My first exposure to the Liyanage family was in the early 1950’s during the (then) annual boxing fixture between Royal and Trinity. In three weight divisions, a Liyanage was at the Royal corner and they all fisted the respective Trinity opponents into total submission. In 1960, the middle ones-Sunil and Isabella started their medical studies at the Colombo Medical Faculty with me. My friendship with Sunil developed with great rapidity and their home at Gregory’s Avenue was my second home in Colombo. Isabella most aptly described in the Eulogy was immaculate, statuesque, confident and intelligent and uncomfortable but tolerant of the ‘K’s in the batch whose behaviour was far from the accepted norms.
Sunil, in contrast to his aggressive style in the boxing ring- he battered his opponent at the inter-university championship, was quiet except at block concerts, impish, extremely quick witted with an uncanny poker faced sense of humour. I also knew Isabella’s mother, (who first showed me how to care for an infant when Niran, Sunil’s and Isabella’s eldest son was born) and Sunil’s mother - Auntie Valerie who at 95 years of age is an avid reader and computer wizard. Sunil’s late father was known to all of us - affectionately referred to as Patron.
Sunil and Bella left for the UK, shortly after their house jobs in 1967. Both reached commendable heights professionally, with Isabella winning the Gold Medal at the final Radiology Examination, switching to radiology after her membership examination in Medicine. Sunil became a consultant rheumatologist working with a distinguished consultant colleague.
They were one of the very few medical couples appointed as consultants to the same hospital trust which was in one of the most affluent regions in the UK-Windsor-not known only for the castle, as the hospitals served the top rung of society in Windsor, Ascot and Virginia Waters (popularly known as the stock broker belt). Both Bella and Sunil were made honorary members of the Windsor and District Medical Association with the likes of Barbara Ansell.
Isabella, as the sole Consultant Radiologist initially was responsible for developing the specialty in the region to the highest standards in the UK.
When I arrived in the UK for my post-graduate studies in 1970, they hosted me at Reading and introduced the ‘country cousin’ to the British culture which included visits to the pub, lessons on the football league and horse racing. Their home at Virginia Waters was always open to me when I visited England between 1976 and 1989. They were wonderful hosts, generous and genuine.Both Sunil and Bella treated with empathy and compassion several patients who were near and dear to Kanthi and self.
They also looked after our health. On one occasion, to relieve our extreme anxiety, Bella requested a radiology unit to be opened on a Sunday morning at a private hospital in Windsor, after telephoning her on Saturday evening, to conduct radiological examinations and her expert opinion was about one of the most reassuring and anxiety relieving moments in our lives. In addition, her expert opinion silenced a department of radiology at a London Teaching Hospital.
They provided the best educational opportunities for their two sons, educating them at Eton and later at Oxford, with Yohan obtaining a doctorate from Cambridge. A noble quality which I admired in both Sunil and Bella was that they never provided unsolicited advice but were always available to facilitate and/or provide assistance when requested.During the past two decades Sunil and I continued with our passion for horse racing with frequent e-mails and text messages which amused our spouses as our selections often fell at the first fence or hurdle or never ended up amongst the first three in flat racing. Nevertheless, we persisted and survived.
Bella’s determination, discipline and dedication to provide nothing but the best for Sunil, Niran, Yohan, the specialty and colleagues and the community she served and friends was in the least admirable. She displayed her inner strengths and courage coping for a long period with an illness for which she was aware that there was no known cure, continuing with her work and helping the family and the community she served. She never wavered, whimpered or worried about her health.
An inspiring life.
A chord, stronger or weaker, is snapped asunder in every parting, and Time’s busy fingers are not practised in re -splicing broken ties. Meet again you may; will it be in the same way? with the same sympathies? with the same sentiments? Will the souls, hurrying on in diverse paths, unite once more, as if the interval had been a dream? Rarely, rarely.
- Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton
Bella-You have left treasured memories of a precious friendship.
Noble spirit and generous teacher, with compassion for the disadvantaged
Like many entrepreneurs, Nimal Saparamadu, former chairman of the OKI International School, served for many years in the state sector. He was at Sri Lanka Telecom for more than 25 years, the latter part as an instructor at the telecom training centre.
This early teaching job gave him a passion for teaching. Starting with 14 students and two teachers, Nimal launched his “Denuma” class in September 1998; within 12 years the school had expanded to what it is today – a major educational institution, branded “OKI”, with six branches accommodating more than 4,000 students and 300 teachers. Mr. Saparamadu was soft-spoken but lion-hearted.
