LALITHA HERATH  DISSANAYAKE Her love and loyalty to friends was amazing The news of the sudden demise of Aunty Lalitha just a week after her father’s funeral came as a shock to all her near and dear ones.That aunty who was sprightly and energetic as always when she met me, my husband and sons in [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka




Her love and loyalty to friends was amazing

The news of the sudden demise of Aunty Lalitha just a week after her father’s funeral came as a shock to all her near and dear ones.That aunty who was sprightly and energetic as always when she met me, my husband and sons in Kandy a few months before, was no more was too hard to comprehend. Her kindly voice still echoes and her smiling face flashes before my eyes at the mention of her name.

Aunty Lalitha has always been a part of my life. Having been my mum’s roommate at Peradeniya and best friend from then onwards, she was always in and out of our house. Stories of their escapades at university, of the lifelong friendship amongst their group of friends and the special bond of the trio from the Geography department (my mum, Aunty Kanti and Aunty Lalitha) have been told and retold many a time in our house.

Aunty Lalitha was sincere, hardworking, efficient, high achieving, caring, compassionate, and loyal and above all, a champion of women and animals. Growing up, I always remember her being mentioned in connection with helping under-privileged women and working tirelessly for women’s rights. Her compassion also extended to animals especially dogs and we remember how she would cook food for stray dogs in her neighbourhood and go by car to deliver it to them. She would relate how the dogs would all gather around her as soon as they heard her footsteps. There were occasions while on visits to Colombo she would pop in to our place to boil eggs for the dogs if she felt they needed protein in their meal.

She reached the pinnacle of her career as Secretary to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in the early 2000’s. I was fortunate to volunteer in her office when she was organising a SAARC conference on the Girl Child. Her efficiency and the respect she commanded from her colleagues and those who worked under her were evident from the moment I stepped into her office.  Her genuine concern and desire to make a change in society is extremely praiseworthy and I only wish the government of the time and the rest of society had been supportive for her to achieve more. Even after retirement she continued to work with marginalised women’s groups and abused women. During my last meeting with her she talked of how she was on the phone daily trying her best to get some justice for women who have been abused.

The pursuit of a career and her devotion to duty, cost aunty valuable time to spend with her family and this was a constant regret she had. She was happy that I had taken a break and was at present a stay-at-home mum to my two boys. She was honest in her own regret of the time she missed of her children’s childhood.

Aunty Lalitha’s love and loyalty to her friends was amazing. Friendships mattered a lot to her and she made the effort to nurture it, which many of us with our busy lives forget to do. Be it a meet-up with someone who had come from overseas, a wedding or a funeral, aunty would make it, even if it meant hiring a car to travel all the way to Colombo or being on a bus on the Kandy Colombo road for hours. We really appreciated her special effort to attend my wedding and that of my brother in Colombo. To my mum she was a dear sister, a compassionate ear and the go-to person for help. She misses aunty’s late night telephone calls and long chats and sincere friendship immensely.

Her love extended to the families of her friends and she knew all our birthdays including that of my kids and a card wishing us was one thing we were all sure of receiving where ever we may be.

On my last trip to Sri Lanka in January 2015, knowing I was in Kandy she was very keen on meeting up. She insisted on taking us out for lunch but due to other commitments we couldn’t make it but decided to meet up for coffee at least. At the coffee shop, she let my boys choose cup cakes with their favourite coloured frosting and their favourite iced Milo. She would not let us leave without buying boxes of traditional sweet meats to take to Colombo and share with mum.

She was her usual cheerful self, having bounced back from the nasty experience of being mauled by her neighbour’s   dog and proudly showed a photograph of the three generations of women in her family. She drove herself to meet us and was off to do grocery shopping after with a wave of her hand. That was the last time I ever saw her.

Two years later I am back in Sri Lanka, coincidentally around her second death anniversary and to think Aunty Lalitha, one of the kindest souls I have ever known is no more is very sad. It is yet another reminder of the impermanence and fleeting nature of life. All the more reason to appreciate every single minute of the present. The picture of her with my sons and I, which she insisted on taking, will be one that I will always cherish.

Aunty Lalitha, you are missed very much.

May you attain Nibbana.

Parveen Abdul Gaffar Muhammad

Prof Ashley Halpe

A silence of waiting

It’s a year since then;
the air of Academe is misty
the very trees droop
and the cobbled paths echo
retreating footsteps
and there is a silence of waiting.

Will you not come back
to tread these paths again
Great Seer, your white locks
waving in the soft breeze,
that blow from those eastern hills,
to do sonorous debate Socrates like
over Beauty and Truth?

You, the gardener who laid seedlings
in gentle beds, nursed and
saw them into green growth;
you who withdrew and surveyed
them shoot upwards to tall trees;
bloom colourful and bear fruit
you who did not claim the harvest.

You, the stargazer with eagle-eyes
whose eyes lighted on new stars
looming in the distant night
you, whose fond telescopic sight
never left them even in flight.

