An artist and friend, her home was always open to me
The poet John Donne once said, “Any Man’s death diminishes me”. Sarasvati’s private funeral took place strangely on the National Day of France July 14, for she was honoured by the French in recognition of her contribution to art.
About 20 years ago, when I had to move to Colombo for work, it was because of our mutual interest in art, that I first met Sarasvati.
Participating at her private funeral at her residence in Buller’s Lane, it was clear to those present, that her mortal remains lay in the midst of her creative work of art. My last meeting with her was in her garden where she was painting. She not only painted but was also a sculptor.
Having come from a Hindu background like George Keyt who showed at a certain period of his life the Hindu influence in his art, Sarasvati also connected her Hinduism in her work of art. I was always invited to see her paintings and sculpture.
Apart from her creative work, she was a good friend. During my early days in Colombo, in the late 1980s’ and early 1990s’, her home was always open to me and she never allowed me to go back without a sandwich or a cup of tea.
Sarasvati was a person who had the artist’s temperament. Therefore, life being one of relationships, she handled them and managed them with that temperament. However, some sadly reacted to her temperament.
I do not think in this tribute one can forget Sarasvati’s inner life and spirituality which was sacramental. In that till it was possible she made it a point to go to her old parish church St. Michael’s and all the Saints Polwatte and participate in the breaking of the bread. When this was not possible, she wanted the sacrament at home.
All those who will miss her in the days to come will have their version of Sarasvati Rockwood. Whatever that be, I’m glad that I knew her all these years and was able to participate in the private funeral.
Her son Sukumar in Colombo, the children overseas and all family and friends will be remembered in our prayers and may Sarasvati’s soul rest in peace, Amen.
Her personality was such that she will live on forever
On June 15, it was exactly a year since Umanga passed away, leaving behind a young daughter and a loving husband, not to mention a number of family and friends, who love her and miss her.Umanga had a special way about her, making friends wherever she went. She was a simple person, with no pride or arrogance. She treated all equally and never hurt anyone’s feelings. Her bright and happy personality was always ready to bring a cheerful smile to a heavy heart. Still, I wonder how many others strove to bring a smile to her heart….
These lovely qualities that she had and her loving and forgiving nature were the very things about her that a lot of people took for granted, especially those she was close to. Even when someone treated her badly, she always found it within her to forgive them, unlike so many of us, who are unwilling to forget even a small wrong done to us.
Even when she was so sick just a few months before her demise, Umanga had made it a point to help out an elderly lady who had needed spectacles, spending the money she had to pay for her own medication and treatment.
Maybe it was this selfless life that she led, that made her an exemplary Christian - always trusting in God no matter what trials she faced. This also makes me wonder sometimes as to why she had to suffer in such a way, in mind and body.
I must also mention the undying love and care that her husband Vijay showered on her, right up to her last minute on earth. I have never witnessed such devotion from a husband, who went to the point of leaving his job to be able to take care of his wife. Truly a Godly nature, and I am certain that he will reap his rewards someday in heaven for his selfless act.
Still, even though Umanga is no longer with us, we still see her image in her lovely daughter Chanuri, who is growing up to be just like her mother, with the same faith and trust in God that Umanga had.
So, a word to all of you out there who remembered Umanga on her death anniversary - she is not gone. She has not left us. Umanga’s spirit lives on in Chanuri, and in the hearts of Vijay and each one of us. For she was a personality that no one would ever forget, even though she is not with us physically.
God bless you, Umanga, my friend.
Parents like stars in the firmament
DR. CYRIL PERERA
Thaaththi, 15 years have passed since our last farewell. The debt we owe you and Amma cannot be measured in human terms. Both of you gave us everything a child could wish for.
The sacrifices you made for us stand out like 1,000 stars in the Milky Way, guiding our movements in this journey of life.
The three professions we chose stand out like jewels in a diadem. These three professions – Medicine, Engineering and Law – are the cream of the professions on offer, and we owe it all to you.
But the greatest gift you gave us is the gift of the Roman Catholic faith.
As children we sought your advice and guidance to help us find happiness in life. As adults, we walked beside you and found happiness in your understanding and love.
We miss you more than can be expressed in words. Time takes the edge off grief, but memory turns back every page, every leaf.
To walk in your footsteps is the highest show of respect we can give you,
I pray that we may in some small way emulate you in our own professions.
Shammil J. Perera
The void you left in my heart can never be filled
ROHITHA DE SILVA
Precious Thaaththi was taken from us just one day before his 61st birthday. Not a day has passed since that fateful July 24, almost three years ago, that I have not thought of him and wished he had not fallen sick, wished the surgeon had done a better job, wished he had been taken to another doctor. It is too late to wish any of this. Our darling Thaaththi is gone for ever.
Rohitha de Silva was an only child. His early childhood was filled with fun and mischief. He would tell us stories about his pranks, how he would go swimming in the Pamankada Lake against his parents’ wishes, how he would annoy his cousins, etc.
When my grandmother suffered a stroke, Thathi had to shoulder a lot of responsibilities. He was only a teenager. He studied at Ananda College. He was not the academic kind, but leant towards the technical side of things. He initially worked at Carmart, then at Rowlands and DIMOs, and finally he ran a private business in motor spare parts with a good friend.
It was while at Rowlands that Thaaththi met Ammi. They were married in 1974, and I was born two years later. I am told that I was the apple of my Thathi’s eye from the time I was born. From my early childhood, right up to the time I left to China for studies and even after I came back to Sri Lanka Thathi always made me feel like the princess of his heart.
