake Mudiyanselage Sumanaweera Banda Dissanayake was born on September 18, 1951 at Hanguranketha. His father, Ukkubanda Dissanayaka was a school Principal and his mother was Grace Prema Panditharatne. S.B. was the second in a family of four boys and two girls. S.B. was a popular guy even when he was at Poramadulla Central College. His wit and sport skills had always won him fame.

After S.B. went to stay at Ratnayaka's place, he saw much of Thamara thereafter. He was a free man in love with a beautiful girl with plenty of time to pledge his love to her.

Every minute seemed precious to them. When he visited the Fine Arts College. S.B. and Thamara got married on October 4, 1979.

Two years before they tied the knot S.B. contested the Hanguranketha seat for the Communist Party, but lost. S.B. began to work at Marga Institute, Colombo where he was able to work for the poorest of poor in the remote villages.

His research work revealed the problems faced by the poverty stricken people of Sri Lanka due to malpractice and irregularies of government authorities. This turned into a bad spell for him. It was the period of insurgency in 1989.

S.B. was on his mo-bike on the way back home, when he was taken into custody. By then S.B. and Thamara were parents of their two sons Narada and Tharaka. "We got really scared. It was a very bad period. People who were taken to the police rarely came back. However he came out within 3 months," she recalls.

S.B. is a clever ping-pong ball who stood tall when he was pressed down. He became a Member of Parliament in 1989 on SLFP ticket. Since things were easier S.B. was the Minister of Samurdhi, Youth Affairs and Sports. In 1999 he was the Samurdhi, Sports and Up-country Rural Development Minister.

He was the Minister of Samurdhi and Agriculture in 2002. But on December 7, 2005, S.B. was sent for a two-year jail term for contempt of Court. S.B. has been known as a man of bravery. But, sometimes it doesn't work that way. A slip of a word changed his life. "But it was all temporary. He never fell as such," smiles Thamara. "We launched a Walk from Hanguranketha to Colombo.

And then proceeded with a hunger strike. He was released during our hunger strike," she reminisces. I (the writer) could recall how she worshipped her hubby after offering a sheaf of Beetle just as S.B. came out of Prison. "Ammi, has been beside with me through out. Can't do anything without her help. She is my life, private secretary and friend," said S.B.

Question: Once there was a turmoil against S.B. over an issue of a female figure in the sports field. This was given much publicity by some private media. How did you face this situation?

Thamara: It was terrible as I had been with S.B. through out where ever he went. I still couldn't imagine how people could manipulate things.

It was hard as I was worried about the reputation of our sons who were teenagers, and also of S.B. I blame S.B. for that as he was a person who would do things for any one and go out of his way to help others, even for his electorate and the young Olympic team of Sri Lanka he formed. He treated these sports team, as of his own children. But that was how they showed their gratitude. So I knew my husband, and we let the rumour die a natural death, she (laughs).

Question: How do you see him as your husband and the father of your sons?

Thamara: 'Appachchi' is a good man (she calls S.B. by 'Appachchi'). He is a very friendly person, even with the two boys. I couldn't stay a day without talking to him.

He is very impatient, and sometimes temperamental. He reads a lot. Even when he is travelling he reads. That's why he is versatile in any subject.

Question: Would you mind if your two sons step into politics?

Thamara: Narada got married recently. They are in Australia. And Tharaka is in the aviation field and at presently studying in Florida. Hmmm.... we don't know whether they would want to get involved in politics or not. That's their wish.

Question: S.B. lost his Civic rights. What's going on now?

Thamara: We are waiting for the verdict from the Human Rights Courts in Geneva. However, he would get his Civic rights automatically by 2010. Question: It was Mrs.Chandrika Kumaratunga who did that. But, you had once worked for her as her Private Secretary?

Thamara: Yes, when she became the Chief Minister of the Western Province I had a good rapport with her though things were topsy-tervy.

Question: S.B. is still attached to the UNP. If he gets a good offer would he agree to join the Government?

Thamara: He has been already asked. But he has said 'No'... S.B. is not just a politician, but a 'people's man'. He works for the people. The country needs the guidance of such people. His strength is wasted. But he lives on with his own policies.

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday November 18 2007

Love and business well matched

Sreeni talks about life with eminent businessman Jayantha Dharmadasa:

"He would watch TV while munching a snack, answering the mobile and giving interviews over the phone and scan through the pages of a newspaper simultaneously. I don't know how he does all that at once," smiles Sreeni Jayasekara Dharmadasa, wife of Jayantha Dharmadasa, a renowned businessman in Sri Lanka.

"He is well-focused and target oriented, and doesn't waste a second in vain," she continues. May be true! His very first target was launched when he was a teen at the age of seventeen; that was to win his love, Sreeni.

"The two of us came from business families, were well-connected and family friends. We attended the same business functions and were socially matched too. Among all, religious functions were given priority.

He and I had been meeting each other since we were little children. But the day he really showed interest in me was when we attended a Bana sermon (Buddhist preaching) held at the Maha Bodhi Society Temple at Maligawatta. It was in 1967. I was just 13 years old and he was 17," she blushes.

"I knew it was not the age to start a love affair. And unlike today, getting involved in a love affair was considered misbehaviour. But it just happened," she smiles.

Sreeni was the eldest daughter of three brothers and two sisters of H.R. Jayasekara and Soma Jayasekara.

Wholesale vegetables was the Jayasekara family's business. "I was studying at Visakha Vidyalaya. The day following the event at the temple, I received a phone call Jayantha.

Fortunately, I who used to answer the telephone all the time and from that day onwards he kept on calling me. It was easy for him to talk to me at the functions. Only my paternal grand mother knew I was getting telephone calls as she was with us all the time when my parents were away.

She was very fond of me, so she never uttered a word about it to my parents," she says. "Jayantha used to call me frequently accept for the days on which there were cricket matches on the air. He hasn't changed. He is still engrossed with 'cricket', she laughs.

Question: Did you discuss about your teen-romance with your friends?

Sreeni: I told you about it. With one or two close friends, and that was all. I'm not much of a talker.

So I rarely reveal anything to anybody she smiles. Later, when my parents got to know about it they were a bit mad with me, but eventually accepted it as Jayantha's family was well connected and known to ours. But they asked me to wait for a few years as they felt we were too young to be in love.

So we were very careful. However, most of the communication was over the phone and when we attended functions we had to remain unmoved and pretend that there was nothing going on between the two of us.

After sitting for the O/L exam, Sreeni tied the knot with Jayantha on May 22, 1972. Jayantha Dharmadasa was born to a popular businessman, H.K. Dharmadasa alias Nawaloka Mudalali and Meelin Dharmadasa on November 7, 1948, the fourth in his family of four sisters and a brother.

Though he didn't perform excellently in any particular sport, Jayantha played cricket and rugby while at S. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia.

After doing A/Ls in the Science stream, Jayantha immediately stepped into business. The best university education he got was under his father, learning to manage every section of the Nawaloka group.

He started off as an ordinary clerk and was then promoted to the post of cashier, once a mechanic as well as a supervisor of the labour pool. Jayantha was not given the executive desk at the outset, but was put to the field to learn the work.

"It was a great training one could ever get as I learnt everything and enhanced my knowledge as a businessman from the lowest level right to the level of Managing Director. That training gave me a lot of endurance in business," butts in Jayantha who spent a few minutes with us before heading back for office.

"Even my two sons followed the same. After completing their school education, Harshith and Givantha were thinking of going for higher education abroad. I okayed it, but asked them to work with me in the business for three months before setting off.

And after the third month, they themselves decided that the best education was not abroad and not in the desire to wear the academical cloak, but in the field of business.

'Whatever learnt at university level would be all theoretical. For practical knowledge one would necessarily have to step into the field some day. So, they thought why waste time for three-four years and since then, they have been in the business," says Jayantha.

"I too didn't want them to go away," says Sreeni. "My children are closer to me than to the father. Not that Jayantha is too strict with them, but that is how it has been since they were very young. Even now, (not for business matters) they go through me when they want to get something personal done from 'Thatha'. Even Jayantha is still like that when it comes to his father," she says.

Question: Other than that what are the special qualities you see in him?

Sreeni: Neatness is his god. Also he is an extreme punctualist. As I told you earlier he can attend to many things simultaneously. I'm generally slow and always end up getting pulled up by him.

If he says 7 O'clock, it's 7. He doesn't believe in excuses. Before getting married I did piano music and sewing. But, after marriage I have had to put a stop to all that. When Jayantha is at home I have to be around.

If I'm not he would snarl saying, 'In vain I came home this early. I should have stayed in office a few more hours'... So I've decided to sacrifice everything for his happiness, she smiles. He is a food lover.

Cooking has become my pastime now. He relishes whatever I make and it has to be varied. He loves variety. So attending food demonstration has been the only pastime I have been involved in for the past few years. Jayantha is a great teaser.

Unlike me, he talks a lot and has a good sense of humour. In my case, my parents sent me to the Montessori at a very early age thinking I would start talking. I was not a talker but all my friends and close associates were very talkative.

I don't know why, all of them talk non stop, though I don't. (People love to talk especially when they have somebody to listen. No wonder Sreeni has a talkative hubby and friends.

"A good listener has more friends and less trouble."

Question: Your children?

Sreeni: I'm very proud of them and really happy too. Both my sons are married. The youngest, my daughter Givanthi is also in business now. My children have been very different from other children.

When they were small too they were very good and obedient, they were never troublesome. Even Jayantha had only to voice his opinion once and they would listen to him. If they disapproved they would say 'no', but they have never argued.

Jayantha Dharmadasa is the Managing Director of Nawaloka Group of Companies and Polysacks Ltd in Sharjah, Deputy Chairman of Nawaloka Hospitals (Pvt) Ltd and Nawaloka Aviation (Pvt) Ltd, Chairman of Nawaloka (Pvt) Ltd, Ashford International and Nawatex Ltd.

Apart from them he chairs three associations; the Sri Lanka Cricket, President Asian Cricket Council, the Cinesta Foundation for film artistes and the OSCA (Outstanding Song Creators' Association), a high-powered profile.

Question: He is a man of many matches. How does he manage all that?

Sreeni: He is capable, great and marvellous! Sometimes I would not remember what happened in the previous week's teledrama, but he does. He would relate the whole story despite all his work. (Genius!).... He would not miss a single match on TV nor the first day of the newest film. He is always on the move. I hardly see him relaxing. No, no, he never relaxes. He is always busy doing something.

Question: How would you deal with rumours concerning your husband?

Sreeni: I would ask him, and I have done so, she smiles. 'Don't be bothered', would be his only answer'. He never discusses official matters with me. In other words he does not bring office issues home.

He helps outsiders very much (even more than to his children), and is very sensitive to the needs and reactions of outsiders. This I would consider a big weak point in him.

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer Oct 28 2007

Love and appreciation

Kalyani talks about life with Professor W.D. Lakshman

From the spouse's mouth - by Lakmal Welabada The serious looking lecturer who was said to be 'not interested in girls' was delivering the first Econ lecture for the freshers of that year at the Peradeniya campus.

The new comers who thought the young man was one of the seniors did not bother to write a sentence he was teaching.

The freshers were so fed up of being ragged by seniors and were having some breathing space at the lecture hall after facing a heavy verbal harassment of the 'Second-years'. After their gruesome experience, the freshers were watching the face of the young man who was giving the lecture. "What a man," thought Kalyani frowning at him.


Prof. W.D.Lakshman and Mrs. Kalyani Lakshman

The next was a tute class. Kalyani was bewildered when she saw a 'C-minus' on the top right corner of her tute. "Oh! why is this?" she exclaimed. The studious fresher who had never got 'minus' marks in her life was feeling terrible. She frowned at the young tutor once again. He was peacefully at his desk attending to some work bending his head down.

By now the freshers knew the small made young man was not another senior, but the youngest lecturer W.D.Lakshman of the Department of Economics.

The fresher Kalyani Sirisili Munasinghe was from Ihalayagoda, Imbulgoda, Gampaha. As the only child of her parents, Head Master, D. M. Munasinghe and Isebella Munasinghe, a teacher, Kalyani had had a very happy and secured childhood. She had her primary education at Rajasinghe Maha Vidyalaya, Imbulgoda, and then entered Rathnavali Balika Vidyalaya, Gampaha.

"I was the only child. When I was small I thought it was great. But later regretted it. When you don't have siblings; oh! that feeling is different. The worst part of it was that I really missed the rifts that would be common among siblings..

That was because I was scared to fight with my cousins and friends though they were in abundance. I thought they would not come back to me if I had a dispute with them. You know, you don't have to get scared to fight with your own sisters and brothers as they 'will not' leave you. So I really missed that," laughs Kalyani.

