Plus - Appreciations

She was to us all the radiant and fragrant lotus

Manel Panditharatne

“Manel” is the lotus that blooms in lakes and ponds, shining in its beauty and radiating fragrance. Yes, Manel, you were exactly that to all who knew you. I thank the Lord for the person I first met as a neighbour and who later became my doctor and friend. Manel was always there for me, in times of joy or distress.

Dear Manel, you were thoughtful, loving and caring, and a wonderful neighbour to all of us who lived in Bethesda Place. You were the answer to our prayers in times of need. Words are inadequate to express the gratitude we feel for the unfailing and selfless kindness you showered on all your patients, and especially on my beloved Nage and me. When Nage passed away, you were there beside me, giving me strength. You were truly an angel. You visited me at least twice a month – so full of affection and caring you were.

You were Head Girl of Visakha Vidyalaya, where you excelled in studies, and also in tennis. You touched everybody’s heart.

How happy you were with your daughters, sons-in law, grandchildren and family. How deeply you missed your soul-mate, Sobi. You were so full of joy when any of them excelled in anything they did. I left for the UK a week before you fell ill. I visited you the day before and found you excited about your charity and religious work and the forthcoming Katina Pinkama. Your last words to me still ring in my ears – Pin, Pin (merit, merit). Your meritorious acts will be stamped on all those lives you touched with your love.

When I returned to Sri Lanka and heard you were no more, I was stunned. It is hard to believe that I will never see you again, and hear your gentle voice and loving words again.

Thank you, Lord, for blessing me with such a wonderful friend as Manel, and with such a beautiful bond of friendship and love.

May you attain Nibbana.

Malini Naganathan

Christmas with our Aunty was different

Lalitha Ratnayake

Christmas was Aunty’s time of year. The season’s sense of joy, merriment and warm feeling resonated from within her and gave us the comfort of knowing that all was right with the world once more. This is why it is heartbreaking that this is the first Christmas in two decades that we will not be spending with her.

Lalitha Ratnayake was an integral and inseparable part of my childhood and the childhood of my two sisters. It all started with those lazy afternoons walks -- which Aunty used to call a ‘hop, skip and a jump” -- to her home for piano lessons. Twenty years later, the walk down to that house full of memories is one that has changed irrevocably, forever.

It is strange to think of Aunty Lalitha as being gone because at the age of 74, she was the liveliest person we knew. With an unmistakable sense of humour, contagious laughter and eternal smile, Aunty Lalitha was more a treasured friend, companion and confidant rather than someone who was in the age group of our own grandparents. For us, she never really aged, not one single day since we first met her as children. She was eternally youthful and held a fascination and verve for life.

A gifted pianist with an equally captivating voice, Aunty Lalitha embodied an unmistakable grace, charm and wit. What we will most remember about Aunty are the countless hours spent in front of the piano with her hands gently guiding ours and then in later life, on her red sofa chatting the hours away like lost friends found. We will never forget how she characteristically overfed us with treats of every conceivable size, shape and form with Uncle Ralph chiming in or chuckling in the background. Time stood still in that most dear of all neighbourhood houses which was always alive with the sound of the piano or the familiar voices on the SLBC. Ever the hostess, Aunty was the sweet-natured Emily Gilmore of our time with impeccable taste and a kindness that was as boundless as it was free.

With a deep, abiding faith in God, Aunty led a life full of wonderful memories, music, song, dances and dinner parties. More than a treasured music teacher and neighbour, knowing Aunty was the best thing about growing up in Gamunu Mawatha as she understood and revelled in the true joys of life that cannot be measured by material success or wealth.

Although we miss her dearly during this, her time of the year, we console ourselves in the knowledge that our beloved Aunty is in an infinitely better place with angels watching over her kind and gentle soul.
We love you and miss you! God Bless You!

Uthpala, Chathira and Nathasha Siriwardena

‘You were the greatest dad’

M.L.M. Aboosally

5th year remembrance

A father is an ordinary man who must take on the most important job in the world..
A father is a man who has relinquished his freedom - gladly.
A father is a man who makes a good life for his children - protects them, guides them, stands by them in times of trouble.
A father is the hands that hold you safe.
A father is a banker provided by nature.
Fathers are those who give their daughters away to other men, who are not nearly as good enough, so they can have grand-children that are 'smarter' than anybody's.
A father is someone overwhelmed to find he is so loved, so needed.
Any man can become a father - It takes love to become a dad.
You were the 'greatest' dad
We all miss you so dad

Your children

The best of neighbours and wonderful, comforting friend

Satgunanayagi Kathirgamanthan

Satgunanayagi (fondly known as Baba) was my front-house neighbour for nearly 30 years. Every morning, when I opened the gate, I would see Baba at her gate, with her dog or waiting for the baker’s delivery man.

We would soon be caught up in neighbourly chitchat and laughter before remembering that “oh, my gosh, the curry is on the fire” – and dash back into our houses. Also joining us was Shivani, another neighbour. The three of us were very close.

Whenever Baba and my husband slipped into conversation in their mother tongue, I would chip in, and Baba would hoot with laughter at my weak grasp of the language.

Baba was a good cook and made the tastiest of vegetarian foods, and never failed to share her preparations with us. Every Christmas, Baba would visit us. She relished our rich cake, and I made sure she went home with several pieces of our cake to enjoy later.

Whenever I fell ill, she would spend hours fussing over me, at the expense of her own household chores. But she would never take her own illnesses seriously. She was terrified of doctors, and would visit one only when her children compelled her.

