She was the light of the family | Daily News


 

Anne-Marie Bulathsinhala

She was the light of the family

The thick pall of death lay over Kelvin Grove, 5/2 Hill Street, Kandy. In the sitting room, lay the casket bearing the remains of Anne-Marie Bulathsinhala. She looked peaceful in death. The news of her demise, after a brief illness, was not unexpected, but came as a shock to us all. Anne-Marie was the light of Kelvin Grove. She was, for years, the epicentre of the Pereira, Rodrigo, and Bulathsinhala families, as well as their extended families. She held them all together.

In this day and age of high parapet walls and padlocked gates and appointments, Kelvin Grove, the family bastion situated in the shade of the Trinity College Chapel, seems like an anachronism. Its gates are always open, as are its doors.

As one walks in through the front door, they always saw her across the sitting room and the hall, sitting at her customary and favourite spot at the dining table. Hers was a vantage spot from where she could see both the front and side entrances.

She presided over the dining table not only at meal times, but at all other times too; whether it was writing Christmas cards in October, chopping ingredients for the Christmas cake, assembling ingredients for wine for Christmas, cutting blouses for the staff to stitch, making packs of sweet meats to be distributed during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, neatly putting medicines into pill boxes, writing out shopping lists, the list is endless.

What amazed me at all times was her unique ability to stretch time. She had time for everyone, for the endless stream of random visitors who dropped in at all times of the day: Sarath’s old Trinity College students, former staff and domestics, their former boarders, her legendary Uncle Aldo’s clients who came to get clothes done, friends from near and far, and also relatives.

Anne-Marie had the unique ability of touching people’s hearts and souls with her love and care. In her soft spoken voice, I’ve heard her inquire about the well-being and welfare of all those she came in touch with, regardless of age, class, or social distinction. She reached out to everyone with the same genuine concern—that’s where her intrinsic strength lay.

Having known the Kelvin Grove clan for the past thirty-five years, I, too, have been showered with her sisterly love and abounding generosity. Each time I was about to leave the house to go back to Colombo, she would thoughtfully give me little bottles and packets of food, carefully sealed and wrapped with great care. She would always remember to make me ‘roti’ the way I love it. I would never fail to worship her each time, prior to leaving to the Kandy Railway Station. Such was the deep respect and regard I had for her at all times.

Together with the rest of the resident family, Uncle Aldo; Andre, her brother; and Sarath, her husband; Anne-Marie was an ardent fan of music—they all love music. Throughout the entire day, all the radios in the house were turned on. The radio poured in and out of all the rooms in that house and their names were on request programmes on a daily basis.

I remember when the celebrated De Lanerolle Brothers, Rohan and Ishan, once performed with the Trinity College Choir to a full house at the Chapel above; Sarath and Anne Marie took their seats in their own front veranda and savoured the music that poured down from the Chapel into their house. “It was a magical evening”, she told me back then.

Last Christmas was a massive family reunion when much of the Kelvin Grove clan converged on Kandy. They all stayed on until early January to celebrate her brother Ricky and his wife Bianca’s 40th wedding anniversary.

Anne-Marie was in her element, having family around her. She opened the (extendable) legendary dining table at Kelvin Grove to make way for the clan and there still wasn’t enough room. I believe they dined over two sittings. And that was a big bash. But no one ever dreamt that it would her last bash.

And so, Anne-Marie Bulathsinhala made her final journey to the Mahaiyawa Cemetery in Kandy, as several members of her family have done before her. The light of Kelvin Grove was extinguished, but the sound of her voice still lingers. That house will never be the same again.

I offer my heartfelt condolences to Sarath, her husband; Arushan and Narain, her two sons in Australia; and the entire extended family.

Anne-Marie was a wonderful humane human being. She is now free from all physical suffering and pain. She goes on her journey leaving us all behind, grieving.

She is now just a wonderful and a beautiful memory. May her journey through Sansara be speedy!

Kumar de Silva


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