Plus - Appreciations

Appa’s life was an inspiration, and his memory is a benediction

F. L. A. (Augustine) Mel

February 15 always will be a special day for the children of Augustine and Clemence Mel.
Appa was born on February 15, 1911 to Jerome P. Mel and Kanikkai Gomez of Tuticorin, South India. He belonged to the Bharatha community.

He was the second son in a family of 12 siblings, of whom three served the Lord, one as a priest and two as nuns. February 15, 2011 marks Appa’s 100th birthday. In 1938, Appa married Clemence Machado, the only child of Joseph Gabriel Machado and Arulammal Ravel of Tuticorin. The young couple came to Ceylon to start a new life.

They had eight children – three sons and five daughters. The eldest son died one week before his fifth birthday. The words on his remembrance card were, “As it hath pleased the Lord, so it is done: blessed be the name of God” (Job 1:21). That is how Appa understood life. It was always “Thy will be done.”

Appa was a strict disciplinarian. We cannot easily forget his look of annoyance – spectacles placed low on his nose – when we failed to live up to his expectations.

Likewise, we often relive those happy moments when he proudly endorsed our achievements with a smile. What mattered to him was that he gave us his best; in turn, he expected us to return his generous love as best as we could.

He gave us a sound education, which has stood us in good stead. We never lacked in anything. I must add that Appa’s stern exterior would soften with his wit and humour when he was enjoying the company of family and friends.

Our home in Wellawatte, where we spent many happy years together, holds glorious memories for us. It was in this house that dear Appa and Amma spent the greater part of their 50 years of wedded life. And what wonderful years they were. Living in the precincts of St. Lawrence’s Church was very much to Appa’s liking. He was essentially a man of prayer, very God-fearing.

A principled man, Appa believed in honesty, loyalty, education and commitment, and he inculcated these values in us. Appa was a man of books. He read widely, and the library he has left behind is indeed a treasure. He wrote flawless English that had a captivating force.

Appah was the Import Manager of Messrs. M. D. Gunasena & Co. Ltd – the bookshop that has become a household name. He loved his workplace and the people he worked for. He rendered 50 years of faithful service to MDG, until his retirement. My father’s relationship with “Lokka”, as he fondly and respectfully addressed the late Mr. M. D. Gunasena, spanned many years and continued with Mr. Gunasena’s sons and daughters and their families.

“Lokka” looked upon Appa almost as a family member. My father was very fortunate to work for the Gunasena family. My love for reading and writing I owe to Appa. His gifts to me were always books. Through Appa, I came to understand the power and wonder of the written word. The great lesson he taught us was that the dictionary was a person’s most faithful friend. I pass this lesson on to my students when I teach them English Language and Literature.

Appa, since your demise, on July 10, 1995, there is a vacant place in our home that can never be filled. Continue to look after us, together with Amma, who joined you in 2006. We may have grown in age and stature, but we are still your children, and we will always be grateful to you. Thank you very much for your love and care.-(100th birthday remembrance)

Your youngest daughter IMO.

Lawyer who made scholarly contributions to historical and Buddhist studies

Dr. Neville Amarasinghe

Dr. Neville Amarasinghe passed away on November 5, 2010. His sudden death has left a vast vacuum in the intellectual world. On completing a very successful secondary education at S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia (1954-1963), he entered the Sri Lanka Law College in 1965.

He was called to the Bar in 1968, and joined the prestigious law firm Julius & Creasy for a short stint.
His engagement in the civil side of the profession for more than 40 years, starting in 1970, gave him a deep knowledge of the law and the practice of conveyance, which helped him to serve a large clientele.
He was also interested in history and aesthetic studies.

In later life, he studied archaeology and received a Postgraduate Diploma in Archaeology at the Postgraduate Institute of Archaeology, University of Kelaniya. He went on to develop an interest in Buddhist philosophy, and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Buddhist Studies at the Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies, University of Kelaniya.

In 1995, he completed his Master of Arts at the University of Kelaniya. A research scholar in mixed disciplines, he wrote on a variety of subjects, including Buddha’s Analysis on State; aspects of fundamental rights in the Constitution of Sri Lanka, as reflected in Buddhist jurisprudence; the earliest Buddhist peace missions; territorial grants in the pre-medieval and medieval period of Sri Lanka, and pre-historic man and his lifestyle.

