There comes a time when the cup overflows: Beauty is her forte | Sunday Observer

There comes a time when the cup overflows: Beauty is her forte

A moment of glory

Laughter signifies her. Peels of it, cascading down the hall reaches our ears. “Hello,” she greets us, a ringing lilt in her voice.

Beautiful! That’s who she is - dressed in blue seated in front of a flower bed, blue flowers swaying with her tresses to the symphony of the breeze and the white browed bulbuls on a golden rain tree (Ahala). ‘Beauty’ is her forte. A dress designer by profession she likes to bring beauty and colour to the lives of others. A deep faith in religion and self confidence had shaped her thinking as well as actions. Her love, which is to share her experience and expertise to bring a smile to another face, had brought forward her talent as a public speaker. At present, her cup ‘runneth over’. But, for a long time she had felt it hadn’t. Yet, gratitude and insight prevail as she speaks of the time that life was not favourable, where many obstacles and challenges lay piled up in her path. Looking at the solution is the key, she stresses. Eventually, there comes a time when the cup overflows. “At the right moment when the cup is overflowing you feel - this is life all about”.

Her life is a ‘continuous feast’. Happy and content is Nayana Ashcharya Jayakody. She goes around the country, often speaking mainly to women and children. Be they mothers, teachers, factory workers, university students or schoolchildren – there’s one topic that the organizers want Ashcharya to speak or discuss with them. That is ‘How to Succeed in Life’. What makes her a sought after motivational speaker, who helps enlighten her listeners, help them re-think, re-plan their future? It is the very obstacles and challenges that Ashcharya had to face in life.

Becoming a Dress Designer is not something everyone would do. It is not a field one would venture into easily.

The synchronizing of textures, shapes and hues into a work of art and beauty, appealing to the eyes of many is a demanding task even for those internationally renowned ‘master designers.’ For Ashcharya, it was doubly challenging. Life had taken from her the physical trait regarded ‘vital’ in the trade – the ability to see. Consequent, to a terrorist bombing in March 2000, Ashcharya lost her eyesight.

However, what she lacked physically, she compensated with determination and inner vision. It was not something she ‘learned academically,’ says Ashcharya. “I was born with this skill as a designer. I never went to a university or had any academic background of being a designer,” she explains.

Yet, in 2014 she entered Sri Lanka’s Up & Coming Fashion Designer Competition. Though visually impaired, she was treated the same way as the other designers, a fact Ashcharya is thankful for. “I had to compete with designers who were more qualified than me academically,” she reminiscences. Getting through the quarter finals and semi-finals were a feat.

What had made her heart skip was when her designs were chosen to be presented on the catwalk during the finals. It had not been easy. Communicating the visual in her mind to an artist for necessary sketches, and then to the seamstress to bring it into form was more of a work ‘based on trust’ she explains. Selecting materials for her designs was no cakewalk either.

Though she could recognize colour through touch, “when the shop keepers get to know I am visually impaired, they try to fool me. So, sometimes I have to be firm, not to get exploited.”

Determination and hard work was what carried her through the different stages of the competition. Understanding, support and encouragement of her immediate family had propelled her forward. She had won the ‘Most Dedicated Designer’ award at the competition.

Later, her designer brand ‘ChristianaGlory’ was selected to present their wear at the Ceylon Fashion Week (2016). At present Ashcharya, through ChristianaGlory caters to online customers.

Unique in her role as a professional designer; for Ashcharya could probably be the only visually impaired fashion designer in the world. What made her get into a field none other had thought of? Ashcharya says, every human being is born with a unique talent. “I personally believe people are born with such amazing talents, but fail to recognize that because we try to satisfy those around us – parents, relatives, friends, spouse, or children.

Therefore, we basically fail to understand why we are born on this earth and what we could do to make this world a better place.”

Though she had known her talent for art and design through childhood experience, her upbringing suppressed it, she comments. “When I was schooling, I had a friend who liked dress designing. Both of us designed clothing for other friends.

