CELESTE MERCIA ANANDAPPA Memories of mother like the melodies she played will always linger This is my homage to the memory of my mother, Celeste Anandappa who departed this life two years ago on July 9. Married to Clarence Joseph Anandappa in 1948, Celeste bore 11 children (one died young), the first born in 1949 [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka




Memories of mother like the melodies she played will always linger

This is my homage to the memory of my mother, Celeste Anandappa who departed this life two years ago on July 9.

Married to Clarence Joseph Anandappa in 1948, Celeste bore 11 children (one died young), the first born in 1949 and the youngest in 1970. My father, a journalist, hailed from a rather affluent background but strangely inherited nothing. By the early 1950’s with the family growing, father and mother had moved from Colombo to Kandana – the latter was to remain the family abode for nearly four more decades.

Recollecting my childhood and boyhood days – living on rent, life was nomadic and never a bed of roses with an ever-growing family. While Father seemed eternally busy at work, Mother was the centre of our world and the livewire of the family. I think we still grew up happily like any other children blissfully ignorant of the harsher realities of life. Mother was there for us all the time to protect us and to love us and, we possibly never felt insecure or denied for this reason.

Mother was helped by Maggie, an orphan a few years her junior, who from her early teens had been in my maternal grandmother’s household. She eventually became a family member and outlived Mother.

Mother was an exceptionally gifted pianist and possibly sacrificed a career in music or as a concert pianist to raise ten children. Father had stopped her from continuing with her music as soon as the two were betrothed or married. Mother never complained to us when we were young, but about an year or two before her death, she spoke of it – it showed how much music meant to her even late in her life.

Even a few months prior to her death she could play her favourite short classical and light classical pieces beautifully without dropping a single note on the piano-the delicacy of her play always capable of bringing a tear or two to your eye. She also had a very, very good voice.

In addition to her unshaken love for my father, her children, her family and later the grandchildren, I think what kept her going was her love for music which was like an unfulfilled dream or a beacon in her life. Amidst all those domestic chores, she would sit and play the piano on evenings often singing beautifully and we would listen with delight as children. Neighbours would come to listen to her. At Christmas, after we the children, had returned from the compulsory mid-night mass, mother would sit at the piano to sing and play carols. She would soon be joined by father who also had a very good baritone voice. These sessions would end up with mother and father singing some of those evergreen light classics such as “Whispering Hope” as duets with mother never failing in her piano accompaniment. This is one of the fondest memories of my teens.

Among my memories is the picture of mother walking along Station Road carrying the latest addition to the family, my newborn youngest sister close to her to protect the baby against the midmorning sun. I, as a 15-year-old with two other siblings even younger trailed behind. The bullock carts had already left with the goods and we had set off on foot from Hapugoda to our new abode in Nagoda. The roads hardly had any traffic then. It was an exciting excursion and a diversion for us. Mother was stopped somewhere near the railway station by a lady she knew, who asked mother in Sinhalese rather impishly, to my annoyance, “Oh yet another one for you?”  I can recall the blissful smile that lit mother’s face when she almost instantly said “Yes” and allowed the lady to have a look at the baby.

Mother was totally disinterested in accumulating material wealth or money and was willing to share whatever little she had with the needy. My father who predeceased mother (in 2001) too had a similar outlook on life.

Going back to the early sixties again when I was about twelve or thirteen, a playmate of ours, several years my senior whose father had died suddenly rendering a family of six young children and widow penniless, appeared at home around 7 o’clock in the evening on an errand for his mother desperately wanting milk for his infant sister. Mother readily parted with a portion of the milk powder intended for my own infant sister who was of the same age. I am sure she did this many times. Years later this person reminisced that having been flatly refused help from his landlord possibly the richest man in Kandana then, my father had also taken him to the grocery shop and bought a tin of milk for his infant sister in spite of our own grave difficulties. With eight mouths to feed and father’s sole meagre income, we were well and truly struggling then. There was only so little at home to be given away.

