Sujata were around
It has been five years since November 2 assumed great importance
in the eyes of Sujata's many friends for it was her birthday, and
they seemed to work their engagements both social and otherwise,
around this all important evening.
I have often
wondered why I and others like me were so careful to keep the evening
free when we had begun to treat other birthdays far more casually.
My husband had once gone so far as to actually forget mine (not
his own though).
was too well known a Colombo personality to need even a tiny biographical
sketch. From the time I was born Sujata was a part of my life. She
was the older sister I never had in my own family set up, and I
grew up thinking that my own minor doings were taking top priority
in Sujata's life. And this was the secret of her universally appreciated
charm. Sujata had that rare ability to make every person she knew
seem as if she/he were the most important friend in the pecking
order of friendship. Never once did any appeal for attention go
unanswered. Let me relate an incident.
mother went to India (which was often) I would be left with Sujata's
parents. I did not like sleeping alone in the dark - or even with
a light on. Sujata was several years older. Certainly old enough
to lay down the law. But she did not do so. She took the trouble
to explain to a homesick little girl the Buddhist philosophy of
being alone. It was a conversation I have never forgotten. I cannot
truthfully say that I overcame my fear after that one chat, but
I was willing to give sleeping alone a try.
As Head Girl
of Visakha, Sujata was quite awe-inspiring. Tall and majestic, she
was a story book figure. She commanded enormous respect. Writing
about her in one of my books years later, I made the comment that
whenever Sujata entered the room even now, I felt I should stand
up and salute. She commanded the same respect from me even after
I had grown up and was able to be a friend.
For years she
hosted a programme on TV and I have never felt so honoured as when
she asked me to be one of her guests on her half-hour programme.
"You mean me?" I squeaked, totally unbelieving. "Why,
yes," said Sujata briskly. "Why not you?" I did not
make the obvious comment that I felt too unimportant to appear among
such previously august guests. Sujata would have had no patience
with shilly- shallying and would certainly not have over - complimented
me either. Nonetheless it was a compliment that I have valued ever
Born with an
overactive social conscience, Sujata believed in helping many by
small acts of generosity but it is her building of the university
students women's hostel which has earned her the undying gratitude
of generations of students who would otherwise have had no place
to live. While she was collecting funds for this project she received
so much unsought help. Even Sujata was touched. She told me once
of a diplomat friend who made an enormous donation at a time the
contractors were pressing hard for further advances. Somehow the
hostel was built. It stands as a living memorial to this great lady.
But my own
story of her must be on a far more personal note. Literally hundreds
of times I think to myself, "I wish Sujata were here".
When the Asian International School had its opening ceremony for
its new buildings this thought was there.
needs a VIP guest for its many and varied functions, I wish Sujata
was still here. Whenever things get tough and I need someone to
complain to about the unfairness of life, I need Sujata to tell
me her philosophy for fulfilment in the art of living. Whenever
a person infuriates me, I need Sujata to tell me that I can be pretty
infuriating myself. Whenever things get on top of me (as they do
in the day of any school principal), I need Sujata to say, "Learn
to meditate my dear".
will that help?"
and close your eyes each morning. Visualise the people that annoy
you. Then consciously radiate thoughts of loving kindness in this
order... to those you dislike, to those that annoy you, those that
hurt you, to your friends, to your special friends and lastly to
those you love the most."
explains Sujata's ability to defuse other people's tensions and
to appear so much in control of her own. On November 2, many people
in Colombo would have thought of their warm and wonderful friend
who is no longer here. How fortunate have been her husband and children
to have had such an exceptional woman in their lives for so long
as a wife and mother.
subjectively but with the love and gratitude thoughts of Sujata
always bring, I now say with all the sincerity I can muster, "I
wish with all my heart that Sujata was with us today".
familiar sight is no more
residents of Bloemendhal Flats, Kotahena bemoan the untimely demise
of W. B. Somapala after a brief illness at the National Hospital.
and jovial Somapala was a familiar sight in the early hours of the
morning, when, clad in spotless white attire, with a muffler over
his head, he would make his way home with a copy of a Sinhala daily
tucked under his arm.This was his routine and his absence today
breaks our hearts. On my daily trek to office, affable Somapala
would greet me with a "Good morning" as he too made his
way to the Fort, where he worked.
loved by all. During the festive season, he played a prominent role
in organising all the main events of the day. His aim was to foster
a sense of goodwill and harmony among the various ethnic groups.
beloved wife Grace pre-deceased him. He was a fond father to his
sons and daughters. To the kids in the area he was a lovable Seeya.
