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To the Peter Pan I met in real life

Jithman Lodas Ramachandra

Dearest Toffee Seeya,

Before I get to the part on how much of a great person you were, I must thank you for all the yummy toffees you gave me, every time you came to visit us. Even though we did not get to meet physically all the time, I am grateful for the times I met you here in Sri Lanka.

Dear Seeya, thank you for your 79 years of existence. You were definitely a proud son of Mother Earth by being an amazing human being. You are one of the coolest grand uncles a grandniece could ask for. Thank you for taking on our ‘seeya’s role’ when we needed it the most and for checking on all of us. There’s no need to write how great you were at being a father, uncle, friend and grandfather, because anyone who had heard even a few words about you would know that you were a significant person to your family and friends.

You were truly a Peter Pan living in your ‘Neverland’, because you were one of those rare human beings who knew how to live in the moment and tried to pass it to others around you. You practised and shared happiness. You sprinkled happiness, kindness and joy, not only to those near you, but also to your loved ones in virtual space. You showed us that the one who lives in the moment and cherishes the moment, never grows old and never dies. That’s why you were a Peter Pan to all of us.

Toffee Seeya, you were a great role ‘model’ to every one of us. Not only because you looked like a Bollywood actor and had amazing stories from your young days, but also because of the way you lived until the very moment you said ‘goodbye’ to all of us on August 11 in Auckland, New Zealand. There’s no doubt that you were a great Buddhist, who not only read and shared Dhamma preachings, but also practised Buddhism with all your heart and soul.

Your arts and crafts, and your wonderful garden, (I believe that The Secret Garden, Mary Lennox found must have looked the same), all your creations show how beautiful and colourful your heart must have been. Even though you are no longer here, your garden will heal everyone that steps into it, just like the Secret Garden did.

Thank you so much for always keeping in touch with us, even though you were living miles and mile away. Most of all, thank you for showing us how to live a beautiful life, how to be human, spreading love and kindness everywhere you went.

I believe that your ‘Neverland’ must be upgraded now. Until you find the end of samsara, keep spreading love and kindness sprinkled with happiness.

We all miss your jokes, stories, positive quotes, videos and all your WhatsApp messages, filled with love and care.

Toffee Seeya, thank you for sharing your smile with us. You will always live in our hearts.

May you attain the Supreme bliss of Nirvana.

With love and respect,

Ovini Bulathgama (grandniece) 


A great lady who carried on the Anuradhapura pinkama at Ruwanveliseya

S. PADMA C. SOYSA

Eleven years ago, on July 15, 2021, my beloved mother-in-law Padma Soysa departed from this world. Though it is a long time ago, we miss her so much that a day doesn’t go past without our remembering her. I had the privilege of knowing this great lady from the time I married Pushpa in 1973.

A hallmark of her life was the Anuradhapura pinkama at Ruwanveliseya which is held on the fifth week in August each year for one week. We are celebrating the 101st year this month.

This pinkama was started in 1922 after the restoration of the Maha Seya, when a group of Ceylonese Buddhists started a society to look after the needs of the Maha Sangha who reside in the temple during Vas Samaya. At that time, my mother-in-law’s father who was a landed proprietor in Horana responded to an advertisement that appeared in the daily newspapers to perform the rituals for one week. He chose the fifth week in the Vas Samaya as he thought to himself that one day he would get married and have children and it would be a good time for them to visit Anuradhapura during the August school holidays.

The purpose of this pinkama is to offer the morning and noon dana and offer the evening gilanpasa to Lord Buddha in the shrine room of the Maha Seya. All the meals for those participating in the pinkama too have to be cooked. My mother-in-law used to prepare for the pinkama one month ahead.

She was born on June 16 in 1926 at her ancestral home in Walana, Panadura. The house she grew up in extended from the old Galle Road up to the Panadura river. Two years after her birth her mother passed away due to typhoid, a deadly disease at that time. Her father never remarried and thereafter she was boarded at Musaeus College in Colombo.

She grew up with her friends at the boarding and for holidays, her father took her to the property in Horana or the ancestral house. She was the only child in the family and during the August school holidays her father would take her to Anuradhapura for the pinkama. The rest of the time she was very well looked after by a number of domestic aides.

