Guru gedera and lessons in life my principal father taught me
Kavindra Piyadasa Amerasekera
Kavindra Piyadasa of Sekara Sewana, Gothatuwa, my beloved father died on July 15, 1963, yet he is etched in my memory. He led an exemplary life which still has a profound influence on the lives of his five children — Hemamaly, Swarnapalie (myself), Manoranjani, Chandragupta Jananatha and Deshabandu.
My father was well-built and pleasant looking. He was a school principal. He loved teaching and dedicated his whole life to his students. A strict disciplinarian, he groomed his children to face society. He retired after 40 years of service, but even after retirement he dedicated himself to teaching.
He built a small school adjoining our house because he wanted to teach the children of the village. It was free tuition, something unheard of today. Of his five children, three are teachers, including myself and he requested us to teach in his school, but insisted that no fees should be levied from pupils.
I must confess that we three as young people were slightly dismayed but complied with his request, as we did not want to hurt his feelings. He advised us that teaching free was a great merit, for “knowledge is the greatest wealth”.
As we matured, we felt the same. Our house was popularly known as ‘Guru Gedara’. My father looked quite young for his age. He used to boast that his good appearance and good health were attributed to teaching and that “a teacher never grows old, because he is always with the young ones and is always young in mind”. He would tell his friends in jest that he would be teaching until they saw his obituary notice in the newspapers.
He was a keen Sinhala scholar, writer and poet. He was awarded the prestigious title ‘Kavindra’ for the poetry book ‘Siyuru Sandesaya’. He often wrote Sinhala articles and poems especially to Sunday newspapers and I often recollect with a deep feeling of nostalgia how as a teenager, I would sit cosily in an arm chair in our verandah and enjoy reciting my father’s poems with gusto.A devout Buddhist, he was a loving husband, affectionate father and fine family man. My mother, Dharmalatha Gnanawathie, was a religious lady, full of practical wisdom. A school principal herself, she was the ideal wife for my father, and we were brought up according to Buddhist teaching and Sinhala traditional values.
My father was a voracious reader. He used to buy a book every month when he got his salary. My mother also followed his example and we had a good library at home. He even lent these books to the children of his school.
Two of his outstanding virtues were his simplicity and generosity. He believed that a certain amount of money was essential to lead a happy life, but he never wanted excessive wealth. An ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi, he led a simple life.
He had green fingers and had planted almost every kind of delicious fruits such as mangoes, pineapples etc., in his spacious garden. He kept only our share and distributed the rest lavishly among neighbours.
As I conclude this tribute another important incident flashes through my mind. I became the happy recipient of a prestigious gold award for excellence as an English writer, and it was because of the good habit of reading which he inculcated in me, since I was a small child.
My dearest father passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 75, leaving a void in my heart that can never be filled. I try to find solace in the Dhamma that all living things are transient but the foot prints he has left in the sands of time are indelible. They guide me forever. May he attain Nibbana!