TRIBUTES | Sunday Observer


Dr. Jean Arsanayagam:

A beacon of Sri Lankan English literature

It was sad to learn the untimely demise of Dr. Jean Arsanayagam, a literati among those who have predilection to Sri Lankan English literature. Her demise has left a deep void among the famous writers that Kandy has produced.

Arsanayagam was an exemplary teacher of St.Anthony’s College, Kandy for many years. She was a well-noted figure and yet feared by some due to her high standard of learning as well as stringent demands on discipline from all her pupils. Jean was the epitome of accomplishment, a well-learned figure with Bachelors and Masters degrees to her credit. She used her knowledge to teach many students, from the rudiments of the English language to its evolution and development in literature. She taught English to students until her demise serving the needs of the young and the contemporary society.

Arsanayagam affectionately known as ‘Arsi’ at St.Anthony’s College, Kandy, is today mourned by her students on her demise. She was an erudite personality who was a guiding star to her students. She was always accompanied during those years by her husband Mr. Thiagaraja Arsanayagam, another high achiever in English literary pursuits.

Arsanayagam developed her own style of teaching with contemporary methods. She explained the language to her students in vivid animation creating humour and understanding. Her students remember her with nostalgia and affection. As in today, the tutorial staff of St.Anthony’s College, consisted of highly qualified teachers, hailing from illustrious backgrounds. The presence of Arsanayagam was evident to many students on the corridors of St.Anthony’s College upper school.

She was exemplary in discipline which she instilled in her students. Many who came to know her found in her a surprisingly lovable lady with patience, friendship.

Arsanayagam who had a doctorate from an American University preferred to be known as an educationalist. Her entry into literary work was not a co-incidence. She came from a well educated Burgher family and married to Mr. Thiagaraja Arsanayagam also from an educated Tamil family. She is a mother of two daughters who always follow in the footsteps of her parents. She has authored over 40 books in English, including narratives of poetry. Her work has created public demand. Arsanayagam has been featured frequently in newspapers, including the Sunday Observer. On many occasions, the Cultural Affairs Department recognised her extraordinary ability as an author. Her husband won the Gratien Award and proved their ability as a family to achieve success in literary pursuits.

Today Arsanayagam is no more, having left to join her Creator in heaven. Being a devout Christian, she has left an unshakable memory of faith, love, friendship, simplicity, altruism and magnanimity towards all in her journey. May her soul rest in eternal peace!

Miran Perera,


To you Madam

If your poetry is a vast ocean
Mine is only a tiny drop,
But Madam, l’ll pen some words
Of the acquaintance between you and us.
You were an internationally acclaimed poet
For us, a teacher filled with humanity too.
We first met you at Peradeniya E.T.C.
Our lecturer, a highly recognised poetess,
We proudly entered your classes
To learn the subject, English Literature.
My heart leapt up with immense joy
For you were my supervisor at teaching practice,
You entered my class with a broad smile and
Commented, “ You are a typical Kandyan”
That expelled my fears and nervousness,
And it was so always with all the others.
Later in my life, as a teacher educator
Followed your method, not to panic students.
The roles you played in life were multi-faceted
Teacher, teacher-educator, wife, mother and a poetess,
Now you have stopped playing all the roles
And secretly departed leaving a void.
We are indebted to you, Gracious Lady,
For the service you have rendered to society.
May You Rest in Peace.

Kumari Weerasooriya,


Alfred Nicholas:

A friend with Christian values


I came to know Alfred S. Nicholas (PJK.KMN) born on September 15, 1921 when I visited K.L. West Malaysia with my batch mate Senaka Pillapitiya and found accommodation in Alfi’s wife Celine’s parents house before we commenced an intelligence course with the special branch of Malaysia. Alfi known to most Sri Lankans lived in Brickfields about two km from his wife’s parents.

Prior to our meeting him, we were introduced to him and his family by the many Sri Lankan Police officers who had followed this course: Richard Weerasekara, Quintus Jayasinghe, (Rtd.SP), C.I. Vernon Weerasinghe, M.S. Kadigawa (Rtd.SSP), Gaya Patikirikorale, Srija Senanayake, B.A. Jayanathan, M.A. Jayathilake, Pat Suaris, Lal Wewalghe, Chandra Herath, George Herath, Indradasa and several others. He was known not only to the Sri Lankan Police but also to the Malaysian Police Officers. He had a wide circle of friends.

During our stay, he was there every evening and every weekend to take us out and entertain us or to take us on a tour of Malaysia, including Penang and even to famous football clubs. He was a large hearted loving person who showered us with may gifts and the farewell gift was cash in dollars as we had exchange restrictions in Sri Lanka during the period.

My friend and companion Senaka was married when we followed this course in 1972 and he had no children and this worried him, but it did not deter him from purchasing special gifts for his beloved wife and Alfi and his wife Celine were of immense help in obtaining medical assistance and advice to start a family. Both Alfi and his wife Celine were like our foster parents always there with us to get the best and enjoy the utmost in Malaysia during our period of three months.

His children were all school going and I remember them as Annie, Andrew, Agnes, Christopher, Catherine and Clarence. They were a lovely family who still maintain Sri Lankan values. Alfi had been a resident of Jaffna and migrated to Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, along with his brothers and set up the ‘ORIENT’ Bank in Kuala Lampur.

He was a Director. Celine’s parents were our ‘Boarding Master and Boarding Mistress’. They lived well and by the standards of that old fashioned era, but loving and caring and responsible towards Sri Lankans who lodged with them.

Alfi believed in the saying ‘The hand that gives gathers’ and a sincere and faithful friend, a person with a good heart as the saying goes ‘My strength is as the strength of thee because my heart is pure’. (Alfred Lord Tennyson).

Alfi was full of manners. He believed that moral virtues are the foundation of society in general, and of friendship in particular, but attention, manners, and graces adore and strengthen them.

Though Alfi migrated to Malaysia, his heart was in Sri Lanka. He had great love for this country and never refrained from supporting Sri Lanka in Cricket or Football.

His visits to Sri Lanka were numerous and all those who enjoyed his hospitality never failed to host him and his family and take him on a tour. His children too never failed to contact us if they ever visited.

About five years ago, Gaya Patikirikorale and I with my wife went to Malaysia to see Alfi’s family. Alfi still insisted in driving his car and taking us around Kuala Lampur and gave us an opportunity to meet old friends such as Kamalanathan and Martin Abisheghama and family.

Alfi lived a good life and lived 93 years with lots of love and care bestowed on him by his beloved wife Celine and the children and his grandchildren.

The value of life lies not on the length of days but in the use we make of them. A man may live long, get little from life. But, Alfi had it in abundance. Whether you find satisfaction in life, depends not on your tale of years, but on your will.

Alfi was a cheerful giver and a devout Catholic who lived a true Christian life and nothing could worry him. For him, family and friends were more sacred than anything in life. Alfi believed that, “When you give God what you’ve got, he gives you what he’s got’ (Psalm:101;2).

Alfi, your life was full of loving deeds. May you rest in peace!

Nihal De Alwis,