It seems as if a grey cloud of depression is over me; not only
because of the demise of Nalini Wickremesinghe. But, because her death
in a way, is the end of an era. I cannot think of anyone of my
generation, or the ones that follow; with her exceptional qualities.
Beauty, grace, dignity, gentility, intellect, culture and a great sense
of history I am proud that we share the same Alma Mater; although she
had left school, before I entered its hallowed portals.
As the eldest daughter of D R Wijewardene, she had the privilege of
witnessing at first hand, many stages of our countryís history, before
and after Independence. She would often talk to me about those days,
when politicians of yore, of the calibre of D S Senanayake, D B
Jayetilleke, E W Perera, V F and L M de Silva were frequent visitors to
Another vivid memory she often talked about, was the visit of the
Soulbury Commission; who had stayed with her father, at Arcadia in
Diyatalawa. This was a truly historic visit as they spent hours and days
sitting in the garden there, drafting the constitution of Independent
Ceylon. These memories and those of her father beginning the newspaper
were always vivid in her mind, and she once told me that this was when
her interest in politics was first nurtured.
Conversations at her home revolved round politics, the newspapers and
her fatherís role in the struggle for Independence. There are few who
are aware that Nalini had obtained the London Inter Arts degree, for
which she had studied privately. Her father had planned to send her to
University, but Cupid intervened as he often does; when she met her
future husband Esmond.
She was a devoted mother, grandmother and sister. She adored her
children, was very proud of them all and equally adored her younger
brother. She told me that she was just 17 when he was born, and the duty
of looking after him was handed over to her.
Her interest in reviving Sinhala culture, led her to playing an
active role in The Lanka Mahila Samithi and in the Sinhala Institute of
Culture. Her work in the Mahila Samithi began with encouraging women to
have home gardens, and develop their talent in other crafts which they
could do at home; to empower them and to have their own income.
Together with Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Siva Obeysekera, she was one
of the pioneers in promoting handicrafts and handloom weaving. I have
seen many of her own designs woven into sarees, which were truly
exquisite works of art. At the Sinhala Institute of culture, she was one
of those responsible for reviving Kandyan and low country dancing, drama
and other aspects of traditional culture and art, She played a prominent
role in promoting and sponsoring Sinhala writers and artistes, by
helping playwrights and producers to stage their plays.
Although born with a silver spoon; Nalini, in addition to her work
for the uplift of Sinhala culture and arts and crafts, also worked as an
active director of Lake House till it was taken over by the then
government. She has often spoken to me about this heartbreaking moment;
when her fatherís brainchild was snatched away; his dreams no longer in
the hands of his children; for which he had worked so hard all his life.
Lesser mortals at this stage, may have sat back at home, licking their
wounds or given in to depression. But not Nalini; instead, she worked at
The Lake House Bookshop for many years. Her interest in English
literature, stood her in good stead in this role. Her children surprised
her a few years ago, on her birthday, by publishing some poems written
by her, which she presented to her friends.
During these past few years with her failing health, it was good to
see the devotion with which her children, including her daughters in
law, looked after her. She was showered with tender, loving care by
them; through each moment of each day.
Ranil and Kshanika have both inherited her sense of history and her
love of classical music. I was always touched that every time Ranil
bought music for himself, he bought the identical tape for his mother.
He would sit for hours at her bedside, despite his busy schedule,
discussing music of the great Masters, musicians and politics with her.
Two people who knew her better than most outsiders were Maya Wikrantha
and Dr Anandaraja. Both speak of her innate kindness, thoughtfulness and
generosity to them.
She was a devout Buddhist who married a Christian and practised her
religion as a true Buddhist should. She was never a fanatic, never
forced her beliefs on others, but practised it as an inspiring example
to those who knew her.
She felt that each and every person must have the freedom to practise
the faith of their choice. I shall always treasure in my heart and mind,
a compliment that she once paid me; which was that loyalty such as mine,
can never be bought.
