Plus - Appreciation

A privileged friend whose friendship was our greatest privilege

Anil Gamani Jayasuriya

There was Anil and then the rest of us. Anil Gamani Jayasuriya who died recently was my dear friend and classmate from the Lower Kindergarten at St. Thomas’ Prep right up to the Upper 6th at Royal College. Thereafter he pursued his studies in Zoology, something he always wanted to do, and secured a First Class at the top of his batch.

Anil almost always came first and he also earned international fame as an artist. He swam for College too. If there was anyone born with a “silver spoon in his mouth”, it was Anil. His clothes were cut of a superior cloth, his shoes and socks were classy, his pencils were Venus and his pen a Sheaffer. His father and maternal grandfather were Inspector Generals of Police. But he was such a simple and humble person. I really believe he did not realize how gifted and talented he was, and even if it did cross his mind, he didn’t care at all.

And then that terrible motor vehicle accident in 1969, when he was loaned by the University to the Elephant Survey run by the Smithsonian Institute. His jeep overturned leaving him in a coma for almost two months. The injury left him severely disabled in body, mind and spirit. Most of us were in denial.

This couldn’t have happened. This is not Anil. But that attitude was a big mistake because as he withdrew from society, our visits to him became far too infrequent. Many must have forgotten him but his wife Averill’s devoted and dedicated care of him was amazing. In this world of “I”, “Me” and “Mine” the way she shared her life with him was extraordinary.

To his mother, Mrs. Ena De Silva, his sister, Dr. Anula Kusum and to Averill, we give our deepest sympathies and sincere thanks for allowing such a man to be our friend. We have mourned for him these many years but through it all can we ever forget his sweetness, his kindness, and his glorious paintings? No, he will always be Anil.


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