She brought sunshine to the lives of differently-abled children Ramya (Cargo akka) Salwatura Affectionately referred to as ‘Cargo’ from childhood, I happened to know Ramya for more than four decades. She was my third sister-in-law, just elder to my husband. She was married to advocate Salwatura and had two sons – Arrvinda and Sanka. Her [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka



She brought sunshine to the lives of differently-abled children

Ramya (Cargo akka) Salwatura

Affectionately referred to as ‘Cargo’ from childhood, I happened to know Ramya for more than four decades. She was my third sister-in-law, just elder to my husband. She was married to advocate Salwatura and had two sons – Arrvinda and Sanka.

Her second son was born differently-abled and from then on her inner compassion arose – a life of immense dedication. Her efforts were such that this second son sat three subjects at the ‘O’ level examination. She was the Vice President and later the President of the school for the differently-abled children – the Sumaga Centre in Mount Lavinia.

As President, her sole effort was to provide an environment for these wonderful children to live a normal life. She organised sports meets, concerts, dance/recitals, bring-and-buy sales, Vesak lantern sales, Sil campaigns and even cricket matches for children of all the ‘Homes’ in Sri Lanka.

Her idea of ‘early intervention’ towards these children made her visit faraway rural areas in order to educate mothers of such children. She had unlimited, untiring energy for these activities – an enormous service to mankind. Even when she was debilitated during the last stages of her life, she carried on her service with various tasks to uplift the life of these children at Sumaga which she extended to other such centres as well.

After the death of her husband a few years ago, she single-handedly performed her duties at the centre and beyond. Her untiring efforts – ‘Samma vayama’ will no doubt take her towards the final goal in life sooner than expected.

‘Jati, jara, vyadhi, marana’ ’ – all bring sorrow as stated in the Dhamma. Although she left us so early in life, we have a strange feeling of happiness that Cargo akka will take birth as a tiny little infant amidst a lot of love and affection. The third-month remembrance dana was given as a treat to the children of Sumaga and to a Cancer home located at a temple in Maharagama.

May she realise the fruits of Nibbana soon.

Ira Perera

We miss you in so many ways

Nabeesathul Misiriya Fassy

Thank you Umma, for being the best grandmother one could ask for.
Thank you for always being there for all of us.
Thank you for all the love, the hugs, the kisses and care.
Thank you for all the support, guidance and motivation.
Thank you for always treating us all equally.
Thank you for being there for all of us.
Thank you!

In moments of laughter and sadness you were always calm and neutral, you were our pillar, you were our Guardian Angel.
We all miss you so much.
We miss the kind hearted gestures you did that still have traces of your actions, thoughts and movements everywhere we go.
We miss your touch.
We miss your signature laugh.
We miss your mouth-watering food.
We miss your coffee that everyone still craves for.
We miss seeing you stitching clothes in the corner room of the house where we know we can always find you.

We miss seeing you reading the newspaper near the garden in that specific chair you always sat in.
We will miss your creative design skills that you tailor-made to every function that left us in awe.
We remember your secret craving for chocolate or anything sweet, even though you had diabetes, we couldn’t say no to you.

We miss your bright clothes, your funky coloured hair, your collection of wrapping paper and wrapping skills, seeing you in your soft ‘voile’ sarees, joining you to watch some comedy on your TV.
We all will miss getting you the simple things you used to ask us, we all know what these were, especially your collection of soap and balm!

We will miss you at M’s wedding and all future events that we wished we had you to celebrate with. The list can go on… But we are happy you left us with many joyful memories.

Umma, we will continue to keep these memories alive and cherish these for the rest of our lives, you were an amazing lady, an unforgettable mother, a grandmother, a great grandmother, and we know you are in a happier and better place watching over all of us.

InshAllah all our prayers and duas are with you always Umma, InshAllah, Allah grants you Jannathual Firduous, Ameen.

We all love you and miss you.
Your family, your children, grand-children and great grand-children…

Mujahid Mansoor

Dreams from my father

Ranjan Devavarathan-Daniel 

“…he sat there, looking calm, strong, handsome and ferocious all at the same time. There are men. And then there are Lions amongst men…”

It was about 5.30 on a wet October evening. In a hospital elevator with my wife, I was also holding a carrycot in which our newborn son, Chelian, lay half asleep. The elevator doors opened and we walked as briskly as we could towards a hallway that led to the ward rooms. I phoned my mother to inform her that we had arrived. Within a few moments, my father, walked out of his room. His face exploded with pride. He couldn’t contain his joy. He was fighting a terminal illness, and yet, he had somehow mustered the strength to walk out of the confines of his room so he could hold his first grandchild- Chelian, in his arms.

He held the little baby and smiled. I am convinced he recognised the stern brow and determined eyes that were already obvious features in the little man. He then blessed Chelian, and I left with my young family. John Chitranjan Devavarathan Daniel, my father, wasn’t able to hold my son again. He passed away within a few weeks. His mortal remains were laid to rest in Colombo amidst the dignity that he led his life with. Even the thundershowers that wept down from the heavens as he journeyed towards Borella tendered him a silent guard of honour as he was lowered into the soil he loved so dearly.

