My earliest memories of my father date back to when I was about three years old. I remember the countless times he carried me from the top of the road to our house. I also clearly remember the first day he and my mother admitted me to the Montessori. I was devastated and crying in protest. I ran out a few times during the class to peep at the gate where my parents were patiently waiting for me. Even after so many decades, these memories are still vivid.
My father was a quiet, hard-working, honest and humble person. He did occasionally yell at us to correct our behaviour, but he was very patient in the manner he handled our problems – never overreacting and never passing his stress on to others.
Thaathie’s passion was reading. At the time of his death at 72 years, he would have read a few thousand books, ranging from fiction and biographies to periodicals. He also loved going to the movies. He confessed that when he was young and unmarried, his passion was watching movies. He kept a record of all the movies he had seen as a boy.
He was the eldest son born to a “walauwa” family. He was boarded at Nalanda College from the age of six. He had a simple and organised upbringing, and so he was tidy and methodical in his ways. He was used to extreme cleanliness. He was always eager to help around the house.
He married when he was 31 years, and from then on his life was centred on his family. He seldom went out without the family. It was a rare occasion when he would go out with his colleagues.
As a child, I would sit with Thaathie and question him on various subjects and he always had an answer. Having had his education in English, his English was perfect.
My mother told me how my father helped her wash and clean us when we were small, prepare our food, and clean the house when my mother fell sick. All this he did in spite of my mother being a housewife. While Thaathie was alive, my mother did not need to step into a shop to do any marketing.
My father supported us three girls in whatever we did. He never put pressure on us to do something we did not like. Even when it came to career decisions, he never tried to influence us, but would only support us.
My father worked until he suffered a stroke at the age of 62. His last posting was at the Lake House as Chief Sub-Editor. He was known as a dedicated employee. Even when he was really sick, he would say, “I have to go, they cannot set the paper without me,” and he would leave for work despite our protests.
It was 5 a.m. the day my father had his stroke. He was getting ready to go to work. That crippled our family mentally. It was a shock to all of us. I am still unable to deal with the memory of seeing my father sick, even after his passing away.
The family survived the 2004 tsunami. We were staying at a hotel in Beruwala. My father and the rest of us enjoyed a dip in the sea just half an hour before the tsunami struck. He passed away exactly one year after the tsunami.
I am so glad I was able to take my father to the many places he wanted to visit in his last few years, partially paralysed though he was. We went to Kandy, the Sri Maha Bodhiya, Kataragama, Yala, Beruwala. We also visited relations and various restaurants and temples. In fact, the morning he died we were scheduled to leave for Beruwala.
Thaathi, six-and-a-half years after you left us, we still miss you immensely. It would have been your 79th birthday on May 31 and we would have all come to celebrate and be with you.
We want to thank you for the love you showered on us, though you never directly showed it. Now we know that it was all about being a perfect father.
Thaathie, may you attain Nibbana.
She lit up our childhood years
Pam (de Vos) Fernando
Pam (de Vos) Fernando was my mother’s best friend. They met as day girls at Bishop’s College in the early 1940s and forged their friendship when the school moved to Kandy during the war, forcing them to become boarders.
I can’t recall my actual first memory of Pam but there is a small photo in our family album that powerfully captures the meshing of our two families. It was taken by Pam’s father, Willie, outside our house at 90, Layard’s Road. It is of two couples, Pam and Pin and Joan and Aubrey - the men standing handsome and proud behind their beautiful young wives. In Pam’s arms, Druki, an alert five-month- old looks at the camera, whilst reaching across to the limp, sleeping bundle in Joan’s arms, me.
It was 1950 and our lives were just beginning. Pam was my godmother, and in my Baby book my mother had inscribed her name in her elegant script - “Mrs W. P. Fernando”- which now seems like such an onerous title for a carefree 23-year- old. Also noted is her gift to me, a yellow sapphire pendant, which has kept its place in my jewellery box for 61 years.
I remember Pam as being wonderfully generous and open hearted, lavishing tricycles and train sets on us for our birthdays and taking us on family holidays to Nuwara Eliya. Apart from her generosity she was possessed of a great energy which manifested itself in not only becoming the women’s golf champion of Ceylon but also the tireless organizer of exciting adventures for the children. She kept a Morris Minor station wagon that seemed to be for the express purpose of ferrying us, with ayah and chauffeur to numerous outings and parties, the park and Galle Face Green.
At the house in Horton Place there was always something going on. Birthday parties for her children, were huge affairs with “rollers” set up in great length so that we could slide down in wooden boxes, and elaborate merry-go-rounds on which we could spin forever.
