(On her 90th Birth Anniversary)
The picture of you holding me in your arm
Suggests your wish to protect me from harm
You were a young maiden of thirteen years then
And I just an infant of three months and ten
You tended me throughout my growing years
Saved me from canings and consequent tears
Reminding me allotted tasks to do
For this and your loyalty, I loved you.
Sometimes we shared our secrets at night
You and I, we never, ever would fight.
It was joy your special sister to be
It helped you too, as it did to me.
You searched with loving eyes what I read,
New friends I found and those whom I shed.
You seemed to be like a "little mummy"
It's no wonder I trusted you totally.
You were always there when I needed you most
When after a "Caesar",a cancer I'd host!
Overnight with prayer, a touch of the hand
You spurred my spirit and I'd understand!
As you lay unconscious in the cold I.C.U.
Softly I sang hymns and prayed as you'd do;
Siblings urged "Rest" reluctantly I kissed
A "send-off" on wings of a hymn I missed!
A principled man who shone in the field of accountancy
N.G. P. Panditharatne
With sincere grief I went to Galle Face Terrace to pay my last respects to N.G.P. Panditharatne who passed away recently. It was hard to say goodbye to a man I respected and admired. People of his stature are hard to comeby nowadays. A gentleman to his fingertips, he was just and fair in his dealings. An efficient administrator, he could be firm and strict, but these qualities were tempered with empathy and compassion. Those who worked under him have nothing but praise for this humane, warm- hearted boss.
Sri Lanka has produced thousands of chartered, certified, management, cost and other accountants, with a sprinkling of brilliant men who have held high-ranking positions in the public and private sectors. Mr. Panditharatne was a man of rare calibre who stood head and shoulders above the members of his profession. Accountancy is a lucrative profession which attracts many who wish to make money and more money. But Mr. Panditharatne was more interested in serving his beloved motherland and her people than in worshipping mammon.
Like accountancy, politics too is a lucrative business. Many take to politics to gain fame, power and wealth. Mr. Panditharatne, a diehard UNPer was involved in politics, but he shunned the limelight and worked behind the scenes, always maintaining a low profile. He did not get his hands tainted with filthy lucre earned from commissions and kick-backs on contracts and tenders or political patronage extended to rapacious, corrupt men. He was more of a statesman then a politician.
A Buddhist by birth, he was married to Reenie, a Catholic. The disparity of faiths was no obstacle to the deep love they had for each other. The bliss of a happy marriage was clearly evident to any guest or visitor who enjoyed their warm, lavish hospitality. Whenever I was invited to lunch or dinner they made me feel at home and treated me like a family member. Blessed with a trained, melodious voice, Reenie would love to sing old favourites, and get me to accompany her on the piano, with a chilled beer by my side.
As a young newly – qualified Chartered Accountant, I worked at Associated Management Services (AMS) Management Consultants, a subsidiary of Ford Rhodes and Thornton (FRT). At that time, Mr. Panditharatne was the chief partner of FRT and a director of AMS. When he heard that I wanted to resign from my job and enter a seminary to study for the priesthood, he called me to his room and said, “We are sorry to lose you, but I know that you wish to respond to a noble calling.
Although I am a Buddhist, I fully appreciate the valuable, selfless service Catholic priests and nuns render to our people and country. I wish you success in your ministry. If ever you need any money for books or training; or later as a priest, if you need a vehicle for your work, please do not hesitate to contact me. I shall be glad to help you”. These words of encouragement remain etched in my memory.
Derrick Mendis S.J
Warm-hearted lady with that radiant smile
Be they family, friends or mere acquaintances, all those who knew Sushila, feel as if a beacon of light has gone out of our lives. Sushila schooled at Good Shepherd Convent, Kotahena, but didn’t finish her schooling, as Cupid intervened when Donald fell in love with her and married her when she was just 13 years old. For those of us who knew her for several decades, it is necessary to take a journey down memory lane to retrace our steps and reflect on the wonderful gift of her friendship.
I first met her when I was a schoolgirl and a friend of her niece, Indrani Rutnam. The cynosure of all eyes, at Indrani’s parties was her exquisite aunt, Sushila. Just a few years older than us, she always had a radiant smile and a kind word for everyone present. She was the embodiment of all that was good, kind and beautiful. Her beauty shone from within and was not a mere facial beauty.
Later on, through the years we met her at the races, where again both her beauty and good taste in clothes, usually designed and made by her, attracted media attention and her picture was in all the fashion pages. She was a great strength and of steadfast support to her husband, when he built up his business , Donald’s Photography Studio, which soon became a household word.
It was about 20 years ago, that I really got to know her well, through my friendship with her youngest daughter, Rohini. After that I was always included as a guest at her parties, at her table at the Lady Hilton and other family celebrations My late husband Chandra, hated going to parties, but one of the few he attended, was the golden wedding of Sushila and Donald in 1994, hosted by their children at the Colombo Hilton. Donald and she were always a joy to watch on the dance floor; both of them loved music.
There were so many celebrations that I recall with nostalgia, now that she is gone.
On her 70th birthday Lilamani hosted a grand celebration and we were shown pictures of her life through childhood, marriage, motherhood and as a grandmother. The 75th birthday celebration was a lunch at a five star hotel. Images of a radiant Sushila, on all these occasions, keep flashing through my mind and will live forever, in the recesses of my mind. She was one of God’s gifts, a truly wonderful person. A friend who was always concerned, I recall whenever I took part in campaigning at elections, she was always worried about my safety, would call asking me to be careful whereever I went, making sure that I was accompanied.
She has four daughter; Manel, Lilamani, Chandra and Rohini and two sons, Prins and Shehan. As mothers, we love all our children equally, this is a natural tendency of motherhood and we wear our motherhood like badges of honour. But sometimes, one is closer to us than others, it may be as kindred spirits, soulmates or simply being on the same wavelength. Lilamani, a doctor, lives in England but spoke to her mother five times a day and paid frequent visits to see her parents.
Prins a doctor too, and the eldest son and Shehan, the baby of the family, were also particularly close to Sushila in spirit. She delighted in all her grandchildren and was equally proud of them all. She was always glad to see them and loved nothing more than having all her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren round her, sitting down together at meals or merely enjoying their company and youthful exuberance.
It was only last month, on December 19 that we joined with her in a post birthday celebration of her 80th birthday and on December 28, I sat at her table at a charity dance organized by Lilamani. She looked beautiful that night and Lilamani repeatedly told her so, at which she smiled her radiant smile and said ‘Thank You, darling’.
On her birthday,, words composed in her honour, by her children and grandchildren were as follows;
‘You are the rock we built our lives on. You have always been there for us, no matter what. We are indeed lucky to have been blessed with one as good, caring and generous as you. Your patience and optimism are two of your greatest qualities. Open Heart and Open House…all are welcome---that’s how you have lived, doing your very best for everyone, always caring and sharing.
Perhaps overworked and possibly under appreciated
Yet undaunted you happily continue to do your best. So this is to say
Have a wonderful birthday and Thank you for being you..’
I shall miss you Sushila, your comfort, your friendship and your radiant smile.
‘She walks in beauty like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes’ (Lord Byron)