She saw God in everything good

Varuni Hunt

 Appreciations Sunday Times Jun 9 2002

She was an artist. To her, art was life; she lived and breathed it. She drew, she painted, she sculpted and she created stained glass pictures of great beauty.
She danced and she wrote poetry. She worked towards a world in which everything could be made more beautiful, from an inner sense. She was wedded to art in more than one sense ; her first marriage was to a sculptor and her second to a concert pianist.

She believed in God and kept an open mind about religion. Through her rich and varied experiences in life, she had come to believe that God was in everything that was right and good. Her expansive mind was able to draw from the teachings of all the great religions and form her own beliefs. She believed that God lived through art and that art in its purest sense, was worship of divinity.

She cherished freedom of spirit. She identified it as a bond with a higher power. It was this free-spiritedness which made her break with the shackles of a highly conservative upbringing and in her mid-20s, leave Ceylon and in her own words, "all that I had ever known and loved", to sail to England to pursue her dream of graduating in art.

Her action would have sat ill with the traditions of the background that Varuni came from, but she was one who beat her own path, not one who meekly followed the one laid for her by society. "An inner urge drove me on," she has written in her memoirs. She could not have given rein to her free spirit if she had also not been a woman of great courage. To deliberately move away from the comfort zone that she had known, in that day and age, and pursue her calling despite tremendous odds which she encountered in a strange land, would have required grit of a high degree.

She never faltered and never looked back. In time, she achieved the spiritual fulfilment which she sought, the best evidence of which was her admirable serenity. It has been said that life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage; to me, there was no better example of the truth of that saying than Varuni.

Varuni, at 92 years, had traversed a great distance on the path of life, yet she never spoke from a great height. She was one of the world's best listeners and nothing important escaped her notice, yet she would keep her own counsel. If advice was asked for, it was given with such simplicity that one was left wondering whether one had thought of it on one's own. She had a unique ability to bridge the gap to people of all ages.

She was one of the most vibrant and positive people that I have ever met. Most people at 80, sit in an armchair waiting for the end; Varuni at 90, had her kitchen remodelled. She believed in living life to the fullest, never frittering away time. She believed that looking good not only made one feel good but demonstrated respect for one's self and others and so, every single day she would make herself presentable, even if it was only for herself, as was often the case. She was proud of her eastern culture and in all the 65 years that she had been away from her motherland, always wore the saree and often, a flower in her hair. Varuni, with her quiet strength, firm beliefs, refinement and dignity, was a source of inspiration to many and the tributes that have flowed in speak of the impact she had on people's lives. Said one, "I feel very privileged to have known her. She was such a warm, talented person - so devoted to her work and her beliefs."

Said another, "She had an indomitable spirit and a most realistic outlook on life. Her mere presence in the community was a sufficient contribution in itself."

"Varuni was a wonderful person. She was a unique and mystical person, totally independent, yet, totally a friend. She is still very much a part of my life," said yet another.

Varuni has passed away but she is still very much a part of my life too. For, "What is dying?" as portrayed by Bishop Brent:

"A ship sails and I stand watching till she fades on the horizon and someone at my side says, "she is gone". Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all. She is just as large as when I saw her. The diminished size, and the total loss of sight is in me, and not in her, and just at the moment when someone at my side says, "she is gone", there are others who are watching her coming and other voices take up a glad shout, "There she comes!' And that is dying.
Farewell, Varuni, until we meet again!

A friend