She was a lady to the fingertips
Chandra de Livera
My late aunt Chandra de Livera was petite but strong-minded – a lady to the fingertips, gentle, kind, caring and loving. Diminutive though she was physically, she had great inner strength and character. Hailing from the family of the illustrious Sir Paul Pieris, one could say she belonged to the elite.
For Aunty Chandra, simplicity mattered the most. Her uncomplicated, simple and charming personality was reflected in her conduct and her dress and the way she kept her home. She abhorred pretentiousness, and brought up her daughter, my cousin Yasmin Akki, to value these ideals.
She was married to my father’s elder brother Vaughan, himself a charming and handsome six-footer who was in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. They celebrated their golden wedding anniversary some years ago.
I enjoyed many happy times in Aunty Chandra’s home. She loved visitors and entertained them generously and made a big fuss of them.
There was a bird bath on her lawn, and she and I would sit on the verandah or on a garden seat and watch the birds. Bird calls and bird song were the backdrop to our tête-à-têtes. Parrots, bulbuls, tailorbirds, sunbirds, mynahs, babblers, brown-headed barbets and spotted doves were constant visitors. One day she said: “Tell me, dear, what are those little ones sitting in the birdbath?” I said: “They are munias, Aunty.” Said my aunt: “I can watch them all day, they keep me so entertained.”
On the weekends I spent with her, I felt like a princess. For breakfast there was kiribath and accompaniments, for lunch yellow rice, chicken and some special dishes, with chocolate fudge for dessert, and for dinner a cream soup, a chicken dish and vegetables and a home-made pudding to end the meal. Tea time was a treat with tiffin goodies. It was a quiet, comforting and warm-hearted home. Aunty strongly believed that a mother’s duty was to create a home sweet home.
Aunty Chandra’s alma mater was Bishop’s College, and we had a strong affinity because it was my alma mater too. She would tell me stories about midnight feasts and boarding school antics.
She reprimanded me for wearing jeans, saying a frock was more becoming of a woman. We would laugh and joke, but she was always concerned about everything and everybody in my life.
She lost her son Gayan, a young man of 28 years, in a most tragic way. This tragedy made her want to console others in need of comfort. She was an active member of the Mothers’ Union, at the Chapel of the Good Shepherd, Jawatte Road, where she worshipped. Her kind and gentle demeanour made her an excellent counsellor. She was my mother’s constant consoler and confidante, in the face of many trials and tribulations.
A few years back, when out shopping, she had a fall and fractured her arm. She nursed herself back to good health, and refused walkers and walking sticks.
Despite the changing fortunes of her life, Aunty remained calm, collected and poised. She always exercised great tact and diplomacy, and never offended anyone. She was always sensitive to the feelings of others.
Although for many years she had a pacemaker inserted in her heart, she never made a fuss about her condition, and few were aware of this fact. She had a positive and cheerful outlook on life.
Aunty told me that her strength stemmed from her faith in God, and this faith kept her going all the 86 years of her life. She passed away peacefully and is safely in the arms of Jesus.