You the artist who saw the heart
through the form
you who saw the mind
through the heart
you the poet who saw the tears
and quietly wiped them out.

Will you not come yet again?
Come descant on Shakespeare and Brecht
be bold to put Olivia in Osariya and borichchi hattaya.
to new read
the Caucasian Chalk Circle
to penetrate in sombre tones
elusiveness of a Pound and Eliot
come back to light these paths again
darkening in dusky twilight.

Kamala Wijeratne


 Antoinette De Silva

You will always be family to us

A blink of an eye changed everything, no time for farewells, last words or goodbye… life’s cruel way of reminding us how much we should appreciate the time we have.

I cannot believe it was only a couple of days ago when we were talking over the phone and I was trying to make plans to see you more. I never thought that God would take you away so soon.

I see your smile in every childhood memory. Every birthday I eagerly waited for you to arrive because I knew you were the one person who would always come, no matter what.

I can still hear your voice every Christmas when we gathered to sing carols followed by the amazing feast you had taken great care to prepare for us.

I can hear your laughter and the many times we drove out to Kotmale. The best of my childhood memories are in these simple moments of joy.

We shared the same love for musicals. I’ll never forget how many times I have watched “Annie” or “Sound of Music” whenever I spent the day in your home.

You are such a big part of our lives which is why my parents named me after you.

I could never think that you would age…. that’s why you were always “Antoi aunty” to me although you were my mum’s aunt.

It is your beautiful heart that I will always remember – your kindness and your generosity. You always put others before you, and never failed to help a person in need.

I remember you told me once, ‘I have a good life I’m one of the lucky ones’. You always celebrated life and thought that having more than others was not a privilege but a responsibility – a responsibility to care for those that don’t have much.

I always believe family is not defined by blood. Family is where your heart is. You will always be family to us…. we will always love and miss you.

Savi Antoinette Perera

Lionel Fernandez

He exemplified kindness, honesty and passion for life

It is with great sadness that we write about the passing away of Lionel Fernandez. Lionel was a loving husband to Wilma Fernandez for 49 years.

He attended St. Benedict’s College and was regarded highly for his athletics and academic achievements. Lionel, known as ‘LPS’ amongst his friends, was an accomplished athlete throughout his school years in sports such as track and field, soccer, field hockey and cricket.  He had represented Sri Lanka in athletics.

After arriving to Canada with his wife in 1974, he started working for a company which he remained loyal to throughout his working years. He also continued to show a love for sports by coaching his sons’ soccer teams for many years where he demonstrated leadership and was a role model for many kids. As he grew older, watching sports such as baseball, basketball and soccer with his family continued to be a big part of his life.

Over the past 2 ½ years, Lionel was battling an illness that he ultimately succumbed to on March 23.

Throughout his life, Lionel exemplified kindness, honesty and a passion to spread joy to those around him. Although he will be sorely missed by his family and friends, he would not want us to mourn his death, but rather celebrate his life.

He leaves behind his wife, two sons – Mike and Dave, daughter-in-law Purvi (Dave’s wife), granddaughter Angelina, older brother Gabo, younger sisters Kamala and Bridget, several nephews and nieces, and numerous other family and friends.

May his soul Rest in Peace.

Purvi Fernandez

Savithri Goonewardene Devanesan

Pictorial meditation on a beautiful life

‘So good a woman, who can find ?

She is more precious than jewels…

She doeth good, not harm, all her days…

She riseth with the dawn and looks well to the ways of her household, she eateth not the bread of idleness…

She stretcheth out her hand to the needy… she reaches out to the poor…

She openeth her mouth with wisdom, and her words are the law of kindliness…

Strength and honour are her clothing, and she shall rejoice in time to come…

Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all…

Give her the fruits of her hands… let her works praise her at the gates…’

(Comentarii- Proverbia 1633)


Surely, thus would she have been praised at heaven’s gates, as she moved on …to life eternal two years since – May 6, 2015, as God willed, on the birth anniversary of her  beloved father.

To reflect on so excellent a life is a meditation… to capture its rare beauty…becomes a pictorial meditation…

Among the earliest, are pictures of a stately mansion…and spread upon its lawn a gracious and handsome family. Yes- the revered Dr. Simon Goonewardene and Mrs. Amy Goonewardene, with their eight children. She was born their eldest daughter- Norma Amebelle. Here, we behold the roots to her great spirit: A home, founded on precepts of Christian living, honour to parent and elder, unparalleled love among siblings, goodness to staff, extending  beyond…to embrace the wider community: the church, education, particularly the poor and needy… precepts of life richly reflected in diverse hues in its children: from the eldest- the late Leslie Goonewardene- the great Marxist political- economist and freedom fighter, to Dr. Roy, who served as missionary in Africa.

We look upon delightful pictures of four beautiful girls…clothed in Victorian lace… at varied stages of growing up… and see them schooling at Methodist College. Later, Norma was for a brief span at Medical College. Her active life there, as an SCM student- was it destiny…? For it paved the way for her encounter with the charismatic Cambridge scholar Dr. Chandran Devanesan from India- ‘a young man of great excellence…’as adjudged by the late Rev. Dr. D.T. Niles.