I will always think of Nalini Wickremesinghe as one of those wonders
Ilica Malkanthi Karunaratne
Person with an astonishing English knowledge
A person of great calibre, as a teacher of English Language and
Literature, the founder of the Full Moon Institute of English (which
implies that he wanted to bring students from darkness to light in
English) at Maharagama, Rienzie Gunaratne passed away recently, creating
a huge void in the sphere of teaching English. He was suffering from his
fatal illness for several years, despite which he continued his services
towards the student population of the area on a busy schedule, even
while taking treatments at the Gleneagles Hospital in Singapore at
He was a person with an astonishing knowledge of English poetry and
drama, and all the other fields of English Literature. He joined the
tutorial staff of the then Government Teachersí Training College
Practising School (now known as Maharagama Central College) and started
teaching History in mid 1960s. I was fortunate enough to have him as my
class master in 1966, when I was in Grade eight.
Our Principal at that time was T G S Gunawardhana, an eminent scholar
and an English educated gentleman. When Rienzie Gunaratne started
teaching English Language, Gunawardhana placed a challenge before him to
obtain positive results. He was successful within a short time. From
then, the number of English passes grew annually. His ability of
teaching English was not a secret to anybody.
In early 1970s he was appointed as a Lecturer in English at the
Maharagama Teachersí Training College. But, as a result of requests made
by many parents and students, he was compelled to prolong his former
career in the way of private tuition in weekends. As a result, we too
were able to prolong our studies and become well versed in English
Language and Literature. He has worked as a Lecturer at the Open
University of Sri Lanka and as a Radio Script Writer, presenting Western
Classics in Sinhala Language.
He emerged the most bright scholar at the Manchester University in UK
in 1983 and was offered a Post of Lecturer there, but he was loved by
the students here in Sri Lanka and he too concerned them so much that he
returned to the island as he valued not money but his service to his
What mattered the most in all his endeavours was punctuality. When we
were his private students after our schooling age, he was present sharp
at 8.00 am and started the class. He maintained this paramount quality
of him until his demise. I think, many of his students including myself
studied that lesson. I am humbly saying that I have been one of his
pupils until his death, and he was a regular admirer of any of my
literary works and his demise is an irreparable loss to me too
personally, as it has been to his wife and daughters.
Atula A Dodangoda Pannipitiya
A Wilton de Zoysa :
Thaththa was my role model
Thaththa it has been 10 years since you left us and I miss you more
than ever. It is true what they say, you do not realize what you truly
have till it is gone. I must confess that I am at a loss of words when
it comes to pen my appreciation of you since my thoughts are far too
many and crowded with emotion. Thaththa, even after 10 years of absence
of physical presence, I miss you more deeply than words can say.
However, I have brought myself to write a few words of what he meant
to me since his death anniversary falls on July 3, 2011.
I am certain that the sentiments I felt are that which are felt by
any child or adult who has ever lost a parent. As such this is my humble
attempt in capturing the essence of a man whose presence I could never
limit to words on a page.
Over the past, I have not felt his absence because I realized that
everyday I continue life as his daughter being true to all that he
thought me in life he continues to live.
You appreciated us for what we were and trusted us to the extent that
unknowingly you built a moral binding in us to be always
uncompromisingly truthful to ourselves and thereby never to break the
trust of others. Your love, appreciation, trust among many things molded
us to be the children we are.
Thaththa you said learning was the foundation which no one can take
We are what we are because of you and Amma. You always told me to do
my duty with dedication, commitment and integrity. This was just but one
lesson that we repeatedly say. We grew up with your values and we are
glad we did as it has proved beyond doubt what life can give. We note
with gratitude to you, the positive comments of others of our ability to
go through life with zest, responsibility and honesty. You were the
biggest champion in all over endeavours.
He was my friend and a pillar of strength to me. I could open my
heart to him with his advice and guidance he put us on the correct path
on lifeís journey. The deeply rooted values in my life all came from my
father. You gave us love, support and a sound education, but most of all
you taught us to be fair, have a strong sense of right and wrong and
taught us good moral values. Whenever we needed you were always there
for us and you made us believe that self-confidence, honesty and courage
will help us lead a good life. I so wish you hang on for a little
longer, so you could have been there for me as my role model to direct
and guide me when I needed.
My sincere hope is that may this simple man realize early the supreme
Bliss of Nirvana.
Damitha de Zoysa