"I was very close to my mother. My father was a good person, but was very strict. When I got my report card at the end of the term, I had to produce it as I entered the house. Otherwise Thatha suspected some thing is wrong. However my "teacher parents" influence provoked me to further my studies," she says.


On their wedding day

Sinhala, Economics, Pali and Education were her subjects at the 'Pera' university. Kalyani passed out as a graduate of Bachelor of Education in 1968.

"I'm a person who talks a lot. But he doesn't. However I used to interact with him as he was my lecturer. But he was a great critic. He would hack one's tute from top to bottom. He looks for perfection in every aspect when marking a tute. And he is still like that," she says.

Kalyani was at lunch at the Pera lunch hall when one of her male batch mates came to her to join her. "You know Kalyani, I have something to tell you. It is about Mr.Lakshman," he said. "Oh, what's so especial about him?" she was not bothered. "He seems to be interested in you," he declared.

Kalyani and her room-mate were invited to go for a film at the Regal Cinema, Kandy. Among the male batch mates, the young lecturer who 'doesn't like girls' was also there. Kalyani still doesn't know whether it was a planned mission. But it was the first time that the two got the chance to talk freely.

Weligamage Don Lakshman was born in Mihiripanne, Galle. Lakshman was the third of four children of the business family of Mr. and Mrs. Porolis de Silva. He had his education at the Vidyaloka College, Galle, and was the Head Prefect at school.

The Marxist Economist didn't have any other desire other than engulfing himself in books, newspapers and tutes; collecting and updating his knowledge of the past and current economical occurrences of the country and the world. His knowledge was universal. In addition to that Lakshman was very much involved in politics at the university. He was a Leftist.

"My parents did not give their consent at once.. Lakshman was preparing to go to the UK. I was the only child, and my parents were so upset over this idea. They were so possessive and wanted to give me in marriage to a person who would stay in Sri Lanka through out," she reminisces. However their 'Prem Tharangaya' (love) had a happy ending. Lakshman and Kalyani got married on September 18 in 1968.

"We were to fly to UK for his PhD at the Oxford University. We had to sacrifice our honeymoon as we were running to and fro collecting our air tickets and getting ready for the flight," she recalls with a smile.

"As everybody knows, Lakshman rarely shows his emotions. The only time in my life that I saw him crying, was when we were setting off to the UK. He fell down at his father's feet and cried like a little child. Even I was helpless. And it was his brother who raised him to his feet," reminisces Kalyani.

While Lakshman was studying, Kalyani joined the Oxford Press as a Statistician. When they returned to Sri Lanka they were proud parents of two sons, Harsha and Rajith. Iresha, their only daughter was born later.

Prof. W. D. Lakshman was the Dean of the Faculty of Economics at the University of Colombo, and held the post of the Vice Chancellor at the same university from 1995 to 1999. He was honoured with the Deshamanya title in 2005.

Kalyani became a teacher. After teaching in the outstations for sometime, she came to St. Anthony's Girls' School, Kollupitya. "The vacancy was for a Commerce teacher. I had done only Economics. I was on the fence and didn't know whether to accept it or not.

But then I remembered Educationist, Prof. J. E. Jayasuriya's words. 'Whatever the subject is offered to you, as a teacher you should be able to accept it and teach. If you are not familiar with the subject, learn it while teaching'.... So I also accepted the challenge.

One of my husband's students, Ramya, who was also a lecturer at the Colombo Campus, promised to teach me Accounts and Commerce. I enroled to do CIMA, and successfully did the first two parts. So while learning I taught," she smiles.

Prof. Lakshman got sabbatical leave once, and the whole family was able to stay in Japan for 9 months. Kalyani used this opportunity to learn Japanese. "And later when I got the appointment as a Commerce teacher at Devi Balika Vidyalaya, Colombo I was able to introduce Japanese language to the A/L stream. I taught Japanese voluntarily.

Later I was offered a scholarship to Japan, and it provided me the opportunity to get the paper qualifications to teach the language," she recalls.

Mrs. Kalyani Lakshman was a popular teacher wherever she taught. She rendered her service as the Deputy Principal of Lindsey Balika, Colombo and Principal of Yasodhara Balika, Gampaha, and retired after serving as the Principal of Devi Balika Maha Vidyalaya, Colombo for 9 years.

Mrs. Kalyani Lakshman, more than a teacher or a Principal was a friend to her students. And that is why she is loved so much by all her students and fellow teachers.

After recovering from a critical period in life due to a malignant illness for nearly a year, today Kalyani spends an extremely serene and happy life. "I'm really happy when I think of how I could recover from my illness so fast.

Medication, meditation and the nursing rendered to me by my family along with their love and care might have been the facts that pulled me out from danger. My three children and husband were very strong and never let me fall mentally. They were like four pillars around me," she reminisces.

Question : Prof. Lakshman is known as a well learned figure who talks little. What kind of a perspective do you have regarding him?

Kalyani : He talks less in general. But if he falls into a topic that interests him he would go on talking. He is a bookworm. Even when he comes home he prefers to spend most of his time in his library. So first thing I did for him after I got retired from work and got recovered from my illness was, giving him a library at home (laughs).

Now all his books are kept in order, and he has easy access to them (laughs). Unlike the distance I had with my father, my husband and my children are having a close relationship among them. Children do not go through me to him. But when it comes to a social obligation I have to be behind him.

He never remembers or bothers to take part in functions or other social activities. Somebody has to push him. Also he would see and point out short comings, but rarely appreciates or admires things.

Though he is a serious critic in work when it comes to helping or assisting somebody (it can be his student or friend) he would push that person until he or she becomes successful. That is his greatest hobby which I really admire in him.

The Lakshmans' residence at Kotte reminds me of a Buddhist temple. The calm and tranquil surface which prevails there gives a sense of peace to whoever enters their home.

"I lead a very spiritual life now. Do you know, what my husband's surprise gift to me for last year's Poson Poya Day was? It was a set of the 'Thripitakaya'. I have been reading them. Since I have done Pali it's easy," she says.

The Ikebana floral arrangements done by Kalyani enhance the blissful ecstasy of their residence. "I learnt Ikebana when I was in Japan. When you see an Ikebana arrangement it gives you peaceful pleasure. It's like meditation as an Ikebana arrangement carries a deep sober meaning," she says.

All three children of the Lakshman couple today hold doctorates. Their sons, Dr. Harsha Lakshman is in UK and Dr. Rajith Lakshman is attached to the Department of Economics of the University of Colombo.

Their only daughter Dr. Iresha Karunaratne is attached to the Department of Sociology at the Colombo University. Prof. W. D. Lakshman and Mrs. Kalyani Lakshman who are today the grandparents of four are leading a tranquil life.

Rendering his utmost service to the country on an academical level for many decades Prof. Lakshman retired from his services last week.

"My wife has been dedicated to us, the family, throughout," was the one and only sentence Prof. Lakshman said about Kalyani. But those few words declared a lot ; sincerity, love and appreciation.

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer Oct 21 2007

"She made the first move"

Dhammika talks about life with Sprint Queen Susanthika Jayasinghe:

Victory brings glamour and defeat brings clamour. Susanthika Jayasinghe, the Sprint Queen is in between both. The bouquets on her hands would turn to stones when triumph shifts to loss.

There's no pause to the ringing of the phone when she wins. Invitations for opening ceremonies, this function and that function would pour on her when she returns with 'medals'. But at her misfortune, a few would be there to wipe off her tears. Dhammika Nandakumara, beloved husband of the Black Princess has many things to say.


Dhammika Nandakumara & Susanthika Jayasinghe

"We have to accept this fact. More than anybody. Susie's fans are the ones who get upset over her defeats. They, who get mentally down even more than Susie. Sport provides either triumph or defeat. Still the majority cannot understand this. On the other hand this is human nature," specifies Dhammika, the present coach of the Sprint Queen.

"Susanthika (Susie) is a strong woman both physically and mentally. But the power she has to face both victory and defeat is her inner or mental strength. Whatever problems that come her way this has been the only fact that has prevented her from falling apart," recalls Dhammika.

Kumbukage Dhammika Nandakumara is from Gonapola, Horana, but had spent most of his life in Panadura. He was in the A/L class when the insurgence propped up in the country in 1989. He joined the National Sports School and did a one-year Diploma in Sports in 1989. He did sports until 1995, and was the National Champion both in 100m and 200m in 1993 and 1994.

"I joined the Army in 1994. And so did Susie. This is because joining the Forces has been the only choice an amateur sportsman has until he or she comes up and finds his or her own survival. Or else they have to find their own food and lodging while coming for practices. And still this has been the practice in the sports field in Sri Lanka," says Dhammika.Dhammika and Susie both resigned from the Army after a few years.

Manannalage Susanthika Jayasinghe who was born and bred at Uduwaka, Warakapola was one such novice whose talent for running detected by her Sports Officer Mrs. Dhammika Wanigasuriya. Susie was introduced to Dervin Perera, Athletic Coach, and started to undergo practices under him at the Torrington Grounds.

Dhammika was also one of the sports students of Coach Dervin. The team which comprised 10 to 12 young sportsmen and women including Susie and Dhammika had a brotherly relationship among them.


On their wedding day
Pic:Prasanna Hennayake
 

"At first it was just friendship. We had our meals together, and used to chat for hours. That's why she still calls me 'Aiya'. But when others started teasing us I felt there was something going on. I ignored this at first, but she made the first move," laughs Dhammika.

The green pastures and the green shades of the Torrington Ground witnessed the determination of the young village Sprint Queen who was sweating off to bring medals to her country. And not merely that, but also the humble romance blooming up in the two young souls.

Q: Was there any especial feature or quality that attracted you towards Susie? DhammikA: Well, hmm....(thinks) her smile. And her outspoken and candid quality. She can talk well. She is superb! (laughs). She was not even a National Champ at that time.

When she declared her feelings frankly to me, I didn't mind going ahead with her. It was the first love of both of us (smiles). I was about 23 years and she was just 18....

However, something provoked them to tie the knot early. Only their team of sports friends knew that the duo had got registered.

This was in 1994. When Susie's family members came to see her, she didn't fail to introduce him to them. Neither of their families had a word to go against their wish, but they were bewildered about why they had wanted to get married so soon, without informing them.

It was after six months that their family members got to know about their registration. "We just wanted it in that way," he says with a broad smile. It seems that Susie is a rebel not only in sports.

Susie won her first medal (Bronze) at SAF Games in Bangladesh in 1993. And in 1994, the year she got engaged, she won the Silver at the Asian Games.. And then in year 2000, which followed her wedding with Dhammika, she won the Bronze in the Olympic Games. "Our wedding was held at Ambepussa Rest House on November 17, and the official function was held at the Hotel Hilton after two days. Nearly 1,000 guests attended both functions," recalls Dhammika.

The Olympic Silver medal brought extreme glamour to Susie's life. Everything for her; wedding, the vehicle, the flat in Moratuwa were sponsored. Only thing that was not 'sponsored' was love - which is still showered upon her from his heart.

Dhammika and Susie have been married for 13 years (along with the few years after they got registered). Living peacefully in her Narahenpita flat, Susie spends her days leisurely after going for practices.

"We are building a new house. Both Susie and I come from the village. It's seven years since we have been living in a flat. True, it's convenient in every aspect. But we need some greenery and fresh air at least once in a way. So that's why we decided to build a place in the suburb," says Dhammika.

Q: You have been married for many years. So do you see the same Susie or what are the changes that have taken place in her?

Dhammika: I see a difference (pauses). She is extremely busy, and this fact has lessened the time for both of us.

We rarely have time to be together. But I want her to 'run' as long as she could because I have to realise that Susie is not only mine, but she is a national asset. The whole Sri Lanka claims her.

We have to think of a peaceful and proper family life only after she quits from sports. But I do not think that day is near by. I have given her the freedom to make her own decisions.

However I render all my assistance to her. Being the husband of a world champion athletic wife is a wonderful experience. But a lot of sacrifices are involved. But still I believe people will remember 'Susie' as they do Duncan White. Sports Stars like them have done something for the country.

Dhammika is now involved in a small business in the Rubber trade. "Time is the most valuable thing which we don't have as both of us give priority to her practices. The Olympics which will be held next year in Beijing, China is her next target," says Dhammika.

Q: What are the weak points you see in her?

Dhammika: She believes others a lot. And takes sudden decisions. How ever much I've advised her she doesn't bother to think far.

Q: You are the present coach of Susie. What kind of an experience is that?

Dhammika: Sometimes she tries to slip away. So there are times that I have to be firm with her. At home I'm her beloved husband, but on the ground I'm her coach. So no nonsense!

