An interesting read of an inspiring man

Book facts : ‘Yugayaka Aalokaya’ (Light of an Era) – The Story of DBIPS Siriwardhana by Sisira Kumara Wanniarachchi. Published by Wijesuriya Grantha Kendraya. Reviewed by Menaca

The subject of a biography has to be unique and extremely colourful to keep both the author and the reader engaged. It is a gigantic task to write a biography, and to write the biography of a giant of a character such as D.B.I.P.S. Siriwardhana is a herculean as well as a highly commendable feat. Reviewing such a book can be dangerous because often it is possible for the reviewer to confuse the book and the personality.

I have never met Mr. Siriwardhana, but I remember hearing the name DBIPS, particularly my father mentioning him with awe. DBIPS was a name synonymous with integrity, approachability and trust. I never knew why or how he became so, until I read this book. The author has painted a perfect portrait with carefully researched and verified facts.The little that I knew about DBIPS assured me that I was about to read about a great personality.

He was a learned man and the managerial courage he demonstrated throughout his career is remarkable. His ability to handle multi-tasking is striking, while being meticulous and orderly have certainly been supportive factors. Qualities such as efficiency, honesty, modesty, discipline and leadership are presented through different incidents which makes one think that the people who worked with DBIPS have certainly been fortunate.

There is so much to learn from his life by just reading the book. Undoubtedly, he was a great leader. His life is ideal to cite incidents as examples for leadership training programmes. In fact, I recommend this book to all young men and women who are or aspire to be in the Sri Lanka Administrative Service.

There are many instances which can evoke strong emotions in the reader. An account written originally in English by DBIPS about his punishment transfer to Mannar is included. His observation of his young wife Eileen’s silent tear falling on the hand of his little son, and how the child contains his grief is so moving. The way he deals with it here shows how sensitive DBIPS was. Although called the “Deadliest B….r In Public Service”, or worse, the life story unravels the depths of his gentleness.

A careful reader will identify the supportive role played by his wife Eileen who allowed DBIPS to be the man he was.

The book /personality is full of humour which makes reading it more entertaining. DBIPS has the rare and great ability to laugh at himself. After his wife becomes an award-winning writer he introduces himself: “I am Mr Eileen SIriwardhana”. Some of the things he has handwritten on filed documents are even full of satire. His wit and humour put people at ease, as well as conveyed strong messages.

He was the only non-Police officer to become a Deputy Inspector General (Administration) in the history of the Police Department, when he was only 34. Such appointments clearly demonstrated his ability to rise to any occasion. His view as to why and how civilians lose faith in the Police is accurate and universal.

The biography reveals all about the offices he held and the professional life he led. Customs, Defence, Petroleum, Public Administration, Civil Aviation, Police, Foreign Affairs, Land and Land Development: he has served in all, setting the bar very high. He was a scholarly yet practical government servant whose firm sense of right and wrong was unshakeable.

Attempts by unseen forces to change his ways were in vain, for he stood firm by his principles till his last day. It must be commended how the biographer has been careful to omit names when a person is seen in a negative light whether a peon or a politician.

His idea of an “auspicious” time is the convenient time. He had great will power which was strong enough to achieve his goals without relying on astrology or superstition.

He displayed effective techniques to test knowledge, skills and attitudes of people and had a knack for Human Resource Management.

It is impossible to miss his good sense in everything he did. During a newspaper interview he says that we think that what “was” is always better. DBIPS had the wisdom that change is constant and moving with change, also appreciating what is new, and seeing things in context is so important.

The romance in this biography changes the pace to give the reader a rather beautiful experience. The courtship, the honeymoon and their life together strike one as wonderful. The few photographs from across his life in the middle of the book give the reader a glimpse of a handsome man!

His wife was to him Number One. She and his children were his life and he was a devoted and proud father. Reading about the father- daughter relationship gives the reader a warm feeling and one can see Cyrene, his daughter in her father’s eyes. His relationship with her reveals even more the gentle giant in him. The perfect balance he had struck between personal and professional life is remarkable.The premonitions prepared me for the end. With moist eyes I read the final paragraph of the late Premnath Moraes’ preface to his unfinished biography of DBIPS: If the reader can be inspired or motivated to a nobler way of living, the purpose of this book will have been served.

I realized that in a day, through a book, I have lived and known this exemplary individual and he has certainly inspired me.

It was an enjoyable read. He lit up decades with professionalism and straightforwardness. Having undertaken this challenging task, Mr. Wanniarachchi has done justice to the subject and also given us an inspirational story. He has gone to great lengths and strung information from many sources to weave a tale which is more interesting than fiction. I read the 319 page book in less than 10 hours. Need I say more?

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