Mother faced her trials and tribulations with infinite grace and grit and hardly ever complained. She also had an enormous capacity to sacrifice for her children.  She never advocated about saving or earning money nor asked for any material comfort. It looked as if she was immune to material wealth. Her spirit of helping the needy stayed with her until her death. Anyone looking destitute appearing at her door was always treated with respect and kindness, an unfailing quality that I also saw in my father.

Mother taught the value of sharing and caring by example even under trying conditions. No religion or book can teach you better. Love for classical music is another thing I learned from mother at a young age. Those haunting melodies mother played lovingly and so delicately on the piano to comfort us and possibly her own self were like the testimony of her own life. This is the memory of my beautiful mother that I cherish most and find equally painful.

In that shade under a bough and a cross Mother now rests in eternal peace. No flower that nature will cause to bloom over her grave will be sweeter or fragrant as her memory.

- Maximus Jayantha and  Anandappa


He lived simply, achieving much

He was Joy to most, Tissa to many and JO to some. He was Jayampathi Opatissa Yatawara, Fellow Institute of Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Engineers – UK; Member American Society of Heating and Air-conditioning Engineers – USA. At his passing away on April 4, 2016, he was the eldest of the Yatawara clan springing from Loku Banda Yatawara of Ampitiya, Dissava of Lower Hewaheta.

Tissa was born on March 5, 1931, the eldest of four children of Dr. Jayampathi Yatawara and Mrs. Daisy Yatawara nee Dodanwela. In November 1933 Tissa accompanied his parents to the UK where his father in pursuance of his career as a  medical doctor sought to and obtained further professional qualifications. The young family returned to the island in November 1934.

Tissa began his schooling in Galle at Southlands which he attended together with his maternal aunt Augusta (Bubsy) Dodanwela who was also studying there. He would oft times fondly recall those far-off days. With his father’s appointment as DMO Rakwana in 1937, Tissa was admitted to St. Thomas College as a boarder. The escalating World War, with an attack on the British Colony of Ceylon imminent, saw the school being moved to Bandarawela, and he and his younger brother Tilaka were in the pioneering batch of seven students to make the move to the new location. From there the school, staff and students were moved to its present location in Gurutalawa. His all round abilities were soon acknowledged and he was appointed head boy, a position he also held at Bandarawela.

The war ended, STC moved back to Mount, and Tissa came to the fore. He not only shone in the classroom but also excelled in the field of sport. Name the game, and he was there at the very top, both in ability and in performance. He was captain of hockey and also of soccer, vice-captain of athletics, a 3rd year coloursman in cricket, and part of the tennis, boxing and swimming teams. He played in the big matches in 1950 and 1951.  And to cap it all, he was awarded the Victoria Gold Medal for best all-round student and appointed head boy in 1951.

He continued as head boy in the first term of 1952 too, when he left for England to train as an Engineer at J&E Hall the leading refrigeration and air conditioning engineering solutions provider. He was the first from Ceylon in that field. On completion of his training, he was appointed an Apprentice, and quickly rose to the position of Assistant Engineer – another first for a Sri Lankan. Whilst in England, Tissa continued his cricket, playing for Dartford Cricket Club (established in 1727) in the Kent Cricket League. Here, he was involved in a 227 run stand for the sixth wicket. It is believed that the record remains unbroken. He never revealed what his contribution was!

It is not out of place, to mention that he captained both Colombo Commercial Company and CR&FC at Hockey, and was also the President of the Mercantile Hockey Association.

An abiding trait of Tissa’s was that in later life, he never spoke about these achievements unless truly pressed for a comment. When he was asked quite recently why after having scored a match-saving 38, batting at number 8 in the Royal/Thomian of 1950, he was then sent in at number 9 the next year, his reply was “I believe it was because the others were better batsmen than I was.” And he was not being facetious, he meant what he said. That was Tissa in a nutshell – modest about his many achievements, a gentleman to the core.

Tissa in fact took this a step further. He was not boastful of the achievements of his children or his grandchildren or his siblings. They collectively had many successes under their belts. He was proud of them all; he admired them, but was never one to blow the trumpet about them.

