Plus - Appreciation

A sincere friend and livewire at gatherings

Malini Ratnaike

The lamp that lit the wartime Visakha Bandarawelites has been extinguished. No more the happy gatherings of Bandarawelites at her spacious home. No more coach rides as her guests for a happy outing to Kandy. No more Vesak sil at her home emulating Mrs. Motwani's programme of sil day at Visakha. Malini and Malini alone kept us together all these long years, no one will refute. It was as if she was Mrs. Jeramias Dias reborn.

Yet I well recall the picture I have of Malini when I first saw her at our Bandarawela Visakha, two new girls were standing together in the garden facing each other with unsmiling faces, one taller than the other. They were two sisters, Malini and Chandrani.

Years later Malini told me she was urging Chandrani to cry, cry. Malini thoroughly resented being removed from her friends at Ladies’ College and desperately wanted her father to put her back there. And "Chandragiri" which was the wartime hostel cramped to the hilt with primitive toilet facilities would have compounded her resentment. I wonder how long it took Motwani to write to her father; 'Malini smiled today.'

In no time Malini was proving herself a star on the netball field and running about happily. She had accepted us. "FRIENDS"! That is the cue to Malini's entire life. She lived for her friends. Her sons who all lived abroad wished her to live abroad too but she could not contemplate a life without her friends. She always came running back.

Malini could very well have hosted all her parties at the Hilton and graced the social columns of our newspapers. She chose the other road - Home. She offered only sincere affection and simplicity in the extreme. Here in her home, designed it seemed for these gatherings, we Bandarawelites watched each other as we changed from teenagers to vibrant young mothers and onto grey-haired grandmothers sans competition and rivalry whatsoever.

Her sil programmes at Vesak gathered momentum over the years and non-Visakhians joined in. Eminent bhikkhus and citizens accepted her invitation to address her erudite audience on a heavy scheduled day. She welcomed all.

Her open house had no limits. It was only five years ago, when I moved to our old home near to Malini that the quiet friendship between us suddenly soared into a sweet intimacy. Since I was now somewhat house-bound, we reached each other through the telephone which we used like an inter-com. She was the kind of friend to whom I could send a piece of cake, a few springs of flowers, a painkiller at night when she 'phoned to say her spine was aching. It is not to everyone you could send such trifles. Her staff would bring me her cutlets and sandwiches whenever she made them.

Although Malini was deeply spiritual and spent herself caring for the bhikkhus in the temple, she was full of zest for the joys of life. In her seventies, in between running to doctors, she walked across to show me her fancy dress for some event at the Women's International. She won first prize.

She had a heart of gold. A beautiful compassion the Buddha spoke of, which in this cruel world often brought her misery. She was fleeced. She was robbed. Her hospitality was sometimes abused.

This last month she was none too well. But she was looking forward to a cruise a son was taking her to and was packed and ready to go to the airport for Singapore. But her flight was not to Singapore. She had removed her brilliant ear-rings and asked the maid to wash them well to offer to the Dalada Maligawa. Her last thought - The Buddha. There was no next thought wave. She was gone.

To us Bandarawelites she was a treasure. There could be no doubt that in her next birth she will have pirivara-retinue galore of friends.

May she attain Nibbana.


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