In 2004, the Dharmapala-Olcott Memorial International Research Foundation awarded Neville Amarasinghe an honorary Doctor of Laws (LL. D.), for his academic achievements and writings, and his study, “Legal implications as to the administration of Buddhist temples in pre- modern Ceylon.”
At the time of his death, he was doing research at Kelaniya University for a doctoral thesis on “Early Buddhist Jurisprudence Pertaining to the Sangha and Monastic Property and its Application in Modern Sri Lanka.”

He was not only one of Sri Lanka’s great scholars, he was also a noble man of gentle heart and unassuming manners and qualities.

Professor Risiman Amarasinghe

Illness took nothing away from her compassion and drive to excel

Rukmal Dissanayake

Rukmal’s parents still grieve for her, five long years after she was taken away from the family. They believe God took Rukmal away to his Eternal Home because God loved her more than we did. She left us on February 5, 2005.

Her father remembers clearly the Boxing Day of 1961, the day she was born. Chandani Rukmal Anastasia, the eldest child, grew up in innocence and laughter. She was a student of Holy Family Convent, where she excelled in studies and sports. She captained the school’s senior hockey team, and was skipper for the Colombo schools, and later played in the All Island School Hockey teams.
After leaving school, Rukmal worked for a while at St. Anthony’s Industries, and then joined the Sri Lanka Ports Authority, where her father too was employed.

She later joined the Browns’ Group, as an additional secretary to the chairman. While at Browns’, Rukmal was diagnosed with a rare disease, and for the rest of her life she depended on daily doses of a strong steroid to sustain her. But she continued to excel in her work, as a senior executive secretary, and as personal assistant to the chairman of a group of companies in Dubai, in which capacity she continued for 16 more years.

She became deeply religious, and wrote a book, “I Am With God”, about her life and times, and her new relationship with the Lord.

Her illness brought her closer to God. She was full of compassion for all. It was on a Boxing Day, her birthday, that the 2004 tsunami struck. She promptly cancelled her usual birthday bash and made packages of essentials to send to tsunami victims.

Rukmal was a mother to everyone she met. Before her 30th birthday, she had visited Canada and Australia to see her relatives there. During her years in Dubai, she travelled to Sri Lanka often to attend family functions. She once organised a dinner and a presentation ceremony for Sri Lankan cricketers on behalf of her employer in Dubai.

She was loved by all, and her untimely death brought grief to many. Dear Rumal, your death has left a void that is hard to fill, but we are consoled that you are in the arms of Our Heavenly Father, from where we are sure you will continue to watch over us and intercede on our behalf.

Lenard Ranjith Mahaarachchi

Ode to a departed mother

Seelawathie Nanayakkara

Four score and nineteen years you lived –
A life so rich, much admired and adored;
Life not of pomposity and grandeur
But exemplary and rewarding in every measure.

Poetry is not my forte and I am no poet;
Whenever I pick up the pen, the ink runs riot
But thoughts of my departed mother compel me
To write a poem, amateurish though it may be.

When the setting sun paints the canvas of the sky,
With sweeping colours that enchant the eye;
Lingering memories in cascading poignancy
Leave me in sadness and despondency.

Maternal role at home with sedulous care,
In school you graced the teacher’s chair;
You assumed many a role with devotion and duty
But the laurels never changed your modesty.

At your feet the lessons I learnt
Made me walk the earth with head aloft;
“No path in life is easy and straight” –
Those words of wisdom reverberate.

Whenever I lie in bed in pensive mood
Vacant thoughts flash through my mind –
Your loss is felt by all so strongly,
My heart yearns for a touch so tenderly.

As I gazed at you lying stately in your coffin
Through my body sweeps a wave of longing;
Though you left your children, four in all,
Your call to duty is a clarion call.

In the sun-drenched foothills of Sinharaja,
Your childhood was spent, but
Destiny decreed that elsewhere you be sent;
In the twilight years your chosen entry
Was to the cooler climes of Coventry.

You left us gracefully, leaving us gray,
But somewhere in a favoured land,
The sun shines for you all day;
What you sowed in this life you will reap;
Your loss makes us weep.

Full many a flower of varied hue
Wilts, but its fragrance continues;
Your journey has ended, but fond memories stay on
And keep you close to us in spirit and in thought.

Lal Nanayakkara

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