She saw God in everything good
– 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
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.
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.
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.
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."
"She had an indomitable spirit and a most realistic outlook on life.
Her mere presence in the community was a sufficient contribution in
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.
passed away but she is still very much a part of my life too. For,
"What is dying?" as portrayed by Bishop Brent:
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.