There were endless games up and down the stairs but also a lot of reading took place, as Pam and Joan would weekly patronize The Corner Bookshop. We read the Madeleine series and also all the Babar books, which we loved. I can remember reading in Pam’s bed in the afternoon. Her bed was a special place - a vast, white haven that she used as an entertainment area. When it wasn’t being overrun by children it was a conversation pit. I can see Pam and my mother in endless conference, Pam at the head of the bed and Mum sprawled lazily at the foot having a good “katha”.
Our holidays in Nuwara Eliya were very special treats, lasting the month of April when the Colombo weather turned to intolerable heat. Dressed in “woollies” up in the cool hills we were indulged in different pastimes. Pam and Pin bought the lovely “Hill Cottage” and our holidays moved there. With its fretwork Tudor façade it looked like the England I had never seen but had inhabited through our reading.
Best of all for me were the stories that Pam would tell us in bed, especially about the boarding school days in Kandy which we never tired of - stories of secret midnight feasts, Pam always seeming to be the plucky ringleader who initiated these exploits. We marvelled at her daring. The tale I remembered all my life was the explanation of the origin of the etiquette of not lighting a third cigarette with one match. I could feel that British soldier being shot by the German sniper!
So that was our childhood with Pam, full of fun and the activity she promoted. I always see her in her slacks and a pink “hang out” shirt, her mass of hair tied back, freshly arrived from a game of golf. She would usually sit with her feet tucked up on the chair, couch or bed she was inhabiting and always seemed to dispense great wisdom. No problem was too small to be thoroughly considered and solved in a truly practical fashion.
In 1979 I visited Colombo with my ex-husband Henry and she opened her house in Alexandra Place and her heart to us in her usual fashion.
My recent memories of Pam stem from my visits “home” in 2009 and 2010. A heartbreakingly different figure, bedridden and dogged by Dementia. On the first visit she seemed to recall who I was, Druki prompting her with memories of her friend Joan and her own trip to Australia to visit us. Flickers of recognition came back as she emphatically declared - “Of course I didn’t like Australia….”
By the time I returned a year later she had suffered a stroke but was still verbal. When I appeared she cried with frustration as she desperately tried to bridge the gap between recognition and memory. Druki said she loved to sing so I dredged up the song we had sung so happily in our childhood and we sang Que Sera together every time I visited her.
Pam departed after a full life well lived, giving generously of her time and attention to her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and many others besides. My own dear mother, Joan, her best friend, succumbed to be with her friend on the 20th September, last year.
I look at my friend Druki and see Pam in her, the way she smiles and shakes her head from side to side, the look of concentration as she solves a problem. Pam lives on in her and as we both take our places at the head of our generation the friendship of Pam and Joan burns brightly in us. I am so grateful.
Bank and fellow bankers benefited from his amazing knowledge
On hearing of Freddie Jayarajah’s demise, his first Manager at the Bank of Ceylon, S. J. Sparkes (now residing in Australia), had this to say:
“I am deeply saddened at Freddie’s passing away. I had the privilege to welcome him to the banking fraternity. On his first day at work he made such an impression that I knew he was destined for advancement. His cheerful face has been imprinted on my mind ever since that first day, and it will remain with me till I close my eyes.”
Our good friend and colleague Freddie Jayarajah joined the Bank of Ceylon in 1956. He took to banking as a duck takes to water. He mastered the intricacies of foreign banking, earned quick promotions and rose to the zenith of his career as a Deputy General Manager. He served the bank for more than 40 years. He was the first president of the Foreign Exchange Association, which came to be known as the Forex Club. His wealth of knowledge was invaluable to the club.
He represented the bank at several overseas banking seminars and programmes. At one programme, organised by the Bank of England, he gave a presentation on the finer points of foreign exchange matters that earned the praise of his fellow bankers, according to a report we received.
He was happily married for 45 years to Noelline, whose sudden death caused a void in his life that could not be filled. They had two daughters. Their family life was built on Christian values.
He was a doting grandfather to his grandchildren. He was also a very jovial person, and would break out into chuckles and giggles at the slightest provocation. His enjoyment of clean humour reminded me of our youthful pranks at the bank’s Pettah branch in the late Fifties. He had no guile in him.
His illness, which started at the beginning of this year, turned out to be ominous. His loved ones gave him all the love and care they could. He was 75 years old when he was called to the Great Beyond. He was conscious to the end.
Dear Freddie, may you rest in peace and your dwelling be Heavenly Jerusalem.
Merril T. M. de Silva