ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday December 16, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 29

Celebrating a life lived to the fullest

Sam de Silva

Sam de Silva, Bappa to us, passed away after 80 eventful years following a short terminal illness. We celebrate the colourful and wonderful life of a man who was widely known as 'Aravinda's father', but vehemently and jokingly protested by him saying that Aravinda was in fact Sam de Silva's son!

Yes, his greatest achievement was creating the Sri Lankan cricket phenomenon and our only truly international icon Aravinda. I have yet to see a father pursue his life's ambition of turning his son into a world class cricketer with so much zeal and devotion. While my aunt, Loku Amma wanted to make Aravinda study to become a 'professional', Bappa on the other hand, after a prediction made by Mr. Abu Fuard, that his little boy will one day become a great cricketer, relentlessly pursued it to make his dream a reality. After arguments with Loku Amma regarding the future career of their son, finally Loku Amma caved in to see Aravinda becoming the professional international cricketer we are all so proud of.

Sam de Silva with son Aravinda

During the years that Aravinda was at D. S. Senanayake College, Bappa became part of the College landscape! After work, he came straight to college and watched Aravinda practise. From either the music or art room I would know his presence by his trademark loud voice and laughter. After discussing future strategy with our cricket coaches and often enjoying a chat with Mr. Alles at the principal's bungalow, the father-son duo would set out for home in the engulfing darkness. This was their routine for the rest of Aravinda's school life.

During this period Bappa as the president of the Parent-Teachers’ Association rendered yeoman service to our fledgling seat of learning. He was either Sam or Uncle Sam to all at DS. Equipped with an analytical and razor sharp mind combined with legendary public relations skills, he became an indispensable companion and advisor to our college. We remember with gratitude the significant role he played in acquiring 4.5 acres of land from SSC for our playground. His close association with the late Sir John Kotelawala and members of the SSC made this gargantuan task a reality. Also his immense network of contacts and the font of goodwill he was able to garner, made him a ‘must have’ member for all fundraising activities.

Bappa moved with the highest and the lowest in the land with equal ease and was able to put at ease any person who came in contact with him. This I see as one of his greatest attributes. He was deeply sensitive to people's suffering and never turned his back on a poor relation or friend in dire need. His nieces and nephews fondly remember how he gave them a hand to come up in life during trying times.

These grateful nieces and nephews rushed to his bedside, even coming from overseas after hearing their beloved Loku Mama's illness. As an active member in the Lions and SUROL he got deeply involved in the upliftment of the downtrodden. People close to the family will recall how he looked after the family retainers, gave them in marriage, built houses for them and looked after their offspring. Most importantly he got immersed in social service activities without any fanfare, some times even unknown to his wife and children.

When our Archchi was alive, Bappa was more a son than a son-in-law to her. Addressing her lovingly as 'mummy', he devotedly attended to her property matters and got involved in settling disputes. I clearly remember accompanying them to resolve a property matter where some persons were claiming ownership to one of Archchi's paddy lands. The party who were claiming ownership appeared miserably poor. Seeing these folk bappa whispered to Archchi, ''Mummy how can we go to courts with these wretched people? Shall we let them have this land? At least it will help to feed a few empty stomachs''. Archchi who herself was compassionate and benevolent promptly nodded in agreement thereby allowing a poor family to enjoy the fruits of her land. Standing behind Archchi and observing the unfolding events I had learnt my first lesson in conflict resolution!

Bappa was indispensable at parties to get things going! Friends and relatives waited expectantly for the arrival of Sam and Araliya to open the dance floor with their jive and baila dancing. They were always late for functions as dear Loku Amma had her own standards for punctuality and poor Bappa had to fabricate fanciful stories of excuse! I fondly recall how our grand-uncle, the late Sudana Rodrigo, waited impatiently for Sam and Araliya to arrive and get his 31st night dance started at the Barbaryn Reef Hotel. It was Bappa who would get everyone on to the dance floor, not sparing even Archchi, for a night of dancing and making merry.

This was a man who enjoyed life to the hilt and spread laughter and happiness wherever he went. Bappa adored children and children in turn adored him. He would go to a group of children and entertain them with tricks and sometimes toss them up and perform various acrobatics to the consternation of the parents.

When I told Mahari, my daughter that her dear Bappa Seeya was ill and that he will not be with us for long, her eyes became misty and she wanted to tell him how much she loved him. She reminded me how Bappa carried her lovingly and showed her around Aravinda's 'mini museum', which is a collection of all his trophies, medals, cricket gear and memorabilia carefully set up by a proud and adoring father. He allowed her to handle and take photos of that epoch-making cricket bat, which was instrumental in bringing us joy and euphoria during those memorable days of 1996!

The greatest blow to him was when his beloved son-in-law, Vasanth met with an untimely death a year ago. I was told that he was inconsolable and following which became introspective, reticent and found solace in the Dhamma. The last time I saw Bappa was in July when I came home for a family reunion. I saw him in his pristine self at our family home in Panadura, which was reverberating with music and laughter after a long spell of silence. It was great to see him dancing and singing. Watching his youthful energy and demeanour, never did it occur to me that this was my last encounter with this wonderful human being who played such a significant role in our family.

However, this is how I shall remember him and I am sure this is how he would have wanted us to remember him. Goodbye Bappa, may your journey through Samsara be short, smooth and joyous. I have no doubt that during this journey your fellow travellers will be entertained by your eternal humour and zest for life!

By Dr. Thushara Rodrigo

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