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DateLine Sunday, 20 July 2008

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Government Gazette

‘I tolerate my husband’s crazy ways’



lakmal@sundayobserver.lk

Geetha speaks of life with Sunil Perera the much adored musician:



Pix:Chintaka Kumarasinghe

“Oba dutu mul dine...’ (the first day I saw you) is my favourite out of all the songs of Sunil,” says Geetha, wife of Sunil Perera, Gypsies leader and `Baila Chakrawarthi’. Sunil, the man who has hit the whole country with his deep mellifluous voice, once said in an interview that other than his mother, his wife is the most respectable woman in his world.

Mingling Western Cha-Cha, Rock, Hip-Hop or Reggae with local verse, Sunil with his clan of Gypsies have tried to introduce new innovations to his fans. All his songs were hits. For the past 40 years, Gypsies has recorded only about 100 songs.

The quality of the song is their main target while rendering a message or a different perspective in a novel way of their own. There’s no need to give a lengthy introduction about Gypsies, as it would be unusual to find even a kid who hasn’t tapped his toes on the floor when Sunil’s song is on the air.

Music has no barriers so is it for love. Geetha waits patiently to reveal her story with Sunil which has a history of 26 years. “I really respect my wife for tolerating all my nonsense and not leaving me. If it was any other woman, I would have been a divorcee by now,” I (the writer) recall the very words which Sunil once spoke at a similar interview over a TV channel.

The moderate size woman with an extremely pleasant smile when every time she speaks a word, has given a wide margin to her hubby in their lives. “I assume that we, women are born for sacrifice. It is a duty of a woman, and that’s why we are meant to bear children,” she voices in belief.

Geetha Kulatunga was born on March 18 in 1967 to Mahinda Kulatunga, Sub- Inspector of the Police and Dunitha Kulatunga. Geetha was the second of four in the family.

“Since my father was in the Police, we had to go from town to town along with his transfers. Hence I studied in about 7-8 schools and my last school was Mahamaya Balika Vidyalaya. My father was stationed in Colombo and we were staying at Pannipitiya. I was in my O/Ls class, when for the first time I met Sunil,” she reminisces.

Geetha was fond of Kandyan and Bharatha dancing. She started attending dancing classes of Rajini Selvanayagam at the Buddhist Hall, Moratuwa.

“It was 1981. Gypsies were a popular band in the country. I’ve heard about them, but was not that interested as many others did. But, once I got the chance to go for a show by the Gypsies with my sister and cousins.

After the show, we were coming out of the place, when a slight drizzle started. There was a van, and I just leaned against it. Somebody in that van peeped out and looked. It was Sunil!”, she recalls.

Sunil who was an extremely social man by nature thought of having a word with the pretty teenager who had a long hair and was in a simple ankle length dress.

“I too started talking to him, but didn’t have any special fanatic enthusiasm nor did I get excited over this meeting. We talked very casually, and then he asked me to come and meet him at his place like he would ask any other fan of his,” she reminisces.

Geetha met Sunil some other day at his place and was soon in his fan club. “We were good friends, and I was too young to think about Sunil in any other way. He was 15 years older to me and treated me as a younger sister, and that’s all. When it was possible he used to come to Nugegoda to meet me, and used to drop me home.

I never met him alone my sister was always with me. I didn’t see anything wrong in our relationship though he was a popular man, for me he was just like a brother or cousin. He has a great sense of humour, so anyone who has met him would automatically love to have lengthy conversations with him as he knew how to make you laugh,” she smiles.

Sunil was a hero in Geetha’s world. She used to reminisce above his jokes with herself as she rarely had a friend to share them with. Though she was taking things so cool, the eyes around her were taking fire home.

“My mother was an extremely strict person. Somebody who had seen me getting into Sunil’s vehicle with my sister, had given the tip to my mother. She was devastated and started scolding me, and never believed me even when I said I had nothing to do with him. She thought we were carrying on, and asked me stop saying `Sindu kaarayo’ (singers) would not be a good match with our family.

There were days she had hit me. But, somehow or other I didn’t stop phoning Sunil and meeting him, knowing we hadn’t anything between us that would create more problem with my mom,” recalls Geetha.

Geetha was about 15 years and studying for her O/Ls. Her mother who couldn’t endure the gossips she heard over her daughter, decided to stop Geetha going to school. First, it was for three months. Geetha was idling at home sighing, seeing her siblings and neighbouring teens going to school.

After three months her mother said “Ok, you can go back to school, but no nonsense with Sunil again.” Geetha nodded her head, but by that time was quite stubborn in her thoughts. She phoned Sunil again, and met him. His meeting was bringing her a lot of joy.

When her mother got to know about Geetha’s disobedience, she declared war at home, and stopped her going to school completely. Geetha was devastated and wrecked. She was very angry with her mom. Even her father had no say over it. One night, she took a decision, wrote a letter to her mom and eloped from home.

“I went to Boralesgamuwa to one of my friends place. Her sister was planning to take me home with Sunil and explain to my parents that we were not lovers, and to arrange for me to go back to school again as I was to do O/Ls... But, before that my parents had lodged a complaint at the Police saying that Sunil had abducted me and vanished. I was under age, so it was a criminal offence. Homagama police arrested Sunil and I too had to appear there. It was around 3.00 am on October 25 in 1981,” recollects Geetha.