On his return to the country having successfully passed out as an Engineer, he joined Colombo Commercial Company, the leading engineering establishment of the time. Here, true to form, he rose very quickly to be Head of Division, soon taking CCC to the position of leader in the field of refrigeration and air conditioning. With the ‘nationalisation’ of the company in 1976, Tissa took his skills and knowledge to foreign lands. He worked with great success in Tehran, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore before returning to Sri Lanka in 1993.  Back home, he did not completely retire, but till very recently, carried on his profession as a consultant, solving the refrigeration and air conditioning needs of leading banks and other corporates spread throughout the island.

After his “retirement”, Tissa focused all his energies on compiling a history of the Yatawara family, a search for his roots. He travelled to many parts of the country to interview long forgotten relations and long lost connections. He perused documents in archives, picked the brains of near ones in this labour of love. Sadly, he was unable to complete this, his magnum opus, his gift to posterity. However, he was content in the knowledge that the writing of the story would be completed by the next generation. He confidently stated “I am sure Ravi will take the baton from here!”

Tissa celebrated his 85th birthday on March 5 this year in the company of many of his near and dear – a surprise party organized by son Ravi. That evening he was his usual self, full of joy, wit and bonhomie. No one present at the occasion expected him to pass away in exactly a month.  But that he did, in the manner in which he lived – no fuss, no drama, no trouble to anyone.

Tissa was the head of the clan. He was loved, admired and respected. He will be missed.

- Isy Bahar


He saw the best in people

Newton Gerard Channa Perera, Channa to those who were near and dear was born on July 10, 1966. Dearly loved and cherished by his parents, Newton and Marie and Sadha his only sister, Channa grew up in a protective and loving environment. He received his education at St.Aloysius College, Galle and later at St Peter’s College, Colombo 4.

A keen student, Channa was also an athlete, who trained with his friends in the mornings before school and participated in the 100 and 200 metre running events at St. Peter’s College. Channa went on to study Computer Software Engineering at EDP and also became a lecturer at the same Institute at the age of 21.He then started a computer training institute with his friends in Negombo by the name of Computer Data Processing. The Institute operated for three years and eventually closed due to his friends migrating abroad. Channa, moved on to Logos Enterprises as a Computer Marketing Executive and continued to work there until ill health prevented him from continuing.

To his friends and loved ones, Channa was a loving and outgoing personality who always, at all times saw the best in people. He had a flair for interior décor and his bedroom was full of sleek and beautiful furniture. To his sister Sadha, Channa was the loving and protective elder brother, who took her out for movies, lunches and dinners. He was her champion of all causes and her friend and confidante during her growing up years, She still talks about “watching movies in the gallery with Aiya, when we were broke”.

He loved his mother and took her out shopping and frequented fast food outlets with her. Channa was gentle, considerate and kind and also shared a very special bond with his cousins, with whom he frequently spent time. I still remember taking the train to Kandy and Kalutara with the cousins and going to the beach. Deeply spiritual, he counted many priests among his friends and regularly attended the prayer services of Brother Lalith Perera.

Channa loved with single  minded devotion but “love and matrimony” were not to be in the Good  Lord’s plans for him. He was called to the land yonder on April 9, 2006,  at the age of 40. Ten years after his passing, his cousins still recall the  special times shared with him.

The poet P.B. Shelley  says it best,

Music, when soft voices  die,

Lingers in the memory;

Odour, when sweet  violets sicken,

Live within the sense  they quicken.

Rose leaves, when the  rose is dead,

Are heap’d for the  belovèd’s bed;

And so thy thoughts,  when thou art     gone,
Love itself shall  slumber on.

Today  marks what would have been his 50th  birthday. Rest in Peace in the arms of Jesus, Channa.

- Kanthi Waas


The country lost a great engineer, I a genuine friend

He was “Lal” to his friends. We “golayas” addressed him as Mr. Amaratunge. My first association with Mr. Amaratunge  was when I was a trainee at the CEB. We found him to be a soft-spoken, very quiet, easy going and  hard working engineer who never ever forgot to share a smile with us, the trainees. His betel chewing appeared to be somewhat weird, but we admired his bold nature of not giving it up to please the sophisticated.