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer Oct 14 2007

"My first and last love"

Lanka talks about life with Minister Navin Dissanayake:



Dr. Lanka Jayasuriya Dissanayake

"After a few minutes of talking to him, I felt he was a very matured young man for his age; well grounded and simple. He was wonderful!" smiles Dr. Nishirani Lanka Jayasuriya Dissanayake, wife of the young Parliamentarian, Navin Dissanayake, Minister of Investment Promotion.

"I was in England with my sister. There were four more years to be spent to complete my studies. During this time, a friend of both families arranged our meeting at the Colombo Club (the Cinnamon Grand Hotel) in December, 1997. I was on vacation. I went with my mother and he had come with his mother. It was the very first proposal I got. And I presume it was the first proposal he got as well. He is my first and last 'love'," says Lanka.

Karu Jayasuriya, Minister of Public Administration and Home Affairs and Dr. (Mrs.) Wasantha Jayasuriya are her parents. "Ours was a very close family. My father was chairing and handling 52 companies, and came into active politics later.

So my sister and I were not exposed to politics that much. The other reason was that we were away from Sri Lanka for ten years. What we had experienced was a pretty lovely 'bird nest' sort of home life with our parents. My father had set apart a time for the family, and dinner was considered the 'family meeting'. We used to discuss various things. We really enjoyed it. We had a good childhood," she recalls.


On their wedding day

Mahita and Samadhee

"Navin knew all about this. So the first thing that he explained to me at our very first meeting was the hard and harsh part of the life of a politician, which subsequently his wife would also have to face. 'You will have to be alone so many days.

If you are going ahead with me you have to prepare for that,' I still remember him saying with a charming smile on his face," reminisces Lanka. After the holidays, Lanka went back to England.

They were 'seven seas' away from each other with no doves to carry their messages to and fro. He visited me in UK with his mother twice. And though my target was to further my post graduate studies which would be over in four years, I thought of returning to Sri Lanka for good as our affair was already growing," she smiles.

Lanka studied at St. Bridget's Convent and Devi Balika Vidyalaya, Colombo. The insurgence in 1989 was a decisive time in the country.

"Since the schools were closed my sister and I entered the Wycherley International, and then went to Fulneck Girls' School, UK. I was 14 years and my sister was 11 years old then. It was terrible! Just terrible, as we were suddenly taken away from our parents. My sister found it really difficult and was in tears through out," she says.

Lanka joined the Leeds Teaching Hospital in Leeds, UK and graduated in Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery(MBCHB). She was the house officer in the special ward of Geriatric (medicine for elderly) patients in the same hospital for half a year.

Q: Why did you feel working for elders was so special?

Lanka: The elderly population is growing fast in the world. And in the near future specialised knowledge is needed to encounter this situation. So, I thought of having some experience along with my internship. I though I would be able to render a better service in the future. Also I've found it interesting to work with elderly people.

Unlike in Sri Lanka where we have extended family units, in England once you grow old you have to prepare to lead a lonely life. So I had noticed that they get a world of happiness when somebody reach them and spare five minutes talking and listening to them. People need other's attention especially when they grow old.

Q: You said Navin was the 'first and last' love in your life?

Lanka: Yes (laughs). When my sister and I were setting off to England my father said 'Duwa, you two should return home as pure as you are today. Always think that you have to protect the dignity of yourselves, your parents, your country, culture and religion,'...

These few words had a lot of meaning to me, and it rang in my ears through out my stay in UK. And that was the very reason that provoked me to decide to have a 'one and only' in my life (laughs)..

"But you won't believe my father himself had gone to see 108 brides (proposals). He had begun to see them at the age of 18 years at the persuasion of his parents (laughs)... Hundred and seven were rejected by him. And my mother the 108th, was the lucky woman.

And as he saw her, he had given his consent. And within two weeks they had got registered. Also my mother says my father was the 'first and last' love of her life" she says.

Navin and Lanka got married on February 10, 2000. By the time of their marriage, Navin was the Chief Organiser in the Nuwara-Eliya district, and he won the seat in 2002.

"After getting married I worked at the General Hospital. During this time Navin was away in Nuwara-Eliya and most of the time I was alone in Colombo. It was a hard time for me. So I resigned from work and joined him", says Lanka.

"My mother was a Municipal doctor. Each time she moved to a new clinic the first thing she used to do was colour wash and clean the new clinic.

So my sister and I also used to engage in this type of work enthusiastically. My mother was my inspiration to become a doctor. So while Navin was engrossed in his work in the electorate I got together with my mother and held health camps every weekend in Nuwara-Eliya for quite sometime. We used to see 200-300 patients per day." she reminisces.

Q: How do you see Navin as a person and a husband?

Lanka: "Navin rarely shows his emotions. He doesn't let his heart rule his head. Hence some think he is harsh and hard. But the man inside him is different. He is tender and gentle with the family and children". The two little angles in their nest, Samadhee and Mahita are now five years and two years respectively.

Q: Navin as a father...?

Lanka: Navin is in the Ministry during the week days, and goes to Nuwara-Eliya in the weekends. Samadhee feels his absence a lot.

We both worry about giving the right environment to the children. Today's children are quite Westernised, and this worries us a lot.

Samadhee, though in the upper nursery has already started to attend the 'Daham Pasala' (Sunday School). Navin is a Royalist and comes from a strong Buddhist background. So do I.

Except for my father and Navin all the other members in both families are vegetarians - including my little daughters and I. Even Navin's father (late Gamini Dissanayaka) was also a pure vegetarian. My father used to say though he didn't get a son he would be happy with two 'good' sons-in-law. My sister is married to an Englishman and is happily living in the UK. So he is happy now.

Q: What's the weak point you see in him?

Lanka: Lack of Patience! Patience is the greatest virtue out of all... This is the 'Manthra' I have been reciting to him," she smiles).

Q: Do you mean, he gets angry easily?

Lanka: No, no, he doesn't. But sometimes he gets agitated. For example, before the UNP Democratic group joined the government, he was in a frustrated state saying that the young brains and energy such as his, are wasted and stagnated.

On such instances, I have shown facts and stopped him from making sudden decisions.

Q: If you get an offer would you like to join active politics?

Lanka: Not as a candidate. Definitely not (laughs). But I would render my whole hearted support to my father and husband.

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer Oct 7 2007

All for the love of a soldier

Anoma talks about life with Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka: 



Anoma Fonseka
 
Pic: Chinthaka Kumarasinghe

From the Spouse's mouth  -  by Lakmal Welabada "If you think you would not be able to make 'sacrifices' then don't marry a soldier," says Anoma Fonseka, the beloved wife of Lieutenant General Sarath Munasinghe, Commander of the Sri Lanka Army.

Seated in her office at the Army Seva Vanitha Headquarters, Anoma begins to recall the past and present of her life with her Army husband.

"My love for him began when I was a fifteen-year-old school girl," she blushes. "Well, one of the Army friends of my elder brother was invited for dinner at our place at Base Line Road, Dematagoda.

He accompanied another friend of his, and that was 'Sarath Aiya' (she calls the Army Commander by that name). He was about 22 years old and I was about 15. Since my elder sisters who were 17 and 18 were very much closer to the young Army officers' age, my mother didn't let them appear in the sitting room. And I, the youngest (probably thinking I was still a child) was sent to serve a drink for them," she laughs.

Anoma served and talked to the two young Second Lieutenants of the Sinha Regiment casually as she was quite used to befriending the mates of her elder brothers. It was not a strange thing to her at all. But this particular handsome young Army fellow who was introduced as 'Sarath' had a different approach, she thought.

His gaze was straight, though he still looked shy. He talked less and listened more. "And he is still like that," she adds, Anoma exchanged a humble yet hearty smile with him and went into the house.


With their daughters - Aparna and Apsara

'Maani' is the pet name for Anoma at home. The following day 'Maani' got a telephone call from a young man. It was 'Sarath Aiya' whom she met the previous day. They chatted a bit. Sarath pretended that he was talking to a child. Anoma was still a child, afterall.

Since then his telephone calls became a part of her life. The continuous dialogues over the phone was not a secret to her family, except to her father. In fact Anoma was still a school girl at Gothami Balika Vidyalaya, Colombo, a clever all rounder in studies, sports, music and dancing.

However Sarath knew when to phone her. During the afternoon, when her father returned to his office after lunch, and when her mother went for a nap, the phone used to ring. The youngest of the family was the only person at home to pick the receiver up.

The two Second Lieutenants once invited the whole family for lunch at the Army Mess at Echelon Square. Sarath somehow found this opportunity to sit beside Anoma at the dinning table, and tried to exchange a word with her. With great difficulty she ignored it as her father and the rest was around. However Sarath began to visit them often as a good friend of Anoma's brothers.

Anoma Indumathi Munasinghe was the youngest of five siblings in the business family of D.J. Munasinghe and Eugine. Her two sisters and two brothers have been the jewels of her life. "I'm blessed in many ways, I suppose," she says with a broad smile.

Gardihewa Sarath



At their wedding

Chandralal Fonseka was born Down South to Peter and Piyawathie Fonseka. He had his education at Dharmashoka, Ambalangoda and Ananda College, Colombo. Anoma entered wedded life with him under a shower of blessings at the Hotel Samudra (presently known as Taj Samudra) on April 29 in 1979.

"His very first gift to me was a Silver broach on my Sixteenth birthday," she smiles. "And the two most precious gifts are our two daughters - Apsara and Aparna," she laughs.

"Both are studying in the States. Apsara studied Finance and banking and Aparna has been doing Accounts," she says.

Question: Your husband might have been out of Colombo most of the time. How did you cope with the family matters?

Anoma: That is the destiny and the fate of a wife of a soldier. We have to keep a broad margin for them. I rarely tell a family problem to him. I raised my two daughters like a mother-bird who kept and protected them under her wings. Now they have already flown away. But still their love for us is the same.

My daughters and I discuss the problem first and put fact to him as if we are forwarding it to the court for a verdict, his decision is final," she smiles. "He and I never call one another by our names. If I want to talk about him with somebody I would either call him 'Commander' or 'Sarath Aiya'. Both of us have respect for each other. I'm a religious person and my blessings are always with him," she claims.

After the marriage, Anoma followed a Pre-school course and worked as a pre-school teacher at the Visaka Nursery, Colombo from 1990 to 2000. "I think teaching is the best profession for a soldier's wife as she gets more free time. This is really helpful as she has to play both roles of the father and mother since the husbands are always on duty," she points out.

Question: If we don't talk about the incident (the suicide bomb blast targeted at the Army Commander) which took place at the Army Headquarters last April 25, it would be a laps . Would you mind recalling this event?

Anoma: I was here at the Seva Vanitha Headquarters. I heard a sound and thought it was thunder. How can you believe that something like that would happen inside the Army Headquarters? I asked Captain Erandi Mohotti what it was.

When I learnt my husband was targeted I tried to get up and go, but was tightly held to the chair by my fellow Army members. I went blank for sometime, and nothing came to my mind. I heard that he was able to get off from the jeep by himself, and was rushed to the National Hospital.

The doctors told me that his condition was on the fence and could not be predicted until 48 hours. I .... (pauses) knew that I would not be a widow. Our whole family is religious.

I meditate, and believe a lot that if we lead a good life, showers of blessings of the Triple Gem will pour on us every time. I have never done a wrong thing in my life. I'm responsible for what I'm saying. And that is the 'Sathya Kriya' I did beside his sick bed.

She was not shocked though tears were flowing from her eyes throughout. I phoned Kollupitiye Mahinda Thero, the Chief Incumbent of the Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya to conduct a Bodhi Pooja. Velamitiyawe Kusala Dhamma Thero was the first Buddhist Priest to visit us, and then he immediately went to Anuradhapura Sri Maha Bodhiya to conduct especial Bodhi Pooja.

There was a sea of saffron robed Bhikkus visiting the Hospital. The Army Seva Vanitha, all the fellow members of the Army, my siblings and relatives were with me like one family. Our daughters were in the States. Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapakse helped them to return and it was a great thing at that time," she says.

"This attack was the third attack he had. First, at 'Yaldevi' mission at Kalali in 1993, and secondly at 'Jayasikuru' operation at Mankulam. But he survived. He won't part from us. I know that. He gets angry and within seconds cools down.

I'm a person who rarely gets angry. To the outer world the Army Commander is a strict warrior, but to us he is a family man. Apart from his job the two daughters are his life. Apsara is his 'Chooti Duwa' and Aparna is his 'Chooti Pana' (life).

Now our eldest is married. I have to mention about our son-in-law, Dinuna Thilakaratne, son of retired Brigadier Tissa Thilakaratne. Dinuna and Apsara had started their affair since they were teens when we were residing at the Summit Flats.