When the roads to the North were cleared, Baba was impatient to visit Jaffna and participate in the Nallur festival. She had lately been complaining of tiredness, so her children advised her to see a doctor before taking the arduous trip to Jaffna. After a series of tests, Baba was diagnosed with leukaemia. She must have had it for some time.

We were all shocked. Why her? She doesn’t deserve it, I kept saying. Her children did everything they could. Baba was finally taken to India and warded in the Apollo Hospital. In spite of the excellent treatment, Baba’s condition began to deteriorate. She passed away on November 27, 2009. Her two daughters were at her bedside.

My whole world crumbled when I heard the news. I cried: Why did God take her so soon, she had so much to live for? It all happened so fast. If only we had spent more time together.

The journey from Katunayake Airport to the funeral parlour, with the undertakers accompanying the coffin, was heart-rending. Her children were lost. Their world had fallen apart.

Despite her grief, Baba’s youngest daughter sat for her final accountancy exam and passed with flying colours, and won a prize as well. Baba would have been smiling down from Heaven.

Baba and I used to imagine that when we grew old and her children had married and moved into their own homes, we would look after each other. But God had other plans.

We miss you, Baba. You were warm and caring, and loved by everyone, including all your neighbours. I wish you could have lived to see your two daughters starting their lives as wives and mothers. You would have been so proud of them.

Your laughter still echoes in my ears. I will never forget your famous words, “just go, man”, whenever we teased you.You were so sweet and innocent.

Andy Xavier

He would always go that extra mile for anyone

Seeva Canagasaby

His sudden death caused by a heart attack suffered on a Air Canada flight from Hawaii while returning after a two week vacation with his wife Sulo who celebrated her birthday only a day before, was a shocking and sad way to end a young and vibrant life. It was a life full of passionate and selfless care for others and one that was full of goodwill and good being. A conservative count at the funeral parlour and at the church service would put the number of persons who paid their last respects to Seeva Canagasaby in Toronto over a three day period at 1000 +. That’s a large number with no standing room left at the Church on a blistering cold day. It tells us how he touched the hearts of many.

As I was leaving the church having listened to the eulogies delivered, a person walked up to Seeva’s nephew Sudharshan and said “young man, my wife would talk so often and dearly at our dinner table about Seeva her supervisor at work. Although I had not met him, I had to come for this funeral as deep in us he was family. Having listened to you and others, now I know what a classy person and gentleman he was.” Sudharshan reminded us that at Trinity Seeva earned the sobriquet “Radio Batty”. It reminded me that he hailed from Kallar in Batticaloa and his loud voice and crackling laughter were carried, we would say, by the airwaves from Kandy across the mountains to Batty! We were reminded of how under the tutelage of that Agricultural Colossus Bill Sinnathamby, Seeva was totally immersed up to his knees and often up to his heart at the Trinity Farm in the fascination that livestock, flora and fauna affords; of how he traversed the Sericulture Project in Pallekele and then onto the plantation sector as the Superintendent at Galaha Tea Plantations; of how the affable Seeva Dorai reached out to all the workers, visited their line rooms and cared for their families, breaking protocols that the local Pukka Sahibs were mandated to observe; and of how he pursued his higher studies in England and graduated from the Barkshire College of Agriculture having pursued courses in Livestock.

He was a ruggerite and Vice Captain of the Trinity second XV making it a point to offer the plea that he would have worn the first XV Jersey but for the crowd of Trinity Lions in Ajit Abeyratne , Gogi Tillekaratne, Glen Van Langenberg and Mark Sunderalingam who took the spots that he, Seeva, aspired to! He acknowledged the talents of others and knew where he could contribute, had a positive view of life be they ups or downs. These attributes were evident in later life where he always recognized the talents of his co-workers always giving them positive feedback and encouragement.

As the tributes were paid to him, we were reminded of how he opened his home to immigrants, regardless of which country they came from, to help them settle down in a challenging environment; of how he visited the sick and the elderly on a unfailing regular routine to spend time with them, chatting as if he was their closest of kin; of how he visited the house of an acquaintance who had lost his job, and off loaded as it was described “ a stockpile of groceries”…and simple drove away, and when the mother of the family arrived she wondered as to who had ordered all this food from the supermarket, only to be told to her pleasant astonishment that it was Seeva, again! He was described as the person who would “go the extra mile for anyone without giving it a thought, be it a loved one or a stranger.” In spite of the Radio Batty tag line, there was also the child like soft side in him where he would shed tears and his heart would bleed when he saw people in difficulty. He comforted himself with simple things—like the Thuni …a piece of rag like a little pillow that he would carry around and not sleep without it!

In Toronto at the leading Airline catering service CARA he was the manager who won the hearts of those who worked with him. Doug Goeke, the President & Managing Director of Gate Gourmet, Canada, which recently acquired CARA, captured the sterling character and qualities of Seeva when he wrote : it is obvious, from the tremendous amount of emotion and remembrance here at the centre, that Seeva was well respected and admired. His influence on everyone he worked with over the years is being expressed in numerous reflections and conversations. Seeva is being remembered as a generous and charitable man who stepped up to support causes that touched those around him. His sense of humour, warmth and his leadership are qualities that will be missed.” He was a coach as well to many and one mourner affably quipped “one last thing Seeva , I hope there are no cars in heaven. You are the most impossible back seat driver I have met!”

His dear brother Sam Canagasaby, the Trinity Rugby Lion, echoed the prayer of all of us who were gathered

“ Seeva, you are an Angel and as you enter the Pearly Gates, may the Angels sing you to your eternal rest.”

M.V. Muhsin

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