Plus - Appreciations

We remembered our childhood days over a cuppa…

Professor M.T.M.Jiffrey

In March this year, Professor M.T.M. Jiffrey last visited my wife and I at our home in Mount Lavina. Punctual as usual and immaculately dressed Professor Jiffrey was the epitome of a gentleman. He has, as I reflect, been a brother, peer, role model and advisor to me over the six decades of our friendship and association.

We reminisced on our childhood over a cup of tea. He enjoyed the cup of tea so much that he wanted to know what the brand of tea was and where it could be bought. As our friendly conversation progressed, he touched on shared childhood experiences. At one point he recalled our early schooling, attending Montessori at St Mary’s Convent, Matara.

Being my cousin and neighbour in Matara, our daily trip was from Broadway Road to St. Mary’s Convent at Beach Road in Matara by buggy cart (bullock driven cart) with the “Buggy Aiyya” and our “Aaya Amma” namely Sango who looked after and cared for us in school until we returned home. Interestingly, he had a sharp memory of yesteryear and reminded me also of a concert during our childhood where we took part as a sailor and an engine driver.

Despite being peers, right from our childhood, I recognized him as a silent but talented cousin who was good in art and creative hand work. He was generous and had the habit of sharing and caring for others. I remember him presenting me his art works, paintings and handicrafts during our Montessori days. When he was about to leave that day my wife made it a point to present him with a packet of the tea that he had enjoyed a few hours before.

This was the last occasion I spoke to Professor Jiffrey. Thereafter I visited him when he was receiving treatment in a private hospital. A few days later I was grieved to learn the sad news about his passing away.

Professor Jiffrey’s mother died during his infancy and as the only child he grew up under the care of his aunts and his beloved father who cared for him with much love and affection. In adult life he became a people-friendly person and always respected people from all walks of life irrespective of their caste, creed and religion.

With the passage of time on finishing our Montessori days, we were in different schools. Later he gained admission to Mahinda College, Galle and Ananda College Colombo, from where he passed the University Entrance with flying colours. Thereafter, he excelled in his chosen career and became a Professor in his chosen field.

I met him, happy and contented as Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Sri Jayawardenapura University and as the Physiology lecturer of the same University. I am aware that he was popular among his peers and got along equally well with his subordinates. When he became the Vice Chairman of UGC, he used to tell me that his new position was challenging and arduous. Nevertheless, as an experienced academic with his knowledge on Human Resource Management, he boldly faced the realities of the new job. He spared no effort to resolve problems encountered by the students with foresight, tact and knowledge.

He fearlessly stood by the just demands of the poor University students. It is no secret that as an eminent intellectual, he had been a mentor to very many University students who are now doctors.
Well versed in Sinhala, Tamil and English, he was an eloquent orator capable of delivering thought provoking speeches and presentations. He had won many international and national accolades for his works and presentations of scientific papers. Of late he was appointed as a member of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission but was unable to sit on this Commission due to illness.

He was a devout Muslim and had a genuine desire to help the poor Muslim students from the rural areas. Being a Professor, he did not care about his status when it came to social work. He was simple and humble in all his dealings with his fellow men and was involved in charitable activities. He always had a genuine desire to see all Sri Lankans living in peace and tranquility. As an intellectual, late Professor Jiffrey was held in high esteem by the Muslim community and was considered a shining gem among the Muslim intellectuals.

Professor Jiffrey is no more with us, yet memories of him will remain with us forever. He passed away at the peak of his career, at a time when he was rendering service and spearheading many important scientific projects.

Whilst paying my humble tribute to this gentleman, a friend and cousin, I extend my condolences to the immediate family members of the late Professor M.T.M.Jiffrey and pray Almighty Allah that he may grant late Professor Jiffrey Jennath -ul-Firodouze!

Brigadier(Ret) M. Z. Ishrath

A father figure and guiding light in so many lives

F.P. De Alwis

Loku Thathi it is very difficult to put into words what I feel, but I will try. You have helped me in so many ways, on so many occasions and I am so grateful.

As a child you helped me out by paying my cricket fees at the cricket academy, after finishing school you helped me find jobs, when I wanted to further my education you assisted me in travelling to Australia for my studies and continued to support me, assuring me that if ever I required guidance I could always come to you.

The family knew they could count on you for support and advice and you were always willing to help anyone in distress, be it a fellow villager from Galle or a friend in need!

I always admired you for the caring man that you were, treating all your brothers and sisters the same and you were not only a father figure to them, but to us all.

I know that Christmas Day will never be the same without the traditional Christmas dinner you and Loku Ammi held in your home for the De Alwis family and others every year. As kids we’d look forward to spending Christmas at your place as you always made us feel at home.

Loku Thathi, I will never forget your voice, your smile and your great sense of humour. I have no doubt that the Good Lord has reserved a special place for you in heaven, as you were a well respected man with a heart of gold.

You have touched the lives of all who knew you; especially our family and we will be poorer without you. You made me proud to call myself ‘Felix De Alwis’ and I will always remember those words you said to me as a teenager, " Son always aim high and always make me and the De Alwis family proud." I hope I will make you proud one day Loku Thathi.

I miss you so much and will always treasure you with all my heart. I am crying for your loss but deep down I know that spiritually you will never leave us because you love us all so much. I love you my dear godfather, may your soul rest in peace.

