That Saturday it rained cats and dogs in Colombo. I was in Borella, waiting to attend the funeral of “Baappa”, as Hendirik Kariyawasam was affectionately known to everyone in Ambalangoda, Hendirik’s hometown.
Alas! When I went to Woodlands, home of the Senanayake dynasty, Prime Minister D. S. Senanayake’s youngest grandson Rukman told me the funeral had taken place that morning, and that everyone was asking where Buddhika was.
As I was unable to pay my last respects to a man I greatly admired, I thought the next best thing would be to write an appreciation of him.
In the early ’70s, the late Mr. Dudley Senanayake asked me to run for Parliament from Ambalangoda. I declined, saying there were three people who were better suited for the post. I named them in a letter to the “Lokka”: the first was the highly respected Ambalangoda Urban Council chairman and former MP, Dr. M. H. Saddhasena; the second was Mr. S. G. A. de Silva (“Arthur Uncle”); the third was Baappa – Hendirik Kariyawasam. All three men have departed the land of living, Baappa being the last to go.
Hendirik rarely went home to Ambalangoda, but he kept in close touch with the people – so much so that he always won Ward No. 4, Hirewatta, of the Ambalangoda Urban Council, gaining the highest majority for as long as he contested that ward. He also served as vice-chairman of the Ambalangoda UC. Although he did not reside in Ambalangoda, he never neglected his duties as a city father for Ambalangoda.
Hendirik was the family retainer of the Senanayakes. Although nominally he was Uncle Robert’s chauffeur, he virtually ran the house, especially after the demise of Aunty Neela. He would tell me how he used to cart the Senanayake boys and their friends to S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia, adding that my friend Ranil Mendis was the “thug” of the lot, always fighting with the others.
Hendirik was also sent to the family estate with the pay every month. He helped the Senanayake household in many ways. When Uncle Robert’s elder daughter got married, it was Hendirik who brought the famous Porolis Baas from Ambalangoda to do the “poruwa”. When Ranjini’s daughter Irushi got married, it was again Porolis Baas who did the poruwa. The bride’s father told me they wanted to make it a tradition. When Porolis Baas died, he came all the way to Ambalangoda, in pouring rain, to pay his last respects.
The Senanayakes never treated Hendirik as a domestic. Until his death, he was well looked after. He was very frail in his last years. He was the “primus inter pares” among the rest of the domestic staff, and they addressed him respectfully as “Ralahamy.”
When people from Ambalangoda visited Baappa, he accommodated them in his annexe at the Walauwa, feeding them and even giving them the bus fare to go for job interviews and then to go back home.
Dudley Senanayake, who lived next door to Woodlands, counted on Baappa to run errands for him. He never used his influence with the Prime Minister to further his own ends. Instead, he appealed to the PM to help others. I remember how he championed the cause of Stanley Senanayake, when Stanley had a problem, and helped Stanley become Inspector General of Police. “Stanley Mahaththaya is the son-in-law of our Kularatne Mahaththaya [P. De S. Kularatne, former MP for Ambalangoda], so we must help him” was what Baappa said.
When he retired from local politics, Baappa continued to give his full support to the UNP. He was a tower of strength to me when I (successfully) contested the 1989 riot-clouded Parliamentary Elections. When he retired from contesting the UC Ward at Hirewatta, he nominated K. S. Richard Silva, a highly respectable fisherman, as the Hirewatta candidate.
In those days the counting of votes was done in the polling booth itself. The Hirewatta polling booth was the Methodist Mixed School at Maha Ambalangoda, two doors next to my house.
Early in the morning, we saw Dudley’s Pontiac approaching the polling booth. The car was flying a green flag (at that time you could fly flags). Thinking we were being honoured by a visit from our beloved leader, we flocked to the booth to welcome him. Lo and behold – Baappa was at the wheel of Dudley’s Pontiac and majestically seated in the rear seat was our very own K. S. Richard Silva, the man who once went out to sea for a living, perched precariously in a fisherman’s canoe.
With Baappa’s blessings, K. S. Richard Silva enjoyed record majorities, and he too ended up as a vice-chairman of our UC.
The annual Esala pageant in Ambalangoda, the Modara Devale procession, always had the active support and blessings of Baappa, who provided the elephants for the festivities. He was also a livewire of the Punyawardhana Samithiya, the society that organised the Vesak celebrations in Ambalangoda.
Baappa will be greatly missed on all these special occasions, and at many other social events in my hometown.
A bachelor, Baappa looked after the needs of the many families in the village. His visits to Ambalangoda were much looked forward to, especially by the children, to whom he was “Father Christ”.
May Baappa attain the Supreme Bliss of Nirvana.