Immediately after her schooling her father looked to give her in marriage to a suitable young man and there in the wings was my father-in-law H. A. Vincent Soysa who happened to be somewhat older to her but came from another very good land-owning family. The person who read their horoscopes said that it was going to be a marriage made in heaven and irrespective of the age difference for them to go ahead.

Fortunately for my mother-in-law she joined a family of two sisters and five brothers who embraced her as a member of their own family. She did not feel the absence of her own family when her father departed around three years after her marriage.

We spent April and December vacations in the beautiful hills of Maskeliya where my father-in-law’s family owned an 800-acre property called Gartmore Group while the August holidays were spent in Anuradhapura.

We also travelled together on many overseas trips to Singapore, Malaysia, United Kingdom, Europe, and USA. These were mainly business or academic trips for me and holidays for my family. However, I cherished every moment I was with them.

My mother-in-law led a very full and happy life, despite being a diabetic from a very young age. She was an excellent cook and hosted many dinners and functions in her home at De Fonseka Place.

May she attain Supreme Bliss of Nirvana.

H. Gamini Fonseka


A friend in deed to the Friend in Need Society

MERRILL J. FERNANDO

Much has been said and written about Merrill the tea maker, Merrill the businessman, Merrill the entrepreneur, Merrill the statesman, the God-fearing, the visionary, the friend and the friend of the oppressed and the differently abled. The support he has given the Colombo Friend in Need Society needs special mention.

The Colombo Friend in Need Society is the oldest charitable organisation in Sri Lanka, established in 1843. It commenced the Jaipur Foot and Limb programme in 1985 to provide artificial limbs free of charge to amputees. Up until now, over 30,000 limbs have been supplied to the needy.

As time went along the amputees faced other needs –  a need for sustaining life,  a need for education and a need for recreation.

We started with AIDEX, a sports festival for Jaipur limb users with generous support from donors in 1987. As time went by, we needed new donors and Merrill Fernando with his MJF Charitable Foundation came forward, donating T shirts and caps for participants and volunteers and providing logistical support for running the events with volunteers from his organisation. This generous donation has been sustained for over 20 years. When he was able to, Merrill attended these meets with his family, which was a privilege to the Society and which act provided much encouragement to the disabled participants.

A “self-employment programme” was begun in 1990 to help these limb users with income generating activities. They were helped with the purchase of tools, equipment and machines, sewing machines, opening grocery shops, making toys and utility items, cultivation of home gardens etc. It commenced with seed money given by Ken Balendra through one of the organisations he was associated with. We ran out of funds by 2005 and were desperate to find new donors. Who else but Merrill, through Dilmah and MJF Charitable Foundation, it was who came to our rescue. Every year, ten to 15 new beneficiaries are processed and given equipment and know-how to start a new life. Thank you Merrill.

After her death, an international fund was set up called the Princess Diana Fund to help disabled children with educational activities. This was discontinued due to lack of funds after 10 years. Merrill saw this as another opportunity to help.  A monthly allowance is given to the parents to help them with the schooling expenses. This year too, 55 children attending school and 4 attending University will be given their mid-year grants next week.

As I said earlier, this is a small portion of the wider range of charitable activities he and his family undertook through the MJF Charitable Fund. All this was done with his inimitable soft small smile given with a big heart.

The tea has been brewed. The leaves left will become ashes, but the aroma will linger forever.

We will relish that.

May he rest in peace.

Professor A.H. Sheriffdeen


He worked throughout for the welfare of elders

T. GLADWIN FERNANDO

It is with a deep sense of gratitude that I write this appreciation of a remarkable visionary Gladwin Fernando. He passed away on August 14, 2021 – two months prior to his birthday on October 16.

Gladwin hailed from a respectable Roman Catholic family in Moratumulla, Moratuwa and was a faithful parishioner of St. Anthony’s Church, Kadalana, Moratuwa. In recognition of his dedicated services to the parish, he was appointed as the President of the Trust Society.

His dedicated service to the city of Moratuwa was unparalleled. His concern for suffering humanity and his empathy for the plight of the poor exceeded normal generosity and had signs of divine inspiration.

He was one of my contemporaries at Prince of Wales College, Moratuwa, and joined M/s Kahawita Associates, a firm of accountants as an Audit Assistant with the intention of pursuing a course in accountancy. However after the demise of his father, Charles Fernando, he was compelled to take over the family business, which he managed successfully.

