TRIBUTES | Sunday Observer


 Gunapala Wickramaratne:  Principal elevated Nalanda College to great heights

What counts in life is not the mere fact that we lived, but, what difference we made to make others happy. If you devote your life with commitment and determination to serve your country, such human beings never die nor do their names fade, in this world. The demise of such men or women are irreparable losses to one’s country.

The great educationist, teacher, scholar, renowned principal, administrator, Gunapala Wickramaratne, who passed away on August 3 2018, belongs to the above category. He dedicated his entire life for education and produced thousands of men and women of service to the country. For Wickramaratne, teaching was not merely a profession, but a way of life. He was an intellectual visionary.

The late Gunapala Wickramaratne, was an ornament to education. He was methodical, strict and disciplined, and full of charm. When he entered a class-room or office room, he brought in a breath of fresh air with him, which lighted the entire atmosphere. He was a philosophical anarchist, who possessed an agility of mind. Further, he was well mannered with an easy grace, a man of honesty and integrity. Hidden in his tall, majestic, impressive figure, was a heart of gold.

Born on May 19, 1926, to a family of educationists in the south of Sri Lanka, Wickramaratne’s father was a reputed Principal; his mother, a respected teacher, from Pathegama, Kottegoda.

After a brilliant school career at Rahula College, Matara, and Mahinda College, Galle, Wickramaratne was one of the three students to enter the prestigious University of Ceylon, Colombo, in 1945 from the Matara district. After successfully passing the Bachelor of Arts Degree Examination, he later obtained his Master’s.Further, he completed the Diploma in the teaching profession while he was engaged in the teaching profession.

After passing the Degree Examination, he joined the teaching staff of his ‘Alma-mater’, Rahula College. In 1961, he assumed duty as Principal Ananda Sastralaya, Kotte, and later, he became the Principal of Nalanda College, Colombo. He elevated Nalanda College to great heights, ushering in the golden-era of this great Buddhist educational institute. Wickramaratna was an unwavering optimist, thoughtful, pleasant, and even-tempered.

As a graduate teacher I served Nalanda College for five years. Many sweet memories about Wickramaratne still linger in my mind. He was a man with dynamism and vision. He knew each and every student, their capabilities and also that of his teachers. By 7 a.m., he was in the school premises, and left at 6 p.m. He devoted his entire life to education.

Wickramaratna was one of the greatest principals, and a fine administrator. Educationists of his calibre are rare today. After retirement, he wrote many articles and letters on education. It was a pleasure to listen to him and discuss matters on education. His philosophy was moulded in a manner to produce productive, disciplined citizens.

Wickramaratne, never cared for class, race, colour or creed. He believed in ‘Country-Before Self’. He served in Jaffna, as well as in Galle as Director of Education. He believed in “One Sri Lanka.”

A great educationist, the late Gunapala Wickramaratne has left a great void in the education sector.

May you achieve the ‘Supreme Deathless State’.

- Premasara Epasinghe

Nafathul Hamsa Marikar Thahir: Strong and independent lady

When my father called me on Wednesday morning, August 1 informing that our beloved Wapamma is ill and is being brought to Colombo, I knew that despite her age, everything was going to be alright. She was a strong and independent lady and most importantly a fighter survivor. I knew she would pull through, just as she did the last time she suffered a stroke almost 20 years ago. Alas, it was not to be so, and my false blanket of security was taken away, as she quietly passed away three days later.

When I think of my beloved Wapamma, my heart fills with pride for being the much loved grand-daughter of that amazing lady. She was a phenomenal leader, holding our large family together and never letting us fall apart. The century old family home at Marikar Place in Maradana, Beruwala will never be the same without its cherished matriarch.

She hailed from a prominent Moor family in Beruwala, and was the beloved daughter of the late Sirajudeen Marikar (Deeen Mudalali) and late Ummu Zulaiha. She married my grandfather, Alhaj S.M.M. Thahir (Founder, Thahirs Pvt Ltd) and went onto have nine children, Ifthikar, Ayesha, Arusiya, Zulficar, Bishiriya, Munthaz, Kamal, Muheena and Kubra. A loving mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great grandmother, she found great joy and pride in her offspring who went onto qualify as doctors, lawyers, engineers and teachers and brought much pride to her.

Her warm smile would greet us every time we visited her. She would enthral us with her witty comments, custom-made rhymes and tales of yesteryear. She would also maintain a remarkable sense of calmness and patience during calamities and always advised us with her wise words.

Wapamma was born in the 1920s but was young at heart and up-dated on all the current affairs including the latest trends. It was a practice to ‘surprise’ her for her birthday with cake, balloons and gifts. The child-like joy on her face was absolutely rewarding, and I am eternally grateful that we were able to celebrate her birthday annually, bringing much joy into her life and precious invaluable memories to us.

My father, Ifthikar Ahamed, her eldest son, was one of her favourite children. He would devotedly visit her every Sunday, travelling from Colombo to Beruwala ignoring all other commitments, and providing her with her favourite goodies, Sustogen and Nestomalt the utilities for the week and also the latest supermarket deal which she would be curious about. They shared a special bond, and it was such a great lesson to us all, that nothing and no one can take the place of a beloved parent.

Late in the evening on Friday August 3, 2018, my beloved Wapamma passed away at the age of 94, after a brief illness. Her funeral was on the following day, Saturday, after the mid afternoon prayers. The vast number of people who flocked to pay their last respects to this wonderful lady was testament to her popularity and admirable personality. She was laid to rest at the Masjidul Abrar Mosque in Maradana, Beruwala where the rest of her family are buried.