He was humble and modest in his lifestyle. He took on many social responsibilities – extending a helping hand to the Asarana (poor); the Anatha (homeless); the Abaditha (differently abled), and the Asthana (destitute) children living in the vicinity of OKI schools.
His last act was to provide food and other essentials for more than 300 needy children. Many of us, including senior management, were personally involved in these charity efforts.
The best tribute we can give our late dear chairman is to devote our skills and energies to fulfil his aspirations and extend his legacy.
May you rest with Almighty God.
Big-hearted Periakka made her home a haven to all
Mary Rajamma Pandian (nee Rajamoni)
Mary Rajamma was the fifth child among six brothers and one sister born to Rajamoni and the late Elizabeth of Ratnahiri Villa, Welihena, Kochchikade.
The Biblical lifespan for man is three score and 10, or 70 years. Anything more comes with God’s blessings. Rajamma (popularly known as “Periakka”) lived a full life of 77 years, and the extra seven years were truly an added blessing.
She grew up in a Christian atmosphere. She had her early education at Welihena Catholic School, and later at St. Sebastian’s Convent, Kandana. She taught at the Welihena school for a short time.
Mary Rajamma and her siblings were a very united family, and their marriages brought great happiness to the whole family. Mary Rajamma married Mr. P. S. Pandian, director of St. Anthony’s Hardware Stores/Cyntex, Colombo. They had four children – two boys and two girls.
Mary Rajamma was a great hostess. She entertained well. Her house was full of people from all walks of life. She organised annual pilgrimages to the churches in Talawila and Madhu, and an annual family get-together. She was a philanthropist. She helped the needy, and was a regular churchgoer.
She later moved to Chennai with her family, and was a director of her husband’s hotel, Hotel Padian, in Egmore, Chennai. She saw all her children married and well placed in life. Her two sons and their father managed the hotel business. In Chennai, she was a parishioner of St. George’s Cathedral, and treasurer of the Women’s Fellowship. Her house, Rajam Villa, was a haven to those visitors from far and near.
She embodied the famous saying, “Behind every successful man is a woman.” She touched many lives. She was a legend, and she leaves behind a rich legacy. She maintained the proud tradition of her family.
Rest eternal grant unto her, O Lord. Let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace.
A grandfather who was a true gentleman and great man
Allan Eustace Gunawardena
January 27 marks 14 years since my grandfather went to rest in the arms of Jesus. During my early, formative years, he not only played the role of grandfather, but also that of a father figure. There is so much to tell about my grandfather. It is no easy task to capture the essence of his life in this limited space.
My grandfather made my childhood and teenage years delightful and memorable. Those years are forever etched in my memory.
He took me to school each morning and brought me home in the afternoon. He took me for scout training on Saturdays and for tennis classes on Sundays. My fellowship with my grandfather during my childhood and youth are filled with vivid recollections and unforgettable experiences. We shared so much in those years.
He was a true gentleman – a rare breed in this day and age. He taught me by example to be forthright, to tell the truth, to pay one’s debts on time, and to stand by one’s principles, whatever the inconvenience. I appreciated the honest, clean example he set for me to follow.
He influenced me to look at my life from a positive perspective, to enjoy each and every day, and to contribute to society.
My grandfather was a great man. His commitment to God, Church and Family was total. He loved everyone, and everyone loved him in return. In his latter years, circumstances did not offer me the chance to be close to him. I was deeply saddened to hear of his demise, and that I was unable to be at his bedside in his last days.
His Ever-loving Grandson
Tribute to Sri Chitrasena
(The 90th birth anniversary of Sri Lanka's dance maestro Chitrasena falls on January 26. Published here is a tribute penned by the late Henry Jayasena, on Chitrasena's death in 2005.)
He was the rock
The test of time,
The sun, the wind and the rain.
He was the mountain peak
That surveyed his domain below
In regal dignity
To us lesser folk
He was God
He was Brahma
He was Indra
When he strode the stage
Like a colossus
Yet so supple and light
We in the audience
Shivered with awe
As he strung his mighty bow
When he drew it taut
And unleashed an unerring shower of arrows
Pulverizing to naught
His pretentious opponents
We shivered in delight
In pulverized awe of this mighty man!
He was God
He was Brahma
He was Indra
This mighty mortal man!
The mighty Chitrasena, the regal Chitrasena,
The insuperable Chitrasena has left a void in
Our world of the stage that a hundred generations
Will be unable to fill.
So great was his stature.
So unsurpassable was his talent. So indomitable was his spirit.