We look upon such beautiful images of a young joyous couple- Chandran and Savithri, as she came to be known hallowed by a God blessed love… and see a youthful Norma move on courageously, in great faith… to a life unknown. Her son reflects thus:

“ Amma left her luxurious home in Sri Lanka to join Dad, she never again lived in a house that she or her family owned; but wherever she lived she created a home of love, joy…food for all…Dad, rejecting many prestigious jobs, was led by his missionary zeal… to the remote Christian College in West Bengal… Amma’s first home with dad was in a small house on a small income… invaded by monkeys…and wild animals…(Dayalan Devanesan May 7, 2015)”

We meditate on the quiet growth and maturation of her great spirit… as the pictorial images carry us onward to those much recalled years at Madras Christian College, where Chandran and Savithri- now blessed with three sons, combined  a life of education with a life of sacrificial service to humankind…

An SCM scholar Murial Ridland wrote in 1953: “The Rural Service Centre of the College is really the Devanesan Centre. Every day food is cooked for the village children in her home. Every day leper patients… come to her garden to wait for treatment…She has open house for students… willingly helps any who come to her with a problem- personal or medical. She is often short of money, yet she gives food away even if it means lunch may not appear… She used to pray…and something would come…She helps Chandran keep going…She is the calmest soul, one would think she was never involved in anything difficult…She is still lovely despite three boys…the most beautiful woman I have seen…”

Meditating upon these years of ‘unforgettable love…’in the likeness of the name she now bore –‘Savithri’  their protégées around the world must today bow in reverence to her great spirit,  and celebrate her matchless life.!

Reflecting further upon images of Savithri and Chandran- so lovely in their heyday, we  behold this woman of noble birth… move on in elegance and grace with her renowned husband, within India and overseas, where he was visiting professor and honoured guest at International Fora; and then we see them move on to Assam, where he concluded his career as Vice Chancellor of Shillong University- so appointed by the late Mrs. Indira Gandhi, who subsequently honoured him for outstanding services to education. It is with a certain loving empathy that we meditate with a mother’s pride, when her sons emulated their father…as she shared those pictorial images with her kin in Sri Lanka- Dr. Sudarshan Devanesan being decorated with the ‘Order of Canada’ for his contribution to medicine, and Dr. Dayalan Devanesan being honoured by the Government of Australia for his services among Aboriginal tribes. And so it is with hidden love and pain…that we meditate upon Mithran… her youngest -our beloved playmate in childhood, whose untimely passing cast an indelible shadow upon her path…yet, to the honour of his parents left for posterity his loving labours among the marginalized… particularly those stigmatized with AIDS. Thus we meditate upon the ‘light and shade’ in Savithri’s life.

The meditation carries us on…to look upon a treasure trove of pictorial images… which bear testimony to a deep inner calling…and so stands eternal their foundation- ‘Roofs for the Roofless’- founded by Chandran Devanesan – upon the theological precept of Dietrich Bonhoeffer : ‘The goal of Christian life is to be a blessing to others… we are called to participate in God’s sufferings with the poor and oppressed, by serving them…’

And so the meditation carries us to a shadow in Savithri’s life… the untimely passing of Prof. Chandran in 1982… Yet, light shines forth again, as the foundation is revitalized with the courageous Savithri, bearing Chandran’s diary and handkerchief in hand, donned the mantle of director. Under her stewardship the foundation grew to include a computer training laboratory, technical training facility, vibrant livelihood support programmes for women, aged and child care centres , agricultural support schemes, housing schemes… to name but a few…

And so- her final days become a soulful meditation…picturing masses of poor gathered at her gate- kneel in prayer… and a simple niece bows her head in silent meditation… to echo the words-“ Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all…”


 Wasantha Obeysekera    

We have lost a talented and passionate visual storyteller

I was very sorry to hear of the passing of renowned cinematographer and screenwriter Kala Keerthi Wasantha Obeysekera.  I became a great fan of his work and never missed seeing the films directed by him, beginning with Dadayama in 1983.

Mr. Obeysekera was among a rare breed of artistes who contributed to Sinhala cinema, who looked deep into societal issues and provided a lens through his direction to understand and examine ourselves and who we are as a society.

He was an exceptional human being who conducted himself with humility, decency, and integrity. He had the credentials, brilliance and talent for visual storytelling.

I would often see him standing in front of the newspaper stand at the intersection of Lauries Road, Bambalapitiya, and Galle road near Navavi Tailors browsing through the newspapers and periodicals.

I could still recall how helpful Mr. Obeysekera was to those who reached out to him. I was unable to see his last directorial film Aganthukaya (The Outcast) when it was screened in the theatres.  So I called him and asked him if he could help me see the film.  He was very kind and generous with his time to invite me to his home on Lauries Road and allow me to watch the film on his television set in the living room. I will never forget his generosity. With his passing, Sri Lankan cinema lost a great, exceptionally talented, and passionate visual storyteller.






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