TRIBUTEs | Sunday Observer


 Mallika Sirisuriya - Dedicated and compassionate teacher

I write these lines with profound sadness of my dear and only sister Mallika Sirisuriya (nee Karunaratne) who passed away on December 18, 2018 after a brief illness. She was 89.

My sister was the eldest of a family of five, two girls and three boys. She began her schooling at St. John’s Girls’ School, Nugegoda when Aldons was the Principal. The second world war was raging at this time in the early forties and our lives were changing.

My father, the late H.N.Karunaratne was a lecturer at the Government Training College (GTC), Colombo. GTC buildings were taken over by the military, and the GTC was transferred to Peradeniya. We too shifted to Peradeniya from Colombo.

Next, my sister and myself were admitted to Girls’ High School, Kandy, when Miss Allen was the Principal. My sister Mallika was a bright student from early days. Miss Allen retired and Miss Paul was our new Principal. My sister sat the then Government Senior School Certificate examination. She did so well that she was exempted from the London Matriculation Examination. She was not good at sports but devoted her time to other social activities. She became the captain of the Samson House. At the prize-giving, she won many prizes, including the Courtesy prize, a rare prize given to a student.

She was successful at the HSC and the university entrance exams. One of her subjects was Mathematics - her maths teacher being Miss Paul, the Principal. They were the first batch of Art students to occupy the new buildings of Peradeniya University when Sir Ivor Jennings was the first Vice Chancellor.

Having graduated, she took up a teaching appointment at Vijaya College, Matale. It is here that she met her life’s partner Chandrawansa Sirisuriya who was also a Graduate. They were happily married and settled in Matale. After a short period, her husband was transferred to Tholangamuwa Central College as Principal. For some time, they were employed in the same school. Subsequently, her husband was transferred to Sanghabodhi MV, Nittambuwa. My sister too was transferred to Ratnawali Balika M.V. Gampaha and after some time, she became the Vice Principal. She taught Geography for the higher forms, which was her favourite subject. After some time, luck smiled on her when she received a letter appointing her as Principal of Nalanda Balika MV, Minuwangoda.

She was an efficient Principal, a good administrator, a disciplinarian and a kind friend to all and a mother to her students. The darkest year was in 1984 when her beloved husband, succumbed to a heart attack. The burden of the family fell on her with four schoolchildren, three daughters travelling from Gampaha to Visaka Vidyalaya and son Rajindra to Ananda College, Colombo.

She was a devout Buddhist who faced life with fortitude and balance of mind. She gave her children the best education and today, Deepthika, Anoji and Chinthani are graduates doing well in life. 1988 dawned and it was time for her to retire.

After 12 years of yeomen service as Principal of Nalanda Balika MV, Minuwangoda, the school she loved and nurtured, it was difficult for her to leave it. The farewell speech was so emotional that a tear dropped from every eye. All parents, old girls and students regretted the departure of a Principal who treated every one with kindness and impartiality.

After her retirement, she devoted most of her time for social activities. She was well versed in Sinhala and English and contributed literary articles in the daily news papers. She conducted free English classes for teachers and students. She loved travelling and fulfilled a lifelong wish by making a pilgrimage to India. She helped build a temple at Potuvil.

My husband Raja and children will cherish the happy times we spent together with her family.

Goodbye dear Akka, I miss you very much as a loving sister and a friend too who was very dear to my heart always. May you attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana in the shortest time.

Sujatha Panditaratna