He is a Computer Systems Analyst. The youngest daughter, Aparna is still studying. All three are in the States, and only the Commander and I are at home. Both of us begin our day after giving a telephone call to our daughters, and then offering Poojas to the Buddha. It's a daily routine," she says.

Among the various mass scale projects of the Army Seva Vanitha looking after the welfare matters of those and their families of missing in action, killed in action, disabled and of those in the service at present, Anoma, the current President has launched a special project for mentally retarded children of the Army personnel.

Her excellent service to the nation along with the Army Seva Vanitha, as well as being the courageous wife of the present Army Commander, Anoma Fonseka was honoured with the title of 'Shasanamamaka Deshabhimani Diriya Maatha' by Sabaragamuwa Amarapura Siri Saddhammawansa Maha Nikaye Eknaligoda Section on August 25, 2007.

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer Sep 30 2007

Scared of his lady fans

Sandra talks about life with Sanath Jayasuriya:



Sandra Jayasuriya

"I was at the entrance greeting the passengers. Sanath was the next passenger. I was surprised, but greeted him, saying 'Ayubowan!'... He was in extremely simple attire.

Kept his bag on the ground and greeted me. And I still see that simplicity in Sanath. And that is something I really admire in him," says Sandra Tania de Silva Jayasuriya, the beloved wife of cricketer Sanath Jayasuriya.

"I cannot remember the date, but the year was 1999. It was the 'Madras flight' Sanath was returning not from a cricket match, but from Thirupathy," she continues. Sure!

Sanath might have been returning after making a vow; looking for a soothing solution for his tormented soul. So his vow turned into reality, then and there. He met his future wife on this flight.

"I was busy attending to the passengers. I had met Sanath before this at a birthday party of a friend. That day I went up to him to get his signature. And that was all.

However six months had passed since I met him first. I introduced myself to him. He said 'good bye' when getting off. I had met many prominent figures on board as an Air Hostess, so meeting Sanath, the cricketer was also just another encounter.

Sandra returned to her home at Kochchikade, Negombo and was reading a magazine when her mother peeped into the room and handed over the hand-telephone. "Hello, yes, Sandra here," she spoke.

"Hi, hope you remember me. I'm Sanath Jayasuriya," she heard from the other end. Sandra paused a moment to gather her thoughts. A pleasant surprise, but what did 'Sanath', the cricketer have to do with her? She was bewildered, but composed.


Sanath and Sandra with Savindi, Yalindi and Ranuka

Sanath had dug her number out from her friend. But, why such a special interest? Sandra thought, must be for fun! However she couldn't resist when the famous 'Man of the Match' asked her for her mobile number.

After nine months the two gradually realised that they were for each other. However, Sandra's father who was a great fan of Sanath until he heard about his darling daughter's affair became an irritated opponent of the Black Cricket Prince.

"His fame would bring you a tough time," was her father's opinion."Eh! you will get a 'black' party. All your children will be pitch dark like him. I would feel like throwing them out of our boundary," her mother was sarcastic throughout pointing out the contrasts between the sun burnt cricketer and the beautiful fair Sandra. Even her only younger brother was not in a proper shape of mind to accept him.

Whatsoever, finally true love triumphed. Sanath became the 'Man of the Series' once again not on the pitch, but in his real life. After nine months of their meeting in Madras, on June 19, 2000, Sandra and Sanath promised before God to be together until death do them part at a private Mass held at St. Jude Cathedral, a small chapel at Mattegoda.

The Mass followed a family Reception along with a few close relatives and friends at his Boralesgamuwa residence.

"Before one week of the marriage a Pirith Pinkama conducted by the Buddhist priests at Vapikaramaya, Boralesgamuwa was held, and both families took part. On the same evening of the Reception, Sanath had a match in Galle. I joined him. We had our honeymoon there," she smiles.

Sandra studied at Ave Maria Convent, Negombo and sat for her A/Ls in Languages. "My dream was to become an air hostess. It tossed into my mind along with a wish of a good friend of mine. 'I wish you would be a lovely Air Hostess one day,' was what she wrote in Sandra's book of autographs.

"I didn't know who an Air hostess was, and asked my father about it. He showed me a tour journal comprising an Air crew and explained. I was about twelve years then.

Since then I started collecting pictures of Air Crew. And just after A/Ls, before I got my results I joined Air Lanka. I have visited 28 countries and 33 destinations," she says.

"I worked about ten years. But I always wanted to be like my mother one day - a housewife. My father retired as a Airport Representative for Trans Asia Hotel. My mother's world was us, her family. So before marriage I quit. It was my decision and not his," says Sandra.

Within the past seven years three little members entered the nest of Sandra and Sanath - two daughters and a son. Savindi is five and half years, Yalindi is two and half and little Ranuka is 11 months. "I got Dengue in the seventh month when I was pregnant with our son.

Luckily it was diagnosed at the very inception and I was hospitalised for 12 days. It was a nightmare! Also the doctors said it was a girl for the third time as well. I was upset as I was yearning for a boy. However I made up my mind to accept this. But at the theatre miraculously a boy came to me," she laughs.

Question: Tell us how it's like to be the wife of a world famous Cricketer. How does his fame affect you especially with the female fans?

Sandra: S..c..a..r..ing! (laughs). I entertain the genuine fans of his, I mean whether it's males or females, I don't mind. But there were times that his fame bugged me, especially with feminine fan clubs who were enticed and mesmerised over him. But I clear my doubts then and there with him. I don't bottle up things inside (laughs). He treats everyone equally.

"When cricket is not right, nothing is right with him. He is extremely punctual for Cricket practices. First, I wondered what was going on with him. He was always on the move.

Later I realised his passion for the sport. I noticed the BIG smile on his face after winning a Match, and when he lost, the bad tone. Even in sleep he worries about the loss, especially if he has lost due to a careless shot. We rarely get free time. But, recently we went to England for two months and enjoyed it thoroughly. No one knew him and he had only us.

I felt like not coming back," she laughs. "I used to go everywhere he went. I still do whenever I can, but, now my priority is my children. I want to give them the best education and then the simple life which Sanath follows. I do like it if our son plays Cricket too.

Question: What are the bad qualities you see in him?

Sandra: Hah! Hah! Ha! Inability to stay at one place. Even now you might have noticed it. If he doesn't have anything to do he would at least walk up and down. (Sanath was rotating the earphone wire of his mobile. And then walked back into the house. Yes, he was on the move.)

Question: How does he face difficult situations?

Sandra: Things are mainly put on to me. He prefers a calm and quiet atmosphere. When things are on pins he might move to the gym. So when he returns everything is in its proper order. He likes a carefree life. But that doesn't mean he neglects the family.

No, no, don't take me wrong. But you can't drag him to a serious argument. Basically you can't argue with him as he starts laughing. Meal time is the best time to start a serious conversation with him as he is not pre-occupied then. Sanath rarely gets angry.

All three little ones are very much attached to Sanath. Both daughters are almost on top of him when he is at home. He likes to get his legs massaged. They know about it and love to put cream and give the best massage to their father. (Little Ranuka begins to chew his own shoe while on Thatha's lap. Next moment he starts to lick his father's face).

Question: Common interest of both?

Sandra: Both like to listen to music. Clarence Wijewardane and Milton Mallawarachchi are our favourites. Sanath can sing Milton's songs. Recently he joined Bhathiya-Santhush and sang a Hindi song to their new release. When I asked him whether he knew the meaning of the Hindi words he sang, he said 'no'...(laughs)

Question: Unforgettable incident?

Sandra: The day I became a mother. Then meeting Sidath Wettamuni (laughs). Well I was a fan of veteran cricketer Sidath when I was schooling and used to collect his pictures and paper articles.

So after we got married Sanath took me to Sidath's place. It was the first time I met him. I was so happy and couldn't believe myself that I was sitting just in front of Sidath. Sanath told Sidath's wife Sharmini that his wife had been a great fan of her husband.

(laughs) Well, also I'm a fan of Bryan Lara as well. I wanted to get his signature, but was too shy. So at the recent World Cup, Sanath took my autograph book and got Lara's signature. I've asked Sanath to invite Lara and his family home, but he hasn't done that yet.

He might be a little jealous about me being a fan of Lara.

Question: What do you want to see in him most?

Sandra: I love to see him getting century after century. And then to have more time for us. And also not to get caught to dishonest people. Some opportunists try to trap him by using his fame. That really makes me mad.

Question: Politics? How would you mind his involvements in politics?

Sandra: Oh, Gosh! No way! Simply no way! A big no way!

Question: What really attracted you towards him?

Sandra: Sanath knows how to approach his targets. He makes you feel secured in his hands. He somehow won the consent of my family as well. Now they are best buddies of his. My parents have been with me and my family throughout.

Though my mother said I would get 'black' children and she would throw them out, she has been the very person behind all my kids. Luckily my little ones are not dark, but mid complexioned.

Question: His family?

Sandra: His parents are ok. I'm grateful to his mother for giving me a son like Sanath. The credit should go to her.

"I'm Roman Catholic and Sanath is a Buddhist. Our children basically follow Buddhism, and learn the spirit of both religions. I don't want certain labels on them, and want my children to be good citizens.

I accompany Sanath and the children to the temple and he comes with me to the church. I'm not that much of a 'church-person', but every morning I pray to God and give myself and my family into his hands, and I try my best to have a clear and pure conscience".

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk


From the Spouse's Mouth - Sunday Observer Sep 23 2007

Chocolates! 'The worst quality I see in her'

Roshantha talks about life with Sangeetha:


by Lakmal Welabada

From the spouse's mouth "I barely recognised the bald-headed 'nun' in yellow robes. The feeling was strange. I took a week to make up my mind to agree with her decision to shave her head. But when I saw her on the sets, I felt proud of her. She was bold enough to take that bold step as 'Uppalavanna'.

She is my wife Sangeetha Weeraratne," says Roshantha Kariyapperuma the husband of one of the brightest stars in the Sri Lankan film industry revealing his inner feelings about his star-wife.

"She was in the peak of her career when I first met her in 1999. During that time present President Mahinda Rajapaksa was the Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.


Roshantha Kariyapperuma

He made a tour to Iceland and Sweden. A few businessmen attached to the industry also accompanied him. I was one of them. Ms. Sarala Fernando, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in Sweden hosted a dinner for us at her Stockholm residence. Sangeetha had also come to Sweden for a shooting, and was also invited," he reminisces.

Roshantha had met Sangeetha a couple of times earlier at various functions in Sri Lanka, but he felt the High Commissioner's dinner was the 'first' meeting as it laid the foundation for their romance.

The young businessman was not that excited over the film star's visit. He had been a social guy who loved travelling, and had seen the world. Even by then he was on his fifth passport, and claimed to have travelled over 50 countries. Business tours and trips on leisure and pleasure had already moulded him into a man with a broad perspective of the world.

At the dinner table Sangeetha happened to sit on his left side. Her non-stop chatter entertained all ten at the table including the (then) Minister Rajapaksa. The young actress had many things to talk about. Gradually she began to talk about the ethnic situation in Sri Lanka.

The invitee who sat on the right side of Roshantha was rebutting her points for some reason. Roshantha was serving the soup placed at the centre. The steam emerging from the bowl was blending with the 'debate' (which began as a friendly discussion) between the beauty and the businessman, and was gradually heightening.

Roshantha felt the heat of it and thought it was high time to warn her. He nudged Sangeetha, and whispered, 'Better stop it at this point, Sangeetha. This is not a place to continue this sort of topic.' Sangeetha just stared at him. After a few seconds she adjusted herself to talk about a new topic at the dinner table. Sangeetha felt bewildered.

His words had made an impact on her. Even Roshantha didn't expect her to stop the argument. But she did. After the dinner both went their separate ways.

Roshantha Kariyapperuma was born and bread at Biyagama, Kelaniya. His father Windsor Kariyapperuma who was attached to the National Intelligent Bureau died under tragic circumstances during the insurgency in 1989. This drove his whole family - brother, three sisters and mother to Colombo.

"I studied at Dharmaloka Maha Vidyalaya, Kelaniya. My childhood dream was to become a top businessman one day. Even without my knowledge I had laid the foundation for it when I was a teenager. It started with my passion for aquariums which turned to a small scale business. I was in the O/L class then," he reminisces.

By the time he was doing his A/Ls Roshantha was the owner of 4 aquariums at Kiribathgoda, Makola, Kaduwela and Biyagama.

"I sat for the A/Ls in the Commerce stream and then got involved in full time business," he says. Roshantha's desire for an aquatic business became a family business along with his brother Priyantha and gradually expanded into Fish food and Prawn Feed factories in Chilaw and Puttalam and importation of aquarium equipments. "I obtained an Aqua-Cultural Degree in Thailand in 1991. And I'm a professional aqua-culturist," he claims.