However, what amazed us most was his deep knowledge in the electro-mechanical design of electricity distribution lines. He tried his best to teach us the finer points of this subject and thereby won our deep respect and admiration.  Such qualities made him somewhat different to others. All of us wondered whether we also could be like him one day; excel at least in one field of electrical engineering whilst being simple and humble.

A few years later when I met him again at the CEB, I saw another facet to him. He was criticizing the management severely, very angry and agitated over a purported injustice. We listened and I heard somebody remarking  that he is Mr. Lal Amaratunge, a brilliant engineer seconded to Mahaweli, and a   man with a “no nonsense” approach to injustice.

It is at Mahaweli, Mr. Amaratunge had met Shanthi, one of the first lady electrical engineers of Sri Lanka. Apparently none of their colleagues had known about the short circuit that had developed until they received invitations for the wedding. While serving at Mahaweli, both he and Shanthi got offers of employment at a very reputed consultancy firm in the UK where they worked for many years with distinction. On their return, H.S. Subasinghe, then Chairman LECO had extended an invitation to Mr. Amaratunge to join the newly established electricity distribution company. He had at first refused, but later agreed to accept the position as the Head of Designs. Shanthi became the Head of the Planning Department.

Around this time, after a stint abroad, I too was looking for employment. LECO was the first I came across. I was posted to the Designs Department and by destiny or otherwise Mr. Amaratunge became  my  boss. I saw the same interest and enthusiasm as in the good old days, when guiding young engineers and explaining to them the theoretical concepts.

He wanted all engineers to work with accuracy and have a good grasp of the fundamentals. If anybody was found disregarding these golden rules, Mr. Amaratunge took them to task. All were aware that his intention was to develop them and did not take any offence to such treatment.

With the leadership given by Mr. T. R. Cooray, LECO entered the PC age using Sinclair PCs. Mr. Amaratunge took a step further, by getting his engineers to develop software to carry out almost all design tasks related to electromechanical design of distribution lines. Even today, after two or three decades since these were developed, I understand  that upgraded versions of the same are being used for LECO design calculations. He was instrumental in leading the way for drafting of the codes and manuals in-house, for system planning, construction, operations etc. These served as the base for engineering excellence of LECO and much of the credit for such achievements should go to Mr. Amaratunge.

In the latter part of his life, Mr. Amaratunge despite an unfortunate illness, continued to work and contributed enormously to the development of Sri Lanka’s electrical engineering industry. However, he finally decided to retire before reaching the mandatory age limit. Numerous pleas by the management to stay in service were of little or no avail and the final result was the transformation of the “solid connection” he had with electrical engineering into a permanent “open circuit”. With that Sri Lanka lost one of the best brains that enriched the country’s electrical engineering industry.

Shanthi continued to serve LECO and only the friends and relations very close to Amaratungas  know, the immense sacrifices she made to look after Mr. Amaratunge showing abundance of love and care. Kushani, their loving daughter was Mr. Amaratunge’s precious pearl, and his attachment, affection and devotion to her was boundless. Kushani and her husband reciprocated and did all what they could to keep their father in good spirits and happy until his last breath.

It is almost three months since Mr. Amaratunge  passed away and we have lost a good and genuine friend, a fatherly figure and more than all an engineer par excellence. As Buddhists we firmly believe that he is born in a place where he would be experiencing peace, tranquility and long lasting happiness as a result of the good deeds done in this life. Let us all pray for the ending of  the sansaric journey of this great and courageous man in the pursuit of attaining enlightenment.

- JK

Liyana Waduge Warnapala

He was a good friend to all

I first met uncle in 1984 when his daughter Nilmini also known as Mila and I became friends at Law College. We spent a week into our vacation after the 1st Year Exam in Matale. I remember uncle and aunty warmly welcomed us, and we had a very good holiday. After that I become a good friend of the Warnapala family which has lasted upto date.

The untimely death of aunty, left uncle to look after the children all by himself. Only Nilmini and Hemantha were married at that time and were in the UK. The youngest son, Sampath may have been only 15 years. Uncle played the role of the father and mother and looked after them, educated them (all six are lawyers) and saw to it that all were given in marriage. He was a devout Buddhist, a good father, husband, grandfather, a good in-law and most of all a good friend to all.

- Nilanthi Pieris





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