Mano Muthukrishna Candappa: A pioneer in many avenues | Sunday Observer

Mano Muthukrishna Candappa: A pioneer in many avenues

1 October, 2017

I first met Mano during my last year at school at Bishop’s College, when she and her brother Dinkar taught us shorthand and typing. As the daughter of Lawrie Muthukrishna who began The Polytechnic, the first ever school of this kind in Colombo, it was inevitable that Mano should follow in her eminent father’s footsteps, first work with him and then run the school with her two brothers, who were devoted to her, Prabhaker and Dinkar.

Later on in the swinging sixties, we got very close to each other through The National Council for Child and Youth Welfare, and organized many fundraising projects together, working well as a team. Our projects included the Miss Sri Lanka contests for the Council. It was through her that I started writing. She had noticed through reports and other documents I wrote, that I had a talent for writing and loved the English language. Mano had a regular column in The Sun, owned by the Dawasa group headed by the late Sepala Gunasena. She was planning a trip abroad, which was to be a fairly long stay overseas and introduced me to the late Sepala Gunasena and D.B. Dhanapala the owner and editor of this group and suggested that I take over the column while she was away. Both of them readily agreed and I will never forget that they gave me my first break as a writer. I had never written here, although I had studied journalism in London. I wrote the column, while Mano was away, and to my surprise, both of them insisted that I do another, my own column after she returned. Mano and I continued our friendship; our late husbands, George and Chandra knew each other and got on well with each other and we enjoyed many enjoyable evenings and outings together. Her two daughters, Romola and Sharadha would sometimes be dropped at my home before I married, for me to teach them cooking. She was one of the first to visit and support me when my children were born and even designed the décor of the room for my firstborn.

Mano was a pioneer in more avenues than one. In spite of continuing as a Hands on Head of the Polytechinic, after the deaths of her two brothers, her great social conscience made her begin the first Zonta Club here and later on the SAARC Womens’ Association. It was her brainchild to introduce the Women of Achievement awards. I’m glad that her gestures are much appreciated and that there was a two minute silence for her at the last Zonta awards ceremony at which I was present. She was a devout Christian and attended Sunday service at The Cathedral of Christ the Living Saviour, where I worship too, and helped the Church in innumerable ways.

Her daughter, Romola follows her footsteps both at the Polytechnic, as the representative of the Trinity College of Music and in her Christian duty to the Anglican Church. Mano loved all her grandchildren and was proud of them all, but perhaps, Sujith her first grandson was her particular favourite and they certainly shared a very special bond which was obvious to all who had the privilege of seeing them together. Friends that she was very close to through several decades were the late Janet Balasuriya, Mallika Hemachandra and Joan Forbes.

It can be a tough and lonely business being a courageous pioneer and a single mother for many years. She did an admirable job with her children, educated them and brought them up with the right values and principles to face challenges, and overcome them with courage.

Ever since I first met her, Mano always impressed me as a warm, outgoing endearing personality, affable, inordinately friendly and blessed with a beguiling natural charm. There was nothing artificial or hypocritical about her. She has left her children and grandchildren a legacy to be proud of and will I’m sure continue to guide and inspire them from above. Her gracious, graceful presence will be missed in all gatherings at which we met so often, for such a long period of time. I’m glad that I had the privilege of such a long acquaintance with such a unique, unforgettable personality.

– Ilica Malkanthi Karunaratne