After their visits in Europe Sangeetha and Roshantha became good friends. Sangeetha noticed her mobile was showing many missed calls. Calling her every now and then had become one of Roshantha's passions now. After six months both realised that they were made for each other.

Question: During that time Sangeetha was in the peak of popularity. She won both the Best Actress and Popular Actress Awards for her role in late H.D. Premachandra's 'Sapthya Kanya'. Didn't you feel it was a challenge to take such a bold step, marrying a film star?

Roshantha: Sangeetha is a complex character with very much a balanced mentality. I, though a businessman, have been moving with music and the film industry often. We used to have 'Paduru parties' every three months. So I was up to date about the things that were taking place in the industry. I was having some sort of faith and soft corner for Sangeetha.

Question: She studied at Methodist College, and was moving with the sophisticated crowd through out. Didn't it clash with yours?

Roshantha: No. Because though Sangeetha came to Colombo for studies she was brought up in Panadura. So both of us were from urban-village mix backgrounds. Also I would thank her parents for bringing her up in this way. She has had a film background since the day of her birth as her father, Timothy Weeraratne was attached to the industry.

She was lucky to get that kind of guidance which a newcomer rarely gets. On December 6 in 2002, Roshantha and Sangeetha entered wedded life. Present President Mahinda Rajapaksa and veteran film director Lester James Peiris were their attesting witnesses.

"Religion might have been the first cause which brought us together. Both follow the Buddhist philosophy thoroughly.

And also being a businessman might have been the other cause for her to choose 'me' out of all her suitors," he laughs. "Not like professionals, businessmen have more time and opportunity to move with anybody in society," he says.

"Travelling, music and films are the other main common interests we have," he points out.

Question: How's life with an actress?

Roshantha: Generally both are occupied in work five days a week. Friday, Saturday and Sunday are full of social functions. We try to keep Sundays free. But really enjoy the leisure when we go abroad which we often do. And it's the time I enjoy a drink as well.

I don't drink here. This is because since we have functions often, I will be drinking everyday. There won't be a limit. Apparently I'll soon be an alcoholic. I also don't smoke.

Question: What is the worst quality you see in her?

Roshantha: Chocolates!!! That is the worst quality I see in her. I've tried to restrict her from consuming chocolates, but failed.

Question: Disagreements?

Roshantha: There are... We argue for the cause. But she gives in.

Question: Is that what you want?

Roshantha: Yes (laughs). Well she is a tough character by outer appearance, but she is a good wife. I get angry, but she doesn't.

In addition to his business work Roshantha has been indirectly involved in politics. "But I have no intention of involving in full time politics. I don't like my wife getting involved in it either. I believe that one doesn't need to be in politics to work for people.

Also it's always better to be an actor or actress than be a politician. An actor/actress is loved by 99 per cent of the people. But a politician would get only 50 per cent. So what would you get out of it?" he asks.

"I don't feel that much difference being married to an actress until we step out of the house, as she is being recognised by everybody. It restricts the freedom. But that's alright. We feel free and relaxed when we go abroad," Roshantha goes on to say, "Sangeetha has only one sister who lives in Sydney.

So with my family, which consists of about 23 members she gets on well. This is something I really appreciate. She is not a woman who has lost her head over her fame. At present she's busy with her novel idea, 'Model Shop', a model training centre. She does one or two films a year, and would have more time for this venture.

Question: Have you thought of adding a new member to the family?

Roshantha: We've been married for four and half years now. So I think it's the right time to think about it. (smiles)

Question: Rumours are common in the film world? How would you respond to such rumours regarding your wife?

Roshantha: I know who she is. Trust is the most important fact in marriage. She knows how to handle things, and is no fool. So I know she won't go wrong.

Question: Her hair?

Roshantha: She normally wears wigs. I'm quite used to it now. In 2-3 years time her hair would come back.

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk


From the Spouses Mouth - Sunday Observer Sep 16 2007

Tea with Wi-Ja-Mu

After a hard day's work, the Speaker gets personal:

by Lakmal Welabada

Friday, the September 7 was a very chaotic day for 'Wi-Ja-Mu' alias W.J.M. Lokubandara. After facing a turbulent climax in Parliament in the morning, passing five bills, here he was talking to us at his official residence. "His mood might not be light.

Hope your interview will be a success," said one of my colleagues when I was setting off from Lake House. "Yes, it would" I was positive though this was my first meeting with him. I was not wrong however as I didn't see a single sign of distress on his face. And so Mr.Speaker begins to talk.

Wijesinghe Jayaweera Mudiyanselage Lokubandara who was born in Haputale does not want to reveal his date of birth. "Hata panala kiyala liya ganna. Eya athi (write down I'm over 60 years. That's enough)," he says.

Out of the seven children 'Wi-Ja-Mu' seemed more special and precious to his parents, W.J.M.Gunesekara Bandara and R.M. Loku Manike. That was why he was given the name


‘I am a person who can conquer anger

“Women love little things to be done for them’

'Loku Bandara' by joining the two parts from the names of his parents - 'Loku' from 'Loku Manike' and 'Bandara' from 'Gunesekara Bandara'.... The Sinhala scholar who follows Munidasa Kumaratunga's school of thought prefers his initials to go as Wi-Ja-Mu instead W.J.M. though the English media has often used the English letters.

"Reading and meditation have become my greatest hobbies," he says. "Sharpening your tongue and brain since you were a kid would help you immensely, later in life. As it helped me.

When we were small Ape Appachchi (our father) never let us have dinner before chanting Pirith. So since we were small we learnt even 'Jina Panjaraya' and 'Seevali Dehena' by heart. 'Paanaduravaadaya' (the great religious debate raised over the teaching in Buddhism and Christianity in 1873) between Migettuwatte Gunananda Thero and Father Don Daniel, and the biography of 'Sir Don Baron Jayathilaka' were the two books that Appachchi forced us to follow.

I was about 11-12 years. I was the second in the family. Appachchi used to ask us to divide ourselves into two groups and debate as it happened at the 'Paanaduravadaya' contention. I was always the Buddhist priest as I didn't want to loose. So am I still," he raises his eye brows.

Amidst huge commotions in the Parliament House Wi-Ja-Mu tends never to loose his composure. "Hah, Hah, Ha!" he laughs.

"You know what I do to the tons of Greeting Cards I get from all over the island and the foreign delegates?" he asks making me wonder if he was trying to divert my attention.

"I have never thrown a single card away. Instead I use them to write different quotes and lines, especially such as those found in the 'Dhammapada' and 'Deega Nikaya' as they spring to my mind. (Wi-Ja-Mu remembers the 'Thripitakaya' almost by heart). Wherever I go, one or two of such cards would be in my diary, book or file.

When it becomes 'hot' in the House I would just pull one of the cards and read. When you 'cool' your mind off, naturally your body system also gets cool. Let the fighters fight! That is their passion and this is my way of handling things," he reveals with a smile.

Amidst heaty arguments at the Parliament which are sometimes full of character assassinations, 'verbal trash' and exchange of paper balls and paper rockets Mr.Speaker stays 'Cool' with his 'self' control! Hope the other Parliamentarians would follow.

"D.B.Jayathilaka became the idol in my life. I moulded my future according to him. He was a Barrister and a Scholar of the Thripitaka. So am I. He held a top position in the House. So do I. He was an uncrowned king under the British rule. And, here I am the third citizen of Sri Lanka," he points out.

Wi-Ja-Mu had his secondary education at Bandarawela Central College in the English medium, and then sat for the London College degree mastering in Sanskrit, He did a Sinhala special degree at the Peradeniya University. He joined the Law College and later sat for the L.L.B. degree and became an Advocate. How he joined politics was also interesting.

"The late Lalith Athulathmudali was my lecturer of 'Juris Prudence' at the Law College. I knew Gamini Dissanayaka also a bit by then. During this time President J.R.Jayewardene was looking for a candidate for the Haputale Seat, my village town.

Both Lalith and Gamini had recommended me to the President.

When I was given an appointment with the President, I went to meet him without much enthusiasm as politics was not taste at that time. But!," he pauses. But, soon politics did become his bowl of food.

"It was a miracle. I was mesmerised by the 'Nose' of J.R... Amazing!" he exclaims making us too, marvel at how a 'nose' of a leader has played such a role in politics; by enticing candidates, the own party members and may be the public too. "So I came to politics," he says serving us a plate of short-eats. After a chaotic session at the Parliament, Mr.Speaker was at ease at tea-time.

"I was a pure vegetarian before I got married. But, after I tied the knot with Malathi, I decided to sacrifice a bit as marriage is an act of compromise," points out the Speaker.

Yes, of course, on the other hand, marriage is a dangerous game, more difficult than politics. "So, I'm a vegetarian on Tuesdays and Fridays. And those are the days I recite 'Dhammachakkappavaththana Sutta' (the first sermon of The Buddha)," he says. "I have been reciting this Sutta since 1971. It has helped me stupendously. I feel the strength of it," he says.

Wi-Ja-Mu, though the Speaker to the nation, is a dear husband and the loving father to his three sons of 24, 23 and 13 in age. "Many men think women should be their doormats. That's wrong. We must respect them.

I do. And whenever possible you must show your wife that you do care for her. Women love little things to be done for them. Malathi waits until I put the mosquito net over the bed in the night. And I do it without a grumble.. People become little children before love and care," he smiles looking at Malathi.

"When my mother first saw Malathi, I still remember what she uttered in my ear. 'Putha, why don't you give your consent to this girl. Look, she has a perfect nose.' Adults like my mother believed a lot in body language," when Wi-Ja-Mu came out with this Malathi burst out in laughter. But did not object. The Speaker loves to play Checkers with his sons. Indoor games are in his favour, but he enjoys watching Cricket matches.

"I am a person who has done my duties to the needy from time to time as per the requirement. When my father died, my youngest sister was just three years old. Carrying my little sister before the coffin of my father, I promised to myself that I would not get married until every sibling in my family either found a stable income or is given in marriage.

That was why mine was a late marriage". If there is a place where a sacred sapling of Sri Maha Bodhiya, Anuradhapura and a holy sapling of the original Sri Maha Bodhiya of Bodgaya is found, it is at the Speaker's Residence. When Wi-Ja-Mu became the Speaker both sacred saplings were gifted to him with blessings.

Finally, asked whether he ever gets angry he says.

Well, I am a person who can conquer anger. What I believe is that one should not let anger make you a slave, but you would make anger your slave. There are times when you have to be stern, especially on administrative purposes. But always be in 'self control'.

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk


Darling we aren't too old, though we pass the Jubilee Gold - Aug 5 2007

True love lasts forever

by Lakmal Welabada

'A loving heart is the truest wisdom' - Charles Dickens.


"At the end of the session they put off the lights. It was a common practice allowing the couples to exchange a kiss. So did we. And I murmured in her ear 'I love you'. It was love at first sight.

She was gorgeous," says Anthony Richard Max Anderson who will be celebrating his 60th Wedding Anniversary on December 26 this year. His wife Noreen Esemie Barbara Joachim sits beside him and blushes. "Oh! Oh! all this makes me embarrassed. Why do you want to know all that, child?" she grumbles.

Married for sixty years! Wow! What a score! Yet not out with ups and downs; triumphs and failures. "We are still batting well," they laugh.

Max born on July 23 in 1924 celebrated his 83rd birthday recently. "My mother was Violet Ferreira. And my father, Russel Anderson, a planter who never wanted to see me take up the profession saying it was a job with a lot of 'temptations'... He wanted me to do a job which makes me come home in the evening," laughs Max.

Max was the youngest of two. His elder sister Queenie Anderson who worked at the Central Bank passed away long ago. "Her son Renford Brown is now in Australia. And he is just like one of our sons," says Max.

St.Joseph's College, Colombo is a place where Max still has some unforgettable moments. He still remembers how mischievous he was as a school boy.

"Chirp, chirp, chirp." The teacher who was at the black board turned around to see the 'bird' that made such a funny sound and was disturbing the class so much. He looked around, but no crow resting on the roof of the adjoining building, he couldn't figure out what was happening. There wasn't a shadow of any flying being.

The whole class pretended to be serious and suppressed their laughter with great difficulty. Some had blushed cheeks, they were giggling deep down in their throats repressing their laughter. Except the teacher everybody knew it was none other than but the 'Naughty Maxy'. "I was a mischievous guy, trying to break the silence and the monotony," he chuckles. He practised his own tricks on everybody.

