Plus - Appreciations

Gentle, generous Poonana lived smiling and departed smiling

AS. Seyyed M.H.M. Ashroff

My father Marhoom As-Seyyed Mohammed Haneefa Mohammed Ashroff Moulana passed away on November 5 (Zul-Hajj 1432 A.H.). He was 78 years old. Many in business circles knew him as “Ashraf Doray” or “Ashraf Nana”, while some simply called him “Ashraf”.

In the family circle he was known as “Poo Machchan”, “Poonana” and “Poo” among his elders. “Poo” in Tamil means flower, gentle or nice. Verily he was a nice, gentle and kind-hearted person. He never hurt anybody, and no servant or driver was ever scolded for his blunders.

He never regarded himself as a chief, boss or head of the family. He was sincere and honest, so honest that he found it hard to keep a secret, so he was nicknamed “Oata waai” (broken mouth) in the family circle.

Frequently, he would sit and have meals with the servants and drivers at the same table, for he was a down-to-earth gentleman. Whoever met him was greeted with humility and a pleasant smile. He had a high respect, regard and love for “mashaikhs” – religious dignitaries, and ulama-e-kiraam.

He especially loved the mashaikhs of the Silsil – a – Naqshabandiah Awaisiah Thareegath, Pakistan.
Dada’s early life was a sad one. His father, who came from India, died when Dada was nine years old. His younger brothers, the late Faalir, who became a civil engineer for the Public Works Department, and the late Rishard, who worked as a senior import-and-export officer at the Habib Bank, were seven and three years old at the time.

When Dada’s father died, the relatives in India wanted to take the children back to India. They tried very hard to take my Dada, but my late grandmother (originally from Minuwangoda, who then lived in Mutuwal and later put up at Layards Broadway, in Grandpass) was determined not to let this happen. So they stayed back in Sri Lanka. My Dad took on the burden of the family at a young age, after passing the SSC at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo. With his small earnings, he saw to it that his younger brothers were educated.

Dada’s generosity was immense. He never said “no” to anyone who asked for financial assistance. He felt that saying “no” would hurt the person. If he was not in a position to help, he would help by borrowing. He even gave his father’s house to his cousins free of charge. He liked the poor and moved well with them. Personally, I was not in favour of his way of life and certain of his excessive actions. But I greatly admired his qualities. I am proud to call myself Dada’s eldest son because of his tremendous trustworthiness. Pettah businessmen, especially the Memon community, bear witness to this quality of Dada’s.

There is one particular incident from Dada’s life that inspires in me immense pride and respect for him. While he was working for Ismail Aboobaker and Company, the late Haji Ismail Aboobaker wrote the title deeds of two coconut estates, in Madurankuli, Puttalam, and many vans in my Dad’s name. The estates were more than 100 acres each. When my Dad left Ismail Aboobaker and Company, he transferred all the deeds and vans back in the late Haji Ismail’s name. This undeniable act of “trust” sent shock waves among the Pettah businessmen. That was the level of trust he inspired.
My Dad never cheated or deceived anyone, nor did he backstab anyone. He had no enemies.
Alhamdhulillah lamented, “Laa ilaha illa antha subhanaka innee kunthu minal lalimeen”, even on his deathbed. He grew his beard in accordance with Sunnah ways, regretted past follies, and was ever repentant.

Before his death, he distributed his properties among his five sons. He kept no life interest in any property; instead, he wrote everything up front for all the sons. Alhamdhulillah, his departure was peaceful. It was during one of the best days of the Islamic year – that is, within the first ten days of Zul-Hajj. All who came for his janaaza were astonished to see his smiling face, which was a sign of a dweller in paradise. Many who came commented that he lived smiling and departed smiling.

My beloved Ustaard-Mukarram (Rah) always said: “Keep friendship only with the descendants of the Khulafa-e - Raashideen viz. Hazrats Abu Baker, Umar, Usman and Ali (Ridl) as they will never betray you at any time.”

‘Seyyeds” are also descendants of Hazrat Ali (Karramallahu) and my father showed that he truly was a “Seyyed” by not betraying anyone during his life.

“Jazakallah Khair dada, May Almighty Allah expand your grave and grant you Jannathul Firdous in the Akhirath” Ameen.

“Verily we are from Allah, unto Him do we return.”

As-Seyyed M.R. Quraish Moulana

The professor was called Canada’s greatest gift to Sri Lanka

Prof. Evan alan hardy

The 48th death anniversary of Professor Evan Alan Hardy falls today. It is rare to find a man who has lived a full life. In the case of Professor Evan Alan Hardy, it was a life lived for the well-being of mankind. Born on October 18, 1890, in Sioux City, Iowa, USA, Evan A. Hardy began his life in a humble farm. Having obtained his BSc in Agricultural Engineering from the Iowa State University College in 1917, he joined the academic staff of the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, soon after his marriage to Lois Hicks of Iowa.

He returned to Iowa State again in 1922 to obtain his MSc degree. In 1926, he became head of the Agricultural and Engineering Department of Saskatchewan University, Canada, where he served for more than 30 years, till his retirement.

Saskatchewan farms were among the most highly mechanised, and Prof. Hardy played the biggest role in accelerating that mechanisation, emphasizing modern methods of using farm machinery.