Sunil and Geetha both tried to prove to the parents of both who has come to the police over their arrest that they were friends and nothing else was going on. But, nothing could convince Geetha’s mom.

“Finally, Sunil said he would marry me, and asked my parents to let me continue with my studies first. But, nothing worked with my mother. I was shocked, and didn’t know what was going to happen.

At last, Sunil’s parents took us to a Registrar, a friend of theirs at Moratuwa, woke him up and registered our marriage at 4 o’clock in the morning. Sunil, later told me that after they saw me at the Police, his parents had told him, `Son, the girl looks decent and ok. If you like her, go ahead and marry her. We have no objections’... His parents liked me then and there.

When I think about it now it can be expressed that a great blessing was showered upon us,” smiles Geetha.Ivor Sylvester Sunil Perera was born on September 14 in 1952 to Anton Perera, ex-army person cum businessman and Dorine Perera.

Sunil was the second of the nine children in his family. Nihal, Sunil, Lal, Nimal and Piyal were the five brothers who later started `Gypsies’ musical band which turned the local music upside down with their innovative rebellious lyrics, melodies and singing. Sunil had his education first at St.Sebestian College, Moratuwa and then entered St.Peter’s College, Colombo.

After crashing in his O/Ls his father decided, music would do him best than anything else, and inspired all his sons to start their band `Gypsies’ in 1969. Sunil and his brothers learnt the guitar under Vincent Jayawardane and George Ferdinando arranged the Band for them. They did voice training under Loren Abeysekara, Lily Godridge and Maryanne David.

`Gypsies’ mainly concentrated on Western radio music and songs first. But, since they felt the wider demand for the Sinhala songs, they too decided to opt for it. `Linda Langa Sangamaya’ and `Amma...Amma’ were the first local songs of Gypsies.

Sajith, Rehana, Gayan and Manisha are the four `Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma’ (Eastern music notes) born in Sunil’s nest. Though just 41 years, Geetha is today a grandmother. Her elder son, Sajith who is married to Tahani (popular singer Dalreen Suby’s daughter) is already a father of a two and half year old baby girl. “Sajith was born when I was 16, and others were born each year after that. I was a mother of four when I reached the age of 20,” she laughs.

Question: Why did you think of stopping at four, as there were more notes (Pa, Da, Ni, Sa) in music?

Geetha: (Laughs) Our children and we are like friends. sons studied at St.Peter’s and girls went to St.Bridget’s.

Sajith works for Ceylinco Group and runs his own Advertising business. Gayan has his music band. Rehana is also married, and is a housewife. Our youngest, Manisha is following a Fashion Designing course.

Q: Sunil and you come from two different backgrounds. Did this affect your family life in any stage?

Geetha: He comes from a Catholic background and I’m a Buddhist. I could get on with his family members and haven’t encountered much difficulty though our social status were also different. Racial differences has never be a problem either of us. Even our eldest son, Sajith is married to a Muslim girl and Rehana is married to a Buddhist boy.

Both Gayan and Manisha are also engaged to Buddhists. Sunil is a cool person at home and gets angry rarely. But, there were so many other things that would have destroyed my marriage, if I didn’t act wisely. Like many other famous personalities, Sunil also got into many temptations, especially in the first ten years of our marriage. When I heard of them I used to ask him straight.

He never denied me, and if he had done something wrong, he had always confessed. He had promised me not to repeat the wrong once again, but it took nearly quarter century for him to realise the iniquity he was committing.

Q: How did you face life in difficult situations like that?

Geetha: Other than asking him straight I’ve never discussed them with anybody, even with my parents. Even if somebody asked me I would slip out of the matter saying `that’s all what people gossip about’. I have never ever argued or scolded Sunil over the things that were taking place.

I was a woman who wept silently. I’m a devoted Buddhist and treading the Buddhist way of life was the only remedy for my anguish. I used to recite Gaathas at home and go for Bodhi Poojas seeking relief. I did all my duties my husband. I provided a peaceful healthy home front to my children. I think my sacrifice succeeded, and my endeavour didn’t go in vain.

Today, Sunil is a totally different person. He has started to explore into Buddhism, and has become a great disciple of Buddhist philosophy. We are Sai devotees as well. Sunil reads a lot on Buddhism, and even on Sai Baba’s preaching. My children, though they are Catholics by birth, come to temple and take part in Sai Bajans with me whenever they can. They too read a lot on religion.

Q: With your experience, what message can you give to society?

Geetha: Being women, we have a great responsibility by our family as well as by the society. If you cannot go out of the way and render some service to the society, at least be aware that you are not responsible in breaking others’ marriages. A man cannot clap with one hand, and if there’s an illicit affair, the woman would also be responsible to it. Some say marriage are made in heaven, but many who preach this do wrong, tempt men and cause trouble in another woman’s marriage.

Question: Future plans?

Geetha: Lead a happy and good life with Sunil and my family.

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