Maxie's mischief was entertained by his family until the death of his mother. After that, his father seemed to become impatient. "In fact he was scared that I would go wrong in life, and it was his responsibility to raise us up properly," he went on. "As a result he transferred me to St.Patrick's College, Jaffna. I was at Jaffna from Senior Prep to Senior School Certificate.."

Max was at home for six months until he found a job in the clerical staff section at the Shell Company in 1944. His first salary was Rs,50. The Shell Company organised the Yuletide Dance at the Town Hall, Colombo in December 1946.

All the young men in the staff eagerly got ready to go for that as unlike nowadays young men and women rarely got an opportunity to meet and mingle with the opposite sex.

"Hey, Mervin, I hear you have a beautiful sister. Why not accompany her as well for the dance." Max overheard the conversation of his friend, Mervin and another colleague of his. He knew many of his friends would bring their younger sisters and cousins for the dance. It was the usual form. He just forgot about it and began to go through the files piled on his table.

The dance hall was decorated well. The glamorous evening was going to be memorable to many young hearts. Max was in his best suit. He just looked around beaming. The evening was becoming more elegant with the pretty girls in their dazzling outfits. But almost all were with their elders. So the young gentlemen had to be extra cautious.

Max knocked against one of the old hefty gentlemen who had a protruding stomach. "Oh! Sorry Sir," he hurried up to excuse. "Never mind knocking against me, but not against the lovely gals, eh, because their elders are around," he winked at Max while puffing his pipe continuously.

The young man blushed. However, there seemed to be some sense in what the old man said. Max was nervous. So he found himself a corner. Within a few minutes the dance floor opened. He had to invite a girl to partner him.

"Hi! Machaan." Max looked back. It was Mervin. "Meet my sister, Noreen," Mervin introduced her. Max shook hands. He was like a robot. He seemed to have gone in to a trance. The pretty face seemed to have instantly mesmerised Max. Noreen smiled and looked aside, she was blushing.

"Ok, guys, it's time for the dance. Please come to the floor with your lovely partners." Max heard the announcement. He didn't think twice. Unlike today, to get a girl on to the dance floor, the man would have to bow down and ask her hand.

And it was one of the formalities of the Strict tempo dances. Max knew all that. When her parents said 'ok' with a nod, Noreen agreed to dance. At the end of the dance when the lights went off he kissed her and said he would visit her at her home. She just said 'hmm'.

Noreen was born on February 8 in 1927 to a planter Stanley Brechman Joachim and May Iverine Tousaint as the one before last of six children. "All my brothers attended St.Benedicts, Kotahena and all the girls studied at Good Shepherd Convent, Kotahena," she says.

Noreen was not at all in favour of hostel life, but she was compelled to be in the hostel throughout her schooling. She still recalls how she has howled hanging on to her mother when her parents first tried to leave her at the hostel. Her elder sisters were also at the same place, and it was the only relief for her mother who went home in tears.

Noreen was put in a cot to sleep. However, she was not going to give up. Every time after school holidays Noreen was played up at home refusing to go back to the hostel. But everything failed. She had to go back, she had no choice. After about a year, one morning the girls were asked to go to the grounds for sports.

While passing by the main entrance she noticed that the school gates were opened. She never thought twice and just walked out from the school. Fortunately, a carter who was known to her aunt who lived close to the school at Kotahena recognised her. "Baby, koheda Yanne? (where are you going?)," he asked.

And since the little Noreen failed to give a straight and satisfying answer, the carter decided to take her to her aunty's place.

The next day Noreen was taken back to school by her aunt. Nothing seemed to have gone wrong for her, but on behalf of her, Noreen's 12-year-old sister, Joyce had to kneel down for half and hour. "She was my favourite sister, and I really felt bad about it. She was punished for not looking after me properly," recalls Noreen.

After sitting for the Senior School Certificate, Noreen started teaching at Wolfendal High School, Kotahena. "I taught the Kindergarten, and was bit of a strict teacher," she smiles.

After the dance Max got to know that Noreen was a teacher at Wolfendal, and began passing the school lane whenever possible. However he arranged a day to visit her place.

They got the blessing of their parents. "Everybody liked him except my younger brother who was really fond of me. This lead him to develop a bit of jealousy towards Max. My brother would sometimes deflate the air off the tyres of Max's bicycle. But it only delayed Max from leaving our place," she laughs.

This was another two Burger families that were getting together. After a short engagement Max and Noreen tied the knot at St.Lucia's Cathedral, Kotahena on December 26 in 1947.

"I can remember we had a Gramophone for our wedding. To have our honeymoon trip to Lunawa Rest House I spent only Rs,90 for the rented car. The wedding ring I bought also cost me only Rs,90. I bought my favourite bicycle also for Rs,90. And I was getting Rs,250 per month as my salary by the time of our marriage. The cost of living was not so high. There were less temptations. We lived contentedly. The life we lead was far different from today. The world has changed," says Max.

"We had our ups and downs. Oh, he was a loving hubby, but was very strict. He didn't like me going to work, so I gave up teaching. Then I started a catering business, he didn't like that either. However, with our three sons, Anthony, Peter and Gerard I hardly had time to attend to anything else. Now we are proud to say we have six grand children and two great grand children. In addition, both our elder sons celebrated their 25th Wedding Anniversaries," she says.

Noreen is a benevolent woman who has the ability of negotiating with people of all walks of life. From the sales girl to the butcher, the fisherman to the carter in the Kiribathgoda area have been her friends. She has a neighbourhood when they are always ready to stretch out a helping hand for her. "It's a blessing.

When you are good to people, you get it in return in many ways. We live for a short spell, so why not make it worthwhile? " she asks. Both Max and Noreen have devoted themselves to Church charity work very much.

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk


Opposites attract, why not?

Darling we aren't too old, though we pass the Jubilee Gold - Sunday Observer July 29 2007

by Lakmal Welabada

"When my nieces reprimanded and baited me for accepting the proposal of 'the darkest man in the world' I barely said I would not mind it as he would get a pension from the Bank of Ceylon at the tail end of this life so that I would not have to suffer in my latter stage," laughs Somawathie alias Sudu Akka starting off her conversation about her 50 years of marriage with her husband Jeerasighe one of the old workers of Bank Of Ceylon.

"No matter whether they are younger to me or same age or elder to me, everybody has being calling me 'Sudu Akka' because I was very fair," she smiles. Sudu Akka is not merely fair, but still with a smart straight tall figure which gives evidence how she might have looked like in her bubbling youth.

"You can marry a handsome guy, Sudu Akka. Look at him, he is pitch dark," Somawathie still recalls her nieces' sneering words.

Jeerasighe was staying at his cousin Ariyawathie's place at Kalubowila, where Somawathie used to visit with her mother. All three were related distantly. And it was how two hearts tied their knot.

Hewa Kuruppuge Somawathie was born on March 14 in 1938. Her father, H.K.James Appuhamy earned his living by being a farmer died when Somawathie was about 7 years.

From that point onwards, her mother Nallaperuma Arachchige Hinnihamy had to take the burden of both Somawathie and her younger brother. Somawathie studied at Akuressa Maha Vidyalaya, and that was also up to grade 5. Her mother could not find assistance to support her education, and also may be the girls education was not given a proper value during that time. However she had quite a peaceful childhood.

Peter Jeerasinghe in that case was not that fortunate as a child. "I can call myself an orphan though my father lived. Once a child loses his mother his life apparently becomes parallysed. No love, no care, no attention, no nothing...," he pauses and then sighs.

"I lost my mother when I was very small. I cannot remember her. But her sweet smell still haunts in my heart," he wipes a tear. "You know child, my father brought a step mother, and she made my life miserable. No harsh feelings," he smiles, but still in tears. "I am the youngest of five children. My brothers and the sister were given lodging at our relatives' place. Only I got caught to stay at home. I had an extremely bad childhood. I studied only upto grade one," he sighs.

"My step mother also had six children, and it was I who had to bear up most of the house chores including looking after the step siblings. I rarely had time for myself even to play as my step mother was eternally behind me commanding me to do that and this.

Also if I fail to attend to her demands I had to expect 'Veval Kasaya' from my father in the evening. He used to cane me without even asking me what had really happened. He believed whatever the step mother said. It was terrible. I didn't have anybody to turn to," he cries. Childhood nightmares still haunt in his dreams.

Jeera lived in Thibbatuwawa, Akuressa, Matara. His father was a vendor who did a small garment business at the village fair. He had hardly any time to attend to other things.

The youngest son of his first marriage was the most affected person due to his negligence. Jeera suffered, a lot. Everytime when his father caned him he wept silently at night. When he sees a glow worm flying to and fro in the dark, he used to imagine that it was a messenger from heaven sent by his mother to console him.

He hardly remembered his dear mother's face. and he thought she must be just like Mahamaya Devi (Prince Siddhartha / The Buddha's mother) who, he had seen in a fresco painting at the temple.

"Aney Amme, can't you come back to me?" little Jeera wept.

Time passed, months and years. Jeera was not a lazy chap, also on the other hands he rarely had time to idle. But if he got a few seconds to spare for himself he would love to sit under a coconut tree and stare at the sky blankly.

He had no hopes. His only hobby was to admire the evening sky with colourful clouds in which he thought his mother lived.

Ariyawathi Jeerasinghe was his cousin whose house was in Jeera's neighbourhood. Ariyawathie who was already married and settled down in Kalubowila used to visit her parents' place. She noticed the brooding of the teenager who looked much older than his age due to his sorrowful life. She was sorry.

She could remember how Jeera's mother used to console him when he was an orphan. "Amma nethi daruwa duk vidinava (Oh! the motherless child is suffering under the step mother's shelter)." She had heard villagers talking about the situation of Jeera. Unlike today, there were no Child Probation Offices or Child Prevention Acts against child abuse.

However the dark clouds in Jeera's life seemed gradually brightening up. After consulting her husband James, a vegetable vendor, Ariyawathie managed to fetch Jeera to her place at Kalubowila. "Koluwata yahapathak venonam kamak nehe (It's ok, if something good is happening to my son)," his father said while his step mother was grinding her teeth thinking of the heavy load of house chores that was going to land on her shoulders.

For the first time in life Jeera felt he was breathing. He helped James Aiya in his vegetable stall at Kalubowila, he spent his spare time playing with the small children of Ariyawathie and James. Now he was having a family.

"There were boarders in Ariya Akka's place. One was working at Bank Of Ceylon (BOC). Through him I applied for a job at Stores of BOC at slave Island in 1952. Unlike today, during that time educational qualifications were not considered that much and only the recommendation given by a known person was required," says Jeera.

Jeera's first salary was Rs. 6.00 per day. He would buy a half loaf of bread for 12 cents, a dish of Dhal for 10 cents and a Three Rose cigarette for 3 cents for his lunch from Somapala's Bakery at Slave Island. He would give Rs,15 per month to Ariyawathie Akka for the dinner. Rest he deposit as a treasure for his future.

"I worked at Anuradhapura branch. It was 1953. The BOC building was one of the few buildings put up at Anuradapura town. BOC was under the private sector. A Britisher, one Mr.Hunter was holding the top position like as of the post of Chairman today. I learnt Tamil as there were lots of Tamils at the BOC. We worked as one family.

The BOC used to send me as the in-charge of stationary and other equipment to Jaffna. It was interesting. I even went there during the time of the Indian Forces handling Jaffna," he recalls.

"Jeere Malli, now it's time for you to settle down. What would you say about the pretty 'Sudu Kella'? They are distant relatives to both of us. They might come to our place for Vesak in Colombo. Give me a word," said Ariyawathie.

Jeera was elated. He used to admire the pretty girl who had her black lengthy hair falling below her knee. Her fair glowing complexion was alluring. But, he wondered. "Would she like me?"

The twenty-year-old Somawathie did not mind as it was the first proposal she got. Jeera spent his weekends at Somawathie's place. And he never failed to take presents to her mother and grand mother even if he didn't take anything to his love.

"Oh, I never failed to take perfumed soaps and Cuticura powder to her," he butts in. They entered in to wedded life on August 9 in 1957. "Our three daughters and two sons have arranged a Pirith Pinkama on August 10 and 11 at our place at Kottawa.

We are really proud of our children who studied well and are holding good positions in life today. We are proud grand parents of nine; the eldest is 27 years and the youngest is 5 years," Somawathie wipes a tear.

"He is dutiful, but very stubborn. But I've never raised my voice against him as I believe arguing would not win you anything. But, although I was strict with children, he has never raised his hand on a child. He only shouts at them," says Somawathie.

"No, no, I don't believe in hitting and harrassing children. It's criminal. I don't want any child to suffer a second as I did during my childhood," he specifies.

Jeera was felicitated by the BOC for his dedicated service for 36 years. "I retired on the day the BOC had a Pirith Pinkama to celebrate their 50th Anniversary. It was memorable. I was a honest man to my job," he boasts humbly.

