He made time for everyone
DR. TISSA SENEWIRATNE
Thaththi was my role model, not as a father figure alone, but as a human being. Amongst those who knew him personally, professionally or indirectly, there are very few who have not experienced his attention to detail, his happy go lucky attitude, his commitment to work and his non-intrusive method of getting things done the correct way with minimum fuss or effort.
He was never a person to talk about the great things he had done or the number of people he touched and helped, with no reward or recognition; he was a man who would never shy away from hard work or getting his hands dirty if needed. This meant that people could not ‘fudge’ around him, they would be compelled to work/help. He paid no heed to status, which is something I personally live by, his attitude of respecting others and believing in people has helped me throughout my life.
Time, he had for anyone, be it work, his family or even a stranger; the way he made time for his garden, music and for hobbies was so amazing. Growing up, I remember him going out in the middle of the night to attend to a patient or some other urgent matter, which he need not have done, as he was in preventive medicine and public health; but that was the way he was wired!
His approach to life and the impact he made on my life and the lives of so many others, cannot be summarised in a simple appreciation. Again, the many people who knew him and us, and people who helped him after he retired, have in unison said the same thing and that made me understand that he lived a simple life, did what he had to do, with no expectations, enjoyed his life and made sure his family did the same.
We are so grateful that he played such an important part in our lives.
Everyone remembers Uncle Tissa as a kind person who never hesitated to dispense medical advice to anyone who needed it, from his own family to his mechanic and our regular tuk drivers.
He loved his music and his garden both of which brought him immense pleasure and relaxation. When he was working, he would garden till late at night. Music brought him immense pleasure and there were a couple of occasions when we would wake up in the middle of the night and hear Christmas tunes, in June! We played some baila tunes for him in the hospital to help ease his discomfort and I like to think that it brought him at least a few moments of joy.
Uncle was also an excellent carpenter and made most of the shelves and cupboards at home. When I ran out of space for my shoes, Chaminda asked him to make a shoe rack for me and it is still as good as new 20 plus years down the line! He could repair almost anything and had numerous bags of odds and ends which he felt might come in useful to that end – a trait he has passed on to both his children! Uncle was a proud Thomian and was part of the centenary group, supporting College in any way he could. A man of few words, he portrayed true Thomian grit in the way he lived his life, and fought his illness.
Seeya has played many roles for many people; to my sister and me, he was a best friend. There are too many good memories and so few words to truly capture everything he has done and all he means to us, but in a nutshell, he was an extraordinary human being.
He never failed to show us his excitement and joy for whatever we decided to pursue, be it education, sport, or even a hobby. Teatime with him, also included getting our pressure checked – not that he insisted, but we did, every time – and he’d gladly check and give us a report too.
At birthday parties, he and Aachchi would always be the first guests – Aachchi would be there with her homemade cake, and Seeya with his video recorder, ready to capture each year’s birthday celebrations from start to finish.
Our childhood with him was nothing short of fun, from cleaning fish tanks, to mowing the lawn – he somehow made ordinary things seem something to look forward to.
It goes without saying that his passing has saddened our hearts; yet for the life he has shared with us, we’ll always celebrate this unparalleled friendship, the lessons he has taught us, and of course, the kindness he showed us till his last breath.
Chaminda and Mishthi Senewiratne, and Amashi
de Mel Hersh
He worked tirelessly to uplift the Muslim community
M.I. M. MUKTHAR
The well-known social activist Mohammed Mukthar who made a significant contribution to the educational advancement of the Muslim community was born on May 23, 1936 as a son of Ahamadhu Lebbe Muhammadhu Ibrahim and Muhammadhu Kassim Jainathumma in Illavathurai in Hapugastalawa in the Kandy District.
He received his early education at Rahumaniyah College in Illavathurai. Though he joined the Colombo Zahira College for higher education, he had to go back to his hometown of Illavathurai due to certain circumstances.
At that time Zahira College was providing English education and Scouting to its students. The Second World War was in full swing and rural folk suspected that those who received scout training would also be deployed. Mainly due to this, he returned to llavathurai. His parents’ hopes that their son would become a leading citizen were disappointed, but they could soon heave a sigh of relief as they succeeded in sending him to a Buddhist monk at the nearby temple at least to learn Sinhala.
