Early one morning this week the telephone rang. The person on the other side said, “Father Sydney, Aunty Priya has died”.
I am glad that I was able to telephone Priya a few hours before she died. Something told me to telephone her.
In a Memorial like this, one travels down Memory Lane. My first point of contact with Priya was when she with a team of persons from Colombo came to Peradeniya, when I was Chaplain there, to participate in a counselling programme, for the students. Thereafter, I lost contact with her till she suddenly appeared from Toronto, where she had been for sometime, with her family.
During my stay at the Cathedral, from 1989 to 2003, Priya was a significant part of the Cathedral community. As a rule, she never missed Sunday worship. She was always there to take her place at the Cathedral choir stalls. She was more than a mere worshipper or a chorister for she was a very active member of the community of the Cathedral. She used to attend every meeting of the Friends of the Cathedral, monthly, special and annual. Thereby she walked the talk, as a member of the community of worshippers.
She being a very good friend of mine, was my best critic. She always therefore, said thank you and applauded me in her own way, for all that I did at the Cathedral and also genuinely critiqued me if and when necessary. Therefore having a friend and critic at the Cathedral under God, I was able to touch base and know the realities of the Community both at worship and thereafter.
She was one of those who voluntarily participated at worship by reading Lessons in a lively manner and leading Intercessions well prepared, meaningful and relevant. Therefore when I had to choose women as the Dean of the Cathedral, to help the clergy in the distribution of elements, Priya was a very natural choice.
Priya's contribution to the Church was more than the Cathedral. She was involved in the work of the Diocese at the Centre by being a member of the Commission on Family Life and therefore was a member of the Board of Mission. She was also involved in liturgical and theological work. However her forte was counselling. Therefore Priya was one of those whom I asked to help our students at the Cathedral Institute. Her able skills in this field were made use of at Ladies’ College and various other places.
She also helped the Sri Lanka Sumithrayo and the Salvation Army.
Although those in the counselling area have an unwritten law that it is the counsellee that must seek the counsellor, Priya overlooked that guideline when she had to help me. Whenever Priya realized that I needed help she used to visit me, wherever I lived and worked. So when I had to choose a Spiritual Advisor it was Priya that I turned to.
Because of the friendship I had with Priya, I also renewed my friendship with her brother and his family and also met her sister and her family. And certainly Priya’s own daughters and their families.
Over the years I learnt from Priya that coming from a Salvation Army family background she chose to be a part of the Anglican Church because of her marriage to Lakshman whose roots went back to Patuwatte in the deep south.
I also learnt that Priya had been the Head Prefect at Methodist College, Colombo, and had worked at the Radio Ceylon.
With Lakshman’s untimely death she had to bring up her children as a single parent which she did very well indeed.
The last time I met her was at St. Paul’s Milagiriya when she came for a Thanksgiving Service for a friend whom she had known in Anuradhapura. Under that porch we had a long conversation which was the last one.
From the time I heard that she was handling and managing a terminal illness, I have been in touch with her, thanks to the airmail system, e-mail and the telephone.
Recently I realized that she was gradually leaving this life. So when I spoke to her the last time and received that message from her niece about her death I was not surprised.
When I once preached at the Cathedral at a Memorial Service soon after that service Priya while thanking me for my sermon said “I hope you will preach a similar sermon at my funeral”. I hope what I have stated in this piece is in keeping with Priya’s statement that night.
Priya’s daughters and their families, siblings and their families, all those near and dear and certainly her friends in Canada, in Sri Lanka and all over the world can certainly be assured of our prayers for them.
I am sure when the call came she would have heard those words “Well done……….”. May her soul rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.
A revered principal and intellectual
Salih Mohamed Ishak
It is 33 long years since my father was suddenly snatched from our midst. He was 33 years old when he married my mother, Sithy Misiriya, of Temple Road, Colombo. She was 10 years younger than him.
Salih Mohamed Ishak was the eldest son of Mohamed Salih and Fathima of Negombo.
He was the Principal of Hameed -al-Hussainie College, Colombo 12. His gave the school 33 years of distinguished service, and retired in 1972. He had a deep commitment to the noble profession of teaching.
During the pre-Independence era, S. M. Ishak was a young teacher, sharing his knowledge and instilling discipline and morals in his students. In his leisure time, he would go from house to house, meeting and talking with the parents of his pupils.
During these visits, he spoke about the importance of an education and urged parents not to stop their children’s schooling too early. It was the practice in those days, among certain city-dwellers in the low and middle-income groups, to send their sons out to work, usually in a shop, as soon as they had learnt the basics in reading, writing and arithmetic.
My father hailed from a deeply religious and academic family. His two maternal uncles were theologians who had qualified overseas. They were attached to the Colombo Grand Mosque.
My father had the correct perspective on Islam, and he imparted this ideology to us. It is most heartening to note that we got the priorities right. I say a polite “no” to any innovations in Islam embraced by half-baked traditionalists.
My father was a bright student at Loyola College, Negombo. He walked daily to school and back, a distance of five miles. In the afternoons, he would help his father, a herbalist, in his medicinal store.
He read a lot, in English and Tamil. He encouraged us to read, saying “reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man.” He was a good script-writer. His talks were broadcast by the old Radio Ceylon, when the radio station headquarters was housed in a building in Cotta Road. Later, his “thoughts of the day” were broadcast regularly on the Tamil National Service of the SLBC.