Bank of Ceylon even carried a small appreciation of him in their 'Bank Of Ceylon' journal to salute his devoted service rendered throughout.


'Both knew we were meant for each other'

Darling we aren't too old, though we pass the Jubilee Gold - Sunday Observer July 22 2007

by Lakmal Welabada



Pix: Sujani Kumiduni

Relaxed on his rocking chair, Newton Guneratne, the man of challenges; whose hobby has been to face challenges begins to talk, revealing his past, his career and personal life.

His triplets grandchildren are his treasure. The 'media giant' who wanted everything to be spick and span, and always with the 'go..go and do it' mood to his counterparts and subordinates seems never to feel tired of the endless bouts and riots of his three little imps.

Being one of the pioneers in the new wave of Lankan electronic media (both TV and Radio) for nearly 40 years working non-stop both day and night, Newton Guneratne today enjoys the leisure of his evening.

Kasakara Dewala Annakkage Mendis of Matara and Watunantirige Littie de Alwis were his parents. Newton's father was a electrical technician who had migrated from Down South to Colombo looking for greener pastures. Newton was the eldest child born on December 4 in 1940.

"My father was a strict, but friendly person who loved all his five children (three boys and two girls) equally. Those days we didn't have a radio as it was the time that the radio was first introduced to Sri Lanka. We were staying at Kollupitiya. My father used to fetch us to Sirisanda Hotel at Galle Road to give us the opportunity to listen to the music. And that laid the first stone for my enthusiasm to become a radio artiste; media person," he recalls.

Newton's family was living near the Polwatta Temple, Kollupitiya around the Temple Trees. "My father was a strong follower of Angarika Dharmapala. So he wanted me also to follow his foot steps.

The Buddhist education I had at the Polwatta Sunday Dhamma School was very effective. I attended to the Maha Bodhi Vidyalaya, Colombo 7 which was started by Dharmapala," he says.

"However the environment we lived in was mixed with communities of Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Burgers. So we, the children did not have any sort of racial or communal mind. We played soccer and cricket together at the Beira grounds and other places in the Kollupitiya area. Colombo was not so congested as today. There were many lands," says Newton.

Later in 1952-1953, Newton's family also got a radio. Many assembled at his place to listen to the songs of Ananda Samarakoon, Greta Janet de Silva, M. K. Vincent, Sunil Shantha, P. L. A. and Chitra Somapala, Kanthi Wakwella and Susil Premaratne.

"Theirs were the number one hits those days," he smiles. He still enjoys the oldies. "The school holidays were spent at my mother's brother's place. And I still remember how we were asked to finish everything before 7.30 p.m. on Wednesdays to listen to the Bana sermon broadcast over the radio. It was a must," he reminisces.

Newton studied at Maha Bodhi upto O/Ls and then entered the Stafford College, Colombo for his A/Ls. Young Newton was a man of organisation, and was a versatile character with many capabilities of marketing management, administration along with art and culture.

His very first appointment was as a clerical officer in the Marketing Division of E.B.Creasy and Company. He was just 19 years then. His second appointment was as a Marketing Assistant at the National Milk Board.

"My stay at the Milk Board was memorable as I met 'her' there," he smiles. Nalini too smiles joining the conversation. "There was an Industrial Exhibition organised by the government in 1964. So all the government institutions took part in it.

It went on for about a month. So we had to recruit temporary hands to assist in the stall. for that we advertised in the paper and many school leavers applied for it," he recalls. "We were just out of school, and applied for fun," butts in Nalini. Newton and Nalini soon became good friends. "We never expressed verbally 'I love you'. But both knew we were for each other," says Newton.

Malwattage Nalini Peiris was born on September 22 in 1944 to Winifred Marcus Peiris, a Civil Servant and Daisy Cathlene Dias Jayasinghe. Nalini was the second of eight siblings. "I studied at Harishchandra Vidyalaya, Kurana and Gothami Balika, Colombo upto O/Ls. Actress Leiticia Boteju was my father's sister. I did sports and was the house captain," she recalls.

Meanwhile, Newton heard the announcement to take Relief Announcers for Radio Ceylon. When he was about 12 or 13 years he had taken part in an Amateur Singing Programme in the Commercial Service.

A neighbourhood musician who knew the young man's enthusiasm, fetched him to the Radio Ceylon. "After facing a tough recruitment scheme, I was selected and started working both at the Milk Board and the Radio Ceylon.I am a man of targets.

My aim was to build my own house before I got married. I knew I had already met the correct partner who would be my life long companion. Then it was the matter of the place to live.

So I bought a plot of land at Kohuwala in 1967, and started building the place. I always think every young man should have an organisational mind at least to some extent so that it makes life easier. If you start off now one can tread some distance in life," he points out.

He completed his house in 1968. And then gave it on rent for two years. They tied the knot in 1969, and moved to his own house in 1971. "We spent those few years collecting furniture and house equipment. We really planned everything," says Newton. Newton and Nalini were blessed with a daughter, and today with triplet grand children.

"It was shocking news for me to hear that my daughter was pregnant with triplets. But she is the daughter of a man who loves challenges. It was a successful normal delivery," he laughs patting and feeling the heads of his grand children.

Pemasiri Epasinghe, Ranjith Dharmakeerthi and Berty Galahitiyawa were some of the batch mates of Newton in the relief announcement crew at the National Service of Radio Ceylon. Newton left the Milk Board and joined the permanent staff as the full time radio artiste in Radio Ceylon in 1971.

"The golden era of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) was during the Days whenRidgeway Thilakaratne was the Director General of the SLBC. He gave us, the young artistes a free hand to produce novel items to make the radio more listenable.

We started working as a team. Under his administration, I got a great opportunity to play a key role with my counterparts like Berty Galahitiyawa, Premakeerthi de Alwis and Amarabandu Rupasinghe.

That period was memorable. We were given much more responsibilities. New wave of singers of that time such as Victor Ratnayaka, Sananth Nandasiri, Neela and T. M. came to the lime light under his reign at the SLBC." he reminisces.

Life is not a bed of roses through out. In 1978, when Mrs.Bandaranaike lost her Civil Rights, everybody who shone (not necessarily due to political status) in the government sector under the SLFP period were slapped and fired out under many unlawful reasons.

Newton and his team were also among them. Victimised! His punishment transfer was to Anuradhapura- 'Raja Rata' Service. After six months he was transferred back to Colombo.

He then was interdicted under false allegations. Newton was not at all shaken. Along with a friend of his he started a lucrative business where he earned many times more than at the SLBC.

And that was Newton. "From 1977 to 1984, I spent my 'Erashtaka' period like that. I really appreciate those who sent me home as I rose up financially during this period," he laughs. Along with Livi Wijemanna's arrival to the Chairman's post at the SLBC, the dark chapter of Newton faded away. The doors of the radio station were again opened for him.

Newton became a Programme Organiser handling interviews, doing presentations, commentaries and news reader. He was a all rounder. So in 1996, Newton sat in the seat as the Additional Director General of the SLBC.

"If one asks what my greatest achievement is....," he went on. "I would say creating or founding 'Lakhanda Radio' in 1996.

That was just the beginning of the gigantic work of the 'media giant'. In the following year, Newton was appointed as the Chairman of ITN. "Radio comprises only audio and TV is a combination of both the audio and video. So it was not a difficult thing to move from radio to TV as both media have many similarities than differences," he points out.

From 1997 to 2001 he held the post of Chairman at ITN. "When I took over 75 percent of the telecast time in ITN was for canned foreign programmes. I reduced it upto 20 percent by renewing and localising it.

Along with the political changes, Newton had to get out from ITN. "It was from 2001 to 2003. The job of media person is very challenging. No one knows at what moment you have to leave your job. So I knew as it was not the first time I was thrown away from my job," Newton has been a man of enterprise. He knows how to twist his bad luck to his betterment. "I started my own advertising consultant company called 'Manik Media Association'... So financially I was extremely fine," he boasts.

In 2003, Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunga took over three Ministries. An Media Ministry also came under her. Newton Guneratne was placed back in the Chairmans seat of ITN and Lakhanda Radio. In 2005, the present President Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed him as the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation. Since last October Newton has been working as the full time Director of the President's Electronic Media.

"However after years working non stop, I have space to breathe now," he says. "He has been a person who is used to facing challenges all the time. Even now he looks for something. At present, re-construction of the house is his target. He is a person who wants everything to be done neat. He is man who is spick and span. So since the place is under construction, he feels terrible," laughs Nalini.

"During my stay at ITN and SLRC I organised many social welfare programmes. Polonnaruwa and Hambantota drought period and Tsunami were the most memorable occasions. We put up the blood bank building at the Cancer Hospital. Apart from the general work entrusted I was able to take media to the public welfare services. Now quite content and satisfied," he sighs with a pleasing smile.

"He gets angry. That is the main quality I could high light in him. Only I could cool him down. But he is a family man who never failed to fulfil his duties," laughs Nalini. "It was my parents who helped me to mould my character. My father was not a moneyed man but a man with principles.

He used to tell us always to do the right thing and not to take any short cuts in life. I believe in 'Ditta Dhamma Vedaniya Kamma' (Kamma - that will give results for what you do in this birth itself). I was never caught on any single allegation on any corrupt practice.

Hence I'm a strong headed man who can stand on my own feet until my death. I know what I do. I have faced many challenges successfully. When I look back I am very happy," he concludes.

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk


Darling we aren't too old, though we pass the Jubilee Gold Sunday Observer July 15 2007

'Her singing mesmerised me'

by Lakmal Welabada



 

Chandra was just mesmerised. He could not take his eyes off her. She was singing, just as it was sung originally by Ruby Murray. Her melodious captivating voice almost made him lost. He stood like a Greek statue, and took him sometime to get over the trance he was deeply gone into.

All these days he had been admiring her beauty, and then her qualities and demeanour. But never knew she was gifted with such a beautiful voice. Chandra fetched her to his Castle Street home with the intention of introducing her to his family. His elder brother and family landed back home from England after sometime. To celebrate their arrival the family had arranged a get together. So Chandra thought it would be the ideal occasion for him to introduce Theera to his people.

"We had a marriage, but not a wedding," says a man who was bold to choose his life partner from a different racial group. "I'm a Sinhala Buddhist and she is Tamil Hindu," says Chandra who will be celebrating the golden jubilee wedding anniversary with Theera exactly tenth day from today - on July 25....

"When Chandra wrote to my parents in Jaffna declaring his love for me, my father was neutral, but not my mother. She got really upset and would almost imprison me at home when I went there on a holiday. However I escaped after convincing her with all sorts of excuses and came back to Colombo," says Theera.

However Theera's mother hurried up looking for a suitable partner for her eldest daughter from their own Tamil Hindu community. She thought since Theera was entangled in love with a man in the medical stream (and also she too was in the same stream) it would be better to find someone of a similar profession. But to her marvel, the matchmaker brought a proposal of a dentist, of the same profession of Theera's lover.

She proudly informed her 'Mootha Mahal' (eldest daughter) about the new suitor she found for her. Theera got nervous. So, Chandra decided to meet his 'competitor'. "Are you really interested in getting married to her" asked Chandra.

"Well, it was my uncle in Jaffna who arranged this proposal for me. Still I haven't seen the girl. I am happy you came to meet me and expressed your feelings boldly. If you two are that much interested in each other why not go ahead and get yourselves registered?" suggested the 'Tamil suitor'.

The 'Sinhala suitor' was startled as it was something that he never expected. "What a great idea!" he tried to collect his thoughts.

That evening at the coffee shop benevolent Chandra had a long story to tell Theera. In between he was cheerfully adding the dreams he had been having of their future. But Theera was not that amused. There was something pricking her mind. "Are you sure that he would not inform my mother that we might end up getting married secretly" she asked.

"Oh, come on Theera. He sounds good," said Chandra. "But I have a feeling that though he has suggested that and pretended he is supporting us, later he would pass the message to my people once he goes back to Jaffna."

After two days Dr. Nelson, Second-in-Command of the Dental Institute of Colombo along with his wife were seen driving up the St. Sebestian Hill and stepping into the Registrar General's Office, Colombo. Chandra and Theera were getting married under a special licence. Mr. and Mrs. Nelson were the witnesses at their marriage. "We had a marriage and not a wedding," repeats Chandra after 50 years.

After the registration, and having a delicious meal with the Nelsons the couple went back to their boarding places as if nothing had happened. Theera was recalling how she prayed the whole of the previous night. "Please, let me be able to get the best answer by morning," she pleaded. "I was going against my people though Chandra's family was quite positive. I didn't tell anybody. I didn't know to whom I prayed, as I did not want to put anybody in trouble over my decision," she laughs.