In 1957, he took up an UN/FAO assignment as Advisor to the Department of Agriculture, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon). His expertise was available to the Maha Illuppalama Agriculture Centre, and later he was called upon to organise and direct a training programme and to set up a Technical Training Institute. This institute would produce Sri Lanka’s own engineers to operate the development programme in the Gal-Oya valley. Prof. Hardy compared this programme to the Tennessee Valley Authority. It took on the tasks of irrigation, supplying electricity, improving agriculture techniques, protecting against floods, developing roads, cities and villages in the 1,200 square miles of the historic Digamadulla region.
From January 15, 1956, till the time of his death in Ampara, on December 4, 1963, Prof. Hardy toiled in the Technical Training Institute (TTI) not only to make engineers of men who had no mechanical experience but to help them assume their responsibility “on the job.”

There are three education institutions in the world dedicated to the memory of Prof. Hardy. The engineering building of the University of Saskatchewan was named after him. The Saskatchewan Collegiate Board honoured Prof. Hardy who served the board for many years by naming the New College at Central Avenue Evan Hardy Collegiate School. We in Sri Lanka pay tribute to the great son of Canada by enshrining his name in the Hardy Senior Technical Institute, Ampara. Prof. Hardy, often referred to as Canada’s “greatest gift” to Sri Lanka, modelled this institute on the Saskatchewan University as an autonomous seat of learning serving local and South-East Asian needs.

Prof. Hardy called upon the experience and knowledge gained during his 31 years at the University of Saskatchewan, in building up the institute.

Prof. Hardy, who passed away at the age of 63, was director of the institute. He was cremated at the institute premises in the presence of a large crowd that included VIPs from several countries, including high government officials.

As a fitting tribute to the memory of this truly great man and the contributions he made to technical education in this country, the Technical Training Institute was renamed the Hardy Institute of Technical Training after his death. In 1966, when the administration was transferred to the Ministry of Education, the name was changed to the Hardy Senior Technical Institute. Prof. Evan A. Hardy has become a legend in this country.

Chandra Nanayakkara

Instructive and inspiring master-pupil relationship to the end

Kenneth M.De Lanerolle

Kenneth. M. de Lanerolle was my teacher at Wesley College, Colombo. As an ardent Buddhist, I owe him a deep debt of gratitude for all the English he taught me, and the ethical values I learnt in the awesome aura of his rich Christian life and experience.

In school, he earned the respect and admiration of his pupils by his ability to enforce discipline. “Lany” was a terror because he was a disciplinarian, but we loved and respected him all the same. We knew he was showering us with parental care and moulding us as responsible future citizens. In school, I would nervously say, “Good morning, Sir”, and now, with equal respect and humility I say, “Fare thee well, Sir, on thy onward journey.”

I lost touch with Lany after leaving school. I had heard that he had headed a Sri Lankan mission that served in Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

One day, when I was living in Kandy, I ran into him quite unexpectedly on Peradeniya Road. He was thrilled to recall the old school ties. He visited me the next morning, driving his Volkswagen Beetle to “Haanswyk”, in Asgiriya, where I was staying. From then on I would call on him at his home in Peradeniya Road, where he lived with his sister Hazel, of whom he was very fond.

All these visits were spiritual communications of sorts, at which master and pupil discovered each other in depth. Every visit turned into a discourse on English. We discussed at length many intricate points in English usage.

I always addressed him as “Sir”. One day, when I was visiting him, his sister Hazel called out to me and said, “Mervyn, could you please ask Uncle whether he would like to have his tea now.” My guru overheard this, and promptly shot back at his sister, saying, “No, Hazel, he cannot call me Uncle, he was my pupil.”

Later, when distance separated us again, we kept in touch by letter. His long type-written letters were quite interesting. His signature was the most curious I have ever seen; it looked like a flight of birds. Sometimes he would enclose little works, such as “The Seven Ages of Woman”, or “The English Teacher.”

He complimented me for keeping alive the lost art of letter writing. His last letter to me came when I was in England. It was written for him by someone at the Brohier Memorial Elders’ Home, where he spent his last days.

After my Kandy days, we would meet frequently at Wesley College, where he was on a special assignment while in retirement. He would stay for periods in Watapuluwa, Pitakotte, and Mt. Lavinia, before moving into the Brohier Memorial Elders’ Home. He lost his sister Hazel at the time he was living in Mt. Lavinia. His mood changed very much with her death.

Whenever I called on him at Buller’s Lane, during his visits to Colombo from Watapuluwa. Lany he would discuss with me his last pet project, “Names to Remember.” He invited me to the book launch. He was also concerned about a reprint of “Southern River.” I have with me a copy of “Names to Remember”, and other books of his, all of which strengthen my memories of a teacher of a rare kind.
It was heart-warming to see so many of his old pupils calling on him from time to time at the Brohier Memorial Home, and graciously doing things for him. If there was anything he would have called his “absolute favourite”, it was seeni-kehel bananas.

He told visitors that he wanted them to see him dressed in his pyjamas. He always had a new pair of pyjamas ready and stored under his bed. He certainly left his footprints in the sands of time.
May we meet you again, Sir, on that distant shore.

Mervyn Nanayakkara

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