A Centennial to the centre: Remembering my son | Sunday Observer

A Centennial to the centre: Remembering my son

Nadeepa, my late son (on right) with his centennial friends
Nadeepa, my late son (on right) with his centennial friends

The schools have commenced after a long lock down. The new dates for the GCE (Advanced Level) examination and for the Grade Five scholarship examination have been announced.

One thing in common for both student groups is that they probably represent one common generation often called centennials. Though they are yet to join the workforce, much has been observed about them in terms of their possible differences compared  to  the previous  generations. Ironically, I am writing this article, while experiencing the fourth year of passing away of my beloved  son, who also belonged to this  generation.  


Centennials  represent the newest generation  according to the  classification of generations. They  are also popularly called Generation Z.  Though there are various opinions regarding the  starting year, centennials are  supposed to be born between  the  years 2000 and 2020 with plus or  minus  2-3 year variations. Some  authors  even  refer to 1995 as  the  starting year  of  this generation. 

Generational names are the handiwork of popular culture. Some are drawn from a historic event; others from rapid social or demographic change; others from a big turn in the calendar. 

The millennial generation falls into the third category. The label refers those born after 1980 – the first generation to come of age in the new millennium.  Then come the centennials. 

Generation X covers people born from 1965 through 1980. The label long ago overtook the first  name affixed to this generation: the Baby Bust. Xers  are often depicted as savvy, entrepreneurial loners. The Baby Boomer label is drawn from the great spike in fertility that began in 1946, right after the end of World War II, and ended almost as abruptly in 1964, around the time the birth control pill came on the market. It’s a classic example of a demography-driven name.

The Silent generation  describes adults  born from 1928 through 1945. Children of the Great Depression and World War II, their ‘Silent’ label refers to their conformist and civic instincts. It also makes for a nice contrast with the noisy ways of the anti-establishment Boomers. 

One obvious factor among all these generations is that the names are associated with events that took place in the West, and to a very high extent in the USA. The degree of relevance and applicability to Asian countries such as Sri Lanka is questionable. Despite the criticism of the nature of origin being very American, global acceptance  of the presence  of multiple  generations is evident. 

The Millennials  or Generation Y employees, born between 1980-1999, have differences in their perceptions, preferences and performance.  They are much more tech-savvy compared to their Generation X predecessors, having been exposed to rapid advancement in information and communication technology during the past decades. They are also for more flexible work arrangements. Rigid eight-hour work rules will make them bored and unproductive. They are also much more ecological conscious in going green.  These triple aspects of tech-savviness, work flexibility and green-consciousness act as key indicators with regard to their preferences towards work arrangements.

Then come the Centennials who are  yet to enter the workplace. They represent those who were born after 2000. Popularly known as Generation Z, they were exposed to the internet from day one of their lives. Obviously they are far more tech-savvy than millennials.  Through research, Generation Z has already been identified as being curious, courageous and creative. I see many more such Cs in Centennials  I have  associated with. 

Memories of  my Centennial son 

Devnaka Abhisith Nadeepa Dharmasiri, my younger son had to leave earth on August 8 before his 14th birthday on  September 28, 2016. He was a Grade 9 student at Royal College. He left me, Ruklanthi, my wife and Navodi, my elder daughter. The shock and surprise experienced not only by us but many others was indeed significant.

He was an all-rounder with a flair for music and for technology.  He was loved by everyone who had an encounter with him. This was evident in the way students, teachers, relatives and friends alike  emotionally responded upon hearing his sudden demise. Being a junior prefect and a chorister at Royal College, he was in the limelight as a bright and obedient student.

I learnt a lot by being with him. My association with him gave me much exposure to discover him. As a life-long learner in management, it was indeed ‘reverse mentoring’ in action. I learnt how  much centennials are  different from Generation X like me.

Lessons learnt from my son

Sadly but surely, I learnt a lot from my son. He, despite the relatively short stay of 14 years on earth, created an impact in many lives. Let me reflect on them through ten Cs.


