Tribute to a treasured grandfather DONALD NUGAWELA Donald Nugawela was many things in life; an avid reader, creative writer and above all, a  caring, gentle-hearted husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather with a great sense of humour. He never grumbled about anything, was a very sensible, practical man with the patience of an ox and [...]




Tribute to a treasured grandfather


Donald Nugawela was many things in life; an avid reader, creative writer and above all, a  caring, gentle-hearted husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather with a great sense of humour. He never grumbled about anything, was a very sensible, practical man with the patience of an ox and a real knack of cheering up anyone who was down in the dumps.

He always had a strong passion for literature, and his career at a newspaper organisation reinforced this more firmly. He regularly contributed to many local English newspapers and magazines, writing articles on nature, social issues, appreciations and even the occasional poem. In fact, his literary habits were what drew us closer, because it was a shared passion. He was a true cruciverbalist – there was never a crossword puzzle left unsolved in any publication that came his way. He would also wait eagerly for me to buy a new stash of books, and devour them in a matter of days.  In fact, rushing off to my grandparents’ place to drop off some new books used to be something I really looked forward to, because it also meant a long chat with snacks. He really enjoyed this book swapping business, and even had three books saved for me in his last days.

He would tell me tales of boyish antics that he would get up to with his brothers during their schooldays at Trinity College and St. Anthony’s College Kandy, of catching pigeons on rooftops, playing tricks on teachers, getting ‘copped’ while driving the little car his grandfather had given him and getting off due to a hilarious misunderstanding. He and his friend had explained to the cop that they were speeding because someone was  “anticipating their arrival”, which the cop interpreted as “Anti-ta saneepa na” (Aunt is not well – in Sinhala) and told them to hurry up and get to her….

He always had a stack of anecdotes up his sleeve! He was also an excellent storyteller, and when I was small, he would take me on walks and tell me stories of “a little brown doggy” because he knew I loved dogs. As trivial as they may seem, I will always treasure those memories. It seems like just yesterday that he was laughing and chatting with us, although it has now been a year since he left us.

I am glad that he got the chance to visit his ancestral home, the Aluth Walauwa in Nugawela, Kandy, now a boutique hotel called ‘Manor House’, in December 2016. It was with great nostalgia that he strolled around the gardens and examined every inch of the house, giving my cousin and I the grand tour of the place; he even showed us the “birthing room” where he and all his siblings were born. At the end of our stay, he told my grandmother and I that he did not think he would be able to return there because the memories were simply too overwhelming…

He was an epitome of good health during the entirety of his life, with only a short stint in hospital towards his latter days. His sense of  humour certainly remained until the very end. On June 1, 2019, just about three months short of his 92nd birthday, he passed away peacefully at his home, surrounded by family.

He has written appreciations for so many people that it only seemed fitting that he got to have one of his own, and I hope that I was able to do justice to his cheery personality because he would have wanted us to remember the good times and have a laugh. Let me conclude with one of his own writings…

“It is my wish that none should grieve,

For I have only stepped out for a while,

To each of you to lovingly fetch,

The forget-me-nots we together tended.

They should not be left to wither away,

Nor in the years condemned to die,

For it is we the people who die,

And leave behind us

The forget-me-nots.”

May he attain the supreme bliss of nibbana!

Dr. Dinusha Weerawardane

He fought with all his heart to defend the rights of Sri Lanka

 Walter Jayawardhana

The nearly 30-year war against terrorism that Sri Lanka fought and the endless bloodshed and tragedy the country endured, are all but forgotten in Sri Lanka now, relegated to a distant nightmare by most people in the country.

However, to Sri Lankans living in other parts of the world, memories of fighting the LTTE are much sharper and longer-lived. This truth was conspicuously driven home during the recent passing of Sri Lankan journalist and activist Walter Jayawardhana, in Los Angeles, California.