His funny stories and interesting gimmicks were enjoyed by all.
be missed by all who knew him. May he attain Nirvana!
End of an illustrious
The news of the sudden demise of Preethi Luxman Somasiri
on February 5 this year under tragic circumstances, was a shock
to the staff of the Bank of Ceylon.
a respectable family from Ratmalana, he excelled in his studies
at Royal College and subsequently completed a degree in economics.
At the time
of his untimely death he was only 51 years old. He had an illustrious
career at the Bank of Ceylon, spanning over 25 years, having joined
as a staff assistant. He served as Manager Kantale, Trincomalee,
Peliyagoda, Area Manager Western Province North, Operations Manager
Sabaragamuwa Province and Chief Manager Central Cash Department.
He was promoted Assistant General Manager a few months before his
death and assigned the North Western Province office, a challenging
job as there were 33 branches under its purview.
in stature he worked to precision. His commitment was exemplary.
I had the opportunity
of studying his abilities and talents intimately, when I served
under him as Manager, Yatiyantota branch in 1994. He was then the
Operations Manager, Sabaragamuwa Province. He was calm, cool and
We saw God in
It is said that the world is a stage, where each plays
his or her part. But in Rev. Fr. Harry Haas, we saw an actor who
played many parts. As he himself described, he was a "flying
Dutchman" who was at ease both in Asia and the west, and was
finally grounded in the hills of Uva Province on September 18, 2002
at Bandarawela, where he found paradise.
He was a prolific
writer, inter-cultural interpreter, untiring traveller, trader of
spices and herbs, meditation guru, travel guide, cook, dream maker
and more than all, friend-in-need. His efforts to bring Uva to the
tourist map is well known. He moved so swiftly but gently through
the lives of people just like his favourite legendary king "Ravana''
and deity, Lord Skanda. He was a man who radiated such a great light
that people were always attracted to him.
Fr. Harry was
a man who could walk with kings but never lost the common touch.
He inspired many, and thanks to his assistance and guidance many
lives were enlightened.
Born in the
Netherlands, he could have led a happy, contented life. Instead,
he sacrificed all that to serve us in Sri Lanka and led a very simple
and humble life. The workshops, conferences, seminars, discussions,
brain storming sessions and study days convened by him enlightened
everyone who attended them.
Many of us
who moved closely with him never saw his church, though we called
him Father, but we saw God living within him. His evaluation of
people who came to him was not according to their credentials, qualifications
or wealth. To the intellectual he was an authority for consultancy,
to the entrepreneur, a beacon of guidance and to the tired and the
desperate a wall to lean on. His doors at Wye hamlet, Woodlands
Network or Nikapotha Farm were always open to anyone who needed
his assistance. Though his interest was tourism, his memories would
be more amongst the plantation workers in the line rooms of upper
Uva and down amongst the backwood farmers of Gonaganara in lower
Uva, than in the plush lobbies of star class hotels.
A man who travelled
light, he was an eco-tourist in every sense of the word. On his
long trudge from small but beautiful "Podi" to Woodlands
Network, which won the international award "Todo" for
the best village based travel programme, awarded by a German organization,
he left behind a trail of achievements, not for him, but for many
Though he was
born Dutch no country, race, religion, colour or caste could own
him. He was a human being who belonged to the universe. Though he
departed so suddenly, the achievements he left behind are going
to be with us for a long time to come.
friend! May thousands of angels sing praises of you while you walk
up to the Pearly Gates.
Upali R. Karunaratne