My eyes filled with tears one day when one of my father’s students, himself a school principal, walked into my clinic to see me. The consultation drifted into conversation, and the visitor paused to reminisce. “It is because of your father that I am a school principal today,” he said. “If not for him, I would have stopped my studies at standard eight and gone to work as a salesman in a grocery shop.
”This school principal is one of many fine citizens my father gave Mother Lanka. My father did not earn rupees and cents; he earned something much more valuable – a name, fame, and much human sense.
Dr. M. I. M. Zaheer
The fragrance of Thissa's life will
live after him
Upathissa Wimaladharma Peiris Thissa
Death is cruel. It comes like a thief in the night, creating a bottomless void in peoples' lives - a void that can never ever be filled.
It is two-and-a-half months since the demise of my good friend Thissa, and father-in-law of my daughter Chalani. Thissa is missed by his beloved wife Lalani. They both worked at the Steel Corporation.
Thissa was born in Galthude, Panadura, and was the eldest in a respectable village family. He had two younger brothers and a sister who were very close to him, especially during his final illness.
I came to know Thissa late in my life, after my daughter Chalani's marriage to Thissa's son, Chathura. In no time at all, I realised what an exemplary person Thissa was. He looked after, loved and cared for my daughter.
Thissa, an engineer, worked at the Steel Corporation for more than 40 years. He was loved by everyone who worked with him. He was popular with his peers, and got along well with his subordinates. He was a perfectionist, and believed in doing a job as best he could.
The huge crowd that came to his house to pay their last respects and attend his cremation is proof of the love and high esteem in which he was held.
When a good man dies, he leaves behind the fragrances of his memory. Whenever we think of Thissa, we will experience the fragrance of Thissa's life.
Thissa, we will miss you more than words can say, but we shall never. ever forget you.
May you attain Nibbana.
U. D. Perera
So long dear friend
Loving wife, mother, grandmother,
relation and friend,
In each role you excelled to the end;
Loyal, sincere, efficient – a colleague so dear,
A person full of wit, good humour and good cheer.
Never to be forgotten, sweet memories we treasure,
In our hearts you’ll always be remembered with pleasure.
Pleasant in your ways, with always a smile,
Ever-ready for fun and long walks – even a mile!
In leaving us so suddenly, when God’s call came;
Remembering past days, we’ll never feel the same.
In the presence of our Lord, you are safe ever more.
So long, dear friend, we’ll meet on that beautiful shore.
Teacher, social worker and pillar of the community
M. Y. M. Faleel
On January 3, 1986, M. Y. M. Faleel peacefully answered Almighty Allah’s call to eternal rest. More than two decades later, memories of this unassuming gentleman remain fragrant. I can picture him as if he is right there before me.
As teacher, volunteer, businessman and social worker, M. Y. M. Faleel contributed to society in many ways, and his contributions will be remembered by many. He was a God-fearing, humble soul, a noble being with immaculate looks. He began his adult life as a teacher, immersed in academic and religious books.
When, as a young English tutor, I first saw the retired teacher, he impressed me as a fatherly figure, nattily dressed and looking fine. I was privileged to teach his youngest two boys and daughter. At their home, I was always treated to short-eats and milk coffee. What pleasant memories.
He lived according to the codes and ethics of Islam and Sharia law. The name “Faleel Master” brings memories of a true gentleman – elegant, charming, graceful and dignified. He was an old boy and teacher at Denham School and Zahira College.
During the dark days of 1942, he responded to Principal Dr. Jayah’s call, and promptly volunteered to teach. The great educationist’s faith and confidence in the young teacher was a great honour.
M. Y. M. Faleel would do everything in his power to help a person in need or in trouble, and he did so in the service of the Almighty Allah, expecting nothing in return. He did not seek fame or fortune, power or position, wealth or possessions. He won medals for rifle shooting, his favourite sport at school. Later, he served in the Ceylon Light Infantry as a Volunteer.
As pupil, teacher and well-wisher, his bond with Zahira College went well beyond 50 years. He was a committee member of the All Ceylon Muslim Educational Conference for more than 20 years. His portrait has an honoured place in the chambers of the All Ceylon Muslim League, with which he was actively associated for 56 years.
He was Vice-President of the Zahira College Old Boys’ Association. His dream was to see his alma mater shine in education and sports. He was also joint secretary of the Zahira College Welfare Society, and in the vanguard of the school’s governing body. He was also manager of the Zahira Printing Press and Weaving Centre. His deep commitment and enthusiasm in all he undertook was an example to his son Faisal Faleel.
M. Y. M. Faleel showed love, compassion and respect to all.
M. Azhar Dawood
You are still missed
Two years have gone by since you were called away.
Your absence is still felt, more strongly with each setting sun, yet more alive with the arrival of each dawn. Your memory keeps lingering on, bringing with it unbearable sorrow, yet also happiness at one and the same moment.
Your beloved mother cannot bear the thought of having bade farewell to the one she showed the light of day. Your siblings still mourn your loss without a day’s respite.
As for us- your friends, your colleagues - we are still coming to terms with your departure from our world.
We count our blessings for having known you, for we are indeed that much more fortunate for the encounter.
So long my dear friend, until we meet again in your world!