From the time the LTTE unleashed its bloody separatist terrorism, and drowned the world in misinformation and propaganda, there were many fearless voices of Sri Lankan expatriates, raised against the attack on one of South Asia’s oldest democracies. On the frontlines of such activity in the U.S., we could be sure to see and hear Walter Jayawardhana, challenging LTTE supporters, standing up for the rights of Sri Lankans, with little concern for his personal safety. He boldly provided leadership to protest rallies, while organizing seminars, and participating in TV debates to fight misinformation and present the truth.

Walter faithfully remained on the frontlines over the years, as Sri Lanka’s war on terrorism passed critical milestones, keeping U.S. law makers and authorities informed of bombings and mass killings by the LTTE, and of the six sessions of peace talks that collapsed, ultimately leading to a military push to end the war.

As the world and the U.S. in particular came to understand the workings of global terrorism after 9/11, Walter’s importance as a prolific writer came to the fore. His deep passion for nuance, his analytical skills and insights, added a major boost to Sri Lanka’s overseas attempts to uproot terrorist misinformation and propaganda. His boundless energy and swift turnout of copy on incidents, events and issues that he got placed on websites and social media platforms with matching speed, made Walter a much sought-after journalist both on the West Coast and the East Coast of the U.S. Many of us heard through him, the collective voice of Sri Lankans who stood for peace, democracy and human rights in Sri Lanka. Walter’s contribution in terms of hundreds of articles and opinion pieces on Sri Lanka’s war on terrorism, is a priceless gift of information for posterity.

Walter’s writing, however, was not limited to Sri Lanka and the world’s war on terror. He enshrined his memories and his knowledge of Sri Lanka in a collection of books in Sinhala. His memories of Badulla, his hometown, and life as he lived there, are chronicled in a book called Kambi Adiya. This is another treasure of information and knowledge that Walter left behind for future generations.

Having spent over half his life in a consistent battle to defend the rights of Sri Lanka, Walter Jayawardhana passed away amidst the restrictions on gatherings in a COVID-19 lockdown in Los Angeles. However, the quiet and subdued ending to his life, showed in greater contrast, the spirited and daring life he lived, true to his values, and unshakeable to the end.  Confucius said, “Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.” This is what Walter did.

May he attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana.

Sri Lankan expatriates in the U.S.

You left an indelible mark  on anyone who knew you


Three months have rapidly gone, but a day passes not without the memory of you hauntingly manifesting to me.   You were unique.   In anybody who came in contact with you, an indelible mark of affection was left.  The words ‘Kolomba Putha’ (Colombo son), as you were affectionately called by my elders, though no more, still ring in my ears.   For kindness and generosity there was none who excelled you, as evidenced by the mourning crowds that filed past the funeral bier.

Your entire life was furnished with experiments, innovations and learning which you gave back to your students, to society as well as to me.  Your past and present students and their parents, who were present to bid you farewell on your last journey valued your exceptional lifestyle.   Your adult students recalled to me how you took great pains to improve their knowledge of English.  If they had any problems regarding their lessons or office correspondence you solved them without any hesitation.  And they greatly mentioned the benefits they got using the library facilities in your institute.

Your knowledge of Western classics as well as Buddhist philosophy may have been the secret of your simple lifestyle.   Intending to share your knowledge with the public, you wrote many articles to the newspapers on various topics.  A lengthy article captioned “Teaching of English – A New Approach” was a popular one among them.

Your utmost motive was to improve and enhance the knowledge of rural youth and train them for self-employment opportunities.  The project you began will be restarted in the near future with the instructions and plans you left.

During the last few days of life, you were in hospital surrounded  by your loved ones, (especially your brother and sister).  We all did our best to look after you affectionately and keep you comfortable but you passed away peacefully leaving us in tremendous pain and sorrow on February 17, 2020, at the age of 81 years.

My fervent wish is that I meet you again in our journey through Sansara.   It is also my ardent wish that the merit you had acquired in life would make your existence, now in a different realm more joyous and provide the impetus for attaining the supreme bliss of Nirvana in a much shortened time.

Needless to say, my darling, I miss you immensely.

Kusum Wijesinghe (wife)

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