It is with deep sorrow that I write this appreciation of Wijaya Weerasinghe Dahanayake, retired Senior Area Manager, Bank of Ceylon, Kalutara Division, who passed away after a brief illness on September 13, 2009.
Wijaya was the youngest son in a family of four children. His parents were the late E. W. Dahanayake of Thelikada, Galle, and Ms. Sellawathie Seneviratne of Bangalawatte, Baddegama, Galle. His older brother, the late E. L. W. Dahayanake, was Chief Accountant of the Government Supplies Department, Colombo. The late Soma Dahanayake Wijesinghe, who also predeceased Wijaya, was the second in the family. The writer of this appreciation is the sole survivor of Wijaya’s generation of the Dahanayake family.
Our Mother died at the age of 34. Mallie was two years and I was barely four at the time. A child herself, Akka, who was 13 years at the time, took on the Herculean task of playing second mother to the toddler in the family, a task she selflessly carried out till Wijaya left school and found employment in 1962.
Ours was a humble household, but we had love and care in abundance. I will be failing in my duty if I do not mention with gratitude our Mother’s older sister, the late Ellen Seneviratne, who gave up her dreams of getting married to fulfil her dying sister’s last request that she would never leave the children – a task she carried out for the rest of her life. It is our deep sorrow that circumstances beyond our control prevented us from keeping our Aunt Ellen with either of us, to compensate for the sacrifices she made for our family.
Wijaya was in the second batch of students to be admitted to Thurstan College, Colombo, when Mr. D. E. A. Schokman was the Principal. Wijaya joined as a fifth standard student, and continued to study at Thurstan College till he left the school in 1962. He excelled in athletics and rugby. He received his Public School Colours in 1959 for the 4x400 Relay, an honour he considered the pinnacle of his sports achievements. He was House Captain and also captain of the Athletics Team. He was Head Prefect from 1961 to 1962.
Apart from his love for sports, Wijaya loved to sing. As a boy, he would imitate the well-known actors of the day. He would accompany me to Karu Aiya’s “Lama Pitiya”, and in the children’s plays he would take on small roles and also sing along with us. The drama teacher at Thurstan was the late Dayananda Gunawardane, whose school play “Naribena” was a great hit. Noting Wijaya’s enthusiasm, Dayananda Gunawardane asked Wijaya whether he would like to play the lead role in the play. With regret, Wijaya declined the offer, fearing the boys would nickname him “Nariya” and that the name would stick to him for the rest of his life.
At night, when we were finished with our homework, we would convert our sitting room into a makeshift theatre, and Wijaya would act the whole of ‘Naribena’, scene by scene, and sing all the songs in the play. I recall my father beaming with pleasure, his eyes filled with pride for his son.
Wijaya’s departure has left me with an overwhelming loneliness. As I sit facing the sunset of my life, I think of my two late brothers and sister, and I realise how desperately I miss them.
Wijaya joined the Bank of Ceylon in 1962 as a clerical hand and rose to executive rank through hard work and dedication. He served as manager of many Bank of Ceylon branches in Colombo and suburbs, including the NRFC and the Metropolitan branches, to name a few. Wherever he served, he was very popular with the staff.
Wijaya’s marriage to Nalini Kulatunga, a contemporary at the Bank of Ceylon, was a successful one.
Malli, it is three months since your passing away, and to say I miss you is an understatement.
May your sojourn in Sansara be short, and wherever you are, may you achieve everlasting happiness and the solace you so richly deserve.
(Ranee Dahanayake Wanigasooriya)