Wapamma, your passing away marks a sad end of an era at the Marikar residence. May almighty Allah grant you the highest abode of Jannathul Firdouse.

- Sabrina Ifthikar Ahmed

Victoreen. M.Hassan: Loving thoughts of a wonderful wife

It is with a sense of deep sadness I write about my loving wife Victoreen. M.Hassan. We spent a happy and peaceful wedded life for almost 40 long years and Victoreen passed away peacefully on August 25,2008, after a brief illness. Vicky ten years have passed since I lost the light of my life. Although you cannot hear my voice or see my smiles, no more will you walk beside me, just as you did before. Vicky, I feel the love you had for me and hear you in my heart. Your gentle loving, admirable, qualities, and sincerity were evident at the crowds that thronged at your last journey. It broke my heart to walk beside you on that fateful day. I think of you in silence and often speak your name...... Victoreen. Now, all I have are memories and a photo in a frame. Your memory is a keepsake, from which I will never part. Today, tomorrow and forever my whole life through, I will always love and cherish you. In secret I weep, in silence I cry, as each lonely day passes by. There is only one thought that eases the pain, that is, knowing we will be together again. Loving thoughts till the end of time of a wonderful wife I am proud was mine.

For all you gave me and our children through the years, your time and love your prayers and tears, your patience, caring, and sharing is still a memory. For all this and more, ‘I still love you’. Vicky, God has taken care of you so you don’t have to be afraid. The pain I feel losing you will never go away from my mind. Your loving smile, your gentle face no one can fill your vacant place. You were a wife in a million, and you meant the world to me and I really loved you so.Each night I shed a silent tear as a speak to you in prayer to let you know I love you Vicky,and just how much I care for you.

Thank you for your endless love, that help through each day. You’re the wife I loved, and I was proud to be your husband and every day in a small way I celebrate your life.

Finally, thank you Victoreen for the wonderful and generous sacrifices you made for me, our children, and all the loving care and affection you showered on us. I remember not what I did for you, but I was for you, and what you were to me. Thank you for loving me and being what you were.

Till we meet again,

Sadly missed by your loving husband

- M. Kamil. A. Hassan

Kandiah Pathmanathan Easwaranathan A talented banker

The late Kandiah Pathmanathan Easwaranathan was from Karainagar, Jaffna. Having completed his schooling at Royal College, Colombo, his ambition was to join the banking service.

Being keen to join the Commercial Bank of Ceylon PLC, he applied to the Bank, did well in the interviews and without any influence joined the Bank in December 1982.

His first appointment was at the Head Office where he gained experience in all sectors of banking during his initial tenure of 6 years from 1982 to 1988.

In 1988 he was transferred to the Wellawatte branch.

There were only two state banks and two private banks in Wellawatte, at that time.

Now there are 18 banks, as well as several finance companies, Foreign currency exchange offices, pawning centres, etc. amounting to 20 outlets, thus totalling to 38 units.

During his tenure of 11 years at Wellawatte from 1988 to 1999, he was able to work efficiently in all areas with the experience he had gained at the Head Office.

He was cordial and friendly towards the customers and guided the junior staff whenever they needed help.

In 1999 he was transferred to the Corporate branch of the Bank, where he also worked as Manager in some divisions. He worked there from 1999 to 2011, and was then transferred back to Wellawatte Branch as Senior Manager.

The customers and the staff at Wellawatte were very happy with his return and business flourished.

Even as a Senior Manager, he had special rapport with both customers as well as staff and it was during his period that the new three storeyed building of the Commercial Bank was opened in Wellawatte in December 2016 having extended working hours till 8 p.m. He was also very close to the Board of Directors and helped in achieving the target for the branch until his retirement in mid March 2017 which he volunteered, in order to give space to the younger generation.

On July 25, 2018, he had gone to the Commercial Bank Head Office to wish Jegan Durairatnam, who was due to retire as MD/CEO and to congratulate Renganathan, his successor, and later participated in the events of the day. The same evening he suffered a heart attack and passed away.

May his soul rest in peace.

- A.K. Gnanakanthan

Baba Deen Kitchil Saldin: Responsibilities carried out with total commitment

B.D.K.Saldin, a former Director of Forbes & Walker Ltd, passed away on August 27, 2017.

Having qualified as a Chartered Accountant in December 1963, Saldin assumed duties on July 10 1964 at Forbes & Walker Ltd, when they were housed at Sir Baron Jayathilake Mawatha, Colombo 1.

His work involved overseeing personnel management apart from being in charge of Finance. In 1975 Saldin became a Director of Forbes & Walker Ltd, and was also the Company Secretary. He played a major role when Forbes decided to construct a new building at Nawam Mawatha, Colombo 2.

Saldin was a conscientious worker and devoted his full time to his office work. Responsibilities entrusted to him by the Board of Directors were carried out with total commitment. The hard work and dedication shown by Saldin, was always appreciated by the top management.

Those of us who knew him well, will always remember his wonderful qualities and hospitality.

He was a true gentleman, his honesty and integrity were exceptional qualities. Upon retirement in the late 1980s he devoted his time to religious work.

He kept himself physically fit until late in life by cycling daily and taking daily walks. Saldin is remembered with much respect.

- B.L.A. Dayananda JP
Former employee of Forbes & Walker Ltd.