I learnt how to be cheerful from him. He was always with a smile. This was repeatedly mentioned by his friends who came to pay their last respects. When I was stressed out and tired, his warmth and cheerfulness was a relief for me. From early childhood, he was a ‘hugging’ boy.

He used to request me and his mom, “give me a big hug”. A flying kiss was a regular feature when he was half asleep when I had to leave early morning. He  was the cheer generator at home. The popular descriptions of positive thinkers was very much evident in little Nadeepa.


He was a guardian to his elder sister Navodi. He was conscious of the fact that she was struggling with the pressures of GCE Advanced Level studies. He had to sacrifice many excursions because of Navodi’s AL encounters. His care was aptly experienced by my parents as well as Ruklanthi’s parents. The way he showed his genuine love for me, Ruklanthi and Navodi was a classic case of caring. He showed us how we should care for each other through timely action.


The way school teachers appreciated Nadeepa was such a delight for us as parents. He was one whom the teachers could have confidence in assigning him a task.  This was further demonstrated by him being a primary prefect and a junior prefect. The fundamental elements of commitment we encounter in management were seen in him.


Nadeepa was a member of the ‘Inspirational Choir’ which sang the welcome song at the airport when Pope Francis visited Sri Lanka the previous year. He made many speeches in front of large audiences and sang many times in a variety of entertainment events.  He fell down in a pool and broke his ankle the previous year. Following which he was on crutches for two months. Yet, he never lost his spirit. All these were signs of  his confidence. I humbly admire his ways, compared to where I was at his age.


My son never skipped playing. He enjoyed playing cricket and soccer. He also enjoyed computer games. Though I did not understand what it really meant, he told me that he was a clan leader in virtually playing the ‘Clash of the clans’.  He often told me and Ruklanthi not to be too serious. We in fact were worried at times, whether he was neglecting his studies. Yet, he proved otherwise in passing examinations with flying colours. I learnt how to be relaxed yet stay in focus, from him. 


He was a natural team leader. There had been many instances where he played a key role in organising class parties, trips and other events. The way the others rallied around him was amazing. He knew how to gather friends for a worthy cause. While I was teaching teamwork, he really demonstrated it in his own way. 


Nadeepa was naturally creative on many fronts. He wrote poetry and composing songs. He was handy with the camera I bought from the USA and took many uncommon shots. He won many creative writing competitions. What I insist on being creative, I saw clearly in my son. 


I saw the curiosity in him, the way he asked many intelligent questions, especially when we were travelling together. He wanted to think deeply and to probe. No wonder, science was his favourite subject. At times, I felt he wanted to challenge the assumptions and have a fresh way. What I was teaching as ‘out of the box thinking’, I saw in his own original approach. 


As a junior prefect, Nadeepa demonstrated credibility to the fullest. He was trustworthy in executing the assigned tasks big or small. That’s why teachers approached him as the preferred choice in getting work done. While being credible is a major challenge in corporate fronts, the way he demonstrated it was truly remarkable. 


Nadeepa wanted to be a scientist and a priest. That may sound as a unique combination. He was spiritual by nature. I saw a young pure heart brimming with genuineness in him. He was having asthma but got quite used to an inhaler.

Strangely, he experienced an acute asthmatic attack resulting in a struggle at the Medical Intensive  Care Unit of Lady Ridgeway Hospital for three days. 

Way forward

We created the Nadeepa Dharmasiri Memorial Trust Fund (NDMTF) with the website www.glorytogodthronadeepa.info  to assist needy children of his age. Slowly and steadily, it serves many deserving children without  pomp and pageantry.

I still recall watching through the glass door of the MICU while Ruklanthi was inside sitting close to Nadeepa. She consoled me saying, “he is too precious for this world”. Life has to go on, one moment at a time.

I am sure the Sri Lankan Centennials I interact with would demonstrate  the above  Cs in the present and the future.  Good bye my sweet angel. You will remain with us till we join you one day.