Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Deshabandu Dr. Wimala de Silva



DE SILVA - DESHABANDU DR (MRS) WIMALA (Former Chancellor of Sri Jayewardenepura University, founder Principal of Devi Balika Vidyalaya, former Principal of Maliyadeva Girls' School, Kurunegala and Princess of Wales College, Moratuwa). Beloved wife of the late Dr S.L. De Silva and sister of the late Mr P.M. Jayatilaka, passed away peacefully. Cortege leaves residence at 4.30 p.m. on Thursday the 19th April. Cremation at General Cemetery, Borella. No flowers by request. 26, Swarnadisi Place, off Koswatte Road, Nawala, Rajagiriya. DN Tue Apr 17 2007

** http://sachini-perera.blogspot.com/2007/04/death-grief.html

Grief, is a selfish thing, some claim. We grieve cos WE lose. Not the one who passed away.

I was swelled with grief, this morning too, when I scanned the obits in the DN & DM to find that Deshabandu Dr. Wimala de Silva (nee Jayatilaka), former Chancellor Sri Jayawardenapura University (1983-2000), had passed away, yesterday.

Although she was much older to me, by 28 years, I remembered the wonderful Sundays in the Seventies, when a few of us young chaps, friends of her maternal first cousin, Lal de Silva (ex Ananda College, now living in Toronto, Canada), gathered at her beautiful home in Koswatte to play Bridge with her and her wonderful husband, the late Dr Luxman de Silva, ex Chairman State Rubber Manufacturing Corporation and ex President Insitute of Engineers Sri Lanka, who passed away in 1992.

Her humor, her laughter, her intelligence, and her beautiful conversation, mixed with the humongous hospitality that she showered upon us, young men, which included a grand Sunday lunch cooked in typical Sinhala style, is something I find very hard to forget.

It is more than 30 years since I last saw her but the fact that she has always been someone whom I have admired immensely, for her magnificent manners and charming character, will always linger in my heart and mind.

I wanted to so much to try and see her in 2006, when I was down in Colombo on a short vacation, but failed on account of busy schedules and family commitments. It hurts me so much that I didn't make the effort and take the time to call on her just to say hello.

Now I grieve, so sadly. Yes I do. I grieve for myself. That is the basic essence of grief, I think?

They dont make people like her, anymore.

May she be in splendor wherever she has gone to.

Fazli Sameer, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Tue Apr 17 2007

The lessons of a father:

Dr. Wimala de Silva's childhood

By Roshan Peiris

She grew up with her father to guide her, in an old world house in Negombo. Her mother had died when she was five years old. Her father, a practising Buddhist, sent his only daughter (there was also a son) to a little village Buddhist school which he helped to build and manage.

In the village school, her best friends were the vegetable amme's daughter and the labourer's daughter with whom she sat on the school bench together.

Dr. Wimala de Silva Chancellor of the Sri Jayewardenapura University and the first and only woman Chancellor in Sri Lanka says it was her father's influence that taught her one must not look down on people because they were deprived.

Dr. de Silva recalls, "Ours was a traditional Sinhala home where even my aunts did not sit at table with my father. It was also a hospitable home where all were welcome to stay or have a meal. To me as a young child I valued tradition, for it gave me a sense of belonging and security and a tranquil home.

"My father was Eastern oriented and my aunts who attended Newstead, Negombo were Western oriented and so early in my life I came under the influence of two different cultures.

"I read Sinhala books since my father did so and English books and Latin because of my aunts. I think my father was a very tactful person and in a way a good psychologist. He once found me trying to fix a piece of lace for my underskirt and asked why I was doing this. Why do you want this? Who will notice it and how much does it cost? I replied that it cost fifty cents a yard. He told me rice was five cents a measure and one can buy 10 measures of rice for that money.

"He thus taught me relative values at an early age. It was done tactfully and gently with no scolding."

On another occasion while at Newstead, Dr. de Silva recalled the visit of Tagore's troupe.

"Our dancing teacher Gem Paulickpulle had told us about oriental dancing and we were going to be taken for the performance. But when I told my father he reminded me a teacher from my first village school was getting married on the same day and she would feel very hurt if I did not attend the wedding. I was very unhappy about it but now in retrospect I am glad that as a teenager I was given two lessons in life. One not to hurt people and second to get one's priorities straight. These lessons have stood me in good stead.

"At school as a bright student I was chosen to do Western classics. All very well, said my father as long as you do not forget or neglect the value of your mother tongue. So, I always kept up with my Sinhala which has undoubtedly helped me.'

'I did well in my Cambridge Senior and when my aunts and I were jubilant wanting to celebrate, my father said, don't be boastful and invite envy- another good lesson. On his death bed he told a fellow ayurvedic physician Mudaliyar S. B. A. Samarasinghe to please look after his pupils, particularly the youngest of them. He said he was happy to die, having built a free ayurvedic dispensary for everyone irrespective of race or caste. Until his end he taught me the salutary lesson of selflessness.

"I learnt at school, the ideals of simplicity, responsibility and concern for others. The Methodist Missionary school is very firm about instilling these values .I still recall and cherish Miss Dixon the principal, who in one of her prize day speeches said we are sending from Newstead girls who find happiness in simple things, dependable girls who put their conscience into their work and girls who can take responsibility. This is something that has stayed with me.

"My husband Dr. S.L. de Silva always told me whatever we buy for the house must be functional. We must not buy to keep up with the Joneses. He also wanted to build a house in a rural setting so that we could live a quiet life with no pretences.

"He also asked me not to wear ostentatious jewellery for he felt it was in bad taste. These are the influences he had on me."

At the University Mrs. Silva sat for English honours and while there inculcated a measure of independence.

Today our first woman Chancellor lives in her beautiful house with a large garden and says humbly it was all because of the influences in her early life which set her values.