Visually impaired

Our joy was to hear them telling us that they had used our designs,” she reminiscences. However, dress designing was far from her career goals at the time. “My parents always said - you always focus on how you become successful. How you bring yourself to the place where other people will come and look up to you.” So, Ashcharya had joined the banking sector and had her future set on that path.

Her ‘Aha’ moment had arrived much later and at great cost. “It was after the accident. The moment I lost my sight, I lost everything. It didn’t happen immediately. I didn’t realize the gravity of losing my life, my entire life with my loved ones.

However, day by day I was becoming a burden- because I didn’t only lose my sight. I couldn’t walk for many months. Doctors didn’t believe that I’d ever walk because the injuries to my left leg were more severe than damages to my sight.” Ashcharya is objective as she explains the abandonment she felt from her own family. How she was left to fend for her own.

The challenges she had to overcome as a visually impaired young woman living on her own. It had been a time of reflection, of soul searching – a struggle between what the society told her and that of her true inner self. After she had ‘unlearned’ the patterns of wrong thinking was the great revelation.

That’s when Ashcharya decided to sharpen her inborn skills in dress designing by participating at the Up & Coming Fashion Designer Competition. By that time she had a ‘new’ family who saw her ‘true self’ beyond the visual impairment; loved her deeply, accepted her as ‘one of their own,’ who encouraged and stood by her during the hard times.

In Sri Lanka most of the time parents, ‘try to live their own dreams through their children’s lives’. It should not be so, says Ashcharya. Children have their own individual inborn talents and skills. Most of the time, they are unique and marvelous.

Allowing the youth to hone their inborn skills would take them a long way, in bringing them true success.

In her quest of developing inborn talent, Ashcharya ventured into another field, ‘quite by accident,’ but one very close to her heart. “I was born with a very sensitive heart. Always as a child I understood somebody else’s pain and suffering.

But I was born in a family where my parents never let me venture into that kind of field”. And now, she helps many to have a smile on their faces, to stand strong against odds and adversities, and to succeed in life. She is thankful to lecturer and motivational speaker Udaya Devamulla, for introducing her to public speaking. Explaining about her stepping stone into public speaking she says, “I was asked by this amazing lecturer Udaya Devamulla to participate in one of his programs. That was the first time I stepped on to a stage to speak before such a crowd.

There was a large gathering of teachers. Many were older and more experienced than I, and I had to address them. But, they listened and I managed to share my experience, and through that, give them a boost to do what they do. Thereafter, I was invited by other institutions.”

Indomitable spirit

Most of her speaking assignments are in garment factories. “It is an industry, where a lot of girls from villages are employed in. Many come to cities such as Colombo without knowing anything about the lifestyle.

They travel from home just to do the job, and after coming here they are being carried away by various social trends, sometimes they are lost. So, by sharing my experience with them I encourage them to have success in their lives without falling into these pitfalls. Because I feel, we are all successes. Where we fall is when we face a problem. We focus on the problem without focusing on solutions.” Sustaining that would be an indomitable spirit.

“Success is not being greedy to achieve targets where we will lose our own selves ultimately. Such people are there where they have received everything but ultimately lost themselves,” ruminates Ashcharya. To achieve true success, “Whether you are a world famous artist or a normal person walking on the streets of Sri Lanka all we want in life is peace, the inner peace.

The final target is peace and tranquility within themselves.” This inner peace and tranquility is not something that one could purchase with amassed amounts of wealth or acquire by the amount of power one wields. None but one’s own self could find happiness within.

Fundamental is finding one’s inborn talents and using it to support self as well as being of service to others and leading a contented life; with time to enjoy ones relationships with family, friends and the society at large which leads to a happy tranquil heart. Would she call herself successful? Definitely, is her confident reply “that is why I say for a cheerful heart, life is a continuous feast”. 

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