Luckily, with the end of the Second World War the Gampola Zahira College emerged as a turning point in the educational history of the Muslims. Mukthar made use of this opportunity and was able to fulfil his aspirations on higher education. After successfully completing his higher education at the Gampola Zahira College he became a teacher there.
Mukthar got his first appointment as a teacher at the Boragas Tamil Maha Vidyalaya and was transferred to Kirungadeniya Muslim Vidyalaya in Mawanella after serving just three months.
While serving as a teacher at the Kirungadeniya Muslim Vidyalaya he got the appointment for the post of clerk that he had already applied for.
Mukthar moved to Colombo after being appointed as a clerk at the State Printing Corporation and later was transferred to Government offices in Gampola, Kandy and Kurunegala areas. While serving in Kegalle he married Mehroon Nihar, a beautiful lady from the famous Muhandiram family in Rambukkana. His wife contributes articles on historical topics to leading newspapers and magazines.
Allah gifted them five children including one son. They also held high-profile employment in the state sector. One son and a daughter passed away a few years ago.
Mukthar became involved in public service while serving in the state sector. The service he had done to the community in his own village was remarkable. He introduced an interest-free cooperative banking system and had been in charge of it for a long time.
He also established a library with newspapers, magazines and valuable books to quench the thirst for education of the then younger generation and educationists in the region. He kept the library going for more than 30 years. His hope was that people in the area would protect this treasure for future generations.
After retiring from the state service Mukthar migrated to Oman and worked as an agricultural officer at the Sultan’s palace for nearly five years. Returning from Oman he served as an accountant at the Line Mosque in Colombo and as the Agricultural Instructor at the Dummalasooriya Ahadiya Arabic College.
When M. H. M. Ashraff funded Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Mukthar was very supportive in party related affairs in the Central Province. Mukthar was honoured by Mr. Ashraff during an event held at SLMC headquarters.
Mukthar was appointed Justice of Peace for All Island. He formed a centre for agricultural products in the Weligalla area in Gampola and served as the executive officer there.
Mukthar who had developed business relations with the business community abroad made a significant contribution to the advancement of the local economy.
He passed away on September 2, 2022.
An excellent engineer, great academic, friend and colleague
DR. M. P. U. BANDARA
In 1974, Palitha Bandara joined the lecturing staff of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering, University of Moratuwa which was then called the Katubedda Campus. Very soon, there was hardly anyone closely associated with the University of Moratuwa who did not know Palitha Bandara for the dedicated contribution that he was making in many areas and in different roles towards the development of this prestigious engineering education establishment.
The institution was then in a crucial phase of initial development. Being an engineering graduate of the same institution, in its third batch of engineering entrants, Bandara was at the forefront of academic excellence and this was the reason for him to be hired. Bandara was a name synonymous with the institution’s speedy development in the post-1975 era.
After completing postgraduate studies at the University of Leeds, UK where he read for his PhD, he returned to Sri Lanka in the early 1980s. Many started to identify Dr Bandara as a Textile Technologist as he thereafter served the newly formed Division of Textile Technology in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Moratuwa with his talent and know-how in conducting innovations and education in the engineering of textile machinery much needed by the local industry. For us, his former colleagues in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, he was always a high-calibre versatile engineer with all-round capability. True to the UK-SPEC, he was the epitome of professional engineering competence. He was a chartered engineer, an excellent engineering educator, and a highly skilled engineering technician, all in one, a very rare combination indeed. Unfortunately, he could not be an entrepreneur at the same time and sadly there were no Bill Gates around him to exploit his engineering ingenuity.
In the late 1980s, Bandara returned to the UK after being offered a senior academic position at the University of Leeds. This is the same institution where he had done his PhD. Professors in the textile department at Leeds knew his talent, missed him for a decade, and were well aware of the high calibre contribution he could make towards the institution’s academic agenda. As fate would have it though, the institutional structure there changed soon after and Bandara’s real talent got submerged within it. The circumstances were beyond his control. Perhaps, he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Although Bandara made an indelible contribution wherever he worked, and the people around him recognised and benefited from his talent and the engineering excellence that was his hallmark, we believe he had the capacity to reach much greater heights had the circumstances been such.