Felix Navin Anthony De Alwis

Tribute to a mother’s love

Dianne Pereira

It is hard to believe that November 7 (today), would be six years since your passing away. It is hard to understand why things happened the way they did and why you were taken away so suddenly. We can only trust in God and believe that he knew what was best.

You worked for the Diocese of Colombo for over 30 years and also as Secretary to the Bishop of Colombo for about five years. You worked with commitment and dedication and were always loyal to the Diocese and the church and I would say you regarded it more as a calling than a job.

Among some of my most fond memories of you are the sacrifices that you and dada made to give me the best, making sure that I went to church and Sunday school.

I can still remember how happy you were when I got my O/L and A/L results and also when I got my first job. You never aspired for big things but were content, with what you called “the small mercies in life”. Your faith in God helped you to overcome many things and you were simple and humble always.

Although I was difficult and stubborn at times you loved me and I am what I am today because of the faith and values that you and dada instilled in me. You were loving, patient and kind but at the same time firm and strict. I know that even though you are not physically present today, you are with me and with God’s grace guiding me in what I do. I just want you to know how proud I am to say that you are my mama and thank you so much for everything that you have done for me.

We trust that you’re in God’s loving care and with Nana and Kali rejoicing in heaven. I shall end with a verse from a poem that I gave you .

When all other love has vanished
When all other friendships fade
There is a love that moves behind
us in sunshine and the shade
And that’s a mother’s love

Ryan Pereira

The fragrance of your wonderful life will come to us on the tides of memory

Ravi de Silva

Death is most cruel. It comes like a thief in the night, creating a deep and bottomless void in people’s lives - a void that can never ever be filled.

It is hard to believe that death snatched away Ravi de Silva from our midst. The shock was terrible - his passing so sudden - and dear Ravi was gone before the blinking of an eyelid. His was an untimely death in what could be called the prime of life, at the age of 49. We who knew him and loved him have to now face the emptiness of life without him now that he has gone forever. He died in the early hours of Sunday October 17, while playing the ‘Bongo’ drums that he loved so much at a small party.

Ravi was my son-in-law, husband to my only daughter, Sharon, and father to my two grandchildren, Ramesh and Shenali. His father was the late L.M V de Silva (Victor). His mother is Irene de Silva (or Dolly), who survives him.

They were both loved and respected teachers. Ravi was the youngest in a family of three children. He has an elder brother Saliya and sister Mala. Ravi's father used to tell me that he was a bit of a scamp as a youth and apparently had not been too keen on studies.

However, with patience and understanding, his parents guided and nurtured Ravi through the turbulent days of youth. His father, I am told, was the one instrumental in pushing Ravi into employment at Ceylon Tobacco Company at a young age.

Ravi started with the Market Research branch of CTC. He was absorbed into the Company proper in 1980, I believe, and he never looked back since, and performed his duties with honesty and integrity, to the complete satisfaction of his superiors. His outstanding ability and straight-forwardness, and a sense of duty were predominant characteristics in Ravi. There was nothing in him that was shabby, crooked or mean.

It was fitting therefore that the Management and Staff of Ceylon Tobacco Company as a final tribute to Ravi extended unstinted assistance to the family in the days following his death.

With every phase of maturity his stature grew. He was an exemplary son, a loving devoted husband and an affectionate, caring, loving father. He was an understanding brother and a sincere and trusted friend.
His other loves were cricket and music. He had the honour of captaining the First Eleven in 1979 leading his team to victory in the Big Match. He was awarded his Cricketing Colours in 1979. Then followed an outstanding cricketing career at Ceylon Tobacco Company. He was a stylish left-handed batsman, a medium pace bowler and an excellent fieldsman. He also kept wickets at various times in this career. So much so that even at the age of 49 he was still playing for his Company. He was fitter by far than many of the younger members of his team. He is reported to have played a match just a week or two before his death. Little did we know then that the hidden dangers of a cardiac ailment lurking within was going to claim his life a few days later.

His other passion was music. He learnt to play the guitar and then the drums. He became an expert drummer of the ‘Congo’ and ‘Bongo’ drums. Many friends would invite him for parties and get-to-gethers.. He had a little hideaway upstairs in his home where he had his musical setup with a host of CD ‘s which he would listen to in his spare time without disturbing the others.Whatever Ravi undertook whether in the sphere of his official duties, or his activities in the sports field, or in his family obligations, he did to perfection. He was kindly and forgiving. If at times he had to be firm, his firmness was tempered with moderation.

He proved to be an exemplary son-in-law, and he looked after and cared for my daughter and my grandchildren with much love. Another fine trait in his character was that he did not discriminate against anyone on racial or religious grounds. He was a Buddhist and he respected the views of all faiths.
The vast crowds that thronged his home and the Crematorium to pay their last respects to Ravi was ample testimony to the esteem in which he was held.

When a good man dies, he leaves behind the fragrances of his memory. All of us will from time to time experience the fragrance of Ravi's life coming to us on the tides of memory.

The sun has set on you, dear Ravi and we are left to face the sunset in the morrow whenever that may be. Thank you dearest son for what you were to my daughter and children and to all of us. We shall surely miss you more than words can ever say, but we shall never ever forget you.

Trevor (Chappy) Jayetilleke

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