He was an active member of the Old Boys Association and served later as a Vice Patron.

He was appointed to the Moratuwa Mediation Board. As a Warden of St. Matthias’ Church Lakshapathiya, Moratuwa I had to represent my parish at an inquiry. His mature wisdom enabled him to amicably settle the issue.

He was a member of the Lions Club of Moratuwa District 306 A and served for quite some time as its President. He successfully negotiated for donations from various sources for the Elders’ Home managed by the Moratuwa Social Service Society. In 1973 he obtained the membership of Moratuwa Social Service Society and served as Joint Secretary in 1975, was elected as its President in 1980 and re-elected consecutively for a period of 39 years (1980 to August 2019). This stint of 39 years as the President of a non-fee levying institution where over 130 residents are sheltered, is phenomenal.

His maturity and experience in administration resulted in the home being the recipient of many awards during his long tenure. This elders home is one of the largest non-fee levying elders’ homes in the country. Resources raised towards its sustenance during his stint were enormous and there was never a lack of it. He was very keen that the Society should construct a shopping complex in the premises to be rented. His dream was realised in 1996 and it has turned out to be a viable venture today.

The new office complex constructed in 2018 was also one of his ideas. Pipe-borne hot water under a solar power system for the washrooms of the inmates was sponsored and installed by one of the commercial banks through the cordial relationship he had with the bank. This fulfilled one of the basic requirements of the residents.

In 2003 he was instrumental in starting a non-fee levying Montessori school for the benefit of the underprivileged children of Moratuwa in the premises of the home.

In 2019, the Moratuwa Social Service Society celebrated its centenary under his guidance. The requirement of paints was donated by Asian Paints Ltd. through his co-ordination.

My acquaintance with him began when I was elected to the Executive Committee and then to the Trust Board as one of the Vice Presidents 18 years ago. He never viewed differences of opinion with resentment. I consider it a great privilege to have served in the Executive Committee and Trust Board with him. He was always wise in his decisions and stood for what was right, an example to follow. He has left a legacy and indelible mark in the hearts and minds of many especially the committee members and residents of the home.

His wife Manel was a tower of strength to him. She extended her fullest co-operation to him and participated in all his activities with a smile. He was reluctantly compelled to restrict his activities after her death in 2018.

Had his parents been alive they would have been happy that they were blessed with a wonderful son, who made such a dedicated contribution to social service for more than 40 years.

May God grant him and Manel eternal rest.

Hiran J. Fernando


No amount of time can heal the sorrow

 SAVITRI WICKRAMASINGHE

Gone for five silent years. It’s hard to accept that she isn’t there anymore. Not a day goes by when thoughts of her don’t cross my mind. No amount of time can heal the sorrow.

You may not be by my side but will always remain in my heart. Remembered especially on your 63rd birthday on August 31.

May all the ‘kusal’ she accrued in this birth and along the way in Sansara and our ‘punyanumodana’ for her make Savitri’s journey in Sansara short.

May she attain blissful Nibbana.

Nimal W

 


I still miss you so

VICTOREEN MARINA HASSAN

It is with a sense of sadness that I write this article about my loving wife Victoreen. We got married on October 8, 1968 and spent a happy and peaceful life together for almost 40 long years. She passed away peacefully on August 25, 2008 after a brief illness.

In life, we loved each other so dearly, it broke my heart to lose her. Hand in hand we faced tomorrow with no fears – when I needed hope and inspiration, she was always strong. She left this world leaving me with precious memories time cannot erase.

Vicky my heart is shattered and all the words can offer no relief.

Those special memories of you will always bring a smile. If only we could sit and talk again just like we used to do. As long as life and memory lasts your soul will live in me.

Your loving smile, your gentle face, no one can fill our vacant place. Each night I shed a silent tear as I speak to you in prayer. I remember the tender words, your smile and the loving words you used to say. Every morning, every evening, and every night, we thanked our lucky stars we found each other.

I remember not what I did for you but I remember what I was for you. We met, we loved and lived a joyful life, and now physically separated knowing that we will meet someday is my only comfort.

Thank you Victoreen for the sacrifices you made for me and our children and all the loving care and affection you showered on me.

Thank you for loving me and for being what you were which I still cherish.

Sadly missed by your loving husband.

M. Kamil. A. Hassan


 

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