Bandara liked to work alone, was thoroughly absorbed in whatever work he undertook and oblivious to the fast-moving world around him where people often worked with a purely self-centred objective. There were many who benefited from his talent and goodwill, but in an increasingly selfish academic world where only the ‘quantum of output’ but not the quality of work mattered, sadly the engineering excellence of Bandara that surfaced was only the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps, he did not know how to play the game or, more likely, did not want to be part of it.
Those who knew Bandara closely would remember him for the kindness and compassion that he radiated on all those around him. He was firm in his views, forthright in expressing his thoughts, yet never held any malice towards anyone. Even on the rare occasion when he made a wrong move at the spur of the moment, he would later regret it and be magnanimous enough to admit his mistake.
Bandara possessed a great sense of humour. In the midst of a social gathering, He would come out with a fascinating story at the most unexpected time. He was a great fan of Mr Bean and never forgot to recite and enact his own version of an episode that he had recently watched. Had he lived, it would have been interesting to listen to his thoughts and views on ChatGPT and the impact it is currently having on engineering education! Sadly, we will miss all his light-hearted banter. Bandara leaves behind two lovely, well-mannered young daughters who are sure to carry his intellectual and humane legacy forward, Nayani (after Ajatha) and Ashwini (after Nelun). Sadly, both Ajatha and Nelun predeceased Bandara with incurable diseases. Faced with an incurable disease himself, Bandara was very fortunate to be looked after with compassion and care by his two loving sisters, Ratna and Dhammika, till the very end. Together, they belonged to a well-respected, closely-knit family of two sisters and four brothers from Kuliyapitiya. A product of Kuliyapitiya Central College, Bandara was a story of academic prowess from a very young age.
The Giant Bell has silenced forever. We write with profound sorrow in our hearts with the hope that the memory of this genius of a man and great human being will linger in cyberspace in the years to come. May Bandara attain the eternal bliss of Nirvana. May he rest in peace.
A learned monk
VEN ANANDA MAITREYA THERO
August 23 is the 118th birth anniversary of Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Thero whom I revere as one of the greatest Buddhist monks in recent history.
Ven. Ananda Maitreya lived in Sri Lanka in the last century. He knew more than six languages, wrote more than a hundred articles and books and was a university professor and vice-chancellor. He did incredible social work specializing in education and spreading the Buddha’s teaching in the modern world.
Ananda Maitreya was from a long Buddhist Yogi line. He attended the monastery when he was 16 years old, and was trained by great teachers. Using his classical language knowledge, he read the Buddha’s teaching in its original language to understand the fundamentals of Buddhist meditation techniques (Bhavana).
In the 1930s he started his foreign missions, first to India and then Myanmar. After 1960 he travelled to Europe and America and played a big role in establishing the Bhikkhu Sasana in the U.K. When he was more than a 100, he travelled to Taiwan and Japan to teach.
He practised “Hatha Yoga” for his physical health. He had visited Himalayan yogis at Rishikesh, Swami Sivananda among them and learned Hatha Yoga theories and practices, that were the secret, security and power to his healthy and long life, he said.
In his 80s doctors found that his heart and body were like that of a young man, so they called him “an 80-year-old young man”. Even at that age, he had the ability to walk and run faster than a normal person. He lived to the age of 103 years.
He was a well-known scholar in the Buddhist world, and the first professor of Mahayana Buddhist philosophy at the University of Vidyodaya in Sri Lanka. Later he was appointed Vice-Chancellor of the university. He was known as a “walking library” as he had a vast knowledge of ancient and modern subjects.
He was interested in philosophy and religious knowledge. He had a deep knowledge of Buddhism including of the main three branches of Buddhism. He was the chief editor of the Tripitaka (Pali text) Committee in Sri Lanka.
Ven. Ananda Maitreya never stopped studying. He saw the new computer technology when he visited the USA when he was in his eighties. He learned to use computers and decided to computerize the Tripitaka. That was the beginning of computerizing the Tripitaka.
As a social worker whose aim was to educate society, he believed “Doing good for others is the main responsibility of human life” and that education is the best wealth. He established a school for young Buddhist monks in his hometown, a public school and two other schools for children with special needs.
Ven. Ananda Maitreya believed that the Buddha’s teachings could contribute to the betterment of mankind and world peace and hence spent his time spreading the teachings in the world too.
He was a great Yogi, scholar, and altruistic social worker.
-Missaka Kamalasiri Thero