Theera's suspicion was right. On the following day, her mother almost flew from Jaffna to Colombo in the 'Yaaldevi' train. But she was too late, her 'Mootha Mahal' was no more a 'Miss. Arumugam', but 'Mrs. Fernando'.

However after all, it was an unbearable situation to a mother who had many dreams and hopes upto the sky of the most beautiful day of her daughter's 'Kalyanam' (wedding). She sobbed and sobbed. And then tried almost to abduct Theera back to Jaffna in rage.

Theera who had just returned from office to her boarding place was really sorry for her mother. But! she loved Chandra. Nothing could separate her from him. Eliyapurage Alwis Chandra Tissa Fernando was born on Valentine's Day - February 14 in 1925. His father, E.A.Fernando was a resident from Hambantota who became a successful plumbago merchant. His mother was Kanda Uda Dewage Euvisinia Fernando. Chandra was the fifth out of 11 siblings in his family.

He was studying at Royal College when the Second World War broke. "We were living in Castle Street, Borella. When the Japanese bombed Ceylon, one of the bombs fell into the General Cemetery (Kanatta). Almost all the residents in our (Borella) area started moving inland, so my parents also decided to do so. We moved to a rented place at Awissawella," recalls Chandra.

For Nearly about two years, Chandra's family was at Awissawella. The whole set of children of Alwis Fernando's family who were born and bread in the city, were enjoying the village life thoroughly. Chandra's father lost his Plumbago business due to the War, changed his trade to jewellery. he was the owner of E. A. Fernando Jewellers at No.49, Chatham Street, Colombo.

Chandra was admitted to Ananda College, Maradana where he excelled in the science stream and entered as one of the seven students of the batch in to the Department of Dentistry at the University of Ceylon, Colombo which then shifted to the University of Peradeniya.

Theera Arumugam was born on February 10 in 1932 to a teacher couple Sinnathambi Arumugam and Thangaratnam Thambiah. "I have one younger sister. I was born in Singapore as my parents were teaching there. I had my education first at Fairfield Girls School, Singapore, and then at Urumpirai Hindu College, Jaffna. Urumpirai was my village which was situated between Palali and Jaffna town," she says.

Theera did her Higher School Certificate (HSC) at St. John's College, Jaffna. "Those days the trend in Jaffna was to send the girls to India for higher studies. But, my mother was reluctant to send me off. But after my London Matriculation I just applied for a government scholarship in UK for physiotherapy, and got it. Uncle Sivaratnam who was a government accountant was my mother's cousin. He was staying at Edmonton Road, Kirullapone.

Whenever we came to Ceylon from Singapore or vice versa we used to land at his place before we went to Jaffna. He was a progressive man who encouraged both boys and girls to have higher education. He somehow convinced my parents and got me the opportunity to go to London. Also, later when I was working I was staying in his place.

When my mother was playing hell over my marriage it was he who calmed things down and settled everything. He had been on my side," she reminisces.

The four year period (1952-1956) of her stay in England at the School of Physiotherapy - St. Thomas Hospital was extremely enjoyable and memorable period. "I never saw a string of colour bar among anybody there. Even whenever we stepped into a shop, the shop keeper would say, 'Oh! hello, are you from Sri Lanka? I have visited there once. Nice country and hospitable people.' Sri Lanka was under the British reign.

During the time of the Second World War. Due to these two reasons many Britishers had visited Ceylon," she says. Theera still corresponds with her British batch mate Isobel Adamson Hulbert. "Both she and I are grand mothers now," laughs Theera.

Theera returned back to Sri Lanka, and started working at the Department of Physical Science. She was one of the pioneers to open up the School of Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy in which she ended up as the first Principal. Theera was called the 'Mother of Physiotherapy' by hundreds of her students who have passed out from the school...

Theera and Chandra met each other at the Department of Physical Science when Chandra started getting ultra-violet ray treatment from one of Theera's colleagues for his 'white patch' (Leucoderma) on his lip. "He knew my boss, Dr. Frank Perera, Physician-in-charge of the Department of Physical Science.

I had studied in mixed schools, and was quite free with boys. So I used to talk with him as I did with other colleagues. But admired his decent and truthful personality," she smiles. "She was pretty, active and friendly with a beautiful voice. When I first proposed to her she at once said, 'It sounds that you have not associated with girls that much'.... So that proved my decency as well, heh! heh! heh!," laughs Chandra.

"When he proposed I at once said it would not happen as we belonged to two different racial groups. I could still remember what he said then. 'Theera, if you can't marry me, then be sure that you will find a partner who will take good care of you and look after you well.

That's all what I want'... And I felt his deep love towards me," she smiles. After a few months of their registration, Chandra and Theera entered into their own nest on rent. In 1964, they built their present place at Castle Street, Borella in a plot of land which Chandra's father divided for him. "My father could give a plot of land in Colombo for all his 11 children.

Now can you imagine of giving such a thing even to a single child of yours. Everything has gone up like Sky Rockets," points out Chandra. 'Alwis Avenue' (adjoining the Castle Hospital) where Chandra's family has been living was named after his father as he was one of the first residents in the area.

"My father owned the fifth French 'Caltroup' car brought to Ceylon during the British reign," recalls Chandra.

Dr. Chandra was in the government service from 1956 to 1967, retired and started his own private practice at his residence. All together he had worked as a Dentist for 50 years. "I decided to enjoy the full retirement since last year," he smiles.

Theera retired in 1987, and has been engaged in many voluntary work. "I worked as a voluntary Physiotherapist for Family Rehabilitation Centre. I followed the course for Physiotherapy for torture survivors in Denmark and conducted mobile clinics throughout Sri Lanka for many years.

Apart from that I have followed many course in Physiotherapy in many countries including a teachers' training course in England, Bangladesh and Barcelona," she recalls.

"Ethnic problems and terrorism have never bothered and disturbed our family life, nor our only daughter Sudeera who is now living in Canada with her husband and two teenage children. I think the terrorists and communal minded persons should have used their 'human' energy not to destroy this country, but to build it up," suggests Theera. "Why can't us, the Sri Lankans live as one Nation," asks Chandra.

"My father was dead by the time I met Theera. Only one brother of his was a little against our marriage. Later he apologised to Theera for that," says Chandra. "His mother, sisters and rest of the family have been a blessing to us throughout. My mother took sometime to settle her mind.

But my father gave his full blessing saying 'show the world that inter-racial marriages are a success," reminisces Theera. "However we looked after both Chandra's and my mother who died leaving their love and blessings to us in their later stage," concludes Theera.

lakmal@sundayobserver.lk



 

Darling we aren't too old, though we pass the Jubilee Gold Sunday Observer July 8 2007

'He knew to convey the message with one glance'

by Lakmal Welabada

"We have never been in-laws to our children's spouses. All of them are our children," proudly declares the Marambe couple. Something rare to hear, but still I (the writer) is fortunate to hear it when I've stepped into a beautiful place of love at Battaramulla where another loving couple live.

By the time we (the photographer, Vipula and I) reached there the Marambe couple was at their neatly kept garden throwing raw rice to little Sparrows who flocked down as a wave of breeze, and then disappeared back on to the Kottamba tree near by after pecking up grains of rice with their tiny beaks.

Marambes while enjoying 'bird watching' kept a piece of papaw on the parapet wall for squirrels who were twittering and moving to and fro when they saw the two old lovers at the compound.

The Marambe couple who has not exchanged a glance or stare in anger either with their daughters-in-law nor their sons-in-law are full of life and compassion. Why should only I enjoy what they have to say? Here is their story.

Rajakaruna Anavalangu Jayawardane Mudiyanselage Hemawathie Kumarihamy Abeywardane alias Kumari was born as the eldest to a younger brother and sister on November 12 in 1930 to Tikiri Bandara Abeywardane and Dissanayaka Mudiyanselage Gnanawathie Menike in Badulla.

Kumari studied up to Senior School Certificate (SSC) at Girls High School (at present Visaka Vidyalaya) in Badulla. "We didn't have higher education in Badulla. My parents didn't like to send me off from the home as well. So I had to be satisfied with what I had acquired," she recalls.

"The fathers of both mine and my husbands hailed from the 'Yuva Raja' (ancient Royal) families of Lanka. My father was from Nannapurawa, Bibile. He owned a lot of lands there. But since some relatives in his family were so greedy over property, my father kept a distance with most of them. He was frightened that they would do some harm to us, his family. He hardly accompanied us there. Even he visited them infrequently," reminisces Kumari.

Kumari has a born talent for sewing, cooking, gardening and flower arrangements. Patchwork, embroidery, cross stitch and any other sewing mode, you name it she does it. "I learnt most of them when I was doing Domestic Science as a subject at school.

Other than that, I do my own creations. I have never attended any especial class as such. I don't copy exact pattern even if I refer to a book of sewing as I change the colours.

I love to do birds as they are very colourful. When you start sewing you have to continue it at a stretch as otherwise once you break the trend, it would be difficult to get back to it," she says. Every inch of her neatly kept garden has been beautified by her.

Kumari was a netball player, a School Guide and a member of the school drama society. She prefected the school by being the House Captain. "During our time Mrs. Allen, an European lady was the principal. After my SSC she requested me to take over some of the classes in the school.

Since I was living close by it was not difficult. I was volunteering, and was not paid. It never mattered to me as I really enjoyed being with the little ones who loved me a lot. I was extremely popular among them," she recalls.

After serving there for about 6 months, Kumari was asked to be one of the first teachers in Badulla Maha Vidyalaya which is to be newly opened shortly. "It was great. Teaching was my forte," she smiles.

Kumari was now a grown up lady full of beauty. During this period, the Buddhist Association of Badulla held a Carnival for Vesak. "There were several stalls, and one of my cousins too had one. I went there to help them," she smiles.

Many young men who were idling during the holidays were in the Carnival grounds. Among all, Kumari noticed a handsome young man peeping into the stall several times. "What do you need?" she asked. "Ah! what do you have?" he said not merely looking at the goods, but also at her beautiful face. "Cannot remember what he bought," she says. "I might have bought something for lies," smiles her hubby, Walter...

Weerasinghe Pathiraja Jayawardane Bandara Wasala Mudiyanse Ralahamillage Marambakanda Walawwe Walter Marambe was born on October 12 in 1921 to Alexander Marambe, landed proprietor at Laxapana and the Basnayaka Nilame of Pasgama Devalaya and Chairman of the Village Committee of Ambagamuwa Korale (Hatton, Bagawanthalawa, Maskeliya, Norton Bridge upto Kitulgala).

"My mother's name was Biso Menika. I'm the fourth of eight children. I studied first at Sinhala School, Kiriwaneliya and then at St. Andrew's College, Nawalapitiya upto SSC," says Walter.

His first job was at Air Ministry Works Department (under British) as in-charge of stores at Sigiriya in 1943. "I was 21 years then, and my daily salary was Rs. 5 which came upto Rs. 150 per mensem," he reminisces.

Later Walter became a Sub-Inspector at the Local Government Service , and then a Store Keeper at the Co-operative Societies. And it was the time he met her. "I had seen many girls, but had not felt the way I did for her. I had never gone after anybody neither," he recalls with blushing cheeks.

However, a mobike which was speeding to and fro on the road and racing especially opposite their house raised eye brows of Kumari's mother. She also noticed that each time when it passed by their place, the rider's eyes were not focused straight, but towards their place. Kumari's mother wondered what was all this about. But soon enough she realised; the pretty grown up daughter of her is now at the marriageable age though she was still a school goer.

Walter too was searching for a moment to talk to Kumari. By this point he had already discovered the background of Kumari's family which he thought would do well on par with his. "Ask Amma and Pappa," was her answer when he found a chance to forward her his idea. Her friends however got to know that a young man was behind Kumari.

Once she took part in a school stage drama. Her friends told her that 'he' was also among the audience. "I wanted to see him, and peeped through the curtain. I was playing a role of a 'Upasaka Amma', and the next was my chance to appear on the stage. But I was on the wrong side of the stage, and should have moved to the other side. But unexpectedly the curtain was drawn back.

I was helpless, but did not loose my cool, and slowly walked to the correct side of the stage and did my part well," she recalls. After the drama she ran to the drama teacher to apologise. "What are you telling child? You were so natural, I didn't even notice that," was the answer of the teacher.

Walter paid a few visits to Kumari's place. Unlike today, the towns were not crowded and whoever that lived in the area were known to each other. Also young men who were holding government jobs were looked upto. Hence Walter and Kumari never had any problem to tie the knot. Horoscopes tallied and they entered into wedded life on March 29 in 1950. Both went to stay at Laxapana with Walter's family.