Childhood memories I have of Thathi are many. I remember sitting in the sling of his sarong rocking myself from side to side, being put to sleep with his Baila singing, him helping me with handwork for school, being driven around on Thathi’s motor bicycle. I also remember how I cried my heart out the day Thathi left to the Middle East for work. I was often told by Thathi that I should have been named ‘Kadanthi’ instead of ‘Iranthi’ as I used to break all my toys as soon as I got them.
For a long time I was my parent’s only child and it was after 9 years that my little Malli was born. Thathi was so fond of him and also proud to have had a son. I started calling my brother ‘malli’, and Thathi too took it up. Thereon both of us were fondly known as ‘Malli and Ira’.
Thathi, along with Ammi always encouraged us to do the best in our studies but at the same time never put unnecessary pressure on us.
Thathi and Ammi were very proud of our educational achievements and were the loudest of cheerleaders at the smallest of our accomplishments.
Thathi was not a person to show love or to display his affections but all the same we were able to ‘feel’ his love and care by way of his actions. He was the greatest optimist that ever was, and saw the bright and positive side of all things even when situations were at their worst. I remember clearly one fateful day in May 2008 when I had just found out the gravity of Ammi’s illness and on the same day I had collected Thathi’s biopsy report which was not good. It was like a death blow to me and I called Thathi in Trincomalee and broke the bad news. Thathi being his usual cool self was not at all anxious or worried but advised me to keep my calm and do the needful and that everything would be alright.
Honesty, integrity and confidence were the hallmarks of Thathi’s personality. He dealt with every situation either in regard to friends or at office with utmost honesty and I am yet to meet someone who outshines Thathi in honesty.
He enjoyed his work and he enjoyed his leisure. His enthusiasm for both knew no bounds. The best years of his life would have been the 6 or 7 years he spent in Trinco managing the hotel. I was fortunate enough to have shared a few of those years with him during the time of my 1st appointment at the Trinco hospital. Thathi had a great love towards Trinco.
The greatest asset Thathi had accumulated throughout his life was his many friends. They came from all walks of life and Thathi treated each and everyone with the same respect and cordiality. He had a golden heart and was genuinely a ‘friend in need’.
Thank you Thathi, for being there for us and for being the greatest father ever. I am so proud to have been the daughter of someone as special as you. The emptiness I feel without you could never be filled.
Dr. Iranthi De Silva
He weathered all storms and tempests of life in his own unique way
Had he been with us, Janaka who enjoyed entertaining family and friends, would have had a celebration with loved ones today. Last year, he came out of hospital the day before, to celebrate his 60th birthday. My daughter Nirupa and I, were among his close friends and family, who gathered at his Colombo residence to eat Kiribath and cake with him on that momentous occasion.
Looking at him, sitting in his chair that morning; smiling as always, it was difficult to imagine that he was a patient; suffering from a dreaded illness, which has struck down so many wonderful people in its wake. For Janaka was one of those rare beings, who was able to take whatever struck him or hurt him with a smile. He weathered all storms and tempests of life in this fashion.There was absolutely no deviousness about him and he was never one who played both ends against the middle. He was always more concerned about his loved ones than about himself. His family was an integral and important part of him.
It still seems like a dream that Janaka, so full of life, laughter and ceaseless generosity, the embodiment of 'joie de vivre' was the victim of a cruel fate that took him away from us.
I recall a day when I was in his hospital room with Sunetra, his wife. She rarely left his side and looked after him with tender devotion. That day, she was struck with a blinding headache as she had neglected her own medication to look after Janaka. Although in pain Janaka's concentration was solely on her, and he asked me to get a doctor to look at her. The doctor arrived and found that Sunetra's pressure was high. She lay down on the other bed in the room and I sat between the two beds to keep an eye on both of them; till their daughter, Sujani arrived. Every few minutes, Janaka would ask me to check on Sunetra. He forgot his own suffering which was intense at the time and his endearing smile never left his face.
Although I was aware of his generosity to the underprivileged, the homeless and the injured, I only realized after his death that he was a model employer too, who looked after his employees, inspired them and treated them all like members of his family.
The UNP in NWP has lost a pillar of steadfast strength; one who never spared time or expense, for all party activities and events. The UNP Leader has lost a loyal friend and supporter who never ever swayed in his loyalty. Such loyalty is rare today when people switch loyalties, for their own advantage at the drop of a hat.
I too, have lost a good friend; again a rare commodity in today's world of changing loyalties like shifting sands. Janaka would often call if he wanted to discuss a problem and ask for my advice, as he knew that I was very close to his wife and daughters. Sometimes he would arrive unexpectedly with coconuts or mangoes for my family.
His love of sports which was a lifelong interest had perhaps instilled in him a sense of justice and fairplay and a lack of malice, which never left him. This was something foremost in his thinking and attitude through business, politics and love for his fellow citizens. Dishonesty and disloyalty were things he could not and would not tolerate in any form whatsoever.
Janaka was a broadminded man, although a Buddhist he was insistent that he helped one and all, far beyond the narrow peripheries of caste, race and creed. The priest went on to say that when Tsunami struck, Janaka was again their saviour, who came with lorry loads of goods for those struck by the devastation and destruction of their lives and livelihood. His largesse to one and all was wide and varied.
Today, on his 61st birth anniversary his wife and children sent 35 cows and other necessities to this village of Gomarankandawalla in his memory. He built seven temples in the North Western Province and helped the Churches too, whenever they requested help.
Ilica Malkanthi Karunaratne