My father didn’t try to be the perfect gentleman although he was charming when he wanted to be. He made his share of mistakes and didn’t suffer fools. But his steadfast faith, devotion to his family and effervescent personality made him many friends and a few enemies. I cannot begin to do his life justice in a few paragraphs. But I would like to honour his memory by sharing some of what made Ranjan Daniel the man he was. I have to begin with his relationship with my mother. Theirs was a marriage made in heaven, although it didn’t have the makings of one. He was a Jaffna Tamil, with no discernible incursions into the family bloodline. She came from a marriage between a Sinhalese from the deep South and a Dutch-Burgher from Colombo. At a time when inter-racial union was discouraged even more than it is today, my parents threw caution to the winds and tied the knot.

And it stayed tied for 37 years, against unimaginable odds. And so out of the chaos of a “mixed” marriage was born a beautiful relationship based on love, respect and total devotion. Of course it wasn’t as perfect as that. It rarely is. The challenges were many. Mistakes were made. But together they held their course. It was in this happy medium between stability and chaos that my sister and I grew up. My parents never tried to give us everything. Armed only with his education at Trinity College, he worked his way up the corporate ladder on the back of his sheer dedication and determination. But it was never a cakewalk. Nothing came easy. I learnt very early on in life that everything had to be earned. And in my father’s book, you could write your own destiny if you worked hard enough.

He began imparting the tough lessons of life in my early teens. Until that point, he was the doting father. The “Dada” I would cry on, complain to and boast about. But having reached a certain point of maturity in my life, my father made a conscious shift in how he dealt with me. He became an absolutely ruthless disciplinarian. To be woken up by 4 a.m. for my morning study session was never questioned. And that did not mean an early bedtime either. Whether or not I was actually studying, I had to put in the hours behind my books. He and I both knew I was never going to be an academic. But he needed to teach me life’s greater lessons: patience, perseverance and a disciplined mind.

He did this not just by dictating my study hours, but by training me to never leave anything half done. And this would mean he would spare nothing, including the rod to ensure I learnt my lesson. And yes, there have been many times I retaliated in a rush of teenage blood, only to quickly realise the folly of my actions. I am proud of the many stripes I earned for attempting to rebel against my father’s orders. They have held me in good stead to this day.

I benefited from the indefatigable work ethic my father demanded during my teenage years as an undergrad at University. I was able to put in a prodigious amount of work both academically and professionally. His simple lesson to me was that everything could be overcome and achieved, if you were willing to work at it. We often think that life’s greatest achievements are reserved for the gifted or the chosen. My father didn’t agree. He believed that if you truly wanted something, you could work at it and overcome all obstacles to achieve it. He taught me that sometimes this required the ferocity of a lion. And at other times, the patience of Job.

My father was fearless. To use the vernacular, he was a “chandiya” who didn’t need a weapon or a gang of twenty to defend himself and his family. I remember a time not so long ago, when I was in some serious trouble and my home was surrounded by several security officers and officials who thought that I was living there, leaving my father with the unenviable task of holding the fort. Not only did he defend me, but he refused to allow his family’s honour to be compromised. How he managed this, I will never know. Such was his spirited fight that he is fondly remembered amongst some of the officers for his aggressive defence. For an unarmed retiree, he gave some of the most hardened professionals in town a real run for their money. The word “fearless”, is sometimes misunderstood. Being fearless when you are assured of your protection isn’t being fearless at all. But when you attack when expected to defend… that, is being fearless. And there are many who would testify to my father’s response to any form of intimidation. You could not intimidate him.

My father would often be an oracle of sorts to his friends and relatives. His uncanny “gut-instinct” was rarely if never wrong. He didn’t make calculated judgments. He was blessed with God given wisdom and he would be able to quickly assess a situation and come up with a decision that would be proven right in the long run. I learnt to depend on his counsel before making big decisions. He would casually probe into the crux of the matter and then gently prod me towards the most prudent decision. Unlike my early years, my father never imposed his decisions on me as an adult. He made it very clear that while he would always give me his views, the decision, was mine.

His Christian faith was unshakable. Through the trials and tribulations of life, he never shirked in his belief in God. He worshipped one God and like the prodigal son, would return to that one God after his many journeys through the wilderness. It was perhaps the time he spent in this spiritual wilderness that became the cornerstone of his convictions later on in life. He began his prayer ministry, “Green Pasteur” and prayed for those who needed it. But his prayers were not just grounded in the knowledge of the word of God. His prayers were that of a fallible man who had journeyed through life and had all the cuts and bruises to prove it. His prayers were earnest and powerful. And they comforted as much as they reached out to those whose faith was built on sand.

For a man who was born in a rural hamlet, my father harboured extraordinary dreams. He dreamt of a progressive Sri Lanka. A country in which even his mixed-race Christian children, could aspire for greatness. He didn’t accept for one moment, that the die was cast at birth. He knew that God would smile upon those who were audacious enough to try. And when he held little Chelian in his arms, perhaps he knew, that the audacity of his dreams were alive and well. He knew he had done enough. I will not understand why my father was snatched away within a few weeks. And I am tempted to ask God why. He had much to live for. But God’s plans are not ours. And I found solace in the words of the great Prophet Isaiah (57:1); “…the righteous are taken away to be spared”.

Rest in peace, my darling Thathi. Your pride, strength and indomitable spirit live on. And your dreams, will come true.

Note: The title of this piece is taken from the title of a memoir written in the mid-90s by President Obama.

 Chevaan  Devavarathan-Daniel

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