Your candle burnt out long before; your legend never will
As the lonely leaf that flutters in a desolate branch that spring leaves, sadness enters my heart as I cry for my beloved sister.
My darling sister Narges, the youngest in our family, was the apple of my father’s eye, the late Julius Guneratnam. Both my late mother Devanesam and late brother Christy along with my brother Alague would at all times adore her; which at weak moments of time, in the long long past, would make me envious. Nay, she remained to the last my dearest and only companion.
She was the beloved wife of the late Dr. Ariam Nalliah and darling ‘amma’ of Dr. Arjan and Dr. Raj and Chloe. She passed away on the fateful day of July 13, last year leaving us in a state of shock and never-ending grief. Gone before to that unknown and silent shore she was too young to die, but fate decreed otherwise. She bid us farewell, passed away having completed her course, the noble deeds that remain in our hearts, concealed but most esteemed. The greatest athlete Vembaddi Girls School produced, she was full of fighting spirit to the last, full of faith and inner strength that came straight from God. In a touching moment before the casket was lifted by Arjan and Raj, the beautiful words of the famous song “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother” seemed to have filled the air with a little modification, most fitting for the moment: “She ain’t heavy, she is our mother.”
Dear sister, I know how happily all of you lived in Karawanella, with Ariam the revered medical officer, loved by the rich and the poor alike for his philanthropy. Many a poor patient would be treated by Dr. Nalliah for no payment. All of a sudden life took a turn; to be filled with adversities. Yet, I admired you, for that did not sway you from your faith. You remained cheerful to the last. You lost your home in Sri Lanka in 1983, were virtually left penniless and had to flee to Australia. How tragic. Life in Australia was not that rosy either. As fate would have it, your beloved husband fell ill and you had to nurse him till the end. The road ahead was once again full of holes and was as winding; yet you supported your sons Arjan and Raj, however difficult it was. They were your pride and joy. Right through their university studies you continued to work at the surgery, however difficult, always with a smile. They say troubles come in convoys, your house was burgled and everything taken away. Then came the floods that destroyed what was left in 2011.
In spite of it, your life had been an example of a true Christian. A true and faithful servant of the living God who earned her rest in the arms of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I would like to revert to Sir Elton John’s ‘Candle in the wind’, for the famous line keeps ringing – “your candle burnt out long before, your legend never will”. Goodbye my loving Kunchu, till we meet again. “The Lord is my light and salvation”.
She was one of those unfeted, unsung women
Swarnakanthi Mendis’s life ended tragically at the age of 58 through a freak road traffic accident on May 5 this year. She was married to my cousin Sunil, an accountant, who is disabled from poliomyelitis in childhood. His mobility is restricted and he works mostly confined to desk and computer. They had two lovely daughters –Shanika, 22, and Shehanthi, 17.
The key words to describe her life are devotion, enterprise, selflessness and godliness. She had a tremendous capacity for empathy and sympathy. In Sunil’s words, “she was not only a devoted and loving wife, but his dearest friend, sister, daughter, and mother all in one”. Wherever he went, she was there like a shadow, helping and encouraging. She also assisted with his computer work. They enjoyed a rare and wonderful ‘togetherness’.
Equally, over her children she spread wings of love. She saw to the meals and snacks they had to take to school or workplace. She picked them up after tuition if it went on till late.
She saw to their clothes and every night had long chats with them about the day’s events and other news. What she did for her family she did caringly and with absolute joy. She sustained them. She was the pivot of the family.
In addition, she found time everyday to visit her bed-ridden mother and feed her breakfast, lunch and dinner and to spend some time in Bible study and prayer.
The world often lauds the achievements and contributions of professional women. However there are millions of women who go unfeted and unsung though they undergo war situations, strife, widowhood, difficult family circumstances and numerous other problems in the belief that there will be a better tomorrow at least for their children. The contribution they make to society, especially to the lives, hopes, progress and stability of children is immeasurable. Swarnakanthi was one of them.
Quite understandably Sunil and the children in the first flush of grief questioned why God snatched her away so soon. But was it God? Is it correct to think that God is some super being who can swoop down and intervene in such an accident? Is it not more reasonable to believe that He can transform such tragedy to victory? In such circumstances, are there not God given opportunities for others to step into the void created?
Gradually, Sunil and the children have decided that they should face the new challenges with courage — the same cheerful courage and fortitude that characterised Swarnakanthi’s life. Where necessary their kith and kin are stepping into the void created.
May Swarnakanthi’s soul rest in peace in the knowledge of these positive aspects that have developed after she was called to rest.
Professor Lalitha Mendis
A humble man and staunch friend
Dr. Nandana Atulugama
Nandana Gamini Atulugama had his secondary education at Royal College, Colombo, and proved to be one of the school’s best all-round students, excelling in both studies and sports.
He chose a career in medicine, passed out with an MBBS in 1976 and joined the Volunteer Force of the Sri Lanka Navy in 1978. He was subsequently commissioned in the ranks of the regular naval force. Several promotions followed and in 2004 he became the Navy’s first Director General, Health Services, the highest seat for a medical officer branch in the Navy. When he retired from the Navy, he was Rear Admiral VSV USP.
Dr. Atulugama made an immense contribution to improving health care in the Sri Lanka Navy. He was much respected by all grades of officers.
In recognition of his loyal and dedicated service, he was awarded the Vishista Seva Vibhushanaya and the Uttama Seva Padakkama. He also received the Sri Lanka Navy 50th Anniversary Medal & Clasp; the Sri Lanka Armed Services Long Service Medal & Clasp; the 50th Independence Anniversary Commemoration Medal; the Purna Bhumi Padakkama and the Riviresa Campaign Service Medal.
I first met Dr. Atulugama in 1986, when he joined the five-year training programme in radiology, conducted by the Post Graduate Institute of Medicine (PGIM) of the University of Colombo. He was very dedicated to his work and passed out as a Radiologist with an MD. He was certified as a Specialist in Radiology in 1991, following a year of training in the UK.
He contributed immensely to the field of radiology. He was Secretary of the Sri Lanka College of Radiologists (SLCR) from 1999 to 2000 and President in 2005/2006. He was the representative to the Board of Study in Radiology, of the PGIM from the SLCR from 1998 to 2003, for training doctors to become Radiology Specialists.
During this period, I was the chairperson of the Board. It was a difficult time for the Board, with immense administrative problems. I was able to run the Board and the training programme with the support and advice of Dr. J. B. Peiris, the director of the institute, the late Dr. S.N.B. Talwatte, and Dr. Nandana Atulugama.
At the board meetings, I would eagerly look towards the door of the board room, waiting to see Dr. Atulugama walk in for the meeting. He was an experienced administrator and his practical advice in administrative problems was immeasurable.
Even with so many feathers to his cap, Dr. Atulugama was a humble, down-to-earth person.
In this time of grief, I extend my heartfelt sympathies to his loving wife Charmaine, son Dr. Niroshan, daughter Sharon and the rest of the family.
Dear ‘Atulu’, May You Attain Nibbana.
Dr. Nimala Gooneratnecomments powered by Disqus